Thunder and lightning... oh, my

The thunder woke me about 4:30 this morning, faint rumblings against the foothills that grew stronger, bolder, as if more sure of itself. One boom! right over the house made me sit bolt upright in bed, waking the cat (and Dave). It rained all day long, a much-needed rain.

I love thunderstorms, but I didn't always. I used to get up and hide in the bathroom of my parents' house, the only room in the house with no windows. I'd sit on the hamper and put my feet on the sink, and read until the storm passed.

It was my oldest sister, Kathie, who changed my mind about storms. During one particularly bad summer storm when she was home from college, she got up and coaxed me out of the bathroom and out to the carport, where we stood under the roof and watched the sky blaze with lightning, the rain pouring down the roof and overflowing the gutters. She taught me how to gauge the distance of the storm by counting the time between the lightning flash and the next crack of thunder. One thousand one, one thousand two... boom!

We stood there in our bathrobes and slippers, watching the storm and talking, until the storm passed and the rain let up, then went back to bed.

I was never afraid of thunderstorms again, and thanks to my sister, learned to love the raw strength and beauty of storms.


Bird basket...

We've seen birds build nests in odd places around here. The bravest bird built a nest in the Christmas wreath I hung by the front door and never took down. Come spring, this little house finch called it home.

This June I treated myself to a hanging basket of bright geraniums and verbena and lobelia, and I hung it outside the dining room windows, where I could see it from inside the house. Just a few days later, I opened the window to water the basket, and there was a tiny soft nest, right in the middle of the planter. Before I realized, I dumped water right in the middle of the nest, on top of two small cream-colored eggs.

I was sure the parents had abandoned the nest, but later in the day, there was a small Junco sitting there.

When we got home from camping last weekend, I stood on a chair to get a good look into the nest, and was surprised to see that the eggs had hatched and there were two tiny birds, all open mouths, begging to be fed. No adult birds were in sight, so I carefully watered all around the outside edge of the planter. And just before dark, I saw the mother Junco fly in and settle down for the night.

All week I kept an eye on the nest, watching the mother bird fly in and feed her babies.

Today, the nest was empty, the baby birds fledged and flown.


Baby violets, part 3

I've been propagating African violets in water, and I'm totally sold on this approach.

The first batch of African violet leaves sprouted roots so quickly, I decided to try it again. With the extra light of summer, these had roots in about a week, and baby leaves in just ten days.

Of those first plants, the ones that did the best were left in water until the tiny leaves grew larger, then I planted them. With each, I left the "parent" leaf intact. I'm not sure this had any benefit, but it sure didn't hurt. After all, it was this leaf that sprouted roots, so just as much a part of the new plant as the tiny new crown of leaves is.

Since the first experiment worked so well, I'll do the same with these new leaves. It will give me time to find more of these small McCoy pottery planters!

This is so easy, it just may become a new hobby.

You can read about propagating violet leaves in water here and here.


Friday Finds

Back in the 80's I was hooked on cross stitch, actually on needlework of all kinds. We lived in a new, modern house in the suburbs... and all I wanted was an old house in the country. So my favorite subjects were barns and antiques, old houses, and main streets full of character.

I'd sit and stitch, dreaming about the house and the life I wish I had. And a few years later I got my wish:  a 1923 farmhouse in a rural valley, with a lot of needs but an equal amount of character. I could look out my windows and see my horse grazing, pick fruit from my orchard trees, and my needlework hung on the walls.

I don't remember why I took this cross-stitch picture down. But when cleaning out an attic recently, there it was. Wrapped carefully in paper, tucked in a box in the corner.

When I chose this pattern, it was the antique chest that caught my eye. But now everything in it is has meaning:  the antique chest, the basket of branches, the carved wood decoy, the hand-made quilts. I love antique furniture, the burnished wood, the style, and have collected a few pieces over the years. My sister makes the most amazing baskets, all on display in her own antique farmhouse. My friend Linda has carved and painted wood decoys on the bookshelves in her family room. And she taught me to love antique quilts, and got me started on the path to collecting them. Which led, eventually, to making quilts of my own.

So this little cross-stitch is back on the wall in my living room, where it will stay to remind me of so much that's important in my life.

Linked up with Kim's Friday Finds today.


Family time...

We've been surrounded by family these past few weeks. Natalie & Anton are back after four months of skiing, and exploring national parks in the western states. Last week we camped at the ocean with "the girls":  my sister and her two daughters, plus Anna's little girls, plus Nat and Anton. It was five days of laughter and walks on the beach, cooking meals together, sitting around the campfire, watching the sun go down, catching up on our reading, and marveling at the pod of gray whales.

On Sunday there was a gathering of my other family, to celebrate my mother-in-law's 82nd birthday. Everyone was there. Our nieces are so grown up now... Emily in high school, Katie at drama school in Chicago, Mandy heading off to her first job in Denver. Jess is nearly finished with a master's in library science, and Tiffany just started a new job at a software company. I was glad Natalie and Anton got to spend time with them. Any get-together of this clan is full of fun and laughter.

I've always felt like my house was a home, even with just the two of us. But there's something about having family visiting that seems to bring the whole family together, making our lives fuller and richer.


Summer reading

Every year as a child, I took part in the library's summer reading program. Mom would take me and my sisters to the neighborhood library to sign up, and since reading was one of our favorite things to do, we often earned the top prize: reading 100 books before school started up in the fall.

When I was a child with no responsibilities, it was easy. Today, not so much. Even though I no longer work, my days are still filled with other activities:  keeping up with the garden, fly fishing, housekeeping, and our cabin. And there are wineries to visit, and road trips to plan, and time to devote to family and friends.

My reading time most of the year is dedicated to non-fiction. Photography, quilting, watercolor painting, and cooking have been common themes this year, and I've managed to squeeze in a few novels along the way. So it's nice to look at my current stack of books and see mostly fiction for a change. I snagged most of these from the Choice Reads shelves in my local library. Some are new authors to me; others are new books from comfortable, familiar authors.

I've finished three so far:

Neither Wolf Nor Dog is on loan from my brother-in-law, Bob. It's the perfect read after I've climbed into bed each night, something to ease the transition from a busy day.

Rage Against the Dying is the first novel by a new writer, and it went to the ocean with me last week. It's very good, and I loved her characters. I'm looking forward to the next in the series.

The Road to Burgundy is autobiographical, about a San Francisco man who falls in love with the wines of Burgundy, decides to leave an unfulfilling career and learns how to make wine instead. I know what you're thinking... "yeah, another one of those tales." But this one may surprise you. It's not the best writing I've every read, but it's entertaining. And if you've ever tried to decipher the labels on French wines, the book will help you do just that. I read it in a few hours last week, sitting on the edge of the ocean.


A walking stick for Vivian

Last week at the ocean, I took my walking stick to Ruby Beach. We hadn't walked very far before tiny Vivian wanted a walking stick of her own. Anna easily found one in just the right length... driftwood walking sticks for kids are much easier to find!


The edge of the ocean

Last night I went to sleep in a tent at the edge of the ocean. The sound of the surf rang in my ears and lulled me to sleep. I fought against it, lying on my stomach in the tent watching the light die over the waves, not wanting to give in and go to sleep.

This morning we got up early for a final walk on the beach. It's the lowest tide yet, and we wanted to take advantage of it before we head for home. The morning fog was hanging over the hill behind us, but it was still and warm on the beach. All the rock formations were surrounded by sand, easy to explore, with crystal clear pools full of tiny fish and sea anemones and crabs, even a few hermit crabs and one lone starfish.

It was hard to turn my back on the ocean and head back to camp, harder still to pack up and head for home. These days at the beach with our family were amazing.


Alone at the beach

The last of the clan left today, and we're all alone here, on this stretch of coastline. My sister and her daughters, Anna and her daughters headed home yesterday. Our niece and her boyfriend left this morning. I miss the sounds of laughter, communal cooking, creaking chairs, chatter.

Low tide was at 6:30 this morning, and I'd already been on the beach for an hour. It will be sunny today, but it's cool this early, with not a breath of wind to tangle my hair. I walked out to the edge of land, then explored the rocks and pools before heading upriver to poke through the driftwood. I dragged a few pieces back that will make good walking sticks, and watched the sun come over the top of the bluff.

My footprints were the only ones on the beach... except for a pair of small five-toed mammals that were there before me.


Cape Flattery

The four of us took a drive out to Cape Flattery this afternoon, and walked out to the end of the land. The Cape is the most northwesterly point of the continental United States. Off the point is Tatoosh Island and its active lighthouse; the island is now a wildlife sanctuary.

The point is riddled with sea caves, and they say if you make the walk out during a storm, you can hear (and feel) the waves pounding inside them.

It's on my bucket list.