Friday, September 10, 2010

Beautiful banana slugs

This post is dedicated to Margi, who has never had the opportunity to spend a day with a toddler looking for slugs in the northwest. May her love of banana slugs grow over time.

Yes, that's a dead sea lion we found on the beach....but it kinda resembled a banana slug!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

What we've been up to the past month

Picking lots of berries. Blueberries, red raspberries, many as we can get.

Visiting beautiful natural areas. This is a site owned by The Nature Conservancy in eastern Oregon. Sun and dry air!

Camping out and eating picnic breakfasts in the sun...

Building new steps off the back deck (yes, Zach really is this nasty when he's working!)...

Playing on the beach naked (at least Ada) whenever possible...

Don't let the sunny pictures fool you, the temps this summer have been frigid! Eskimo boots with a swimsuit is very appropriate...

And Ada's making friends with "Buffy" the chicken. She carries her all over the yard. Very sweet...

More beach play...

And a parade of purple veggies from our modest garden. Yes, that's a purple carrot!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Vampires beware!

Garlic harvest season has arrived! I plucked 58 heads of garlic from my modest little garden bed. Now....what to DO with all of them!

Thanks, mom, for helping me clean them all up!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Grow cucumbers....GROW!

Oregon coast gardening is challenging. It's Saturday July 17th....and the cucumbers are still waiting for the temps to warm up so they can grow. Today I created these little heat generating tents to help them out. Ugly, I know. But if I can get cucumbers to grow prolifically then I can justify buying a fermenting crock to make old fashioned pickles. Big dreams!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A box turtle found me

Nearly 18 months ago I left behind my beloved box turtle project in Pennsylvania to come to the Oregon coast. Sadly, this portion of Oregon has no native turtle species so when a box turtle walked into my life I wasn't quite sure what to make of it. I'm trying my best to see it as a big coincidence, but there's a little part of me that believes she found me for a reason. That she knew I would appreciate her and was deserving to be her friend because of the countless days I've spent admiring, studying, and protecting her species. I like to think she knew I was special because I love turtles and have been so sad without them in my life.

This box turtle is a robust female found wandering through the coastal spruce forest. She is obviously a pet that someone has either released or lost, and would likely not survive on her own in this ecosystem. When I found her she was very light and dehydrated and has spent the past few days basking in a water bowl and eating raspberries.

I've always been against keeping turtles as pets, mostly because most pets are actually wild captured animals and wild turtles populations are in decline. But for this lady I have no choice. Even if she was plucked from the wild, I couldn't release her unless I knew the exact location. So, now I must work to create her an outdoor turtle pen so she can live the most natural life possible....with the addition of my culinary supplements. I'm happy she found me.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Camping at Mount Hood

What a difference driving across two mountain ranges can make! We drove 3 1/2 hours from the cold rainy coast and found the warm sunshine at Mount Hood National Forest.

Ada got to swim....not really sure what Zach is doing in this picture:

Hiked up to a fire tower where we found this cool rock to pose on:

And visited the beautiful Camas Meadow where we watched dragonflies and flower sniffed:

The beautiful Camas flower in bloom:

Ada got to eat dirty snow off Mount Hood. Yum.

And show off her new owl backpack at the campground:

On the drive home we stopped by the Bonneville Power Dam and saw where our energy is produced:

And Multnomah Falls. The second largest waterfall in the country:

Unfortunately, our short trip came to an end and we are now back in the land of cold and rain. But I'm already scheming our next get away to visit the sunshine!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Dead girl walking

I've been walking in my sister's shoes since the day she died. Literally. But it's not as creepy as it sounds. I found her shoes in the kitchen where she had taken them off. They are a pair of Merrell trail hiking shoes with shoelaces that have been cut. I slipped them on my feet and they fit perfectly. It was kinda like a Cinderella moment because my sister has always worn one size larger than me, a frustrating fact that always prevented me from "borrowing" her shoes when we were younger. But these shoes fit me...a fact I won't try to analyze.

I like to think that when I wear these shoes that I'm taking my sister along to places she never got to see. Over the past 20 months they have been on my feet nearly every day. They've hiked the Grand Canyon, journeyed to the top of Saddle Mountain, explored downtown Portland, Olympic National Park, Phoenix, Washington DC, Seattle, the Oregon Coast, Vancouver, Port Angeles, Ghost Ranch, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, searched for turtles on the Gettysburg Battlefield, shopped at Fred Meyer, and more, more, more.

Thanks, Myra. If only the shoes could tell me more...

Friday, January 29, 2010

What you can do in an afternoon when you're supposed to be working....

A cute little playhouse for Ada made out of an old cardboard box! Still have some finishing touches to do but I hope she likes it when she wakes from her nap. Amazing how you can really get into a project like this when you're supposed to be doing real work (sorry, Margi!).

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Swimming upstream

Life is hard. We all struggle along the way. But a trip to a small local stream in Seaside, OR put it all into perspective for me. Within this stream were numerous salmon making their way upstream to lay their eggs.

Salmon are unique in that they are born as small eggs in a stream bed and spend the first few years of their lives in these streams. These are FRESHWATER streams. Their bodies then begin an amazing transformation as they slowly adapt to survive in salty water and then venture out to into the Pacific Ocean to live out their adult lives. As the salmon reaches maturity it journeys back to the same stream in which it was born to lay it's eggs. How they find their way back from the immensity of the Pacific Ocean is a small feat in itself. The salmon then generally dies within a week of spawning, fertilizing the stream and creating a nutrient-rich environment for the new infant salmon that are about to hatch.

At the stream we visited I was told that salmon used to be so plentiful that a person could "walk across the stream on the backs of the salmon". Farmers used to easily gather the fish and lay them in their crop fields as fertilizer. Now, in this stream there are only a handful of salmon. Life is hard. Especially when your a fish and must conquer dammed rivers, fishing nets, pollutants, introduced diseases, and more just to complete your basic life cycle.

Two salmon in this picture....
The waterfall within the stream....

What becomes of the salmon after they spawn....

And Zach teaching Ada all about this amazing fish...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

The week before Thanksgiving we traveled to Ohio to visit Zach's parents. While in Ohio we visited the Virginia Kendell area of Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Talk about memories...this was the place I came to frequently while working on my undergrad work at Kent State University.

I had started at Kent as an English major but I had no desire to teach or write and so my college path was starting to feel like a wasted effort. But after spending many days exploring the ledges at the Virginia Kendell I decided to spend my life working outside and helping to preserve the natural environment. I then switched my degree to a BS in Conservation of Natural Resources. Nearly 12 years later, I have a Master's degree in Environmental Biology and have worked for the National Park Service for 9 years. I don't say this to boast of my "accomplishments", but rather to honor the place that inspired me towards this direction.
Here's Ada enjoying the rocks and ledges of the park.

And playing hide-and-seek (her new favorite game) behind a tree.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Little piggies in the woods

The autumn rains have officially started, and with them comes the emergence of mushrooms! This past week we have been very busy searching for those tasty edibles. The best find of the season is the "King Bolete" or "Porcini" as the Italians call it. Porcini is an Italian word that translates to "little piglet" and as the name suggests, these mushrooms are robust and tasty! Although they are a common mushroom in the forest they are difficult to find because of the tough competition by other mushroom hunters. The porcini season is only 3 weeks long and people take it very seriously out here. Just the other day there was an arrest at the state park near our house when a man pulled a knife on another man because he had walked into his mushroom territory. Crazy. My mushroom spot is nearly a 2 mile hike through the forest, with Ada on my back and George at my side for protection.

Here is a porcini popping out of the moss covered ground...

And another. They look like little loaves of bread in the forest.

You can see how big these mushrooms can get by using Ada for scale. And these are actually small compared to what they can become...

This here is a lobster mushroom. Not quite as yummy as a porcini, but worth a taste...

And for those of you worried that I may somehow poison myself....please relax. Zach and I are both taking a mushroom identification class at the local college so we know what we're doing!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Paddle and Pull

In early October we volunteered to help eradicate the nasty invasive exotic plant, Enchanters Nightshade. It just a few short years this plant has infested the tiny islands found in the Lewis and Clark River.

Most of the islands are covered completely with the Enchanter's Nightshade.

Zach was the hardest worker in our boat. All the plants had to be pulled and carried back to the shore for disposal.

What a difference a climate can make!

My garden back in Pennsylvania consisted of tomatoes. Lots of tomatoes. At one point we had over 50 plants, all heirloom varieties....Brandywine, Pruden's Purple, German Green, Sun Golds, and so many more. To me, a vegetable garden is centered around the tomatoes. So when we arrived to the cool, rainy northwest coast I was horrified to hear that tomatoes just don't like it here. But I was desperate to try, so I planted 4 tomatoes in pots and babied them all summer. At one point my neighbor noticed I was growing tomatoes and she said, "how sad." And she was right. The climate got the best of me. By the end of September I had plants covered with mold and a few tiny green tomatoes. Out of frustration, Zach and I yanked the plants from the pots and threw them over the bank. How liberating it was to GIVE UP ON THE IMPOSSIBLE!! And focus on plants that CAN be grown here in the cool temps and rain. I've grown the best lettuce of my life! Take a photo tour of our little garden....

Raised beds are the way to go here. With all the rain it keeps the roots from flooding and your soil in place.

Purple globe topped turnips....

Broccoli getting close to picking....

And this beautiful red leaf lettuce takes my breath away. One leaf is big enough to cover a slice of bread...

Here's my little helper bringing me brooms to use in the garden. Hmmm...maybe the lettuce needs swept?

Chinese cabbage...yummy cooked and raw in salads...

Lots of radishes. Ada like to pick them and feed them to the chicken (yes, only 1 chicken left...sad story for another time).

And here's Ada being my carrot taste-tester. She loved the tiny carrots (these were the ones I was thinning out) plucked from the ground. Now I'm nervous she will raid my garden when I'm not looking!

Also planted are beets, kale, parsley, cilantro, Swiss chard, arugula, and garlic and onions that will mature over the winter. My Dad would have been proud!