First Blush of Fall

first blush of fall maple leaves

The first blush of fall has tinged the maple leaves. It is getting cold enough at night for the leaves to start changing. The morning sun rays filtering through the towering cottonwoods are starting to show hints of yellow and orange among the leaves.

first blush of maple leaves
cottonwoods in late September
Japanese snowbell berries

Back when we lived in Seattle, I loved the Japanese Snowbell (Styrax Japonicus) trees that were in our old neighborhood. So they were among the first trees I planted when we moved here in 2005. As lovely as their spring flowers are, so are their fall berries. They look like miniature Christmas tree ornaments.

The Japanese word for them, エゴノキ – ego-no-ki (ego tree), is not so flowery. The first part, ego, comes from the fact that when you put the berries in your mouth, they are very エグい – egui, sometimes pronounced egoi, which means acrid or astringent. So, as beautiful as the berries are, don’t try and eat them. Their skin contains a type of saponin, which can be poisonous. The trees may never have caught on in this part of the world if their English name was Acrid Tree. Someone decided to call them Snowbells instead. But who? Certainly someone who enjoyed seeing the first blush of fall.

The technical name for these berries are drupes, which are “indehiscent fruits in which an outer fleshy part surrounds a single shell of hardened endocarp with a seed inside.” And indehiscent fruits are those which don’t split open as they mature the way dehiscent fruits do.

So could you say that someone who doesn’t reveal themselves is indehiscent as in:

Martha never could tell what her indehiscent child was thinking.

Perhaps not. Few like to read prose or poetry where you have to keep looking up words in a dictionary to figure out what the author meant. Certainly not anyone who enjoys the first blush of fall.

pond in late September

Posted in Reflections | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A Perfect Fall Day

september blue

Skies don’t get bluer than this. Today was a perfect day to pick grapes. Six years ago I planted 15 grape vines, varieties of grapes that ripen this far north. Lynden Blue, Venus, and Canadice from the lovely folks at Cloud Mountain Farm Center & Nursery. Six years later the vines are heavy with fruit. For years we should have a bounty of grapes to enjoy each fall.

basket of grapes
grape bunch

I’m happy. The chickens are ecstatic. All the grape bunches on the vine show how generous nature is. A grape vine doesn’t need to make thousands of seeds to reproduce, but it does.


grapes in the kitchen
milo plant

During the summer, a few grains of milo fell out of the chicken scratch and sprouted at the corner of a garage door. When they first sprouted I thought they were corn. But they become something quite different. A few seeds have turned into thousands. This may be worth growing.

milo grain head
ducks feeding on grass

Posted in How Things Grow, Reflections | Leave a comment

Blue Sky to Rain to Shaggy Parasol

blue skies

Yesterday, the skies over Chuckanut were cobalt blue. Today the rain has been falling since morning. The path through the woods is dripping wet. Which got me to thinking, that about this time last year I discovered treasure in the woods behind the cabin.

rainy woods

I tried keeping diaries when I was young. But I found I dreaded reading them later. I’d read a passage where I poured my heart out a year ago and wonder, what was I thinking? What if someone finds this drivel? Who we are changes as often as the weather. I haven’t kept a diary in years. But I do take pictures. 49,654 photos are in my photo library as of a few minutes ago. If I need to recall what was happening on a certain day in the past, I can look at photos from that day or nearby to remind me. I don’t need to read embarrassing passages about how I was feeling at the time.

last year's shaggy parasol

Last year on this very day, September 26, I discovered where shaggy parasol grow among the cedars behind the cabin. We haven’t had as much rain this September as last year, so I had low expectations when I visited the spot where the shaggy parasol grow.

baby shaggy parasol

There were no big shaggy parasol waiting today. Just the start of a baby, I think. With the steady rain of this week, we should be feasting on plump shaggy parasols soon.

Posted in Reflections | 1 Comment

Six Short Weeks

ducklings at tank six short weeks after hatching

Six short weeks is all it takes for a duck to grow. It’s hard to believe that the “ducklings” at the edge of the tank were but little puffs paddling with their mother in mid August. I miss their whistles and chirps. They have full throated quacks now.

Until I had ducks, I had no idea how loud ducks can be. They aren’t as loud as parrots, but not far behind.

ducklings in august - in six short weeks they will be almost grown
ducklings with mother

In late September, the ducklings are nearly as large as their mother. Ducklings are so cute, but if you want to enjoy them, you have to stop what you are doing. Otherwise by the time you pause to enjoy them, they will be grown.

So if you plan on raising ducks, scratch out plenty of free days during the first few weeks after they hatch. You’ll only have a short time to enjoy the wee things. They grow so fast you can practically see them growing with your bare eyes.

mint blossoms

Mint is one of the last flowers to keep blooming well into fall. Their delicate flowers fed many a bee through the summer months.

The apples are ripe. There is a special juiciness to apples still on the tree. Pluck one and eat it right away. That special fresh-off-the-tree taste goes quickly.

ripe apples on the tree
young rooster in the feed

I was filling the feed bins today. While I went to fetch another sack of scratch, one of the Bielevelder roosters decided to go for the mother lode. Why bother with a feeder when you can have the whole bin to yourself?

Posted in Reflections | 5 Comments

317 Days for a Miracle

miso in crock 11.13.2019

It takes 317 days for a miracle to happen. November 13, 2019, I put up a crock of miso with barley added to the soybeans, a first for me. 317 days is plenty of time to forget. It came to my mind this week that hey, I’ve got to try that barley miso I put up last year.

miso after 317 days

This morning I went looking for it. I didn’t find it where I thought I’d set it aside. Instead, I found an empty crock in that cupboard. I looked all through the house and garage. I went back to where I was sure I’d placed it, and found it hiding behind the empty crock.

miso in crock 9/23/2020
miso transformation after 317 days

Removing the stone I used for a weight, and the plate I used for the lid, the dark, transformed miso is so warm and inviting. Opening up a crock of miso you put up and seeing the miraculous transformation is so much more fun than buying a tub of miso in the store.

miso in a bowl

The barley miso is slightly sweet and so delicious. It is definitely worth doing again.

Calling it a miracle is maybe not the right word. Dictionaries define miracle as being supernatural. I cringe when I hear reporters use the word when a little investigation would reveal a rational explanation for what they say is miraculous. After a tornado destroys a town, they’ll say it is a miracle that so and so survived when their neighbor did not. But what are they saying? That it is a miracle that the neighbor died?

Aspergillus oryzae, koji fungi, doing their thing over many months is hardly supernatural. As far as the fungi are concerned, I can hear them saying, “What do you expect to happen? Of course we’ll turn that mash of soybeans, barley, and us into something delectable. Just give us 317 days.”

It’s still wondrous. It still fills my heart with joy. It still tastes so good.

Posted in Reflections | Tagged | 5 Comments

We Can Breathe Again

blue skies

We can breathe again. Over the weekend cold fronts rolled through off the Pacific and pushed our smoke out of the valley. Gentle rains washed the air. Just in time for a satisfying equinox. With more rain in the forecast, we should be over with smokey skies this year.

grapes on the vine
grapes in a bowl

The grapes are ripe. Every day until they are gone I can pick a bowl and give the chickens a treat. Chickens love fruit. A bowl of grapes makes for a happy day for them.

chickens eating grapes
nashi

Posted in About My Chickens, Reflections | Leave a comment

You Can’t Help But Be Sad

Before-after image of chuckanuts in smoke

There are no words to describe the sadness we feel. Smoke fills the skies and the lungs of all. On the 11th, the Chuckanut Mountains were smothered with smoke. Usually verdant, forested slopes above green fields, shrouded by a ghastly, choking veil. The smoke lingers today. It’s difficult to be outdoors.

We drove down to Vancouver, Washington, yesterday for a wedding. To drive for hours and hours through smoke leaves you numb. Rains to clear the skies and wash away our sorrows can’t come soon enough. The fires are burning a long way from us, but for how long? With each passing year they get closer and more intense. I wonder how long we have until we are incinerated too.

smokey skies
smokey skies
Smokey skies

Posted in Reflections | Leave a comment

Duck Serenity

duck serenity

It never occurred to me that I would find serenity watching ducks. Meditation exercises ask you to sit calmly, close your eyes, and clear your mind of thoughts. Watching ducks swimming, especially if they are caring for ducklings, is just as effective for clearing your mind of thoughts. Dare I call it Duck Serenity?

four ducklings
foxgloves

This morning’s thick fog is almost gone. All summer we have enjoyed the bluest of skies. The past few days, smoke from the fires in California has seeped into the skies. It’s not the acrid smoke we’ve had in summers past. The smoke is high aloft. Not something we can smell. The skies are still blue, only a muted blue.

Pema Chödrön in her Start Where You Are writes:

We already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement. All these trips that we lay on ourselves – the heavy-duty fearing that we’re bad and hoping that we’re good, the identities that we so dearly cling to, the rage, the jealousy and the addictions of all kinds – never touch our basic wealth. They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun. But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of an eye away from being fully awake.

Watching ducks care for ducklings has a way of snapping you out of your delusions. Of awakening you. Of opening your heart. Of clearing your mind of all those cobwebs. Of letting you start afresh.

Therapists charge anywhere from $60 to $400 and up for a session. That buys a lot of duck feed. Spending time with swimming ducks may leave you more content and peaceful and less penniless than blabbing away for an hour with a therapist. Duck serenity comes at a much lower cost.

Friday Creek Road flower stand

Along Friday Creek Road, a flower stand popped up this summer. I bicycle past it whenever I go get coffee beans. The garden next to the flower stand is a paradise of flowers. An hour long bicycle ride also works wonders and clears your mind too.

grapes ripeningblackberries

Posted in Reflections | 2 Comments

August is Coming to an End

four ducklings

The four ducklings are growing fast. Ducklings often make a whistling sound. They’ll whistle when they are afraid or excited. They come whistling for breakfast.

garden snake
freshly baked bread
ripening apple
white plump
sweet annie

The sweet annie is up and getting ready to bloom. This plant has such a lovely scent, every part of it. It’s a sweet, soft mix of clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, and other spices. The leaves are delicate and dance in the slightest of breezes.

sweet annie
Artemisia annua phenolics

The chart above is from Artemisia annua Wikipedia entry. It lists the phenolics discovered in this fragrant herb. One of them, Rhamnetin, is an O-methylated flavonol that can be isolated from cloves. It’s like this one plant is a drug store all of its own.

Posted in Reflections | 5 Comments

It’s Easier with Another

blue august sky

Three days ago the sky was a cobalt blue with wispy clouds. Today’s sky is definitely fall like. Thick, grey clouds accompanied with gusty winds. Summer is coming to an end.




The two hens who decided to join forces and raise a brood together are fun to watch. Every hen raises her chicks slightly differently. But this is the first time I’ve had two hens pair up from the get go. When they were sitting on the clutch they were on top of each other.

Each day they go out together with their chicks, who happily float from one mother to the other. The two hens are never far apart. At night they squeeze into the same nest with all the little ones tucked underneath them.


They could be the start of a movement among hens. Why do it alone? It’s easier raising a brood with another.

Posted in About My Chickens, Reflections | 2 Comments

Hottest Day of the Year

morning light in the cottonwoods

The forecast yesterday was for a hot day. 87ºF (30.6ºC). This morning the forecast changed to a high of 84ºF (28.9ºC). Our first day this summer above 80ºF. It felt warm from the first step this morning. The sun was already burning the top leaves of the cottonwoods. We topped out at 82ºF (27.8ºC). Tomorrow and beyond, we are back to cooler weather. A heat wave that lasts one day, that’s fine with me.

Blackberries ripening are a sure sign that it is August.

black berries
marjoram blossoms
daisies and marjoram

It’s a great day to relax and enjoy the colors of this time of year.

mint flowers
hollyhock blossoms
two mother hens

And what to make of these two? Here they are tonight, each coddling more than ten chicks underneath their feathers. They sat on the same clutch of eggs. Often on top of each other. I ordered baby chicks because they only had a few eggs and I needed to get more pullets. The baby chicks arrived Wednesday morning. I set them under both of them. I’m not sure how they determine which chick is going with which mother when they all wake up each morning, but they’ve got it figured out.

I’m afraid what the bill will be for all the therapists the chicks will require when they grow up. “I never could figure out who my mother was,” I can hear the chickens tell their therapist.

Posted in About My Chickens, Reflections | Leave a comment

Morning Surprise

Kaku with ducklings

Will she or won’t she hatch those ducklings? That was what I was wondering about Kaku. She’d been sitting on a second clutch of eggs for a long time. This morning I had my answer. She was swimming in the tank with three ducklings. Only, these weren’t day old ducklings. They were at least a week old. She’d managed to keep the secret for some time. Later I saw there were four ducklings, one circling the tank below, looking for her.

potatoes from one plant

It’s always a joy digging up a potato plant. From one little 80 gram potato planted not that many months ago, 1.38 kilos of potatoes, 3 pounds of potatoes. That’s a 17 fold increase in just three months.

1381 grams of potatoes
cat mint flowers

Late summer and the cat mint is in full bloom. The mornings have been cool enough to have the heat on a bit to take the chill off. I’m never ready for fall this time of year. I want August to go on much longer. But seeing the fall colors always changes my mind.

cat mint flowers

Posted in About My Chickens | Leave a comment

After the Rains


Recent rains interrupted our August sun, but it is back. The chickens are happy. Very happy.



The end of June chicks are over a month old. They no longer panic when they can’t see their mother. They can take a nap in the sunshine when they tire. They love to huddle.


And they are forever curious. Watching them run around chasing bugs, darting this way, that way, it’s a great way to spend a lazy summer day.


I forgot to pick up the coffee beans I ordered yesterday. Maybe it was the unexpected rain. The hint of fall in the air. I remembered this morning while grinding coffee that I forgot to pick the beans up yesterday afternoon. This afternoon was a better day to bike along Friday Creek to get coffee beans from Gilda. Visiting her coffee hut to get freshly roasted beans is always a joy.

Posted in About My Chickens | Leave a comment

An August Morning

sprinkler on lawn

August morning, the season for sprinklers. The soft szz szz szz szz sound they make as the spin is soothing. It’s comforting working in the garden and listening to the sprinklers in the background.

spider web in lawn

Morning dew reveals the spider webs in the lawn. They appear as thick clouds, shrouding the lawn. I suppose morning time, when the webs are so visible, is not a productive time for the spiders. Any creature is sure to see their snare and stay clear. If I were a spider, I’d sleep in until the sun dried my web, and I felt a juicy bug wriggle my web.

spider web in lawn
spider web in lawn
ducks on morning pond
dead bee on daisy

The dead bee I found on the daisy is still lying in state. Nothing has disturbed it during the night. How many others passed during the night to mourn her passing? How long will she wait in state until a breeze takes her to her grave, or raindrops wash her body away? She may slip quietly onto the ground, covered by dust by summer’s end, each year a little more dust collecting on top of her, until millions of years pass, and one day a paleontologist uncovers her fossilized body. Maybe I should wrap her body in parchment, write a note for that paleontologist, letting them know she died on a daisy in August. That certainly would shock the paleontologist, to uncover a fossil with a note.

Posted in Reflections | Leave a comment

August Evening


The pond in August makes the perfect dining room. The conversation turns to what the ducks on the other side of the pond are doing. Needing to wear long sleeved shirts in August is a luxury. We’ve yet to reach 80º this summer on Bow Hill. There are no 80º days in the forecast so maybe this summer we won’t get that warm. Then again there is still all of August to go.



Things are always different when you look closely at them. From a distance, this cluster of daisies look serene.


Yet one of the daisies is the final resting place for this bee. It’s short life is over. When a worker bee dies far from the hive, is it even missed? I’m sure no search party is sent out to look for it. The buzz at the hive goes on.


Nearby, two other worker bees are working into the evening, gathering pollen and nectar to take bake to their hive. Maybe they’ll tell the others at the hive that worker 721893 won’t be coming home.


It’s bedtime for the chicks. They are big enough now that they don’t need the warmth of their mother. They couldn’t possibly fit underneath her anyway. Soon they’ll be roosting and on their own.

Posted in Reflections | Leave a comment

When You Are Insane

shears-cutting-grass

When you are insane, you get the idea that cutting the lawn by hand with trimming shears is a great idea. If you’re sane, it’s not something that crosses your mind. But the grass around the tofu cabin has turned into tall grass. It’s more a wild meadow than a lawn, a fact my husband keeps reminding me. But the chickens like the tall grass. And the tall grass looks like it would be great nesting material if cut nicely and dried.

ruby-investigating-shears

Ruby is curious what I am doing. Often if I am out by the tofu cabin, half the flock comes out to investigate what I am up to. But it’s only Ruby who spends the afternoon with me, seeing what the crazy one is doing.

ruby-looking-for-bugs

For her it’s an opportunity to find things to eat in the cut grass. Most of the time when chickens are pecking at things in the grass, it’s impossible to see what they find. Tiny beetles, mites, spiders, ants, basically anything that moves is what they eat.

windrow-of-grass

A lawnmower would turn the tall grass into pulpy mulch. The sharp shears cut the grass clean and make it easy to rake into lovely windrows. In less time than you imagine, I have a fluffy windrow of cut grass. This should make great nesting material for the hens.

There is a thick, soft blanket of moss at the bottom of the grass. I’m sure it will feel lovely against a hen’s tush. The robins (Turdus migratorius) sure love it. They’ve carted sheets of moss off to make thick, plushy nests. There is a doctoral thesis waiting to be written: “Impact of nesting material on the survivability of robin chicks.”

Speaking of things doctoral, remembering the scientific names for animals and plants can be difficult. But the scientific name for robins, Turdus migratorius, sticks easily. Think “migrating turds” and you’ll recall Turdus migratorius in a flash.

windrow-of-grass

Another windrow. These will dry nicely in the sunny summer days. I just need to figure out a dry place to store them before the rains return this fall. But when you’re insane, the possibilities are endless.

Posted in Reflections | Leave a comment

Summer Is Here

shungiku

It feels like the first real weekend of summer. I slept in too late to try and see the comet, Neowise. At 10 last night it was still too light to see it. I should set an alarm for two in the morning on a clear night so I can see it. A patch of shungiku, Chrysanthemum greens, is perfect for picking. This is probably my favorite green to eat.

shungiku on cutting board
magentaspreen

Magentaspreen are up in force. An onion in bloom with it’s little cap is proof that summer has arrived.

onion flower

primary ballot
And I had a chuckle when I opened up the primary ballot that came in the mail a few days ago. There are 36 candidates running to be governor. How many hours is it going to take to research all those candidates? It’s something to think about while I putz about in the garden.

Posted in Reflections | Leave a comment

It Blooms, It Dies

blooming bamboo grove

I’ve seen bamboo my whole life, but this is the first time I’ve seen a grove bloom. The grove of bamboo next to the cabin is blooming. The leaves are drying and falling. Bamboo can go decades before blooming, but once it blooms, the whole grove dies. A bamboo grove really is just one plant, each year sending new shoots up new roots.

bamboo blossom

The flowers are small and plain, like most grass flowers. I’m curious what the seeds will look like. Will they be grain like? Something I could turn into flour and bake into bread?

artichoke

Summer has finally arrived. Each morning blue skies await when I wake up. The long rains of June and early July ruined the cherries this year. They were small and many split. But the plum trees are full of fruit. So are the apple trees.

hollyhock
white plums

Posted in About My Chickens | 2 Comments

A Cool Start to Summer

Chuckanut Drive on a summer day

Summer seemed to have started this weekend. I’ve got pictures to prove it. Summer here usually doesn’t get going until after the 4th of July. Sunday morning, the views on Chuckanut Drive were as summery as possible. The dogwood in the woods is in full bloom. Thimble berries are ripening. The hydrangea buds are opening.

dogwood in bloom
ripe thimble berry

Thankfully, thimble berries don’t ripen all at once. It’s a strategy to entice seed spreaders and gardeners to come back often to graze, and to wait to trim their overgrown branches. What gardener in their right mind is going to trim a thimble berry dangling bunches of yet to ripen berries?

hydrangea in bloom
Garden snake
two garden snakes

Frequent sightings of garden snakes prove that it is indeed summer, though today’s cloudy skies and chilly air, and a forecast for more cool days to follow, make me doubt it.

forecast

Posted in Reflections | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Reflections | Leave a comment