This posting of Outreach Insight is the monthly report of the Clackamas Soil and Water Conservation District’s Outreach and Education Program.
This year the focus of the District’s booth at the 12th Annual Clackamas County Lavender Festival. Our soil tunnel was a fun, educational centerpiece for both kids and adults.
A tour of the soil tunnel
From the outside of the tunnel, onlookers saw the different layers you might see in a soil cross-section. On top were different land uses and suggested conservation practices to improve soil health, reduce soil erosion, and protect water quality.
What lies inside?
Inside the tunnel, adventurous participants learned who lives in the soil under our feet or burrowed in a hillside. Those traveling through the tunnel were rewarded with an “I Dig Soil Health” sticker. It was a fun weekend!
The Clackamas Cotton Brief Challenge Continues
As you may recall from our last edition, fifteen pairs of cotton briefs were buried on Clackamas County farms and home gardens to test the health of the soil. Briefs made of 100% cotton are a food source for soil microbes, so when the briefs are buried in the root zone, 6-8 inches in the ground, the microbes have a feast. We use underwear because the elastic band is not consumed by the microbes, so even if you have very healthy soil and all of the cotton cloth is gone, you will still be able to find the elastic. (Part 1 of article series)
How does this test work?
Participants in the challenge are asked to dig up the briefs after two months. If the briefs are very decomposed and ragged that means you have a healthy community of microbes in your soil. The biologically active soil is healthy soil. Our test began in June, but by July we noticed that with the lack of rain, our soil had very little moisture. To make sure our soil microbes stayed active, we started watering our undies every couple of weeks. These activities were chronicled in a series of articles on the soil health test and how to improve the health of the soil. Part 2 and Part 3
Really? Bury Underwear?
The idea of burying underwear to test soil health sparked the interest of the local newspapers that published our soil health story. Even the local KOIN TV station ran a story on “Soiling Your Undies” to determine soil health. This news clip featured a video of cotton briefs being dug up at our Conservation Demonstration Farm. And so ended our July, but August brought more adventures in soil health!
District Board and Staff Tour Possible Acquisition
On a hot Saturday in July the District board and staff boarded a van and headed toward Estacada to tour part of a 318-acre property on and near Eagle Creek. The property is currently owned by a timber company and has been harvested and partially replanted. Some trees are 7 to 10 years old and some are 18 to 20 years old.
Why tour this property?
The District is investigating a possible acquisition of this piece of land. Several streams run through the property. Native coho salmon and winter steelhead use the good habitat in streams on the property and two elk herds also frequent the land.
What is the plan?
The larger opportunity presented by acquiring this property is to collaborate with adjoining landowners to create a shared vision of future management actions that would protect and restore habitat for fish and wildlife on approximately 1,375 acres. Secondary benefits could include providing additional low-impact recreational opportunities and providing a small revenue stream to Clackamas SWCD.
Part of our Working Lands program
Clackamas SWCD views this property as a working forest and anticipates that occasional timber harvests from the land to be acquired would be sufficient to fund the maintenance of the property. Thinning is anticipated to begin in about 10 years.
Cotton Briefs Take Center Stage at County Fair
We had fun at the Clackamas County fair this year! Our booth caught the attention of many passers-by who saw our size 100 cotton briefs flying high above our tent and our clothesline of decomposed underwear hanging inside the tent. Maybe it was just the sign with the underwear and the hashtag #SoilYourUndies that drew them inside, but we had many great conversations about soil health with Clackamas county folks.
Other attractions in our booth
The other popular display in our booth this year was a giant oak log that was used to raise awareness of our vanishing Oregon white oak habitat. This oak log was eight feet long and held many surprises and facts about oak habitat. By far the most popular feature was the mischievous looking fox crocheted by our own Tami Guttridge.
What are we doing about oak habitat?
The District has a program to help folks improve and protect the oak habitat on their property. This is important as the majority of the remaining oak habitat in the Willamette Valley is on private property. The District provides technical assistance to interested landowners. Contact us if you are interested in finding out more about Oregon white oak!
Don’t forget the invasive weeds!
Those who ventured into our booth were also met with a challenge to identify some common, and not so common, invasive weeds from our county. No worries, the answers were available for each plant. Our WeedWise staff was on-hand to answer questions about invasive weed identification and control.
Far West Show Features Soil Erosion Control Practices
Again this year at the Far West Show, we partnered with the Tualatin and the East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation Districts to offer a booth of ideas for practices that offer temporary and permanent erosion control practices for nurseries. We asked producers to look outside of their industry to consider ideas from the construction industry.
ACF West generously loaned samples of their erosion control products to help us fill out our display. These items were of definite interest, but the hit of the booth was the model showing many of the erosion control practices we recommended.
Web posts since last we met: