Winter 2020 eNEWSLETTER 

Dear Friends:
On this mild (+2) windless, socked in, rainy day I give thanks for the last week of sunshine and clear nights. The bright, magical light of the full moon filled the valleys. Many of North America's First Nation peoples called November's full Moon the Beaver Moon. During November beavers begin to take shelter in their lodges, having laid up sufficient food stores for the long winter ahead. It was also the season to trap beavers for their thick, winter-ready pelts. First Nation peoples also used the monthly moons and nature's corresponding signs as a calendar to track the seasons.
These sunny days drew me outside to finish this and that, raking some leaves and, looking two years ahead, putting them in bins to become leaf mould. A myriad of macro and microscopic organisms transforms the litter into soil. Healthy soil, soil I add to my greenhouse mix each spring, soil created by natures web of life. As I gently sift the soil I am fortunate to find worms, centipedes, roly polys, and other buggy things, which I gather and put back into leaf litter or the compost pile.
As the soil is worked a sweet, earthy aroma rises. Ah, the smell of healthy soil. The chemical responsible has been given the name 'geosmin'. In the last few decades we have learnt not only its molecular structure, but also its microbial and biochemical origins. It has turned out that geosmin must have perfumed the soil that first began to cover the land half a billion years ago, thanks to the activity of the earliest Streptomyces bacteria, part of what I think of as the soils auto immune system and from which a medical antibiotic was developed.
One little bug that has fascinated me since childhood is the roly poly. Not really a bug, Roly-polies are terrestrial crustaceans and the only crustaceans that have adapted to living entirely on land. These little scavengers serve as major decomposers; eating decaying plant matter and other decomposing material they return nutrients to the soil. If you are lucky enough to find some, add a few to your compost where they will thrive in the moist conditions with abundant organic matter. To better understand these delights click here
I rake few areas; just the pathways and my small lawn. As leaves hold most of the nutrients the plants have drawn from the soil during the season's growth, (- the nitrogen which is released back into the atmosphere) I also use the leaves to mulch around trees and my flower beds. I know these beds of leaves emulate the forest floor and are essential habitat for all sorts of wildlife right down to the microscopic. Borrowing a quote from an article in The Humane Gardener "You can have all the native plants you want, but you won't have nearly as many wild visitors unless you also leave the leaves" this is equally true for any garden. Closed-in COVID days are providing many of us with time to explore new horizons. The Humane Gardener covers many thoughtful and interesting topics. If you're interested, you can read more here.
The soil out at the Desert Centre is quite different to the soil we have modified for our gardens and agriculture. It is much dryer, produces less litter each year and litter breakdown is slower; it has many bare patches where pocket gophers have hilled but much of it is covered in the annual litter drop, essential habitat for semi-desert soil life, from native pollinators to providing Nuttall's Cottontail with the litter they need to build their nests.
As we enter into winter, a winter different to winters past, a winter where many will feel more isolated and at odds with the restrictions brought about by the COVID virus, my thoughts turn to how can I fill my time productively, what can I learn, can I be part of a phone network and have a friendly chat with a shut in, can I stay in touch with my friends through social media? I find the answer is yes, all this is possible, and can be fulfilling. While most of us sometimes curse the internet, social media, texting, during this time it can be a blessing, providing families and friends with 'visits'. I have a friend who, through social media, reads to her grandchildren several days a week.
In just a few days the sun will reach its southern solstice, totter down there for a few days then slowly wend its way north and we can rejoice at longer days and anticipate the wonder of spring.
As we all understand, the Osoyoos Desert Centre is a vital ecological site. It could not exist without the Osoyoos Desert Society volunteer Board, our dedicated staff, and the many hours of volunteer contributions. Membership is another way to show strong support for our goals, particularly for people who are unable to volunteer. I truly appreciate and give thanks that so many like-minded people have come together to continue the work our foresightful Founding members began.
May you all avoid COVID, find innovative ways to love and share, and embrace the wonder of winter.
On behalf of the Osoyoos Desert Society Board
Lee McFadyen
President, Osoyoos Desert Society

What a Year It's Been!

As the saying goes, "May you live in interesting times," and 2020 certainly delivered. It's definitely been a strange and tough one! As we come to the end of the year, with our 2020 season now behind us, its good to reflect on some of the more exciting highlights: 

Badger! Badger!
This summer the Osoyoos Desert Centre had a very special visitor - a badger! Badgers are extremely rare and endangered in BC. It is estimated there are only 30 individuals living in the Okanagan! We were very excited to see a badger at the Centre for the first time in 15 years. Badgers are amazing diggers and act as ecosystem engineers because they can dig a complex system of tunnels and provide other species a home, a shelter, or a safe corridor. Species like the burrowing owl highly depend on badgers to dig their burrow in which the burrowing owl raise their young. We set up a wildlife camera at one of the badger burrows and were able to capture many different species that were using the burrow or just hanging around including a bobcat, Nuttall's cottontail and striped skunk. Sadly we did not capture the badger on our wildlife camera but one of our guests this summer, Kerry Hilgen, was able to get a few shots of our badger visitor which she shared with us. Thanks Kerry!
That's a wrap
This summer we were thrilled to host a couple of video and photo shoots at the Desert Centre. Ryan Scott of Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association contacted us in July to set up a time when he could come out to the Centre with Paralympian gold medalist, curler Sonja Gaudet. The two made their way around our 1.5 km boardwalk recording video used in online campaigns to promote local tourism and highlight the accessibility of the Osoyoos Desert Centre.

This Fall we were contacted by Saxx Underwear Co. Inc. who wanted to come out to our desert environment to shoot some still photos for a new advertising campaign they are working on. Models braved the somewhat chilly early morning in early October to get the perfect sunrise shot. Saxx kindly made a donation to the Desert Centre for allowing them to use our facilities!

Destination Osoyoos video
This spring Destination Osoyoos shared a video they had made of the Osoyoos Desert Centre. This video has been featured on Destination Osoyoos' facebook page and has been shared on our facebook page as well. If you missed it you can watch it here - just click on the video image below.

Osoyoos Moments - Exploring the Osoyoos Desert Centre
Osoyoos Moments - Exploring the Osoyoos Desert Centre

Shout Out to Our 2020 Volunteers

With all the challenges that 2020 brought us, the Osoyoos Desert Centre was able to operate impeccably thanks to the help of a small, but hard working and dedicated team of volunteers.

Our volunteers helped out in many different areas. At our front desk, volunteers Alice Partridge, Kathie Westphal, Nancy Heather, Alicia Osland, Adi di Castro, Clarissa Steele and Deb Sherwood welcomed guests to the Desert Centre, providing them with COVID-19 guidelines, keeping them both safe, happy and knowledgeable, doing their best to answer any questions that came up regarding the Desert Centre and making sure they had the best experience possible during their visit.

Our restoration crew including Dan Nieman, Paul and Mary Doyle, Gerry and Lorna Short, Skip King, Fred Hamilton, Lee McFadyen, Patrick Bouillet and Heather Gray helped enormously around the Desert Centre garden, removing invasive species, clipping overgrowing shrubs and transplanting native species. The demonstration garden looked fantastic this year!

Our site maintenance crew with Peter Becket, Roger Horton, Erhard Unger, James Friedt, Mat Hansen and Ernie Westphal helped reinforce the front deck and pergola foundation, skirt around the Interpretive Centre and deck, stain the deck and access ramps, paint the skirting, plus many more small tasks that made the Centre safe and beautiful.

Also joining us this year, Annika and Gradon Friedt - our youngest volunteers - who helped out in all the different areas. working at the front desk every Sunday, removing barrels of invasive species from the garden, back yarrow yard and boardwalk, helping maintain the site by painting and staining the deck and screwing down hundreds of loose screws along our boardwalk.

Of course it all couldn't be possible without the huge support of our volunteer Board of Directors. Many thanks to Birgit Arnstein, Peter Beckett, Jordan Carbery, Vaughn Denis, Roger Horton, Lee McFadyen, Joanne Muirhead and Deb Sherwood. Your dedication to the Osoyoos Desert Centre is unwavering and very much appreciated!

Last, but not least, we want to give a big shout out to those volunteers that wanted to help out this year, but were unable to due to COVID. We missed you, but are glad you stayed safe. We look forward to welcoming you back as soon as possible!

Thank you to you all! We look forward to an exciting 2021 season and we'll see you in the spring!
Congrats to our Spectacular winners

On Thursday November 5 at 10 am, Osoyoos Desert Society President Lee McFadyen and Desert Centre Manager Leor Oren drew the tickets of our four Osoyoos Desert Centre Spectacular Staycation Raffle winners. The raffle SOLD OUT, raising $5000 in support of much-needed upgrades to our solar system! The winners are:
Tracy Lawlor - Prize Package #1

Gwen and Robert Klei - Prize Package #2 

Nicholas Gibbs - Prize Package #3

Nicholas Gibbs - Prize Package #4

Congratulations to our winners and thank you to everyone who purchased tickets! 

As a non-profit charitable organization, grants, donations and sponsorship from individuals, foundations, government and corporate funders are our lifeblood. We simply could not exist without them. Thank you all!

Government, Foundation and Major Corporate Funders

Raffle Sponsors
  • ATB Watersports
  • Blue Sky Estate Winery
  • Bordertown Estate Winery
  • Burrowing Owl Estate Winery
  • C.C. Jentsch Cellars
  • Coyotes Sports Simulation
  • FlambĂ© Catering
  • Gold Hill Winery
  • Jojo's CafĂ©
  • Kismet Estate Winery
  • Lakeside Resort Penticton
  • Rashmi Bakshi Cooking Classes
  • Wakepilot Rentals and Charters
  • Walnut Beach Resort 
  • Watermark Beach Resort 

Individual and Corporate Donors
  • Robert Abbott
  • George Bardosh
  • S. Bonnar and D. McQuinn
  • Ray Bowes
  • Pat Burke and Dan Grosley Jones
  • William Day
  • Scott Edwards
  • Fairway Golf Cars
  • Robin Ford
  • Richard Fraser
  • Fred Hamilton
  • Margaret Handfield
  • Andrea Hlady 
  • Roger Horton
  • Sherry Linn
  • Charles McNeill
  • Gwen Monteith
  • Joanne Muirhead
  • Dan Nieman
  • Roger Peterson
  • Rob Rainer
  • Saxx Underwear
  • Laila Virding
  • Marlene West
  • Kathie and Ernie Westphal
  • Laura White
For more information visit our website or follow us on social media. 

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