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On the Hunt


Bruce and I went out one morning on the hunt for the elusive wild strawberry.  We had seen evidence of them in the woods, with the plants and blossoms, but had never seen any fruit.  Since there were blossoms in late April, I figured now was the time to find those berries!  We headed out from the house and walked straight into the woods.  We found a large patch of strawberry plants near the creek, but no fruit.  We knew there were more up by the road, so we headed up there.  On the way, we found a number of interesting things.

Strawberry Hunt-Deer Skull1  Strawberry Hunt-Lizard

Deer skull and antlers; lizard

Strawberry Hunt-Rose   Strawberry Hunt-Parentucellia viscosa-Yellow parentucellia

The roses are blooming all over; Yellow parentucellia

Strawberry Hunt8  Strawberry Hunt-Geranium richardsonii-richardsons geranium 

Oregon checker mallow; Richardson’s geranium

Strawberry Hunt3Triteleia hendersonii-Henderson's stars-rare Strawberry Hunt- Zigadenus venenosus-Meadow death camas-trichodes ornatus

Henderson’s stars (Triteleia hendersonii) (rare); Meadow death camas (poisonous), with Ornate Checkered beetle

StrawberryHunt-Euphydryas chalcedona-Chalcedona Checkerspot    Strawberry Hunt7

Chalcedona checkerspot; Western tiger swallowtail;

The Ornate Checkered beetle (Trichodes ornatus) is found only in North America.  Its worm-like larvae live mostly in bee nests of the Megachilidae family species, or Mason bees.  They are parasitic and in the nest they feed on bee larvae or pollen.  As adults, they feed on yarrow, milkweed or other yellow-flowered plants.  Since we have Mason bees and they are very beneficial to the garden and orchard, it was good that we found this insect and can take steps to manage it.  We have to remove the bee nesting materials from the orchard shortly before and immediately after the end of the nesting period and store them away from other nesting bees.  Commercial traps are available, consisting of a plastic container with a pheromone-impregnated capsule that attracts the beetles during the bee nesting period.

Wikipedia; http://insect.pnwhandbooks.org/sites/insect.pnwhandbooks.org/files/pdfsection/beeprotection.pdf

Livestock farmers know all too well the havoc Meadow death camas can inflict. It’s a favorite among sheep. Death camas, or Zigadenus venenosus, are native to western parts of North America. The toxic alkaloid zygadenine (considered by some to be more potent than strychnine) is present in all parts of the plant and can cause some serious consequences when ingested.  Elaine Nelson McIntosh, a dietitian and food historian, suspects death camas may have been to blame for the illnesses that plagued the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1805. Food was scarce and the group was suffering from malnutrition. The Nez Perce tribe offered the travelers fish and bulbs of a plant they believed were blue camas. At the time, the plant wasn’t in bloom, making it hard to differentiate between it and its evil cousin. Soon after, the group fell violently ill for weeks. They ate their dogs to sustain themselves for the rest of the expedition.


After a short hike we came upon the second patch of strawberry plants and oh boy, we found the berries!  There were two and they were red and very small, but not very sweet.  That was disappointing and a lot of work for no reward.  I think we’ll leave them for the deer and other animals.

StrawberryHunt-Fragaria vesca-woods strawberry   Strawberry Hunt-Fragaria virginiana-Mountain strawberry

Strawberry Hunt-Strawberry



Winter on the Farm

We didn’t know what to expect for our first winter here.  Last year it seemed to be very cold and the few times we came up to check on the house the weather was either foggy, icy, freezing, snowing or raining.  We even got to experience something called “freezing fog”.    So…when the air is foggy, does the fog freeze?  We didn’t know, but it didn’t sound good.  We found out that it occurs when liquid fog droplets freeze to surfaces, forming white soft or hard ice.  It is basically the same as that soft white ice that forms inside a freezer.

On most mornings when I look out the windows I see a lot of fog, which usually dissipates by afternoon, but not always.  All in all, it hasn’t been especially cold this winter, but we have had a few mornings with temperatures in the teens.  We have also had quite a lot of rain, but it’s not worse than what we had in a normal year in San Jose.  In fact, the rain is very welcome, as long as we don’t float away!  With the rain we now have both ponds filled and the grasses are turning green.  This in turn has encouraged the waterfowl to return and forage for food.

It’s difficult to understand how anything flourishes here in the winter, because it is cold and foggy and often rainy.  I haven’t figured out how the deer, elk and cows can tolerate such cold temperatures.  On the morning that the temperature was 16 degrees, the cows were out in the field eating the grass.

If you care to read about it, here is an explanation from Penn State:  http://news.psu.edu/story/179081/2009/02/26/horses-and-other-livestock-can-thrive-cold-weather.  Good to know so I won’t worry about them, and I’m guessing the deer and elk have an adequate amount of food and water.

After the rains started the mushrooms popped up everywhere, but they are now mostly gone.  There were frogs singing at night, but they are gone too.  The elk have started coming down from the hills and we’ve seen them a few times here and there.  As always we have our small deer population with the three fawns growing up fast.  We also often hear the coyotes at night, and we even spotted one in the cow pasture one morning.

It’s good to see and feel this change of seasons.  It’s not a harsh change, but enough to make us more attentive to what’s happening around us.

To signal the change of seasons and the coming of winter we had leaves changing colors all over Roseburg, but none prettier than our own persimmon tree.


Wintertime5 Wintertime4 Wintertime3

Sara found these mushrooms a few days after Christmas when she took advantage of a non-rainy day to take a walk around the farm.  The first one is a black mushroom and the second is a cup type of mushroom.  Of the two major groups of cup fungi, I believe this is the operculate cup fungi, which have a hinged lid at the tips which opens when the spores are discharged. In the third photo are the “seeds” that were in the cups, which are sterile cells called paraphyses and they often forcibly eject the spores upward into the wind for dispersal.

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I found this mushroom growing on a tree in the yard.

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The turkey flocks are larger now and we see them much more frequently than we did in the summer.


Wintertime has brought out the bucks.  Our deer (I’m fairly confident) are Columbian white-tail deer. The Columbian white-tailed deer is listed as an endangered distinct population segment in the lower Columbia River area under the federal Endangered Species Act, whereas the Roseburg population was delisted in 2003.  No matter, this is the only way deer are getting shot on our farm.

Click to access OFRI%20managed%20forests%20elk%20deer_for_web.pdf

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These were taken on the morning that the temperature was 16 degrees F.  Brrr…It was too cold for the birds.  They are waiting for the sunrise and hopefully warmer temperatures.

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Dramatic sunrise and sunset.  One nice added extra that we hadn’t counted on when we moved here is that we now have clouds!  I sure did miss them living in California.

We still have several more months of winter left, and it could get colder and rainier, but I think I’ll probably find something interesting to investigate.


Dew on the grass shining in the sunset



Stropharia ambigua    Stropharia ambigua

Do you ever think much about mushrooms, except as an ingredient in dinner?  I never did until this year.  After the summer when it started raining again here in Oregon, I noticed that there were a large variety of mushrooms growing on the farm.

I picked them, cut them in half and photographed them, tried to identify them and thought they were all very interesting.  But then I started researching them on-line and found all sorts of fascinating things about them, almost in the realm of the supernatural.


Uses for Mushrooms

1.  Enriching your diet with Vitamin D

  In a 2012 Huffington Post article, Paul Stamets, founder of Fungi Perfecti, wrote about the ease of increasing the vitamin D in mushrooms simply by exposing them to sunlight.  It doesn’t seem to matter if they are store bought or wild, fresh or dehydrated.  Simply expose them to sunlight for a couple of hours and the high vitamin D levels will last for more than a year.  1 cup of diced mushrooms has 9 IU of Vitamin D.  The same amount exposed to UV light has 313 IU of Vitamin D.  Mushrooms treated with UV light or exposed to sunlight are the only whole food vegetable source of vitamin D.

2.  Fighting pollutants

  • Several newspapers have been bringing attention to the cleanup of Sequoia Creek in Corvallis, Oregon where volunteers with the Ocean Blue Project, an ecological restoration nonprofit, have been blending mushroom spawn with coffee grounds and straw, placing the resulting mixture in burlap bags, and then setting the containers so that water entering storm drains is filtered through them.  How ingenious!  The approach is seeking to take advantage of the mycelium’s natural ability to break down toxins (such as oil and pesticides) and to metabolize harmful bacteria (such as E. coli).  More information on this project as well as future possibilities, which may include assisting in the cleanup of the Willamette River, can be found at   http://www.oceanblueproject.org/
  • May 23, 2014 is a day that about 700,000 citizens in Portland, Oregon may long remember (Sara does):  they were instructed to boil their tap water before consuming it due the detection of a dangerous form of E. coli bacteria in the regional water supply.  An article by James Trimarco of Yes Magazine online details research previously done by Paul Stamets, founder and owner at Fungi Perfecti, that considers “an out-of-the-box solution: running water through filters that contain fungi specially selected for their antibiotic abilities.”  In his study, Mycologist Paul Stamets found that “the best-performing species turned out to be the species from the genus Stropharia, commonly known as the wine cap mushroom. The wine caps—which are not only edible but considered a delicacy—consistently removed more than 20 percent of E. Coli that flowed around it.”

3. Cleaning up radioactive contamination

  • In the fall of 2014, diverse news sources, including www.Telegraph.co.uk and USA Today are reporting that Germany’s forests may be plagued by radioactive boars, thanks to the animal’s habit of scarfing down mushrooms and truffles that could be storing radiation from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of nearly 30 year ago.  Saxony boar hunters are currently required to test the boar carcasses for radiation, and alarmingly “in a single year, 297 out of 752 boars tested … have exhibited high levels of radiation that make the meat unfit for human consumption.  Sadly, experts believe that the radioactive boars could be roaming Germany for up to 50 more years.  Similarly, it is believed that many mushrooms from the areas affected may also be unfit for human consumption. Saxony boars are particularly affected because of heavy rain in the region directly after the disaster, and “their diet of mushrooms and other plants that store radiation.”  Wild boar dig up soil in search of food such as mushrooms and truffles. This is probably why these animals are so affected since the radiation that swept over from Chernobyl contaminated a lot of ground soil. Furthermore, mushrooms and truffles are known to store radiation, and many that are growing in the affected areas are also thought to be unfit for human consumption.  
  • http://www.iflscience.com/environment/wild-boar-roaming-forests-germany-are-too-radioactive-eat                                                                                                                                         
  • Many people have  asked more or less the same question: “What can be done to help heal the Japanese landscape around the failing nuclear reactors?” The enormity and unprecedented nature of this combined natural and human-made disaster will require a massive and completely novel approach to management and remediation. And with this comes a never before seen opportunity for collaboration, research and wisdom. The nuclear fallout will make continued human habitation in close proximity to the reactors untenable. The earthquake and tsunami created enormous debris fields near the nuclear reactors. Much of this debris is wood, and many fungi useful in mycoremediation are wood decomposers and build the foundation of forest ecosystems.  By sampling other mushroom-forming fungi for their selective ability to hyper-accumulate radioactivity, we can learn a great deal while helping the ecosystem recover. Not only will some mushroom species hyper-accumulate radioactive compounds, but research has also shown that some mycorrhizal fungi bind and sequester radioactive elements so they remain immobilized for extended periods of time. Surprisingly, we learned from the Chernobyl disaster that many species of melanin-producing fungi have their growth stimulated by radiation.  The knowledge gained through this collaborative process would not only benefit the areas affected by the current crisis, but would also help with preparedness and future remediation responses.    http://www.permaculture.co.uk/articles/how-mushrooms-can-clean-radioactive-contamination-8-step-plan                                                                            

4.  Mushroom materials

What do you get when you combine agricultural waste with fungal mycelium?  Mushroom materials, and the many products of Ecovative which are natural, renewable and biodegradable…they are grown products, not manufactured.  Interestingly, the mushroom materials may end up as surfboard blanks, fins and handplanes as well as more ordinary products such as packaging and insulation.  Ecovative uses agriculture waste products, including corn stalks and leaves, to grow biodegradable alternatives to foam and plastic products. A fungal material called mycelium is used as glue to hold the materials together.  The company molds these products to make packaging for the computer manufacturer Dell and chair backs used by The Gunlocke Co., a furniture maker from Wayland, New York, among others.  http://www.bizjournals.com/albany/news/2014/11/19/ecovative-designs-newest-product-encourages-diy.html?page=all

5.  Textiles

Mushrooms can be used for dying wool and other natural fibers. The chromophores of mushroom dyes are organic compounds and produce strong and vivid colors, and all colors of the spectrum can be achieved with mushroom dyes. Before the invention of synthetic dyes, mushrooms were the source of many textile dyes.


Mushroom Facts

  • There are 16 million spores contained in each mushroom.
  • 90% of a mushroom is water.
  • About 2,500 varieties of mushrooms are grown worldwide.
  • The exact number of species of fungi will vary somewhat, depending upon which classification scheme is followed. Generally, however, it is estimated that there are about 60,000 valid species of fungi. Over 100 new species are described in the scientific literature each month, so the total number increases steadily. The British mycologist, David Hawksworth, however, has estimated that there may be as many as 1.5 million species of fungi. If true, this means that we have discovered only about 4% of the fungi that exist. http://naturalhistory.uga.edu/~GMNH/Mycoherb_Site/FAQeng.htm
  • 80% of mushrooms are consumed by 20% of the population.
  • The Mycena family of fungus contains more than 70 species of mushrooms that glow in the dark. These mushrooms produce light by a chemical reaction called bioluminescence. In the past, people illuminated their way through the woods using these glowing pieces of fungus-colonized wood.
  • Some mushrooms are so rare that they only grow for one week during the year.  In April of 2014, the English online version of The Asahi Shimbun published a brief article about a pair of small matsutake (with a combined weight of less than 5 ounces) that sold at auction within a second after the event opened with a winning bid of $1,170 at the famous Tsukiji wholesale market in Tokyo.   http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201404220005
  • Many of us tend to think that mushrooms are passive seed spreaders, releasing their spores and allowing the air currents to distribute them.  But, how do some mushrooms seem to disperse their spores even when there doesn’t seem to be any breeze?  The answer may be simple:  they cool the air around them by releasing water vapor, creating convection currents strong enough to lift the spores into the air and even move them away from the mushroom, reports UCLA researcher Marcus Roper.
  •  Armillaria solidipes or Honey Mushroom underlies 2200 acres east of the city in a remote corner of eastern Oregon’s Blue Mountains at an elevation of about 6500 feet in the Malheur National Forest near the Strawberry Mountain and Monument Rock wilderness areas according to the US Forest Service.  Most people walking by would never know the fungus lurks just below the ground’s surface, occupying its time in the quiet business of sending out rhizomorphs and wrapping them around tree roots.  It’s roughly the size of 1600 football fields, and Forest Service researcher Catherine Parks, who has spent 10 years studying it, suggests it could be 8000 years old and the total mass of the colony may be as much as 605 tons. The only obvious signs of its presence are the gaps created when it kills trees.  If this colony is considered a single organism, then it is the largest known organism in the world by area.                                                                                                                                      Oregonian Newspaper, June 10, 2007; Wikipedia 



 Mushrooms from our farm, and what we think they are:


Phycomyces blakesleeanus

A filamentous fungus that Bruce found growing in the vegetable  garden.  It became the primary organism of research of the Nobel laureate Max Delbruck starting in the 1950s for the variety and sensitivity of its responses to light and its reaction to a variety of environmental responses including gravity, touch, wind and presence of nearby objects.  It has an avoidance response in which it avoids solid objects in its path, bending away from them without touching them and then continuing to grow upward again.  This response is believed to be due to an unidentified “avoidance gas” emitted by the sporangi.  Wikipedia; http://genome.jgi.doe.gov/Phybl2/Phybl2.home.html


Mushroom33 Mushroom32 Mushroom31

Mushroom13FalseTruffleapg Mushroom6jpg

We think these really oddball growths are false truffles.  They are growing in the road that runs from the house to the mailbox, emerging from the ground.


Mushroom30Russula Genus      


Mushroom29 Mushroom28

Mushroom27 Mushroom26

Puffball, although I could be convinced it’s a bird egg.


Mushroom25 Mushroom24

More puffballs, I think.



Mushroom23 Mushroom22

Meadow Mushroom- Agaricus campestris  These were growing all over the yard near the house and some were very large.  They are edible and found in fields and pastures, lawns, especially those rich in manure, usually after a rain from late fall to early winter.  They are one of the most common wild mushrooms that people eat and are closely related to button mushrooms.


Mushroom21 Mushroom20  

  Mushroom17  Mushroom35

Mycena is a large genus of small mushrooms, with the common name fairy bonnets.  They are the most abundant mushrooms in the Pacific Northwest and are often produced in large numbers (troops) over large areas of forest floor, especially on conifer needles.  Over 33 species are known to be bioluminescent, creating a glow called Foxfire, or “fairy fire”.  It is a bluish-green glow that is the same yellow light that comes from fireflies.  Notes from  Aristotle, in 382 B.C., refer to a “light that, unlike fire, was cold to the touch”.  Although generally very dim, in some cases it is bright enough to read by.

We went out one night to see if the ones near the house were the glowing Foxfire mushrooms, but they are not.  Maybe there are some in other areas of the farm, but we really don’t want to be walking around in the woods at night.



Mushroom19 Mushroom18jpg

Mushroom7MeadowPuffballjpg   Mushroom16apg Mushroom10

Possibly a Vascellum pratense,  or Meadow Puffball

Mushroom12pg   Mushroom8pg       Mushroom1



Mushroom3Bolete     Mushroom15apg

Bolete; Some boletes are among the best-tasting mushrooms in the world.   Virtually all boletes disseminate their spores through pores, tiny holes on the undersides of their caps.  Spores travel down closely-packed, vertical tubes to reach the pores.   If you look closely at the right-hand photo you can see the tubes.  http://www.wildmanstevebrill.com/Mushrooms.Folder/Bolete%20Overview.html

“Gold and silver and dresses may be trusted to a messenger, but not a boletus, because it will be eaten on the way.” Martial, 1st C. A.D.



Mushroom2FalseTruffle    Mushroom11pg

False Truffle

Mushroom Guide

Besides finding out that mushrooms are multi-dimensionally  interesting, I found out some other interesting facts from my handy mushroom guide, Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest by Steve Trudell and Joe Ammirati:

  • They are extremely difficult to identify, and should only be eaten if an expert tells you they are okay to eat–even then, be suspicious.
  • On average, about one person per year dies of mushroom poisoning in North America.
  • Touching mushrooms will not cause poisoning, but you may get contact dermatitis.
  • You can taste any mushroom in order to identify it.  You should nibble a small bit from the edge of the cap and chew it using your front teeth, then spit it out.  In order to be poisoned you must swallow a much larger amount of mushroom.
  • Mushrooms are classified into easily identified (usually) classes–Gilled mushrooms; Boletes; Spine-fungi, club-,coral-and fan-like fungi; Polyspores and crust-fungi; Puffballs, earthballs, and earthstars; Jelly-like fungi; Morels, false morels and elfin saddles; Cup-fungi; Truffles and false truffles.  Finding a mushroom and fitting it into one of these categories is not too difficult–beyond that it takes a great deal of study.

There are two Truffle Festivals coming up next year.  The first is in Portland on January 15-18 and the other is in Eugene on January 21-25.  We are hoping to go to one or the other and taste some truffles at the marketplace event on Sunday.  http://www.oregontrufflefestival.com/

And lastly, isn’t it strange that nuclear explosions are described as mushroom clouds and mushrooms are now being studied for use in cleaning up nuclear accidents?
















Only the Lonely


I’ve been taking photos of things for the last few months that I find interesting and the photos have been piling up with too many to make into separate posts.  So this post is dedicated to all the lonely photos who have no home.

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1.  Wild rose–they grow all over the farm.

A true wild rose is actually called “species rose”, a species that occurs naturally, with no help from man.  Others are hybrids.  The thorns on introduced (non-native, non-wild) roses are generally curved, while those on the native roses are more or less straight.  If you look closely at the bottom center, you’ll see a curved thorn.

So, it’s technically not a wild rose, but it gets no help from us, so that’s how we think of it.

Roses provide pollen for the bees and butterflies and are good for beekeepers and orchards.  They also provide nesting places for birds and seclusion for small animals.  The hips, or fruit, develop in the fall and can be made into a variety of products–marmalade, syrup, tea, soup and even beads.  They are high in Vitamins A, C, B, D & E, flavonoids and zinc.

Rose Petal Beads:

Pick a shopping bag full of fresh petals (old wild roses are best). Process in food grinder until resembles clay. Place ground petals in a cast-iron skillet or pot and regrind daily for 2 weeks (no kidding). The paste will become thicker every day until it can be rolled into smooth, hard beads. Roll beads until they are smooth and rounded. Place a hole through the bead with a pin and pin to a corkboard. (Finished beads will be around 1/2 the size of the fresh ones.) Let the beads dry for 2 weeks on the board. Remove the pins and polish each bead with flannel or a soft cloth. String beads into a necklace. As you wear the necklace, the beads will darken and polish and release their rosy fragrance. These beads are suppose to last for generations!




2.  Wild blackberry–This may be a Mountain blackberry or Himalayan blackberry, but without fruit it’s hard to tell.  The way to tell the difference between a blackberry and a raspberry is that the torus (stem) stays with the blackberry fruit, but it breaks off of the raspberry leaving a hollowed out center.  The blackberry provides food for caterpillars and mammals, especially deer.

3.  White hyacinth, or fool’s onion (Triteleia hyacinthina).  I found some conflicting information on the edibility of the white hyacinth bulbs (or corms).  They were an important food source for the Native Americans–eaten raw, steamed, boiled, roasted and mashed.  It is native to western North America.


AugustBlogPotentillanepalensis AugustBlogSelfhealPrunellavulgaris AugustBlogSeaHolly

4.  Cinquefoil (Pontentilla nepalensis)-this is growing in the flower garden.  I thought it was a wildflower, but it must be part of one of the more established pontentilla in the garden.  The leaves are eaten by the caterpillars of many Lepidoptera, notably the grizzled skipper butterflies.  It has been used as an herbal remedy for inflammation and GI disorders.  Research continues to determine its safety and usefulness as an alternative medicine for such disorders such as ulcerative colitis.  Some pontentilla are used by the Chinese as an herbal remedy for diabetes.

The cinquefoil emblem signified strength, power, honor and loyalty on coat of arms, flags and similar emblems.  The depiction of the flower appears as early as 1033 in the architecture of the church in Reulle-Vergy in Burgundy, France.


5.  Self-heal or heal-all (Prunella vulgaris).  This plant is herbaceous and edible and is part of the mint family even though it  has no odor.  The stems are four-sided.

The entire plant is edible and can be eaten raw or cooked.  Its flavor is like bland romaine lettuce.

Heal-all has been historically used as a medicine for just about everything.  Modern herbalists regard it as an excellent emolient, astringent and vulnerary agent (heals wounds).  It is used in several commercially available all-purpose salves, ointments and lotions that are intended to soothe and speed the healing of minor burns, wounds and other irritations.  As a tea, it is considered to be useful in relieving gastritis and diarrhea and healing digestive ulceration.  Besides containing the vitamins A, C & K and flavanoids, heal-all contains ursolic acid, a compound that has been shown to have diuretic and antitumor qualities.

(Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West, Gregory L. Tilford, page 70)

6.  Sea Holly-(Eryngium)  A genus of over 200 species.  This plant is in the flower garden, and is gorgeous with it’s electric blue leaves.  The great British gardener of the Edwardian period, William Robinson, said that Sea Holly was “not surpassed in beauty by any plant!”


AugustBlogPinkGrass AugustBlogFullersTeasel AugustBlogEverlastingPeaLathyruslatifolius

7.  The native grasses grow all over the farm and when I can take the time to look at them, instead of endeavoring to mow them all down, I find beautiful specimens such as this pink grass.

8.  Fuller’s teasel (Dipsacus fullonum).  The dried version of this plant is growing all over the farm. It has an interesting form, but it’s spiny.  A biologist told me that it does bloom and the blooms start in the center and move up and down the flower head, so I had been waiting all spring to see that happen.  Finally, it bloomed in the summer and just as I was told the blooms began opening in the center.

The flower heads of the teasel are used in the wool industry to raise the nap on cloth.

(Wildflowers fo the Pacific Northwest, Turner & Gustafson, page 449)

9.  Everlasting Pea or perennial sweetpea (Lathyrus latifolius).  Our daughter came for a visit and found this very pretty wildflower growing out by the main road.  We had hopes that it was an orchid, but I think it is just as pretty.  The flower petals look like they’ve been painted with watercolors.


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10. Dandelion- I love the symmetry of this plant.

11.  Common monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus), same family, figwort, as the snapdragon.  Captain Meriwether Lewis collected a specimen of this flower, also called Yellow monkeyflower, on July 4, 1806.  Used by the Native Americans in many ways–a decoction of the stems and leaves was used as a steam bath for soreness in the chest or back; poultice of crushed leaves for rope burns or wounds; brewed into a tea for stomachache.  Can be eaten raw or cooked.

12.  Farewell-to-spring (Clarkia amoena).  I saw this flower in my wildflower book and hoped I would find it one day.  On a trip to the coast there it was, growing alongside the road by the river.  It is native to western South and North America.

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13.  Yellow velvet long-horned beetle (Cosmosalia chrysocoma).  The long-horned beetles are a very large and well-known family of wood-boring beetles.  The adults feed on wood, leaves, roots, pollen, and rarely, other insects.  Most long-horns are wood-boring in the larval stage.  The holes they make are circular in shape, but they mostly prefer weakened and dying trees or freshly cut logs.

(Insects of the Pacific Northwest, Haggard & Haggard, page 33, 35)

14.  This is the nest of the very scary Bald-faced hornet (Dolichovespula maculata).  It is a black and white wasp, belonging to the yellowjacket genus.  Because of its large size it is called a hornet.  The hornets chew wood and mix it with starch in their saliva.  That mixture is spread with the mandibles and legs and dries into a papery structure.  The hornets are more aggressive than most yellowjackets and the females defend the nest with repeated stings.  They eat nectar, tree sap and fruit pulp.  In the winter all the hornets die except the newly fertilized queen.  She hibernates underground, or under logs and hollow trees until spring.  The nests are usually not reused.

15.  I couldn’t find the name for this butterfly, but it has some very pretty, lacy type markings.  It looks like she’s wearing a ball gown.


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16, 17.  I believe this is either a female rufous hummingbird or a female allen’s hummingbird.


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18.  Barn swallow (Hirundo rustica).  True to its name, these birds were trying their best to make a home in our new barn.

19.  American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis)

20.  Lazuli Bunting (Passerina amoena)

AugustBlogSkunk2     AugustBlogElk

21.  The easily identifiable skunk.  Bruce saw him wandering around the upper pond and was able to get some good photos–without getting sprayed!

22.  This is our one and only elk calf sighting.  We haven’t seen the elk since then.  I suppose they are ranging in areas with more water.



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23.  Oh, she’s so sweet!  But she is learning to like the flower beds a bit too much.  We had three fawns this year from two does.  They are loads of fun to watch.


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24, 25.  We’ve been getting some spectacular sunsets this summer.  What a treat!  Just as the temperatures are cooling off we get a gorgeous view of the sky, although to be honest we were a bit concerned that the red glow was from a wild fire, not the sunset.

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better – Albert Einstein








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Wildflower Secrets

We have very much enjoyed all the wildflowers growing here on the farm throughout the spring, and we’re continually amazed that new ones keep popping up, even in the fierce heat of summer.   They often grow in multitudes, so that we’ll have a yard full of tiny pink or yellow flowers.  Right now, there are large areas of white Queen Anne’s lace in the garden.  It’s very easy to just admire them for how beautiful they look in large numbers, but  many of them have hidden features that you can’t see until you get very close and give them some individual attention.  One example is St. John’s Wort.


It is growing all over the farm, but mostly in  large clumps in the orchard.  It’s very pretty and adds some color to the brown grasses.  Bruce took a sprig of it in to the Master Gardener’s Plant Clinic to find out what it was.  After it was identified I looked it up and found out that it has some very interesting features that you wouldn’t notice at first glance, because, wow, look at the bright yellow color and the fireworks-like stamens.


St. John’s Wort  (Hypericum perforatum) is also known as Klamathweed or Goatweed.  It is widely used to treat depression and is known to be anti-inflammatory, astringent, and antiseptic.  The flowers can be collected and infused in EVOO by leaving it sit in the sun for 4-6 weeks.  After the flowers are strained out, the oil will be red and should be stored in the refrigerator.  It is used as a healing salve.  St. John’s Wort is a nervine, which calms the nerve endings in an injury or trauma, so the oil will have a mild pain reliever quality.

So, that’s quite interesting, but even more interesting is how the plant looks.  I had to use a magnifying lens to see it, but the flower petals have serrated edges with small black dots on the serrations, which are black glands.

StJohns Wort3

In addition, the leaves have translucent (pellucid) glands, hence the Latin name perforatum.  When held up to the light it appears as if the leaf is perforated.  The glands on the leaves, stems and petals contain a light-sensitive compound called hypericin.



I hadn’t given this flower much thought beyond that it was yellow and there was a lot of it in the garden, but I’m glad that I did take the time to look it up and find out that there was much more going on.  That’s the thing about the wildflowers–they are abundant and pretty in masses of color, but if you take the time to study the individuals, you will be rewarded with some fascinating discoveries.

To be fair though, this interesting plant is quite devastating in the west.  It is invasive and spreading rapidly.  It is especially dangerous to livestock.  If ingested it can cause photosensitization because of the compound hypericin, which can lead to skin ulceration, necrosis, and edema.

I suppose we should go out and rip it out of the ground since we do have our lovely cattle neighbors.

Click to access photosensitisation-in-stock.pdf


“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”
W.B. Yeats


Friend or Foe

The wildflowers here are abundant and can be very beautiful, especially when they grow in large numbers.  We have recently been seeing a pretty white flower growing mostly in the orchard,

Queen Anne's Lace14

but Bruce told me it is invasive and we should try to get rid of it.

Well, before we do that I needed to take lots of photos of it.  The flower is Queen Anne’s Lace, (Daucus carota), or wild carrot.  It is the parent plant of the cultivated carrot with a similar odor.  The head is composed of hundreds of small flowers and it often has a central pink, purple or brown section..  As it ages the outer edge elongates and curls downward.


I thought it was great that I was able to photograph the flower in many stages of its life, until I read that maybe it isn’t Queen Anne’s Lace at all, but instead  Poison Hemlock.  Oh no.  Well, of course, I had no idea that this was a problem, and I had no idea how to tell the difference, and just exactly how poisonous is it?  Seems it was time to do some more research.  Here’s what I found:

It is highly important to identify Queen Anne’s Lace correctly, because the plant closely resembles the highly poisonous Hemlock plant. Hemlock contains a poison called Coniine, which blocks the ability of the nervous system to transmit information to the muscles. Like curare, Hemlock will cause a progressive paralysis, which affects the diaphragm and results in an inability to breathe (causing death). Socrates was poisoned by Hemlock.

Poison-hemlock is acutely toxic to people and animals, with symptoms appearing 20 minutes to three hours after ingestion.  All parts of the plant are poisonous and even the dead canes remain toxic for up to three years.  The amount of toxin varies and tends to be higher in sunny areas.  Eating the plant is the main danger, but it is also toxic to the skin and respiratory system.  When digging or mowing large amounts of poison-hemlock, it is best to wear gloves and a mask or take frequent breaks to avoid becoming ill.  One individual had a severe reaction after pulling plants on a hot day because the toxins were absorbed into her skin.  The typical symptoms for humans include dilation of the pupils, dizziness, and trembling followed by slowing of the heartbeat, paralysis of the central nervous system, muscle paralysis, and death due to respiratory failure.  For animals, symptoms include nervous trembling, salivation, lack of coordination, pupil dilation, rapid weak pulse, respiratory paralysis, coma, and sometimes death.  For both people and animals, quick treatment can reverse the harm and typically there aren’t noticeable aftereffects. If you suspect poisoning from this plant, call for help immediately because the toxins are fast-acting – for people, call poison-control at 1-800-222-1222 or for animals, call your veterinarian.


So…that’s not good.  But I still didn’t know if I had a benign plant or a poisonous one.  How are they identified?

As Queen Anne’s Lace is often used in classroom experiments (the flower heads will change color when the fresh cut stems are exposed to dyed water), it is vital to correctly identify this plant prior to harvesting. In addition, some people do harvest and eat the roots of wild carrot, or make a jelly from Queen Anne’s Lace.

One important identifier of wild carrot is the smell. Queen Anne’s Lace gives off a carrot-like smell when the leaves of the plant are crushed.

This is true, it does smell like carrot greens.

Hemlock, on the other hand, has a rank, musty smell similar to parsnips. When picking wild carrot, it is important to smell each plant before harvesting its flowers.

Wild carrot has green stems with little green hairs. The stems are entirely green, with no other discoloration.


Hemlock has smooth stems, and the lower portion of the stem will be streaked with red or purple spots and lines.

Queen Anne’s Lace grows to a height of 1-3 feet, while Poison Hemlock grows to a height of 6-8 feet.

Queen Anne’s Lace earned its name from the appearance of the flower: it appears like a fine lace. In the middle of the flower, there is a purple “heart” (a small, dark red or purple flower in the center). This small, red flower is said to be the blood from Queen Anne, when she pricked her finger on a needle while making the lace. The actual purpose of the tiny, dark flower is to attract pollinating insects. Hemlock does not have a small, dark flower in the center.

Queen Anne's Lace11 Queen Anne's Lace10

When Queen Anne’s Lace goes to seed, the umbrels fold up into a concave form (resembling a bird’s nest) and eventually fall off the stem to form a small tumbleweed.  Poison Hemlock does not fold up.  The seeds of the Queen Anne’s lace have spiny structures on the outside, while the Poison Hemlock seeds are smooth.

QueenAnnesLace2  Queen Anne's Lace15 QueenAnnesLace1


Queen Anne's Lace12


Some other interesting facts about Queen Anne’s Lace:

The leaves are eaten by the Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillar

You can eat the roots of young plants and the seeds

The leaves can cause photodermatitis which is a chemical reaction that makes the skin hyper-sensitive to UV light

The flowers are used as a dye producing a creamy, off-white color

The plants have been used to boost tomato production when kept nearby and can provide a microclimate of cooler, moister air for lettuce when intercropped with it.  But the USDA has listed it as a noxious weed, meaning it is injurious to agricultural and/or horticultural crops, natural habitats and/or ecosystems and/or humans or livestock.

Wikipedia-Daucus carota

**To see a fantastic series of photos on the life cycle of  Queen Anne’s Lace, go to this page, by Brian Johnston;


Queen Anne's Lace 16



It is Iris season here in Oregon and the varieties are seemingly endless.  Since this is our first spring here I never know what is going to pop up out in the gardens and it’s always a very nice surprise to see so much variety.  Before this week I knew just about nothing about irises except that they are pretty.  After a bit of study I at least now know what I am looking at and will probably stop trying to get the top petals to lay down flat to get better photos of the insides.

We were up in Portland last week and on the way home we stopped in at Schreiner’s Iris Gardens.


What a great idea that was!  They are just a bit north of Salem in the Quinaby district.  They have a 10-acre display garden with 500 varieties of irises along with other plants and trees.

Iris-ColumbineGarden         Iris-Dogwood

The bloom season is May 9 to June 1 and is well worth the trip.  The Schreiner’s have been in business since 1925 and they are the nation’s largest retail grower of irises. Their hybridizing program has been internationally recognized as one of the best  and their irises have won eleven Dykes Memorial Medals, the highest award given by the American Iris Society.

Iris-2TonedBlueBearded Iris-RedColumbine

Iris-PurpleColumbine2 _MG_4714

_MG_4717 _MG_4720

_MG_4774  Iris-PurpleBeardedSchreiners

Their website is http://www.schreinersgardens.com.  You can order irises on-line and also at the gardens, where they have other plants and cut flowers for sale.

Iris is from the Iridaeceae family and is a genus of 260-300 species of flowering plants with large, showy flowers.  Its name is derived from the Greek word for rainbow.  Irises can be found throughout the north temperate zone from the Tropic of Cancer to the Arctic Circle.

They are perennial plants, usually growing from creeping rhizomes ( a modified subterranean stem of a plant, usually found underground, often sending out roots and shoots from its nodes.  They grow perpendicular to the force of gravity and have the ability to allow new shoots to grow upwards).

The inflorescences (a group or cluster of flowers on the central floral support) are fan-shaped and have one or more symmetrical 6-lobed flowers.  The 3 sepals (outermost whorl of the flower) spread or droop downwards and are called “falls”.  The falls are the most colorfully marked part of the flower.  Bearded irises have white or colored hairs in the center of each fall, called the “beard”.  Crested irises have a ridge or crest on each fall.

The 3 inner petals are called “standards”; they stand upright in the enter of the flower, but may be horizontal.

 Iris-Chart   Iris-BeardlessChart

All parts of the plant are poisonous and contact with the sap can cause skin irritation.  On the good side, they are low-allergen plants and are used for floral arrangements.

There are five classifications of irises according to the Royal Horticultural Society in London, England:

1.  Bearded Iris-from miniature dwarf to tall, the most widely cultivated group of irises.  They grow from rhizomes and prefer well-drained conditions.

2.  Beardless Iris- they generally have more flowers per stem than the bearded.  There is a bright contrasting spot of a different color on the falls that replaces the beard, called a “signal”. They grow from rhizomes and prefer well-drained conditions.

3.  Crested Iris- they grow from rhizomes and spread freely.  Each petal has a white patch and a yellow or orange crest on each fall.  They prefer moist soil.

4.  Bulbous Iris-  they are beardless and dormant in the summer.  They grow from bulbs and prefer well-drained soil.

5.  Aril Iris-a bearded wild iris species found in semi-arid to desert climates from Central Asia to the Middle East.  They become dormant in the summer. Good drainage and full sun are a necessity.  They prefer totally dry, baking summers, but can tolerate some wetness.  There is another type of iris called Arilbred which is a cross between arils and bearded iris.  They will grow anywhere that bearded irises grow.

In our garden, I think we have only the bearded and beardless types of irises and some wild purple/blue irises growing out in the woods .

Iris-YellowUnbearded Iris-YellowBearded2

Iris-WhiteBeardless   Iris-YellowBearded

Iris-Purple Iris-PeachBearded

Iris-CircusWorld  Iris-LtPurpleBearded

Iris-Wild  Wild Iris


Schreiner’s Gardens website- http://www.schreinersgardens.com


American Iris Society-  http://www.irises.org

Aril Society International- http://www.arilsociety.org

An Illustrated Guide to Perennials by Professor Marshall Craigmyle

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April Flowers-Chives


Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)

They are the smallest species of the edible onions.  A perennial plant, native to Europe, Asia and North America  A. schoenoprasum is the only species of Allium native to both the New and Old Worlds.

We have this beautiful plant growing in our garden, thanks to the previous owner, but we didn’t know what it was.  We finally settled on chives.  Another friend told us that we can eat the purple bulbs, preferably sauteed in olive oil, but only before the bulbs flower.  But, according to a book I found in our library, The Complete Book of Herbs, by Lesley Bremness, you can sprinkle the florets on salads for a mild onion flavor.

We have eaten them several times now, and they are delicious, with a nice, mellow onion flavor.  They are a lovely, interesting garnish for sauces, vegetables and meat.

Chives can be frozen successfully, but are not suitable for drying.  Wash the freshly picked chives, cut off or remove any undesirable parts, carefully pat dry, and freeze in small plastic freezer bags in amounts you would use at one time.  The thaw quickly so add them directly from the freezer to the food you are cooking.  (Canning, Freezing and Drying, Sunset)



Chives are a commonly used herb with many uses.  They are a bulb-forming herbaceous, perennial plant.  The bulbs are slender, conical, 2-3 cm long and 1 cm broad, and grow in dense clusters from the roots.  The scapes are hollow and tubular, up to 50 cm long and 2-3 cm in diameter, with a soft texture.  The leaves, which are shorter than the scapes, are also hollow and tubular and slightly tapering.  Both the bulbs and the scapes are edible.  The flowers are pale purple and star-shaped with six petals, 1-2 cm wide, and produced in a dense inflorescence  of 10-30 together; before opening the inflorescence is surrounded by a papery bract.  The seeds are produced in a small three-valved capsule, maturing in summer.  The herb flowers from April to June.

Useful definitions:

Herbaceous-a plant that has leaves and stems that die down at the end of the growing season to soil level

Perennial- a plant that lives more than two years


Inflorescence- a group or cluster of flowers arranged on a stem


The growing plant has insect-repelling properties that can be used to control pests, and the juice of the leaves can be used for the same purpose, as well as fighting fungal infections, mildew and scab.

Its flowers are attractive to bees, which are important for gardens with an abundance of plants in need of pollination.

Chives are rich in vitamins A, C and K, calcium,iron and folate, contain trace amounts of sulfur, and are  reported to have a beneficial effect on the circulatory system and mild stimulant, diuretic and antiseptic properties.

They are also cultivated for their ornamental value; the violet flowers are often used in ornamental dry bouquets.

The Romans believed chives could relieve the pain from sunburn or a sore throat. They believed eating chives could increase blood pressure and act as a diuretic.  Romanian Gypsies have used chives in fortune telling.  It was believed that bunches of dried chives hung around a house would ward off disease and evil.

When harvesting, the needed number of stalks should be cut to the base. During the growing season, the plant will continually regrow leaves, allowing for a continuous harvest.



The Complete Book of Herbs, Lesley Bremness

Canning, Freezing and Drying, Sunset








The Glide Wildflower Show was this weekend–Saturday and Sunday.  Bruce and I dropped in for an hour or so,  just to see how it all came together for the public.  We spent many, many hours behind the scenes as volunteers, helping to put it together.  We had a lot of fun, learned a bit about flowers and botany, and met some really wonderful people.

Last Sunday, Theresa, Patty and Sam came to our farm to collect some wildflowers.  Theresa is on the council which plans and organizes the show.  Patty is a first year volunteer, and Sam is a botanist who very generously volunteered many hours of his time toward identifying the plants.

So, Bruce, Sara and I set out with the others and started at the upper pond.  We found quite a few specimens including the rare Golden Eggs, (Camissonia ovata).

Golden Eggs, Camissonia ovata

I was told that they are found in only three places in Oregon.

We also found some Meadow Foam or Poached egg plant (Limnathes douglasii ssp. douglasii).  This plant has just started blooming on our farm, but it’s all over the neighbor’s pasture and it looks very pretty with all the yellow buttercups that are also out there.

April Flowers-Meadowfoam

This is White water buttercup (ranunculus aquatilis), found in the upper pond

Ranunculus aquatilis, leafy water buttercup

Theresa knew the general areas where all the flowers were going to be found, and she and Sam identified them, and Patty put them in baggies with a floralife solution.  They were then placed in coolers to keep them from sagging in the sun.  I haven’t figured it out yet, but some plants were collected by digging up the entire plant and others just by taking some clippings.

We found this interesting plant nearer to the house:

Scorpion Grass

It’s called Changing forget-me-not (Myosotis discolor).  It has a coiled array of tiny flowers at the top of the stem.  The flowers change color from yellowish-white to deep blue.

After lunch, we ventured out to the untamed forest between the house and the road.  We had to watch out for poison oak and also ticks.  We found a few ticks, but they weren’t a big problem.  We also found some nice flowers:

Idaho blue-eyed grass, Sisyrinchium bellum
Idaho blue-eyed grass (sisyrinchium bellum)


Hooker's Indian-pink, Silene hookeri
Hooker’s Indian-pink (Silene hookerii)



April Flowers-Great Camus Blue
Great camas (Camassia leichtlinii) in blue

April Flowers-Great camus White

and white



Prairie Star (lithophragma parviflorum).


April Flowers-Cat's Ear, Calochortus tolmiei

Cat’s ear or Oregon mariposa lily (Calochortus tolmiei)


and the iris.  It grows all over the front area of the farm in various shades of purple.


We also found some interesting critters–

April Flowers-Goldenrod Crab Spider

I thought this was a flower, until it started moving.  It’s a Goldenrod Crab spider (Misumena vatia)

“This species of spider uses camouflage as its primary defense as well as offense. It will bite to protect itself as well. Goldenrod Crab Spiders are able to change their coloration over the course of several days in order to blend in better with their surroundings.

They are an ambush spider, jumping on their prey. They do this instead of spinning webs and waiting for something to get tangled. They sit in the center of a flower, preferably a Goldenrod flower which are yellow, and wait for a bee or butterfly on its way to collect pollen to wander in close enough to grab. It uses its very long front pairs of legs to grasp the insect prey then bites it to immobilize it. They are able to grab insects much bigger than themselves with these strong legs.”


April Flowers-Tree Frog

Pacific tree frog (Pseudacris regilla).  We must have a lot of them, because they are very noisy at night.  They grow to only 2 inches in size and are “identified by a black or brown stripe that runs from the nose, across the eye and back to the shoulder”.  Wikipedia


These are just a few of the plants we found in the three hours or so that we were out hunting them and it’s just a tiny fraction of all the plants that were in the Wildflower show.

I volunteered for the show from Wednesday through Friday.  Bruce missed Thursday, due to his work with the Master Gardeners.  On Wednesday most of the flowers came in from various sites and were roughly identified, mostly by their family name.  There were tables set up in rows with all the numbered family names.  Our job as runners was to put the plants in the correct areas according to their family name.  We made sure they were all watered and doing well.  The next day we sorted out each family and took the plants to either the botanists to identify, or if the botanist had already identified them we took them to the “vasers”, who arranged them nicely in vases.  There were hundreds of vases to choose from and I’m sure it got to be a tedious job towards the end.  On Friday, we finished up from Thursday and arranged the vases to show off the flowers in the best way possible.  At the end of the day we gave each plant a nice laminated card.  All the plants and cards were later checked by Jeanne, who put us all to shame with her tireless work, considering she is, I believe, in her eighties.  She is the only remaining member of the earliest council members and still going strong!

I only had a small part in making the show happen, but it was exciting to be a part of it.  I was amazed at all the work that was done behind the scenes in so many various areas–there were even volunteers who made lunch for the volunteers!

Next year is the 50th anniversary of the Glide Wildflower Show and if you’d like to attend or read about it and its history, here is the website:  http://www.glidewildflowershow.org/

Happy Hunting!


 April Flowers-Rabbits


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In The Weeds

The weather forecast called for rain this afternoon, so I got out early to take on the weeds in the flower beds.  I noticed yesterday that they are now much easier to pull out.  The first time I went out to weed, about three weeks ago, the ground was like concrete and I spend two days with very little to show for my efforts.  But today…


Now that’s a huge pile of weeds!  I was outside for five hours and it never did rain.  After a couple of hours I was kind of wishing it would.

Here’s the flower bed I worked on the first time I went out to weed in early March:


The cleared area in front is what I spent all day on, which is about a quarter of the entire bed.  The weedy area in the middle is what the front area looked like pre-weeding.  It is just one solid mass of weeds.  I thought I might have to make friends with the weeds and call them wildflowers, but now, I think Round-up may become my best friend.

To be fair, it’s not that bad being outside pulling weeds.  Roseburg got 4.75 inches of rain for the month of March which for us (former) Californians is a whole lot of rain.  Most of the days have been too rainy or cold to go outside for very long, so when a nice, warm, sunny day comes along it calls to you to be outside enjoying the sun.  Plus, who wouldn’t like enjoying the balmy weather while listening to the geese, all kinds of birds, turkeys, and cows?  It’s nature’s symphony.

“A good garden may have some weeds.”
– Proverb