Category Archives: Nature

observations and information about the natural environment like flora, fauna, geology, habitats

Travel journal: Port Angeles, WA, US

Beach fog with kayak enhanced

Beach fog with kayak text enhanced

Prismacolor pencils

I want to thank my followers for staying with me while I took a long break from blogging. I fell off a ladder & roof shoveling snow last January and injured my back so that movement was painful for several months. Then in July I had my appendix removed, followed by a month of abdominal infection and drains. Didn’t feel much like blogging and was mostly not very conscious for a couple months. As soon as I could walk around a block and didn’t have to use a stool in the shower I ran away – road trip to Port Angeles, WA, where I lived for a long time. I’m pretty well healed now so I hope to get back on schedule with writing and art for the blog and reading all your new posts. I really missed my blogging community.

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Break clear away

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“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” » John Muir

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“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.” » Theodore Roosevelt

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Hells Canyon above Brownlee Dam

“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together … all things connect.” —Chief Seattle

Weekly Photo Challenge: Earth

Belly Biology: yellow wild flower surprise

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Belly Biology. I invented the phrase for workshops and daily programs that I taught at Port Townsend Marine Science Center. Basically it means to lay on your belly and see what you can see, most often laying on the dock and looking at what lives under it. Now a good DSLR’s flexible LCD screen can save me the stretch but I still came home with pitch on my jeans, really, from laying on my planet. Try it! Next best thing to laying on my back and looking at clouds!

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Butter Cup (Ranunculaceae)and Avalanche Lily (Erythronium grandiflorum) Note this Avalanche Lily supports 7 blossoms with one stem. Commonly the plant produces 1 blossom per stem. They are edible but don’t store well. Use them to top salad or cake and serve as soon as possible or eat them in the wild but only a few per patch to preserve the patch. This is the first edible wild flower to spring forth in spring, Rocky Mountains, USA.

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Surprise Shot with Olympus OM-D 5 set on close up scene, camera on ground. You don’t have to actually lay on your belly but it’s awe-fully fun if you do.

 

What’s in your footprint?

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Smoldering sage, thyme, and mullein

” . . . each of us contains our ancestors and all the generations to come. When we free ourselves we are freeing all humanity.” The Witch of Portobello by Paulo Coelho

I stood on the beach at a boat ramp near Vantage, Washington, US when the dam was drained for repair a few years ago. The Columbia River was as low as it had been before the dam was built. I could see the ancient Native American fishing site across the water. Rubbing a stone between my thumb and fingers that cool autumn day I felt as if it held an ancestor within. It asked me to carry it with me on my journey. And so I did.

On that sand, which is now again deep under water, I felt connected with the earth and earlier people. It’s not the only time, but it was special and I knew it. Who knows how long, if ever, until the river will be so low again? I wondered who had walked there long ago. My home was built just months before I bought it. Not many people were likely to have walked the ground there, remote in the Rocky Mountains. But imagine cities and highways and and airways or water ways, some more than 1000 years old. What did people leave behind in their foot prints? How long does our negative or positive energy linger? I didn’t bless that beach but I’ve often renewed the spirit of my home, especially before and after guests. I found this article from Daily Om inspiring and I think you may like it, too.

Blessing Space
 

by Madisyn Taylor

We can bless each space we enter leaving a sweet energetic footprint behind.

Physical space acts like a sponge, absorbing the radiant of all who pass through it. And, more likely than not, the spaces we move through each day have seen many people come and go. We have no way of knowing whether the energy footprints left behind by those who preceded us will invigorate us or drain us. Yet we can control the energy footprint we leave behind for others. In blessing each space we enter, we orchestrate a subtle energy shift that affects not only our own experiences in that space but also the experiences of the individuals who will enter the space after us. While we may never see the effects our blessing has had, we can take comfort in the fact that we have provided grace for those that follow after us.

When you bless a room or an entire building, you leave a powerful message of love and light for all those who will come after you. Your blessings thus have myriad effects on the environments through which you pass. Old, stagnant energy is cleared, creating a vacuum into which fresh and invigorating energy can freely flow. The space is thus rendered harmonious and nourishing, and it becomes a hub from which positive feelings are transmitted. Intent is the key component of the blessings you leave in your physical wake. If your intent involves using your own consciousness as a tool for selflessly spreading grace, your blessings will never go awry. Whether you feel more comfortable performing a solo blessing or prefer to call upon your spirit guides for assistance, visualize each space you enter becoming free of toxins, chaos, and negativity as you speak your blessing. Then imagine the resultant emptiness being replaced by pure, healing white light and loving energy. Even a quic! k mindful thought of love can bless a space.

This type of blessing is cumulative and will grow each time you bestow it. Try blessing every home, business, and office you visit for an entire week and observing the effects of your goodwill. Your affirmative energy footprint will help brighten your day as you contemplate your blessing’s future impact on your siblings in humanity and your environment.

DIY Winter Solstice Ceremony

I’ve been anticipating Winter Solstice for weeks, another chance to cleanse myself of dark inner voices and illuminate them with hope and renewal. When I participated in the Horror Writers Workshop 2015 in Transylvania I learned that burning a bonfire with intention keeps evil spirits from harming your property or family. Bonfires in Bran are rather small and quick burning, but sufficient to send intentions into the darkness. And people there light fires frequently to ward off dark energies.

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I’m planning a very simple celebration that will be personal for me but not too heavy for guests. To keep it simple I’m following the guidance of  Stacey L. L. Couch in her blog post How To:  Winter Solstice Celebrations. Couch says you need just these activities and she expands on how to accomplish each:

  1. Fire to light up the darkness. Any sort of fire is OK like even a candle or incense but an outdoor fire is preferred.
  2. Go outside, at least for a little while to experience the dark where it exists – outdoors. Turn off all lights except your fire to really feel the darkness around you.
  3. Offerings to burn in the fire. Invite guests to bring offerings, too. Stacey has some brilliant simple ideas about this so please check out her post. I bought oysters to roast over the fire and I’m writing a letter to someone who died but I still have something dark inside I want to tell him, to let it go. One guest is bringing cookies.
  4. Gathering of friends. You can go it alone but inviting new and old friends brings a community together. I’m keeping my gathering small, just 5-6 of us this first time. We moved our date to Friday to work with everyone’s schedule. It’s close enough!
  5. Quietude, prayer, and contemplation. I’m thinking a moment of silence and then sharing poems, quotes, or songs will fill this element. It can be serious, light or humorous, or all of it. I’ll ask  guests to bring some and I’ll dig some up, too. How many songs can you think of with Sun in the title or lyrics? “You might as well be walking on the sun”, “You are my Sunshine, my only Sunshine”, “Here Comes the Sun”, “Good day Sunshine”, “Sunshine on my Shoulder” . . .
  6. Sources of light. Candles, holiday lights, flashlights, matches, whatever bring about light in the darkness. Stacey says, “And may you remember the infinite light of your divine essence once again.”.
  7. Prayers for the Season. Stacey offers a couple of short prayers you can use or find your own or make them up.

This may seem like a lot but I think it can happen in about 10 minutes if you want it short or you can make it as long as you and your guests like. I hope you take some time today or this week to recognize the darkest time of the year and that the sun will bring light more and more each day. Please tell me how you plan to celebrate Winter Solstice. Read more to see how one brave woman used her imagination to create her ceremony.

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A friend who lives with a serious illness sent me this ceremony this morning. Let your self imagine your ceremony if you can’t have it in reality. Images can be very convincing.

“The morning of Winter Solstice 2016, and a new beginning.

I woke up unusually early with a negative feeling, one that was probably with me when I went to bed. I had fallen back into a pattern of attempting to force the truth from someone. Instinctually, I know this will not happen within any number of days set by me, if ever. So it felt as if I was already living the disappointment.

Wanting to feel better, I thought of the blog Kay Addington McDonald recently made about smudging and how smoke removes negative energy. The idea of this practice reoccurred in the story of Charlotte Pope’s daughter, Marston Blow, when she used sage liberally on herself and the Indians during the violence at Standing Rock.

Being in my cozy blankets, not having sage and it being dark outside – I used my mind to visualize as I’ve been taught in guided meditations by Jodie Lea and Renee Silvus [local yoga teachers]. I saw, the sage wrapped tight and burned down to a fat stick with a smoldering glow. I imagined that by my or some other hand, the smoking sage was made to circle me at and below the root chakra. Slowly, it was brought up and around my chest, neck and then my head. By this time, I felt free of the issue if not for my attention and intention alone.

In my mind, I stood and held the sage over my bed and let it drift about my room and then walked through my small home spreading smoke and letting all negativity disappear with it. I did feel better, but wasn’t able to fall back to sleep. So I made coffee and left a message for this person that allowed them to continue in whatever place they are, but without me.

I acknowledged that I slipped into initiating talk even if it wasn’t right because it’s hard to lose a friend, but that I’m learning to honor myself. I also explained the requirement of truth for me, even in a friendship because it is part of respect and love. I wished them well in their grief from a personal loss that has exaggerated both our shifts, and offered to be available should things change in a manner that becomes appropriate.

I’ve got changes to keep making in the New Year, and want to start my Winter Solstice in a manner that represents that.

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Anticipation

 

Relax is all headspace

Not long ago on a cool November day I stopped in a small town for coffee on my way home from a trip to The City. Well, really, I missed the coffee house, an old house alongside the highway, upscaled into a relaxing place to sit with coffee or tea. When I turned around at an intersection down the road a ways I noticed this almost secret garden between buildings. Just enough space to invite anyone to sit and relax, slightly removed from the street scene. Mind you, this is a small town with a highway running through it. The noisiest thing you might encounter here is a logging truck passing through.

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I asked 4 people in the hardware store and 2 in the coffee shop about who created it and is it a memorial for the lady painted on the sign.  No one knew. And they all live here. It’s a real place but you can easily remember or create in your mind such images of relaxing spaces. Relaxing is all in your head. Right? I’m inspired to put some of these garden elements into my home landscape.

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Relax is a state of mind.

Our minds think in images. Whatever images help you relax, that’s what you need to see in your mind’s eye until nothing else is there. Nothing. Think of it. No. Don’t think of it. If you can really think of NOTHING you are really relaxed. No THINGS are in your awareness.

Try this. Slowly push all the air you can out of your lungs, visualizing negative thoughts or images leaving your muscles and blood vessels as you exhale. Then slowly pull new oxygen into your lungs, visualizing light and new energy entering into every cell in your body. Make an image in your mind’s eye of a place where you feel relaxed, keep your focus on it and let it move you deeper within the relaxing space. Repeat. Repeat. Stay there as long as you feel comfortable and slowly come back when you are ready. You don’t have to be any place special or private to do this relaxation exercise. Just let yourself relax often during your day. If even for a moment and inside your own mind.

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Relax

 

 

Smudge Day

 

Every autumn I look forward to lighting a bonfire and tossing onto it things that are no longer useful to me like an old rag rug Mom made that even the dogs won’t use anymore, and outdated income tax forms more than 7 years old, and a small note describing a relationship that is no longer helpful, or even a portion of the relationship that needs to stop. Smoke removes negative things and purifies them, and us, so the ancient stories tell.

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Smudging is similar and it doesn’t require such a huge flame. It can be done indoors. I try to smudge the guest room between guests, even if I only burn incense. I felt it’s time now to really smoke the negative energy out of that room and my home so I studied up about crafting my own smudge sticks and took myself on a gathering walk outside my door.

For this smudging to remove negative energy I bundled a section of a mullein seed stalk with sage from my garden and dry pine needles. The sage was fresh  and the mullein damp. I didn’t give the bundle time to dry so it was hard to keep it smoldering yesterday when I held it by hand and whooshed the smoke with a group of feathers. Today I initiated a rescued cast iron cauldron that Rusti Shilling discarded. I swear on a stack that’s her name.

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My ideas was to kindle a fire and let it settle to coals to keep the smudge stick smoking. I collected some twigs from beneath a pine tree in my yard but they weren’t as dry as I thought. Crumpled gratitude notes from my gratitude jar flamed easily but not enough to keep the twigs burning. So let’s try 3 tea candles. Three is a good number and I shaped them in a triangle. That did the trick.

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I got the smudge going outdoors on my deck then brought the cauldron into the guest room and set it up on an inverted iron pot to protect the floor, keeping it well away from bedding. I’ve washed sheets and bedspreads and I left all the bedding unfolded on top of the bed. I also opened the closet doors and the adjoining bathroom door, and opened the window a bit. All the while I was telling the unwanted energy and spirits to go away, they are not wanted, they are not useful today, they are free to go. Repeating it over and over as I walked and wafted the smoke through the area.

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This method sustained a lot more smoke and I hadn’t thought to disable my smoke alarms ahead of time. I discovered how sensitive they are to even a little smoke not even in the same room and that’s assuring. I let a little smoke out of the guest room into the rest of the house and then closed the door so the smudge would work most effectively in the areas most used by guests. If you’ve been a guest, don’t take offence. This is something I do to prepare the room for the next guest and I prepared it for you, too. I like the energy of some guests so much I don’t smudge the room for a long time so I can feel the good vibes longer.

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Finally I placed an inexpensive item on the smudge stick that was left by a guest who experienced a really negative energy, intense but brief, while staying here. I expected it to smolder and put out the tinder but instead it flamed up. For safety I took the pot outdoors and let it burn up most of the remaining elements.

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I’m all about safety from fire at my place since I live out of town and no fire truck is able to get here in time to save my home. Rusti gave me this cast iron lid, too, which doesn’t fit the rusty pot but it worked wonderfully to smother the fire.

So now I have released negative energy from the new-to-me cast iron cauldron and my home. Tommorrow I will burn lavender, holy basil, rosemary, and mint to bring healing, protection and calming. I feel like this iron pot will be a handy and safe “fire pit” for me, and I like that it’s portable. Some years, like this one, I haven’t had a bonfire because it’s too dry and grass fire is still a danger. This year I’m starting a new tradition for smudging my home at least once every autumn.

Weekly Photo Challenge: It’s Not This Time of Year Without . . .

 

Delila state of mind

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They always said DeLila daydreamed too much; she needed to pay attention to her work.

They always said DeLila was rather spacey . . . drifty . . . flighty . . .

Some said DeLila’s imagination was too fantastic; she wasn’t grounded in reality.

One said DeLila would never amount to much.

Another said she was likely to one day just flit away and never come back.

You know what, that’s just what she did.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge:  State of Mind and reposted today for Magic. I wish more people would, if just for a portion of their day, use a state of mind more like DeLila, who I invented here. We could just pop ourselves into a bubble and let the breeze carry us somewhere else. I have no doubt many bloggers practice this way nonetheless. I used this photo recently in another post but it felt appropriate for this week’s challenge. I love the weekly challenges, I ponder them all week and look at my world through a different lens because of the themes.

By the way, after I composed this flash fiction I made a quick internet search for the name Delila which I chose for no good reason. I found this story and songs of Delila, a Kurdish song writer, drummer, protester, warrior woman who was killed by a Turkish soldier. She was not at all like the character I invented here. Her music is delightful and mesmerizing, though I don’t understand the lanuage of her lyrics. 

 

Keeper of the keys: day 6

Last morning shift checking out keys to the gates. It’s slow business in the office so I can pack and clean and photograph skulls or their attachments. I didn’t get all the skulls like the beaver on the window sill or the mountain goat on a corner shelf. Staff bring them in when they find them. They fit in with a place that’s all about wildlife. If you like to write or draw monsters, these aught to suggest some creatures to design.

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Wolf next to the front door. It changes directions occasionally. Sometimes I move it, sometimes it’s just different.

 

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Coyote in the background. 

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I cleaned this California Big Horn Sheep skull with a soft paint brush. The pile of tiny sawdust on the dresser told me it had insects gnawing within. It was covered with a dusty towel that I put in the laundry and covered it again with a clean sheet. A cotton ball with a dab of cedar oil set nearby will protect it from bugs. I can imagine this form as the foundation for “the monster behind the closed door upstairs”. Don’t open the door. I know it’s a trope, but still . . .

 

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It’s really heavy! The last 3 Big Horn Sheep in the Andrus Wildlife Management Area died of pneumonia. This one was found in the fence above Brownlee Dam with it’s neck broken. The biologist thinks it might have been fleeing for its life from something and ran off the cliff above the rock fence. Running from a predator might be a rather common cause of death in nature. Remember those 2 suicidal quails yesterday?

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This small horn was on a side table next to several deformed antlers in the living room. It’s not very big, maybe as long as a new pencil.

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What a perfectly shaped pair of antlers on the dining room wall.

Goodbyes with staff and I’m headed up the highway to visit my 94 year old aunt in Cambridge. Whoa! I left my coffee press in the dish rack! Back at the ranch the staff were talking about me and thrilled to see me in the drive way. They wanted to learn how to make the sourdough rye bread I baked for them. I showed them where to find it on my blog and offered to give them the starter I had with me (more at home) but they want to do it all from scratch including creating their own starters. One of them had hollowed out the end of the loaf I gave him and stuffed it with baked quail, cheese, and vegetables. The other had sliced his and stacked slices with mozzarella bites and vegetables open faced like tapas. He ate his slices with baked quail and wine. We talked about writing and art and ghost stories, lots of ghost stories from Hells Canyon. They urged me to use suicidal birds in a story and to create a character based on the technician. He would carry a hatchet everywhere he goes and we could call him the Kindler (he chops kindling and other things). The biologist told us about his epic character. He has written more than 25 adventures for it. He also used to create radio shows with a friend. It was an enthusiastic conversation and I’ve no doubt I’ll be back to visit these new friends.

keeper of the keys: Day 5

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Crust and crumb, the sourdough rye bread turned out just fine. It raised more than it usually does at home. I gave the biologist and the technician each the end parts and kept the mid section for myself. It’s mottled and I like that, not the way I planned but it adds visual interest. I used the whole wheat recipe substituting rye flour for the whole wheat and adding 3 tablespoons dark baking chocolate powder plus a little chopped up fresh rosemary. Superb texture and flavor.

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The piece of bread in the bag was baked at home, much denser loaf. Today I decided to take an afternoon nap. No such luck. Something struck the wall next to my bed hard like a football in the wrong place. Shortly afterwards it happened again. I heard the staff yelling at each other outdoors and I knew I didn’t need to get up. I’d hear about it later.

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They call these suicidal quail. Both were fleeing the talons of a falcon when they crashed into the side of the house. The biologist held them for a while to see if there might be a heartbeat. When I came down stairs he warned me there is a dead bird in the fridge and told me their story. He gently placed the still warm carcass in my hands and together we admired the feathers. So tiny around the neck. How precisely the hues change and form patterns.

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Feather tips felt smooth, but lifting them they revealed fluffy down next to the body. I imagined how the feathers held warmth when the bird puffed up in winter. Staff took the birds home for dinner.

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I painted more autumn scenes that afternoon and evening. It felt odd painting inside a specific frame, the shapes of leaves I had traced. For practice with techniques perhaps this limitation was just what I needed. I could concentrate on the process and not feel like I have to compose to the edges of the paper. This is the first time I haven’t taped down the edges. It worked OK on Canson 140, but I prefer Arches 140.

It’s my last evening shift. I packed a few things but left the rest for the morning sensing that I won’t have many hunters picking up a key so I will have plenty of time to move out.

 

keeper of the keys: day 4

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Coffee brews in the press and I have a little time before I open the office at 7. Let’s check the sourdough sponge set up last night. Look at the mark where it raised when the yeast were in their feeding frenzy and reproducing like crazy before death, like any organism. And then the sponge fell as it should after the protein in the flour was devoured. Oh! those bubbles! Looks just right and smells like beer. The surface is moving with gasses. I’m hoping bread at nearly sea level, where I am now, will turn out as well as that at 350 feet when I’m home. Natural yeast can be fussy. This should turn into rye bread like the piece in the bag. Tomorrow. I add more bread flour and water, cover the bowl with a small plate again, and walk away to open the office.

A few hunters stop in for a key or to exchange one for a different location. I take a reservation by phone. The Andrus Wildlife Management Area has gates to 6 different drainages or roads. Sunday morning is not very busy but in the evening I recorded surveys with 9 keys that were dropped off. It’s been a 3 day weekend for those who didn’t work Veterans Day holiday.

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Today I take the chairs off the table and make room for water color painting. Seating for 12, this could be the mead hall or else it serves a whole lot of castle servants. What a great place to spread out projects. It’s overcast, might rain, so I go for a walk to collect leaves from different types of trees.

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The idea is to trace a leaf and paint a landscape inside the shape. Water color takes patience, just like sourdough baking. While paint dries between layers I make a vegetable and rice curry soup with fresh tomatoes I brought from my garden.

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Sometime in the afternoon I add more flour and water to the sourdough and by bedtime it has bubbled up to the top of the bowl. In a larger bowl I mix the dry ingredients with my fingers and then stir in the fermented sponge. For this rye bread I substitute rye flour for the whole wheat amount and add 3 tablespoons of dark baking chocolate to give it stronger flavor and a rich color. Rosemary, yes, chopped up and added for interest instead of caraway seeds. I hold back on the olive oil, using less than a full table spoon. I hope it will rise well. I stir it and then knead it a little in the bowl but the flour mixture doesn’t integrate well with the wet. It looks mottled. Hoping for the best I cover the bowl with a big loose fitting plate and a light dish cloth and leave it on the counter over night.

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A friend called just when I needed to walk away from a painting and we talked for a long long time. All the while I studied skulls and antlers and horns that have been gathered from the wildlife area. They are on the walls and coffee tables and window sills. Everything needs dusting. If this were not home to a wildlife management area anyone could wonder about someone who would put bones around their living room. As a naturalist they interest me. As a writer they inspire me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s so late when I get off the phone I don’t have energy to write today’s post. I turn the wolf skull to face the door when I turn off the light. Up stairs in  bed I read some twisted stories in  The New Black, A Neo-Noir Anthology edited by Richard Thomas. 

Previous posts of my stay as keeper of the keys are here and here.

keeper of the keys: day 3

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My new best coffee! I get up at 6 AM to get ready to open the office at 7. It takes me a while to wake up. I brought a bag of instant powdered coconut milk for creamer. Mixed with honey in pressed coffee the flavors astound me! This one cup coffee press it’s great for a single mug.

Checking out gate keys to visitors was easy and I’m surprised most of them want to chat a while instead of rushing to their hunt. It’s a pleasant way to start the morning. I nearly filled the wood bin and then made pumpkin soup for lunch, stirring in coconut powder instead of canned coconut milk. Scrumptious with a mug of mushroom coffee! My husband rolled in with a friend and our 2 German Shepherds. The dogs stay in the van at the ranch so they can’t harass the resident wild turkeys. I made a pot of espresso flavored with coconut milk and coconut sugar and we sat  on the porch in the sun watching wild turkeys in the yard.

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I took a map and keys to 3 gates, locked the house (office inside) and we went off in search of the roads.  We entered Lake Road access gate and found this small ancient dog house nearby. Our dogs are too large to get in. There is a loading chute and corral at the entrance. We encountered a stream crossing right away (no bridge) and looking at the road ahead decided it truly was best for an ATV, not our big wide Chevy Express. Let’s hit the highway for the next access gate.

It was hard to find the Woodhead gate right across from the Woodhead campground. Duh! But the gate is behind a pond and no signs point to it. This road, too is not suitable for a van for very many miles. At least it’s not a steep drop off like Lake Road. Eventually we would have come to a peak and pine forest but I had to open the office at 4 so we turned around. I notice my office hours are the same time as the best light for photos, sunrise and sunset. I’ll be back in my 4X4 truck some other time to capture betters photos.

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Brownlee Dam, the first of 3 dams on the Snake River in Hells Canyon, is just out of view to the right of the reservoir. For this photo I turned around and now we’re looking down hill. I’m in Idaho. The land across the river is Oregon.

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See the road on the Oregon side, pretty high above the water? It’s not Lake Road but just like it. NOT taking the van on it! Looks like fun for a mountain bike. Yikes. When I was a child, not even in school yet, my family would take Grandpa’s Jeep on roads like that pulling a silver camper. What a hoot! Mom was wrong. Dad didn’t kill us all.

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We’re pretty high above the canyon but still can’t get cell phone service here. I thought the Carpathian Mountains were steep when I visited Transylvania but I’m not sure they are steeper than these. Back just in time to open the office, goodbye to my guests,  and I swapped keys for hunters who are staying the week in Hells Canyon, took some phone reservations, and checked in returned keys. I gave one chukar hunter a tour of the bear trails around the house and under the wild orchard and black walnut trees. So much scat! I don’t find any fresh walnuts on the ground. Do you suppose bears or turkeys eat them? They’re a hard nut to crack. Um . . . not for a bear. He stayed and we chatted a while about wild plums and elderberries and recipes for foraged harvests while we watched the turkeys eating grass seeds and apples. They fly up and knock the fruit to the ground and then fight over it.

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I closed the office at 5 and boiled brown farm eggs for dinner from the little Alpine store in Indian Valley. That place deserves it’s own blog post, it’s so eclectic. The sun disappears behind the mountain early so I brought in another load of firewood and put the wheel barrow back in the garage next to the tractors all the while gathering leaves with interesting shapes for water color painting tomorrow. That sound? Turkeys began flying up from the creek to roost in trees above it. I wondered if it was too dark to get photos but digital cameras are amazing at letting in light at twilight. Oh, the sound of these huge wings fluttering! It’s the sort of ruckus that stirs my imagination to write horror stories and paint scenes inspired by great beasts perching above me in the night. That was last night’s entertainment. Look what I can do when there is no distracting TV noise, none here.

And now I’ve edited photos, done some writing, relaxed with lemon-ginger India Tulsi tea, prepared sourdough to proof overnight, and washed my face. Time to do dishes and then go to upstairs to bed and listen to my audio book Far Far Away by Tom McNeal. It’s a dark fantasy, something about a ghost and the Brothers Grimm and lurking evil, in the fashion of Neil Gaiman. If it doesn’t rain much tomorrow I’ll get out and explore more of the Andrus Wildlife Management Area.

 

By accident of fate

“Anything  else you’re interested in is not going to happen if you can’t breathe the air and drink the water. Don’t sit this one out. Do something. You are by accident of fate alive at an absolutely critical moment in the history of our planet.” » Carl Sagan

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For the Weekly Photo Challenge: H2O

Pollinator Partners

 

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Celebrate National Pollinator Week, June 20 – 26, 2016!

I registered my gardens in the Million Pollinator Gardens Challenge. I’m on the map now as “Syringa Hill Farm” at Glendale, Idaho. Registering my garden means simply that I am one in a million gardeners who grows one or more plants that attract pollinators like butterflies, honey bees, bumble bees, bats, humming birds, lizards or any of a number of animals that pollinate flowers. I have several gardens, each a little different from the others. What blooms at my place has to withstand serious summer heat, winter cold and snow, and attacks from rodents that live underground and above ground, and occasionally range cattle and deer when they can get over or through the fence. Wildflowers do well! Having 8 acres, I used to garden on the deck before we fenced out range cattle and deer. Deer tracks in wet soil beneath our new Autumn Blaze maple a few mornings ago warn me that I still need to put up deer net to extend my fence higher than they want to jump.

Just some of the stable plants that I can grow easily here, and on which I’ve seen pollinators include:

bright geraniums

verbena

herbs: comfrey, cat nip and cat mint, sweet marjoram, thyme, oregano, sage, borage

mustard

arugula

squash

any garden food that blooms when I let it go to seed

“Pinks” and Jacob’s Coat roses

lavender

sunflowers

elderberry

wild cherry

How wonderful! As I’m writing this two black chinned humming birds are exploring potted flowers on my deck. I didn’t bring out my camera and the cat is on her harness nearby so I have to keep my eye on the situation. One way I assure more birds in my gardens is to keep the cat tethered. She has a long enough lead but I have to find strategic places to let her enjoy the outdoors considering our predators, including her, and the food chain when we live with wildlife! Just perfect!

You can register your garden here or  here to join the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, too. Do it! You get to display their enchanting logo on your blog and help spread the word about making pollinator friendly gardens and farms. Even one sole flower counts.

You can find out more about growing pollinator gardens and get lovely posters and wall paper and education materials at the websites below.

*Pollinators Home Page: US Fish and Wildlife Service  https://www.fws.gov/pollinators/Index.html

*Million Pollinators Garden website      http://millionpollinatorgardens.org/

*U. S. Forest Service: posters, wall paper, and many resources about wildflowers, native plants, ethnobotany and much more. Gorgeous posters of wildflowers, ferns, bees, grasslands, forests, and other pollinator partners. You can get some free and others you can download the pdf. and print them yourself.           http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/features/posters.shtml 

There are many more websites if you just google “pollinator partners”. Please send me a photo of a flower or garden you grow or find that attracts pollinators. Use the comments below to post them. And please register your garden in the challenge! I’d love to see it! You don’t have to garden in the US to register. My badge is way down at the bottom of my right sidebar. Scroll down to see it.

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Partners

 

Summer Solstice

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Watercolor printed on tiles by Lauren McCarter

Summer Solstice by Carrie Richards

This was when the whole world measured time
This is when the light would turn around

This is where the past would come undone
and the spinning earth will mark a new beginning
Let’s go back in time, to when it all began

To the breaking of new dawns
Where moments bright with fire, would light the chanting song
Where pagans worshipped sun, and danced among the trees Wore strange masks of covered straw, and blessed cold ash with awe Wreaths hung upon the door against all spirit’s, dire
and when the winter’s grasp let go, the sun reversed the pyre
This was when the whole world measured time
This is when the light would turn around So that spring arrives, and seeds will sprout and grow
Oh, radiant sun, stretch the day, shorten night
Return earth’s darkness into light
This is where the light will turn around
And this was where the past has comes undone

 

Lauren McCarter is a watercolor artist living in Boise, Idaho. She generously gifted this art piece to me at a time when I needed a boost. Thank you, Lauren!

 

Dear Spinning Planet

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Eastern Tiger Swallow Tail feeding on Comfrey

Dear Spinning Planet,

Thanks for turning me upside down these couple of weeks. All in all, it’s good to go topsy-turvy now and then and look at the  nature of life from the flip side. It gives me an angle to see that I am only a small part of nature. I’m not alone in going upside down to find my provisions. Misery and providence, isn’t that the point Mr. Hugo wanted to make?

So my kid’s in jail and I won’t go her bail and she gets herself out soon enough – yet again. And it’s the blame game – yet again.

So 4 friends die or have memorials in as many days and I can’t get to all of them. I feel like a refugee trying to keep my balance as they all fall down.

So my van gets clobbered by a hit and run driver after one of the memorials.

So my old rescue dog gets attacked by a pack of 3 pit bulls and when I give her permission she clobbers them well enough to give a slight window of time so their owner can pull the lead dog away with many bites to his arms. And the gang follows the leader. We make our get away escaping the unrealized massacre.

So he apologizes lavishly yet denies that more than one dog was attacking and we will let the judge hear us and decide. And that’s a big disruption in my schedule. And it’s what a multitude of residents and dog owners ask me to go through. And I will.

And I discover I belong with a local, national, and international community  that supports me in more abundance than I would have felt had I not tumbled over in this short avalanche of unfortunate events.

Now, tell me, Spinning Planet, that you will relax for a while and steady the current just for me so I can regain my harmony and shift my attention to the butterflies who have arrived in my gardens and the mule deer in my back yard who gave birth to twins just here and now. I still have strength to peer through disorder and flow with nature. And I remember that I am only a small thing, all in all.

Very sincerely yours,

me

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Central Bumble Bee on Comfrey
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Mama mule deer with twins to the right of the pine trees

 

About Eastern Tiger Swallow Tail

About comfrey here and here

About bumble bees and other pollinators here and  here 

About mule deer

 

 

 

 

Welcome Vole Patrol

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A narrow fellow in the grass
Occasionally rides;
You may have met him—did you not
His notice sudden is,
The grass divides as with a comb,
A spotted shaft is seen,
And then it closes at your feet,
And opens further on.
He likes a boggy acre,
A floor too cool for corn,
But when a boy and barefoot,
I more than once at noon
Have passed, I thought, a whip lash,
Unbraiding in the sun,
When stooping to secure it,
It wrinkled and was gone.
Several of nature’s people
I know, and they know me;
I feel for them a transport
Of cordiality.
But never met this fellow,
Attended or alone,
Without a tighter breathing,
And zero at the bone.
“A Narrow Fellow in the Grass”  by Emily Dickinson
This poem hangs on my bathroom wall honoring our resident snakes who defend our land from voles and mice. This morning our cat hunted insects along side our house where grass grows taller in a shallow gulley shaped by snow melt and rain dripping off our roof. I chanced to catch her studying a sleek Yellow Bellied Brown Racer, the first snake we’ve seen on our property this year. True to it’s name, all I saw at first was a whip lash as it sped to a safe corner and tried to hide behind tall catnip. Such a beautiful light brown skin and soft yellow belly. We looked each other over, then I walked away. We also have Blue Racers, generally bigger, and I bet I’ll see one soon.
I tell the truth, I did not make these images. I found them in an image search. I was more interested in mowing down long grass this morning, for good reason.
Hey, WordPress bloggers, have you had this problem where the draft looks spaced nicely with extra lines between stanzas of paragraphs but it posts with no spaces between each? I think it’s a WordPress thing just for now. I hope I can edit it later to put in white space where I intended. Any ideas, I’d appreciate them.

Forest foraging

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Forest foraging today provided spicy watercress (Nasturtium officianale) and sweet yellow avalanche lily (Erythronium grandiflorum – Pursh) to lively up my salad. Though I was seeking illusive morel mushrooms, I found other delicious and nutritious plants to harvest on my spring trek. I grazed as I hiked and brought home a small harvest to embellish tonight’s salad.

5 things to know about Nasturtium officianale

  • It’s related to mustard greens, cabbage, and arugula and tastes spicy like them.
  • It keeps well a few days submerged in water and stored in the fridge.
  • Modern science has identified more than 15 essential vitamins and minerals contained in this one herb – more iron than spinach, more calcium than milk, and more vitamin C than oranges.
  • It is known for preventing or treating cancer.
  • Vitamin K is by far the most prominent nutrient in watercress, with 312% of the daily recommended value. It forms and strengthens the bones and limits neuronal damage in the brain, which is helpful in treating Alzheimer’s disease.

5 things to know about Erythronium grandiflorum – Pursh

  • Since it often appears at the edge of receding snow banks it is often called snow lily, glacier lily, yellow avalanche-lily,  and it’s known as dogtooth violet, trout lily, and fawn lily. People who live in my community call it deer tongue but that is more often used for a different wild flower.
  • It’s related to the Lily family and it’s stamens can be white, yellow, or red. Usually all the flowers in a patch have the same color stamens.
  • You can eat the flower, seeds, and bulbs. Leaves are edible, too, but only eaten in emergencies as bulbs need the leaves to provide nutrients to sustain the plant.
  • This edible wildflower grows in western Canada and U. S., especially in the Rocky Mountains.
  • Elk and deer relish the foliage. Grizzly bears and black bears use their claws to comb through the soil unearthing the nutritious bulbs.

More posts about edible wild foods are here and here.

Weekly Photo Challenge: dinnertime

 

Miracles

trilium
Trillium

Miracles     by Walt Whitman

Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night with any           one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so quiet and           bright,
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.

To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.

To me the sea is a continual miracle,
The fishes that swim—the rocks—the motion of the waves—the ships             with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?

 

For the Weekly Photo Challenge: Half Light