Exploring the Land

With Mitch taking the Permaculture class, we have been adventuring around the property more and more to check out what exactly is going on here.

I hope you find a little walk through the property as interesting as we have. It is hard to believe the amount of natural diversity covered in such a small area.

Beginning from the beach, you cross the Siletz Bay Wetland Refuge.

Then you climb more than 800 feet in 2 miles through a collage of deeply wooded forests and clear-cuts and then quickly drop about 600 feet back down for the next 2 miles. This side of the mountain dead ends into a dramatic bend in the river, creating a secret little peninsula. It’s a place where cell phone towers don’t reach, where cable and gas companies couldn’t justify running their lines and where the mail lady can only deliver to mailboxes placed in clusters.

Going down our totally hidden driveway, you come out of the trees and into the open space that gradually drops to the river. We are bordered by a creek surrounded by old growth trees. To understand what I mean by old growth… these are old springboard notches. And there are 30+ year old trees growing out of their stumps.

From the high ground at the house, you wind down to the wetlands (which Mitch mentioned here) through the center. The land rises slightly again before dropping into the bank of the Siletz. Framed by the creek and with a yearly flood in the lower field, the property is ever-changing and we expect that these explorations will be full of new discoveries as the seasons change as well as year after year.

Studying the soil, the water movement and the sun’s path, Mitch has discovered so much about the dynamics of the property. Move ten feet and you will be standing on a completely different type of ground. These are soil samples from the upper field, the wetlands and the lower field. Once settled, they are worlds apart!

Pretty amazing, huh!? Here is what he determined about the way the property is made up….

Soil Map

I am not sure what we will end up doing with this information… guess that is what his class is for! This was previously a dairy farm. When the farm was inherited by the next generation, they retired that business and no farming was done. A neighbor told us that they used the coop to grow pheasants, which was a program set up by Oregon State University years ago to replenish the bird’s population. We also know that the rows of alders were planted in an attempt to continue to receive the farm tax credit. It seems that in this climate and location, there are very limited options for sustainable growth. That is hard to wrap my head around… looking out at vast green and abundant life everywhere… how can it be so hard? Obviously, as with everything we are trying to tackle out here, we have a LOT to learn.

The last thing we noticed on our recent trek is a little sad… this is a before-and-after series of a beautiful tree near where you enter the property. I am not sure which storm managed to break it apart… there have been so many! Although sad, it is definitely not tragic. As you can see, there is no shortage of breathtaking beauty here.

Hope you enjoyed the tour!
Xo, K

Ready for Spring!

I have just returned from a week in Germany. I was attending the International Dental Show in Cologne, which happens once every two years. It was an incredibly busy and productive week. We enjoyed staying near the unbelievable Dom (<–link to really well done virtual tour)

iPad snap of the Dom with snowflakes just starting to fall.

iPad snap of the Dom with snowflakes just starting to fall.

On the first day, I was surprised by a snowstorm that lasted throughout the first part of the week! I don’t think I am alone when I say that I have had just about enough of this arctic air. I returned home with high hopes of warmer weather and signs around the property that Spring is among us. While the signs were certainly not everywhere

Sure enough, we have had (very) few small, but worthy sightings…

While we wait for growing season to begin, we will continue to explore our new terrain. As I mentioned before, we live among some heavy logging. Across the way there is a massive clear-cut that was replanted a decade ago. A mile down the road, there is a brand new one… previously fresh, fallen branches are still drying out. Sometimes a Great Notion was filmed on the Siletz River up our road in 1971… written by Oregonian Ken Kesey about a typical logging family in this exact area. Read the book (if you can find the time for the 736 pages) or see the movie, which to me perfectly illustrates the time warp that can be felt all around in this area. From the rustic, weathered and rusted homes, vehicles, buildings and roads; the mentality of living off the land as a way to survive, rather than a hobby; the hard work and the skill that is required to maintain what you have; how little opportunity there is for economic stability… the 90 miles to Portland feels like a thousand. It’s an interesting contrast to experience.

Here are some pictures from our clear-cut trek on a gorgeous sunny day (hello Spring!).

Next up! Our chicks and my dad and mom are arriving tomorrow!!!

Xoxo, K

Wise Owl

Credit Image: © Robin Loznak/robinloznak.com

Credit Image: © Robin Loznak/robinloznak.com

We have a friend living outside our window. It’s either a Spotted Owl or a Barred Owl. We can’t be sure since we’ve never seen it, but an owl for sure. After plenty of research by way of listening to clips of hoots, screeches, caws and chatters, and narrowing down who may be found around here, we have decided on Spotted as our incredibly amateur hunch. Our neighbor definitely hoots. It’s actually almost a purr… Spotted Owl Call

I bring this up because owls seem to be a recurring theme for us. One hit our CAR on the way home late at night a few months ago on Christmas Eve. We thought it was a baby, but now I see that the Western Screech Owl only grows to about 8 inches tall and looks very similar to our little yellow-eyed victim (below). It happened only 2 blocks from home back in Portland at about midnight… we must have been the only car on that street for several hours. What are the odds of that exact timing? I was able to pick him up on my second attempt… on the first try, he spread his wings about 4 feet wide, which made me scream! We carefully hid him next to a tree away from the road and the next morning he was gone. Hopefully that’s a good sign?

Monday I got this special delivery from my dearest friend… which included a card with, what else? A pair of hooters (as the card so eloquently states)! A funny coincidence, but still interesting.

Housewarming/half birthday gift from Tracy

Housewarming/half birthday gift from Tracy

I am really not superstitious, but one may think there is an omen in these recent run-ins. In fact, everyone’s got an opinion on the matter: World Owl Mythology… I see that in Australia, where my mom grew up, they believe ‘bats represent the souls of men and owls the souls of women.’ If that is true, there are an awful lot of male spirits around here (which one is creepier? That, or the ACTUAL bats?).

No matter the symbolism, each one takes a visit from an owl seriously. Many eluding to death, evil and bad luck. Others, and the theory that I prefer to wrap around myself, is that the owl is here to promote wisdom. We are a family of two people and three rowdy dogs storming onto this mostly undisturbed land. It has gone over 10 years unused, which has allowed for a peaceful natural sanctuary to develop. And surely this space is even more meaningful in contrast to the logging practices that is the sole industry in the area. It’s the lifeblood of the Oregon coast, but a source of controversy for the owl as well as many other species. We have every intention of learning how to use this land to grow and make the things that we need, but we better not forget to love it back. Thanks for the reminder wise owl, to proceed with caution and to respect this beautiful place. That is my owl theory anyway.

I also think he is here to eat our mice which sure isn’t an omen, but a very welcome gesture! I hope he sticks around.
Xo, K