Fly fishing diaries | Fishing with antiques

Back in March, when we knew we'd be taking fly fishing classes, I started looking for a fly rod to get me started on the journey. I still want a beautiful antique bamboo fly rod, but needed something less fragile and more utilitarian while I'm a beginner. Since we've seen bamboo rods in an antique store, we've been looking in other antique shops.

I should explain: I'm more of a "finder" than a "buyer" when it comes to starting out on a new hobby. I could go to a fly shop and buy a brand new fly rod, but would much rather find a used rod to learn with. The expensive new rods will still be there when I'm ready. If I'm ready. What if I hate fly fishing? I don't think that will happen, but still... 

We were in Leavenworth for the weekend, and decided to check out the big antique mall in Cashmere. On the walk through the building I found a couple of McCoy pottery flower pots for my baby African violets; cool! Good vibe so far.

Next I spotted a couple of Horrocks-Ibbotson bamboo rods in a glass case, and asked to see them. Unfortunately, neither was in very good shape, and they were a bit pricey for their condition. I'm not qualified to fix unraveled thread wraps and missing ferrules, so I passed on the bamboo. But around the corner we found a big pickle crock being used to hold old fly rods (I wanted the crock, but it was $200). The best of the bunch was a 1970's era Fenwick; when we pulled it out and saw that it also had a cool automatic Martin reel in my favorite green, I was definitely interested.

Dave pulled out the Android and did some research to see how good a deal it was. It was (especially the Martin reel, which was worth more than the combo). So $47 later, it was mine. Great condition, ferrules tight and wraps in good shape. The only negative was that because it's a 2-piece rod, it will need a long case and won't be very packable. But I can live with that. It's my first-ever fly rod.

I won't need it for the next step in this fly fishing journey. The fly fishing classes at Red's this weekend include use of their equipment. But I'll need it soon.

More on the journey: Fly fishing diaries | Bamboo


Birdfeeder with a tail

Only part of my smoke bush made it through the ice and cold of last winter (winter of 2012, that is). Not being sure exactly how much was damaged, I didn't cut it back. And then I thought, "Perfect place to hang my bird feeders!" The house finches and gold finches are very happy with the new location; the dead branches of the shrub give them lots of perches while they wait their turn at the feeder.

It's also a great place for the squirrels... but the feeder turns into a wild ride when one of them tries to jump on board. It's highly entertaining to watch them try to keep their balance while eating as much of the bird seed as they can.


Between mountains and sea

All my life, I've pondered this question:  If I had to choose between living near mountains, or living near the ocean, could I make that choice?

This place I call home, where I was born and raised, is stunningly beautiful. From my childhood home, I could look out and see the Olympic mountains, and before the trees grew too tall, we could also see Mt. Rainier. A short drive and we were at the beaches of Puget Sound. And the Pacific Ocean was just 2 hours away. We spent most of our vacations camping on the Oregon coast, and for a week or two, every day was spent walking the beach, exploring tide pools, collecting driftwood and agates, or just spreading out a towel on the sand, and reading. We even spent our honeymoon on the Washington coast, in a little log cabin on a bluff above the beach. Falling asleep listening to the surf is like nothing else on earth.

But mountains were part of my every day, from month to month, and year to year. I love looking out and seeing Mt. Rainier or the Olympic peaks, snow covered, rising above the horizon and just so beautiful. I still love taking a day to drive around "The Mountain" and do some hiking, especially in August when the wildflowers are in bloom. My first date with my husband was an entire day spent on Mt. Rainier... hiking the alpine meadows, photographing wildflowers, then driving home the long way. Mountains are in my blood.

When we chose a place for a vacation cabin, we put ourselves between mountains and sea. The mountain views are of the Olympics and the salt water is Hood Canal, with another lake tossed in for fun. And we're just a short drive to the beaches of the Sound or the Pacific Ocean.

So, to get back to my original question. Could I choose? Or do I want it all, for the rest of my life?


Stolen daffodils

Over the years the voles and moles have taken my carefully planted bulbs and absconded with them, and I find them in the most interesting places. One year I planted 200 tulip bulbs, which bloomed, then disappeared. Every single one of them, never to be seen again. Someone told me that the voles love tulip bulbs; they're like candy. Wish I'd known that before I planted them; I would have buried wire mesh in the ground first, or just put the bulbs in pots. I don't plant them anymore.

Daffodils are bullet-proof... and poisonous to voles and moles, so they won't go near them. That's good for me. Every few years I plant a few more, because although the critters won't eat them, they do move them around if they happen to be in the way of one of their tunnels.

For years, each spring I watch to see where the daffodils will sprout. And each year there are surprises. Daffodils in different spots in the gardens, in the orchard, and there's even one spectacular clump at the line between lawn and pasture, out of sight of the house. I'm not even sure it's mine. My neighbor is an avid gardener, and this beautiful clump of bright yellow daffodils might have started out in her yard. Only the voles know for sure.


Celebrate the rain

Today it's pouring down rain, the gutters are overflowing, and I'm feeling stranded. I'd rather be outside, digging in the dirt. Or on a walkabout with my new Nikon, trying out the settings and features I've been learning through online videos. But I'd be soaked in minutes (and so would my camera).

So instead, I'm celebrating the rain, and the good things that will come of it. The pond is overflowing, which gives more room for the ducks who are settling down to raise their families. And the frogs are ecstatic (if such a thing is possible for a frog). Lots of water, oodles of rivulets running down the private road, lots of drowned grasses and weeds to explore.

Weeds are exploding in the gardens, too... thanks to this over-abundance of water. I swear you can almost see them growing from day to day, and that's actually not a bad thing. I'd much rather wait and pull big weeds, than try and pick out tiny shoots.

The perennials are already larger than this time last year, especially the hollyhocks and garden phlox. The forget-me-nots are in full bloom, and the daffodils are still blooming. The blue and yellow are beautiful together. My oldest (and favorite) perennial border is thriving, thanks to the rain (and all the extra light the plants are getting this year). Yes, the weeds are growing. But so are the flowers and ornamental grasses, the ferns and shrubs, the plants I chose and tended and loved for years. I can see this border from the house, and it's going to be spectacular this year. I can hardly wait.

Tulips at the Pike Place Market

Linked at Texture Tuesday
Layers of Marabella (overlay @ 41%) and 1412 (multiply @ 86%)

The original photograph was taken at Seattle's Pike Place Market, where the flower stalls are spectacular, especially in April when masses of tulips are stacked in buckets at the market, waiting to be sold. I love these bright red tulips with yellow edges, with a few mauve blooms peeking out from behind. The photograph had a soft, painterly feel to it, which the textures accentuated.

Tulips at the Pike Place Market (original)


Slide shows

Yesterday an old friend posted a story on her blog, about going through her family's slides with her dad before he passed away. And it made me think about growing up with a father who also loved to record the life of his family in photographs.

He had a box of old cameras tucked away in a closet, but the one he always used was a 35mm Argus rangefinder camera, with its beautiful leather case. It's the camera he taught me to use, before I bought my first SLR in 1974, a Pentax Spotmatic F. I remembered how the Argus went everywhere with us, just as my own camera is never far from my hand. And the hundreds of family gatherings, Easter Sundays and Chrismas mornings, vacations on the Oregon Coast, Girl Scout events and our high school concerts... all carefully documented in film.

The day my dad came home with boxes of slides was always special, whether the pictures were from our most recent vacation, or an art show he attended, or his latest project as an architect. We always sat down as a family to watch them. My sisters and I would set up the screen, my dad would carefully put each slide into a new slide box, and Mom would make treats. We'd pick our favorite spot, get comfortable, and Dad would cycle the first slide into the projector. We'd talk and laugh and say "Remember..." or "Isn't that where you found..."  Having slides made each event something to be enjoyed over and over, year after year. 

When Dave and I got married, we were already avid photographers. We started out taking slides, and loved to sit down and relive our adventures. Just set up the projector and we were there. But gradually we changed to print film, and those packets of photos that were easier to share with friends and family. Today we've come full circle, thanks to digital cameras. Absolutely the best... "slide" shows anytime and pretty much anywhere, but we can print anything we want, too.

When my parents passed away, I became custodian of the family projector and library of slides. So many memories, locked in my attic. Every so often, I've gone upstairs to the attic playroom and pulled out a box, and looked at the slides through a small slide viewer (also my Dad's).

Now I think I may just go in search of that projector, and next time my sisters and I are together, we'll settle down in the living room, and go through our family history, one slide at a time.


TLC for wooden spoons

It's one of those things I don't think about often:  a little TLC for my wooden spoons. But today I was reading some of my favorite blogs, and came across a post about just that. Hmmm... wonder how mine look?

So I put my computer aside, and went out to check on the health of my own kitchen utensils. I dug in the drawers and raided my utensil crocks, and found quite a few. Wooden spoons in oak, bamboo, and mystery wood. A couple of spatulas with beautiful dark wood handles. Pastry brushes. A couple of wire mesh strainers. I also pulled out my big wood cutting board, and a small game board that I use when serving wine. I laid everything out on my kitchen work table, and gave them a careful look. Pretty much everything needed to be oiled, and the mystery wood spoons needed to be sanded.

You'll need a piece of extra-fine sandpaper, mineral oil, a small ramekin, and a roll of paper towels. First, I sanded the rough patches on my wooden spoons, then wiped them with a lightly oiled towel to remove any wood dust. Don't use a wet towel; you'll just raise the grain again.

Since I like to use my fingers to oil the wood, I pour a little oil into the ramekin. Then one at a time, I carefully rub oil into the wood. You don't want (or need) to use a lot of oil; just be sure you get all the dry places.

Set everything aside to dry for a few hours, then wipe each piece using a clean towel. I like to remove the excess oil with paper towels, then make a final pass using an old dish towel.

Here's my pile before, looking all dry and neglected:

And here are my spoons and cutting boards after their beauty treatment. Don't they look better?


March reads

I worked my way through a stack of fiction books this month, mostly from the Choice Reads wall at my local library. What a great way to explore books and authors, and maybe find a brand new favorite.

Here's what caught my interest in March.

Jack Nisbet | The Collector.  I spotted this book on a fellow blogger's post one day, and it looked interesting. It's actually pretty amazing. It's about David Douglas, a 19th century Scotsman and naturalist who explored the Northwest. Our iconic Douglas fir is named for him. It's a great read.

Chris Pavone | The Expats. I couldn't put this one down, which for me is unusual for a first book by a new author. The jacket calls this book "fiercely intelligent," and I completely agree. Smart, tightly plotted, suspenseful. A wonderful read.

Tess Gerritson | Ice Cold. She's long been a favorite author of mine, and I'm catching up with her latest books.

Archie Satterfield | Country Roads of Washington. After I brought it home I realized that the author changed the title when he updated the book, and since I'd read the original, this one went right back. You'll also find this book titled, "Backroads of Washington." If you'd like to explore the back roads of our beautiful state, you might enjoy this book.

John Shewey | On the Fly Guide to the Northwest. We're getting ready for fly fishing classes this spring! A very cool book on the best fly fishing waters in Washington and Oregon, and includes maps and lodging, as well as where to find the best fishing spots along the listed rivers and lakes.

Craig Romano | Day Hiking Olympic Peninsula. I may have to buy this little guide; great info on trails in an area that we love to explore. All of Dave's sibs like to fly fish, and brother Tom is plotting for a group fishing weekend sometime this summer.

Sadie Jones | The Uninvited Guests. A clever and fun novel set in 1912 England. A lot of my novels this month have been British period pieces... maybe because I'm watching Season 2 of Downton Abbey?

The Heddon Catalog. A collection of all the Heddon fishing equipment catalogs published since the company began in the early 1900s. I've been searching for an antique bamboo fly rod, and this has been a good resource for identifying the best rods to search for.

Tara Frey | Blogging for Bliss. An interesting book with some good tips for people who are just getting started designing a blog, with ideas about layout and fonts and handling photographs. It also includes about 50 blog sites by women who blog as a way to support their art & craft businesses. So it has a bit of a commercial slant, but interesting. When I finished the book, I went looking for the author's blog, and it's nowhere to be found. So sad that the woman who wrote a book about blogging, no longer writes a blog.


I wanted to pick flowers today...

... but it's raining.

I mean really raining. Rain that streams down the roof and overflows the gutters. Rain that turns the morning into twilight, because it blocks the daylight. The kind of rainfall everyone thinks we have all the time here, but in reality doesn't happen often.

Except in the spring, when gardeners want to get outside and get their hands dirty.

So this morning, I'm "gathering" flowers from my windows. Camellias from the dining room and bathroom, Japonica and rhododendrons from the front doorway, hellebores and daffodils from the kitchen.

It's tough to fill vases this way...  sigh.

On the other hand... the pasture trees are full of bright green leaves, the grass is emerald green, and the birds are chirping. And even if I can't be out there in the middle of things, my garden is loving all the attention from nature. So all is good.

Happy spring!


Theler barn swallows

I'm jumping the gun just a bit, changing my header photo to showcase one of my favorite birds. But I can't wait for the swallows to arrive at the farm. The violet-green swallows move in first, and take over the orchard nesting boxes. Then the barn swallows arrive, where they set up housekeeping in (appropriately) the barn. Or at least what passes for a barn here...  a huge old machinery shed where we keep the tractor, my stock of driftwood for walking sticks and other branches for rustic fences and furniture, our now-running 1977 GMC pickup, and where I once stored hay for the horses. The swallows usually build their nests on top of the light fixtures that hang from the roof, or on top of the long beam that holds up the front of the building.

Birds at the farm have no trouble finding nesting materials. They visit the farm next door for feathers from the chicken coop, and tail hair from the palomino gelding in the paddock... and there are plenty of twigs and dried grass in everyone's fencelines. The birds even bring peacock and other exotic feathers from the aviary that's near the creek. It's always fun to inspect the nests once the babies have flown away into the world, just to see what materials they chose. I used to save horse hair after grooming my mare, and when the swallows flew in and out of the barn, I could hold up a handful of hair and they'd snatch it out of my hand.

The barn swallows in this photo don't live near the pond at the farm. They were photographed at the Theler Wetlands in Belfair, a wonderful nature preserve at the tip of Hood Canal. We'd taken my sister and brother-in-law there for a long walk on a summer afternoon, and this pair of swallows charmed us by flying to the railing at one of the overlooks, and sticking around for a preening.

I'll post more on the wetlands soon. It's one of my favorite places.


The language of flowers... Primroses

If one flower rings the childhood bell for me, it's the primrose. They were always in my dad's flowerbeds when I was growing up. I'll never know if it was happenstance, or because he loved them. But they were always there.

It's become a tradition with me, to buy a new primrose plant at the end of winter each year, and I always choose purple with a yellow eye. Not because that's the color I remember from childhood, but because this is the one that survives, and thrives. I've tried white and yellow and pink, but they die out after a year.

As I clear weeds from the gardens this week, I'll be dividing the primroses and sharing them among the beds. And next winter, they'll be the first to bloom... as they do each year.

Purple always survives.


Long-ago rose

Today was a perfect spring day, and it's time to buckle down and weed the flower beds. Don't get me wrong, it's actually something I enjoy doing. Digging my hands in the warm ground, searching out every piece of weed and root, smoothing the soil, and spreading mulch. Weeding is automatic, which frees my mind to think about other things, like making vacation plans. When I worked for a living, I'd think about an upcoming project. A lot of my technical writing projects were scripted in my garden: figuring out what documents and manuals were needed, laying out the content, and deciding what languages to translate into.

These days my thoughts run to completely different things, like where I'll walk tomorrow, or what tote bag to make next, or how to texturize a photograph. (And truth be told, what to cook for dinner, and whether to change sheets today or tomorrow. Earth shaking decisions, to be sure.) It doesn't matter... whatever the project, it benefits from a little "garden thinking."

The border of hollyhocks got weeded today, all the way to the peony that anchors the corner. My black hollyhock is already 6 inches above ground; maybe this year (its third at the farm), it will actually bloom. I'm looking forward to seeing the color in person, not just on the plant stake.

Just as I reached the peony, my fingers found this tag from a long-ago Jackson Perkins rose, a Floribunda called Eureka. I remember the rose, and remember picking it out at the nursery a decade ago. Eureka was the AARS award winner in 2003, and I loved the color. But I don't remember planting it in this spot. I'm pretty sure it was at the other end of the border, 20 feet away. It amuses me to think of how the tag traveled all this way. Maybe a vole helped it along, pushing it through his tunnel. Or maybe I helped it along, moving it as part of a shovelful of dirt. I'll never know.

Tomorrow, I'll weed the other side of this "L" shaped border, from the forget-me-nots to the lilacs. It's my biggest border, with the most plants. This one will take a few days.