September’s Here Again…

Well, okay, OCTOBER’s here now. But it was September when I STARTED this.

Our big news is the recent visit of my in-laws who spent the weekend last month and did some touring of the wine country with us. My favorite comment from the weekend was my father-in-law’s who, thinking of our old house in New Jersey, said “I like what you’ve done with the place”.

He was also able to see how much potential the yard has which I’m sure took some serious squinting past the state it’s in right now.

We also toured the annual Corvallis Art Festival, which had the highest quality art work, overall, that I’ve seen at any of the various similar events I’ve attended. It was also surprisingly large and in a park instead of on a bunch of closed off streets.

They spent some time touring the Gorge and the coast on their own, and I hope that they’ll be back for more sometime soon. I’m mean hey, I know it’s not New Jersey, but still…

When I was seventeen, I spent the winter in northwest Washington state, deep in the Cascades. It rained constantly and at night there were spectacular lightning storms, like nothing I’ve seen anywhere else. The building I lived in was from the nineteen-twenties, lots of windows, and poorly sealed. So everything was damp, all the time. No one paid any attention to this. It was just normal.

I befriended a local farmer, a guy in his thirties named Ben, who played the banjo. One day he told me, “You’d love Portland. You should visit. You might want to live there when it’s time to move on.”

“Why?” I asked, “What’s it like?”

Ben had a way of squinting when he answered certain questions which usually meant he was having trouble finding just the right answer. He squinted then. “Well, it’s drier, and there’s a lot of artists.”

It’s possible I had expressed one too many opinions about the weather.

I agreed that I would like both those things, but said that I was pretty sure I’d be heading back East which, in the end, I did. This was all in 1977 or 1978. Forty years later, I finally made it.

But Ben was right, at least about the weather. It’s much drier than the mountains north of Seattle. Here in the valley this year we had no rain between late April and mid-September. And by “no rain” I mean exactly that.

None.

I feel slightly misled by the depiction of the Pacific Northwest as a constantly soggy rainforest. From what I can tell (which means “my wife tells me”) the climate here is best described as northern Mediterranean. Does that sound lovely? It is. Right now, I’m glad my readership on Medium is low, because I don’t really want to encourage anyone to move here. The beauty of the valley is being slowly destroyed (or transformed?) by human habitation, and I do not want to speed that up.

So when you think of Oregon, think dangerous plants, large carnivores, drought, and fires. Take comfort in your hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes.

Oh, and earthquakes. We have earthquakes. Big ones.

Amidst the chaos, we’ve been able to find a decent doctor. Maya got a “talking to” about her diet and lack of exercise which has motivated us to start walking every day. we Walk for at least thirty minutes, and are up to about a mile and a half. This is a wonderful time for rambling conversations and, since we go in the late afternoon, pictures.

Sunset over the coastal range
Minto-Brown Island
The neighborhood

There are a lot more of these, but you get the idea. The point here is really is the clouds, which for most of the summer were notably absent.

The returning rains feel like a blessing and I’ve been cracking the windows to hear the soothing sound of raindrops on the leaves. We’ll see how I feel in January when the heaviest rains are ending.

The big project this week is getting gutters installed before the rains become too steady. In December and January we’re expecting about fifteen inches of rain, and between thirty and forty for the period from October to April. This means about 38,000 gallons of water will run off our roof over the course of the winter.

We’ll get puddling — ponding is really a better word — in the back yard, so one of the projects for this winter is to watch where the puddles form so we can dig swales and a rain garden next summer. We’re also thinking about rain water catchment, but I am NOT prepared to buy a 38,000 gallon water tank, unless Maya will let me build it in the form of an old style steam locomotive water tower, which she has agreed to.

This would hold ALL the rain water!

We all know she’s not serious.

I’m serious though, when I say I think we can handle a couple thousand gallons distributed around the property, so I am thinking about best placement for those, and how to handle the over flow when they fill up in late October.

The most obvious and practical answer is to route the excess water into the rain garden where if can gradually seep into the water table though a mix of gravel and sand. This is more like a cistern with a rain garden on top and, though I can do some of that myself, I’ll have to hire some guys to do the serious digging and gravel hauling. The earth we dig out will be used to regrade around the foundation.

And so on. Lots of settling in and cleaning up which makes for an enjoyable, if undramatic life. I’ll enjoy it while it lasts.

I am a bear living among humans, and have gotten so good at it that people rarely notice. I am a husband, step-father, author, musician, and much else.