A Mind of Its Own

Each tree has a mind of its own. We have a pear tree whose leaves stay green all winter, and don’t fall off until the new leaves come out in the spring. This year we trimmed it way back, and its leaves are turning bright yellow and falling.

In the garden, the garlic shoots are appearing. They whiz past the tender mustard greens. The nice thing about greens this time of year is that they grow slowly. Each day you can walk the rows and see the subtle changes from day to day.

The stellar jays and pileated woodpeckers have made their mark on the apples. How many pecks can an apple take before it falls to the ground?

Plant a few kale plants, and you are guaranteed greens all winter long. The colder it gets, the sweeter they become.

Of Fanged-Things and Fallen Giants

Something was amiss last night. It was in the warm night air. Stepping out of the cabin where I make tofu, there was no November chill in the air. A warm night breeze wafted over the dark pond.

At dawn, the ducks went wild with their bath, diving deep, splashing, and flapping their wet wings with pure joy. Perhaps they thought winter was over.

With today’s bread order cooling, it was off to the cabin to label and pack up the tofu. A fanged thing greeted me on the door. A harvestmen was waiting for something to ambush. To be an insect must be to live in a nightmarish world of monsters. Imagine the tales children would have to tell if they had to sneak by monsters like this on their way to and from school. “Mommy, Bobby didn’t make it home today, the Fanged-Thing got him!” would be an oft heard phrase in such a world.

On the way to deliver bread and tofu, I see that a giant has fallen. The massive cottonwood in the parking lot of BowEdison Fine Food & Drink has met its demise. A crew of tree fellers has been working on it since yesterday, and now the giant is but a crumpled carcass on the ground.

All day the warm south winds have gusted. Huge clouds billow above the mountains. I see flocks of swans shooting by at jet speed, riding the howling winds. The day ends as warm as it started. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. It’s a far cry from a snowbound Seattle Thanksgiving of some thirty years ago when my husband came in our four-wheel drive Tercel to fetch me from the downtown office building where I worked. That evening, we passed bus after bus which was stuck in the knee-deep snow which blanked the hills of Seattle. This Thanksgiving will be nothing like that. This Thanksgiving will be more like Maui in the Pacific Northwest.

Time to Experiment

With no farmers markets to worry about, I have time to hone my bread baking, and experiment. What if I add more levain, or change the moisture content of the levain, or let the dough rest longer, or rise longer, or, or, or … there are as many variables to play with as I can imagine. This morning’s cumin loaf was pretty good.

Chuckanut Mountain looked like a volcano steaming ferociously, about to blow it’s top. Fortunately it’s not a volcano, just a mountain that clouds have a thing for.

At home, late afternoon sun rays turned an apple tree into a burning bush.

I’d gone out to rake more leaves for the garden beds. Though the leaves on the pond are out of reach.

It’s impossible to rake leaves without stirring the interest of the chickens. They have all day to inspect the leaves, but something about me raking them, makes them more interesting to the chickens. It may not be the leaves that pique their curiosity. They are probably wondering why I bother gathering them into big piles and cart them off in a wheelbarrow.


Snowgeese camouflage as clouds. Maybe that is one reason they gather in such huge flocks. On the ground they look like snow. When they take to the air, they look like a fog bank or clouds nestled against the mountains.

Among the golden ferns, the Buff Orpingtons are nearly invisible. Are they the color of golden ferns, or are the ferns the color of Buff Orpingtons?

What are the Silver-Laced Wyandottes camouflaged as? Winged Zebras?

What Passes for a Sunny Day in Mid-November

In mid-July a day isn’t a sunny one unless the sky is crystal clear at dawn and no clouds mar the cobalt sky all day. By mid-November, our standards for a sunny day have crumbled, and if we can spot any blue among the clouds, a sunny day it is. If we can step outside and not get wet walking to the gate, a sunny day it is. If we can bicycle to the post office and back without having to crawl into rain gear, a sunny day it is.

It’s a sunny day if rays of sunshine light up swan wings as they fly overhead. It’s a sunny day if the snowberries aren’t dripping raindrops.

For the ducks, rain or sun, it makes no difference. Any day that ends with a splashy swim is a sunny day.

Mystery is a Tiny Egg

Morning starts with a heavy frost, turning leaves to leather and wood to fine art.

Watching coffee roasting is a pleasing activity. Having a nearby friendly coffee roaster you can enjoy a pleasant conversation with while you pick up your coffee beans is precious. So is feeling how soft a bucket of warm chaff from roasted coffee is. Evidently it makes great mulch and bedding for worm bins, earthworms love it.

So is enjoying the sun setting over the San Juan Islands on the drive home. And so is coming home to find a tiny egg, the first egg from a young hen. Based on its size and color, it is a Turken egg. The mystery to solve is which of the six month old hens has started laying eggs.

Where Snow Belongs

Snow belongs up there, not down here. Saturday’s snow is but a memory. The sun has seen to that. The snow has retreated up into the hills and mountains where it belongs.

Mt. Baker can have as much snow as it wants.

And so can Lyman Hill. From now until spring, it’s a fine line where the snow ends, is it up there or down here?

Early First Snow

Waking up this morning came with a big surprise, snow. This is the earliest snowfall since we moved here twelve years ago. It snowed steadily all morning, before stopping, and melting away.

The chickens don’t let a little snow slow them down. It takes a blizzard to keep chickens from venturing outside.

All the Way from Umingmak Nuna

A carpet of fallen leaves greeted me when I went out to the cabin to make tofu this morning. “Whoa!” I said when I stepped through the gate and saw all the leaves, wheelbarrows and wheelbarrows of leaves for the garden. Yesterday’s bluster shook the trees. Leaves fell all day and night.

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In the cabin the gentle sound of soybeans soaking underneath a trickle of water is so soothing. The beans have come all the way from the other side of the Rocky Mountains to fatten in a cool stream. Maybe someone in Anacortes or down in the valley is feasting on fresh tofu tonight. I’ve adjusted my schedule so that I always have some on hand. If you need any, let me know.

Snow geese by the thousands greet me on my way home from delivering tofu. It’s just in the past two to three years that the flocks are spending a lot of time in the northern part of the Skagit Valley. At times they fly overhead. Unlike other geese and swans which fly in small V-shaped groups, snow geese take to the air en masse, forming ribbons of hundreds and thousands of birds, noisily flying overhead, ribbons that at times stretch for miles.

When you approach a field of snow geese, from a distance, they look like fields of white daffodils, or snow covered fields. And then you get closer and see that they are snow geese from here to the horizon. Their summer homes are in the far, far north, on the arctic sea coast, all the way to tip of Ellesmere Island, Umingmak Nuna, or land of the muskoxen, less than 500 miles from the North Pole. Just a few weeks ago these snow geese were on the tundra, looking down at muskoxen and caribou as they flew. Now they are here, watching cars go by, and flying over houses and freeways. Lucky snow geese, no passports to carry, no border crossings to worry about, just wings to flap and sail over all boundaries. If humans had wings, we never would have dreamed of creating border crossings, or fences, or walls. What would be the point?

On Golden Pond

Against a slate November sky, ceanothus blossoms wait in vain for bumblebees to come tickle their blue petals. Most of the bumblebees have passed away. The surviving bumblebee gynes have all gone to bed, burrowing into the ground to pass the winter months in peace, until they wake in the spring to bring bumblebees back into the world. Meanwhile, noisy Stellar Jays make frequent forays into the apple trees to peck at the few remaining fruit.

The first of November solves a mystery. Where are some of the hens laying their eggs now? At the end of last week the daily egg count dropped precipitously. I found their new nesting spot behind a bale of hay.

By late afternoon, the clouds break enough to bathe the pond in gold. The towering cottonwoods are at peak color. On days like this, when I make tofu, I should call it “Golden Tofu”.

My gardening companions always have plenty to say. They would prefer I spend all day in the garden. They wouldn’t mind me sleeping with them either. When they hear me come out of the house, they quack, “Hey, you, you’re coming to see us, aren’t you?”

Ducks are the comedians of the bird world. They seem to tell each other jokes and laugh all day. The world is a much better place than we can imagine. A handful of ducks will show you that.