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Archive for February, 2010

Storm Water

I live in an area that gets anywhere from 35 to 50 inches of rain per year. Perfect conditions for a rain forest … but not so good when 70% (I think) of the area is roofed or paved over with parking lots, freeways and roads.

Storm water goes DIRECTLY into the streams — streams that are home to wild salmon, no less! My Watershed Stewards classmates and I toured a few storm water treatment / catchment basins last weekend. (Click here for map of county-wide projects and here for a cool video.)

It takes a long time to recreate a natural environment. Here we have some “live stakes” (3 ft. length of bare branches) stuck in a bog.

It turns out the rabbits are the most damaging predator. They nibble away the outer cambium layer — essentially “girdling” young trees and killing them. Caged plants can be seen all over the county.

In the picture above you can see the white irrigation pipes. These young plants need to be watered during our dry summers for the first few years.

These mitigation sites are pretty unsightly. The contractors that do the work don’t always have an eye for beauty. These are large scale mucky jobs.

But wildlife isn’t picky. Birds, frogs and newts show up immediately. The Thomas Wetland project was completed in 2003 and looks like a natural lake now.

I pass by it on my neighborhood walks. It is rife with ducks and frogs. It’s fenced to protect nesting habitat, but the frog calls alone are obvious evidence of its recovery.

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Visitors

I started some cool weather seedlings (peas and lettuce) on the back porch.

I was startled when a bird flew right past my head under the eaves. Now granted the birds are pretty used to me and they know I’m the one who refills the feeder … but this was really close in.

Sadly, this little House Finch has a nasty case of conjunctivitis. I made the picture small to spare the viewer. What’s worse, my lax feeder cleaning may have contributed to spreading the infection.

This little critter has a loyal companion. A second (healthy) bird has kept close by all afternoon. It’s a drippy day and it’s sweet that my porch is providing shelter, but I feel badly. A sick bird is not usually a very long lived bird.

I’ll let the feeder run empty and then thoroughly clean it again before I put it back out. I added a plastic hood this winter to keep the food dryer.

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Yes, it’s been darn cold at night – in the low 20’s. The air’s been so dry that there’s barely any hoarfrost on the ground. But my birdbath had a solid sheet of ice on it.

With the clear skies there’s been lots of sunshine. I feel as if my fellow citizens and I are drunk on light! The neighborhood is abuzz with outdoor activity. I thought I’d take a few shots of the trees while they were still bare.

Here’s my Chinese Elm — always reminds me of a dancer.

With this El Nino winter, the cherry tree is studded with buds.

The little daffodils I bought last weekend are charming in the morning light.

I’ve been out gardening the last few afternoons. American Goldfinch have returned. Tonight I even saw a Townsend’s Warbler — stunning! (here’s a web photo)

Birds don’t lie. Spring’s a coming!

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Out and Afield

We’ve been having spectacular pre-spring weather! I’m catching up on my vitamin D with all this sunshine. Morning temps have dropped to the mid-20’s.

The Master Gardeners do a monthly field trip to wholesale nurseries. We drove south of Portland to the Willsonville / Aurora area — a hot bed of specialty agriculture (tulips, roses, iris — you name it — it’s grown here).

Our first stop was the Little Prince nursery that specializes in ground covers. Seeing vast spreads of the same plant created a lush impression.

We were lead through the greenhouses where the growing and tending processes were explained to us.

The greenhouses themselves presented intriguing patterns.

The cacti were lovely in their intricacy and perfection of form.

We drove south to Hubbard where we toured a specialty wholesale conifer nursery. Both nurseries ship primarily to New York!

Now this is a lot of pots … and the shed was filled to the ceiling with even more!

The skies may have been blue, but the ground was still soggy.

These Alberta Spruce are trimmed into spirals once they’re six feet.

We dined at Luis’ Tacqueria in Woodburn — the best Mexican food I’ve had since my return from Baja. Excellent!! After lunch we had a shopping spree at GardenWorld in Hubbard. Wee-haw!

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Birds a-plenty

The Forever Young hike along the Lewis River and wetland was replete, a-flutter and a-honk with Canadian Geese. Listening to them, it’s easy to understand where the word “gaggle” came from.

The third stop on yesterday’s Forever Young wuss-hike was a drive through the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge – a vast wetland of over 5,000 acres along Lake River — the channel that flows north out of Lake Vancouver to the Columbia River.

Here a gaggle of geese swarm over a pond.

Here they skid into the water.

We spied Nutria (a fast-breeding and destructive pest), ducks, swans and Great Blue Herons along the roadway. We watched one Blue Heron catch and swallow a snake! This fellow stayed right where he was as we drove by.

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Local Walk

Forever Young hikers stayed close to home on this walk. It started as a misty morning in the mid-30’s. We hiked through the WSUV (Washington State University – Vancouver) campus — of some 320 acres!

It’s a beautiful campus with awesome views of the mountains.

You really feel old though when in a population of 20-somethings.

After a lunch at the Last Frontier Casino in La Center, we took another short hike along the Lewis River. As you can see the day quickly warmed up.

The winter-gray trees contrast nicely with the evergreen firs.

The skies began to cloud up a bit as we left.

These sculptures are made in trees still rooted in the ground!

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False spring

Early February is a lovely interlude in the Pacific NW winter. We get a few weeks of warm blushing weather that fools you into the false belief that winter’s over. It’s as brief as it is pleasant. Who knows? Maybe this year with El Nino … anything’s possible.

“Silhouetted limbs” against the sky …

And swelling (lilac) buds …

This weeping willow is opening leaves already …

The days are longer now. Here’s a view over Lake Vancouver at about 6:30PM.

The steam is from a plant in Portland just past Kelly Point. The lights to the right are from the Port of Portland.

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