Cloud Day

On Sunday the morning clouds were magical, feathery shapes. You wonder what it would feel like if these clouds would brush against you. They appear softer than silk. Yet, they are mostly ice crystals, so the sensation may be startling.

On days like these, you want to drop everything, lie down on the grass, and watch the clouds all day. Employers let workers take off sick days and personal days. Maybe they should add Cloud Days for those days when the clouds are special.

Over the last few decades, Japan has added a number of national holidays to encourage workers to take more time off and to give the tourist industry a boost. Instead of conjuring up holidays commemorating historical figures, in 1996 came Ocean Day in July, in 2005 came Green Day at the end of April, and in 2016 came Mountain Day celebrated in August. The good thing about celebrating the ocean, forests and plants, and mountains, is that no one is going to accuse any of those things as having misbehaved.

Cloud Day certainly is a prime candidate for a national holiday. Life on earth would not be possible as we know it without clouds. Celebrate the things that make life possible.

Other candidates for national holidays would be River Day, Bird Day, Fish Day, Flower Day, Star Day, Rock Day, Sun Day, Moon Day, and Shooting Star Day.

By late afternoon, the clouds morphed into shimmering scales. And at dusk all that remained of the clouds were thin strands flowing like streams to the north east. All in all a very rich Cloud Day.

Most of my life I’ve been lucky to live in places where clouds entertain nearly every day of the year. I’ve spent some years in places where days and days go by without a single cloud in the sky. My heart goes out to those who must endure cloudless days on end.

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Summer Cool

fresh eggs

We are back to summer cool, chilly, refreshing mornings and sunny, warm afternoons. What we are powerless to stop are the forest fires raging on the other side of the mountains. Each day the ocean breezes keep the smoke on the other side of the Cascades is a blessing.

Into this soft, cool summer, two ducklings appeared in the garden. I’m still not sure which of the two garden ducks hatched them. Without a drake in the garden, I placed, what I thought were three fertile eggs underneath the gray hen, and just one underneath the black one. But the two ducklings which popped out, are sticking with the black duck.

Nature is mysterious. And the ducks aren’t talking to me to tell me what happened.

There are new chicks too. Caroline decided to go broody just a few days ago. For weeks, Maureen was sitting on eggs. But at the last minute, Caroline decided to brood with Maureen, just in time for the chicks to hatch. And now the two are co-parenting a brood of chicks.

Every season I see hens come up with new ways of raising broods. It’s no wonder species diverge and new ones arise. There are frameworks creatures tend to follow, but there are always those trying out new things.

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First Potatoes

First potatoes, the first potatoes of many. The nice thing about growing your own potatoes is that you can pull them out of the soil without pulling the whole potato plant out of the ground. All it takes is digging gently with a few fingers until you find a decent size potato. Pull it out and let the potato plant keep producing more potatoes through the season. These two made for a wonderful summer lunch.

Nothing compares to potatoes fresh out of the ground. Their skins are so delicate you have to handle them carefully or your fingers will rub the skins off.

Fragrant lilies are opening too. These lilies were a gift from friends so it is a pleasant surprise to see them open for the first time.

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Cool Again

It is cool again. The heat has passed. Cool air from the Pacific has pushed the heat to the east. We were lucky. The hottest it got here was 90ºF (32ºC) on Monday, the first time it was gotten that hot in the 16 years we have lived here.

Initially the forecast was for much hotter temperatures, but we are close enough to the bay that afternoon sea breezes tempered our heat. Short distances to the east, temperatures soared.

But what will it be like ten years from now, twenty? Will we look back to 2021 and long for summers when it only got to 90º?

Snow and the other hens are sitting on eggs. The last time I looked, Snow had five eggs. Five ducklings I can handle. However, Duchess, is sitting on 12 eggs. Grey Queen must also be on a nest, but where? And how many eggs?

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Cool to Hot

A cool, foggy morning belies what is about to come. In the 16 years we have lived here, it has never been 90ºF, 32ºC. But Sunday and Monday, the forecast is for temperatures high above that. It is just for two days, but a harbinger of hotter summers that will transform the cool, gentle climate we love.

The ducks are blissfully unaware of the upcoming heat wave. They do have plenty of water to paddle about on a hot day.

I discovered Snow’s nest this morning. It’s positioned precariously at the drop off into the pond. It wouldn’t take much for an egg or two to roll out of the nest and into the pond. I stole a few eggs for breakfast. Until she decides it is time to roost, I’ll sneak a few off from time to time. I don’t mind her hatching a few ducklings, but not twenty or so.

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Do It Differently

We don’t have just a handful of flower types. We have an endless variety of flower types. The grass flower above is other worldly. Researches estimate the origin of grasses to roughly 77 million years ago. So how many million years ago did this marvelous flower take shape? No doubt this splendid flower has been blooming long before we humans appeared.

It is the height of garlic scape season. Maybe the best time of the year. Though, really, what time of the year isn’t great?

A surprise in the garden was finding a glob of regurgitated salmon berry. The nearest salmon berry is so far away, the only way this little blob of salmon berry could have landed in this spot in the garden is if a micro meteorite hit a salmon berry at just the right angle to send a bit of berry flying over the fence and into the garden. Could happen. 37,000-78,000 tons of meteorite mass fall onto the earth every year. It’s not impossible for a tiny grain of this 78,000 tons of matter to strike a salmon berry nearby and send it airborne.

Though most likely a bird regurgitated it. Perhaps a robin hopped into the garden after nibbling a salmon berry and spit out the blob to make room for a fat worm it saw.

This season of endless flowers is a gentle reminder that there are a million ways to bloom.

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Twilight’s soft light embues a peony with grace. The pond is quiet save for the last songs the birds sing. It is the season of birdsong and bee buzz. Early mornings there are so many birds singing I wonder how they find each other. The warm afternoons buzz with so many bees, I’m surprised I don’t see them colliding midair.

Fading light highlights the truth that the distinctions we make between this and that are just illusions, tricks our minds play on us. There is no this and that, us and them. Matter flows continuously. There are no boundaries. Everything is one.

The soft hues of thimbleberry flowers are even softer at twilight. And the fragrance of wisteria blossoms effuses the soft evening air. How many millions of light years would a soul need to travel through the universe to find another planet where the evening air is as fragrant as the evening air I get to enjoy just a few steps from my front door?

“The world will never starve for want of wonders; but only for want of wonder.” G. K. Chesterton

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Bees Buzz

bee on flower

May’s warmth has brought out the bees. The garden is buzzing with them. I discovered a colony of digger bees while weeding a bed of Iris. Their colonies are underground. One of them reminded me, not so gently, that this was their territory.

ruby streaks

Ruby streaks are my kind of vegetable. Let them go to seed and next year they will form a thick bed of salad greens. The way they grow makes me wonder if sowing seeds thickly in the fall might be the better way to plant a vegetable garden.

chickens on the path

Damselflies are darting about again. The only continent without damselflies is Antarctica. They have been around for 250 million years. May they carry on for another 250 million years.

Japanese iris
lily flower buds
potato buds

Some of the potatoes are already sending out flower buds. This looks like it will be a good year for potatoes. I may have planted more than we can possibly eat, but why not?


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May, Month of Big Skies

May is big sky month. The clouds are more summer like. The sky cobalt blue. The vivid green of new growth sets off the every changing sky scenery.

Salmonberries wave in May’s gentle breezes. Another month from now their tart red berries will make my face wrinkle when I eat them.

Nature reminds me constantly that everything is eaten by something. In my hunt for where the ducks on the pond are laying their eggs, yesterday I uncovered new nests with a few eggs. And in thick growth I found a mother lode. Twelve eggs in a single nest, only all the eggs had been eaten. My worry about waking up one morning and finding several hundred ducklings in the pond evaporated. Some lucky creature is much better than I am at finding the ducks’ hidden nests.

Last night, on my last venture outside to check on the chickens before going to bed, I looked up and saw the path of a jet on its way west across the Pacific. From here, the Far East is really the Far West. Though if you think about it, no matter where you are, every place else is west of you, just as it is east of you. Or are you supposed to imagine that everything is west of you until you get to the point halfway around the world, and everything west of that is east of you? Something to ponder when I go hunting for more duck nests around the pond.

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A Spring Phenomenon

I enjoy May’s blue skies and puffy clouds. They make working in the garden so enjoyable.

Every year we witness this phenomenon. A windy day sends the cherry blossoms flying off the cherry trees by the pond. The blossoms cover the pond, making it look like it has frozen over. I suppose if I was a fairy prince, I could walk across the pond on these cherry blossoms.

There are many spots in the woods to pause and relax. Especially this time of year with the new growth and blooms. The fiddle ferns are taller than I am now. At the tip of their long stems, they unfold their tightly curled hands.

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Why Aren’t Blueberry Flowers Blue?

Blueberry flower

Why are blueberry flowers white? Shouldn’t they be bright blue? Then again, cherry flowers and apple flowers aren’t red either.

Apple blossom
Duck nest

After much searching, I found the nest of the garden ducks. Duck nests are hard to find because the ducks cover them when they leave. With the garden ducks, there are just so many places they can hide a nest. However the ducks at the pond have acres to hide their nests.

The previous nest I found of the garden ducks had over twenty eggs. So did this one. Which means that around the pond, with five duck hens, there could easily be a hundred to several hundred eggs waiting for the duck hens to start brooding. The race is on to find the nests before a hundred or more ducklings hatch.

Six ducks at the pond are fine. A hundred or more? I shudder thinking about it.

Duck nest uncovered
Duck eggs gathered

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One Bloom to the Next

Last week’s brilliant white cloud of cherry trees is now a carpet of faded petals and stems. Soon to be swept up and forgotten.

The kale that over-wintered is in bloom. Over-wintered kale is a treat. Deep freezes sweeten the leaves. To keep its leaves alive, kale floods them with sugars to keep them from freezing.

Are the ducks impressed at all with the first potato shoots poking out of the earth? I doubt it. They are more enthralled with all the earthworms they can find in a weeded vegetable bed.

It is rhubarb season. It’s impossible to be sad when there is fresh rhubarb to pick.

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Bird Song

It is the season of bird song. Before dawn breaks birds sing out from all directions. Therapists would probably be out of a job if everyone could step outside in the morning, close their eyes, and listen to the birds sing for even ten minutes. Problems? Worries? The birds sing them all away.

It’s baby chick season. Each day another hen seems to go broody.

It’s new maple leaf season.

It’s pear blossom season.

It’s “who-needs-a-therapist?” season. There’s too much to enjoy to have any worries.

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The Last Freeze

On a frosty morning, it’s hard to say, “This is the last frost.” And such was the case on Monday, April 12. It was 30ºF, -1ºC. But I feel safe to proclaim that April 12 was the last freeze of this season. It’s almost summer like today, and freezing mornings have moved far north with the swans and snow geese.

Hearing Canada geese at the pond yesterday was a surprise. They are loud. The pair did not stay long. The ducks weren’t bothered by the much larger birds. The Canada geese were just as loud on their way out, honking as they flew overhead.

Seeing wood ducks waddle across the driveway early in the morning a few days ago was a surprise too. They were after the scratch the birds drop from the bird feeders. The wood ducks were by this morning too. Which means they may have a nest in a tree stump nearby.

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Surprises Every Day

plum tree in bloom

A surprise this morning when I went out to the cabin to make tofu was seeing the fruiting plum trees in full bloom. Last year the plums produced a bounty of sweet plums. Hopefully they will this year too.

skunk cabbage in bloom
old bird’s nest

An old nest from last year remains in a young alder by the pond. Soon it will be hidden by new leaves. I’ve walked by this tree all winter and never noticed the nest. Or have I seen it before and forgot about it. Perhaps that is the joy of going senile. You can be surprised by the same thing over and over again. Will some bird use the nest again? It will be interesting to see.

white chicken on the roam
hens laying eggs

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Cherry Blossom Blizzard

Each year, the blooming cherry puts on a different show. Some years the tree is a cloud of white flowers. Other years the rains knock so many blossoms off, it looks bedraggled. This year it is blooming with a thick carpet of blossoms on the ground below it. A blustery day last week sent a blizzard of flowers falling to the ground. The deep snow underneath the tree is too beautiful to walk on.

With today’s sunshine and tomorrow’s forecast for a sunny day, the tree should be at its peak tomorrow.

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Trivial Events Lead to the Spectacular

snow geese heading north

A series of trivial events put me on Bow Hill Road at the spot at 4:12 p.m. this afternoon where a large flock of Snow Geese crossed overhead on their way north. First, I forgot to take some mail with me when I made deliveries this morning. So I had to bicycle down to the post office in the afternoon.

I would have passed by the spot earlier and missed the Snow Geese, but the tires on my bicycle were low, so I had to pump air into them.

snow geese heading north

A few other forgettable events delayed me a minute here, a minute there. But not so much that I didn’t have the time to stop when I heard the Snow Geese approaching. The Bow Post Office closes at 4:30 p.m. However, I was within minutes of the post office, so I had the time to stop and enjoy the sight of the Snow Geese leaving. Was this their final flight out of the Skagit Valley? I don’t know. But in the direction they were flying, there’s no flat land to land until the other side of the Chuckanuts.

snow geese heading north

The peculiar thing about Snow Geese is the meandering threads they form in the sky when they fly. They don’t make the perfect V formations of Canada Geese. They fly in such numbers that their meandering lines can stretch for miles.

And I would have missed the spectacle if I had remembered to take the mail with me this morning.

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Frosty Cherry Blossoms

Sunday’s blustery winds knocked cherry blossoms off the tree. Yesterday morning, frost dusted the blossoms. Frost is not the first thing that comes to mind when I picture cherry blossoms.

A few more sunny days and the cherry blossoms will be in full bloom.

I saw a bee flying about the cherry blossoms. Where is it spending these frigid nights?

The first of the salmon berries are in bloom. So are plenty of skunk cabbage. They’d look lovely in a vase, in your house, though the stench would soon drive you out of your house.

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All Shapes and Sizes

The problem with buying graded eggs is that you’ll never run across an egg like this in the supermarket. The trick would be to breed a variety of chickens that consistently lays double yolk eggs like this.

This morning, flocks of swans, flying north, flew overhead. I could hear them coming, honking out of sight, until the burst into view. During the winter months when they are in the valley, they usually fly about in small groups of two to five or seven. And they’re usually in a single line. But when they take to the skies for a long haul, that’s when they fly in V formation.

I keep hoping they’ll fly by on their way north, to say one last, “Goodbye.” Today they did.

Though if I were a swan and I saw that the cherry trees were about to bloom, I’d hang around a few days to enjoy them.

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What It Looks Like on the Other Side

This is what it looks like on the other side. On the other side of what? On the other side of the year where nights are longer than days. This far north, we are now on the side of the year where days are longer than nights.

There are other ways to divide the year into two. You have the time of the year when the days are getting longer and the time of the year when the nights are getting longer. These methods divide the year into equal halves.

Here in the Skagit Valley you could also divide the year into the time when there are swans, and the time when there are no swans. There are just a few swans here and there. Soon we will be in the time of year when there are no swans. But all is not hopeless, weeping and gnashing of teeth, sackcloth and ashes. We may be slipping into the time of year when there are no swans flying around, but as it is the time of year when the days are longer than the nights, joy and happiness abounds.

A more extreme division of the year is the time of year when there are cherry buds and blossoms, and the time of year when there are not. If I could pick the time of year, no the day I die, it would be a day of blue skies, puffy clouds, and cherry trees in full bloom. Wheel me out underneath a blooming cherry tree on a sunny day and let that be the last thing I see, the fragrance of cherry blossoms the last thing I breathe, the buzzing of bees in the cherry blossoms the last thing I hear.

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