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Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Kayaking on the McKenzie

A free Saturday provided the opportunity for my next kayaking adventure. Having paddled the Willamette River from close below the I5 bridge (currently closed to river traffic) to Corvallis,  my next step was to explore the convergence of the McKenzie River with the Willamette. The McKenzie meanders North of Springfield, joining the Willamette outside of town.

For this adventure we parked up my Mazda at Brown's Landing, went home for breakfast, and then at a leisurely 9am~ish headed to Armitage Park. This Park, off the Coburg Road between Eugene and Coburg, has a great landing for boats to lauch, and is just west of the I5 bridge across the McKenzie.

Putting on the splashdeck is the worst part of preparation, requiring at least three hands or use of a knee as a clamp.

Phew, at last the splashdeck is on, paddle is ready, and everything loaded.

Using Beth's GPS for a rough guide. I'm not walking so it's more than 8.3 miles, but I'll be travelling faster than walking pace so I'll get there before 12:34, hopefully.

I try to keep my feet dry while getting in, but it's not very dignified. Fortunately nobody saw me except Beth, and the millions of dozens of three people following this blog.

Getting waterborne requires some joggling to shift the kayak forward, but at last I'm afloat. 

Just to test the current I start off upriver...

paddling furiously to gain the bridge

and confusing Beth who tries to follow me upstream. As soon as I turn back downstream I am carried away, and this was Beth's last view of me for a few hours.

Looking under a footbridge, I spot some interesting lumps

closer inspection proving them to be House Martin nests, or whatever the USA footbridge version of a House Martin is.

slightly weird and alien-looking without evidence of the birds, but I know they are there.

Somehow I never recognised the point where the two rivers join. In fact they join twice, as there's an island between them, and I missed both spots. Nice view of the mountains though.

Various birds as usual, I think this was an Osprey.

Sod it

I've been thinking for some time about getting rid of our "flowerbeds" in the front and replacing them with sod (aka turf). The flowerbeds are a nuisance when mowing the lawn, look terrible for 90% of the year, and need constant weeding which they don't get and thus look terrible. What's been stopping me is that Jerry's, our local DIY store, never has sod (5' x 2' rolls of turf) in stock, so you need to pre-order or get up really early on delivery day to have a chance to get some. 

Then on Sunday, during a trip to Home Depot for a different project, we saw sod stacked up on pallets, at exactly the same price ($3.19 a roll), so on the spur of the moment I bought six rolls and piled them in the trunk, despite having no tarp to protect the lining, and having done no preparation of the flowerbeds.

Thus at six pm on a Sunday evening I could be found digging out the flowerbeds and laying strips of sod in their place. This was actually the best time of day to do the work, as the area was in shade. A claw-on-stick tool made short work of the scrubby dry bedding, and soon I was piling the loose dirt and debris in a wheelbarrow and laying down the strips of sod.

Beth kept me supplied with cups of tea while I worked, recorded the event for blogsterity, and vacuumed out my car boot for me. This is the front corner of the flowerbed, partly clawed ready for removal of loose plant matter and the bigger stones. The soil is moderately stony here, and there are roots from a mega-Lupin near the surface. A few weeks ago I chopped down a monster Lupin as a beginning to the re-lawning process, and in a few places the roots had put up new shoots. These proto-Lupins have been donated to our neighbor who plants them in his riverbank.

My main concern was to get the sod down quickly so we could water it thoroughly, and it still needs more levelling. This can be achieved by lifting the sod like a rug and filling underneath while it's still liftable, or by scattering loose soil on top once the grass has sprouted a bit.

The debris I lifted partly with a spade and partly by hand, piling it first in the wheelbarrow before dumping this out onto a tarpaulin round the side of the house. This I will sort through once it has dried a bit to remove the plant matter for the yard waste bin, while sifting out the soil to level up the lawn.

Our two black cats found all this unexpected activity fascinating, and watched from our neighbor's lawn. Robert relaid his whole front lawn earlier this year, and I hope mine will look as good in time.

Having got six strips laid, I still need another three or four to finish across the front, but now I know where I can pick up sod easily it's not so daunting. I've always found a big lawn easier to mow than a small one, apart from emptying the grass box more, so adding 100 square foot of lawn is no bother as far as mowing goes.

All our near neighbors have similar front lawns, so it'll look more uniform. We're watering the new strips and the lawn itself liberally until the Fall rains come, and I'm looking forward to easier garden maintainance from now on. The sod is a mixture of local grasses, a Summer and Winter blend, so if we can keep it alive it should look great.