Dear Cold Winter Diary:
Weâ€™re looking forward to getting January Finished. January is supposed to be a quiet down-time period where we get home from work, put a log on the fire, warm our feet, read one or two of the Christmas books we all get (at our age- – hah), put on a few pounds in frustration of being kind of locked in, and pass the winter month of January in peace! Well, at least in Portland. Maybe if youâ€™re in Fargo, ND, or Chicagoâ€™s windy snow-blown streets, you may disagree.
Our area has been overdue for snow and/or ice for a few years. Portland finally got a snow and ice storm combo that we havenâ€™t seen since the winter we moved in: January 1996. In fact: We celebrated last night! Yesterday marked the eighth anniversary since we moved into this beautiful spot and we still love it. But we got a skiff of snow just after Christmas for a start. Mark shoveled the driveway with logical reasoning here that one would not have to shovel again.
We must qualify anything written about snow after this: We live at 1000 ft. elevation on the crest of the Tuality Hills which, at our address, curve north and west so that they catch the Gorge winds sneaking that cold air into the valley. Those winds come up these foothills and roll through the hilltop here with some bracing effect at times in the winter.
So, back to the story. On December 29, at this high spot, we received over a foot of snow and the winds brought in cold air dropping our temps into the teens at night. We shoveled the area in front of the garage again, but only wide enough to get â€œaâ€ car out (the 2-wheel pickup wasnâ€™t going to go anywhere now) and then again shoveled down at the end of the driveway to clear out the PILE of hard snow the Plows left behind. We opened up the driveway entrance barely wide enough to get the car through, and while â€œhuffing and puffing and thinkingâ€ about clearing enough snow to allow the Mail carrier to get to the boxes, she drove along skyline and handed out the mail! We lucked out that one day. The air warmed just enough to form a glassy freeze on the places that had been cleared that day then dropped to 13 that night. More drifting snow came, MORE shoveling the next day. We had both the wood stove going and the furnace set up to about 76 to reduce the drafty air coming through the insulated windows.
On January 1, friends/neighbors the Smiths have an annual Skyline Open House that may have as many as 60-70 people show up. All of them live along our Road here and for many of them, it is the only time in the year you may see some of these people. THIS year, about 20 showed up and ONLY those who could WALK to the event. Baird and Karen had a LOT of food left over, but it sure was fun since everybody had ice and snow stories to tell.
Great neighbor Dave came along our block with his 1950 Ford Tractor and plowed out great swaths along the street where the mailboxes were and where plows had all but covered them. So we thought we were safe to get mail (as if she could get her little Honda up the hill, RIGHT!). That night winds blew the snow into great drifts and covered ALL those opened up spots once again. The plows came along several times the next day and made things worse. We NOW had drifts and piles along the road 4 sometimes 5 feet high and PILES of shoveled snow that reached 6 feet.
By the second or third of January, things were very slowly warming with another storm coming in. THIS time, the rain dropped through the cold air coming from the east and fell as sleet at first, then freezing rain, and ended up forming an inch and a half thick layer of ice on the snow that was as smooth as glass and supported our 180 pounds of weight when we were foolish enough to venture out of the house. By the next afternoon, the heavy weight of ice had snapped dozens of tree branches, some large enough to convert to firewood this spring and lowered the snow levels a mite under that weight. In an ice storm literally every molecule of EVERY thing on the landscape has become coated with smooth glass-ice from a quarter to half an inch thickâ€¦..that ice is on TOP of the heavy snow that was already all over the trees and plants. One caveat here is that with these temps youâ€™d think everything would die but this frozen blanket of snow and ice actually insulated all the plants and protects many from certain death. Trees like the Birch that were supple enough to bend had curved completely over and touched the ground. Fairly dramatic for the birch since itâ€™s normal height is about 30 feet.
As temps climbed to 33-34 degrees and the ice began to crack in the winds, we endured a period for an entire afternoon where this change brings on the real damage. As the forks in the tree crack the ice, the branches then snap from the weight and this event sounds just like gunfire. It is VERY weird to be standing out in the yard ON ICE listening to â€œgunfireâ€ of breaking limbs going on all around you and on down into the forest.
We were both intrigued but also wondering about the extent of damage in the yard enough to put on the great waterproof boots weâ€™d bought in 1996 (for the most part since then, they have simply been in storage), put on THICK clothes enough to keep warm and ventured out onto the ice. We both walked very slowly with a shovel in hand in case of a slip, and often deliberately SKATED across most of the yard. We used the shovels also to break loose some of the heavy ice on tree branches. We found lots of damage to trees especially to our favorite, the Corkscrew Willow Trees (used in florist shops). They had broken about halfway up their stems. Itâ€™s just been this week weâ€™ve cut all but two off and have them laid near the garage resting for some kind of disposal. Mark called four florists so far who have no interest in getting them! I guess theyâ€™d rather pay the high prices and charge customers extra for the commercial stuff.
Well. We skated around took some pics, sent them to friends with both awe and wonder here at this fiercely beautiful weather experience. Thereâ€™s nothing like it. We finally made it back to stores and actually took friend Richard with us as he was snowbound at home because his driveway is on a steep incline that was impassable for over a week. Many homes along here went through that. Friends Arnie and Kaye live down Newton Road just a block away and for days, Arnie had to walk up to Skyline (about a half mile) if he wanted to get somewhere. His son finally left him a car here in our driveway so he could walk up here to get his car, then drive to the Post Office or store then returnâ€¦â€¦.and hand carry the supplies back to his house. Whew! What an adventure.
Well, one good thing was going onâ€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦.the warm up was so slow and mild, no flooding happened and much of this moisture soaked into the soil. We had such a dry year last year this is a good deal for us. As the BIG shoveled snow piles began to disappear we saw one other astounding thing we did NOT expect. Moles came up under those piles (I can only assume grubs had located there) and literally chewed up the lawn and soil under theseâ€¦.that will be more repair work in spring.
The last three days have brought the first sunshine in 3 weeks and it may be chilly but itâ€™s beautiful. Mark has begun the cleanup along with the required January pruning of fruit trees. Two days gone by and heâ€™s only gotten 2 and a half trees finished but did make headway in clearing out some of the broken limbs/branches from under the firs. It was really invigorating though to be IN SUNSHINE (while wearing long-johns, sweatshirt AND coat, insulated socks and thick boots, thick glovesâ€¦â€¦but he was happy). Hereâ€™s the weirdest thingâ€¦â€¦â€¦..while working in the yard would you believe this? A Damn Dandelion is blooming and other dandelions GROWING ! ! ! !
Heâ€™d started with the idea of hauling everything to the property edge to make a pile of wood that would become bird habitat. That idea lasted about 10 minutes into the first huffing and puffing, and now the garden has a pile of branches on it to burn in about a month.
We did get our first skunk sighting out under the feeders on one of those cold nightâ€¦â€¦â€¦.if you can get past the idea you â€œmayâ€ get sprayed, they are about the cutest mild mannered little animals! I opened the door and just clapped my handsâ€¦â€¦â€¦.the tail went up but he couldnâ€™t figure out where that sound came from, and quickly relaxed and ambled down the hill. Theyâ€™re nothing like the pesky pushy raccoons.
On January 18, we went back to yet another Portland Dog Show to spend time with our friends, Marj & Janice who breed and show Chesapeake Bay Retrievers. They own â€œDillonâ€, who we hope, will be the sire for a future pup we get to buy. Dillon is a prize winning hunter, as solid as a rock at about 95 pounds and shows the cutest tiny bit of cross-eyes that make you melt. When weâ€™re at a showâ€¦..people stop all the time wanting to find out about this dog Dillon. Heâ€™s the biggest lover Iâ€™ve ever seen. IF we set by him, he actually seems to remember usâ€¦heâ€™ll come up, and while looking at you in the eye, slowly begin by sliding his big front paws over your knee, then slowly climbing up, gets paws over your shoulder, and actually seems to squeeze in when the licking thing startsâ€¦.. Yes, a wonderful dogâ€¦.and yetâ€¦. Defender to the death. Owner Marj has MS so uses a cane when out in the yard. She had let Dillon and Penny out to romp over the holidays when a stranger in their remote neighborhood comes by with a Rottweiler thatâ€¦â€¦â€¦..ran right in to attack Marj! Without a peep, Dillon came around a corner and bowled the Rott over and had his mouth on the invaderâ€™s neck. The dogâ€™s owner came up complaining and saying Marj would have to pay for the cuts his dog sustained. Can you imagine? In a strange neighborhood youâ€™re walking a dog (a Rottweiler of all things) UNLEASHED and heâ€™s on someoneâ€™s private property attacking people. Well. Marjâ€™s neighbors saw it happen and several came runningâ€¦â€¦â€¦THAT guy got an earful and was warned to stay OUT of the neighborhood or at least leash that Rott if he returned (heâ€™d been visiting friends down the street).
We ventured to Lake Oswego, ahem, society, ahem, to enjoy a fabulous dinner at a fabulous 70 year old home on a gentle slope so that most rooms were on different levels. A beautiful spot and wonderful company of Mary Ann, Nancy G and Carol – – ALL artistic as can be. As a matter of fact, Carol was just featured in an article published by Better Homes and Gardens special publication: â€œContainer Gardeningâ€ (page 46). I highly recommend the article. Carol has accomplished an amazing thing in her condo group. When she moved in ten years ago, NO container planting was allowed in the back drives that opened into the garages. She got a variance because she was at the end of the drive. Over the years (as the article shows), sheâ€™s ended up with hundreds of containers planted in a most artistic fashionâ€¦.so much so that all the neighbors along the drive are now doing the same thing and the place has changed completely. Carol is a professional Calligrapher . . . .and also teaches the art at a local college. MaryAnn runs the foodbank of Portland, and of course, Nancy, is our dear friend who taught us all we know about lots of nature things here: birding, plants, etc. Nancy can tell us what bird is what without seeing themâ€¦.sheâ€™ll know them by sound.
We did have one more fun experience this month. Friend Baird enjoyed a birthday this week. He and Karen invited us to go along for his birthday dinner. Baird, always the scout for new adventure, chose to dine at the Train Station! Yes, the Train Station. Here in Portland thereâ€™s a restaurant right at the side of the 100 year old station called â€œWilfeâ€™sâ€. Markâ€™s eaten lunch there because the retired CF folks gather there so wasnâ€™t too impressed since heâ€™d only seen a pre-fixe menu for those lunches that of course was all prepared in advance and served all at once to 30-40 people. Dinner WAS elegant. It WAS quiet, some things prepared and served table-side and wonderful. It WAS great to sit in the giant red velvet chairs and have the place quiet enough to talk normallyâ€¦â€¦â€¦.Thanks for sharing, Baird. The evening ended with Birthday cake at the Smiths house and knowing them, no regular would do. This cake was flourless, no dairy, etcâ€¦.a SERIOUS health cake called an Oak Cake from an elegant bakery here called, â€œA Piece of Cakeâ€. It closely resembled a delicious carrot cakeâ€¦..thatâ€™s about the first seriously healthy dessert Iâ€™ve had that truly WAS fabulous.
GOT TO RUNâ€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦MORE yard work is waiting and this is the last dry day for a bit, and then, TAXES are waiting in a pile next to this computer and Markâ€™s w-2s have arrived. AND WOK LUK dinner is Saturday, our annual group of food adventurers who all meet about 4-5 pm to chop, slice and dice, then each party has to prepare one menu itemâ€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦itâ€™s always a fun evening. This year, we are preparing dumplings and the combo fried rice.
For the first time, this diary note will be posted on a web page prepped and given to us as a Christmas Gift by Rodgerâ€™s friend in France, Miss Emily McKinzie whoâ€™s working in a beautiful resort town in Northern France. Once we have something in there to look at, weâ€™ll probably post there in lieu of sending updatesâ€¦. . . .. .. . . we will send you the link in a few days.
We hope this finds everyone well, happy, rich, at peace, etc etc etc . Too much to ask? I believe we DO need to spend MORE of that foreign-aid and military money at home . . . . .a FEW of those hundreds of billions going overseas would make a HUGE difference here to us all.
Mark & Rodger