Several years ago when I told people I planned to move to Oregon many wondered why I would want to move to a place where it rains all the time. Well, based on The Willamette Valley, which is one of Oregon’s many diverse eco-systems, the area has what is called a Mediterranean climate. It has warm dry summers and cool wet winters. When we compared the typical rainfalls and summer/winter temperatures it was very similar to where we were living.
The winter rains start sometime in October generally and today is a good example of a typical “winter weather” day. When I left my house to drive to the farm it was raining, but as I headed south, the skies seemed to be lighter. I was hoping the rain would stay to the north.
I was working inside the high tunnel at first, packaging up vegetables ordered for the Monday delivery, but then the farmer needed me to clean the leeks. Leeks get dirty any time, but when a leek with a diameter of 1.5 inches has a 5 inch mud ball, it takes a while to clear. So, I grab a chair, a couple of bins, a clipper, and a hose and get to work. I was out there cleaning for about an hour and in that time the weather did this:
FIRST the clouds rolled in from the northwest.But as the rain started, the sun was shining from the southeast.So I then enjoyed a typical rainy Oregon day event.
Graham and I have been in Oregon for almost a year. We arrived September 1, moved into our rental house about a week later when the truck arrived and I made my first new friend here when I posted our boxes to be picked up on Freecycle. Jana needed a few boxes to store books and we sat on the porch rockers for about an hour sharing stories. Hearing I wanted to learn to can, she invited me to her farm and under her tutelage, I learned to make and love tomatillo salsa.
Shortly after that Graham’s high school buddy Charles (they reconnected on Facebook a few years ago) who lives in Salem hooked us up with another friend and Tina taught us all how to pressure can tuna. I was very much enjoying the bounty that this area offers!
Shortly after that I attended a meeting of farmers in a nearby town and started making connections with this region’s complement of wonderful farmers. And so it went. Over these past 11 months we have made some wonderful new friends and our circle continues to grow. But it never would have happened if we didn’t take a first step out.
This past Thursday we attended a gathering of people primarily because we knew the host. One of the farmers we have gotten to know and love, Ranee Solmonsson of Sunshower Hill Farm was hosting an event. She said she would be speaking about her farm and Heidi Lindell of Yamhill Valley Grown also would explain how the farmers in this area connect with consumers. I work with Heidi, visiting farms and writing the Yamhill Valley Grown blog.
We gathered first on Ranee’s deck where she presented a few edibles prepared from food her farm produces, and a bit of wine. We then enjoyed the evening by sitting in a circle on the grass, enjoying getting to hear about each other passions and then to share.
The synergy I saw, the connections being made was amazing. Here we had 15 people; some knew each other a bit, some not a all. By the end of the two hours we had several connections being made for new business opportunities, and more importantly, for new friendships.
So many people comment about the fact that we have made so many friends here already. The secret to replicate that is to GET OUT. Leave your house and act on your passions. Find people with similar interests and make time to make the connections. Talk and listen, share in the knowledge and excitement about life.
No, not to worry. Our weather continues to delight us. My first year in Oregon’s Willamette Valley is almost complete and we are very much enjoying the climate. After spending almost 20 years in the heat and humidity of Tennessee and then in West Virginia’s warm spot of Huntington, I find the cooler temps in Oregon much more comfortable. While y’all are roasting, we will have a high near 70 with some light rain. The crops thank you. The body can wear a jacket with a hood and manage just fine. Only visitors use umbrellas.
However, as a newbie I am still discovering the many new things that grow in this abundant land.
I learned this is called Meadowfoam and the seed produces a cooking grade oil that will not go rancid and oil for use in cosmetics. I’ll try to get some of the cooking oil and see how it compares to other kinds.
Thanks to my sister Laura giving me a special gift to celebrate 60 years, Graham and I enjoyed a brunch cruise on the Willamette River in Portland.We’d been on a dinner cruise a few years ago on the Ohio River out of Huntington, West Virginia with our friends Deb and Milt Hankins, so I sort of expected something similar.
Not being super familiar with Portland yet we drove in early to give ourselves plenty of time to find parking (2 blocks away for $5) and maneuver around the Rose Festival which had the riverfront area blocked off for concerts and rides and other fun fair activities.
We made it to the dock in time to chat with the captain who, while chomping down a commercial donut, told us how terrific the food is. (And it was pretty good!) Missed that donut photo for you, though!
The cruise headed upriver, which is south from downtown Portland. The gray overcast cleared and we ended up with beautiful blue skies. Activity on the river shows how much people enjoy having this playground.
Development along a riverfront can tell you something about the way a City considered its access to a natural resource. While we did see one industrial business, it is only fair to tell you that most of the commercial and industrial development in Portland is along the Columbia River, not the Willamette.This has left the shorelines free for recreational and residential development for much of what we passed.
OMSI (Science Museum) includes a submarine built after WWII
I particularly enjoyed the floating houses.
And of course there were plenty of mansions.
As we returned downstream the number of bridges became apparent, from the aged Sellwood Bridge which is past time getting replaced
All bridges are given a safety rating from 1 to 100. The Sellwood Bridge rating is a 2. Would you drive across it?
to the new Portland-Milwaukie light rail bridge which will provide a river crossing for mass transit, bicycles and pedestrians, but not automobiles.
We caused one lift bridge to disrupt traffic,but turned back south(upriver) before the next one.
Both Graham and I noticed some downtown construction features-a rooftop tree planted plaza and solar arrays over one roof. There are a lot of things about Portland that are truly admirable! The respect for the natural resource of the Willamette River that flows through the City is one great example.
Life takes such interesting meanderings. Who would ever have imagined that a person growing up in the area of New Jersey which is NOT the “Garden State” would love visiting farms as I did in West Virginia the past two years? As I met the farmers I came to admire their ethic of hard work and passion for producing healthy flavorful food. I know I could not easily take on their life; I work pretty steady but not the kind of hard labor these people do to feed us. I respect them deeply.
Here in Oregon I am in the midst of one of the nation’s best growing areas. Renown for its pinot noir wines, the Willamette Valley also produces much of the country’s grass seed and landscaping plants. But in between, in all the beautiful farmland, are the family farms where vegetables, fruits, nuts and animals are raised.
I met Jana when she came to pick up some of my moving boxes when I advertised them on Freecycle. We sat on the porch chatting (can you imagine me NOT sitting and chatting with someone?) and I learned she and her husband had moved from Colorado to Oregon to try to do what they could to produce as much of their own food as possible. They currently have goats, sheep, rabbits and chicken and expect to again have cows. Her kitchen garden is still producing abundant amounts of tomatoes and peppers, cabbage, squash and volunteer tomatillas.
I mentioned to her that I wanted to learn to can and she invited me to join her in preparing some tomatilla salsa. What a wonderful time!!!
First we needed to peel off the outer layer and wash the tomatillos.
Once washed, I then de-stemmed and cut them into quarters
Then into the food processor to do the chopping.
Simmering on the stovetop with the peppers and other ingredients added.
In the jars ready for the hot water bath
Yumminess for us!!
I picked up some tortilla chips on the way home and Graham dug into it with a huge smile!!!
I need to pick up some more jars and some other tools and I think I found an interesting recipe for something to do with all those apples next!!