By Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension – Columbia, Washington, & Yamhill Counties

We’ve discussed ongoing drought stress a number of times on this blog.  But when do we consider it dry enough to be called a drought?  There’s actually a system for that. The United States Drought Monitor updates and releases a national map each week, showing which areas of the country are experiencing drought, and how extreme the conditions are.  A variety of data sources go into their models, which I won’t begin to explain here, but their website has a lot of good information on how they determine drought conditions. In fact, all the data and visual tools on the Drought Monitor website feed the data geek in me; so if you like this sort of thing I encourage you to check it out.

If it seems like this blog has been a broken record stuck on the drought track the last few years, you’re not imagining things. But today, I want to highlight that in northwest Oregon we begin 2019 in a state of Moderate Drought, according to the Drought Monitor (see figure below; click to enlarge), even though we are in the midst of the rainy season. Continue reading

By Amy Grotta, OSU Foresty & Natural Resources Extension – Columbia, Washington & Yamhill Counties

Holly foliage usually (but not always) has sharp, prickly lobes.

Rid your land of English holly

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la

Tis the season to spot holly

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la

When all the other leaves are gone

Fa-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-la

Holly’s deep green stands out strong

Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la

Ok, there’s a good reason I didn’t become a songwriter. The point I want to make, though, is that this is a great time of year to scout your woodland for a common and nefarious invasive plant: English holly. It stays green all year long, so now that herbaceous plants have died back and other shrubs have lost their leaves, it’s easier to spot. Continue reading

By Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension – Columbia, Washington & Yamhill Counties

I’ve been taking part in an OSU Extension program called Oregon Season Tracker (OST) for about five years.  OST is a citizen science program where volunteers keep track of rainfall and plant phenology (seasonal growth patterns) and submit their records to national databases.  OST also connects natural resources managers, landowners, educators, and others in the community with researchers and their science.  At our office in St. Helens, we have an approved rain gauge which we try to check each morning, and a phenology “garden” consisting of two large Douglas-fir trees and some native shrubs.

When I first got involved in OST, my motivation was practical. I thought that having some consistent record of weather and phenology patterns would ultimately be useful in my work in Forestry & Natural Resources Extension.  I wasn’t quite sure exactly how it would be useful. But I figured that since weather affects trees in many ways, something would come of it; and even if not, I would be helping scientists with THEIR research questions. Continue reading

By Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension – Columbia, Washington & Yamhill Counties

Often around this time of year, I’ll get a question from a small woodland owner asking whether it’s worth the trouble to try to water their newly planted tree seedlings. My standard reply has always been “No”.  Of course, in most cases, it’s not even a practical consideration, because the logistical challenges of delivering water to hundreds, if not thousands of seedlings on steep or rough terrain far from any water source far outweigh any potential benefits.  I also point out that our Douglas-fir trees are adapted to withstand dry summers. After all, millions of Douglas-fir trees are planted each year in Oregon, and most of them make it without any supplemental water. And, I know one or two woodland owners who have watered trees that they were concerned about, only to have them die anyway.

But this year, after fielding the question of watering young trees again, I started to think a little more about my standard answer. After all, all signs are pointing another drought year. Scientists predict that summers in the Pacific Northwest are only going to get hotter and drier in the future.  In light of these factors it doesn’t seem like an unreasonable question. Continue reading

By Amy Grotta and Brad Withrow-Robinson, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension

Last week, a large contingent of the OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension team traveled to the Gulf Coast of Mississippi for a biennial conference of natural resources Extension professionals. Besides the chance to exchange ideas with our colleagues from across the country, these meetings afford the opportunity to learn about the ecology and natural resources issues that define the geography of the meeting location.

We learned that the forests of Mississippi are quite diverse. They are defined by their topography, proximity to the coast, and (as in Oregon) landowner objectives. While on the surface they seem about as far from Oregon’s forests as you can get, there are some similarities to the forest systems and issues we have back home. We thought we’d share a bit about the interesting forests that we saw and learned about on our visit. Continue reading

By Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension – Columbia, Washington, & Yamhill Counties

Last week I attended Forest Health: State of the State, a biannual conference put on by OSU College of Forestry. A packed agenda covered insects, diseases, fire, drought, invasive species, climate change, and other topics. I always look forward to this meeting as an opportunity to brush up on my knowledge of these issues. The speakers came from various backgrounds, representing the many forest ecosystems and ownership types we have across the state, and the audience was equally diverse. With that in mind, I’ve tried to distill the takeaways from the conference that seem most relevant to small woodland ownerships in northwest Oregon.

ODF conducts an annual insect and disease aerial survey. Click on the image to be taken to a short video from the air.

Continue reading

By Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension – Columbia, Washington & Yamhill Counties

Taking a walk through my NE Portland neighborhood recently, I came across something new in our local park. Portland Parks and Recreation is renovating an underutilized section of Alberta Park as a “Nature Patch”.

Alberta Park was part of a Homestead Act land claim over 150 years ago, and became a park in 1917. (Check out a local historian’s writeup for the details.) So over 150 years of human use, the land is far from the forest that once grew there. The Nature Patch could be thought of as a re-engineering project. Continue reading

By Amy Grotta,  OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension – Columbia, Washington & Yamhill Counties

Old basins found at the Matteson Forest probably belonged to a dairy farmer in the mid-20th century.

Ah, November. The wet and the darkness set in and we feel like turning on the teapot and bundling up. For woodland owners, winter lends an opportunity to catch up on indoor projects: accounting, taxes, and maybe updating or writing a management plan.

Another indoor activity that I guarantee will be more interesting than any of the above is researching and putting together a history of your woodland. It may mean digging through old family files or recording the memories of an elder relative, if your property has been in the family for a while. For those with a newer relationship to their land, it may mean a lot of online research. Either way, it can be a revealing and rewarding process; and by documenting what you learn you will gain a richer connection to  your woodland and ensure this history is not lost to future generations. Continue reading

By Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension, Columbia, Washington & Yamhill Counties

This month we have been spending some time at the Matteson Demonstration Forest getting ready for a commercial thinning project. The actual logging will happen next summer, but we are taking care of road improvements, surveying property lines, laying out the harvest boundaries and marking the stand now, so that we are ready to go when the contractor is available.  OSU forestry students who are summer interns with the OSU Research Forests gained hands-on experience by doing a lot of this work.

OSU Research Forests staff Brent Klumph and Steve Fitzgerald, and interns Becca and Zane discussing harvest layout

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By Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension – Columbia, Washington & Yamhill Counties

Lately on this blog we’ve been discussing ways to grow a diverse forest.  Many small woodland owners are interested in maintaining diversity on their land, yet strive to do it in a way that also brings in income from timber or other means. For these reasons, I was intrigued by the work of Julian Geisel, who recently wrapped up his master’s degree in the College of Forestry at OSU. His research topic, “Management Strategies for Small, Income Generating and Structurally Diverse Forests” is particularly relevant to small woodland owners. Julian’s research focused on private woodlands in western Oregon, representative of the vast majority of the owners that we work with in Extension. I interviewed Julian about his work. Continue reading