Winter pond...

I was in the mood for a big bowl of oatmeal this morning, one I didn't have to cook. So we headed off toward Mt. Rainier and had breakfast at one of our favorite little cafe's, then drove up into the hills for my snow fix. We stomped around in the snow to find some geocaches, then headed home. DW made a sudden decision to take another road home, and when we spotted a flooded pasture, made another one of those sudden turns. And lucky him, there's a geocache here. So while he searched for the cache, I braced my camera on a handy fence post and photographed the water fowl and the pair of eagles hanging out at this new pond. This wide plateau is one of my favorite haunts when I want to photograph barns, and today the light was beautiful. If you look closely, you'll see one of the huge eagles sitting on a fence post at the water's edge, to the left of the scene.

As soon as I got out of the Pilot, the ducks took flight. Sure that the eagle would also leave, I quickly snapped a few shots without messing with any settings. And the eagle just sat there, while the ducks got all excited.

So while the birds are in focus, the background unfortunately is also in focus, which makes it hard to see the birds. Oh, well... tomorrow I'll go back with the tripod, and camp out by this pond, and try again.


Basic black...

Ever since I watched my sister walk right across the Tahuya river one fall, I've wanted my own Bogs. Living on acreage with horses, I always had farm boots. Clunky, too-big, bone-chilling-cold rubber boots, that never lasted more than a couple of years. I wanted something better, so I can get down to our pond in the wet months, and go watch the salmon go up the rivers to spawn.

The short Bogs boots with the side hand grips are everywhere, even the local discount stores. But I guarantee this: any water I attempt to cross will be just over the bottom of those side openings, and my feet will get wet. No, I wanted the tall, knee-high boots with neoprene uppers for warmth.

And finally, I found the perfect pair at a local farm store. I had a choice between pink patchwork (not me), bright green cammo (I don't think so), or plain black.

Basic black is cammo enough for me.



In 1989, Washington celebrated its centennial statehood. As a way to give tribute to the state's number one industry (agriculture), it published a list of 400+ farms that have been in the same family for a hundred years or more. Last year, they followed up on these family farms, to see how many were still owned by the original families.

This 1900 English Gambrel barn stands proud on the Maple Valley farm that is still owned by the original family. I think that's extremely cool.

Today was one of those beautiful winter days, with fresh snow in the foothills, and golden afternoon light. Which meant shadows. But sometimes you just have to record the moment, even if the photograph isn't what you want. If you're lucky, you can come back again at a better time of day. I'm feeling pretty lucky today.


The colors of winter...

Down by our pond, everything is soft and green, silvery gray, yellow and gold and brown. The pond is the only dark color, deep mossy green and still, reflecting everything around it.

People who say winter is dull and lifeless... just aren't looking closely enough.


Vashon barns...

Researching barns for a photography trip next spring. Playing with Madison, and holding her when she crashed. Watching it rain... and snow... and wondering what happened to the sunny day we were supposed to have. Running out for a quick cache, then hauling in firewood to warm up a cold house. Staying up way too late, working on my barn document and thinking about how nice it is to live in a place that cherishes heritage barns like I do.


Paper trees and origami stars

Tattered sheet music and worn-out paperback books became Christmas decorations this year. Combined with the snowmen-themed pieces that a friend gave me, they make a display that I can leave out through winter. 

You can never have enough snow karma, right? If you want snow, that is. And I do.


The 25th day...

We were greeted at the front porch by our 7-year-old niece, and spent a few happy hours with home-made pastries, lots of catching up, a tour of Anna's new preschool classroom, hide-and-seek, and talking with the guys while playing pool. Then we moved to my sister's house for more talk and watching the rain pound the roofs and cooking and sampling wine from Plain. The cats got braver and braver with all the family and the skies turned dark, and we shared a simple dinner of lasagne and salad and bread and dessert, sitting around the table until well after dark. No messy kitchen meant more time to talk with everyone, and I treasured the time.

The girls liked the earrings I made for them, and the packaging: the tiny lilac twig that held them inside an Altoids tin, wrapped in pages from an old paperback book.

Our gifts were all about light this year: homemade beeswax candles and a candle holder fashioned from a round of hardwood. A beehive candle. A solar light that will be perfect for backpacking next summer. And a motion-activated light for the outhouse at the cabin.

Christmas morning

Every year, we spend Christmas on an island with my sister and her family, and it's wonderful. Their home is true country, and if there's such a thing as a spiritual home, I think this is mine.

This morning I woke early, and lay in bed, thinking about the day ahead of us. Then I noticed how white it was outside the windows.  It snowed! The front pasture was white, and the trees were frosted with snow.

It was a half hour before I could get outside with my camera, and by then it had started to melt. But it was beautiful while it lasted.


Surrounded by snow...

This is what I want for Christmas...  simple and pure and white. Just a few inches of snow, so I can make a snowman and enjoy the view out my windows.

I don't need this much snow, though... back in January 2012, there was enough snow to use as a wine chiller!

Snow is all around us this week:  up north in Snohomish County, throughout the Cascades to the east, and west in the Olympics.

But whatever the weather where you are, I hope you have a very Merry Christmas!


Being indoors...

A 14,410-foot mountain is hiding behind those streaky white clouds

There's a pretty solid theme to my musings this month...  mostly about the weather, going out into it, and staying inside to escape it.

But there have been brilliant days interspersed into all this soggy gloominess. Days with blue sky and wild white clouds. Days so still that absolutely perfect reflections are possible.

This morning I walked my favorite trail for a while, into a wind so strong I had to hold my hood with both hands. My daily cache in hand, I turned around to head back to the car, just as the heavens opened up and soaked me. Grrrr....

Back home (and dried off), I settled down with hot tea and finished wrapping Christmas presents, while watching Antiques Roadshow. The wind was blowing outside the windows, but I was surrounded by the warmth from the woodstove and the smell of pasta sauce cooking on the stove. It's 38 degrees and raining outside... that makes being indoors even better.


Bear in black and white

This year I won't be putting out the antique toys and the train and the bears on the Mission Oak cabinet in the living room. With a new cat who is flexing her skills at jumping, that doesn't seem like the best idea. So I thought a photo on my blog might be fun, and started looking for photos from previous teddy bear's Christmas displays.

But I got sidetracked. Thinking about the antique toys reminded me that I never unpacked the bears I put away for safekeeping last summer, when we had three little kids staying with us. When that was done, it was time to go out for a geocache before it got dark. Then it was time to think about dinner.

So instead, I decided to post a photo of the one bear that's always out on the Mission cabinet. This cute mohair Boyd's bear is one of my favorites, and so is the transferware platter.



I really wanted to spend the day cuddled with the cat, doing some baking, maybe work on my Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt. But I couldn't put The List off any longer. When I walked out the door, it started to rain. Dang.

First a quick walk on the trail to repair a geocache, then three long, convoluted hours of driving and shopping, getting soaked by the rain, and splashing through puddles and parking lot streams. I really needed Bogs today... they are definitely at the top of my list now.

When I finally finished and drove up the hill toward home, there were huge white snowflakes mixed in with the rain. I'm so envious of my friends who live east of the mountains, who keep posting photographs of their yards covered in snow. And we don't have a bit yet. So please... forgive me for crossing my fingers.


Ready for snow...

Rainy days are quiet days here... it's easy to turn my focus inside and take care of housekeeping, keep the fire going and the house toasty warm, and be content with observing the outdoors through the windows. It's been tough to keep the feeders topped up, and the birds have taken over the orchard trees. Three pair of mallard ducks spent the day on the pond, then left when dusk came.

I stood in the bedroom and looked at the pond, so high right now because of all the rain. In the late afternoon light, there was the most beautiful reflection of tree trunks. I wonder if I can get close enough to capture this, with the marshy ground all around the pond? I haven't had barn boots since my last horse went... time to start shopping for those Bogs.

I'm ready for snow. It's been way too many years since we had a white Christmas, and I'm ready.


White elephants

We've tried them all in the 40+ years I've been part of this family. Gifts for everyone led to family gifts, then gifts only for the kids under 18, then no gifts (but too many people still brought something for everyone). That disaster led to drawing names, then to cookie exchanges. But last year we finally made it to the White Elephant game, and everyone agreed that this was absolutely the most fun and relaxing way to exchange gifts. I don't know why it took us so long!

The Spam gift box was a big hit with our college student.

The ceramic barn cookie jar was a big hit with this barn lover.

I was sure this barbecue apron would be stolen by one of the 
hard core chefs in the family, but Nicole held onto it.

Mary was thrilled with this compact roadside emergency kit, but I think Bruce wants it.

DWs box has backbacking food; it will be perfect for next summer's family pack trip.

Tom's going to organize his trunk.


Writing by hand

It took just over a year to fill the second composition book, and I like using them (and the cloth covers I designed). A few road trips filled most of the pages: Colorado 2014, Yakima Valley in June 2015, and Colorado 2015. I left it at home for Hawaii and Ireland, and took lighter weight notebooks. So, this year wasn't a great test of how long one of these notebooks will last... I always write more when we're on a road trip.

When I was a working writer, I spent most of my day designing, writing, and editing technical manuals and documents on the computer. I had a second laptop for e-mail and graphics work, and since I also used my journal for meeting notes and project status notes, it was always open so I  could keep notes and ideas updated throughout the day. When I wasn't at work, I used a Daytimer binder for my journal, using pages I designed myself. It went with me wherever I went, and I loved the dark green leather.

Since I retired, my writing habits have slowly changed back to handwritten notes, but I regretfully had to shelve that lovely green Daytimer binder. Once I retired, those custom pages weren't possible anymore.

A couple of years ago, I designed a cover that fits over a standard composition notebook. I liked it so much, I made a bunch more, and gave most of them away. The composition books are perfect for my "new" style: I can tuck one into whatever tote or day pack I choose to carry, and I love being able to pull it out and write whenever the mood strikes me.


A cold day at sea...

My day required jeans, long-sleeved t-shirt, fleece pullover, down sweater, canvas barn coat with down liner, two pairs of wool socks, boots, gloves, a fleece scarf wrapped around my neck, and a fleece hat pulled low over my ears.

Our friend, Larry, just had the engine rebuilt on his cruiser, and invited us out for a shake-down cruise on Puget Sound. On this foggy and cold day, it was tough to stay warm once we got out on the water... glad I brought along the fleece and nylon lap robe from the MX-5.

It figures today would be one of the coldest days this month; the low temperatures plus the fog made it a bone-chilling afternoon. It didn't stop people from being out on the water though; for once, it wasn't raining. We've had our share... halfway into the month, we've already had 6 inches of rain (much more where I live, closer to the foothills).

I've been very into reflections lately; the calm water behind the breakwater gave a beautiful painterly look to these reflections of boats and birds.

There was a lot of ship traffic today, like this container ship outside Commencement Bay, waiting for a tug escort. We watched until both tugs were in place to nudge the ship into dock, then headed back to the marina.


One of those days...

Madison woke me with a gentle paw tap on the chin. The Tundra went out for service; we came home with a loaner. Then the Pilot went out for windshield repair; DW got nailed by a rock on the highway yesterday, and came home with a quarter-sized chip. While we waited, we walked on the valley trail and grabbed a couple of geocaches, then home to spread out a tarp on the shed roof. With all the inches of rain the past 10 days, it's sprung a leak. I brought in firewood and built up the fire, then sat down to listen to music and make earrings. I have trees to decorate and laundry to finish, but somehow doing something creative suited my mood.

Madison's current favorite place is the keyboard of DW's laptop


Old doors...

There's an old door in the barn that I'd love to refinish and use in the farmhouse. It was painted an ugly flat brown, and the paint is peeling. Near as I can tell from the old layers of paint, the house was never cream or brown, never a color that would go with a dark brown door. It's a mystery. The door is beautiful, with a solid wood panel in the lower third of the door, and the upper two-thirds of the door has 12 small panes of glass. I've always thought it would make the perfect door for our bedroom, or for the main floor bathroom. Or maybe we could cut it down for the wine cellar door. It must have come out of the house, removed for something more modern, but carefully set aside in case it was ever needed.

The upper floor in our old farmhouse still has the original doors, and they all match. These doors are simple single panel doors, and they have the original hardware: oversized hollow brass doorknobs. So this multi-light door didn't come from the upstairs.

The downstairs was "modernized" in the late 1960s, and the interior doors are now simple hollow-core doors. I suspect the main floor doors once matched the ones upstairs, but unfortunately, the owner didn't save the doors or the hardware.

This fancy door could have been the original front door, but I don't think I'd use it for that. It wouldn't be a very secure main entry door, not with all the glass.

The doors are a mystery, lost, just like the original floorplan of the house.



Today we got a much-needed break from the rain. A small park near my house has a beautiful small lake, and we stopped there for a quick walk on our way to pick up DWs mom for lunch. It's one of my favorite places to photograph reflections, and it was so beautiful today. With all the rain we've had the past week, the lake was overflowing, and absolutely calm. And as we stood on the dock, the sun started to come through the clouds, and the light was amazing.

Near shore, the high water was starting to recede. I love this image of reflected branches over masses of drowned leaves.


Won't be a bridge for long

The trail I've walked for thirty years isn't very walkable today. I came past on my way home late afternoon, just before the sun set. Not that the sun was visible except briefly this morning; the rest of the day it just rained. The light wasn't good, but I could see the bridge was just a few inches from not being a bridge.

The creek has flooded across the trail on one end, blocking the trail (unless I was wearing tall rain boots). I took a few photos, then walked out onto the bridge. It was creepy.

This is the creek that usually flows gently in its channel under the bridges, but that's the only place you see it. It meanders through a flat valley, hidden by trees and bushes.

In the flat part of the valley, where it always floods the road, the creek flows past a heronry with more than a dozen nests. By the end of February, the nests are full of birds, getting ready to raise their families. In the fall, I sometimes see a rogue salmon that managed to get upstream to spawn, slipping past the salmon hatchery a few miles downstream.

I've walked its length thousands of times over the years. And when we first bought our little farm, this is the trail where I rode my Thoroughbred. Back then, the trail was sections of powerline access road connected by narrow pathways, built by the locals. When the county acquired the land and started to build a formal trail system, they built the bridges that finally gave us access to the entire length of the valley.


Sun in the city...

We got a miracle this morning... when we headed north the sun actually came out. A beautiful hole in the rain clouds, right over the city. Blue skies, sun, and howling wind on the city streets, but I'll take it. After our meeting in Belltown, we stayed around for lunch. A window seat and a view of Elliott Bay, fish and chips, and the blue, blue sky. Lovely.

After lunch we wandered over to the Lenora Street pedestrian bridge to check out the view. This overpass and elevator was created to give better access to the waterfront below, with a gorgeous view of the waterfront, and art you can sit on:  a wide circular bench made from art tiles.

We walked down the stairs to the waterfront, and I got my wish: subjects for my camera. I've been stuck indoors for so many days, I felt like I'd been let out of detention for a day.


Finding motivation...

I find it most difficult to stay motivated when the days literally run one into the next, downpours of rain that keep me indoors. I get outside for my daily geocache, rain or shine, but won't subject my Nikon to the torrents of rain.

So I go a little stir crazy.

When we came home from the grocery store, the creek was starting to wash over the shoulder of the county road at the foot of our hill. It hasn't flooded there since the county raised the roadbed a few years ago, so that tells you how much, how long, it's been raining. Storm water ponds are overflowing. Pastures along are flooded. The pond in the corner of our pasture has overflowed its banks, and is crouched right at the edge of our private road.

If this doesn't stop soon, I may need to look for more ways to describe rain.


Missed photographs...

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, we shared our Ireland photographs. As I went through our trip, day by day, I thought about the difference between this tour, and how I usually travel. The tour was easy and stress-free, and we saw amazing places. The payoff was not being able to stop wherever I wanted to along the way.

So I did my best. Often when our group was listening to a guide talk about the history of a place, I was listening with one ear while I wandered as far as I could, taking pictures. On this particular day, we spent most of the day driving along the coastline of the Dingle peninsula, and on the narrow Irish roads there were few places where there was room for the coach, and often those places didn't have the best views.

This series of coastline views on the Dingle peninsula will always be a reminder of this tradeoff between a tour and traveling solo. Luckily for me, at the place where the coach pulled over, the view was spectacular. Between the brilliant green fields, the stone walls, the turquoise water, and the distant mountains, I felt like I'd overdose on the sheer beauty of it all.

When we headed down the road, we passed at least a dozen other places where I would have stopped to get a different perspective or a different direction of light. I kept seeing photographs I could have captured, if only I'd been on my own.


An armload of books...

The truck needed a visit to the glass shop today; the windshield has sprung a leak. It will trade places with the tractor (under cover) until we get a sunny day, to give it time to dry out. At this rate, it might be next spring. Hope the tractor won't mind.

On the way home, we stopped at the library to pick up the armload of books I'd reserved. When I walked in the door, I realized why the parking lot was so crowded: a local kids choir was performing, and they were so good I had to stop and listen until they'd finished. Christmas is such a musical time, isn't it? I always look forward to the first of December, to all the Christmas carols on the radio, and playing my favorite holiday music. I especially love the collections of New Age music from Windham Hill.


Plans change...

Funny how a change in the weather can be the perfect excuse to stay home and indulge my nesting instinct. I should start a Christmas list. Catch up on my journal. Work on Christmas cards. Decorate the house for the holidays.

And I should be pruning suckers out of the fruit trees, and collecting kindling, and mulching the flower beds. The monsoon outside the windows? That took care of any guilt about not working outside.

And then friends called about getting together, and just like that, plans changed again. A few hours catching up over beer and burgers with good friends was just what we needed. Especially at Crockett's, one of my favorite places. The rain even quit for a couple of hours, even more perfect.



Tucker barn, Christmas 2014

Tonight is Beer Thursday, but neither of us felt like going. It was gloomy and drizzly most of the day, but thankfully warmer... if you can call mid-40's warm. It never really got light today, a hint of the winter that's just around the corner.

I've been into reuse lately... using one thing as raw materials to make something else. Sort of like making a quilt:  cutting perfectly good fabric into small pieces, then stitching them back together. But this time, I'm playing with paper.

Madison snoozed on Dave's chest for a while; he's still getting over a bug he had over Thanksgiving, and she's getting over spay surgery. A perfect match of sleepyheads. We did go out for our daily cache, and bought some new fish for the tank. Then home to polish off the last pieces of pizza, a green salad, and later, the rest of the cheesecake that Jeff & Anna brought to the cabin.

Another rainy, gloomy, dark, and stormy December day.



A lazy and very rainy day at home... again. Madison discovered the fish tank, all those moving colors and patterns have mesmerized her. She also discovered that she can jump up onto the back of the sofa. Uh-oh.

The woods have gone monochrome outside the windows, shades of brown over green grass (which has thankfully stopped growing). I miss the autumn colors. The rain has created a reflecting pool in the low ground beyond the old orchard. Too bad it's too wet to go explore.

I still haven't unpacked from the long weekend in Point Roberts; did I catch the bug that DW had over Thanksgiving? I sincerely hope not.


How did I get here?

Madison sits and stares at us, those amber eyes watching wherever we go. I can just hear her thinking: where am I, how did I get here, and... who are you?

Today was cold and dry, a good day to sit by the fire. Madison and I spent the morning snuggling on the couch. We did so well with this kitten... she's absolutely perfect, and we're both smitten.

I should have run errands on such a nice day, but couldn't bring myself to leave our new kitty alone. So I worked on Christmas decorations, and did some writing, and kept the fire going, while DW helped a friend haul his boat out of the water for some repairs.

We watched a bit of NCIS, grabbed a geocache, and bought a Papa Murphy's pizza to go with the growler of Boundary Bay brown we brought home yesterday. Pizza and beer is an old habit that can't get started again... but neither of us feels all that good today, so not cooking sounded just fine.