It Lives

Building thunderstorms over the mountains.

Summer skies have returned to the Skagit Valley. It’s finally warm and dry enough to work in the garden.

Bee flying to buttercup.

The late spring warmth has the bees buzzing about. Speaking of bees, I’ve been reading and listening to Jacqueline Freeman’s Song of Increase. The book is about the life of bees. After keeping bees for many years, Jacqueline Freeman wrote down what she heard the bees tell her about their lives.

“Listening to the Wisdom of Honeybees for Kinder Beekeeping and a Better World,” is how she describes her book. “When the bees speak, I listen,” she says. Throughout the book she sprinkles sections where the bees speak for themselves, like this:

“We wake up to the understanding that we are all one, all the time. Human beings exist connected each to each, but believe that they are not. Honeybees dwell in the full realization of that connection and have done so for eons. The unity we embody is a reflection of the kingdom-wide Unity that dwells in us all.
This is the gift we bring: complete, sacred unity in body and spirit. To be in the presence of Spirit [God], to simply sit and be in such presence, offers the opportunity to be transformed by it. This we offer you. Come sit. Be with us. Drink in the Unity as you would fresh rain. We offer our gift with great joy and love!”

For a refreshing, different view of bee society get a copy of Jacqueline Freeman’s Song of Increase.

Bee on buttercup flower.
It lives. A green sprig sprouts on a dead California Lilac bush.

The harsh winter killed our grand California Lilac. So we were debating how to cut it down today when we noticed a green sprig sprouting on one of the main branches. It lives. We won’t chop it down yet.

A harsh winter followed by a long cool, wet spring has given way to summery days of delight.

Dirty Dogs, Duck Eggs, and Bullfrogs

Have you seen a dirtier dog? Talk about dirty dogs. Enna and Taku outdid themselves hunting rabbits in the woods. They caught two! One they brought back early and left at the gate. Perhaps they were hoping we would chop it up and fry it for them while they got more rabbits?

They came back hours later with another rabbit. The two dogs looked like they had died and gone to heaven. Enna and Taku love nothing more than chasing and catching rabbits. Wild rabbit is their favorite food. Fortunately a straw bed is the best cleaner for muddy dogs.

This is the first nest like place I’ve found of duck eggs this season. Most of the time the ducks are leaving their eggs scattered along the banks of the pond or in the grass. But this spot is too muddy, at least for me, maybe not for the ducks. So I couldn’t stop myself from spiffing it up with some straw.

So if at some point a duck decides to hatch ducklings, she’ll have a drier spot to sit. And the view from this nest isn’t bad. She can watch the swallows dart over the pond while she sits, and sits, and sits, and sits.

However, danger lurks nearby. Close to the nest is a favorite spot for bull frogs to sit in the afternoon sun. These invasive frogs can swallow baby ducklings whole. Now that I know where these large frogs like to whittle away the afternoons, I can catch them, or at least try. There are three that hang out in this spot. Maybe the dogs will prefer them to rabbits. Don’t they taste like chicken?

Cherry Blossom Snow, Witches and Goblins

Cherry blossom snow

Cherry blossom snow blankets the bank of the pond. And witches and goblins decide our future. We live in absurd times. But I suppose humans through the ages have always thought their time was particularly absurd.

I never thought I’d see the day when modern judges recite Medieval texts or the foreign judge, Mathew Hale, 1609-1676, from centuries ago who argued such blithering nonsense as the existence of laws against witches is proof that witches exist. Really? You’re going to base your argument on a judge from the 1600s who thought that? And yet our highest judges think these are perfectly reasonable reasons to back up their rulings. We might as well leave our fate up to goblins and such.

Purple flowers bloom against a wooden fence.

Spring is still cool with clouds, sprinkles, rain, and downpours nearly every day. So when the sun comes out I record it, just so I have proof that blue sky does exist and that somewhere a sun does shine.

Late spring rainbow
Sky with bits of blue

The apples are a riot of color. They can be as beautiful as cherry blossoms.

Apple blossoms

See how wet the leaves and petals are? Don’t let the dabbles of sunlight on them fool you. It’s not as warm as it looks.

Lilacs starting to bloom.

The lilacs are starting to bloom too. I could cover my face with their blossoms and inhale their sweet fragrance all day long. It would take my mind off the reality that our fate is up to judges who think highly of an English judge from the 1600s who executed witches and argued for chopping the heads off of 14 year olds. It makes me wonder what the war of independence was for if we’re bound to beliefs and superstitions of English judges from so long ago.

Skunk cabbage growing vigorously in the woods.

In the woods the skunk cabbage grow vigorously. I admire these robust plants which can produce such huge leaves out of the air they breathe and the minerals they quaff from the ground.

Large earthworm next to a hand.

And in the garden I find these large, translucent earthworms. It’s remarkable how such soft, fragile tubes slither through the soil. There are some 22,000 species of these creatures. Annelids is what they are called, from the Latin anellus which means “little ring.” You can make out the thin segments on the earthworm in the picture. If you want to take your mind off the absurdity that our highest judges have their minds muddled by Medieval thought, count the rings on this earthworm. This earthworm is large, but it is nothing compared to the meter long Giant Gippsland earthworm of Australia.

Warmth Arrives

Bee in cherry blossom

Warmth arrives and with it the bees. The Rainier cherry trees are in full bloom. This year warmth arrived in time for the bees to be buzzing when the Rainiers are in bloom.

Apple blossoms

Some of the apples are starting to bloom too.

Rosemary blossoms

As are some of the rosemary bushes.

Trillium blossom

The trilliums are opening their delicate flowers too. I’m very lucky to be able to step out of the house and stroll into the woods to see trillium blossoms dabbled with sun light. How many get to do that?

Potato sprout

And a sure sign that warmth has arrived are the first potato shoots poking out of the ground. If potatoes are sprouting, some things in this world are going right.

What Month Is It?

April clouds and snow in the mountains.

The calendar says it is April 20, but the snow falling in the foothills makes me wonder what month it is?

Blooming mustard.

Blooming mustard says it is May, but we saw a flock of snow geese yesterday so it can’t be that late. And then this morning, thick frost painted the grass.

Frosty grass in late april

And here I thought we were way past the last frosty morn. Even the tips of the tulips had tiny ice droplets on them.

Tulips with ice

So what month is it? Though I’ve seen tulips with heavy hats of snow on them. A fairy dusting of frost soon melts away.

Weeping cherry blossoms

Pink weeping cherry blossoms tell me that it is April, so the calendar isn’t misleading me when it says April is in its last third. These weeping cherry trees don’t weep in Japan. They are called “Drooping branch cherries” 枝垂れ桜 – 枝 branch 垂れ drooping 桜 cherry.

Billowing white clouds

And the billowing white clouds I saw yesterday say that May is just around the corner.

A Short Life to Celebrate

Single cherry blossom on frosty truck bed

Even in death a single cherry blossom is remarkably beautiful. Half or more of the cherry blossoms have fallen from the tree. The wind whipped them into a blizzard the other day, scattering them far. Underneath the tree, they form a river of white.

Fallen cherry blossoms form a river underneath the tree.

They are as lovely off the tree as they are on the tree. There is no wind today. No clouds. No rain. There will be no blizzard of cherry blossoms on this quiet, cloudless, morning. A perfect day to hold a funeral for this year’s blossoms. Short, short lives to celebrate.

Cherry blossoms on grass

Frost tinges the grass this morning. A very late frost. No more bumblebees tickling their anthers or humming bird tongues licking their nectar. Cherry blossoms live but a week or two but impart wonderful memories that last a lifetime. When they are long gone, all I have to do is close my eyes and see them floating like clouds against a blue sky.

plum blossoms starting to bloom

Now it’s the white plum blossoms that are opening. Followed by the pears, the fruiting cherry trees, and the apples. So the bumblebees and humming birds won’t go hungry. Not this year.

Cherry Blossoms

Cherry blossoms

The cherry blossoms are in full bloom. They started opening a week ago, slowly at first. But on the first warm day, March 24, they all popped open at once. Warm? Not really. Warmer is more like it. Has it really been warm yet this year? That’s debatable. The bees certainly don’t think it has. They are still fast asleep in their dens and wintering hives.

Opening cherry blossoms

Bees buzzing about is a sure sign that it is actually warm. This year the cherry blossoms will bloom without swarms of bees buzzing about. And the forecast is for clouds and rain through April 6. Some sun is forecast to appear on the 7th. But still no warmth to speak of.

So the cherry blossoms will probably have floated away before it warms up enough for the bees to buzz about.

One open cherry blossom in a bunch of closed buds.

Wet, cool Marches and early Aprils seems to be a trend. It’s been a number of years since we’ve had warm, dry weather when the cherry blossoms bloom, and swarms of buzzing bees so loud that you can hear them long before you reach the cherry tree.

Down in the valley, fields of daffodils cover the valley with brilliant yellow carpets. They stretch for as long as the eye can see. The swans are still about, though not for long. What do they think of these daffodil fields when they go flying overhead? Do they cock they heads to look at them? A week or two and they will be gone. It doesn’t give me much time to ask them.

Spring Equinox 2022

Sunrise on spring equinox

Sunrise on a calm spring equinox. It happened here at 8:33 this morning. Yesterday’s pouring rain lifted and there was blue sky behind the clouds this morning.

At 8:33 this morning I decided to look online to see at what time the solstice happened today and was surprised to read it was happening now, at 8:33 in the morning. How fortuitous was that?

The drab winter colors are changing to spring’s wonderful hues. Soon, winter will be but a memory. Each night the frogs sing louder at night. Every day there are more birds flying in.

Sunrise on spring equinox
Snow, the duck, having breakfast.

This spring, wood ducks have taken to eating the ducks’ feed and hanging out at the pond. They’re getting used to my presence and don’t automatically fly off screaming when I show up.

Our ducks having breakfast.

What do our ducks think about the wood ducks? For the most part they leave them alone. At first there were just a few wood ducks, then five, then ten, and more. But they are nowhere near as plentiful as the snow geese having their last grazing on the pastures in the valley.

The snow geese have yet to leave for Alaska and Siberia. On Friday a huge flock of them covered much of a pasture on the way to the post office. Flocks of snow geese, herds of swans, those are winter scenes that will be gone in a few weeks. But new, wonderful things, cherry trees in full bloom, potatoes sprouts, and spring rainbows will come. It really feels like the spring equinox . From now on there is more light than dark, more warmth than cold.

Spring Surprises

Daffodils in bloom

Spring unfolds slowly in the Pacific Northwest, which means there is more time for spring surprises. It should be no surprise that daffodils bloom in spring. Yet when they do it’s always a pleasant surprise.

A friend raises alpacas and she’s generously shared alpaca beans with me. They’re great for enriching the garden soil. Unlike many other types of animal droppings, you can use them directly without composting them. Their low nitrogen level won’t burn plants. Neither do alpaca beans contain weed seeds.

Spring surprise - dogs love alpaca beas

I spread some alpaca beans around some flowers and was surprised to discover that the dogs thought I had liberally spread dog treats all around just for them. They had a feast.

So if you raise alpacas and wonder what to do with all their droppings, try drying them out and giving them to your dog loving friends as dog treats. Put them in pretty bags and don’t tell your friends what they are until they beg you for the recipe. Your friends might disdain you, but their dogs will love you forever.

Snow geese on the move

The sign says “No Parking” but the snow geese pay no attention. Huge flocks of snow geese covered pastures in the north Skagit River delta today. A few more weeks and they will be off, on their way to the Arctic.

A sunny day to plant potatoes

There should be more sunny days, so when they come along, they are a pleasant spring surprise. It’s the beginning of potato planting season. Seeing their first leaves poke out of the ground is always one of spring’s pleasant surprises.

Spring flowers

All Is Not Lost

All is not lost - stinging nettles are up.

All is not lost because stinging nettles are popping out of the ground. Spring is here for good. Omelettes and souflés with stinging nettles, stinging nettle soup, stinging nettle chowder, potatoes with stinging nettles, for a month or two, we’ll enjoy the taste of spring.

All is not lost - purple crocus are in bloom

All is not lost because the crocus by the Horse Chestnut are in bloom. Each year they pop up at the cusp of winter and spring. And each year there are a few more.

The Horse Chestnut puts on a display of showy flowers too, later in the spring. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health:

Historically, horse chestnut seed extract was used for joint pain, bladder and gastrointestinal problems, fever, leg cramps, and other conditions. Today, horse chestnut seed extract is promoted for chronic venous insufficiency (CVI; poor blood flow in the veins of the legs, which may lead to leg pain, swelling, itchiness, and other symptoms), irritable bowel syndrome, male infertility, and other conditions.

A 2012 systematic review of 17 studies suggested that horse chestnut seed extract can improve symptoms of CVI. Results from one of these studies suggested that horse chestnut seed extract may be as effective as wearing compression stockings.

Makes me ponder about collecting some Horse Chestnut seeds and making an extract for my joints. However they contain a toxic substance. So you have to remove it before you can use them.

All is not lost - cherry buds

All is not lost because the cherry blossom buds are swelling. Each day they swell a bit more. Watching them plump up until they pop open makes spring a delight.