Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


A Great Way to Start

I’m a morning person. Ask me to be up and out the door by 4, I can do it…with eyes open and mind functioning. Of course that means I turn into a pumpkin by midnight.

I have been working on a farm for about six weeks now and have seen some awesome sunrises.

September 7

September 7

September 9

September 9-Mt Hood is the purple bump in the center


September 16

September 16

September 19-sunrise through the weeds

September 19-sunrise through the weeds

September 21

September 21

As you can see, the sun was just coming up and I had been at work for about a half hour already this morning. Next week the start time will be 7:30. I really don’t mind setting the alarm a half hour later, but I’ll bet you I will still wake at 5:30!



Olive Oil in Oregon

Ventabren windmillWhen I think of a place where olives grow I tend to think Provençe or Italy. Localities in those areas continually compete for the prestige of the “best” olive oil.  On a visit to the south of France I stayed in a medieval hilltop village where the ancient windmill still provides the power to press the olives. Our hostess actually was Italian and said the local olive oil was acceptable but she preferred her home village oil. Apparently, olive oil, like wine, chocolate, coffee and so much more, has so many nuances of flavor that appreciation can be improved with tasting.

I realized, once again, how much of a Mediterranean climate we enjoy here in Oregon. Not only are the Pinot Noirs competitive with France’s Burgundy wines because both growing regions are at the same latitude, but the wet winter and dry summer climate are the same.DSC_0031

And so, understanding that Oregon can also support olives is a natural next step.  There are a number of hardy varietals that can grow in this climate zone as far north as British Columbia.

Red Ridge Farms is located about ten miles from my new home and less than an hour from Portland or Salem.   I enticed Graham to go there this past Saturday because they also have a winery and, like me, he was interested to find out what the quality of the olive oil would be for our own kitchen.

Located in the southern section of the Dundee Hills, Red Ridge started out as a nursery and it is very apparent that the organization continues this side of the business today. Not only are the grounds beautiful, but they have a greenhouse and a large number of plants for sale.logo


The primary part of the business, however, is the Durant Winery.  Starting with their grape cultivation of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris over forty years ago, they began producing their own wines in 2003. Graham enjoyed his tasting there.Red Ridger

The Oregon Olive Mill began in 2008 and over 13,000 olive trees have been planted on about 17 acres. They have a number of  varietals planted including Arbequina, Leccino, Mission, Pendolino, Koroneiki, and Picual, and are experimenting with a few others.  Much more than just “black” and “green”!

Visitors are encouraged to actually “slurp” a taste of the olive oil that is produced there. Bread is offered to clean the palate.

Two blends are produced from olives grown in California as well.


The olive harvest typically takes place in mid November. We were told that as the pressing occurs the place smells great, even better than when the grapes are crushed, because of all the floral notes in the olives. DSC_0019 There will be a post pressing festival, Olio Nuovo, where people can come to enjoy tasting the new harvest, traditional Italian bruschetta and the latest Durant Vineyards Pinot Noir.  This will be held November 22-24 from 10-4 and you know we will be there!

The grounds are suited for special events and there is a guest suite and a cottage available for overnight accommodations.




Rain in Oregon

One pretty constant comment I heard when I told people in the East that we were moving to Oregon was “Why do you want to move there? It rains all the time!!”

I thought, since the autumnal equinox is this Sunday, that it is a good time for a chat about Oregon’s weather. If you read this YOU, at least, won’t make blanket statements like what I heard ever again.zone_map

Not related in any way to marijuana, the North Pacific High is a high pressure system that begins to build in May and is usually at full stability by the beginning of July. This keeps moisture from the Pacific Ocean from moving inland, giving Oregon very dry summers. The eastern part of the state might get thunderstorms, as we experienced when we stopped to enjoy the hot spring , but typically, there is little precipitation in Oregon from June to October. The NPH begins to weaken in September, and by late October, moisture-laden winds are able to move on shore.

The Oregon Coast consists of a narrow strip of land between the Pacific Ocean and the Coastal Range.  The coast is the most frost-protected part of the state, but it’s no Riviera. It’s the state’s coolest summer area with summer highs mostly in the upper 50s to low 60s. Although I had a sweater when we visited my sister on the coast in July, I needed to buy a sweatshirt! The coast experiences high winds and heavy rainfall during the winter and fog in the summer. DSC_0123

The Coastal Range mountains rise up to about 4000 feet above the coastal strip. They effectively block the morning coastal fogs which sometimes last all day in summer. The area gets snow in the winter and the road signs indicate areas to pull off and put chains on your tires. The trees have a moss growing that reminds me of the type that grows in the Deep South. The western side of the Coastal Range is the temperate rain forest and this is the area where Oregon gets its reputation for “rain all the time.”5.1.2

The Willamette Valley (by the way, Willamette rhymes with damn it-I had been saying it wrong all the years before moving here) is located between the Coast Range and the Cascades.  This is the area where the Oregon Trail brought people and there is a good reason; it is a wonderful agricultural zone. Winters are cloudy and rainy with moderate freezes at night. Rains are often light and misty instead of downpours.  You can tell a visitor from a resident because the visitors carry umbrellas; the residents just wear hats.  Summers are pleasantly warm, sunny and dry. This is a major wine producing area with blind taste tests often winning over French wines grown at the same latitude.IM000446.JPG

When most people speak of “southern Oregon” they are speaking of the Rogue River Valley.   Ashland, just north of the California state line, was where we spent a few days about 6 years ago and the concept to move to Oregon hit us.  Summers are quite warm (temps over 95F are very common). Winters and springs are drier. The area is a major fruit production region.white water rapids ahead

The Cascades are volcanic mountains up to 10,000 feet and include Mt. Hood just east of Portland. Rising air currents wring the moisture out of the air coming off the Pacific which is why winters to the west, in the Willamette Valley, are rainy and cloudy. Again, roads are often snow-covered in the winter and chains are required on many. To the east, there is more sunshine and colder temperatures. Most of this area is under National Forest Service jurisdiction, which means there are many recreational areas.sisters

North Central Oregon is located along the Columbia River.  The River itself and Interstate 84 and rail lines parallel to it serve as a major transportation corridor. This is another rich agricultural area with some Oregon’s hottest summers. Winters are mild to the west of Portland increasingly colder to the East. It is another renown wine growing area.columbia river winery

Central and Eastern Oregon are isolated from western Oregon by the Cascades. With precipitation as low as ten inches a year, this area is high desert with cold and sunny winters. The area is sparsely-populated and towns are often very far apart. Mostly basin and range land, irrigation provides water for growing fruits and vegetables.  DSC_0053

So, you see Oregon has many climate zones and it doesn’t rain ALL the time.