The Rains Have Brought Them Back

So how many pies can I make out of these pumpkins? Few garden plants are as exuberant as pumpkins. World domination is on their minds as they spread their vines and huge leaves. Seemingly out of nowhere, bright yellow, huge pumpkins appear under their thick leaves.

Yesterday, I noticed that the forest floor had an abundance of mushrooms. Not surprising considering the moist, cool weather we’ve had lately. But as I looked at the variety of mushrooms sprouting everywhere, I had to check under the cedar trees where two falls ago, I found a bounty of shaggy parasol mushrooms. Last year there were none.

But this year, they are back. Lots of them. For a week or two, we’ll feast on them. I may even try drying some. I read that if you dry them and let them age, they taste even better.

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Was It Just a Dream?

The bluest skies are after the storm. The first fall storm blew through last week, knocking down trees, blowing leaves about, and knocking out power to many. The morning after, it was like nothing had happened. “What? Me angry? When?” the sky taunted. The skies were so blue, the clouds so puffy, it almost made you wonder if the storm was just a dream.

A bright orange pumpkin is proof it is fall. How many pies could I make out of this one? The nashi 梨 are finally ripe. They’re also a sign that summer is gone.

Mynah may be my most distinctive hen. Black as night, she lays the largest eggs of all, light green olive ones.

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Grape Season = Happy Chickens

September is grape season here, so the chickens are grateful. One variety of grapes has small grapes with big seeds. There are other grapes with larger grapes and no seeds, so these seeded grapes are mostly for the chickens. Toss a basket of grapes and the chickens come running to feast on them.

The clouds this time of year are entertaining. Each day different types of clouds float by. These wispy ones from last week were captivating.

The mornings are brisk these days. Brisk enough to begin coloring the maple tree.

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Hidden Coral Reff

Early this morning, while the dew was still heavy, I found a bumble bee waking up on an artichoke flower, its wings wet with dew. When I find bees who’ve spent the night on a flower, I wonder if they arrived too late to go home the night before, or are they worn out and on their death beds, too worn out to make it home? I guess if I were a bee, I might prefer to rest my weary body on a comforting flower instead of struggling to make it back to the nest.

There’s a sadness to their short lives. I’m sure they don’t feel sad. Buzzing from flower to flower all day long is their joy.

A small spider has made a home on the same artichoke flower. It’s as colorful and dazzling a world as any tropical coral reef, only it’s just a few steps from the front door. It’d be fun living in a home made of soft, blue-purple rods that tower above you and through which you slither through.

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Artichoke Feast

Summer is coming to a soft ending. The days are already a mix of fall and summer. Some dahlias are putting out their last buds. Each day, more mimosa flowers fall to the ground.

As much as I enjoy eating a plump artichoke, bees go bonkers when they find an artichoke in bloom. Such big flowers can feed many bees at once. In the deep, thick artichoke blossoms, the bees burrow in to feast. Some are in so deep, you have to look hard to see them. They look like little pigs with wings.

I suppose when bees get back to a hive late, “I came across an artichoke flower,” excuses any tardiness. If you grow artichokes, let some bloom for the bees.

But not everything that blooms is happy time for a bee. A big spider lurks in this Shasta Daisy. How many bees are in its belly? Or will a bumblebee sting terminate this sneaky spider?

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The Sun is not Like a Friend

Our smokey skies did not linger long. For three days smoke choked the skies until fresh air from the Pacific pushed it away. We are back to August blue skies and filling our lungs with sweet air.

The sun is not like a friend who drops by and lingers, laughing and conversing without any regard for time. The sun is madly punctually, down to the nano second. Though, really, it’s the spinning earth that is refusing to give us any additional summer. It is going to stay on time, spinning around the sun, no matter what.

Summer is slipping away, bit by bit. Already the mornings feel more fall like that summery. This morning it is 47ºF – 8ºC. We’ve had a few very autumny rains, cool and refreshing. It’s no longer light at four in the morning. Dusk falls earlier each day.

It’s time to savor summer’s sweet fruits. Blackberries are coming on strong. Soon the grapes will be ripe, followed by the apples. Then summer will be gone for good.

The one thing good about the sun being so punctual is that we know when the sun will rise and set a thousand years from now. You can’t say that about any friend.

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Under a Martian Sky

Smoke flowed over the Cascades and into our lovely valley yesterday. This morning we woke up to dreaded Martian skies. Orange skies in August and September are becoming an unwelcome pattern. The forecast is for winds from the west to move the smoke back over the mountains again by the end of the weekend.

Pumpkin and squash flowers have plenty of room for multiple bees. Every flower has their own strategy to attract pollinators. Pumpkins must provide an all-you-can-eat buffet, as the bees spend a long time in each flower.

Like an alien spaceship, vine maple seeds appear to be poised, ready for takeoff. The right amount of air will provide the lift needed for their propellors to spin and take flight. Somewhere in the woods, there must be a little spider that knows when to climb onto these vine maple seeds to experience an exhilarating ride.

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Cool August Break

Cool, drizzly weather rolled through on Friday and Saturday. For a few days, summer turned to fall. Spiderwebs caught raindrops. The air was sweet with the smell of moist earth.

The kabocha vine wants to grow over the entire garden. Perhaps it’s time to pick one.

The two baby ducks are almost as large as their mothers. It takes no time for a duck to grow up. Another week and they will be all feathered out and nearly indistinguishable from the grownups.

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Peak Summer

The first red tomato ushers in peak summer. It’s been so long since I’ve had a warm, red tomato off the vine that I’ve forgotten how good they taste.

The bees are back in abundance. After the heat wave in July, the bees vanished for a week to ten days. But they swarm the blooming mint and other flowers again.

And this interesting shape is a developing hazelnut. Hazelnut’s swaddle their developing nuts in layers of protective leaves.

And it’s not peak summer with wonderful potatoes fresh out of the garden. They are so much better than store bought potatoes, I wonder how I endure the off season when I can’t eat potatoes fresh out of the warm earth.

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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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