Monday, September 5, 2011

Summer in the Northwest

This summer has proven to be a trying one, at least for those in the US, though I'm sure there has been plenty worse elsewhere. Most of the Midwest and parts of the Southwest, and southern and eastern US, suffered from a brutal and long-lasting, slow-traveling 'heat dome' phenomena. Many areas didn't just break record high temperatures, they blew them away by 10 or more degrees Fahrenheit. Add to that the heat index suffered under the 'heat dome', and you had temperatures approaching 135 degrees in the worst places. Follow that up with a hurricane with all that comes afterward like flooding, significant numbers of communities cut off from everything, plus continued drought in several states. All of this adds up to a pretty miserable summer for millions of people.

Unless you live in the Northwest. We've had, in my opinion, a fabulous summer. My opinion is mildly biased, in that I am definitely NOT a heat lover. The region, along with most of the rest of the US, experienced a very late spring. During spring term I took a course in Botany, and according to records kept for every year, everything was two to four weeks late; the blooming of the big-leaf maples, trillium, saxifrage... everything. Fruit and berry farms had longer than normal seasons (still no ripe elderberries... they're close though; and blueberries are still flush), migratory birds showed up later, and truly warm weather didn't start kicking in until July. Even in Yakima, WA where my mother lives, one of the hottest places in that state, didn't start experiencing its characteristic hot, dry weather until then.

In Portland, OR, temperatures in the 70's lasted for weeks, deep into July, and it was August before we started seeing more than one or two days in a row over 80. It's been one of the best summers I've had in my adult life, as typically, the Portland area has quite a number of weeks during the summer of hot, humid weather that sucks the life out of me.

On top of that, I got to take care of my stepmother's place in Sequim, WA (a really lovely area, I hope to move there at some point) for a couple of weeks while she visited her parents. At the edge of the Olympic Rainforest region, Sequim is considered one of the most beautiful places in Washington state. While most areas around Sequim, like Port Angeles, get a lot of rainfall (Forks, about 75 miles west, supposedly gets the most rainfall anywhere in the world), Sequim is in a rainshadow. Residents in the Port Angeles area struggle to get significant garden harvests, but those just on the other side of the 'hills' can grow everything from corn to grapes. The image included here is of the sunset on the day my stepmother left on her trip.

One of the many blessings of this great Northwest summer was the long berry season. I've managed to acquire a lot of different berries and other fruits for my jams and jellies, and I've really got an impressive range of flavors for sale and several more to list. I'll be writing about them here, mainly to give more information about the fruits, the farm where I got most of them, and making the jams. Of course, I also help to aid in promoting. :)

Finally, my sympathy goes out to those who didn't have a very good summer. Oppressive heat and hurricanes have caused a lot of misery, ranging from discomfort to loss of life and home. I hope the next few months are more mildly tempered and that this winter is a calmer one.

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