Sunday, January 31, 2010

Fruits and nuts

Pete, who owned the property for over 30 years, planted most if not all of the fruit and nut trees here (the details are a bit murky right now). We aren't sure how many there are, but about 65% of the 16 acres are in orchard, and the trees were planted with the minimum of spacing.

Common hazel (Corylis avellana) beginning to ripen. Common hazels are native to almost all of Europe and Western Asia east to an area extending from NW Iran, through the Caucaus Mountains, and up into Russia's Central Urals. One way to determine which species of the 14+ species worldwide is the length of the husk, or involucre, that surrounds the nut. Common hazels usually have a husk that covers three-fourths of the nut. Filberts have a husk that fully encloses and extends beyond the end of the nut.

Black walnut

Chestnut variety

A very nice chestnut tree to sit beneath. Unfortunately this one does not produce.

Hazelnuts strung up to dry by Abigail

hazel nuts are high in protein, unsaturated fat, thiamine, and vitamin B6. I cup of the flour has 20 grams of carbohydrates and 12 grams of fiber. Nuts are, and have been in history, an alternative food staple to todays grains.

Most hazelnuts in the stores are grown and shipped over from Turkey.

Hundreds of Asian pear trees produce fruit. The local fruit (and nut?) club is interested in determining if the farm has an unknown Vashon hybrid. They plan on keeping watch this coming fall.

Apple. Jen and I have much to learn about orcharding.

Last summer at the farm: manuring

Last summer and fall Jen and I made a few of awesome trips out to the farm to visit Abigail and Leora. During this stay manuring the orchard field was on order. Abigail scoured parts of the island looking for horses (where there are horses there is horse shit, and there are only a few cows these days), knocking on doors, and attempting to strike a sound deal. One farm had a giant pile of manure and a friend who hauls, stuff. Four truck loads and 36 cubic yards later there was a job to do. Thanks to Josh's muscles, ancient solar energy, and the work of anonymous mechanical engineers (4-stroke engines and the tractor's hydraulics) we got it done.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The big Cascade vents

Tahoma, or Rainier, over Seattle

The view from a high bluff on Maury Island

Mt Hood from the east

Mt Adams from Goldendale

Late afternoon light on Rainier.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Steens Country

Prairie falcon

Hidden from most creatures out in Oregon's remote SE corner is Steens Mountain - and below its eastern flank spreads the pancake-flat Alvord Desert. Northwest of the mountain the waters of the region collect in the bottom of Harney Basin. The extreme variance in moisture regimes is a beautiful sight to behold. Snow and rainwater collect in the mountain's heights and course westward down the gradual, almost tree-less slopes creating riparian spillways that extend across what would otherwise be scrubland and dry salted flats. Birds on their twice annual migration between northern North America and destinations south rely on the oases which act as fertile beacons in the dry land. Year round surface waters with their reeds and grasses fill with ducks and shorebirds. Along with rodents, these birds are sustenance to the relatively rich number of raptor species; we saw ten species during our five day visit.

Looking out over the Harney Basin from Steens Mountain

Pronghorn, the fastest land animal in North America, has no close living relatives and is the sole remaining member of a 20-million year old family of hoofed grazers. Although fast, pronghorns are poor jumpers and the stringing of fences across western North America during the last half of the 19th century meant trouble for the masses: The population crashed, dropping from "millions" to 20,000 in just one century. Some fences are now constructed which allow pronghorn to fit underneath.

Rocky Mountain Mule Deer feeding on willow leaves and twigs beside the Frenchglen River. Rocky Mountain mule deer are the same species as Black-tailed deer, (aka Columbian deer). RMMD is Odocoileus hemionus spp. hemionus; BTD is O. hemionus spp. columbianus. Where RMMD and White-tailed deer populations overlap, they may mate and can produce hybrids; male offspring are sterile, but females are fertile.

Supper with sunset on tail gate. Nevada isn't too far away.

The Alvord Playa from the top of Steens

Steens' eastern flank if dry and steep

Jen afoot with Inde. Click on this one (any or all the others too) to see it better.

Rough-legged hawk

Northern harrier, the most commonly observed raptor of the trip

Greater yellow legs

Short-billed dowitchers

Northern pintail

Red-tailed hawk

The source pipe for Alvord Hot Spring

Alvord Lake's bed. Annual flooding and evaporating have left the surface folded, raised, and coated in mineral salts.