First Frost

frost in the grass and leaf

We had our first frost yesterday. A very light frost. Just enough to dust the grass and fallen leaves. The forecast is for a freeze this weekend, maybe enough to make the wet ground crunch when you walk on it.

frost in the grass and leaves
frost in the grass and maple leaf
foxglove in the woods
Chuckanut in the fal

Yesterday’s sunshine has turned into a cold, windy mist this morning. Winter is coming and so are the swans. I’ve already seen flocks of snow geese flying overhead. And heard them too. Once, late at night, flying invisibly through the night sky. It’s amazing that these birds make these epic journeys without carrying any baggage. If humans could take to the skies like birds, we’d be burdened down with bags strapped to our backs, dangling from our bellies, small packs filled with goods clinging to our legs and arms, and head braces holding our phones in front of our faces so we have something to see when we get bored by earth’s incredible beauty below us.

But snow greese and swans take flight with nothing. They arrive with nothing. But from their chatter and honking, they seem perfectly happy.

Too Wet to Burn

brilliant forrest

The woods are too wet to burn. You could pour gasoline on them and they wouldn’t catch fire. But let there be a sliver of a break in the clouds at sunset, and the whole forest is ablaze.

trees on fire
cottonwoods and dark clouds

Against the dark clouds, as thick and heavy as wet wool, the cottonwoods shine brightly. You can’t live in the Pacific Northwest if you don’t love clouds, appreciate infinite shades of gray and green, and don’t even notice that every time you go outside, you get wet. Umbrellas are more nuisance than help. Humans have waterproof skin. Hair dries. Let the mist cool your face. Let the rain dampen your hair.

cottonwoods in the evening sun

Eyes Wide Shut


The nice thing about going to the post office on a bicycle is that you travel slow enough to see new things.

sign close up

And see things that have always been there, in plain sight, but you’ve never seen before. It looks like the same ol’ same ol’ ditch I go by not far from home, but for some reason when I went by a few days ago, I saw something for the first time in the fifteen years I’ve been going by this ditch.


Sorrel. One bunch of sorrel after the other. Enough sorrel to make a thousand salads and soups. How did I not see this before? Someone didn’t come by this week and plant all this sorrel. From one seed many years ago, a sorrel took root in this ditch and spread. Maybe if I had gone by with my ears open too, I would have heard the sorrel calling, “We’re here! Down here! Look down here!”


The End of Flowers

white flowers

It is the end of flowers, or so it seems. The time of flowers is closing. Just a few remain.

spent hydrangeas mark the end of flowers

The lovely hydrangeas have gone to subtle leathery shades. By now a diligent gardener would have snipped them clean. “Cut them back and they’ll bloom better next year,” I’ve been admonished. But things dying have a gentle beauty of their own.

one last flower to mark the end of flowers

What is it like to be the last flower left?

one last petal

To be the last petal clinging? To know that you are all that keeps the end of flowers from happening?

fallen petals

To take one last gasp and float down to oblivion?

It takes 225 to 250 million years for the sun to make one orbit around the galaxy. 125 million years or so from now, earthlings peering through telescopes will be looking at the other side of the galaxy.

Traveling at the speed of light, it would take 100,000 years to reach the other side. Or you could stay put on earth and get there in 125 million years. Though, since everything else is swirling around too, can you really say you are on the other side?

That far in the future, will anyone be noticing the ending of another season of flowers? I like to think so, though what will humans even be 125 million years from now?


red maple tree

I didn’t realize today’s date was so special until I sat down to write this. 20 20 10 10. Strung together, 20201010, it almost looks like code. I wonder if someone in the year 1010, on October 10, wrote down 10101010, paused, looked at it, and had a fleeting thought about it being so binary.

Fall has deepened. The leaves are starting to pile up. Between the intermittent cloud breaks, the sky is a deep autumn blue.

fallen maple leaves
autumn blue
bird picked nashi

The birds have discovered the ripe Asian pears, 梨 (nashi). We’ve had so many I don’t mind. Is it the Stellar’s Jays, the Pileated Woodpeckers, or the Flickers that have found them? I’m guessing it is the Stellar’s Jays. And where did that name come from? From a German scientist, Georg Wilhelm Steller. Talk about a hard life. It took him ten years to reach Alaska. He didn’t even make it to the mainland. The boat he was on landed on Kayak Island off the coast of central Alaska. The captain wanted to stay just long enough to get water. Steller pleaded for more time to explore the island. The captain gave him 10 hours.

The crew was shipwrecked on their way back to Russia. They spent the winter on Bering Island where the captain died. They built a boat out of material salvaged from their wreck, and made their way back to Russia. But Georg Steller never made it back to his wife who stayed in St. Petersburg. On his way home he died of a fever at the age of only 37.

Talk about a sad, tragic tale. And I never would have known this if a Steller’s Jay hadn’t pecked at a ripe nashi by the garden making me wonder, where did that name come from?

What other names are there for these birds? The Chinook call them Iqesqes. In Lushootseed, one of the Salish languages of this area, they are called Kaykay.

ripe nashi

Come to think of it, each year a Pileated Woodpecker or two finishes off the apples. It’s been a few months since I’ve seen any.

There are still plenty of big, ripe nashi to eat. I culled 75% of them at the start of summer and it paid off. This October I have the biggest, sweetest nashi I’ve ever had. Next year I may cull even more. It does make me wonder if I cull all of them save for one, will that one nashi grow to be the size of a basketball?

juicy nashi
hat and seeds

I received this wonderful hat woven from Merino wool by a wonderful person wanting to exchange it for some miso. It will be a wonderful reminder of 20201010. She threw in some nira ニラ seeds in too. I’ll remember 20201010 and Georg Steller when I harvest them.

Am I Growing the Wrong Grapes?

ripe grapes

Am I growing the wrong grapes? Maybe. The grapes along the fence that are ripe are wonderful to eat. I’m enjoying them. And the chickens enjoy them as much as I do. I am surprised that birds aren’t devouring them.

300,000 yen grapes

But last night I had to take a picture of these grapes which were featured on NHK’s Good Morning, Japan. Two bunches of grapes called “Yamagata Shine Muscat” brought 300,000 yen ($2,800 USD) at auction. Which means that each individual grape cost approximately $28. These grapes won top prize at a produce competition in Yamagata. And it is the fourth year in a row that the top winning grapes at the competition auctioned for 300,000 yen.

300,000 yen grapes
maple on an october morning

It’s a lovely fall day here. Too nice to worry about trying to grow grapes that sell for thousands of dollars. The day started with no fog and blue skies. This will be a great day to be outdoors.

Fog and Less Fog

cottonwoods in the morning

The morning fog is clearing early today. The past days it has persisted all day. This time of year the sun is not strong enough to burn it away. A few days ago, the fog shrouded the cottonwoods.

cottonwoods in the fog
ducks in the morning

Each morning, hearing the ducks at the pond is a relief. So when I step outside, I wonder if they made it through the night. They are more exposed than the ducks in the garden. My desire for them to live as freely as possible conflicts with my wanting to keep them safe from harm.

They are most vulnerable when they wander into the woods, something they don’t do that often. Ducks love water. Most of the time they are either in the pond or on the bank, ready to swim away at the slightest sign of danger. The cruelest thing you can do to a duck is not give it water to swim in.

I saw a bobcat (Lynx rufus) the other day. But I didn’t recognize it at first. The animal snuck into the neighbor’s driveway. But I saw it for just a second, not long enough to know what it was. It was too small to be a deer. Not the right color either. And it clearly wasn’t a dog or a coyote either.

A few days later someone mentioned seeing a bobcat in our neighborhood. So that was what I saw. I saw one while bicycling some years ago, just up the road a bit. It calmly walked across the road in front of me. It climbed up a bank, turned around and watched me pedal by. I stopped to look at it. But it wasn’t the least bit concerned. Maybe it was sizing me up as a lunch possibility. And then it nonchalantly disappeared into the woods. I read that, “Its preference is for mammals weighing about 1.5 to 12.5 lbs.” So, that puts me off its menu.

dew puddle in a spider web

The fog has been so thick these days that puddles form in the spider webs. So what do spiders make of these puddles in their webs? It’s far too much water for them to drink. Do they call a spider plumber to drain their webs?

The benefit of fog is that is reveals how many spiders there are. Their webs are everywhere. Life must be terrifying for a flying insect. At every turn there is something that wants to eat you.

spider web in the fog
dewy spiderwebs
snowbell berry with spiderwebs