Tag Archives: nature

Pecking Order

Crowded out of the nest, the usual sibling pecking order of fledglings, this little house wren found it’s first perch in the garden below. It surveyed its world outside the nest and later with a parent’s coaching, flew to refuge beneath a set of 4 large mullein, and then into the Elderberry bush to its new home. Three more fledglings left the nest a couple of days later. Or did this little birdy run away from the nest? Children have a way of knowing when to leave home whether by their own push or that of another. Hovering around Summer Solstice days, I just lost count of the new fledglings of many kinds of birds at our feeder. But I took all the new baby photos I could and you can see them in a future post.

wren 2 wren 3 wren 4

wren 1


Downy Phantom

owl fledgeling

Perched on splintered stump of silvery tree,

downy phantom

always, always watching me.

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Barred Owl feldgling, first day out of its nest. It was still there 2 hours later. Barred owls are often out in day time. I was hunting morel mushrooms, walking along with my head down, looking at the ground. I smelled a cougar and got the clue I should look up once in a while. Directly in front of me at a distance this fledgling had been watching me. I never saw the cougar, or the parent owls or the nest. Only 1 morel in the bag and that’s OK, for this day.

With great respect for baby wildlife I put my 2 German Shepherds in the van, made my photos in a little time, and left. I got pretty close but I didn’t want to scare the fledgling. Never take one home. They don’t need rescue and they are not intended to be pets. Fledglings seem pretty stupid, or extremely inexperienced. I hope it lived through the night. Great Horned Owls at my home spend months feeding and training their young in the art of hunting so I hope this one has a parent looking after it, too.

owl sweet face

Seeking Elusive Morels

peeking 2

I can’t think of a more fun wild food to harvest than morel mushrooms. The spring hunt gets me into forests early and, though unproductive until the right sustained temperatures range between 40 and 65 degrees, searching for the elusive fungus is a great way to break in new hiking boots and strengthen muscles for more vigorous summer trekking. In the Payette National Forest the morels are ON now.

peek a boo

No doubt I walk past more than I find, like this one I spied playing peek-a-boo with me. Look again at the first photo and you’ll see that its companion was hiding next to it, just out of sight. These two photos are of the same finding, different perspectives. It’s all how you look at it. No, really. Sometimes turn around and look where you just came from. Just by looking back I’ve found deer and whales following me.  (Whales follow my boat, of course; they don’t visit the forest.)

emerging morel

I discovered some just pushing forth through the forest floor, showing that they can grow to full size below warming moist duff as they emerge. This one was larger than a golf ball.

dig in morel

Another much larger one was trying its darndest to force its way through the floor on its side. I helped it, of course. You can see only about a third of it in this photo.

knife for morels

According to Mother Earth News it’s not necessary to cut mushrooms off at their ground level. Pulling up the whole thing has no effect on it growing back next year because mushrooms grow by spore dispersion. I cut them off in the field so they are easier to clean when I get home and to leave a little more nourishment in nature. I carry a soft mesh shopping bag to transport my fine little friends so their spores can fall out to reproduce, assuring more gathering opportunities in the future.


My family taught me to be wary of bears any time I’m in their habitats, especially when gathering mushrooms and huckleberries. This is one of two bears that crossed my acres at dusk several days ago. Neighbors found 2 more, so we had four that we know of in our little area that evening.



That same day a rancher drove cattle across our pasture and up our creek to the range land above us.

This is probably why so many bears came down at once. Even they don’t want to camp with bovine.

two tired dogs

I take one or two German Shepherds with me when I hunt mushrooms but that doesn’t assure protection. A bear might chase your dog who will run right to you, or run away and leave you with the beast. Mom’s German Shepherd was so brave and persistent getting after a bear in her brush near her pond that it got its tail bitten off. We called her Bob after that. I wear a whistle around my neck but I’ve never had to use it in a bear encounter. If I remember, I sing or hum a little song, or recite poems so the bears hear me and they stay clear before I ever see them. Sea chanties work nicely. My friend, Nancy, bells her dog and it makes enough noise running around to let bears know they’re not alone. My girls are worn out after leaping every fallen tree they could find.

bear tree

With little training I recognize a bear wallow, though an elk had marked it overnight with scat so maybe it was an elk wallow. Uh . . . but it was awfully close to this tree where a bear had dug after insects.

Fresh bear scat

Another clue is fresh scat. VERY fresh! See how wet it is?

bear scat 2

And some  more scat nearby, a little older.


At home, I carefully rinse the catch and then give them a 30 minute soak in heavily salted cool water to dislodge tiny critters that inhabit the fungus. Then I rinse them again, gently squeeze out the water and lay them on towels to dry a little. Mother Earth News says not to clean them and I agree they would feel firmer that way. But I disagree about their bugs and worms leaving with less encouragement.

sourdough and morels

Meantime, I tend to the sourdough sponge so I’ll have fresh bread to dip in the morel drippings later. If I’m going to eat them soon I store them in a paper bag or wrapped in paper towls in a bowl in my fridge. To preserve them for later, I dry the mushrooms by running a long thread through them with a small needle and then hanging them in a sunny window if it’s a sunny day. But it’s raining here a lot now so I filled 2 dehydraters with them and dried them in the kitchen. Fillet large morels lengthwise so they dry quicker.  Mother Earth News has a different method, still without cleaning them first. After drying them I package them in freezer bags or glass jars and put them in the freezer for a couple of weeks to kill any more enzymes that could cause trouble in storage. Then I store them in glass jars or crocks with lids. To rehydrate for use, I put them in a cereal bowl with just enough water to cover them for about 20 minutes. Mother Earth News wants to soak them for 2 hours but that seems way too long. Either way, save the liquid to use in morel sauce and gravy.

saute morels

Skip the onions and garlic. Morels are so flavorful why distract the taste with anything added? I put just enough olive oil in the bottom of a frying pan to coat it, and add a small slice of butter for flavor. No salt or pepper even. Saute on medium heat gently for only about 5 minutes. Don’t overcook or they get tough. The best of the best recipes is to fry a steak in a cast iron skillet first, then remove it and stir up the brownings. Add olive oil if needed, butter if you like. Saute the morels and then remove them from the pan. Stir up the drippings again, and then stir in flour before adding the reserved liquid (above) or some water a little at a time. Keep stirring gently to prevent lumps until you get the thickness you want. Adjust the amount of liquid as you like. Another way is to skip the flour and instead shake a small jar that has a little corn starch and liquid in it, then add it all at once to the pan and stir, stir, stir.

Trilium parasol

I’ve spent valuable hunting and gathering time creating this post so it’s back to the forest I go now. Mother Earth News has more information about morels, though I disagree with some of it. And at the end of their discussion they post more sites about the fungus.


“I cannot make you understand. I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me. I cannot even explain it to myself.”

“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.”

“What’s happened to me,’ he thought. It was no dream.”
Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

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I photographed these insects in the Butterfly Garden at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle using my Canon PowersShot A530 digital point and shoot camera, no flash, hand held. One of the shots of the mating butterflies was made by my tall grandson. You might notice the difference in perspectives between his hight and mine.

The collection is wonderful to reflect on. Some butterflies are tattered, so much like our lives over time, quicker for some than others. These metamorphs lend themselves to metaphors and haiku. I’ll add it to my writing projects.

This is day 3 for me in the Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge. In the challenge we’re asked to post daily for five days a photo and some writing that relate to each other, and to nominate another blogger for the challenge. You can read more about the challenge and see my first two days’ posts and nominations https://skybluedaze.wordpress.com/2015/04/22/clay-faces/ and https://skybluedaze.wordpress.com/2015/04/21/glass-garden/. Anyone can take the challenge, no need to be nominated if you want to join. Today I nominate Marcy Erb at http://illustratedpoetry.com/ for the challenge. She posts illustrations and related poems so this challenge should fit right in with her style.

A Narrow Fellow

A Narrow Fellow in the Grass

By Emily Dickenson

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.

I like this poetic experience about coming upon a snake unexpectedly. This is the first snake I’ve seen this year and I’ve never seen a Rubber Boa (Charina Bottae) in grass. I’ve always seen it on a gravel road casually warming itself. This one is more likely a lady than a fellow because she’s about 24 inches long, and males rarely grow to that length. The first one I saw several years ago looked like an overgrown worm, the head and tail look so similar and it is very shiny. That’s a handy trick for fooling a predator. When in danger, this snake tucks its head into its coils and beats at its offender with its tail, trying to fool the bully into thinking it has a chance to snap its head. Hence, its tail is often scarred.

The Rubber Boa preys on mice and voles. It kills by constricting its victims, sometimes squeezing several baby mice at a time while fending off the mother with its tail. We have moles and voles and ground squirrels on our acres so it’s convenient to have this snake around in addition to Bull snakes and Racers. They all go down into the rodent holes for meals. Rubber Boas give live birth, are known to dig, and may live 50-70 years. It’s main predator is in fact humans who capture and sell them for pets, which is illegal in the US.

This animal never strikes and bites with its small head so for people like me who don’t care to handle snakes, the Rubber Boa is a gentle one to begin with. Indeed it seems to enjoy clinging to a human arm and riding around for a while. One of my students told me his dad brought home a Rubber Boa behind his back, asked his son to close his eyes, then put the small snake in the kid’s hands. It wrapped around the boy’s arm and stayed there for hours while he rode his bike, shared it with his friends, and then went to the library with it still attached to himself. That’s when he found out how horrified our small town librarian is of snakes of any kind. His mom said the snake finally got lost in the house and they never found it. She still wonders about it when she scoots things around in closets.


Deer skull on red wall

Weekly Photo Challenge: Wall. See more photos by other bloggers or learn how to participate here https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/wall/.

To see more photos of bones on my blog look at https://skybluedaze.wordpress.com/2014/09/18/solitude-together-hike/ and https://skybluedaze.wordpress.com/2014/10/17/washtucna/.

Nuthatch houses

As I walked to the back of the house to get a wheelbarrow today I heard a familiar yank-yank call from one of three birdhouses attached to the east wall. A tiny Red-breasted Nuthatch was examining the little house made from a small tree trunk. I went back into the house for my point & shoot and it flew to another birdhouse on the side of the garage.

nuthatch at birdhouse

My Olympus FE-20 is conveniently small and flat, fits neatly in a pocket. But it has no view finder. It’s nearly impossible to see the image on the screen so I maximized the telephoto and pointed and shot, hoping for the best.

nuthatch on bird house roof

The Nuthatch checked out each of the 5 bird houses on the garage wall but I wasn’t able to get pictures of it at each one. See the towering Ponderosa Pine on the north side behind our home? That’s where the Nuthatch spends most of its time. It’s been pecking all around our house to get at bugs for more than a month.

5 birdhouses on garage

Three more bird houses are attached beneath the balcony at the back of our house, facing north. Maybe the Nuthatch pecked at the opening to get at insects inside, or maybe to get a better entrance for caching its food supply within. Maybe it was another animal, though. Red-breasted Nuthatches would rather burrow up to 8 inches into a dead tree than inhabit a birdhouse. We’ll see about this one.

pecked hole in bird house

The bird flitted to the big Elderberry bush east of the garage ocassionally. It kept calling its yank-yank and another echoed its call from the woods at the creek. I slipped my little camera into the chest pocket of my overalls and went about my business in the sunny garden on the south of the house, spreading a bale of damp decaying straw over strawberries, grapes, herbs, and bare ground to prevent early growth and inhibit weeds.

nuthatch in elderberry

More about the bird

You can find out more about the Red-breasted Nuthatch from http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/red-breasted_nuthatch/lifehistory.

About the bird houses

The birdhouses were made by a man who lives on the Sol Duc River near Forks, Washington on the North Olympic Peninsula. He builds them, his sister paints them, and they set them in an unattended kiosk by the highway with a lock box to drop in your $5. I’ve collected them and given many as gifts over the years.

Winter sunflowers

If I had to choose a religion, the sun as the universal giver of life would be my god.- Napoleon Bonaparte 

Many world cultures have recognized the power of the sun. I don’t claim the sun as my religion but I choose to live where I can see the sun and blue skies more than grey clouds. It’s my blog name, Sky Blue Daze. On this winter day, shadowed by snow clouds and fog, oily black seeds grown from last summer’s sun feed American Gold Finches.

I dried sunflowers at the end of summer and today I attached some to a wild cherry branch near my bird feeder. Even while I was twisting a pipe cleaner around a twig to secure a stem, an early bird began eating from a seed head I had placed above me! The cherry branch attached to the deck rail provides a perch, attracting and keeping birds longer at the feeder. Evening Gross Beaks have dominated the feeder for about a week and I wanted to provide the finches and Oregon Juncos another chance to get some seeds. The Juncos prefer seeds on the ground so I cleared snow off the deck and scatter seeds there. They fluttered to the branches of sunflower heads anyway, checked them out, then left them for the finches.

I know the birds get wild seeds. I like that I grew the sunflowers from the sun, the universal giver of life, and now I can share them with animals this winter. It’s a way I can participate in nature.

More about the cherry branch with Buddha is in this post. https://skybluedaze.wordpress.com/2015/01/05/no-mistake/

This post uses the Weekly Photo Challenge: Shadowed. It’s not my best idea for the theme, but while we live shadowed from seeing the sun, it’s my shot for the week. Once I had the sunflowers on the branch the response from the birds urged me to sit calmly on a wet deck chair and photography them. The birds don’t stick around for much movement from the photographer. I hope to get better at getting close to wildlife and making some interesting images. For more about this week’s theme and to see how other bloggers used “shadowed” click here. https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/shadowed/

From the Backside

I am drawn to making portraits. I create them with words and pictures. Photographing and drawing people challenges me. Portraits that are not face on call me back to reflect deeper. I look longer at people pictured from different view points, especially from behind. Let’s consider point of view, the perspective of the camera or sketch pad. Here are some pieces I am working on, probably going to draw them. Below these samples are links to other blogs with inspiring portraits from uncommon viewpoints. If you have some samples for me to see, please leave your blog address in the comment. I’ll check in.

man portrait
unfinished lesson to draw eyes, charcoal and prismacolor
Ricky & Phil fishing
Looking from behind , I feel like I’m back stage of my subjects
Nathan bike Loon Lake
I’m there with the men, gazing at the landscape, and at them gazing at the landscape.
my back walking down trail
When a far away friend saw this she commented, “I’m walking with you.”

Inspiring art blogs I follow

I follow these blogs for art inspiration. Take a look.

Scrapbook portraits. I’m not a scrapbooker, but Lori Davison creates kits that I’ll probably start using. Why not put my subject in from a back view? If only my studio were as roomy and organized as the one in this portrait.

Here’s Lorie’s blog address. You can see her kits on the sidebar, and link to her sale site. She has some pretty darned good landscape photos at the top. Scroll down about halfway to see how people have used her kits for portraits, some from the backside.


The Goat that Wrote. The backside of The Goat That Wrote. Here’s hiker who definitely gets down, or up, a lot more trails than I’ll ever see. And he posted a photo from the backside, in his pack, of course. Now how do you get a selfie like that? Check out his blog with writing and photos from walking on several continents. Really worth the read.

Your turn. In the comments please share a link to your art showing people from the back side. Happy Trails!



Wildlife comes down

Aug. 8, 2012 – Coyotes chattering over the ridge while I picked more lavendar this moring with Ozette. Watched a beautiful but injured bear on my way to the ladies’ pool party at the hot springs near home today. Met a member of Sisters on the Fly, swimming, and looks like I am in the market for a vintage camper, ready to join this adventurous group. Watched maybe a golden eagle in the neighbor’s field before dinner. I like it here, even if it is hot. It’ natural.

Aug. 9, 2012 – Trying to find out if my neighbor’s German Shepherd came home after they were playing in the swimming hole above Glendale bridges yesterday. Kenny was waiting on the side of the road in his PU truck for the dog to “catch up”, soaking wet child in back. I saw the bear with broken leg a few hundred yards from the swimming hole minutes later. Kenny’s place is closest to the hole. Brian saw a cougar passing near our deck at 4 AM today ,after Ozette came back from hte field, and a coyote loping by, under our big pine tree in back of the house. Kitten, Boudicca, really wants outside! Ha! silly girl. Just a light wildfire smoke & hot temps. to aggrivate wasps. Thinking about camping towards Black Lake in the Devils. — in Fruitvale, ID.
Later Aug. 9, 2012 – Dog came home, but was gone a long time. Owner lets him run free a lot. Zip is a 2 1/2 year old German Shepherd. I’m protective of mine, cautious, more watchful for her and what she might chase. Ground squirrels, though, have no limits but so far she just digs. Last year’s badger routed them all out, as well as lizards and snakes. We don’t see as many hawks this year with less prey.

This evening Ozette spooked a doe when we walked to the mailbox. She came when I called her,and later she obeyed when I said “leave it”. Then the deer, which had stopped in the field to watch us, started walking toward us. See? All good things to those who wait. Another neighbor said he saw two very small cubs and a mottled colored sow last night at about 8:30 in the same place I saw the all-black bear. Guess I will avoid the swimming hole at the bridges for a while. But what a great sight! The 2 point white tail sauntered through our back yard while I walked out to the lavender nursery to drop a peach pit. I realized when I was in the middle of the yard that I should have looked before I went out at nearly dark.  I did look under the house before I saw the deer. I hate to have to leave soon to go back to work. But I feel blessed to get to be here and have swell experiences. The other place is remarkable, too!