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Snowmageddon 2019

 

In February of 2019, Douglas County in Oregon experienced an epic snowstorm that caught everyone by surprise.  The weather forecast was for a large amount of rainfall possibly turning to snow.  We never get much snow around here, so it didn’t seem likely that we would get any.  The snow came down over a period of two days and was wet and heavy.  As a result all of the residents in the county lost power and most lost cell service and internet service for from less than a day (in town) to three weeks.  We, ourselves, lost power for eight days and a bit longer for cell and internet.  At our farm we got about 2 feet of snow, which is a disaster for this part of the country.  There were downed and broken power lines all over the county along with a multitude of downed trees.  Many roads were impassable and one whole town north of here was completely stranded.   I kept a diary of sorts during the power outage and what follows is my account (with explanations in parentheses).  Photos are at the bottom of the page.

–Sunday, February 24–power went out at night after 7 pm.  (It started snowing in the evening; big, beautiful flakes)

–Monday, February 25–no power, no cell, no internet-at least 1 ft. of snow, still snowing.  Water in pressure tank, cistern.  Turned off all water to toilets.  PB&J for breakfast.  (We have a pressure tank in the house that runs from the cistern.  We didn’t know how much water it held, but we did have bottled water.)  Pulled generator from barn to house in deep snow on cart.  Tipped over, switch on gen. broken, now only works with 120 volt and extension cords.  Powered up for 2 hours for refrigerator, freezers and Keurig.  Wood stove works, plenty of wood.  Thankfully had previously figured out the smoke problem. ( The wood stove had been giving us problems with making the house smoky, and we stopped using it.  But Bruce finally figured out the problem, just days before the snowstorm hit.)  Made tuna for lunch. Tree branch fell onto road near creek.  FVR (the main road)passable, not plowed.  Chicken Veg Soup for dinner.  Read to Bruce about Iceland on Kindle with soy candle for light.  (Nights were the worst–it was cold and dark and depressing.  We had on many layers of clothing which we slept in, but were still cold.)

(So strange to be stranded with no contact from the rest of the world-scary too, if we had an accident.  We would have had to walk through the snow up to the main road and then hope to flag a car going by.)

–Tuesday, February 26–no power, cell, internet. PB&J & coffee for breakfast.  Powering gen. for 2 hours/3X’s per day.  Getting pond water to flush toilets.  🙂 (Took a day to figure that out; we must have been in shock). Drove the ATV from barn and up the road, but it stalled and wouldn’t restart.  Dragged it away from FVR and left it.  (We had just bought the ATV second-hand from a friend and had it tuned up, so we thought it would be our salvation to give us a way to get the truck up to the main roadBefore we finally got plowed out, I came up with a boatload of ideas for getting that truck up to the road.  My last idea was to lay newspapers all along our road and set fire to them to melt the snow.  Yes, I was that desperate!  At least all my failed ideas gave us something to do during the day.)

–Wednesday, February 27–Defrosted frittata warmed on the stove for breakfast.  (We have a propane stove in the kitchen, so cooking was possible.) Bruce walked to George’s (our nearest neighbor).  He only let Bruce use phone to call Tim-no plow, no fuel, not much help.  After the call, he asked Bruce where he had parked! (He actually thought that Bruce had driven to his house, to use his phone!) Bruce flagged down a truck on FVR and it was Don Casteel, Tim’s partner (he did some work on our farm).  Gave Bruce 5 gallons of fuel and said would plow our road on Thursday.  (We we getting low on fuel for the generator, and Bruce had been considering walking to town-12 miles- and renting a U-Haul so we would have transportation.)            Steak, potatoes and cauliflower for dinner.  (Utilizing the BBQ grill and kitchen stove.)  Read about the bee lady at night. (A Country Year: Living the Questions by Sue Hubbell.  Great book by the foremost expert on bee-keeping)

–Thursday, February 28–Don & Tim arrived with Cat @ 2pm. (We were beginning to think they weren’t coming, but they were busy all day with the plow helping other people.) Plowed out road and got the ATV back to the house and truck out to FVR.  Went to town-farm store, Costco, Sherm’s and Thai Restaurant—in ski hat, down jacket and muck boots.  Bruce made a sled out of plywood with straps to haul wood from shed. Read about bee lady at night.

–Friday, March 1—Dave H. brought over his generator with 230 V, but we had the wrong plug for it.  Ours is for a 30 amp and his is for a 20 amp.  Finally found a plug from Alan Sabin and went out at dark to get it from him in Camas Valley. (Bruce said it was like doing a drug deal.)  Finally had lights on at night and water to flush toilets.  Got some spotty cell service.  Newspaper delivery today.  (Thanks go out to Dave H. and Dave C. for lending us their generators, when their power was restored.)

–Saturday, March 2—Still no power.  Spotty cell, no internet. Toaster made toast this morning.  Space heater doesn’t work on generator.   Not much to do today.  Bruce cleared a path to FVR and dug a path from FVR to the mailbox.  Got mail and paper today.  Governor declared our area a State of Emergency on Thursday.  We see no improvement.  Played Canasta. (This is how bored we were–because Bruce never plays any games.)

So the up-side to all of this is that we have made a list of everything we had that was helpful and the things we wish we had or what we would have done differently.  We were mostly well-prepared.  You do what you can and pray for the rest.  Also, we are so thankful to the many people in Douglas County who went above and beyond in helping us and many others out, with no expectation of reward, but just because they could and because they are wonderful, kind-hearted people who exemplify the best of this country.

 

The usual amount of snow we get in the wintertime.  This was a few days before Snowmageddon.

  1. Frittata; 2-3. First day of snowfall; 4. Entry to our farm; 5. Main road to town- George’s house way in the distance; 6. tree down on our road.

1-4. More snow has fallen. 5. Truck stuck in the snow.

  1. Bruce getting pond water for the toilets, in knee-deep snow; 2-3. Our attempt to drive the truck out; 4. The ATV was great while it lasted; 5 It took us awhile to figure out how to get more light.  If you shine a flashlight onto a white wall you get quite a lot of light.  This is our soy emergency candle, in a canning jar.

1-4. So much snow-covering 2 foot bushes; 5.  Our trusty wood stove blasting away for days. 6. Some hope for tomorrow?  Yes!

 

 

 


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Twenty-seventeen

Last year I decided to try something new, because I was depressed about the rampant discord in our country and the massive amount of rancor (a feeling of deep and bitter anger and ill-will) coming from so many people in this country, who I really thought knew better.  My decision was to try and be mindful of the good in life and make a record of it on little 3X3 pieces of notepaper.  Every time something nice, good, wonderful, interesting, funny or weird happened I would write it down, fold it up and toss it in a jar.  Hopefully, at the end of the year I would have a jar full of happy memories to prove to myself that something good did happen during the year.

The following is a mix of the best of my written and photographic recordings of the past year.

January 1, 2017–Happy New Year’s!  It snowed today!

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January 4–I went on a photowalk around the farm in the freshly fallen snow.  Such a different, serene view!

January 5–Saw two coyotes in the Morgan’s cow pasture this morning.  We often hear the coyotes howling at night, but never see more than one or two in the daytime.

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January 24–Went out for pizza and beer with Janice Barthlomew and her mom at Abbey Pizza.  Good times!  (Abbey Pizza benefit for the Sigl family’s loss of wife and mom.)

January 24–Saw the elk two times today.  It’s a big herd with young.  The herd was much more visible this year with more young than usual.

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January 25–I brought Matrimonial bars to the SIG event (Spring Into Gardening) and a man sought me out to ask  for the recipe…for something I baked!

January 26–Sun is shining!  Temperature got up to 85 degrees upstairs.

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January 27–There were some interesting wave-shaped clouds over the mountains just before sunset.  These, I found out later, are called  Kevin-Helmholtz wave clouds.

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January 30–Started an on-line photoshop course called Photoshop Artistry, which makes art from a collage of photos.

January 31–Today I FIXED my computer, after breaking it last week.  Installed the correct Wacom TAB DRIVER so the mouse works again and figured out that MS Edge will let my Wacom Pen work with Adobe Flash!  😀

 

February 23–First wine and food pairing class with Diane of Delish with Diane.  Lots of fun, wine and good Caesar Salad!  This was a six-week course and every week we had something delicious to eat, great wine, and lots of laughs.

March 1–Laura got a big raise and a new title!  😀

March 2–Saw a Bald Eagle early this morning–he landed on top of a tree in the cow pasture.

March 12–Lovely warm day spent weeding and trimming.  Saw the elk herd in the pasture.

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March 25–Joined an interesting group–The Cloud Appreciation Society.

The Cloud Appreciation Society was founded by Gavin Pretor-Pinney from the United Kingdom  in January 2005. The society aims to foster understanding and appreciation of clouds, and has over 42,000 members worldwide from 115 different countries, as of January 2017.  Yahoo named the society’s website as “the most weird and wonderful find on the internet for 2005”. The group and its founder were the focus of a BBC documentary Cloudspotting, based on Pretor-Pinney’s book The Cloudspotter’s Guide.  (Wikipedia)

Upon joining, I received a certificate (member 43,001), a nifty enamel pin and a Cloud Selector Identification Wheel, plus every day they send me a photo of an interesting cloud formation with an explanation of what it is.  I don’t remember why I joined, but I have been enjoying it immensely.  You too can join at https://cloudappreciationsociety.org/

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April–NO MFP Training!  😀  (Sorry Sara R.)

April 15–April, the giraffe, had her baby!  Too cool.  Live video was posted by the zoo and many, many people invested many, many hours waiting for that baby’s arrival.

April 16–Alternate Universe–There is a Sabbath setting on the refrigerator.  The panel stops working=NO WATER!  Happy Easter!

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April 19–A pheasant came to visit us–very friendly.  We bought it some food and haven’t seen it since.

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May 1– Last day of Delish with Diane.  A lady in the class, who homeschools, asked me to teach art to the kids in her homeschool group.  Nice to be asked, but I turned her down.

May 7–Going to Ireland!

 

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May 25–Home from Ireland!  We had the best time–two and a half weeks of a perfect vacation.  We drove from Dublin clockwise around the entire island and ended in Dublin.  The people of Ireland are very friendly and the scenery is gorgeous.

We found Smithwick’s ale to be the best in Ireland and at a Slow Food Festival near the Cliffs of Moher I won a bottle of Irish Peat Wine as a door prize.  Hmmm…it didn’t taste like peat though.

June 27–Started pottery class–great fun!  Started on a slab cup and attempted a pinch pot.

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July 1–Bruce was the cover boy (with article inside) for our local electric company’s magazine, Ruralite. 

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July 10–Finally finished a pastel painting.  The subject is a photo that a friend posted on Facebook.  Next painting up is a photo I took in Ireland of a mama pig and piglets in a barn.

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July 17–I found my Photoshop Brushes that I thought were lost forever!  Oh, Happy Day!  Also, 7-17-17, all the sevens, and my Grandmother’s birthday.

July 26–Threw my first pot on the pottery wheel.  Short cylinder, difficult to do, but fun!

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July 27–Bruce installed new sun covers for the kitchen and greenhouse/conservatory.  They are very nice and keep the kitchen much cooler!

August 15–We planted a peach tree in our orchard and got a small but very delicious crop this year.  These are Elberta peaches.

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August 21–Today I’m sure that Laura bought us a fine bottle of Port in Porto, Portugal!  Yum!  😀  (update Christmas 2017–I was right!)

August 21–Total Solar Eclipse Day!  We had about 97% totality.  It got as dark as it does at dusk.

August 22–The glaze on my coil pot came out just the way I wanted it.  Yahoo!

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August 24–We have a beautiful new marble countertop in our bathroom!  The second photo is the previous countertop.  We also put in new fixtures and a spiffy shower door.

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August 28–Laura made it home safely from trip to Portugal/Spain and had a great vacation!

September 7–Smoke has cleared and skies are blue–partially.  Air smells sweet.  😀     The fires were fierce in Oregon this summer and we mostly avoided the smoke until the end of summer when the winds shifted and we were enveloped in a cloud of smoke for weeks.  It made for some interesting photography, though.

_MG_9039Morning sun

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_MG_8859Afternoon/evening sun

November 15– Pottery class is winding down for the holidays.  This is my favorite piece since we began.

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December 14–I finally figured out how to use the Scan Function on the printer to make it put the image on the computer! 😀

In the end, this project was a good decision on my part–I didn’t always have something good to write, but when I did, I mostly remembered to write it down and it was fun reading all the notes at the end of the year.  Some things I remembered and some were a good jog to the memory and some things were silly, but still good.  Best of all, it reminded me that in spite of it all seeming like life is awful, there are still many, many good things that happen too.  I have no trouble remembering the bad that happens and dwell on it too much, but now I have a way of keeping happy alive.

I wish you all a year of many happy memories!


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Summer of 2015 Garden

The major 2015 projects were establishing a program of crop rotation and double digging the vegetable garden, establishing a berry garden, and adding to the fruit orchard and table grape vineyard.

With the help of a new tiller,

Summer 2015c

I was able to start the effort of double digging the vegetable garden and establishing the berry garden.  I have decided to double dig the two tomato rows, the pepper row, and the two potato rows each year.  With my rotation schedule, this effort will result in the total garden getting double dug every 3 to 4 years.

My process for the tomato and pepper rows is to use the tiller to break down the old row, then dig out the loosened soil and run the tiller through the trough and repeat, until I have removed the soil down at least 12 inches below grade.  I then use the digging fork to break up the soil a few inches lower.  I run the tiller through the trough again, lay down 6 inches of compost, and run the tiller again. Finally, I put 3 inches of compost on the soil that was dug out of the trough, run the tiller to mix the compost with the soil, and start filling in the trough to create the raised row.  I continue this until I have a tall row and the walkway on either side is at least 6 inches below grade.  This makes for a significantly high row of soil that over the winter settles a bit and regains some of its previous soil structure.

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I plant a cover crop of cole plants and fava beans to help with the process and to provide a little bio-fumigation to kill off some pathogens.  For the potato rows, I follow a similar process but do not fill in the trough until the potatoes start to grow.  The good news is that this effort eliminates the need for a gym membership.

We established a berry garden this summer.  This garden currently consist of a 40 foot long row each of blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries.  The rows are on 14 foot centers.  This leaves room to add a second row of each type if we decide we want more fruit.   The strawberries are being grown in a 6-inch PVC pipe with 4-inch holes drilled at 6-inch spacing.  The pipe is balanced on a t-post at a comfortable picking height. This keeps the fruit clean and easy to pick.  I plan to enclose the entire 70’ x 45’ plot in bird netting once I come up with a good plan.  I have a fence company quoting a galvanized pipe enclosure and am working on a t-pipe and rope idea as a backup.

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We planted 10 new table grape vines and I am starting a few more.  This year we were able to freeze a good bit of the fresh grapes and harvest 10 gallons of the juice.  When these new vines come into production we will be awash in grapes.

Summer 2015b _MG_0839 (1) _MG_1648 (1)

We added two Asian plum, a peach, a filbert, and 3 cherry trees to the orchard.  We currently have 7 apple trees, 5 of which produce all the apples for our apple cider pressing event.  This year we collected about 35 bushels of apples which we pressed into 57 gallons of apple cider.  I have grafted 12 new apple trees that I plan to plant this winter.  When these get into production we should produce a good quantity of apples and cider.

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The remaining infrastructure projects on the short list include completing the greenhouse, building a small cold frame, finishing painting the barn, and building a deck on the front and potentially back of the barn.  In the orchard we are planning to add two more European prune, three more pear, one more peach, one more cherry and three to four pecan trees. With these projects completed, all of the major infrastructure projects and expansions will be complete.  I fear these expansions will have created more work in maintenance, harvest, and preservation than I will want to do, but that should put a cap on my expansion efforts.

Summer 2015a   Summer 2015

The vegetable garden was just okay this year.  I had a few problems with getting the rows ready in time and with my starts not growing as well as I would like, so most things got planted later that I would have liked.  The result of this was less fruit on the melons and winter squash, late ripening peppers, and the worst case of blossom end rot I have ever seen on my tomatoes.  I initially blamed the blossom end rot on the double digging, thinking I had mixed up to much acidic subsoil and had not applied enough lime, but a soil test has disproved that theory.  The soil test came back good on most counts with a bit too much phosphorus and too little magnesium.  I do not think either of these can be the root cause of the blossom end rot, so I am back to the normal causes of water and heat.  I will just have to be more attentive next year.  In the end, we got enough tomatoes to meet our needs, but not the overabundance we are used to.  Zucchinis, cucumbers, onions, garlic, shallots, and leeks all did great!  This is my first year to grow sweet potatoes, cardoons, and artichokes.  The artichokes should fruit next year, the cardoons are doing great, but we are not big fans of eating them.  I have not harvested and cured the sweet potatoes yet but have dug around enough to know there are a good number of tubers.

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cauliflower; cardoons; cucumbers

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Gravenstein apples; garden mix; garlic

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Paste tomatoes; dried beans; leeks

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potato plants; fennel

Changes for next year:

  • Get the garden and starts ready for early plantings and plant as early as the weather will allow.
  • Dig a bit of fertilizer and dolomite lime in to each tomato and pepper hole
  • Get the starts out of the germination box and into the small greenhouse as quickly as possible.
  • Plant more large size paste tomato varieties.  I am planning to run a bit of a “large paste tomato” trial.
  • Plant more Virginia Sweet and True Black Brandywine tomatoes.
  • Plant more Aleppo, Belecski, Corno di Toro, and Espelette peppers.
  • Plant Costata Romanesco zucchini.


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A Room With A View

I’ve always loved looking at the clouds.  I can remember as a child, lying in the grass, and trying to figure out what each cloud shape looked like–a dog, a castle, a funny kind of car…there were no limits to what you could imagine.   In college, I took a class in meteorology and learned that all those cloud shapes had specific names–cumulus, stratus, cirrus–and that made cloud watching even more interesting.  One of the more captivating cloud shapes is the lenticular cloud (Altocumulus lenticularis) which often looks like an alien spaceship.  Trying to find and figure out cloud shapes never gets old.

In this house that we have lived in for almost two years, we have a large two-story bank of windows in the family room that faces west.  We’ve never owned a house with west facing windows on the family room side because the setting sun can be very hot in the summer.  But, we fell in love with the farm and the house and it didn’t matter where the windows were.  After moving in, we found out that these windows are wonderful!  We get to see the wildlife walking, flying or hopping by, and we can look down the valley and up into the mountains and yes, it is hot and bright in the summer, but sometimes, we get to see the the most gorgeous sunsets.   They always seem to be different from day to day, due to the abundance of clouds, the mountains and oftentimes smoke in the air.  Sometimes the way the light shines through the clouds is just breathtaking.  So I’m still looking at those clouds and they are still very fascinating.  Here is a collection of some of the more stunning sunsets we have seen over the last year or so, and perhaps a sunrise or two.

RoomWithaView18   RoomWithaView17

The view from our living room, February 2, 2015; May 31, 2015

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July 21, 2014

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July 31, 2014: 7:35 pm, 7:39 pm, 7:47 pm

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August 11, 2014; September 15, 2014

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October 19, 2014: 6:07 pm, 6:21 pm; November 5, 2014: 7:43 am

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January 23, 2015: 8:24 am

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January 23, 2015: 6:03 pm; 6:13 pm

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May 31, 2015: 7:24 pm, 7:26 pm, 7:32 pm

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June 2, 2015; June 27, 2015: 8:48 pm, 8:54 pm

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September 28, 2015; October 8, 2015: 6:46 am


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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.

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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.

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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.

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Dew on the grass shining in the sunset