Have you ever packed up and moved somewhere that you’ve never been? Or maybe you’ve thought about doing that? That was me! In 2000 I did just that, after having moved though, I realized there were a few things that I had not expected about Oregon.
So, you’ve decided to move to Oregon, or maybe you’re just starting to think about it. In 200, I looked at the map of Oregon and I realized that there was this area of small towns surrounded by vineyards, only an hour to the coast, an hour to the city of Portland and the airport, about two hours to skiing in the mountains and only an hour to hiking around waterfalls…. with the bonus of being surrounded by wineries and tasting rooms, I had the same idea, I want to moce to Oregon! So in fact, we did! We packed up the house, filled the U-Haul, bought a pop-up camper as a “house”, packed in the cats and drove cross-country from upstate New York to the heart of Oregon Wine Country where I’ve now called home for 21 years.
Now having done this, there are things about living in the heart of Oregon wine country and in some cases in Oregon for that matter, that I had no idea to expect. So today I am sharing seven random things in no particular order that while living here, I’ve learned are actually normal ways of life, here in Yamhill county.
Number One: Pronunciations
There are smattering of cities, rivers, counties and parks (Clatskanie, Multnomah, The Dalles, Clackamas, Aloha, Willamina, etc.) in the state, which were named by the local tribal Indians back in the 1800’s before we were a state. Many people when they first come here, have a hard time pronouncing some of the words because if you try to sound them out, they are not going to give you the correct pronunciation! To keep someone from looking at you cross-eyed because you said a name wrong or learning something wrong and having a bad habit of saying it thereafter incorrectly, I’m here to help with a few that you will see quite often. To start with, the state’s name itself is pronounced “Ory-gun”… many people outside of the state will come in and they will incorrectly pronounce the state and say ore-gone because of the o at the end, but it’s correctly pronounced more with a ‘u’ sound. Champoeg – Champoeg park was the site of the first provisional government here in Oregon. It’s actually located here in Yamhill County as a state park. If you are like me, the first time I saw it, I thought it would be pronounced champo – egg. It sure did not roll off as it is correctly pronounced… “Shampoo-ee”. Willamette – the Willamette river flows oddly enough from south to north, from Eugene to Portland about 187 miles before draining into the Columbia river. The entire area from Eugene to Portland is known as the Willamette Valley, where we here in Yamhill County are the heart of. If you are like many though, the first time that you see the name, you’ll want to incorrectly call it the will-a-met. The easiest way to remember the correct pronunciation is a rhyming phrase that you will find on shirts printed all over from Eugene to Portland that simply joke “It’s wuh-la-mut, dammit!”, lol. One more very important pronunciation that you will definitely want to know before coming here, or as soon as you get here, is what we in the heart of Oregon wine country are known for and that is our main grape, the pinot noir. For those of you that do not know, this is a French name and in French, in most all cases, consonants at the end of a word are not pronounced, unless there is a vowel thereafter. Being there is no vowel at the end of either word, if you’re looking at it you may want to call it the ‘peanut-knower’, but it is correctly pronounced “pee-no nu-waar”. To go in hand in hand with this, it’s white grape counterpart is the pinot gris. Again, the consonants are silent at the end of both words, so instead of saying the “peanut-griss” it is pronounced “pee-no Gree”.
Number Two – Stay in your car at the gas station!
Another thing I had to learn when I moved to Oregon was that they do not pump their own gas, in fact it’s actually against the law to pump your own gasoline in the state of Oregon. We are actually one of two states that held on to this law from the 1950’s, New Jersey and us. Now having grown up in North Pole, Alaska, I can remember many times in the winter with a thermometer reading -20 … -40 below zero, which I would have much rather preferred not to get out of my car to pump my gas versus here where the temperatures are pretty moderate really year round … but alas the gas attendant pumps our gas, and we stay in our cars. There are two exceptions to this law. Motorcycles and scooters; in 2001 the state changed the law allowing motorcyclists and scooter owners, the ability to fuel their bikes and scooters at the pump themselves. The second exception are vehicles powered by diesel. Diesel actually does not qualify as a class one flammable liquid, so if your car is diesel, you can pump your own.
Number Three – Where are all the umbrellas??
I know when most people think of the pacific northwest (especially me), they think of rain. It is true, we accumulate about 43 inches of rain over about 142 days each year here in Yamhill County, more even than Seattle surprisingly! So in moving here, I made sure to pack my umbrella! To my surprise though, no one here uses umbrellas… I’m not even sure if they own umbrellas?!?! One would think with rainy winters that everybody would carry an umbrella, but truth be told, it’s not the case. Rain here is more of a constant light drizzle, so we don’t actually have a lot of pouring down rain or big raindrops, so rain gear and umbrellas, they’re just not common daily gear. Now, a complete side note – did you know that Miami actually averages 61 inches of rainfall over 135 days a year? Way more rain than us, in only seven less days! Along with the lack of umbrellas, thunder and lightning also are nearly non-existent here. We may get to hear a clap of thunder once or twice during the springtime or maybe see an occasional lightning bolt here and there, but I can say it’s a completely different experience to be in a rain storm with lightning and thunder when I’m in other areas of the country versus what our rainy winters are actually like here. What honestly takes the most getting used to are the gray winters. I have been in places where the rain will start falling and the sun shines through the clouds, but that is not the case here at all. It can feel very gloomy and gray between November and February. Some people cam adjust to the gray and have no problem, others, like me learn, to escape and vacation somewhere with the sun to soak in vitamin D to hold us over until the summer! As for weather the rest of the year here in Yamhill County, temperatures are really generally mild varying from mid 40’s in the winter days to mid to high 80’s during the summer days. Now not to say we don’t have a few colder days in the winters… we do get a little dusting or more of snow maybe one or two days a year and in the summertime we’ve been known to experience some summer days that hit the triple digits, especially this last summer of 2021, but in general, it’s a pretty temperate region. We get to enjoy all four seasons. Spring starts around Easter, then April though June, the weather is what you would imagine for spring, a mix of cold, warm, sunny and wet days. I mention, moving here, I thought June was a summer month, but after many years of having a couple of rainy days scattered throughout the month, I’ve learned to accept that I cannot count on summer until after the 4th of July. I count summer as July 5th through mid-September. That is when the days are nice, dry, sunny, warm, beautiful and I try to get in as much golf as I can because I’m a fair weather golfer and I don’t like the golf in the rain, lol. By the middle end of September through mid-November fall shows it’s face. The colors of the leaves are changing, the temperatures are dropping and we’re getting a little bit more moisture in the air again. By mid November we’ve hit our winter, which then lasts into March.
Number Four – Diversity.
Truth be told, I recognize this next fact all the time. The lack of diverse ethnic backgrounds here, is not recognized as one will experience in a lot of places around the United States. Having grown up in the military, I was surrounded by a vast diverseness of people from different backgrounds. Having traveled around the state of Alaska being immersed into the culture of the Inuits with school programs and different activities when I was also younger, then later moving to New York also then again surrounded by people from all walks of life, moving to Oregon was a bit of a culture shock, because that’s not the case at all. Per the census from this last year, July 2021, Yamhill County mimics pretty much the same numbers as the state of Oregon. Approximately 76% of Yamhill County is of White Caucasian descent, the state of Oregon is 75%. Hispanics and Latinos make up the next largest group of 16% of our county, the state reflecting 13%. The remaining 8% of our county is made up by the rest of the mixed population of backgrounds ( Black/African American, American Indian, Alaskan Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian, Other Pacific Islander) where the state recognizes 12% being various backgrounds.
Number Five – No sales tax!
If you look at a price tag and it says $9.99, you are really going pay $9.99. Unlike other states with sales tax where one has to try and calculate in their head what the tax calculates and how much then an item really costs, here it is what the price tag says, there is no sales tax. Obviously the state then needs to offset this in some way, so we do pay state income tax. In comparison to other states that also have income tax, Oregon is considered the third or fourth highest in the nation. Income tax in the state of Oregon ranges between 5% and 9.9%, depending on your income level. Once you add this to your federal income taxes, it’s a safe bet that you can easily calculate an average of about 30% of what you make, is paid towards taxes every year between the federal government and the state of Oregon
Number Six – speed limits… (they’re slow!)
There is no freeway that runs through our county, the closest that we have is Hwy 99w, one to two lane artery that runs north and south. It will get you to most of the towns in the county, sometimes allowing for speeds up to 55 mph, other time, especially through all the towns, 35mpg. As a reminder, we live in a valley of foothills with a lot of agriculture, a lot of vineyards and farmland, so one to two lane winding roads are actually very common. If you’re used to google maps telling you something is 30 miles away, and in your mind, that calculates to 25-35 minutes, think again. Those 30 miles will most times, easily take 60 to 70 minutes to drive, so relax, slow down and enjoy the beauty of the scenery around you.
Lastly Number Seven – Shop local!
Next to wine tasting, number seven may very well be my favorite thing about living in the heart of Oregon wine country. We are a community of small towns, nine small towns actually make up Yamhill County, and we are focused on supporting what people term “Shop Local” or “Buy Local”. It is true, yes you will find some big box stores and restaurants such as Starbucks or Walmart, you’ll find a Lowe’s and Wendy’s etc. in some of the towns, but they are not the cornerstones of our towns. We are made up of local… local vineyards, many that started by owners as a hobby and grew to nationwide recognition, some even worldwide recognition! Local coffee roasters with their coffee shops and drive-throughs, microbrewery’s, home bakeries, food truck owners, a lot of boutique stores, many farmers with their plentiful farmer markets throughout the summer that we get to enjoy and chef artisanal restaurants throughout the county that hands down rivals some of the best dining in the biggest of cities. We are 100% spoiled in what we get to enjoy from locally sourced food drinks and craft. Once you live here, the culture of shop local will be felt all around you. It will not take long to realize that your neighbor or a co-worker’s spouse, or the parent of your child’s friend, maybe even the person that you just passed on the street and said hi to, are all the owners of the businesses that surround us that we support.