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

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.