Thursday, January 26, 2012

Is it Spring yet?

It's coming on the end of January-the 26th to be exact.  We're almost 1 month finished into 2012 and I have yet to write and mess up a check with the wrong year (of course, I haven't written one, either).

red-winged blackbird
Weather has been so screwy around here, I swear I heard a red-winged blackbird yesterday.  If so, Spring weather is actually going to hit us real soon.  They are one of the harbingers of spring in these parts.  We've had far more than a normal number of robins recently, too.  They outnumber the starlings. 

Korean Dogwood
Maryann and I are starting to talk about planting already.  We've decided to plant some sort of dogwood tree over the spot where we buried our dog last week.  Without realizing it, he was buried relatively close to the spot where a planned waterfall and pond are going to be.  The dogwood, if we can find one that is hardy enough for our area, will be perfect there.  According to the USDA hardiness zone, we are zone 6 (-5° to -10°).  I don't believe it even though the temperature rankings fit.  Most winters we have a great deal of hard and drying winds.  I'm sure we're going to have to find a colder-rated plant than recommended. 

sage, juniper and rabbit brush
The stuff that grows around here is relatively weird.  Powell Butte, OR is a "banana belt" for the region.  We're nearly 3300' above sea level and are definitely what is called High Desert.  Juniper Trees thrive here and in non-irrigated areas, sage and rabbit brush are the two main native plants.  In irrigated areas all sorts of grasses and shrubs do well and we have lovely forget-me-nots and watercress that grows wild along the irrigation ditches as well as a beautiful but pernicious and toxic weed called creeping meadow buttercup.  In pockets around, though, strange things do grow-things that just shouldn't survive in our climate.  We have something like 300 days of sunlight through the year and relatively little snow.  Again, our biggest challenge is that darned wind.

We're fortunate to have irrigation water for most of our property.  Irrigation changed this region from desert-like to an incredible agricultural and livestock producing area.   Desert grasses are fragile and don't grow back quickly but the soil, mostly a sandy type and shallow, is good.  There are vast acreages of hay and alfalfa grown as well as many root vegetables like onions, garlic, and potatoes.   In our immediate area we can't dig very deeply, though, because more often than not we hit a nearly impenetrable barrier of lava rock.  It makes it interesting trying to build a fence.  Irrigation normally runs here from early April to the end of October which comes close to last and first hard freezes. 

Dwarf Blue Arctic Willow
While the weather remains on the "warm" side (highs in the 40's and lows in the high teens and low 20's)  it is really too early to plant.  But it sure isn't too early to plan.  I have great plans for the front landscape.  Once my tractor is returned, I'll be able to dig out the pond and move the rocks for the waterfall.  Along with the dogwood tree, I intend to plant something call Blue Arctic Willow, red-twig and yellow-twig dogwood (a native shrub), a snowball tree (a type of viburnum) and a type of honeysuckle that grows shrub-like.  Then there will be mounds with mostly perennials planted on them. I'd love to forgo any lawn but that won't happen.  Most of these plantings will be on the south end of the house front and they are all low water plants (once established) except for the twig dogwoods but between the irrigation ditch and the pond, they'll do fine.  The north end is dominated by a massive and ancient willow tree that will shade most growing things (reason for the lawn).  In the heat of the summer, that shade is welcome.

Last week, there was so much snow in our mountains, the local ski resort, Mt Bachelor, closed.  We pretty much dodged that bullet other than a skiff of snow here and there.  But it's January 26th.  There are still two months to the spring equinox and lots of weather can happen.  And, of course, nights will remain cold.  Is it Spring yet?   I can dream, I guess.


  1. Well I just found out that February 3rd (this Friday) is considered the start of spring in the lunisolar calender that China uses (and Japan used to use). It is actually a holiday to get rid of "bad spirits and to bring in good". Spring cleaning happens before the 3rd so that when good spirits come in you don't clean them right out again. The time between February 3rd and Febraury 15th is considered the first stage of spring in Asia.

  2. Wow, Really Thaedra? That's fascinating. The way the weather has been here, lately, I think Mother Nature moved to Asia!

    1. Nope still snowing here. In fact it is supposed to snow on and off for the next few days.

      I believe that in total the lunisolar calender that they follow has 24 "season stages". They also have a different greeting they put on important documents depending on which "stage" they are in.


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