Wandering around Walla Walla...

It's the wrong time of year for landscape photography in the Palouse. But it's a great time of year for geocaching, and exploring the back roads. A few hours out in the wheat fields, a visit to one of our favorite wineries, then dinner at Saffron. A very good start to a three-week road trip.



There's a boardwalk trail in the valley below, part of a wetlands and nature preservation area surrounded by warehouses and light industrial businesses. When I was growing up here, this valley was all agriculture, full of truck farms and nurseries, horse farms and dairies. There was no freeway, no warehouses, only one narrow road up each side of the valley. The Green River winds its way through the valley, from side to side, and along its entire length. It's beautiful, and it also used to flood. So few people lived there, and those decades of flooding created the most amazing rich soil for growing.

This remained the status quo until a flood control dam was built up in the foothills to control the flooding. And that was the death knell for agriculture in the valley. Today there are still a few truck farms, some wonderful farm stands, and one Thoroughbred horse farm, but there

The last few years, the county has been working to preserve what's left of the open space. The Springbrook Creek trail is one of these areas. We took a walk there today, on the first cloudy and cool day we've had for a while. And to my delight, the shrubs that line the walkway were covered with tiny lavender flowers.

Before we walked back to the car, DW looked them up on the internet. I was surprised that these beautiful flowers are in the belladona family, related to petunias, potatoes, garden tomatoes, flowering tobacco, and deadly nightshade.


The Oaks

For a couple of weeks now, I've been working on a lap quilt made of Civil War fabric colors and my favorite 9-patch blocks. It's the seventh quilt top since March that I've designed and pieced, ready for hand-quilting.

Fitting my quilting in with other projects and hiking and geocaching can be interesting, but I've worked out a routine. In the morning I sew, and in the evening I carry my basket full of pieces to the living room, and after dinner I watch a movie or television with DW, while I pin the next round of seams. Today I'm nearly done; by nightfall, the blocks will be done and ready to join together with sashing and borders.



Madison has never seen anything she couldn't cuddle up to.



Canada geese on the Green River



Sleeping in until 9:30. A shower and hair wash felt heavenly. Oatmeal for two, hoping the milk was still fresh. Watching Haven while catching up on cache logs and reading my journal notes, and looking for fly fishing gear on the Internet. Emptying packs and sorting camping gear from fly fishing gear, and getting started on laundry. Leaving to cache about 4:30, and checking out a local pub for a sandwich and beer after finding three very evil geocaches.

Home after dinner to relax, I finally got my first look at the 160+ photos from the long weekend, fingers crossed they turned out the way I hoped. The weekend wasn't just about fly fishing. I set myself some goals about practicing with Manual mode. I've used it rarely with my Nikon, but this weekend I finally had the time to experiment when the photos didn't matter, and it suddenly clicked. I'm remembering what was second nature back in my early days with a Pentax SLR camera. Now I just need to keep practicing.



I was torn between fly rod and camera today.

Water is a constant presence here... a deep emerald green pool that wraps around a point, gently growing more shallow until it spills over a shelf of stones and into a rocky corridor of rocks and splashing water, on its way downstream. Where it passes through yet more pools, a beautiful link of huge rocks joined by green water.

It's peaceful, and addicting, and I want to come back again.


In camp...

The water went on for an early morning cup of tea, and breakfast. It's nice that DW is doing the cooking this weekend. We love our antique white gas stove, especially when paired with modern hard anodized cookware.

We posed for a family photo, in our L.O.S.T. | 2016 t-shirts.

And then a few of our group packed up their gear and hiked out. One is starting a new job, and one has a homework assignment due on Monday. We were glad they made the trek with us, even if they could only stay one night.

A day hike in 90 degree temperatures? Bruce, Emily, and I opted out, deciding to stay beside the cold river. We fished, and I took a nap, and read, and fished, and soaked my ankle. The family of ducks (12 of them) floated past, and snoozed on the riverbank.

Tonight we cooked dinner, then walked down the river to fish. In the white water rushing out of a deep pool, I got my first strike of the weekend. But as much as he hit my dry fly, I couldn't hook him. But it was still fun.

Then we rigged up a table for cards, finished off the red wine that Mary brought, played Bull-shit and looked at the stars.


Family time...

I've waited for this weekend for a year: the second annual Mayer kids backpacking trip. We're hiking up above Staircase, up the Skokomish River.

I've waited eagerly. Even though I badly sprained my ankle just two weeks ago. And even though my pack weighs 28 pounds (not counting my Nikon dSLR, water bottle, bear spray, or Gorp... I didn't weigh those. Didn't want to know). And even though it's supposed to be in the 90's this weekend.

The chance to spend time with my sisters and brothers from DWs family is priceless. And so is the chance to fly fish without having to pack up and drive somewhere. To have the river just steps from camp, to grab my gear any time I want and wade out into the river and cast my line in.

I had to take it easy this weekend, to walk with a hiking pole, and not go too far. With the most beautiful deep green pool just off the beach where we camped, that wasn't a hardship. I sat in the sun and soaked my foot in the cold water, and fished, and took photographs of DW and his siblings.

There were two casualties today: DW broke the tip of his fly rod, and just an hour later, his brother broke his fly rod off at the handle. Luckily, two of the girls decided not to fish, so there were fly rods to share.



Sometimes, when you're deep in the countryside, you meet three girls, walking along the hill tracks in the dusk, spinning. They each have a spindle, and onto these they are spinning their wool, milk white, like the moonlight. In fact, it is the moonlight, the moon itself...  All they have to do is to see that the world gets its hours of darkness, and they do this by spinning the moon down out of the sky. Night after night, you can see the moon getting less and less, the ball of light waning, while it grows on the spindles of the maidens. Then, at length, the moon is gone, and the world has darkness, and rest, and the creatures of the hillsides are safe from the hunter, and the tides are still.

Then, on the darkest night, the maidens take their spindles down to the sea, to wash their wool. And the wool slips from the spindles into the water, and unravels in long ripples of light from the shore to the horizon, and there is the moon again, rising above the sea, just a thin curved thread, reappearing in the sky. Only when all the wool is washed, and wound again into a white ball in the sky, can the moon-spinners start their work once more, to make the night safe for hunted things.

     -- from "The Moon-Spinners," by Mary Stewart (c) 1962



The hedgerows are prettier in Ireland... but ours are edible. Recently we walked a stretch of the Enumclaw rail trail. I'd always wanted to bring the mountain bikes here, but walking was easier for photography, and as it turned out, for grazing our way from one end to the other. The trail is getting overgrown, thanks to the blackberries that have sprouted up along the farm fences on either side, growing unchecked now that the right-of-way has been abandoned. Blackberries, warm from the sun, just reaching that perfect juicy ripeness. I can't think of a better perk to a long walk.



A short (for me) haircut, and a stroll through my favorite thrift store. Took a walking stick and went down to the pond, looking for the last bits of tansy ragweed to cut. The paths that DW mowed just a month ago are already growing over with blackberries. A long e-mail chat with my best friend, catching up on our separate lives, and planning a get-together. Talking about orchards and bumper fruit crops, and what to do with all those tomatoes took me back a lot of years.

Summer on the farm... there's no place I rather be.



This morning as I stood washing up a few dishes in the kitchen sink, I saw movement on the driveway. A small deer, no two. Followed by a larger doe, and a 3-point buck. Four deer, that's a record here on the farm.

A doe and very young fawn, from June 2012 near Hood River

This was a family:  twin fawns, with their parents. They made a beeline for the orchard, and I made a beeline for my Nikon. But they passed right through the orchard, into the pasture, heading toward the pond, parents chasing after offspring. As I watched, they dashed through the cottonwood grove back to the private road, running straight for the county road. The impetuous youth... heading straight toward danger. Just as they went out of sight behind our cottonwood trees, I heard the gruff rattle of a Jake brake as a big dump truck towing a backhoe came to a screeching halt. No need to wonder what brought him to a dead stop in the middle of the road.

It all happened in under five minutes... wish they'd stayed around to graze in the orchard. Or for a photo.


Home town tourist...

Sometimes it's good to just set everything aside, and spend the day being a tourist in the place you call home. When we had the chance to go tour the Boeing Everett factory with some Australian visitors, we grabbed it. We had a great day with Chris and Lynn.

We toured the Boeing plant in Everett, then had a late lunch on the water in Edmonds. The tour was impressive, and so was getting to see an Antonov An-225 cargo jet arrive to take on a load of huge GE engines.

The Antonov is, quite simply, the largest airplane in the world: 275 feet long, 290 foot wingspan. It arrives at Paine Field three times a week to deliver or take on cargo for Boeing. It dwarfed the 747s parked nearby, the engines being loaded into it, and the people standing underneath. Simply impressive.


On my kitchen table...

On a round mat on my kitchen table, surrounded by windows, is a little forest of African violets. One is maybe twenty years old, planted in an antique pot that I found on one of our road trips. Two are just a couple of years old, still in the dark green plastic pots from the nursery. In tiny antique pots are four: two that I grew from cuttings, and two that Linda grew. They're healthy and seem to love this room, where the light comes from three directions: south and north and west.

The baby plants are too young and too small to have bloomed yet. But once their greenhouse blooms faded away, none of the violets have ever bloomed again. Until this past weekend, when I spotted an edge of white peeking out from under a leaf.

In just a few days, two more sprigs of blooms opened up under the leaves, pushing out and into the light. Big, beautiful purple flowers, edged in white.

The only thing that's changed, is that I've started watering them through the top, so water flows down the cupped leaves and into the crown. I figure that's the way nature waters these plants, so maybe I should, too.


Trail food...

This afternoon, I worked on a quilt in my sewing room, with Madison curled up in the big wicker chair for company. DWs new jeans are marked and ready to hem, and nearly all the blocks for the latest quilt are ready to square up. Later, we started to organized food for the pack trip, thinking about how to manage bear wires and a stuff sack for stove and food. And how to make it through a night without my lip balm (it has to go in a bag on the bear wire).

I really want to dip into the GORP that Kathie and I made together, but so far I've been good.



Quilting and laundry, and researching geocaching challenges for a road trip. Set up the new tent in the living room, pushing the furniture aside to make room. Sorted through fly fishing gear, deciding what to take backpacking. A grilled cheese sandwich was dinner, then browsed the Internet, looking for some old friends. And before the evening ended, photographed the one lone foxglove in my garden that waited until August to bloom.


Black and blue...

Yesterday I laced on my new hiking shoes and wore them for a couple of hours. The right barely laced up, because of my swollen foot and ankle. But it gave me support and protection. I've been walking and climbing the stairs, trying to keep my foot flexible. I quilted a bit, and did laundry, then pulled off my boots to take a reading break. My toes and lump and ankle are turning blue and purple and black, probably from icing my foot.

Maddie curled up on the bed with me while I read; I'm working my way through my favorite Mary Stewart books from a few decades ago: The Moonspinners, My Brother Michael, The Ivy Tree, and others.

Dave took me out caching, then to The Milton for a cold beer and a hot pizza. No standing in the kitchen for me for a few more days.


Stairs 1, Me 0...

Two days ago, I was clearing up after dinner, and thought I'd carry the big cooler downstairs. A quick trip, no problem. So I didn't turn on the light, and I didn't hold the handrail.

And two steps from the bottom of our steep farmhouse stairs, I missed the last step and took a giant step down to the basement floor. And rolled my right ankle. I heard a loud "pop" and dropped the cooler, and landed on the floor. My foot hurt so much, I thought I was going to throw up. My first thought was to yell for DW. My second thought was that I didn't want to disturb anyone. So I sat quietly and tried to get past the pain of my rapidly swelling foot and ankle. My third thought was to get rid of those shoes.

When I could pull myself to my feet and hobble up the stairs, I grabbed a bag of ice out of the freezer, and headed for the bedroom to ice my ankle. As I passed through the living room, DW asked, "Why are you limping?" So I showed him the huge lump on the side of my foot.

Damn. In just two weeks we leave for a backpacking trip. I am not missing that trip. (And I'm not getting rid of those shoes.)


When everyone leaves...

My family left today for two weeks exploring their way through the Rockies. I couldn't go, so after we said our goodbyes, what else to do but go geocaching? With a sprained ankle. And my hiking poles.

We did a late breakfast at our favorite little diner, then headed for Snoqualmie Pass and a big cluster of geocaches. It's a gorgeous day, warm and sunny, but not hot. Most of the caches were at trailheads, and I wanted to sling my pack over my shoulder and head up the trail, any trail. But I had to be content to walk on the smooth paths and avoid the uneven ground, and take photographs.

We found two treasures today:  a grove of first-growth evergreens dedicated to the memory of Asahel Curtis. And beautiful Franklin falls on the South Fork of the Snoqualmie River. It's also memorable because it flows between the westbound and eastbound lanes of I-90. And because the fall plunges into a deep green pool with a sheer wall of rock behind it, making for a cold but popular swimming hole. It's also a favorite (and difficult) waterfall for kayakers to attempt.


Madison and the four humans...

Our cat, Madison, was adopted by a family with three small children, and four months later, taken to the animal shelter. One of the kids turned out to be extremely allergic to cats, so there was good reason. Still, she seems to have an intense need to keep track of her humans, worried that she will be abandoned once again.

The past few days, my eldest sister and brother-in-law have been staying with us, getting ready for a long road trip through the Rocky Mountain states in their camper. This change, having four adults in the house instead of just two, is throwing Madison for a loop. She's friendly and welcoming, but spooks easily when someone comes into the room that she isn't expecting, as though forgetting that there are more people in the house.

She's most settled when all four of us are in the living room in the evening, checking on e-mail and looking at photographs, chatting over mugs of tea. Then she can keep all of us in sight, and know she is safe.



We had an amazing stormy day today, with black clouds circling all around, but nothing but blue skies at home. We ran out for a quick geocache in the late afternoon, and as we turned into the driveway I spotted this wide, beautiful rainbow.


A year ago...

This time last year, the family headed out to our lake cabin for swimming and floating and fishing. My nephew and his family were visiting from Australia, and we had a memorable weekend. It was especially fun to watch the third generation of the family get acquainted.

This year my eldest sister and her husband are here for a week before they take off to explore the American Rockies. It's been fun to catch up and talk and reminisce about growing up with both my sisters. These times together are priceless.