Iced in

I’ve never thought of Oregon, especially western Oregon, as having a particularly harsh winter. I was expecting lots of rain, this is the “wet coast” after all, but I still didn’t think it would be harsh like the winters I was used to in Utah and Colorado. I especially wasn’t expecting a winter storm so severe it closed down our nursery for a week due to unsafe driving conditions and a lack of power and water. This wasn’t just a winter storm though, this was an ice storm, and wow it delivered a LOT of ice.

I had never experienced an ice storm before, so I didn’t know what to expect. People who have been here for a while didn’t seem too concerned about it, so I figured it wasn’t much to worry about. I thought “okay, it’ll just be cold for a couple of days, nothing too bad” and things will go on as normal. Plot twist, that is not what happened.

We finished our (first) week of extracting and packing firs and pines with relatively few problems, most of the problems weren’t real problems, we just needed to work the kinks out so we could effectively extract and pack 62,000 trees (yes, 62,000, I know, it’s insane). After a week of putting trees into boxes, I was ready for the long weekend. My co-intern and I had plans for most of the weekend, we were going to go hiking and shopping one day, then go to the coast another. None of those things happened because starting that Friday night, everything was snow and ice covered.

At first we decided to change our hiking plans from Saturday to Monday as it was snowing Saturday when we were supposed to meet up, we figured it was better safe than sorry. Then Sunday came and the road conditions were somehow worse than Saturday, so we cancelled our coast plans and hunkered down in our perspective homes. Fast forward to Wednesday, and my house hasn’t had power since Tuesday night, but it’s starting to warm up and rain at least. By this point, me, my roommates, and all of our neighbors had been trapped in our houses since Saturday and were all going stir crazy, so we all went outside and started shoveling the melting ice so we could try to escape. After hours of shoveling ice in the rain, we had cleared tracks for car tires down our hill to the main road, and after a couple of attempts and fixes, we were able to escape.

This was my first time experiencing an ice storm, and I have to say, I think I prefer the snow that Utah and Colorado produce. This position has been full of a lot of firsts, which has been very exciting, but this is a first I probably could have done without. Oh well, at least now I know to prepare better the next time Oregon has an ice storm.

Stickers and Festivities

December is one of my favorite months of the year, and probably the only winter month I actually enjoy (I’m from the desert, snow and cold aren’t my things). The thing I enjoy most about December is Christmas, for the obvious reasons, but also because it means I get to see my family. There were two things that I didn’t expect to happen this December: one was our office has a holiday party, and the second was that I needed to put stickers on POC cells and it needed to happen fast. Obviously the first one is very exciting, but I wasn’t sure how exciting the second thing would be. Turns out, stickering is fun, satisfying, and pretty relaxing.

The Christmas party that happens at Dorena happens every year, there are even retired employees that come back for it every year, so it’s a big deal. I can’t speak to other years, but this years was so fun! There was so much yummy food, a white elephant gift exchange, paper snowflake making, Dorena trivia, wreath making, seconds on food, and just enjoying an afternoon of fun. Personally, aside from the food, the Dorena trivia was my favorite part of the afternoon. Everyone wrote their own questions about silly things found around Dorena, there were questions about books that have been on a bookshelf in the seed cleaning room for years, questions about Teo (Dorena’s resident cat), questions about posters in the bathrooms, and questions about a long time employees dog, just to name a few. I learned a lot during trivia, but the thing I learned that surprised me the most was that I’m really bad at making paper snowflakes.

Before the Christmas party could happen though, we still had a full week of work to get through. At our normal Monday morning meeting, we found out that all of the POC seedlings had been labeled wrong and that it was very important for us to get them relabeled correctly ASAP. I don’t know how they got labeled wrong, or how the POC biologist found out they were labeled wrong (that’s above my pay grade), but I did know that I was going to be a part of helping to correct the problem. I’m not going to lie, when I first heard about what we were doing, and how many stickers we had to apply to the cells, I was very worried that this was going to be a very long week and not very fun. I was wrong about both of those things.

The seedlings already had tags, so the POC biologist printed out stickers that we needed to apply to the existing tags. The stickers had to be applied in a specific way so they covered the incorrect information on the tags. The stickers were sorted into rolls based on which group of cells they needed to be applied to. Like I said, I was really worried that this was going to be a much less than ideal task, and boy was I wrong. It turns out, that stickering was very relaxing, satisfying, and honestly a bit meditative. Time flew while we were stickering, it took about an hour to do a full rack, and we were doing 3-4 racks a day. I don’t think I’ve ever had 3-4 hours of work go so fast or be so relaxing. It was honestly a great week leading up to the Christmas party, and a nice break from the constant seed cleaning.

Like I said, I knew the Christmas party would be a blast, but I was unsure of the hours of stickering I was going to have to do. That week was one of my favorite weeks here so far, and I’m hoping it only keeps getting better.

Our office Christmas tree.

A Bright Day in a Sea of Change

The end of November means that I’m one month into this five-month internship, and wow has it gone by quickly. I moved to Oregon from Utah for this job, and it came with a lot of life changes, some I saw coming, but others I was unprepared for. I’ve spent this past month learning about Oregon, trying to do as many local things as I can, and of course trying to get as much out of this internship as possible.

My main job here is seed cleaning, but I am not alone in this objective. There is another CLM intern here who I sit and clean seed with for most of the day. We spend a lot of time chatting and getting to know each other (and the Forest Service employees we work with), but we also spend a lot of time listening to podcasts while getting lost in the seed.

Probably the most exciting day of this internship (so far) was the day we got to drive west of Portland to Viento State Park to deliver plants that our Forest Service unit has been growing for a revegetation project in Viento. The day started out cloudy and foggy (as Oregon winter days are apt to do), but by the time we reached the outskirts of Portland, the sun had come out and we were able to see stunning views of Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens. It was my first time seeing these volcanic mountains, but it certainly wouldn’t be the last. Eventually we started driving though the Columbia River Gorge, which was absolutely stunning: the fall foliage was in full swing, the waterfalls were pouring, the Columbia River was flowing, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

Once we arrived at Viento, the job was fairly simple. We unloaded the plants and sorted them by species so that when the state park employees planted them later, they would know which plants went where. After about a half hour of unloading, we started the drive back to Dorena. On the way back however, we decided that an extra stop was necessary so my co-intern and I could get more acquainted with the local area. We stopped at Multnomah Falls for lunch and enjoyed not just the spectacular views, but watching a Search and Rescue training as well. After taking in the views we started our drive back to Dorena for the second time.

After we passed Portland, the clouds started to move in again, and before we got to Eugene, it was raining again. Another 30 minutes to Dorena, and you would have never known that just a couple hours earlier we were enjoying the sunshine while unloading plants and looking at waterfalls.

There have been a lot of good days in my first month at Dorena, but this was the most memorable. Change is inevitable, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad, you just have to embrace it and know nothing lasts forever. I’m excited to see where my time at Dorena takes me, and I’m excited for all the things I’m going to learn.