Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Rainy Days and Pumpkins

After a particularly dry summer and early fall, western Oregon is finally getting the rain it needs.

The ornamental trees in the neighborhood are reaching their peak of brightness, as are the well-manicured lawns.

The dark, cool weather inspired me to carve a pumpkin in celebration of the season. This is the first home-grown Jack O' Lantern I've carved. I gave him acorn horns and a leafy beard to help him fit into the neighborhood. We have a smaller pumpkin in the apartment that we will bake into a pie next week.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Wallowa Lake

Before driving home from Wallowa County on Sunday, Sarah and I took a quick drive around Wallowa Lake. It felt like winter was on its way, but we still found plenty of birds in the water including Mallards, Western Grebes, American Coots, and Common Loons.

The lake bed was carved by huge glaciers that left many large moraines like the one above. Some say this is the best example of a glacial moraine in the country.

We walked among some large ponderosa pines and other conifers. The pale green trees in the background are western larches that are transitioning from green to yellow before their needles drop for the winter.

Some larch branches had recently blown down. This branch had landed on top of another engraved by beetles.

We could have hiked around the lake all day, but we had to return to the real world. This part of Oregon is not as far from Portland as I had previously thought, so we will return soon.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Wallowa Country

This weekend, Sarah and I traveled to the northeast corner of Oregon, a region of the state that we had not yet explored.

On Friday, we escaped the rain in Portland and arrived in drier Wallowa County.

Wallowa County borders Idaho and Washington, contains many cows, and has no traffic lights.

The Wallowa Mountains resemble the Rockies of Montana and contain the same plants and birds that are found in my home state.

We stayed in a nice bed and breakfast near the small town of Joesph, the bronze sculpture capital of Oregon.

On Saturday morning, we drove through ranchland and the Zumwalt Prairie Reserve in search of raptors. We had been looking forward to visiting Zumwalt Prairie and its famous density of hawks and eagles.

Unfortunately, the Belding's ground squirrels, a favorite meal of raptors, appeared to be hibernating, so we did not see the Golden Eagles or Ferruginous Hawks we hoped for.

We saw plenty of nice scenery, red-tailed hawks, and mountain bluebirds, however, so the drive was a success.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Squash Harvest

Today, in what has become an annual tradition, I helped harvest winter squash at our local farm.

It was also the first day of the Oregon rainy season, though it did not fall hard enough to slow us down.

In three and a half hours, we moved three tons of squash from the field to the greenhouse, where they will be washed later. Eventually most will go to CSA families and local restaurants.

Of the thirteen varieties, the greatest mass belonged to the Rouge Vif dEtampes, above. These red beauties weighed in at 850 total pounds, up to 35 pounds each. I brought a small one home that will be our centerpiece until we make a dinner out of it.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Mushroom Hikes

During the last two weekends, Sarah and I hiked some forests near the coast with our eyes focused on the ground. Sarah was preparing a presentation on mushrooms for her Audubon volunteers, so we were seeking fungi to help he prepare.

Our first hike was around Whalen Island State Park. We are in the middle of the Oregon mushroom season, so we had no trouble finding fungi, but since we did not have a permit to pick on State land, we did not bring any home to eat.

A week later, we walked through Oswald West State Park near Cannon Beach. In addition to mushrooms, we found many trees growing out of nurse logs.

The western hemlock above looks like it is trying to lift an old log off the ground.

Here are a few of the mushrooms we found and tried to identify:

A large gilled mushroom

Small gilled mushrooms growing out of an alder log

A false chantrel

A lobster mushroom, actually two species in one - a large white mushroom covered by a second, red fungus which lends it a distinctive flavor.

We also found non-gilled species such as this large bolete that has spongy tissue on the underside of the cap.

Polypore fungi were growing on nearly every snag.

We found numerous coral fungi on the forest floor as well.

Now that we know a little more about mushrooms than before, we are eager to return to the forest and harvest a meal.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Kelp on the Beach

On Friday, Sarah and I packed our laptops and took our work to the beach. Around noon, we took a break and walked the stretch of beach in front of Pacific City.

We quickly noticed that stormy seas had washed piles of kelp onto the beach.

Bull kelp individuals grow from the size of a spore to dozens-of-feet-long in less than a year. Eventually, the waves carry the kelp ashore, where countless tiny beach creatures feed on the decaying masses. Larger creatures, such as Sanderlings and other shorebirds, feed on the invertebrate kelp-eaters during migration and winter.

Bull kelps are anchored to rocks on the seashore by their rubbery holdfasts. Many interesting anchor rocks, and other organisms attached to them were tugged onto the beach.

This rock had anchored at least 8 individual bull kelps.

Their stipes had coiled into a think, heavy rope.

We also found this interesting species of brown kelp, Egregia menziesii.

Up close, it resembles several brown leather belts decorated with fringes.
With our beach needs satisfied, we returned to the house to continue our work.