Nesting time

We spent the afternoon with friends who live on Benson Lake. After dinner, we sat on the deck and drank wine, and watched the lake quiet down as the evening breezes died. As we watched, a family of Canada geese floated by, heading to the north end of the lake. Two adults, the rest smaller...  maybe last year's brood? They'll be looking for a nesting spot soon.

Our own lake has a family of geese, too. Soon they'll be doing the same thing, cruising around, looking for the best spot to nest and lay their eggs. Watching the babies follow mom and dad, growing each day, then taking flight... it's one of the great pleasures of life on a lake.


The language of flowers... Camellia japonica

I read "The Language of Flowers" by Vanessa Diffenbaugh last summer, and loved it. And of course it got me thinking about the flowers that are in my own gardens. Most I chose for myself, but some were planted in the gardens of my old farmhouse many years before I came to live here. 

My favorite early spring bloomer is Camellia japonica. When I was growing up, our neighbors, Ralph and Alice, had an enormous camellia bush in their front yard, and the last time I drove past my childhood home, it was still thriving. So when we bought the farmhouse and took a tour of the yard and gardens, I was thrilled to find a camellia there.

My own camellia grows just outside the kitchen windows, giving me the best seat in the house as spring unfolds. The buds at the top of the bush open first, where they're in full sun. I watch the buds form, then swell, then the cerise starts to show at the tips. As the days warm up, the buds from top to bottom swell and open, and before long, whole shrub is in full bloom.

Every Northwest gardener should have one... it's a beautiful early spring delight.


Snow flowers

I love the unpredictability of spring...  the wild weather, every day something new, until spring finds its groove. Then the flowers stop holding their breath, relax, and spring bursts into bloom.

On the first day of spring, we had one of those days. The morning was beautiful, with bright sunshine and blue skies, and I walked around and took pictures. By noon it felt like winter... a cold day filled with high winds, torrential rain, and two hailstorms. We kept going to the front door, looking out on the weather, wondering what would come next.

The second day of spring, we woke up to snow on the ground. I knew it wouldn't last... it is after all, spring. So I grabbed my camera and went outside to photograph the signs of winter in spring. My poor flowers... they looked a bit shell-shocked at the change in weather!


Texture Tuesday | Flower Power

It's a thrill to look out at my gardens this time of year, and every day see new evidence of spring. First up each year is a rhododendron that actually blooms through winter, all the way into April. I don't know the variety, but because of when it begins blooming each year, I call it the Christmas rhodie. Then the daffodils start to push through the soil, and I bring in forsythia branches to force. I love the bright yellow at the tail end of a gloomy, grey winter.

But by far my favorite sign of spring is the big camellia bush that sits outside my kitchen windows. I watch the buds swell, then the red color starts to show at the top, where the sun reaches first. When that first blossom bursts into bloom, my heart sings.

For this week's Texture Tuesday I chose a close-up of a branch of forsythia, taken in the sun just after a rain shower. I love the textured image, but also love my original photographs that show raindrops on the blooms.

Hope your spring day is sunny and full of spring flowers...

Textured with kkminus432 and adjustment layer multiply


Hooked on header photographs

Choosing a new photo for my blog header is something I really enjoy. The problem is, once I pick the perfect photo, I don't want to give it up. I love opening up my blog every day and seeing that photo. I remember the day I took it, what I was doing, and what I felt. My memories add so much more information to the metadata my camera records.

So, from now on when I choose a photo for my blog header, I'll write something about it. Where it was taken, what the light was like, why I felt drawn to capture that scene with my camera.

On a recent walk on a favorite local trail, the sunlight shining on a row of trees caught my eye. The moss had the brilliant green of spring, and the sun lit up the lichen and made it pop. The tree is an old one, with deeply etched bark. I used my wide landscape mode to emphasize the pattern, then turned it sideways for the header.

1/200 sec.
ISO 400

My previous header photo was taken in another part of this park, reflected sky in the quiet surface of the creek, surrounded by foliage, with duckweed floating in the water. I loved the colors and the serenity.


I need a country fix

I dream of a simpler life.

Blue country skies
Horizon as far as I can see
Rolling hills and rich green pastures
Mountains of snow, whispering trees
Horses grazing, hawks soaring
Distant lakes and splashing creeks
An inky black universe, full of stars

The frogs have come alive with spring.
They sing and croak through the night,
until early morning traffic silences them.

I feel the same way.
Traffic builds, and I withdraw,
to dream of wide open spaces.


Alphabet soup

Letters and numbers that add up to something very fun, something I've wanted for a couple of years... And now that I've retired, I'll be able to enjoy my new toy to the fullest.

Can you figure it out?

24.1 MP
1080p HD



ETA:  4.1.2013


Fly fishing diaries | Making a plaid rod sock

A fly rod needs a fly rod sock, and a tube to protect it. My 54-year-old fly rod didn't come with either, and I wonder where they disappeared to. Fenwick rods always came with both.

A rod tube is a pretty simple thing to construct: figure out the length and the number of sections needed, and find the perfect fabric. For a Fenwick rod, that means plaid flannel. So today I went in search of plaid flannel. I hoped for green... it would have been perfect to find the Fenwick plaid, but that wasn't in the cards.

I did have a choice of a couple of dozen different plaids and colors (I guess plaid flannel is in style right now), and finally narrowed it down to two. One is red and black, the other is navy and red and green with some fine white and yellow pinstripes.

I couldn't choose between them, so I got both.

I figure that this old fly rod isn't the only one I'll ever own, and when I find another rod I can't live without, it will have a wardrobe made from the red and black fabric.

So... time to design a rod sock.

Dave's Fenwick fly rod is a 4 piece, nice and compact for backpacking. He bought it in high school, and it came in a simple green plaid sock and an aluminum tube. I pulled it out of the tube and pulled out each of the pieces. It hasn't been out of the tube in at least two decades, and it's beautiful. I used his rod sock as a model for my own.

My sock only needs two sections, so I had a dilemma: do I make the sock as wide as his, or do I make it with only the sections it needs? I decided to make it wide... when I roll up the sock the extra fabric will protect the rod. I also decided to make it long enough to fold over the top so the rod won't slip out, and add narrow grosgrain ribbons top and bottom.

I'm pretty happy with how it turned out.

Dave is busy cooking up a design for a protective tube for the fly rod, as we're discovering that tubes for 2-piece fly rods are pretty hard to come by. Not many rods are made with just two pieces anymore; most are 3- or 4-piece (or even 5-piece) to make them easier to pack and carry around.


February reads

An unexpected bathroom remodel ate into my reading and research time in February, but if I stay up late, there's still lots of time to read!

I read another batch of Italian cookbooks, looking for the perfect spicy sauce recipe... my 35+ year old recipe needs some tweaking. So far I've read Ciao Tuscany, Assaggio Ristorante (from a Seattle restaurant), Rustic Italian Food, Osteria, My Southern Italian Table, and Tony Casillo's Family Cookbook.

I also finished up the last books in Kathryn R. Wall's series, and when I checked her website for the next title, learned that there may be no more Bay Tanner books. Her husband just passed away after a long bout with Alzheimer's, and it sounds like she's lost heart, at least for a while. I can understand. But, I hope she returns to writing. She's a very talented writer, and I can't wait to see what happens to her characters in the next book.

One day while browsing the Choice Reads in my local library, I found Shannon Hale's "Austenland" and "Midnight in Austenland." Being a lover of all things Jane Austen, I couldn't resist taking these home. Yummy books; the first will be a movie this spring. (If you're an Austen fan, I can also recommend the movie "The Jane Austen Book Club." Also yummy.)

Another topic of interest in February has been books about the Hood Canal area, Lake Cushman, the Olympics, and the Mosquito Fleet. I spotted Michael Fredson's photography guide to the history of Hood Canal and its communities while in the Shelton historical museum, and it's fascinating.

I've been interested in high-dynamic range photography ever since I bought my ultrazoom Canon, which can be programmed to take three simultaneous shots of the same scene (underexponsed, correctly exposed, overexposed). When combined into a single image, you get a photograph that has much more dynamic range than a single shot. It's been fun to play around with this, and Harold Davis' "Creating HDR Photos" is a good instructional book.

Also from the Choice Reads wall in the library came Jojo Moyes' "The Last Letter From Your Lover." Amazing, wonderful book set in 1970s London and modern day London, full of beautiful characters and rich vocabulary. If you're looking for a choice for a book club, I highly recommend this one.

I'm well into another stack of books for March... stay tuned.


The big wheel

We met friends at Elliott's Oyster house last night for dinner, a regular event that finds this group at a different restaurant each month, exploring the cuisine and wine of local restaurants. We've also gotten to know each other as we explore great food and wine... a side benefit that's become very special to me.

After eating dinner and talking and much laughter, we walked up the waterfront to ride Seattle's new Ferris wheel. We'd printed our tickets in advance (much recommended, unless you like waiting in line), and walked right on, ahead of the crowd. I felt sorry for the mob of high-school kids who were here before their prom; girls in short skirts and no coats or wraps of any kind, wearing towering heels and trying to walk on the boards of the pier. Some gave up, and their dates were carrying them!

We got five revolutions for our ticket: once around while they loaded the cars, three non-stop tours, and another to unload. We had a great view of the city lights, the ferryboats adrift in the blackness of Elliott Bay and Puget Sound, and the sky dusted with a million stars.


Driftwood walking sticks

Last year I started gathering driftwood sticks and turning them into walking sticks. Actually, it started out a bit differently: looking for a long, twisty piece of driftwood to display my collection of hiking stick medallions. But in the process, I couldn't help gathering up beautiful silvery sticks of driftwood just the right size for walking sticks.

Puget Sound hillsides are lined with Madrona trees, which keep their leaves year-round, shed their bark, and have gorgeous reddish wood. So the beaches are also littered with Madrona driftwood in all shapes and sizes, and if you're lucky, you can find the perfect size to carve into walking sticks.
Alder and maple are also plentiful at the beach, and from the farm, I’ve collected hazelnut and English walnut branches. I stack the wet driftwood and green wood in the barn to dry slowly; the rest go in a bucket in the entryway to finish drying.

As the wood dries, I shave off any remnants of bark and trim the branch ends. As I worked on my first stick, which had lots of interesting bumps and beautiful wood grain, I noticed that as I rubbed away the bark, the wood got silky smooth. Driftwood has very open grain caused by floating in salt water, rolling around on the sand, and bleaching in the sun. But it actually closes up is you rub it with something hard, like another piece of wood, making a beautiful hard finish. Even Madrona, already silky smooth, gets better when polished.

The first time I went looking, I found the perfect twisty stick to display my hiking medallions. It waits atop a display cabinet until I have time to finish it up. Until then, I get to enjoy this bit of natural beauty.

My dad researched the best way to polish driftwood, way back when we spent all our family vacations on the Oregon coast. He was also a collector of intriguing bits of driftwood, and especially loved the polished twisted pieces of driftwood we’d see in local shops. He was told the best thing to use was a deer antler. Deer shed their antlers every year, and we always figured we’d find one during our hikes, but we never did.

So lacking a handy piece of antler, I thought I’d experiment with other materials. I tried lots of things: sticks of hardwood driftwood worked pretty well, especially on smooth areas. So did both coarse and smooth stones, especially jasper and agate. But so far, the best material for polishing driftwood is beach glass. Lucky for me, it couldn’t be more available (unlike deer antlers). Whenever I walk the beaches looking for driftwood, I also keep my eyes open for beach glass.

The container of walking sticks sits just inside the front door, and I keep one in the Pilot, always ready when I need it. My favorite for sheer beauty and interest was in the water long enough that barnacles started a colony on it. The whole lower half has shell inlays. They're rough to the skin, so I don't use this stick. Dave's favorite still has bark on most of it, polished by the sand of the beach, and both ends were chewed by a beaver. It's really too long, but who could cut off those teeth marks?


Downy visitor

I woke up at 6:45 this morning, exactly the same time as yesterday and the day before. The sun was out; I could see the bright pale yellow shining on the piles of snow outside the condo. I grabbed my clothes, carefully set out last night so I wouldn't wake Dave up this morning. Jim & Julie had to go back to Seattle last night, and I'm so glad they invited us to stay another day.

First things first... start the coffee. I was heading to my favorite spot in the great room, a comfy sage green loveseat near the window, to log into the computer. On my way, I opened the blinds, and there he was: a male Downy woodpecker in complete control of the birdfeeder on the patio. There were two much bigger Stellar jays hopping around on the snow, anxious for their turn, but the Downy wasn't budging.

He stuck around for a half hour, happily digging out black sunflower seeds while I snapped his photo through the blind slats. His single-mindedness gave the perfect opportunity to play around with camera settings, to see what gave me the best shot.


Fly fishing diaries | Bamboo

In November I found (and passed on) an antique bamboo fly rod, and have regretted it ever since. It wasn't expensive, and was so very cool. Even if I never got to use it, it would have been a perfect to hang on the wall of our lakeside cabin, or maybe from one of the exposed beams in the living room.

So I became mildly obsessed with learning about bamboo fly rods and the major manufacturers, so the next time I found one within my price range, I wouldn't be clueless. There are a lot of sites online that have such information, and I started a document to collect what I found: manufacturers, model names, line weights, current value, and what are considered to be the best models.

My favorite place to research these beautiful sticks of bamboo is at the Classic Fly Rod Forum. Here you'll find information on the major rod makers, like South Bend and Phillipson, Heddeson and Montague, and more. I also like the Bamboo Rod Room. Both sites ask you to set up an account if you want to post, but if you just want to read it's not necessary.

This weekend, we're going back to Leavenworth to stay with friends, and I plan to go back to that shop and see if the fly rod is still there. I hope it is.