Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Little Sunshine and a Little Gardening

Earlier this week I poured some seed of Sweet Pea "Sugar N Spice" into a ramekin to soak in warm water for a few days. Pea seed has a hard outer shell and I have always found that soaking the seed prior to planting greatly decreases germination time. This is a new sweet pea variety for me. It is described as:

Sweet Pea "Sugar N Spice" Territorial Seed Company: This magnificent Sweet pea makes a perfect hanging basket or container plant, and has a wonderful perfume as well. The sweetly scented mix includes pink, purple,  violet, cream, and bi-colors.

Today I filled up two empty bowls with soil and planted the pro-soaked seed. In a week or so I hope to see some pea shoots poking through the soil.

Today I also got my two boxes of dahlia tubers out of storage. Since mid-November the boxes have been stored in an unheated room in the garage. The tubers have been exposed to complete darkness and temperatures in the low 40's. Now I am beginning the slow process of opening up each variety from its saran-wrapped cocoon. After examining each tuber for signs of health and vigor I am deciding how many tubers I want to keep for this year's garden and how many tubers I will donate to my local society for its fundraising sales. It is a time-consuming task but also a rewarding one too. It makes all of the time I spent last Fall digging, dividing, and cleaning the tubers worth while when I unwrap a variety and am greeted by clean, firm tubers with new vigorous sprouts.

These five tubers of "Golden Star" already have fat, pink sprouts shooting out of the tuber eye. Not all dahlia tubers will have "awakened" by now. Some varieties and forms are slower to sprout than others. I have found that the Waterlily, Collerette, and Orchid forms are some of the first to awaken each year. I will still keep these in a dark box for the next month since I won't begin potting up my tubers until Mother's Day weekend at the earliest. I don't want the shoots to get too long weeks before they are ready to be planted.

Editors Note: We ended up with another miserable March. Our average rainfall for March is 4.99" and this year we received 10.04". The temperature was also much lower than average. We ended up with only 3 days having a high above 60 degrees - the 3rd & 9th it was 61 and the 8th it hit 67. And 13 days this month the high temperature was only in the 40's.

Friday, March 30, 2012

And then the Rains Came..........

Last week we were faced with snow, cold weather, and power outages. This week, just for fun, Mother Nature sent us high winds and massive rainfall. A "pineapple express" out of the Pacific arrived Wednesday night. On Thursday we received 1.15" of rain of today we received another 1.15". After work, I grabbed my rain gear and camera and went for a very soggy walk. In summary, there was "water, water, everywhere!". I started at what we call Dorothy's creek on our property. This small, season creek was amazing. It was deep, wide and running really fast. Its roar was in such contrast to its normal, gentle gurgle.

Whitecaps on Dorothy's creek!

Next I headed down the secret path to the bridge that leads to my big garden. Many years ago, after substantial rains just like this, the old bridge here nearly washed away. My brother and Dad built me a new bridge and raised its base a good foot or more. That was the right decision. As you can see, the water today was less then a foot from the underside of the bridge. I didn't attempt to cross it. I know it was structurally sound but the footing was very slippery because of the rain and wet leaves. I didn't need to slip and get swept away.

Back on our driveway, a picture of the creek flowing to our culvert.

I walked down to the next driveway. As the creek departs our property it has to funnel through a large culvert under our neighbor's driveway. There was so much water trying to get through it was backing up and flooding the surrounding land.

But once it made it through that culvert, the creek was fast and furious once again.

Right off of our neighbor's driveway is an old rock quarry. It has filled with water and now is a nice pond with frogs, ducks, and the occasional turtle or heron. Normally, the water level is much lower but today the pond was lapping at the roadside. 

The big excitement was who I saw at the pond today! As I approached it from the driveway a bird flew off  of the high bank above the pond. It made a horrible rattling sound and madly flew wide circles around me. I could tell that it had a white ring around its neck and that it had a sharp bill. But it was flying so fast I couldn't make out too many details. After returning home and reading our bird field guide and then coming back to take pictures,  I can confidently say that we have a pair of Kingfishers here! I have only ever seen kingfishers at the Siuslaw river near the Coast. How cool to have a pair right in our neighborhood.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Three Days Later.............

It's been three days since our record Spring snowfall and things are starting to return to normal. In the sunnier locations there are just small patches of snow remaining. Here are two clumps of Pacific Hounds Tongue. They seem to have survived the heavy snow just fine.

The front of the house faces North and gets very little direct sun in the Winter.The snow from the roof fell in great piles onto the front flowerbeds and has been very slow to melt.

Underneath this drift there is a lovely group of "Jet Fire" daffodils among other things!

The "Jet Fire" daffodils are directly to the right of the metal quail - I promise!

The pile in front of the dining room window is even bigger. Most of our lovely hellebores are still buried as well as a selection of spring bulbs.

This daffodil clump has made it out but the hellebore to its left isn't looking to good!

In the back, which faces South, most of the snow is gone. I still haven't repaired the kitchen garden fence yet.

The garlic that has resurfaced looks pretty good. A few of the leaves are a bit bent but I don't think that that will affect the plants long-term health or growth.

We have also been seeing the gradual return of the Band-tailed Pigeon population. It started with just a single bird and has built up to eight now. By Summertime our flock will number 40+ birds. I also heard and saw a group of five Violet-green Swallow flying high in the sky. It is great to see them returning and enjoying our sunny morning.

Ending on an important note, the power came of this morning at 8:30 AM. We were without electricity and running water for 3 days and 2 hours! The house is slowly getting warm again but Solomon still thinks it's more comfortable underneath the covers.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Snowmageddon 2012

As we went to sleep last night, the weather service mentioned that there was an outside chance, if everything lined up perfectly, that we could have a large snow accumulation overnight. Well, since these things never line up perfectly here, I assumed the snow would be a non-event. How wrong I was! I woke up a little after six to a winter wonderland. Everything was covered in white and it was still snowing hard. Then at 6:30 AM the power went out. Oh no!

It snowed hard until 11:00 AM and we ended up with over 7" of very wet, heavy snow. There were trees down everywhere and it was a bit of a challenge getting to work. But with 4-wheel drive, and going in a different route, I was only an hour late. The poor Plum trees took it especially hard. They had just flowered out and the extra surface area, combined with their naturally brittle structure, caused them to snap and split. One the bright side, the world did look beautiful all covered in a thick layer of snow. It is just so unusual for us to receive this much snow and this late in the year. Happy 2nd day of Spring!

Everywhere you looked all morning the snow was piling up by the hour.

The wet snow caused the fencing around my kitchen garden to collapse. Fortunately, it will be a fairly easy repair and the snow covered up all of the edibles. There are garlic and peas planted in there somewhere!

Parvati spent the morning in the top of her cat tower watching all of the bird action outside the kitchen nook window.

Even in the heavy snowfall the feeders were filled with the smaller birds. The big suprise - we saw the first Violet-green Swallow of the year fly by during the storm. It must be wondering why it returned so early to Oregon!

This pretty Robin rested on top of the birdbath.

And the female Hairy Woodpecker stopped by the peanut feeder during the snowfall. She didn't seem too upset by the storm.

As the day progressed it became apparent that we won't be getting our power back on any time soon. As dusk fell we lit a fire and settled in for a long, cold night. However, you can see that the cats grabbed all the best seats before the humans could!

*authors note- this post was published on Saturday, March 24th after the power came back on after 3 days and 2 hours!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Happy First Day of Spring!

Well, today is the first full day of Spring. Judging by the weather outside, one really can't tell any difference from Winter! It's cold, the sky is grey and it's raining hard. The last two weeks have been a steady parade of rain, snow showers, hail and colder then average temperatures. It is now starting to get a little bit frustrating. I had hoped to get my cold weather crops planted in the kitchen garden by now but there just hasn't been any break in the weather pattern. Even the daffodils are slowing down. It's now the 20th of March and we only have 5 varieties in full bloom - "Tete-a-tete", "Segovia", "February Gold", "Early Sensation" and "Jet Fire". Tonight I was running back and forth from the house to the shop through the rain and spied this leopard slug climbing up the stem wall. A perfect picture for this first day of Spring!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Daffodil Drive

Today we took a drive out west of Junction city, to the Long Tom Grange. Each year the grange puts on a "daffodil drive" fundraiser. The grange is situated on Ferguson Road and over the years the grange ladies have planted thousands of daffodils alongside the road. After enjoying our leisurely drive, we stopped at the grange to enjoy all of the festivities there. The day was grey and very cold, but thankfully the rain stayed away while we were there.

There was a lovely selection of potted bulbs for sale.

And there were Llamas! They have the most fabulous, expressive faces. The brown one, pictured below, was named cinnamon.

In the crafts area, we found this talented gentleman who was hand forging metal daffodils and tulips. They were really cool looking and, as he said, "would always be in bloom".

There was also an area showcasing classic cars. As you can see, it was very popular with the gentlemen.

This team of draft horses was pulling a wagon carrying folks to and from the car parking area. They were a very well mannered pair and even had their tails decorated for the occasion.

Inside the grange the walls were decorated with quilts and daffodil art produced by the local elementary school kids.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Another Snowy Morning

Well, Winter just will not completely release its grip on March. This morning we awoke to yet another snow event. This time we received about 1/2  inches of very icy snow. It made my drive into work a bit scary but thankfully by the afternoon everything had melted.

In the front flowerbed, all of the hellebore, currently in full bloom, were temporarily flattened by the weight of the snow. The tiny iris reticulata, pictured below, fared a little better. I loved the bits of purple peeking out from underneath the white blanket.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Springing Forward & A Welcome Visitor

During one of our many hailstorms this afternoon, a male Northern Red-shafted Flicker "Colaptes Auratus" appeared at our suet feed. Last year it wasn't uncommon for the flickers to visit the suet feeder and we had many, many that worked the ground and trees around our house. This year the flickers have been few and far between. All Winter we have had Red-tail and Cooper's Hawks patrolling the sky. Their constant presence has forced the flickers to move down the hill and into the forest. However, in the last week or two, I have been awakened in the morning by the sound of a flicker hammering on the roof above my bedroom. And now this handsome fellow is back at the feeder.

I had never noticed before the downy feathers that seem to cover his legs. They have such beautiful markings.

I was a bit nervous taking the pictures because I didn't want to scare him off but I shouldn't have worried. He was really enjoying the suet and didn't pay any attention to me.