Vivien Claire

This is my newest great-niece, who was born in September, and shares my middle name. Even her Uncle Dave is smitten; she spent a lot of time on his lap today.

She was the center of attention all day long (as was her big sister, Ella). There was never a lack of fond aunties to hold baby Vivien. I love her very expressive face, with rosebud mouth and big blue eyes. And she's a very good baby too... always smiling (when she isn't startled by the camera flash).

I couldn't get enough of holding her, and when I wasn't taking pictures or helping Anna fix dinner, that's what I was doing.


Dwarfed by a tree no more

November 2012

When we bought our small farmhouse almost 30 years ago, we knew this day would come. Still, it was a hard, sad decision to make. Cutting down a healthy tree should never be done lightly. This one just got too big, too close, and was starting to cause damage. So it had to go.

The crew arrived early in the morning and got started. The limbs came off first, twenty or so courses of huge branches, many the diameter and height of small trees. We saved most for firewood, stacking them in the yard, and chipping the ends and greenery. I'd dug up all my perennials and herbs from the garden around the tree, but a lot of limbs hit the ground harder than expected, and even I didn't expect these branches to be as long as they were. I was scrambling to find buckets to cover plants I thought would be out of harm's way.

The tree was about half limbed up in this shot; you can see how massive the trunk is when compared to the 6 ft. guy up there on the tree. You can also see how close the tree is to the garage and house.

When the tree was just about halfway shorn of its branches, I walked down the private road and took a shot to compare with the first one.

The tree is finally topped about noon; time for a lunch break. The crane arrived and set up, Mark headed up the tree, and started cutting it into chunks.

The first chunk of trunk was cabled off, and to my horror, the crane operator lifted it right over the garage on its way to the truck. Yikes!  Mark looked down and saw the look on my face, and called over to the operator. "Swing it around the other way next time!"  This log is ours, destined for firewood.

The last three sections of tree went into trucks to be hauled away. At 5-6 ft. diameter, they're too big for us to split for firewood.

This huge chunk of trunk was lifted straight into the steel-walled truck, where it rolled to one side and promptly bowed the sidewall out. Oops. Out came another loggers chain saw, and one of the guys hopped up into the truck and started cutting it into slabs.

This section of trunk was the last one we kept, and I stood next to it to check the diameter...  it came up to my waist.

This section went onto a flatbed truck, and it looked just like a log in a toy truck as it drove out the driveway.

The last section of trunk was the shortest, and the heaviest at 5400 lbs. The base of the tree was 6 ft. in diameter, so you get an idea of how big this hunk of tree is.  It went straight into the big chip truck, and the crane operator managed to get it nearly all the way inside, even with a partial roof on the truck. Dave got out the tractor and pushed it the rest of the way in.

The house looks a bit naked now, without its sheltering Douglas fir,, and I will always regret the necessity of taking it out. But I'm loving all the light that now makes it to the ground, and come spring, this flower garden will be happy to have sunlight.


Soos Creek reflections

I missed a great photography moment today... a little girl running to rescue three goats, enticing them to follow her by scattering goat kibble. Really. I couldn't make this up. Wish I'd had my camera in hand, but I'd left it in the car when I went to herd the goats off the road. Oh, well... lesson learned.

I guess someone felt sorry for me, because when I parked and walked toward the trail, camera in hand, something told me to walk to the bridge railing and look at the creek. And the light and clouds and sun and reflections were amazing.


First snow in the Olympics

Every fall (and sometimes more often) we spend a whole day driving up to Sequim and Port Angeles, then driving back on WA-101, which runs down the west side of Hood Canal. It's a drive we both love, especially in the MX-5 with the top down!

Today we took the dead-end road to the oyster beds near Dewatto Bay, and as we rounded the curve, there were the Olympics above Hood Canal, dusted with the first snow of the season. What a beautiful sight.

The back road from Dewatto to Seabeck is a favorite of ours, especially this time of year, when the leaves have changed color. Much of the road is overhung with giant maple trees, and I love driving under the canopy of branches.

We stopped in Seabeck for breakfast at Barbie's, a tiny place on the end of one of the fishing piers. Great food, worth the drive. I'm more than a little partial to the fish sign that hangs over the door, and wish I could find one of my own to hang in the cabin. It's made of tin, handpainted, and is hollow. It seems the perfect sign for a cabin on a lake, don't you think?


Red wheel

Our next-door neighbor has a project: building a fence between our front pasture and theirs. Howard has been at it a couple of years now; first he had to tackle the towering jungle of blackberries that had taken over both our pastures. The original 1970s cedar and wire fence was flattened a decade ago by blackberry vines and winter limbfalls, and I didn't really mind as I no longer had horses to contain.

Today I went out to inspect our English walnut tree, our own fairly large project we'd like to get done before winter. Two massive tree-sized limbs came down in the February ice storm, and the plan is to turn most of it into firewood, plus a few projects of my own (walking sticks, rounds to dry for garden "paving" stones). Dave just mowed the pasture (and blackberries) so we can get to the tree, and once the weather improves, we'll start. I suspect this project may take as long as Howard's new fence.

It was a gorgeous day, so I walked over to check on the fence project. And I noticed a new addition to Howard's place: a tractor with a bright red wheel, peeking out from underneath a canvas tarp.  Rain... a lot of rain... is predicted for tomorrow. Should I walk back to the house and get my camera? Or wait until tomorrow? The urge to photograph the tractor won out. Good thing... the rain arrived on schedule, and the next day, the red wheel was gone, safely tucked underneath the tarp.


Toilet in a box

I've seen some interesting packing jobs in my life, but this was a hoot. It bears a bit of explanation: We live in an 89-year-old farmhouse in the middle of five acres of pastures and woods in a narrow valley. We've been there for 26 years now, and have never stopped loving it.

But buying an old farmhouse is not without challenges. Having fixtures wear out is part of owning a home, but when the upstairs bathroom toilet tank sprung a leak, we were stymied. You just can't go out and buy a replacement tank for a wall-hung toilet. So we did some online searching, and learned that our toilet was made in the early 1970s, and that we could buy a new tank for $600-700. Just the tank, without a lid.

Really? I don't think so.

More searching brought us to a guy who refurbishes fixtures from old houses and resells them. He had two used tanks with minor blemishes that would fit our toilet, for $80. Sold!

The tank arrived yesterday morning, right on schedule. When Dave lugged the box in from the front porch, we both started laughing. The seller promised it would arrive unbroken... I guess packing it in a box marked "Eggs" would just about ensure that!

I have to wonder what the UPS guy thought, as he lugged a 40 pound box of eggs to our front door.


Rain in the Northwest

It's raining today, the first rain in a very long time. This morning I built a fire in the woodstove... the first of the fall. It's been colder than this already in October. But there's something about a drizzly Northwest day that makes my bones shiver inside my skin, and I can't get warm unless the house is warm and toasty.

The cats love it too... instead of disappearing upstairs to sleep on the guest bed, James has stayed close to the woodstove all day. The window blinds are open to the view over the orchard and pastures, but it's gloomy outside, and has felt like dusk all afternoon.

This is one of my favorite photographs of autumn in the Northwest. It was taken near Preston last November, on the first day of snow in the Issaquah Alps. If you look close, you'll see the dusting of snow up near the ridge line. It was cold and windy and grey, a perfectly beautiful autumn day.

I've spent my day going through photographs in Photoshop, choosing new pictures for my blog header, and editing photos from our recent week in Bend, Oregon. I'll be posting a trip journal soon.


Socks and cats

Socks have always been a favorite thing of mine, right up there with soft, cozy sweaters. I think it's part and parcel with my love for fall. Each year, I can hardly wait until the heat of summer has passed, so I can pack away my shorts and tank tops, and make room for my sweaters. And even though I go barefoot as much as possible during the summer, my sock drawer never gets packed away. My favorites get mended, and I wear them until there's no saving them. (Thanks, Mom, for teaching me how to darn socks.)

I love all kinds of socks. Stripes and argyle, tweed and plaid, polka dots and flowers, cotton and wool and chenille. Even reindeer and Santa Clause and snowflake socks for winter.

My big blond cat loves socks as much as I do. But she's more of a plain vanilla kind of cat: she prefers Dave's plain cotton socks to my wild patterns. If I'm folding clothes, or packing a suitcase, if socks are involved, she's there. She'll reach out and snag the socks and pull them close, then she'll take a nap right in the middle


Waiting to pounce

Temperatures falling.
Leaves falling.
The locust and birch
fall in gentle drifts,
yellow and green, still soft.
The maple leaves hang on
until crisp and dry
Then fall straight down
with a rustle.

Overnight, summer has receded
leaving the feeling 
that winter is peeking
over my shoulder...
Waiting to pounce.


Sharing the cabin with family

Owning a cabin is wonderful. Sharing it is even better. Sometimes it's with friends, sometimes with family.  My sister comes out in the fall with her daughter and granddaughters, to pick huckleberries, and later on, to hunt the elusive chanterelle mushrooms.

This weekend we had our Australian nephew, Matthew, plus my sister's family (most of them, anyway). We sat on the deck and talked, took the canoe out, took endless photographs of the newest member of the family, Vivian. We cooked and ate, and almost slept out under the stars (before Ella got nervous about sleeping outdoors). We snuggled down on the deck until late, watching the stars and satellites. It was a great weekend. We missed Caroline, who is back home in Hawaii, and Jeromy. Next time!

This is my sister, Laurie, with her new granddaughter, Vivian Claire.
Fifty-nine years ago my parents chose the name 'Elisabeth Claire' for their youngest daughter. There are now six girls over three generations who share one of these names. My parents would be very pleased.

We all took a turn in the canoe this weekend, and my sister even consented to sitting on the floor in between the two seats, so the girls could "oar" her around the lake. Somehow the distinction between an oar (for a rowboat) and a paddle (for a canoe) escaped Callie... we all tried, and I even got out an example of each and gave a demonstration, to no avail. She persisted in calling a paddle an oar, to the amusement of us all.

The weekend was warm enough that the girls convinced the adults to let them take our floatation chairs for a test drive, which led to a tow around the lake by grandma and grandpa in the canoe. So glad we have kid-sized life jackets at the cabin. It would have been a real bummer to deprive everyone of so much fun!


Waking up at the lake

It’s 8:00 am, and the lake is a mirror. Someone’s just backed a small fishing boat down the gravel access road and pulled away, leaving the boat at the shoreline. Not a sign of fish rising. The ripples reach my side of the lake, and mist drifts across the surface.

It’s overcast today and cool. There’s no sound but a single bird chirping in the trees outside my aerie window, where I lie on the bed, watching the lake wake up for another day.

The fisherman is back. He’s set the electric motor in place and hops on board. Standing, he drifts quietly along the shore, casting his line in the shallows, and drifts out of view.

I hear the sound of wheels on gravel. But it’s not another fisherman, come to share the lake. Maybe another weekend cabin owner?

The mist is building. Soon the lake will disappear, as inevitable as the arrival of fishermen in the early hours. I’ve marked the arrival of both countless times from my small cabin at the water’s edge. I never get tired of the small quiet events here. This time—waking up at the cabin—is my favorite time here. I pull its peace over me like a blanket and smile.

Another crunch of tires on gravel. Another small boat appears at the end of the ramp. And the lake disappears behind a silver curtain of mist.

Time to build a fire, and start the coffee brewing, and pick up my book. And as I settle down to read, I reflect on the small, quiet events that are part of each day spent here. Strung together, they make cabin life a very satisfying life indeed.


Sweaters and socks

I pull on a sweater & socks each morning,
for days that start cool and foggy,
barely blue by ten,
golden by noon.

The horse trail fills up with leaves
that crackle under my feet.
I kick through them as I walk, and it makes me smile.

Soon my breath will bring little clouds of mist,
and skies will fill with the sound of Canada geese
arriving for winter.

The days will stay cool but bright,
the nights dark and full of stars.

Winter is coming soon,
but for a few short weeks, it's autumn,
and my favorite time of year.


Sailboat for a lake

Sailing. Miss it. There's just something about being out on the water in a boat that goes nowhere unless you provide the propulsion. Rowboat, sailboat, canoe, kayak, even an air mattress! Nothing to disturb the peace and quiet.

In the 15 years we've owned our lakeside cabin, we've seen exactly two sailboats, tiny 8-ft. boats like an El Toro... until the weekend before Labor Day. We were sitting on our deck, talking with the friend we'd invited out for the weekend, and through the trees I spotted a large moving spot of white. "Sailboat!" I called out, as I grabbed my camera and waited for the boat to come out into the open. I focused, snapped a few pictures, then zoomed in on the sail insignia. It was a Lightning, a one-design boat that Dave learned to sail during a long-ago summer in the Tri Cities. Our friend Dick owned the boat, raced it, and he was an excellent sailor. When he was in college, he lived on Lummi Island and sailed to Bellingham every day to attend classes Western Washington State College. I got my turn on this boat, too. We spent a few weekends at the Ecker family home on Lummi, and Dick always brought the sailboat with him.

The Lightning is a great open cockpit boat for a lake. It's trailerable, is 19 ft. and stable, has a heavy centerboard for stability, and carries a lot of sail for its length, so it's fast. It carries a main and jib, and can be rigged to fly a spinnaker, too. Older boats are wooden, newer ones are fiberglass.

It was awesome to see a Lightning on our lake, and I hope it's a permanent resident.


Smoky sun

There have been a lot of days this fall when the sun was a big ball of redness, just another visible sign of the forest and range fires burning. In Bend, in Sisters, and closer to home in Wenatchee and Ellensburg, whenever the wind blew the smoke over the sun, it turned a spectacular red. We even had days of easterly winds that drove smoke over Snoqualmie Pass and into Western Washington.

But driving over the Umptanum/Manastash ridges today, I was finally able to capture the color of the sun behind a shoud of smoke. I was lucky to get this one: it was shot out the window of an SUV traveling at freeway speeds, just as the sun set behind the ridge. No filters, no cropping, no manipulation at all. Just as I shot it.


Elk Lake

Today we have a mission (besides trying to escape the choking smoke of the Sisters forest fire). We're going to drive the Cascade Lakes highway, take photographs, and enjoy all the lakes on Century Drive. We're also going to look for the old log house where we spent one long-ago week with friends.

After 30 years, this vacation exists as a series of random memories, although there are photographs packed away from the days of slides. One day I'll scan them, and add some to this post.

The memories are widespread: the long drive south from the Tri-Cities, climbing up over Mackenzie Pass, and exploring the lava rock lookout tower with its windows aimed at each mountain mountain peak in the area. Cathy admiring my button-front sweatshirt in grey with teal and burgundy trim. The long drive on gravel forest service roads to finally arrive at the log house on the shores of Elk Lake. The pair of cables that ran from the cabin to a huge concrete block, holding it upright. The division of rooms:  couples with babies in the log house, those without had the bunkhouse right on the lake, complete with wood stove. Dave & I cooked dinner the first night for everyone: my homemade Merlot pasta sauce over noodles, a huge tossed green salad, garlic sourdough bread, and brownies for dessert. Each night after dinner we'd sit on the shore, playing guitar and singing with the group. Cathy had a really nice voice, and so did John, and he knew all the songs I did. John Denver, Gordon Lightfoot, James Taylor, Dan Fogelberg. It was here that I realized the magic of singing by a lake, and the amazing acoustics the water provides.

During the day, we'd hike the nearby trails or go fishing, or just catch up on our reading. One long hike I was torn, wanting to stay with the girls and get better acquainted with them, but finally chose to hike with the guys because the girls walked too slow. On our last day before heading home, we went to a nearby lake to fish with Dave, Gary, and Cathy. At least, the guys fished. Cathy and I spread our beach towels and read and talked. The guys kept coming to check on us; we were pretty sure it was because they wanted to see their wives in bathing suits!

It was the first time we'd been here in the summer, and the scenery was unforgettable. The blue skies and sun each day, and the inky velvety black skies at night, full of stars.


Hiking Crater Lake

Well, this was a first. I've been to Crater Lake several times in my life, the most memorable up to now was the year my family camped here, and on the way from the bathroom to our campsite I ran into a mother bear and cub. A long detour later, I finally made it back to camp.

Today there were no bears in sight (except for the carved ones in the gift shop). But we did have an adventure of a different kind: hiking the trail from the rim down to the lakeshore. Our friends had never been to Crater Lake, and this was the perfect chance to get out of the smoke of the Sisters fires, and do some sightseeing and hiking.

What can I say but "Wow!" You know all those professional photos you see of Crater Lake, the ones with the impossible blue color? These were taken from this trail. You don't get the deep blue from the rim, unless conditions are perfect. But as you walk down the trail, the closer you get to the lake, the deeper the color becomes.

You also see... very clearly... how very pure the water is. There's one place on the rocky shore where people stand to jump into the water, and from that spot it looks like you're making a long leap down. But you're not: the water is so clear, you can't tell the surface from the bottom of the lake. A few times, this clarity fooled my digital camera, keeping it from finding the correct focus.

It's a tough walk back out, but the views are worth every single step.


On the Bend Ale Trail

Birthday. Exploring. Sampling brews from some of the best of Bend's micro-breweries. In one of my favorite towns with Davey and good friends, Jim & Julie. What can I say? It was a great day!


Wine umbrellas

One of the best things about retirement? Not having to wait for the weekend to do our favorite things! Especially this September, when the weather has been perfect, mild, sunny, and amazingly beautiful.

Today we fired up True Red and headed for the Woodinville wine country, where we spent a happy couple of hours enjoying the sun, sampling wine, with no crowds of people anywhere.

The wine club deck at DeLille Cellars is one of our favorite spots in wine country. Today the sun was bright enough to have all the umbrellas out... but I noticed the tall propane heaters are waiting in a corner of the deck... a reminder of the cold weather that's just around the corner.


Frog in a box

What do you call a frog in a box?
Charlie or Willie or Sam?
Probably not.
He came in from the lawn one day
Decided to stay
In a garden trunk full of cool stuff.
Cushions for chairs and buckets and tubs,
Hoses and tools and pruners for shrubs.
Lots of hiding places for a frog and his friends,
in quite an enormous space.
He comes and he goes through a crack in the side,
But always returns to the quiet inside.
So what do you call a frog in a box?
Jack would make sense,
but he seems to like George.


Jellyfish in glass

As we walked past this gallery in tiny La Conner this morning, I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I'm not much of a gallery person, except for photography and water color paintings. But I know my jaw dropped when Dave pulled me back to look.

I can't begin to describe how spectacular these pieces of blown glass are, so I'll let the photo speak for itself. The piece in the center is the most amazing, with two jellyfish at different angles and tentacles interspersed, and with bits of glass sand and shells in the bottom. I wanted this piece of art glass in the worst way, but it's out of my price range. Way, way out of my price range.

Is there a kayak in our future?

Penn Cove was flat calm today, and as we wandered through Langley all I could think about was getting out on the water. Sailboats came and went, and a pair of kayakers came in to explore the shoreline. I was envious. We once were sailors, and we have a canoe for the small lake where we have a weekend cabin. But I think there may be a pair of kayaks in our future. They'd be perfect for exploring all the nearby lakes, for exploring Hood Canal on calm days, and for taking on vacation.

This road trip is nearly done. We've been all around the state, and this drive around Whidbey Island is the last leg before we merge into the traffic of I-5 and come back to reality.


A riot of peacock color

“For man, as for flower and beast and bird, the supreme triumph is to be most vividly, most perfectly alive.” David Herbert Lawrence

It was most unexpected, pulling into a tiny roadside station to fill up the MX-5, and spending a half hour chatting with a hawker of peacock feathers. He was sitting on a picnic table, surrounded by containers of feathers, the blues and greens gorgeous in the mid-afternoon sun. While he and Dave talked about sports cars (he loved the brilliant red-orange of my little roadster), I turned my lens toward the riot of color.

I always thought peacocks would be a perfect addition to our little farm. One of our neighbors has a large flock, but also has an aviary for them. I expect ours would make themselves at home on the front porch and patio, where the afternoon sun is the warmest. I wonder if their nocturnal screams would deter the wandering coyotes in our valley. Somehow, I suspect the two species would give each other a wide berth.


September is my favorite month

I’ve always loved autumn. Maybe it’s because my birthday is in September, so I grew up with a sense of anticipation about the end of summer, the beginning of autumn. But there have been some other great “firsts” in September. It was when I “test drove” my first horse, a Thoroughbred named Deelee, and brought him home. In September a year later, I rode him in my first three-day event, at Donida Farm in Auburn. September was when we bought our little farm, where we live to this day. Best of all, September was when I fell in love with Dave, and knew I'd spend the rest of my life with him.

I love how fall smells, that crispness to the air, especially in the morning, that you can practically drink in with each breath. Starting in mid-August, I test the air every day as I walk out of the house, and when I can finally smell fall in the air, it brings a smile to my face.

We’re getting ready for winter now. I’ve been doing the fall pruning, and am ready to pick the apples and plums (they're late this year). We’ve brought home truckloads of firewood from the cabin, and it’s stacked in the barn. Soon Dave will clean chimneys, and we’ll be ready to light the woodstove. I’m looking forward to packing away the shorts and tank tops, and bringing out my favorite sweaters and jackets. I’m also looking forward to having more time for indoor things, like quilting and sewing.

We’re lucky to live in a place that has four distinct seasons, each with its own rhythm and beauty. Autumn in the Northwest brings shorter days, but it also brings color to the woods as the leaves turn red and orange and yellow, thick carpets of leaves to kick as I walk the trail, and more time to spend with friends and family.

Oh, and in case you were wondering... my umbrella lives just inside the front door, all year round... just in case.


Garden hardscape... in an unexpected place

We've always loved Camaraderie Cellars in Port Angeles, so we paid it a visit today (and also grabbed a few geocaches along the way). The winery has moved into another building on the property, surrounded by a surprisingly complex series of outdoor spaces.

The wines were still great, especially the reds, and as I sampled my way through the list, I explored the gardens. There are outdoor spaces, stone slab tables for eating, and chairs for relaxing. There's a covered area made from barrel staves, blown glass flowers and globes for lighting, and a huge wrought iron firepit. I especially loved the windbreak fences made from reclaimed multi-paned windows, and the rustic fence made from woven branches. The whole place is rustic and comfortable and unique, and well worth the drive.

And while you're there, don't forget to pick up a few bottles of wine.