Witch Hazel

Witch hazel in bloom
Witch hazel in bloom

The witch hazel is blooming. One of the first flowers of the season to spread its petals. Its spicy fragrance takes me to distant spice bazaars. So what pollinates these delicate flowers at the end of winter? The bees and wasps are still fast asleep. Whatever it is, it is an insect that braves the cold. Though with such an enticing fragrance, if I was a bug, I’d stir out of my winter hibernation to fly into the petals. It is a fragrance worth dying for.

Spring - Frost bitten sweet daphne

The sweet daphne didn’t fare as well as the witch-hazel. Much of the plant is frost bitten. However it is far from dead. Underneath the sad, leaves, shoots are sprouting. An early bloomer, come mid to late February, its heady scent will fill the air.

Spring - sweet daphne buds
Bamboo knocked over by heavy snow

The heavy snow this winter was too much for the bamboo too. Many lay flat on the ground. Some stems snapped. I won’t need to cut any bamboo for poles this year. I’ll get plenty of bamboo poles just cleaning up all the fallen ones.

Spring hens by the pond

The chickens are ready for spring. The more bugs the better. Pickings are slim this time of year. But once it warms up, the ground will be swarming with scurrying things to nab.

After the Rains

After the rain the chickens are out by the pond

After the rains, the chickens are out scratching through the dry ferns by the pond. More than a month after the winter solstice, the sun is much stronger. Though not strong enough to burn away the fog bank that floats above us day after day.

After the rains - chicken in camouflage

After the rains, it’s easy to miss the chickens when they are out in the woods. They blend in well. It’s the soft, rustling sound they make as they scratch through the dried leaves that tells you where they are.

But they are wary. So a predator has to be very, very quiet to get one. Luckily for me, it’s been a while since I’ve lost one. What am I saying? Luckily for me? No, luckily for the chickens. We humans have a tendency to make everything about us.

After the rains, fallen trees and branches litter the forest flor

After the rains, the winds, the heavy snows, fallen trees and branches litter the forest floor. The chickens came through the winter unscathed. The trees not. Many toppled over. Others lost limbs and branches. They block paths. Cover bridges. The effects of this winter will linger long into spring and summer. But that’s nature. Chaos. Bedlam. Death and renewal.

From a distance, wild areas look so calm and peaceful. Sit at a viewpoint and look out over the valley, mountains, sea, and islands. It’s all so harmonious and beautiful. But look closely and nature is a mess. With no one to clean it all up!

The closer you look, the more ghastly nature becomes. Under a microscope, each drop of water is a constant war zone. Bacteria gobbling up each other. Nematodes cannibalizing each other. Micro organisms armed to the teeth racing to eat before they are eaten. It’s the stuff of nightmares.

Still, after the rains, even though it’s foggy, it’s nice to dry out.

Will they fly?

Cloud over Lummi island

“Will they fly?” I was thinking that this morning when I looked out and saw the bright sunshine.

This morning started out very spring like. Is it still winter? Is it over? Will he have nothing but spring weather from here on out?

Lummi Island sure had a thick cloud cap this morning when I went on my delivery route. At many angles, the islands off the coast just look like mountains not far away.

Will they fly - ducks feeding

A few days ago when I went out in the morning and counted the ducks, there were 9 ducks, not the expected 8. Swimming among the domesticated ducks was a Mallard.

He’s been with the flock of ducks ever since, swimming with them, and coming up onto the bank to feed too. We‘ve even caught him cavorting with the hens.

Will they fly - Mallard duck

Which makes me wonder, if the hens hatch ducklings and he is their father, will the ducklings fly away when they grow up? He is smaller than the other ducks and since he flew in, I’m sure he can fly away easily. But what about the cross between him and the domestic ducks? What will they be like?

Arctic Vacation


The last week of 2021 seems like an Arctic vacation. Snow started falling Christmas Eve. The cold that followed drove morning lows down to 7ºF, -14ºC. We haven’t seen such cold weather or so much snow in years.


The pump in the pond kept it from freezing over. Which gave the ducks a safe place to swim about. If the pond freezes over, a hungry coyote or raccoon could get to them easily.




Under a blue sky the cherry tree looks like it is in full bloom.


The dogs love the snow. It’s been so cold that the snow is powdery soft. Shoveling it off the driveway is a breeze. I can’t go running in this snow so spending an hour or two shoveling snow is a relaxing alternative.


I dreaded the forecast of the deep snow and subfreezing days. Daffodils had started to shoot. I was sure the deep freeze would destroy them. But buried under a foot of snow, I think they may survive. The week has seemed like a vacation to the far north without the hassles of snaking through security lines at airports or worrying about canceled flights. The coming warmer days and rain will soon make this week a fond memory.

Poor Planning


A big surprise yesterday was finding daffodil shoots. It’s only December and they are already sprouting. One even shows a flower bud. All I can say is this was poor planning on the part of the daffodils. The forecast is for icy cold Canadian air to come pouring down the Fraser River Canyon and encase us in snow and ice for a week.

The forecast on the weather app I use on my phone changes by the hour. Earlier this morning it was light rain after midnight tonight followed by snow at 4 am, then rain again at 6, and snow at 10 am. Now it is snow at midnight, mostly clouding at 4 am, light snow at 6 am, snow at 8 am, and mostly cloudy at 8 pm. Whatever happens, it sounds like a good day to stay home.

The daffodils give me a glimmer of hope that they know something the weather forecasters don’t. But if the snow starts piling up, my plan is to cover the daffodil shoots in a thick blanket of snow so they survive the cold spell.


The chickens aren’t making any special precautions for the upcoming arctic blast. They blissfully leave it up to me to make sure their water doesn’t freeze and give them something they can eat when the ground freezes as hard as glass.


There needs to be a word that describes bare trees lit up by winter suns when the skies are dark and gloomy. The phenomenon doesn’t last long. When it does it’s like the trees are awake, yelling and screaming. Sun enflamed winter woods? Sun gilded bare trees? Sun sticks?

Solstice 2021

snow flapping her wings

The solstice this year happened at a convenient time for me, 7:59 a.m., pretty much at sunrise. It’s odd that such a momentous event happens so quietly. You can sit as still as you want, but you can’t feel the earth so much as shiver when it passes that line in its orbit when everything changes.

For me, it’s the beginning of a new year. The days will get longer now. Spring is coming. Snow is happy. I’d love to get inside a duck’s head. Are they really as happy as they seem? I’m sure there is some profound wisdom they could share. The secret to happiness perhaps?

willow at sunset in winter

The low sun at winter illuminates the bare trees with gold this time of year. Though the Bald Eagle at the top of the fir tree next to the cottonwoods has me concerned. Bald Eagles often perch there, eying the ducks, watching the chickens.

cottonwoods in winter at sunset
Mount Baker on December 20, 2021

Yesterday Mount Baker was iridescent. Each time I go to Anacortes to deliver tofu to the Anacortes Food Co-op, I check to see how Mount Baker is. Often it’s hidden by the clouds. But when the sun is out and the sky is cobalt blue, it is there, radiating peace.

soybeans soaking

I’ve been making tofu for twenty years or more. And yet these last few weeks seem like I’ve just learned how to make it. Maybe I’ll feel that way ten years from now. “Oh, back in 2021, I had no idea what I was doing.” You would think that after decades of making something so simple, that there would be nothing more to learn, but there always is. One is forever just learning how to do things you’ve been doing your whole life.

new block of tofu
frost-on-grass

It’s the time of year to enjoy these frosty mornings. They won’t last forever. One day I’ll wake up and there’ll be no more frost, just the warmth of spring, and I’ll have to wait half a year or more to see blades of grass brushed with frost.

There is a forecast of snow for Christmas Day, two to five inches. Though yesterday’s forecast of more snow on Monday of seven to ten inches is gone. Just another inch or two on Sunday and cold, below freezing, sunny days for Monday and Tuesday.

frost-on-leaves

First Snow


The first snow of the season fell Thursday morning. For an hour big, wet flakes drifted down. They were comforting to watch as I made tofu that morning.



By early afternoon, the snow around our place was gone save for a few bits here and there. But just a few miles north the countryside stayed white all day.


If you need to check if you are still alive or not, walk barefoot in the snow. You’ll know you are very much alive if you do that.


The swans have settled into a winter of steady grazing. The nice thing about being a swan is that you can go just about anywhere you want without people becoming upset. “Private property – keep out” signs mean nothing to a swan.

Peak Bleakness


This certainly is the season of peak bleakness here. It’s dark when I get up. Dark before supper. The leaves have all fallen, leaving a forest of standing skeletons. The sun rarely breaks through the clouds these days.

But what about the owls who come out at night? Is this the happiest time of the year for them? So many more hours of hunting for them. At the end of June are they despondent at the long days, wondering if darkness will ever return? Do they have rituals they perform to their gods to bring back the night? Maybe that is what all their hooting is about in the summertime.



All the rain and wet is no problem for the ducks. This is a happy time of the year for them too. Though when it comes to ducks on a pond, when are they not happy? I’ve noticed that ducks are somewhat nocturnal. They must have good night vision. They are often active at night.

In fourteen days, on Tuesday, December 21, 2021 at 7:59 am Pacific Standard Time, 6:59 am Pacific Day Light Savings Time, right about when I am having my morning coffee, it all changes and the light begins to return.

In ancient times, many wondered if spring would return. People danced, they prayed, they burnt offerings, hoping that the gods would take away the darkness. We don’t worry about those things anymore. We can count down to the millisecond when the earth passes that spot in its orbit around the sun where the days in the northern hemisphere start to lengthen. It will happen no matter what we do, gods or no gods. There is nothing for us to do but relax and enjoy that millisecond.

Clouds on Fire


Every so often a sunset comes along that makes you stop what you are doing. This evening was such a sunset.


The clouds over the Chuckanuts were on fire when I went to the Post Office this evening.



I pulled off the road three times to take it all in. And by the time I arrived at the Post Office the show was over. The sun dipped behind the horizon and extinguished the fires in the clouds.

Dark, dark, dark


The cottonwoods have turned. As colorful as they are, standing tall against the sky, they aren’t an honest depiction of what this season is like. To convey this season, I should post pictures of near total darkness. It’s dark in the morning. It’s dark by late afternoon. It’s dark most days with heavy clouds obscuring the mountains and the sun.



One last Dahlia adds some brightness. Each day is darker than the day before, but in just five and a half weeks the days will start to lengthen. We humans can’t help but have at least one toe in the future. The swans are back, foraging in the fields. They just arrived, but are some of them already planning their trips back north? Are some counting the days until they can go home?


Snow is back on the foothills. On cloudy days, it’s impossible to see how low or how high up the hills the snow is. But when the clouds part, it’s easy to picture foxes playing in fresh snow high up on the foothills.