Green in Winter

Even after a week of hard freezes, when the ground did not thaw during the day, the Shungiku 春菊 are bright green and growing. I had no idea they were such a hardy winter vegetable. I nearly ripped out the bed of Shungiku at the end of the growing season, but now I’m glad I didn’t.

A tiny buttercup is in bloom. The daily deep freezes didn’t stop it. Rain and warmer weather has moved back in. It is still too cold for a bee to come visiting the flower.

The woods are in their winter hues. On sunny days, the trunks and branches glow. We’re not the only noticing that many trees are suffering from the hotter, drier summers. The problem is such that Washington State University (WSU) Extension Forestry will be holding a seminar on Wednesday about the issue:

“Dead and dying trees have proliferated throughout Skagit County and the rest of Western Washington,” a WSU news release states. “This year trees were particularly hard-hit, especially western red cedars, causing concern for many property owners.”
Learn what makes forests healthy or unhealthy and how to recognize when there’s a problem on your property. Topics include insects, diseases, and drought, including their environmental roles and the important interactions between them. Learn about what property owners should do (and not do) to increase tree resilience and mitigate impacts. The seminar will be taught by Kevin Zobrist, associate professor of forestry at WSU and author of the book Native Trees of Western Washington.
Admission is free, and no confirmation necessary.
The seminar will be held Wednesday, December 12th from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. at the Mount Vernon City Library, 315 Snoqualmie St, Mount Vernon, WA 98273.

It is sobering to know that I am among the last generation to enjoy the lush, green, Pacific Northwest. Today’s children will grow up to a much different Pacific Northwest. They won’t be able to hike in the Cascades and feel the cold, refreshing air blowing off the glaciers. There may be no salmon swimming upstream to spawn. By then the oceans will be too warm for salmon to survive.

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Ice Etches Magic

You’d hardly know how frosty it is in the morning from the cherry blossoms in full bloom. Clear, frosty December mornings are a delight. What marvelous works of art has the ice etched last night?

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Trees Never Die

The tree that crashed onto the path is now a border for the path.

Trees never die. On the forest floor they become a home for countless creatures, spiders, worms, fungi, and more. Slowly, slowly, slowly, the logs transform into a myriad of life forms.

A fog bank is just out of reach. It feathers the woods on the other side of the pasture. Here, a bright winter sun makes the dew sparkle, and encourages the chickens to stroll under the apple trees.

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Why You Stay out of the Woods on a Windy Day

This is why you stay out of the woods on a windy day. You could be strolling down a quiet path in the woods. One second you are upright, breathing, alive, the next second you are dead, your skull and back broken beyond repair by one angry, fallen tree.

This is not my doing. I did not stuff three hens into a nest just to take a picture. These three biddies did it all by themselves.

I think the ducks would laugh their heads off if they saw what the chickens did.

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The First Day of Spring Already

It’s Thursday, a quiet morning baking bread, making tofu, packing eggs, and heading out to deliver them. Late November and it feels like a spring day. The warm, mild sun makes me believe that we just had the briefest winter on record and this is the first day of spring.

On the way to Mount Vernon I have to stop to enjoy a flock of swans having breakfast in a field. Swans are a good reason not to rush. Around here you have to allow extra time when going places as you often have to stop to enjoy the beauty of it all.

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Don’t Do in Seconds What You Can Spend Months Doing

The mushrooms are happy about the soaking fall rains. Humans would never think to turn the process of decomposing wood into something so wondrous. Our approach would be dousing wood in caustic chemicals to get rid of it in nanoseconds, and on to the next problem with even more haste. Nature’s solution is to create many things of beauty very slowly. Dead wood? Nature’s answer: Tens of thousands of fungi in a dazzling array of shapes, sizes, colors, and smells to decompose dead wood. Why accomplish something in seconds when you can take months and years and do it most beautifully?

Or use the most delicate of mosses to slowly, softly, quietly eat away the wood; mosses with the most delicate of flowers.

Gilda pauses to check if I come bearing gifts or am empty handed.

Happy is always ready to accept a handful of steamed rice. I caught him flirting with a hen the other day. With luck, some day he will rule the roost.

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Tree Trunks and Hot Coals

The woods have turned to their winter colors. This time of year you can see all the trunks of the trees. If you are into counting trees, now is your time.

It’s the season when there is a fire burning all the time in the wood stove. Joy is opening the wood stove door in the morning and seeing a pile of hot coals.

The chickens and ducks enjoy anytime the sun comes out this time of year. The chickens, particularly, are not fond of the rain. The ducks, the more rain the merrier. For them, rain of forty days and forty nights, floods to the horizon, is their wildest fantasy.

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