Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Those, Lazy, Hazy, Crazy, Days of Summer Are Here

For those of you old enough to remember, you will recognize my post’s title as lyrics from a 1963 hit song by Nat King Cole. On the first official day of summer, the local radio station would play this tune numerous times to herald summer’s arrival.

Growing up on the east coast, summer’s definitely had an order and routine about them. In the early 1960s, the mornings began with swimming lessons at the town pool. The water was always incredibly cold because the pool’s water was diverted directly from an adjacent river. The rest of the morning was spent exploring in the woods or ridding our bikes.

Following lunch, we frequently returned the swimming pool for most of the afternoon or until our lips were blue and our limbs were numb! Many a summer night was also spent camping out in the back yard; at the time it seemed like fun despite the constant attack by mosquitoes. In the morning, we would cook or more likely burn our breakfast over an open fire.

As I grew older, another hallmark of summer was spending the first two weeks of August at Boy Scout camp. I never missed a summer at Camp Childs; it was located just south of Plymouth, MA. Water based recreational opportunities abounded as the camp was build around a lake, if not swimming, our afternoons were spent in either a canoe or a row boat. It was also tradition that during our camp session, rain would be a frequent companion. It never seemed to matter, even if the summer had been locked in the grip of drought, it always rained while I was at camp. Maybe that’s what has made Oregon so attractive for the past 30 years.

The Boy Scouts, camping, and water based recreation took a back seat when I entered college and later pursued a career in forestry. As a forester, the summer was marked by the arrival of the project work season and forest fires. It also meant that it was time to plant a garden and to hope that the flowers and vegetables might keep pace with the weeds. The gardening season is pretty short on the north coast of Oregon so it’s important to choose your plantings wisely. It is for this reason that I have grown dahlia for over twenty years, you can't miss. To me nothing announces summer like the bloom of the first dahlia!

The garden's first bloom in 2008!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Zucchine and Chicken Compost

Gardening has always been an interest of mine and the creation of the perfect garden was another of my many retirement goals. When I was gainfully employed, gardening was a hobby I pursued but I never invested the time to really enjoy the process. Gardening, like so many of life's pursuits can be time consuming and other tasks of greater importance were always calling.

After retiring in February, I set out with a plan to greatly upgrade our garden plots. My goal was to redesign the flower garden and to increase the variety and out put of the vegetable garden. With more time on my hands, I assumed that the reward for a job well done would be a bountiful harvest by summer's end.

Spring finally arrived in Oregon, or at least the calender indicated its beginning, therefore it was time to augment the soil by adding copious amounts of organic matter in the form of compost. Traditionally, I have used compost created by "happy cows", but the winter must have been a rough one for the cows, their compost was unavailable. The only compost I was able to find was created by chickens in their daily pursuit of life. As I loaded my truck with compost, I figured oh what the heck, compost is compost, it's all the same!

Whereas we had a very cold and wet spring on the coast, the addition of compost was delayed until the soil had a chance to dry down and warm enough to allow the earth worms to come to life. If my memory is correct, the above mentioned conditions did not occur until about June 10th this year. Since the growing season is also short on the coast, I immediately planted my corn, beans, peas, zucchini, and flowers just a few days after the compost was applied. To date, the only things that have thrived are the peas and the zucchini plants. It's very doubtful if I will harvest any beans and I have seen weeds that are taller than the corn at this point.

I was discussing my dilemma with a friend who is a master gardener and he also used chicken compost this year and his experience is nearly identical to mine. He told me that he has always used cow compost but switched to the chicken variety this spring. I am left to conclude that maybe the chicken stuff might been a little more rich, so to speak, than the bag indicated.

So in all things, there must be a take home message and this experience is no exception! I have concluded the following:
  1. There is no such thing as the perfect garden
  2. Be sure to secure your cow compost early, you never know when it will be in short supply
  3. Since the spring weather is always unpredictable on the Oregon coast, maybe it's best to apply compost in the fall, then it was time to mellow before planting!

We may not enjoy much in the way of produce from the garden this summer, but the gigantic leaves of the zucchini have created some interesting photographic opportunities!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Latest eBay Experience

During a recent conversation with my friend Al, he asked me if I would be willing to sell a few of his treasures on eBay. Always happy to help out a friend, especially if it doesn’t require much in the way of work, I agreed. When I arrived at his home several days later to view his treasures, I suddenly realized this was not going to be my usual eBay offering.

It seems that Al has reached that place in life where he feels that it’s time to clean out and reduce the clutter. The treasures he wanted to sell would be classed as military memorabilia that he aquired while serving with the Army in Korea. He also had a small electric router that he received as a gift more than thirty years ago he no longer needed. My first thought was oh boy, who is going to want a 30+ year old router that may not ever work! Aside from the fact that the router reminded of the robot R2-D2, I figured it had little hope of selling. As I placed the treasures into a bag, I politely reminded Al that if he was hoping to get rich, the sale of these items was unlikely to accomplish that goal!

The R2 look a like

One constant on the eBay auction site is the element of surprise. The following day, I listed the router for sale with an asking price of five dollars. My rational was that since the entire body of the tool was metal, its value as scrape might approach that figure. A couple of minutes after listing the router, I went back and check and already 10 people had visited the page. Over the course of the seven day auction, the page received over 100 hits and several bids. The auction closed and the router sold for thirty-one dollars plus shipping and handling!

I am left to conclude the following about eBay:

1. There seems to be no limit to what people collect
2. If the price is right, people are more than willing to part with their hard earned cash
3. If a 30+ year old router can get 10 hits in less than five minutes, there are a lot of people out in eBay land who might want to shut off their computers once in a while and go out and enjoy the sunshine!

To date, the sale of Al’s treasures has netted him sixty-one dollars; he is not getting rich, but at least he can afford a tank of gas.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Road Trip – Part III – The Final Day

After a long day of travel, we decided to spend the night in one of John Day’s finer lodging establishments. A friend once described John Day as being on the edge of no where; if you enjoy peace and quiet, it’s certainly a city not to miss! The city is also the gateway to the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, the area inside of the monument is considered to be one of the world’s richest fossil beds.

The monument is divided into three units, each of which are many miles apart, so we decided to visit the Sheep Rock unit, which is also the largest. As you turn north on Highway 19 from Highway 26, you pass through the center of Picture Gorge. The gorge was created by the erosive forces of the John Day River as it slowly cut down into the ancient basalt flows. The picture below does not begin to convey the size and beauty of the gorge, you will just have to go and see it with your own eyes!

Looking north to Picture Gorge

When you visit the monument, be sure to take an hour and stop at the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center. I know the word paleontology and incredible are seldom used in the same sentence, but the center is a must see! The center is composed of several life size dioramas, that explain in simple English, how the multiple fossil strata were formed as the local environment was altered by multiple volcanic eruptions.

In earlier geologic times, the fossil records indicate that the John Day region supported vast subtropical forests. If not for the fossils, I might be inclined to think that this is a government conspiracy because in my career, I have been on numerous forest fires in the area and they all burnt with a vengeance! In fact, the picture below shows Sheep Rock in the distance but the plants in the foreground are Bitter and Sage Brush, neither grow where moisture is abundant!

Looking east to Sheep Rock from the Condon Paleontology Center

After leaving the John Day area, we traveled along Highway 26 and finally arrived in Prineville, the home of Les Schwab Tires. After a quick stop for refreshments, we hit the road again as we still had about a five hour trip to return to the cool and green west side of the state; and so ended the spring road trip.

Now summer has arrived and it's time to start some much needed porch roof repairs. Oh how I can't wait to begin this project!!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Road Trip – Part II

After breaking camp and enjoying a quick breakfast in Joseph, we headed east on route 39, which is the gateway into the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. We were afforded incredible views of Hells Canyon as we slowly descended to Oxbow, a tiny community situated on the Snake River.

Hells Canyon as seen from the top looking east to Idaho

Trust me, the Snake River is down there somewhere!

From there, we connected with State Highway 86 and headed west to Halfway, where we stopped at the city’s only grocery store for a cold drink and a candy bar. Halfway has a population of just over 300 residents, and is most notable for changing its name to Half.com during the dot-com boom in the late 1990's. It is often assumed that the city of Halfway is in the middle of the state, but the town is actually located less than one half-hour from the Idaho border. So much for the lesson on geography and trivia!
Our next stop was at the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, which is located just five miles east of Baker City. If you ever pass through the Bake City area, plan to spend an hour at the interpretive center. The center is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and it tells the story of westward migration during the 1880s. The Oregon Tail originally began as a series of unconnected trails used by the Native Americans and later expanded by American fur traders. The trail began outside of Independence, Missouri and proceeded west to present day Oregon City, which is located in the heart of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. The journey from Missouri began in the early spring and if you survived the trail’s perils, you would reach your destination by early fall. To the center’s credit, they also tell how westward migration affected the lives of the Native Americans who lived along the trail’s route.

The arrow points to spot where the trail passed just outside of present day Baker City

Dale trying out for the part of wagon master

After a quick lunch in Baker City, we continued southeast along highway 7 with our sights set for the beautiful community of John Day and the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. I will share about these locations in the final installment, Part III.