Country life can be tremendously rewarding, but it can require a lot of work! Weather conditions can compel decisions you would never have to consider as a city-dweller. Spotting a handsome buck or a coyote through your kitchen window can bring a delightful pause to your life. Walking through your own woods can fill you with joy -- and fill you with questions. Hopefully through this site you can find answers to the questions you may have.
It is a unique responsibility to be a steward of the land and have the ability to make choices that are not only good for you and your family, but also ecologically and environmentally sound. What you do on your property can affect your immediate neighbors and everyone "downstream" of you. Imagine, every one of your trees is sequestering carbon and playing a part in reducing the carbon load for the world!
Whether you own a couple of acres or substantially more than that, the Oregon Small Woodlands Association (OSWA) hopes these will help you take advantage of the growing number of resources available to people like you.
Sharing your love of the country is one of the most fun aspects of country living! Small woodland owners have all sorts of ways to encourage and entice people to enjoy their land as much as they do. You are only limited by your imagination. Here are some suggestions.
If you are away from the brightest city lights and can see the sky from your home, you have the opportunity for a clear view of the night sky. A star map will give you a guide to what you are seeing and good telescope can give spectacular views (although a telescope isn't needed for many astronomical events).
To start getting familiar with the night sky and star-gazing, Astronomy.com has an excellent Welcome to Astronomy page with links to a wide variety of educational and informative information to help you. For some inspiration, see NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day. StarDate Online has 2010 Meteor Showers & Viewing Tips as well as other useful data.
For local resources, check the Oregon State Astonomy Societies, Planetariums and Observatories.
Besides just trekking through the woods, consider setting up trails for walking, jogging or even bicycle riding. It's so much better than a track in the city, a stationary bike or a treadmill!
As an educational experience for kids or visitors, placing signs identifying the types of trees and plants can make the walk informative and raise interest in the natural environment.
Children and grandchildren love being outdoors and seeing the sights. The whole experience can change based on the weather, season and time of day. You never know what you'll see!
Geocaching (pronounced "geo-cashing") is a term used for "treasure" hunting using a GPS device. A "geocache" is usually a small to medium sized container that usually holds a log book, and perhaps some interesting information or other items. The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, outdoors and then share your experiences online. It's become an international phenomenon, with nearly 1 million participants worldwide. The first geocache was placed near Mt. Hood on May 3, 2000.
Geocaching.com (free membership) has tips for geocaching, resources and a place to upload any public geocaches you create. If you don't want strangers on your land (who does?), do not record your geocache info on this site. Simply keep your cache information to yourself, and supply it to friends and family who want to hunt on your property. On your own land, you can put anything into the cache -- including riddles, ecological information about the trees and animals found on your property, small toys, etc.
Creating geocaches on your property and sharing the addresses with family and friends is a great way to make exploring fun! Depending on the ages of children involved, it can also be educational.
Set up a zip-line!
A zip-line can be loads of fun for kids and adults, if it is constructed wisely and used safely (harness, helmet and supervision for young children recommended). Make sure the zip-line is:
- Not too steep (too steep=too fast). Look for a gently sloping area, such as a small open field, surrounded by mature trees.
- Not too low (it's a bummer to end your "zip" prematurely by sliding into grass or dirt). Remember, the longer the line, the more it will dip in the middle.
- Free of branches and other obstacles near the line.
- Designed so the "stop" at the end does not run riders into a hard surface. One way to do this is to insert a rubber "bumper" in the line to stop the pulley before the rider hits a tree or post.
eHow.com has directions on how to build a zip line and there are also kits available from several online stores.
When making your zip line, consider your trees! If you are attaching the line to a tree, be careful that your efforts will not kill the tree by "girdling" the trunk. If in doubt, check with an arborist on how best to attach to the tree without harming it.
Consider beekeeping! If you, your family, and friends are NOT allergic to honey bees, learning about honeybees is a great way to learn about your area through coming to know the availability of nectar and pollen sources for them - not to mention the side benefit of having your own honey! As you watch your bees, you'll begin to notice when certain native and introduced plants flower. It can be a great educational tool.
Honeybees are essential for the pollination of many crops - including those in your vegetable garden or home orchard. Nowadays, honeybees are beset by many diseases and environmental factors, and have declined dramatically in abundance. To learn more about keeping honeybees and other native pollinators, the first place you will want to go is: The Oregon State Beekeepers' Association where you can learn about beekeeping and find resources to purchase bees, hives and equipment.