Everyday Mysteries and Joys

Developing squash

The mornings feel more like fall than summer. Soon the nights will be longer than the days. Time to enjoy the last fruiting plants of summer.

Ripe strawberries

Strawberries at the end of summer are this year’s surprise. Strawberries I planted last year over wintered and grew like weeds this year. Every year some unexpected plant brings joy.

Funnel weaving spider

I’ve noticed a spider web growing next to the gate. And this afternoon on my way out, I saw a spider waiting on the web. Possibly the spider weaving the web. But as I took pictures of it I noticed another spider inside the funnel.

Spiders in funnel web

So what is going on here? Two spiders sharing the same funnel web? A spider come a courting? Or a spider hunting another spider? I did not stick around to find out. Some mysteries are best unsolved.

Only Murders on the Farm

Lately I’ve thought of starting an “Only Murders on the Farm” podcast. I have enough material to make it a weekly thing. I’ll stumble on a crime scene on a path, some carcass ripped apart to the point of non recognition. “What happened here?” I’ll wonder.

The only thing is, a podcast like that should be a murder mystery that needs solving. With a detailed step by step process of how I solved the mystery. And that is where the whole point of a “Only Murders on the Farm” podcast falls apart. Because there is no mystery as to who the perpetrators of these grizzly murders on the farm are.

Murderous dogs

The idea of the podcast popped up when visiting teenage girls discovered a dead bobcat in the dog kennel several weeks ago. That was a shocker.

The dogs have dispatched rodents, possums, raccoons, and countless rabbits. Watching these dogs bring down a fighting raccoon in the middle of the night is as traumatic as watching hyenas and lions fight to the death at night on the Serengeti. Not something for the faint of heart, trust me. And I’ve seen them eat a freshly killed rabbit at the same time. Taku starting from the head. Ena from the rear. I didn’t stick around to see what happened when their snouts met in the middle.

But I never expected them to bring down a bobcat! So I need to post signs on the fencing, signs that creatures roaming around at night can read. Signs that say, “Death awaits all who climb over this fence!”

It is hard to reconcile that these two lovely dogs who like to cuddle on our bed, lick our faces, and beg for food, have murder on their minds 24/7. I have a suspicion that they dream in their sleep of bringing down an elephant. That would make their life complete.

So any traveling circuses which happen to pass through Bow, make sure your elephants stay in their trucks until they are a safe distance away. Or teach the elephants to read and heed the warning signs I will eventually put on our fencing.

Amazing Things Happen All the Time

Spaghetti Squash flower

Amazing things happen all the time. Even around the house. Stunning Spaghetti Squash flowers are eye popping amazing. They explode like super nova for just a short time and soon turn into cute, Spaghetti Squash babies.

Spaghetti Squash baby

The shiso I planted in spring is now an amazing bush of deep green and magenta leaves that turn plain dishes into amazing, culinary delights.

Shiso leaves
Basil flowers

And as far as aromatic leaves, what is more amazing than Basil? They have charming, white flowers too.


And this time of year, late in August, the blackberries are ripening. I’ve wondered why I don’t see flocks of birds devouring the blackberries, and wondered if anything else eats them? Yesterday we saw a deer come by and graze on these berries. So now I know what eats them.

Sweet Alyssum flowers

And every summer when the Sweet Alyssum forms fragrant white clouds of blossoms, I tell myself, “Plant more Sweet Alyssum next year.”

And yesterday I met an amazing man, Iino Wataru. His first name, Wataru 航, means to cross the skies and seas. His last name, Iino 飯野, means field of cooked rice. He started running when he was working in Germany to lose the weight he was packing on. And he kept running further and further. He is now one of the top long distance runners in the world. He’s won many ultra marathons all over the world.

The motto on his website is: ご飯をカロリー気にせず美味しく食べるために走る, which translates to, “I run so I can eat delicious foods without worrying how many calories they have.”

In June I saw an article about him on “Good Morning, Japan,” a Japanese News show broadcast by NHK. They showed this long distance runner who was starting a seven year long, round the world run, running from the northern tip of Alaska at Prudhoe Bay, down to Panama. From there he plans on running to the tip of South America. Followed by a run across Eurasia. A run across Africa. And making a circular run around Australia.

He started running from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, in June. And I’ve been following his progress on his site, tabirun.run/world, watching him run 45 to 55 miles every day as he ran through Alaska, the Yukon, British Columbia, and into Washington state.

He also has an Instagram account at instagram.com/wataruiino_official/ where he posts pictures and information about his amazing runs.

Yesterday afternoon I saw he was running down Old 99 which is very close to our place. We drove out to see him and caught him as he ran through the little town of Alger. He’s a wonderful, friendly, easy to talk to man, and you’d never guess that since June he’s run all the way from Alaska, over 2,800 miles! It was amazing and inspiring to meet him.

Rainy August Day

Shasta daisy with rain drops

After morning showers, the Shasta Daisies are covered with raindrops. We made it into August without choking on forest fire smoke. Today’s rains should keep forest fires last year’s memories … fingers crossed.

August clouds drift by,
Cool whispers embrace the dawn,
Silence speaks of change.

I had fun this morning doing something impossible last year. Something previous generations could not imagine. I played with ChatGPT and asked it to write a number of haikus.

Oregano blossoms
August sun warms earth,
Oregano blossoms rise,
Spice dances in breeze.
Wisteria blossoms out of season
Wisteria sprig,
Blooming out of time's embrace,
Season's lone surprise.
Catmint flowers

I love the catmint when it blooms. And it blooms and blooms and blooms, all summer long. When we had our cat, Rusty, he loved rubbing his face in their leaves. Catmint makes a delicate, refined tea, very soothing.

Hubei anemone

The Hubei Anemone are blooming. I can count on these sending up their tall flower spikes each August. Eriocapitella hupehensis. I read that these were cultivated as far back as the Tang dynasty (618-907). And they are in the Buttercup family, Ranunculaceae. Unlike Buttercups which creep along the ground, Hubei Anemone reach for the summer sky.

And to close, a haiku about our dog sleeping in the picture window:

Dreams beneath glass pane,
Dog slumbers in soft sunbeams,
Outside world drifts by.

A New Way to Meditate

Coffee beans dancing in roaster

Last month our local coffee roaster retired. For years I enjoyed visiting her little roasting hut to watch the beans dance in her roasters, conversing with her, laughing together.

But with her retiring, it meant learning how to roast coffee beans myself. What I didn’t expect is that watching the beans dance in the glass roaster is a pleasing way to medidate, to let the thoughts that dance in my mind quiet and go away.

It doesn’t take long to roast green beans to a caramel brown hue, fourteen to fifteen minutes. And near the end you can hear them crack several times. Not loud, ear splitting cracks. Just gentle, soft, soothing cracks.

Freshly roasted coffee beans.

So once or twice a week I roast 9 ounces of coffee beans, 255 grams, to get 8 ounces of fresh roasted coffee beans for the hopper in our coffee grinder. Instead of conversing with Gilda, I converse with the dancing beans.

Tansy blossoms with bee

The tansies are in full bloom. A single tansy has spread over the years to many. The bees love them. So do I. Tall and colorful, tansies look wild and shaggy. Not quite graceful enough for a proper garden. Perhaps a bit too weedy looking. I’ll keep letting them spread. They suit me and the bees well.

Tansy blossom with bumble bee
Hydrangea with bee

I hadn’t considered hydrangeas as bee flowers, but why not? This bee’s pollen sacs are plump. When she flies home she’ll be greeted as a hero.

Wispy clouds in late July

The sky is so summer like with wispy clouds. They look so frail and delicate, like they would tear if you could run your fingers through them. But the long, delicate streaks they make speak of fierce winds high aloft, winds strong enough to blow a house to bits. Better they blow up there than down here.

Much of the Northern Hemisphere is on fire, burning up in the hottest summer in recorded history. We’ve been spared the relentless heat. So far it’s been a pleasant summer, warm days, refreshingly chilling nights, a few rainy days here and there. And no smokey skies that make you hack and cough. So far. Every day the skies are blue and the air fresh is a day to be grateful.

A note to Comcast email users, last month Comcast banned my emails. Evidently someone with a Comcast email address marked an email from this site as spam and is blocking all email from here to Comcast email users. So if you have a Comcast email and wonder why you’re not hearing from me, this is why.

Nature Will Turn It Into a Work of Art

Tomatillo after being on the ground all winter

Leave something on the ground and nature will turn it into a work of art. While cleaning out the hoop house to plant tomatoes, I discovered delicate lace spheres. This is what happens if a tomatillo falls to the ground and lays on the ground all winter in a place out of the rain. The fruit dries up. Microbes eat them. The husk dries, microbes eat the soft bits, and all that remains is the delicate, lacy frame.

Desiccated tomatillos in the palm of my hand

Aren’t they just lovely? I brought a few into the house to use as decoration. How many hours would it take me to weave such delicate mini orbs? How would I go about recreating them? I left most behind without thinking to save them.

But if I plant more tomatillos and at the end of fall let hundreds of little tomatillos fall to the ground, next spring I can gather many of them, string them together, and use them to decorate a Christmas Tree.

Desiccated tomatillos on a plate

Quite the works of art, don’t you think?

Dog in bed of mint

While I cleaned out the hoop house, Taku enjoyed lying in a thick bed of mint. Nearby the Japanese iris are in full bloom. The Japanese name for this variety of iris is Ayame, pronounced Ah – ya – meh.

Ayame blossom

Happy Ending to Roomba Saga

I need to report that my saga with the bumbling, misbehaving iRobot Roomba i4 is over. Someone read my rant about the Roomba and recommended that I get a Roborock robot vacuum. “The Roborock is smart,” they said. So I ordered one, the midlevel Roborock Q7 Max.

It arrived Wednesday and I put it through its paces. Wow! Yes, this robot vacuum is smart. Equipped with lidar, the Roborock quickly mapped out our floor plan and created a 3d map of all the rooms. It knows how to get around without getting lost. It knows how to vacuum and mop in straight lines. Can go to any room of the house with ease, sliding gracefully between the door jambs to enter any room. You can program the vacuum strength and the amount of water to use for any room. And if you move it for any reason, it spins around, quickly figures out where it is, and proceeds on its merry way. The app for it shows where it is when it is out vacuuming and mopping. So you can see where it has cleaned and where it needs to clean.

Roborock app screens

You can look at the maps in 2d or 3d.

A big improvement over the Roomba i4 is that as it fills its dustbin, it compacts the dust so the dustbin can carry much more dust and debris than the Roomba i4 which I had to empty frequently as it cleaned. Never once has the Roborock stopped while vacuuming to make me empty the dustbin.

Roomba i4 Goes Merrily Home

More out of kindness than anything, I returned the Roomba i4. There was no need to keep it around and let it suffer the indignity of getting lost so often. No need to watch it whirl down a hallway and try to enter a room a foot too soon and bang into the wall. I felt sorry for it. It tried so hard. Often with confidence it approached a doorway, only to veer into the wall a foot too soon. And devastation clouded its face when it hit the wall instead of gliding through the doorway.

I suggest that you hire a robot therapist if you get a Roomba. It can talk to it after a cleaning job, ask it, “How did it go? … How did that make you feel when you missed the door? … It’s not you, it’s the coders who programmed you … You know, there’s always tomorrow,” and other things to soothe its hurt feelings.

Maybe if I was sadistic, I’d have kept it around and sent it out every so often just to torment it. But that’s not me. It looked relieved when I cleaned it all up, put it back in its box, and sent it on home. Perhaps it was just a delusion, but I thought it said with joy, “I’m going home? Yeah!”

I’m sure it’s very happy it made it back to iRobot in one piece. Other owners may have sent it back in pieces or riddled with bullet holes.

Maybe the next owner of the Roomba i4 will have a simple, one room, square apartment with no furniture that it can clean without much effort. I can only hope it finds a simple home where it can experience success.

Comcast Troubles

And speaking of success and failures, I had to remove readers with @comcast.net email addresses. Someone with a @comcast.net email marked one of my new post emails as spam and now Comcast is blocking everyone with a @comcast.net email from receiving any of my new post emails. If you have a @comcast.net email and want to keep receiving these posts, subscribe again without using a @comcast.net email.

18 Year Wait

Wisteria in bloom for the 1st time in 18 years

I’d given up hope on this wisteria ever blooming. We received it as a gift when we moved here 18 years ago. But yesterday, it stunned us by blooming for the first time. Lovely white and purple fragrant flowers with dabs of yellow.

Wisteria blossoms up close

I read once that soil with too much nitrogen can keep wisteria from blooming. Made sense as I planted it near an old septic system. Perhaps by now the rain has leached the soil enough so the wisteria can bloom. Or maybe this plant just needed all those years to decide what kind of flowers to put on display.

False lily of the valley

The false lily of the valley are in bloom. They give the forest floor a soothing, cool look. They are also called snake berry and two-leaved Solomon’s seal. Maianthemum dilatatum is their scientific name.

I’ve always wanted a quick way to see the etymology of these scientific names. And now I have one. According to ChatGPT Maianthemum dilatatum means:

Maianthemum: This genus name is derived from the Greek words “Maios” meaning “May” and “anthemon” meaning “flower”. It refers to the flowering period of plants in this genus, which often occurs in May.

dilatatum: This species name comes from Latin, where “dilatatus” means “spread out” or “expanded”. It likely refers to a characteristic of the plant, possibly the spread of its leaves or its colony-forming habit.

So Maianthemum dilatatum means a May flower that spreads out. That pretty much describes it. Spreading May flower, I almost like that better than the common names.

Bleeding hearts

I always called these bleeding hearts, but they are actually Pacific bleeding hearts, Dicentra formosa, which means Two-spurred beauty.

Apple blossoms

And the apples are about done blooming. When the apples are done blooming, spring is almost over.

The many blooms of this time of year ease the stress of modern life. You know how words change their meaning over time. I think that the use of tech companies to describe their products as “smart” will eventually change the meaning of smart to mean stupid, aggravating, even deranged and insane, Alice in Wonderland mad.

I decided after many years of consideration to try an iRobot Roomba to vacuum the house. iRobot claims it is smart. It can make a map of your floors and vacuum any room on command. Sounds good. Sounds smart. What is not to like?

Before I begin my rant, my floors have never been cleaner. They get thoroughly vacuumed every day. So that is a plus. But to call a Roomba smart is a stretch, a leap of faith, a voyage into absurdity. A claim that could put you in an insane asylum.

After many, many, many hours it will eventually create a map of your floors that is decent. But can the Roomba read this map it created and follow it? Evidently the programmers at iRobot forgot to program that ability into this “smart” device.

I think they purposely left out the feature where the app places a dot on the map where the Roomba thinks it is. Because the Roomba has no clue where it is! Neither does it have any sense of direction. I’ve learned that in order for it to reach the dining room, I need to make sure it cleans one or two rooms between the homebase where it resides and charges. Otherwise, it will never find the dining room. Forget about finding rooms further away from the homebase.

I tell it to vacuum the dining room. Once it is in the hallway, it is a straight 15 foot path to the dining room. All it has to do is get into the hallway and go straight. A smart thing surely could do that. But the Roomba is incapable of going straight. It will bang against the walls of the hallway, turn around, meander into other rooms along the way, get hopelessly lost, and return to the homebase, with a message that the pathway is blocked. Of course it is blocked if you aim for the walls! I’ve seen it get to the edge of the dining room. Another inch forward and it would be there! But it is hopelessly lost and decides to go home. Starting another arduous effort, zig-zagging down the hallway until by sheer luck it finds the homebase. Not something a “smart” device would ever do.

I sometimes wonder if our dogs have found where the local drug dealers hide their stashes of cocaine in the woods. Maybe they are bringing back cocaine dust on their feet and spreading it around the house. Cocaine dust that the Roomba sucks up and gets high from. That would explain its mindless behavior.

I’ve had it a week, and learned to accept its lack of smarts. It works well if I just give it simple tasks, clean one or two rooms at a time. If I want it to go all the way to the other end of the house, give it a room or two along the way to vacuum, and make sure the doors to other rooms are closed. It has the attention span of a three year old. It wants to go into any open door it finds. Forget about the map. There’s an open door here! What’s in there?

And if all else fails, carry the thing into the room, turn it on, and close the door. Let it clean until it starts banging against the door or wall looking for a way to get out. By then the room will be clean. It’s like asking a two year old child to do chores.

And now, after lowering my expectations to nil, I’ve figured out how to get the stupid thing to do what I want it to.

When I first started programming, my bosses always told me to under promise and over deliver. It seems that those in charge of tech companies today love to promise the moon and deliver turds. It’s no wonder everyone is in therapy these days.

So if you are thinking of getting one of these “smart” vacuuming robots, lower your expectations. Laugh at their silly antics as they go zig-zagging every which way but the direction they should be going. And in time, you’ll get them to do what you want. Just don’t call them smart. Or wait 18 years. They may be smart by then.

Of Bleeding Hearts and Fading Cherry Blossoms

Cherry blossoms on the ground

The cherry blossoms all drifted to the ground a while back. One late, warm, spring snow to say good bye to winter for good this season.

Bleeding heart blossoms.
Fruiting cherry blossoms

Bleeding hearts and fruiting cherry blossoms take their place. With so many flowers in bloom, the humming bird feeder dangles empty. I might as well put it away until first frost. If I was a humming bird I’d rather sip fresh nectar from flowers instead of bland sugar water. I’m sure the flavors of the different flower nectars are far more interesting than sugar water.

Chicks eating cantaloupe

The Bielefelder chicks keep growing. They love cantaloupe. They also love liver, probably their favorite thing to eat next to earthworms. When I put a plate out piled with slivers of raw liver, it is like feeding sharks. The chicks go wild scarfing up the liver and chasing each other around until every last bit is gone. I’d post a video of it, but it may make you faint. One second you have calm, peaceful chicks. The next second you have blood thirsty carnivores ripping things to shreds. If chickens were the size of ostriches, we’d all be in trouble.

Chickens on hand.

It’s hard to imagine these lovely birds as blood thirsty carnivores. But looks can be deceiving.

Chicks perched on leg.

Or these friendly chicks, hopping all over me. But who knows what they are thinking? Maybe they are just looking for an open sore to start pecking away until I am nothing but a skeleton.

On May 10 they will be a month old.

These are going to be the tamest chickens I’ve ever had. Hopefully when they have young next year or next, they will still be tame and teach their young I am not a monster to be feared.

I Could Have Worse Problems

Red tulips blooming

The tulips opened up yesterday. They are very late this year. But why fret about them blooming so late? I could have worse problems.

Bielefelder chicks

I ordered some Bielefelder chicks which arrived here on Wednesday, April 12. What a relief. They only took 2 days to arrive. They hatched on the 10th, went out the door in Iowa that afternoon, got to St. Paul, MN, that night, were in Kent, WA, on the 11th at night, and were at the Bow Post Office on the 12th. When baby chicks arrive in two days they are in great health. If it takes 3 days, some are weak, and some may be dead. if it takes 4 days, very few survive. So, yeah, I could have worse problems.

I think if you would have told settlers crossing the Rockies in covered wagons that some day in the future, chicks born in Iowa will be in rural Washington State in two days, they would have had you committed for being insane.

This year, I tried a heat plate instead of a heat lamp. The thing in the back with the yellow legs is the heat plate. The underside of it is around 102ºF (39ºC), plenty warm for the chicks to huddle underneath when they get cold. It’s much better than the heat lamps I used before which bathe the chicks in light 24 hours a day.

With a heat plate, they get to sleep in the dark. It’s much more like sleeping underneath a mother.

First dandelion

I prefer to have a hen raise the chicks, but I wanted some more Bielefelder chickens, and when I ordered these chicks last fall, April 10th was the first delivery. Without any broody hens, I have to raise these myself. I could have worse problems than not having a broody hen when I need one.

The first of the dandelions bloomed last week. So did the Japanese pear.

Japanese pear, nashi, flower
Lazy dog

Is a lazy dog a big problem? She’s not really lazy, just tired after hunting much of the night. I never considered dogs to be nocturnal beasts, but our two dogs love to go our hunting at 2 in the morning for an hour or two. Sometimes they are out hunting all night long. I could have bigger problems, though any raccoon, possum, or other night hunter who ventures too close when our two dogs are out at night wishes they had gone another way.

Pecking chick on hand

But I do have this problem. A chick which likes to peck the other chicks too much. She is OK with them late in the evening, through the night, and through the early morning. But once it gets too light, she likes to peck them too aggressively. I’ll spare you the details of where she likes to peck them.

Chick by keyboard

So she likes to hang out with me. She hates being left alone. So I have a box next to me and take her out from time to time. Or I have to hang an arm in the box to keep her company.

Chick on hand as I type

Quite a problem, don’t you think? I’m hoping that once the chicks feather out, she’ll lose her motivation to peck. Whatever happens, she will be the most tame chicken I’ve ever had.

Sunshine Brings Spring Magic

Skunk cabbage in boom

An afternoon of sunshine brought out the magic of spring today. Days of rain and mist evaporated and brilliant light poured down from the sky. Skunk cabbage were in full bloom along the way to pick up coffee beans in Alger.

And on the drive into town to get feed, fresh snow blanketed the tops of the foot hills. The green pastures seem a bit sad without flocks of swans. But they are far north now. They will soon be laying eggs and incubating them. While we get on planting our gardens and watching new shoots spring out of the warming earth.

The flowering cherry tree is in full bloom now. On a sunny afternoon like today, they are spectacular. Their soft, baby power fragrance, brings pure joy.