After slipping on my boots, trudging down our slope at 7:00 a.m. each day, carrying my umbrella over my bathrobe, and heading to the lower garden where we have placed our gauge, I have been very curious about just how much water we have been getting in a weeks’ time on the eastside of Vineyard Mountain. We have all noticed the nights of beating rain on our roof and the muddy soil, but now I have an exact mount. In the last week, our family has collected 5.47 inches of rainwater. This is the greatest amount over a weeks’ time since we became part of the Oregon Season Tracker in November of 2017.
Besides the science of measurement, I have immersed my senses in the morning garden, made my mental list of garden tasks, enjoyed the morning quiet or the chatter of my occasional grandson sidekick, who likes to pour the water out and carry the number in his head all the way back to the house to inform the household of the number to be written in our garden notebook. We also are noting the long, dry spells when Oregonians get cranky, releasing a sigh of relief after the rain begins. There have been a lot of .0’s this last spring and summer.
I highly recommend this activity as part of your garden routine, adding knowledge of the natural world and contributing to science both locally and nationally.
In addition to the rain gauge, an equally important part of Oregon Season Tracker Program is monitoring plant phenology . Volunteers choose 1 or more plants from a list of priority species. An example might be a Vine Maple which is then observed thru all the stages of plant growth from dormancy thru fruiting and seed drop. Reporting is done at each stage and differences noted can be remarkable even in a local area. All data is collected and used to see and document patterns in climate and environment, and how they change over time.
The Season Tracker Coordinator is Jodi Einerson, located at Benton County Extension. She is most happy to talk with people interested in joining and can be reached at her email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Like most Extension Staff she is primarily working from home.
There are two websites to visit if you are interested in these two projects: https://extension.oregonstate.edu/ost including a new improved plant phenology photo gallery page and https://extension.oregonstate.edu/ost/educational-photo-galleries
Right now the training is entirely online. People register using a button on the website "Become an Observer" page. They have an online portion, and then take a 1 hr. Zoom session. The fall Zoom sessions have gone over who the Oregon Season Trackers partners are, the placement of the CoCoRaHS (Community Collaborative Rain Hail and Snow Network) rain gauge, protocols, picking plants to observe, and Q&A time. They are planning to have another series of Zoom sessions in late winter to concentrate on plants phenology observations. Those plant phenology sessions will also be open for past OST cohorts to attend as well. I plan on brushing up on my plant phenology skills at that time. The Oregon Season Tracker training is at no charge, both the online and the Zoom sessions. Participants need to order and pay for their own CoCoRaHS approved rain gauge. The price varies but right now they can be purchased for $32.75 plus postage. Jodi has sources on the website and in the online training.
After joining Oregon Season Tracker, you will get a station number used to report your observations, and that number is used to track the impact of this program in Oregon. If people just want to do the rain gauge and not the plant phenology observations that is okay. But observing plants fits right in with a Master Gardeners interest and makes the process even better! I have been doing this for 3 years and I am still engaged and learning. And my long term reporting is especially helpful to climate science researchers.