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It's About Time - November 2016

Bigleaf Maple
Bigleaf Maple

When the rainy season begins as usual in the Willamette Valley, at the beginning of October, all is well with the world. This year the rains came in a series of unusually powerful storms, delivering almost twice its average monthly rainfall in the first two weeks. The wind accompanying the storms took down many trees, especially near the coast. 

The rivers responded to the downpours with vigor, filling ponds, backwaters and sloughs with fresh runoff. The upland soil has soaked up water, too, causing a lift under houses where the clay subsoil had dried out during the summer drought. The corners of our house settle as the clay shrinks in summer, causing doorjambs to warp and doors to stick. Clay expands when it rehydrates and this year the sudden release of doors that had been sticking was dramatic.

The mushroom season that got off to a slow start in September has, well, mushroomed. The chanterelles that were dense and almost rubbery at the end of September are now filling out nicely: tender and tasty. The switch from summer active plants to winter active plants has also undertaken a dramatic turn. Bracken had been drying out and wilting in the mountains even before the first frost took it down. The leaves of bigleaf maple had started getting brown and falling even in August. But mosses on maple branches are perking up and making spore capsules. Dormant and invisible all summer long, licorice fern is uncurling its bright green winter fronds.