Each Flower Has Its Own Strategy

tiny blue flowers

We are well into summer, though we’ve yet to feel much warmth. It’s still chilly at night, and it’s only on sunny days that it feels warm.

ripe thimble berry

It’s been warm enough for at least one thimble berry to ripen. A few more weeks and we’ll be gorging on these delicate morsels.

pink poppy
Japanese stewartia flowers

Each flower has its own strategy to get a bee to pay a visit. Some flowers put out sprays of small flowers making bees flirt from flower to flower, spending a second at each.

bee in Japanese stewartia

I watched the bees on the Japanese Stewartia. The Stewartia strategy is to put on a feast and get the bees to spend a long time in each flower. How much more can that bee eat and gather? I wondered as I watched the bee bury deep into the heart of the Stewartia.

Japanese stewartia flowers on the ground

To love flowers is to have a broken heart. Most of them last for such a short time.

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Disaster Averted

hens on nest

The longest days of the year are here. It’s still light at 10 p.m. when I go out to put things away before bedtime. The summer solstice always comes too soon. Every day there are things to make me smile and laugh.

purple flower
snow preening

These days, I don’t get to see Snow but once every few days. Today has been three days since I’ve spotted her. Most of the time she’s on her nest, but where is it? I’ve looked all around the pond for it for several weeks.

I knew from the way she hissed and spread her tail feathers when I got too close to her that her nest was nearby.

snow preening
snow on way to nest

I got curious when I saw her head out across the grass.

snow in nest

And when I saw her sneak into the burn pile, I got my answer. She has her nest under the pile of brush we’ve been building. Two days ago I nearly set it ablaze. It was a good day to burn the brush. If I hadn’t seen her sneak into it this evening, we may have lit the pile in a few days. I’m so relieved I found out where her nest was before it was too late. Disaster averted indeed.

yellow flowers

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Cool, Wet June

forming apple

So far it’s been a cool, wet June. But that’s not unusual around here. Some call it Junuary. The forecast is for rain and showers for the next seven days. The bees don’t mind the mild temperatures. They swarm the cat mint and California lilac. Our cat goes bonkers if I weed around the cat mint. When I come inside, he rolls all over me in ecstasy.

I grew up with rainy Junes. Japan has a rainy season, the Plum Rains, 梅-plum 雨-rain, from early June into July. Though instead of being cool, gentle rains, they are hot and muggy, at times torrential rains, Rain pouring so loud, you couldn’t hear yourself think. The frogs love those rains. I remember being kept awake all night by the hot, muggy temperatures and tree frogs quacking up a storm all night long.

bees on cat mint flowers
bees on California lilac
Japanese iris

Each year the landscape changes. The sequoia we planted fifteen years ago is now a stately tree. It would be nice to see it five hundred, a thousand years from now, the tallest and thickest tree for miles around. Hopefully, no one will cut it down. I could put a plaque on it, “Cursed be the one who fells this tree.” That should work.

growing poppy
snowbell flower buds

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The End of May

The roosters and hens enjoy this spot in the woods. There is a fallen log for them to stand on and take in the surroundings.

The yellow iris in the stream are in bloom. The bees love them. It must be nice to have flowers be your source of food. May is oscillating between cool and warm, rainy and sunny. For the bees it is dashing from one flower to the next, all day long.

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Newer, Bigger, Better

new duck pond

Pond upgrade. It was time to upgrade the tank I had for the garden ducks. The 4.5 foot water tank I had for them was too small. I realized this after moving some of the ducks to our pond. Ducks love swimming, paddling, bobbing about on water.

Hauling back an eight foot tank on the truck was harrowing. I strapped it down securely. Still, I was terrified a gust of wind would send it flying and hitting vehicles behind me. I pictured myself spending years in prison for reckless endangerment. Possibly even manslaughter for the deaths the flying tank caused when it smashed into a windshield behind me. But I made it home in one piece.

It took half a day to empty the old tank, roll it out, dig a hole for the new tank, get it in place, add the ramps up to it, and fill it up.

ducks in new pond

But all the effort was worth it. You wouldn’t think going from 4.5 feet across to 8 feet across would make a difference, but area wise, the tank is three times the space as the old one.

Immediately, I noticed that the ducks swim differently in the larger tank. They are far more relaxed. They love the ramps and spend a lot of time on them preening their feathers after a good swim. The pond upgrade turned out better than I imagined.

bug bites

I’m sure whatever bug made these carvings in a rhododendron leave had no intention of creating a piece of art. But it did. It looks like a pair of dancing feet cut out of the side of leaf, or some new script. Given enough caterpillars and leaves, I suppose somehow, somewhere, caterpillars have carved out a lovely poem on the leaves of some tree.

rhododendron flower buds
rhododendron flowers

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Summer in May

Every year an ice shelf forms on one bank of the pond, an ice shelf of cherry blossoms. Wind blows the cherry blossom petals onto the pond and pushes them against one bank. It looks like an ice shelf to me.

This last weekend we had a taste of summer in May. The temperature soared into the upper 70s here. Two days of mid July lost their way and showed up early, a reminder that more days like these are not far away.

The white lilacs are perfuming the backyard. The slow growing madrona tree is putting out new leaves. The pace of growth among trees is so varied. Some aren’t content without growing many feet in a year. Others, like the madrona, are happy with adding just an inch or two.

What would people be like if we never stopped growing? Nursing homes would be enormous with thirty foot ceilings, twenty foot long beds. Imagine five and six feet tall people herding twenty foot tall giants with dementia into a dining room. The toilets would be so large you’d need a stepladder to clean them.

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Apple Blossoms and Magical Shoots

apple blossoms

Apple blossoms are so beautiful. It’s a good thing all the fruit trees don’t bloom at the same time. There would be too much beauty to take in all at once.

apple blossoms
apple blossoms
chickens gone wild

The chickens are having a riotous time with the new spring vegetation. For them, the grass can’t be too tall, the bushes too thick, or the bugs too many.

chickens gone wild
chickens gone wild
hen in the grass
rooster in the bushes
duck nest

The clever thing about a duck is that each day she adds more feathers to her nest to hide it and keep the eggs warm when she leaves to eat and gossip.

fava bean flowers

Few people imagine these gorgeous flowers when they are eating fava beans. It is just as well as the flowers would end up in vases and there would be no fava beans to be had.

sweet potato shoots

And what are these phantasmagorical shoots? They look magical. The next time you bite into a sweet potato, remember that this is how they start, as bewitching shoots.

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Where is Kaku 隠?

We only saw four of the ducks this morning on our way out this morning. I searched through the garden but there was no sign of Kaku 隠.

But this afternoon she showed up with the others, so I followed where she went and discovered where she’d made her nest, and why I couldn’t find any duck eggs recently. She’s been hiding them in the middle of some tall grass.

You can barely see her through the tall grass. The next mystery to solve is finding out how many eggs she is sitting on. The next time I see her off the nest, and I can probably lure her away with some treats, I can check.

A duck on a nest is not a duck you want to mess with. A chicken on a nest, well, she may peck at you and draw blood, but a duck on a nest, if you treasure your life, you’ll keep your social distance from her.

Weeding yesterday showed me how sorrel grows. You can see how it sends its roots out and every so often sends up a new plant. Sorrel is one of those vegetables you can plant one season and have it for life.

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How Does a Bee Pick a Flower?

The fruiting cherry trees are in full bloom, attracting bees by the hundreds. From late March into early May some cherry tree or another is in bloom. It takes thousands of flowers to feed all the bees. Watching them fly from one flower to another, it makes you wonder why they pick that cherry blossom and not the one next to it. What does a bee see or smell that makes it pick the flowers it visits?

Potato shoots are pushing up through the ground. These remarkable plants breathe in air and create delicious morsels to eat out of air, water, and minerals. If the potatoes are growing, not everything is kaput.

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Dog or Bear?

dog or bear?

Takuma 拓真 is enjoying spring from the window. Is he a dog or is he a bear?

Spring comes slowly in the Pacific Northwest. The alders began to show hints of green weeks ago. Their leaves are just starting to unfurl. With spring inching along, the changes from one day to the next barely perceptible, spring is a relaxed meditation.

ducks in the garden
first magnolia
fresh garlic

Fresh garlic is a wonder of early spring. If you don’t pull all your garlic out in the fall, you’ll get clumps of garlic which are great eaten fresh before they form bulbs.

fruiting cherry blossoms
hen on nest

The lovage is back up, something I celebrate each year. For a short time, it’s a treat to cook with.

yellow tulips
tulip and takuma the dog

This morning, after a string of sunny days, we had a gentle morning shower. Just a light sprinkle to freshen things up and leave the air sweet.

tulip in the morning

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What Sunshine and Warm Air Brings

The pear blossoms are opening. These are modest flowers compared to the showy cherry blossoms. Camellias are flowering too.

The forest floor is a carpet of green. The sunshine and warmth have stirred the bleeding hearts and trilliums awake. I saw the first trillium of the season today.

And this splash of yellow on a log. Wow! Mushroom yellow? For some reason this fungus wants to be seen by all.

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Where Everyone Gathers

plum blossoms

Spring is a riot of blossoms now. Plum trees and western skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanus) compete to see who can fill the air with the most aroma. You can imagine which has the more powerful fragrance. According to Dave’s Botanary “Lysichiton is from the Greek lysis (loosening) and chiton (cloak); as the fruit ripens the spathe is removed from the spadix.”

skunk cabbage
ducks in the garden

I got the last of the seed potatoes into the ground, the last that I have hanging around that is. I will need to get more. I’ve got a vague notion of growing at least a thousand pounds of potatoes this year. The ducks aren’t sure I can do it, but they will give me a lot of help with my digging. I think ducks enjoy mud more than pigs.

Where Everyone Gathers

The one place where the action is this time of year is the blooming cherry tree. It is where everyone gathers. Wasps, bees, flies, bumblebees, butterflies, and a zillion other little things with wings make it the busiest place in the garden. It would be easy to while away hours up in the blooming cherry tree, watching the constant flow of traffic.

Where Everyone Gathers

One thing I noticed is that bees prefer cherry blossoms that are in the sunshine. Does the nectar flow more when the blossoms are warmed by the sun? That’s my hypothesis as to why the bees seem to like the sunny blossoms more, and why the cherry tree is where everyone gathers when the sun comes out.

Where Everyone Gathers
Where Everyone Gathers

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Enjoy Them Today

Plump cherry blossom buds
Plump cherry blossom buds

Five days ago, the cherry blossoms were on the verge of opening. A few buds teased with slightly unfurled petals. Today, they are no longer teasing. Their petals are open wide, dancing in the spring breeze. I need to enjoy them today. Clouds and rain are forecast for tomorrow and the coming week. Sure, they are lovely underneath the clouds or in a shower, but not like they are up against a cobalt blue sky.

Cherry Blossoms 2020
Cherry Blossoms 2020
Cherry Blossoms 2020
Cherry Blossoms 2020

Such beauty calms the mind. There is plenty to worry about these days. It’s hard to believe that a virus, so small that 600 to 800 could line up on the width of a human hair, is powerful enough to bring societies around the world to their knees. A corona virus is 120 nanometers across. According to the National Nanotechnology Initiative a human hair is approximately 80,000- 100,000 nanometers wide. Something so minuscule is able to disrupt a human which is nearly two billion times as tall as it.

A corona virus may not be a living thing (Are Viruses Alive? – Scientific America), but it can still tell us the importance to enjoy them today, whatever them is. It’s also teaching us lessons on the need to pay attention to the tiniest of details, and the importance of having leaders who are truthful, pay attention to facts, and are concerned about the welfare of others.

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The Snow Geese Migration Is On

snow geese in a field

The snow geese migration has started. The snow geese that winter here are on the move. I passed a flock of thousands of them on the way home from delivering tofu. They are on their way to their summer home on Wrangle Island in Russia in the Arctic Ocean, 2,400 miles away. The island hosts some 450,000 snow geese during the summer. There they breed and raise the next generation of snow geese.

Next November, the snow geese migration will reverse course and we’ll welcome thousands of snow geese as they fly in from the north.

Russian biologist, Vasiliy Baranyuk has studied the snow geese of Wrangel Island in Russia for forty years. He has followed them to their wintering ground as far as Nebraska.

snow geese in a field

Looking at their route does make me wonder how often they stop to sight see on the way north. The lucky thing about snow geese parents is they don’t have to worry about their children begging to stop because they have to go to the bathroom. That gentle rain that falls when a huge flock of snow geese fly overhead? It’s snow geese young that can’t hold it any longer.

route of snow geese migration from Bow to Wrangle Island
frost on the grass

A frosty March morning leads to a great discovery. I knew the ducks had to be laying eggs, but where? Their secret is no longer a puzzle. I’ve discovered where they are laying their eggs. Ducks are clever about hiding their nests. Fortunately, they aren’t into a brooding mood yet. This would be far too many ducklings to handle.

duck eggs in a nest

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The World is Curvy

The Komatsuna 小松菜 survived the winter rather well. So well they are on the verge of blooming. With no other brassicas in bloom, I can let these bloom and go to seed.

The nettles are up, a sure sign that spring is well on its way.

The weather is warm enough to start planting. And this year I am saying good bye to straight rows. Instead of potatoes rows, I’ll have potato bends, cabbage circles, and corn waves. And no more stretches of the same thing over and over again, starting with this bend of German Butterball potatoes. I mixed in garlic and leeks among the potatoes.

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Little Known Connections – Japanese Curry and Vermont

House Vermont Curry and Folk Medicine cover

Growing up in Japan, I saw many advertisements for Vermont Curry by House Foods, one of the largest food manufacturers and brands in Japan. House Vermont Curry ads with their catchy tune were everywhere. I had a vague idea where Vermont was and thought they ate a lot of curry there.

Why Vermont? I don’t think there is such a thing as Vermont Curry in Vermont. According to Wikipedia Japan, House Vermont Curry was launched in 1963. It comes in three levels of spiciness, mild, medium, and hot. The medium variety of House Vermont Curry is the number 1 selling curry in Japan today, mild is #2, and hot is #6, so Japanese eat a lot of Vermont Curry to this day.

The History

Reading the Wikipedia history, House was working on a curry using apples and honey in the early 1960s. At the same time, Vermont therapy was the rage in Japan. Vermont therapy? In 1958, a fifth generation Vermonter, Dr. Deforrest Clinton Jarvis (1881-1966), published his “Folk Medicine: A Vermont Doctor’s Guide to Good Health”. He advocated doses of apple cider vinegar and honey three times daily “to prevent and/or cure many common illnesses including arthritis, rheumatism, asthma, high blood pressure and colds.”

His ideas reached Japan and became popular. House seized on the popularity of Vermont Therapy and slapped the name Vermont on their new curry. It is the most popular curry in Japan a half century later.

I’m sure Dr. Jarvis had no idea his book would lead to the development of the best selling curry in Japan. Vermont Curry sounds a lot better than Dr. Deforrest Clinton Jarvis Curry, which would have been a flop.

Hey, Bernie, here’s an idea

I doubt many in Vermont are aware of this. Maybe Bernie could start tossing out boxes of Vermont Curry at his rallies. People could really feel the Bern then. Some town in Vermont could start up a huge travel industry by picking a log house where the “original Vermont Curry” was made when an immigrant from India was holed up all winter in the cabin with a Mohican and a French Canadian, and the three of them developed a curry with apples and honey. Vermont could have direct flights from Japan with tourists lining up to taste this original Vermont Curry dish in three flavors: French Canadian Mild, Mohican Spicy, and Indian Flame Thrower.

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Hello Again

I flipped the calendar page from February to March and saw I had crocus last March. That stirred me to investigate if the crocus under the horse chestnut were up.

Up they are, loads of them.

Daffodils too. Every year I see new daffodils, and each year seeing the first ones open is as delightful as it was many years ago.

The rhubarb are popping up too. Here’s a good old friend, ever faithful, no matter how many times I eat it, spreading it’s new leaves, sending out thick stalks to feed me, though I doubt that is how rhubarb sees the situation. I’ve planted many rhubarb so no one rhubarb gets picked on by me too much.

Spring means it is time to thin out the bamboo. Fresh bamboo poles become poles to trellis beans. Little by little, my vegetable garden, shaggy from winter’s storms, will be tamed, though not too much. Nature prefers to be messy.

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Edison Chicken Parade 2020

The 2020 Edison Chicken Parade was yesterday, Sunday, February 23. The parade happens every year at noon on the last Sunday of February. Which means next year’s parade will be on February 28, 2021.

The parade this year was eight minutes long, so I recorded the whole thing, and you can watch it from start to finish on the video below!

Edison Chicken Parade Route

The parade starts at the south end of Cairns Court, the main street in Edison, WA. The parade proceeds north through the village. If you plan on going, arrive early. By 11:30 parking is hard to find and you may need to park a long way from the parade route. The best parking is at the elementary school on the east end of Edison. From there, it is a short walk to the parade route.

A great alternate is to bike into Edison, or go for breakfast at Tweets and stay for the Chicken Parade.

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Apple Aged

There is one apple left on the apple tree. After going through fall, a week of snow, freezing temperatures, rain and more rain, it’s still hanging on. Aged apple. When will it finally drop?

It looks like an asteroid that has traveled through many solar systems. I might look like that too if I spent all winter outdoors, unprotected from the elements.

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Swan Heaven

The first daffodil bud of spring gets taller and fatter each day. Someone forgot to turn off the hose a number of days ago. That was evident when I had to go down into the valley for some things today.

Many of the corn, wheat, potato, and vegetable fields were expansive lakes today. Roads through the fields turned into mile long causeways.

Hundreds of swans and thousands of ducks were in heaven today. For the swans it is much easier to float through a corn field than to waddle between the rows.

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