Simple days...

The hummingbirds arrived this week, and all day long, the males drank at the hummingbird feeders, and chased each other around.

I caught up on chores around the house, and worked in the wine cellar where it was cool. Mid-afternoon I took my book upstairs to the guest room, where I could see out into the old orchard. The kids and grandkids are visiting next door, and I heard the laughter of children all afternoon long.

Today the dark rose peony bloomed, a gorgeous rich color, with big saucer-sized flowers. It's finally come into its own. Five years in the ground, the first two with no blooms at all. The first year it bloomed, the flowers were simple and single. This year it has seven blooms, big and double and oh, so fragrant.

After dinner, we spotted a very small doe working her way around the climbing rosebush, greedily eating just the blooms. She seemed to be on her own, which is unusual. I hope she has friends nearby.

The early evening light was golden, streaming across the back pasture, lighting up the last of the rhododendrons to bloom each year... a beautiful deep red turning blood red in the sun.

At 7:30 I walked out on the front porch to watch the last rays of light filtering through the trees. There was no sign of our young doe, but the quail were out on the patio, and scattered in all directions. The hummingbird at the feeder didn't even flinch, just kept right on eating.

I love the simple days.


Thinking in black and white

Thirty-five years ago (and change), the most beautiful mountain in the Cascade range blew sky high, changing its shape forever.

Just a few years earlier, we went on a backpack trip to Indian Heaven with a good friend, and at the end of our vacation we spent a few days at the Spirit Lake campground. We gassed up the old 1955 Chevy at the Spirit Lake resort, from cool old gas pumps as old as the lodge. We set up camp, then walked down to the lake to rinse off. The water was so cold, and crystal clear. The lake bottom was made from pure white pumice sand that crunched between my toes. We cooked dinner, then talked for hours under the stars. I still have the photograph Dave took of star trails that night... he simply locked open the shutter of his Pentax 35mm camera, and left it there to watch the sky while we slept.

That Spirit Lake is gone now. The crystal clear water, the white pumice sand, Harry Truman and his Spirit Lake Lodge, gone forever. But they live on in photographs, and in memories.


Amber waves (TT)

A simple day calls for a simple image. I love how the texture makes this photograph look like a painting.

Vast fields of wheat in the Finley Hills

For Texture Tuesday, this image has a layer of Kim Klassen's Appreciate texture @ 80% multiply


Nesting time

The first house finches arrived today. I was passing by the kitchen window when I saw the flash of bright red, one male and several females, flying around the orchard and the feeders. Last year they nested in the box in the front yard, but a family of sparrows is there this year. So I'm not sure what they'll do.

In past years the finches have nested in the arbovitae hedge outside our bedroom windows, or in the nesting boxes at each end of the barn. But I suspect they'll stay closer to the house, close to all the bird feeders in the garden and the orchard. Once they settle in, there will be plenty of food to choose from.

Last summer I moved the finch feeders away from the house, and into the garden. One hangs from the butterfly bush, where seeds will fall harmlessly into the grass. It's also close to one of the nesting boxes. The other hangs from the smoke tree by the patio. I can watch both feeders from the house, and from the front porch.



We went to one of our favorite places for dinner tonight, and as we headed toward home, the western sky was building toward a spectacular show.

I was kicking myself for leaving my big camera at home, but I had my cell phone at least. My fingers were crossed that I'd find a place to pull off the road, with a wide-open view to the west. When I found the perfect spot, it came with a bonus: a small lake that reflected the colors and the clouds.

I think it's one of the amazing things about sunsets, that the colors in the sky look so much different in a photograph. The pinks and reds are what caught my eye tonight, and the golden colors come out in the photographs.

We stayed until the sky began to lose its color, unable to tear ourselves away from the show. I think this is now my favorite place for watching the sunset.


A walk in the park

There was blue in the sky in the early morning hours, before 6:00 am, before the sun. I dreamed of riding my bike on the trail today, of checking the tires and shocks, searching for my bike shoes, and what biking pants I should wear: shorts or leggings, or something in between. Of how many times I could ride the level stretch between the horse trail bridge and the picnic shelter, of racking up 20 miles or so. And what that would feel like, if my legs would burn and my heart would pound, or if I'd feel great.

But instead, I took my camera for a walk on the horse trail, the secret stretch that most people don't even know exists. I let my camera be my eyes, and found much to enjoy.

The wee burro who came close, but not too close, to say hello.

The vast carpets of buttercups.

The honey bees swarming over fragrant blossoms.

 The overgrown trail, narrowed to a singletrack, rising to a spirea in full bloom.

I couldn't have found a better way to spend a few hours than this.


Above and beyond...

A couple of weeks ago, someone driving on our private road snapped off two fenceposts along the back pasture. It's not the first time... our private (shared) road is barely wide enough for two cars to pass, and if someone comes too close, the fence usually doesn't do well.

Today when I walked down the road to the mailboxes, I noticed piles of dirt by the broken posts. When I got closer, I saw freshly dug holes. And as I walked down the fence line, I realized that someone had dug new holes for every single post that's been broken off by a careless driver in the past few years.

I picked up the mail and walked back to the house, and asked Dave when he had time to dig the holes. I could tell by the look on his face that it was news to him. Which means one of our neighbors did this. I can't believe they dug holes for all the broken posts (six in all).

I should explain that we've not had a good track record where our fences are concerned. The Inauguration Day storm in 1993 took out four of our neighbor's big fir trees... which scored a direct hit on about 100 feet of our shared pasture fence. Fortunately, my horse wasn't in that pasture at the time. The neighbor did offer to help replace the fence, but somehow we all never got around to doing it. A few years later, another fence line was destroyed by yet another neighbor, when he was having gravel hauled to his property. The dump truck and trailer took the corner too sharp, nearly landed in our pond, damaged the gravel road, and took out another hundred feet of our fence. And my horse was in that pasture at the time. That neighbor admitted fault, but never fixed the fence or the road.

So I was understandably surprised... and pleased... that this time, a neighbor actually did the right thing.

The next morning there were six brand new pressure treated posts, planted and tamped into place, with the field fencing stapled in place.

We may never know who did this for us. But I think they'll know how much we appreciate what they did.

It is good to remember that there are decent people in the world... and I like knowing that people can still surprise me.



Violet green swallows are nesting in the box by the young orchard. This is the fifth year in a row they've chosen this particular nesting box, and they're competing for nesting materials and food with the barn swallows. It's so much fun to watch them swooping around the yard.

I went out to the pasture to watch the daybreak. The farmhouse looks peaceful in the early morning light, sleeping above fields of green.

The newly-mowed pasture is emerald green and beautiful.

Late spring brought a spectacular showing by my favorite rhododendron...

but it's competing with the pink dogwood... some major pruning is now on my list of gardening chores for June.

A new version of Photoshop Elements arrived for Dave, and so did the first real summer weather, sunny and warm.


Yakima River "Farmlands"

The last week of April, we spent a day doing a guided fly fishing trip on the Yakima River. We fished the stretch they call the Farmlands, from the west side of Ellensburg to the Ringer Loop boat launch. We caught fish, hooked fish, lost fish, and had an absolute blast.

We learned so much from Stefan Woodruff, our guide from Ellensburg Angler, who was patient and always explained exactly where to cast and why, told us when we'd thrown the line correctly (the positive feedback was great), and taught us how to read the river. He knew the river intimately, and by the end of the day, it felt as though we were on our way to knowing the river, too.

This time I was brave enough to take my big camera out on the boat, and was glad I did. It was a beautiful sunny day, with perfect temperatures. At noon we beached the boat and Stefan grilled up steaks for lunch.

Highlights of my day were the five-pound whitefish I caught (it's in a previous photo), and this 17-inch rainbow that fought every step of the way before I landed it in the net. And then there was the even bigger rainbow that I played for nearly ten minutes before he flipped himself off the hook... just as much a thrill for me as the fish I actually caught that day.

I was always skeptical of guided river trips until we did our first trip last fall, on the south fork of the Snake River. Now I'm a convert. It's the perfect way to learn a new river, mainly because of the knowledge your guide has to share. Plus it's a great way to improve fly fishing skills. The guide teaches you new skills to apply to their particular river, and you practice the stuff you already know, fine-tuned with feedback from your guide. What could be better?


Spiky green and orange

I didn't plant Oriental poppies in my gardens, they just showed up one day. And they thrived. So every year or so I divide the plants, and move them around, and now they're everywhere. They're very polite perennials, though. No overseeding or taking over, pushing other plants out of their way. They just set fuzzy green buds in the middle of spring, then one at a time, pop open into a riot of bright orange.

Since most of my choices for perennials are pinks and blues and purples, the orange fits in quite well.

But I think the bud stage steals the show. I just love those huge green spiky flower heads, just before the orange starts to peek through.


Old gardens...

I love everything that is old; old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wines
Oliver Goldsmith, The Vicar of Wakefield

When we bought our old farmhouse nearly thirty years ago, one thing that delighted me was the mature rhododendron garden that wrapped around the patio. There were two dozen bushes in all, plus azalea bushes, more than I've ever seen in one place. Since we moved into our little farmhouse in October, it was a long wait until April, when they started to bloom.

Memory is a funny thing, because when I think back I remember them as always being large and lush. But then I come across an old photograph and realize they were once just normal size.

I love tangled cottage gardens, so over the years I encouraged the rhodies to grow bigger and bigger, and in their old age now, they're practically trees, soaring way over my head. They make our outdoor living area private and intimate, and for a couple of months each spring, give us non-stop color.

I still don't know what any of the varieties are. But that doesn't really matter.


Gardens in spring

However many years she lived, Mary always felt that she should never forget 
that first morning when her garden began to grow

I admit it... I am a fair weather gardener. And many years, I don't plant anything new, or move anything around, or plan new beds or borders, because we're often out on the road in spring and early summer, exploring the world outside our little farm. It's tough to bring new plants along, when no one is there to water them.

My hands-off approach works for me, because most of what grows around my little farmhouse has been established for a very long time. The trees and shrubs and perennials are mature, and they seem to do very well without any help from me...  they set fruit and burst into bloom and push up through the ground all on their own.

Still, I impatiently wait for the rains to quit, and the ground to warm up enough to start cleaning up the flowerbeds. A few weeks of weeding, nurturing the volunteers (anyone want some baby Hellebores?), checking each day for signs that my plants are alive and well. That's the kind of gardening I love.

The last time I put in new perennials was four years ago, when I planted one end of the patio border with a few of my favorites... lady's mantle, orange poppies, speedwell, and these gorgeous perennial bachelor's buttons. I love watching them push out buds, with a mosaic-like symmetry that I find beautiful. Then the purple-blue petals start to show at the tips, then the flowers burst into bloom. They are one of my favorite flowers to photograph, and if I'm careful to deadhead them, they'll bloom way into the fall.

Each year, I think I'm most excited when the lilacs finally bloom. Our four shrubs were old when we bought the property, and I still have one of the original shrubs. The rest have fallen victim to ice storms or old age, and I've let sucker plants grow up to take their place. This year they lasted longer than they normally do. Usually the lilacs burst into bloom, are gorgeous for a few days, then it rains, and the wind blows, and they're gone before I know it. But not this year. The lilacs were a joy for a couple of weeks.

Spring never disappoints me.


On the reading stool in April

Research into various photography topics stacked the stool this month (and will spill over into May). The lunar eclipse fueled some of it; reading about photographing the night sky. Contemplating switching from PhotoShop Elements to Lightroom is also something I'm looking into. But mostly, the past couple of months I've been reading everything I can about landscape photography, which is my absolute favorite.


Sean Arbabi's The BetterPhoto Guide to Exposure
Harold Davis' Creative Night Photography
Lee Frost's Landscape Photography
Alan Hess' Night & Low Light Photo Workshop 
Rob Sheppard's Magic of Digital Landscape Photography
Peter Watson's Reading the Landscape
Art Wolfe's New Art of Photographing Nature
Jennifer Wu's Photography: Night Sky


Anne Cleeves' Raven Black and White Nights


Birds and spring (TT)

This time of year, I keep an eagle eye (no pun intended) on the bird feeders in my orchard. They are such fun to watch... eating and finding mates, flying here and there with nesting material in their beaks, and swooping to catch bugs. Every so often, I pass the window when the birds take a break to eat, and I snap their picture.

Posted today to Texture Tuesday, using Kim's kk_stay texture (Overlay @ 45%)


Old Town...

Over the past few years, one of our friends has restored two gorgeous Old Town canoes. They have wood frames and are covered in canvas. He just bought another one to restore as a retirement project. The new one is short, and they're tough to find in that size. The wood is in perfect condition, it just needs replacement cane seats and exterior paint. And maybe a fresh coat of varnish.

When we visited last weekend, Jim had pulled all the canoes out on the porch of their lakeside home, getting ready for a canoe club rally next weekend. I think they look perfect there, and was glad of the chance to see them up close, and take photographs.

I think they're works of art, don't you?



Jamie, affectionately known as James (also James-the-cat, Blondie, and Honey Bunny), departed this life today. Of all the wonderful, funny, affectionate cats who have shared our life over the decades, she is the one I will miss the most. She adopted us the summer of 2003 as a young cat, moved right into our house and into our hearts, and I can't believe she's gone. She was too young, and I feel cheated... I wanted more time with her.

Goodbye, James. I will love you forever.