Checking in with other checklists

Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco

This time of year, it's easy to dream of a garden as beautiful as the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers. Photo Rachel Beck.

Apparently I’m not the only one making garden resolutions.

I stumbled upon this post on garden resolutions  from Mississippi State University. Granted, their growing season starts a little earlier than ours, but the ideas are still applicable.

I also discovered this terrific video from a University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension employee. Sound familiar?

Penn State published a list of 12 garden tips for the new year (adopted from a University of Vermont professor who runs a wonderful gardening blog). a list of gardening resolutions Also at Penn State, a Master Gardener listed her resolutions, one of which is to simply enjoy the garden — a reminder we shouldn’t need, but sometimes do.


01/09/2012 at 9:55 am 1 comment

Freeing a creek 2: Select Plant Materials (or, how I fell in love with native plant catalogues)

Camas in meadow

Dreams of what could someday be for Cinderella Creek include camas blooms, like this Oregon meadow. Photo by J.Jebousek/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The second installment on freeing a creek, from The Zetetic: 

This riparian restoration project is going pretty well so far. Sticking to the guidelines in the Extension publication, I’m taking the lead on Part Two: Selecting Plant Materials, while my husband has skipped ahead to start Part Three: Prepare the Site, before the winter deluge hits in earnest.

This efficient separation of tasks saves time and plays to our individual strengths. John has spent his weekends on his tractor happily maneuvering a flail mower down the banks of what we now call Cinderella Creek. He removed the Schwinn along with miles of old fencing and carved out islands of willow, snowberry, and hawthorn. With its new close shave, Cinderella Creek is visible for the first time.

I am not sure he would have made so much progress with mowing had the Beavers had a winning football season. (more…)

01/03/2012 at 4:33 pm Leave a comment

Checklist for home, garden and beyond in 2012

Winter sky

A western Oregon winter sky. Photos Rachel Beck.

Sometimes I think the new year comes at the wrong time. From kindergarten through college, fall was my time for a fresh start, with new teachers, classmates, clothes and books. In nature, spring is when things are born and emerge. But according to the calendar on my wall (even the Australian one, with its backwards seasons), the new year begins in a few days — January 1.

But what is there to do other than get a new calendar? I don’t have new subjects to study, nor is it the right time to plant a garden. Frankly, the chill and the short daylight hours don’t make me feel like starting new projects, unless they involve sleeping or eating more.

The next week, then, is the time to plan and dream. (more…)

12/27/2011 at 1:44 pm Leave a comment

Emergency Preparedness Part 2: A Slow Start and a Smartphone App

Winter driving presents many hazards. Photo ODOT.

My emergency preparedness planning is off to a slow start, but I’ve made some progress.

At work, a fire alarm (no fire, thankfully) prompted me to review my workplace’s emergency procedures. Basic procedures were posted online and easy to find with a quick search, but I’m not sure what my department’s specific procedures are. I’ll ask about this at our next staff meeting.

At home, our weather radio is now operational, and we have a basic disaster plan—where to meet and how to contact each other. We already have some of the recommended supplies for an emergency preparedness kit (we used the “Family Emergency Preparedness Kit” publication from OSU Extension and the “Be Red Cross Ready” fact sheet as guides). Now we need to gather the supplies together, purchase some additional items, and make kits for our cars, too. I think putting the kits together will become our New Year’s resolution. (more…)

12/21/2011 at 9:09 am 1 comment

Freeing a creek: Adventures in watershed restoration

Note: This is the first of a series of posts and watershed restoration. Writer The Zetetic and her husband are attempting to restore a creek, and sharing their adventures. 

There’s a creek in our back pasture, hidden under a tangle of blackberries and thickly carpeted with reed canarygrass. Our mission: liberate the creek and restore the riparian area habitats.

The Cinderalla creek

Under a tangle of blackberries and reed canary grass, there's a creek that needs restoring. Photo The Zetetic.

This is no Saturday afternoon project. Reed canarygrass is a tough, wetlands-loving grass that can grow up to 8 feet high, then collapses to form an impenetrable mat of stems and leaves. Himalayan blackberries have canes as thick as my thumb and tangle into thickets that can smother more timid plants.

This creek is fortified like Cinderella’s castle.

My husband and I want to restore about a thousand feet of this Cinderella creek, enhance fish and wildlife habitat and restore streamside vegetation. It’s going to take months of work and lots of blogs.

Step One: Plan the project (or how I came to realize we really do need a tractor).

According to a new publication from OSU Extension, it’s important to know your watershed and your site in order to make a workable restoration plan. Our watershed is a swampy side channel of the Willamette River and our site lies along a small creek engulfed by old-growth blackberries.


12/19/2011 at 10:56 am Leave a comment

Perfect recipe: Cheap family fun, plus education and bonding

Rolling out dough

Cooking and baking with kids is fun, cheap, and easy. Photo by eyeliam/Flickr.

Today’s post comes from Stella, our parent-in-residence.

I worked on a set of publications for OSU Extension called “Ten Tips for Tough Times.” I got some ideas from the one called “Ten Tips for Low-cost Indoor Family Fun” for some things to do together with my daughter. One idea was to “bake or cook together.”

This has been really fun. I started by showing my daughter how to do simple things, like rinsing lettuce, shucking corn, and shelling peas. Now, after a couple of years, she makes the whole salad by herself while I cook the main dish, and she mixes up the batter for Saturday morning pancakes and cooks them while I make us tea and set the table.

We like being in the kitchen together, she doing one food prep task while I do another. We both enjoy the easy feeling of companionship, working side by side, chatting about this or that. There’s something about working together toward a common goal (our meal) that’s very satisfying.

We’ve baked a cake together several times, too. Over time, she’s learned to use measuring cups and spoons (this has been great for helping her learn fractions, by the way). She loves to measure ingredients and mix the cake batter while I grease the cake pan and start the oven preheating. And of course, licking the frosting bowl is a great reward for a job well done!

She’s a young teenager now. These days, she’ll often get up on a weekend morning and say, “I feel like baking today.” I know she means “together.” And that means a lot to me.


Note: By the way, there are seven different publications with different tips, and they are available in Spanish also.

12/12/2011 at 5:17 pm Leave a comment

Emergency Preparedness Part 1: Seriously? Yes.

Flooded Oregon highway

Floods are a hazard of Oregon living. Photo: OregonDOT/Flickr

Say hello to Jennifer, a newcomer to Oregon, who will be sharing her experiences in getting ready for emergencies. Here’s Part 1:

Until 15 months ago, my husband and I lived in the Midwest. We were used to dealing with inclement weather, and we made minimal preparations for dealing with severe storms. We had a weather radio; we put boots, blankets, and food in the car for winter travel; and we knew where to take shelter from tornadoes. If I suggested additional measures (“Maybe we should stock up on canned goods?”), my husband gave me that look. “Seriously?” he said. “We’ll be fine.”

We never had to deal with anything serious, so we didn’t seriously prepare for anything.

Then we moved to Oregon—land of forest fires, floods, earthquakes, and tsunamis. Unlike Midwest storms, these natural disasters can occur without warning and cause long-term disruption. So can other disasters, such as flu pandemics and acts of terrorism. And thanks to prominent media coverage of a likely major subduction zone earthquake in the Pacific Northwest, my husband now agrees that our current “emergency supplies” aren’t sufficient.


12/05/2011 at 12:00 pm 2 comments

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