Signs of spring...

I have a few favorite signs of spring... I suppose most people do.  One is when the deciduous trees get that first blush of green, right before the leaves open up. And when the ducks arrive at the pond, ready to raise a new family. And of course, brand new Thoroughbred foals at the horse farm just down the road.

But I think my favorite is when the tulip fields are bright with blooms, which show up at the Pike Place Market by the bucketful. We always time a visit to the city in April, and I bring home an armful to brighten the house.

A friend of my niece has a farm stand on Vashon Island, growing gorgeous flowers from spring to fall. Lately she's been posting pictures of ranunculus, something I have never grown. It's too late for bulbs, which around here should be planted in the fall. I'll be working on that (and on gardening friends and family who might have bulbs to spare).

Check out the Olive Farmstand on Instagram... you'll be blown away.


Store dogs...

This lovely girl is the official greeter at Camaraderie Cellars. I spent a bit of time with her, wine glass in one hand, scratching her ears with the other.

Seven years ago on this day, I gave notice at the place I'd worked for 23 years, and a month later, I was free. Like a lot of people, I had a very long list of the things I wanted to enjoy in retirement. My list had all the usual things, travel and spending more time with family. But it also had one thing I really wanted when the time was right:  a puppy.

I never worried about being bored in retirement, not once. But I didn't count on not slowing down, even 7 years later. We always thought that road trips and travel don't mix well with a dog, and I don't like the idea of leaving my dog in a kennel. But finally, I think I'm starting to feel my age. Instead of getting itchy feet when I'm home too long, I feel like I'm putting down roots. A couple of trips a year is beginning to sound perfect, surrounded by plenty of time working in my yard, sitting on the deck at the cabin, quilting.

And a puppy.


The shower test...

I decided years ago that I'd take a sick day if I failed the shower test:  If I couldn't get through my shower without my legs going all jello-trembling, and without breaking into a sweat, I was too sick to go work.

Ironically, since I took early retirement nearly seven years ago, I haven't been sick enough to fail my own test, until this morning. Goes to show how many sick people came to work anyway, passed their germs around, then (usually) went home again to be good and sick. Thank you. No, really... thank you.

Working in a germ factory is certainly one thing I don't miss about corporate life. As I come up on my seventh year anniversary and think about the place where I spent so many years, I only really miss three things:  the feeling of being part of something bigger than myself, part of a team that designed and built amazing machines... earning my living doing something I was passionate about (writing)... and the people. I had the privilege of working with so many wonderful people.



Six times in the past 42 years, we've spent our anniversary weekend on the Olympic Peninsula. We spent our honeymoon in a tiny rustic cabin on a bluff above the beach at Kalaloch, The tradition kind of stuck.

Over the years, a lot of our anniversary weekends have been near a beach, but we've come to the north coast, between Port Angeles and Port Townsend, more than any other place. It's become sort of a second home.

This year our special day fell on a weekend when there were wine club parties, snow in the Olympics, and the discovery of such a good landmark restaurant, we can hardly wait to come back.

On a hilltop high above Port Angeles is a tiny park at the end of a dead-end street, and it's full of art. There was a geocache too, which is what brought us there. It was easy to find the cache; harder to find all the hidden pieces of art that are hidden among the trees. This leaping whale is my favorite. Studded with beach glass and shells and rocks smoothed by the surf, you can almost smell the salt water.


In balance...

Back to the land of snow and cold for the weekend, with wine tasting, great food, and gardens bursting into bloom all around. The Olympics are a backdrop to Port Angeles, unmistakably still in the throes of winter.

My favorite view of the city is from here, Ediz Spit. From this narrow strip of land between the Strait and the harbor, you see how the city is shoehorned in between mountains and tides. I love that.

Ediz Spit is also home to a family of feral cats. The locals provide feed and water; there are shelters built among the rocks, with rugs and boxes to help keep them cozy.

Someone also comes here to build balanced rock sculptures. These are so cool... I never get tired of seeing them.

Every one different, and clever.


This is church...

A few years ago, we packed up the fly rods and headed out to explore some new territory, one fly stream at a time. Our last experience was floating Henry's Fork, a branch of the Snake River that runs on the Idaho side of two magnificent national parks: Yellowstone and Grand Teton.

Darby, our fishing guide, grew up in my home state, and bolted for the mountains as soon as he was old enough. He lives for fishing and hunting, and there's nowhere else he wants to be than exactly where he is, in the middle of the stunning Idaho mountains.

At one point as we drifted, the only sounds the river and the fly lines soaring out to touch down on the water, an eagle flew overhead. And Darby looked out over his world, and smiled at me. "This is church," he said. "This is why I choose to live here."

. . .

I thought of Darby today, when we stopped to visit a waterfall on the north edge of another magnificent national park: Olympic. As we walked back toward the MX-5, I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw this amazing grove of ancient maple trees. The only sound was the wind blowing gently through bare branches, and the hollow in the circle of trees beckoned to me. And I knew exactly what Darby was talking about, all those years ago.

p.s. Just a note about the color of green in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. At the end of winter, when spring is still a fervent wish, green is olive green moss and grey-green lichen, and green grass just starting to grow. It is not emerald green, ever. As spring starts to burst forth, with the first blush of new leaves barely showing on the tips of the deciduous branches, the color subtly shifts toward brighter colors. I am so tired of seeing over-processed, fake color photographs of the evergreen forests of the Northwest. Just saying.


Try sailing...

We sold the sailboat when we bought our little farm. Something had to give, and horses and building fences and mowing pastures won out over sailing.

When we walked in Coulon Park today and saw these little get-wet sailboats, it did make me think about sailing again. Maybe after a few lessons on a hot August day, we'd be ready for a small sailboat at our lakefront cabin.

Wouldn't that be fun?


Last hurrah?

The snow started falling just after midnight, and by morning, another two inches blanketed the ground.

I rolled over in the early morning hours, and DW said, "It's snowing." I think I must have already known, because my dreams all included snow. I think it was the dream about our neighbors cutting through our yard to avoid the deep drifts that finally woke me up.

With a mug of tea, I finished another Dick Francis book, then went out to the kitchen to do the dishes. And while looking out the windows at a snow-covered camellia, I noticed the snow was starting to drip.

So I went to find my big girl camera, slipped into down jacket and boots, and went out to record the snow. It might be the last snowfall this winter, and I don't want to miss the chance of a few more photographs.

I'm glad I did, because the snow was gone by noon.

Big tracks through the orchard

Daffodils swelling toward bloom

The birdfeeder covered in snow, surrounded by bird tracks


The mountain is missing...

There was no mountain here today, but you can see the foothills crowned with fresh snow in the distance, and the sky was heading toward blue. It's one of my favorite places to see the mountain, high on a ridge overlooking a golf course. And it was early enough that the foreground wasn't cluttered with golfers... just the way I like it.


Catching up...

The cold is keeping me out of the basement these days. So instead of quilting, I'm working my way through my library of Dick Francis mysteries. So far this month, I've read twelve of them. I love sitting in my favorite corner of the living room, in a big overstuffed chair right by the wood stove. It's toasty and warm there, and I can look outside at the snowy orchard, and be glad I don't need to be anywhere else.

The first few years we were in the farmhouse, before we put in a wood stove, I dreaded winter. The house was always cold, and the only way to be warm was to crawl into bed. We had a waterbed in those days, and it was always warm.

Once the wood stove went in, the opposite happened. I packed away my sweaters in favor of short sleeve t-shirts, because the stove heated the house so well!

But there were those winters when the house won: ice storms would pull down trees and power lines, the power would go out for days, and we couldn't keep the house warm. Those days, I'd pull the love seat in front of the wood stove, and spend the day there (always competing for space with a couple of cats).