All the leaves are brown...

Oaks are only native here in a few places, including the prairies south of Olympia. It's always nice to go for a hike here in the winter, once the oak leaves begin to fall.

All the leaves are brown, and the sky is gray
I went for a walk, on a winter's day.


Grey day...

We wandered the back roads of Thurston county all day yesterday, looking for caches. And barns to come back and photograph, once the weather clears up a bit. Yesterday it was too soggy to even take my camera out of the Pilot.

This morning we went downstairs for coffee and food, waiting for our friends to arrive. It rained right up to 7:00 am, when the weather service predicted the rain would stop. And it did, right on time. Amazing.

It stayed gray most of the day, still, the time spent at the beach was great fun. By the end of the day, the six of us had found 44 caches and more than earned our Mexican dinner.


Foggy morning...

It was foggy when I got up this morning, pulling on my boots and coat for a very early morning walk. I grabbed my camera and gloves, and slipped quietly out the front door.

There was still snow on the ground, and it's cold. To grab a phrase that belongs to Christmas, "not a creature was stirring." No animals bleating for their breakfast, no cars on the road. It was utterly still, and beautiful.

I crunched through the snow to the barn, where a pair of owls raised a family this past summer.

The 1910 barn on my sister and brother-in-law's property is one of my favorites. I walked out to the road, intending to walk up the hill to get a different view. But as soon as I stepped onto the pavement, I felt the ice under my feet.

So I retreated back to the warm house, a fresh pot of coffee, and my book.


And through the woods...

I admit to humming the tune when we set off for my sister's house on Christmas Day. "Over the river and through the woods, to grandmother's house we go..."

Although I have no real memory of going to my grandparent's house on Christmas Day, I know we did just that one December, when I was perhaps 5 or 6. We took the train to Denver for a visit, and I can only imagine their small house filled with family. My grandparents, my parents, my mom's sister, and the six cousins.

My sister has made this a tradition... a house full of family. And I treasure all the memories from all the Christmas gatherings since our parents passed away. Watching everyone grow older, opening presents, playing games with the kids, cooking dinner together, lingering at the dining room table over wine and dessert, making the day last as long as possible.

It isn't a train that speeds me to the open arms of family these days, but a ferryboat. And every Christmas morning, I can hardly wait to load up the car and get on the road, anxious for the first glimpse of the white and green ferry that will take me to my sister.



Winter solstice has arrived, and just like that, so has winter.


Favorite farmhouses...

A couple of weeks ago, I posted photos of one of my favorite farmhouses. The pictures were from years ago, and for some reason I was thinking about the house this morning. So, even though it was raining (still), I decided to head that direction. I've only driven past when there were leaves on the trees, and wondered if I could get better pictures today.

The house is smaller than my own farmhouse, but I love the one-story room they added to one side. It's something I always wished we could do with our own farmhouse, but it wouldn't have worked for us.

I also love their barn, which I've never had a clear view of before. Today I was brave and walked up the gravel drive to the barn and outbuildings, and shot a few quick pictures to add to my collection of barn photographs.


Another soggy day... sigh

My Android cell phone camera (I use the Camera Zoom FX app) has gotten a lot of use lately. I'm a nervous Nellie when it comes to taking my Nikon out to play in the rain, and my Android is waterproof.

This morning DW got up late and I was editing photos and forgot to have breakfast, so we combined our daily geocache with breakfast at a new-to-us diner in Browns Point.

My bacon and eggs were perfect, and so was DWs house-made corned beef hash. I think we'll be back soon, and check out the lunch menu.


Bumps in the road...

Our cache today was along a strip of abandoned road down in the valley. A stream runs along one side, and a row of cottonwood trees, with surface roots that have pushed up the roadway. I can see why the city gave up on maintaining this road, and chose to let nature take over.

Because of my recent run-in with autumn leaves hiding cracks in the sidewalk, I took this walk very carefully. It was like walking on a mini-roller coaster: up and down, up and down.

The reward for this bumpy walk turned out to be easy to find: a beautiful pine cone container that definitely didn't belong at the base of a cottonwood tree!


Ghost signs...

They are art, and history. A reason to stop and explore an old town, walking the streets and around the blocks, looking for more glimpses of signs that were painted decades before. Ghost signs are just one more reason why I love driving the back roads that connect the history of America.

Ellensburg, Washington

Creston, British Columbia

Near Twin Falls, Idaho

Waitsburg, Washington


Key barn...

A rainy day last March, exploring Key Peninsula
We got wet (really wet)
We found a bunch of geocaches
I found a barn

I don't know the history of this place, just that from the main highway, it looks like a gambrel barn with an old house, and a couple of other outbuildings. But from the side road, which skirts this inlet on Puget Sound, the barn is actually built out over the water, set on pilings.

The area was settled in the late 1890s, and a community called Home was settled nearby. Beach homes mainly, except for a utopian community of anarchists who made it their home around the turn of the 20th century. Working together, early Home families built a community of homes, stores, social halls, hotels, and schools, plus a telephone exchange, a post office, and a baseball grandstand.



One of the joys of the Christmas season is decorating the tree... especially with handmade ornaments.


Muted by frost...

We've been drowning in rain lately, rivers swollen with unexpected rainfall, and warm temperatures in the mountains melting the early snow. Most years, the rain and wind brings the leaves down all in a rush, to form a thick carpet on the ground.

That carpet of leaves met winter on this frosty morning.



My lace cap hydrangea has the most amazing color... periwinkle blue mixed with deep blue and purple, it almost glows in the light. It blooms early, and stays vibrant through fall. Once the cold comes, the blooms turn pink and gradually fade. And in mid-winter, they dry to papery thin splendour.

I love these blooms in all their stages, and also pressed between the pages of a book... picked fresh to decorate the house with their beautiful blue color... picked dry in late autumn, when they retain just a memory of summer's brilliant blue... picked in winter, already dry.

Which do you like?


Favorite barns...

There are a lot of places I like to go to photograph barns, but one of my favorites is the Enumclaw Plateau. There are dairy farms and horse farms, 100-year-old barns and modern barns, and plenty of old farmhouses.

On the east side of the county is a short road that begins and ends at the main county road that travels from north to south. At one end is one of my favorite farmhouses, painted in rich green with white trim, with a wonderful addition at one side.  It is smaller than my own old farmhouse, but this one has all the original trim and interior millwork and built-in cabinetry of a Craftsman house. And it has a barn.

At the other end of the road is one of my favorite barns, a small gable style with a side addition. It's rustic and charming, and has a new metal roof to protect it from the elements.

Both structures are equally well tended, and both are best photographed in winter, when the leaves are off the trees.

I never tire of taking this side road, or picturing myself living in the beautiful green farmhouse.

Sharing today on Tom's Barn Collective.


Counting the days...

My sister's Advent calendar hangs across three windows that overlook one of her perennial gardens.

Each envelope contains a "treasure" for her two granddaughters, and helps them count the days until Christmas.


In winter...

Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth,
for the touch of a friendly hand, and for a talk beside the fire:
it is the time for home.

... Edith Sitwell


Kittitas Valley homestead...

A couple of decades ago, my best friends moved from the wet side to central Washington, to enjoy retirement on the dry side. They traded the rain for nearly constant wind, lots of sunshine, and almost no traffic... which sounds like a pretty good trade-off.

A few years ago, they finally convinced an aging parent to join them, and found the perfect house for her. It's close (making those daily chores easier for my friends), and it's on an old homestead.

The original house is long gone, but the property has two aging barns (a broken gable-style barn, and a smaller saltbox-style barn), and a collection of other small buildings, including a cold room near the house, and a long shed with windows that became the chicken coop.

Before they started repairs on the larger barn, I spent a few hours photographing it. The timbers are sound, but the roof needs work. Half is protected by metal roofing, the other half has missing shakes.

The inside (like many old barns) was full of stuff abandoned by the former owner: stacks of lumber, moldy hay, broken bits of harness and equipment, lots of bits of rusted metal, a tangle of hot wire, and even a broken bamboo fly rod.

I loved spotting things that showed that draft horses once lived here... one side of the barn has huge stalls, complete with hay racks and mangers. The other side has a long manger for the cows, each with their own spot labeled with their name.

They spent weeks clearing it out, digging down to the bones of the barn. During the process, several people stopped by to see if they'd sell the barn wood siding.

Thankfully, they said no.

. . . . .

Linking up today on Tom's Barn Collective.


Giving thanks...

Cranberries, Brie, pecans, and rosemary, tucked into little pastry cups. My contribution to the family Thanksgiving this year (along with my favorite soy glazed Brussels sprouts, and a few bottles of wine).

Today was all about amazing food, sitting down at the table with my in-laws to share a meal, and spending hours of precious time with my second family.



The past few days, when I needed a break from quilting, I've been sorting through photographs from the past couple of years. My photo library has gotten way too big, and it's time to let go. I take a lot of photos while we travel, reminders of the countryside and structures we see on our road trips, which I refer to while writing my journal. Most of them were never meant to be saved, but I'm not good about going back and deleting these "temporary" photographs.

In 2013, we spent a couple of weeks house-sitting for friends who live on Puget Sound. Every morning I'd get up early and go for a walk on the beach with their dog, Brody. I'd take my camera along and photograph whatever caught my eye.

This particular morning, there was an algae bloom. Beautiful swirls of red and orange and green, floating offshore. The gentle waves would flow right through the colors, moving steadily toward shore but not breaking up the patterns.

Sometimes those "temporary" photos end up finding a permanent home in my Photoshop library.



We don't see coyotes all that often anymore. Spotting one was almost a daily occurrence when we first moved to our little farm, but I think their pattern has changed. I know mine has... not as much time spent outside, walking the fences, tending to the horses, feeding and bucking hay and spending time in the big shed.

But I do sometimes spot one in late fall, when there are still apples in the orchard and the nights are getting cold.


Cabin rules...

On a lake above Hood Canal, in the shadow of the Olympics, our little cabin can be a magical place in the winter. And a very cold place. It is really a three-season cabin, and winter isn't one of the three.

A couple of weeks ago we spent a few nights there, taking care of a few chores before shutting off the water for the winter. To keep warm, we kept a fire going in the wood stove, and slept under a thick down quilt (and an electric blanket). We had oatmeal for breakfast, and for dinner we ate pizza from a local shop and drank good red wine.

It rained, and when the temperatures dropped into the 30's, I hoped for snow, but it wasn't to be. Not yet. But when it snows here, there's plenty of snow for a snowman. We have the perfect sledding hill, a canister of hot chocolate above the stove, and plenty of firewood.

Most of all, we have peace and quiet here in the woods, and I love being here.


Precious time...

French yogurt and pumpkin rolls, wine tasting and lunch in town, and watching the crews hang lights in the town of Leavenworth. Some of our favorite winter activities with good friends... still waiting for that blanket of snow.