Every spring, I like to go on walks at Dorris Ranch, my favorite park and living history farm. One clear March day I went with my children and our friends after school to gather nettles. We walked along the gravel roads winding through the filbert orchards and stopped at an old tractor for the kids to play while we picked at the base of an old tree.
As I was picking the nettles, I kept hearing a buzzing sound. I picked one nettle and found a honeybee clinging to the underside of the leaf. Then I noticed the bees flying in and out of the hole at the base of the tree right under my nose. It was a bee tree! We wasted no time moving on to another area.
When our baskets were filled with tasty nettles, we walked through the woods by the Willamette River. We found miner's lettuce, chives, chickweed and lemon balm scattered here and there. My basket became an abundant springtime cornucopia of wild foods!
Bright green buds were bursting open everywhere in the understory of the woods.
On our way back we stopped at the old tractor again and I caught a glimpse of something bright yellow through the filbert orchard at the edge of the woods. My friend and I went over to check it out, and found this beautiful old mossy oak tree with daffodils planted all around it like an altar to Spring.
If you haven't visited Dorris Ranch yet, or been there lately, now is the time to go! (Although I'm sure any time would be really nice to go there.) This 250 acre farm is Oregon's oldest filbert (hazelnut) orchard, started in 1892 when George and Lulu Dorris settled there. The farm still operates as a non-profit organization and a Willamalane Park. There are several miles of trails to hike on through the orchards, along the river, and through some beautiful forests with abundant wildlife. One trail passes by a meadow with a giant old oak tree with a cave in the trunk! There is also a replica settlers log cabin to see up past the old house to the East of the Parking lot. Their website is http://www.willamalane.org/pages/parks/dorris.shtml .
You can find Dorris Ranch two miles east of I-5 at the intersection of South 2nd and Dorris St. in Springfield. Take Pioneer Parkway West to Springfield. Turn right on South 2nd St (there will be a sign for Dorris Ranch). Keep going straight until you come to the gravel road and parking lot. Have fun!