Thursday, August 29, 2013

Ah-guest 2013: Part 2 - A Whale of a tale.

mom n pop
The 2nd part of August hails in my folks from Texas. It is always good to see my parents and the older we all get, the more I soak in the moments (the good and the frustrating).  After a busy week with my brother-in-law, we still had a busy week but it was slightly more laid back.

This visit was flipped from the last guest, with my hubby going to work and me hanging out with my folks for the most part.

We started the week off with a visit to the Space Needle. (Sorry all my future guests... Your visits to downtown Seattle will be on-your-own. Rent a car, take a cab, or transit there 'cause this train is done with the typical Seattle tourist hits).

playing with forced perspective - how fun!
Seattle Space Needle  - my untested tip: Plan ahead...well ahead and make reservations for dining to visit the needle. No lines, no waiting and although there is a minimum per-guest charge, the view is free, the visit to the deck is included and you get chow. Plan a few weeks in advance because reservations are a few days to weeks out in the tourist season. Our family has been a total of 3 times (one regular admission, 2 VIP) and still wish we would have done dinner or lunch.

singing flowers

The next few days were filled with quality time with the parents and they with the grand-daughter.

Yum! goulash!
We had a campfire, visited the lake and gardens, completed school-shopping etc...

Then we took a 3-day weekend to "Beautiful British Columbia". We packed up like clowns into the VW Golf and took the Coho over to Victoria. Stayed in a nice little apartment near the Fishermans'Warf. Visited the Butchart, Craigdarroch, Parliament, and with all the walking we did... you would think I should have lost weight instead of gained.

Here is our experience...

Papaw and kiddo
Coho ferry   my rate = 4/5 stars
departs Port Angeles on the upper OP, across the Strait of San Juan de Fuca into Victoria Harbour. Wear appropriate clothing to stand out on the bow of the ship and look out for sea life. We sighted Humpback whales on the way and back. If you have kids or are a kid at heart... get up to the bow right away and watch them cast off.

Craigdarroch Castle   my rate = 5/5 stars
More of a mansion with a tower but, very cool anyways. The history of the building makes it interesting and how it is still in process of being restored after all the many faces it has worn. The docents are extremely knowledgeable and my hubby couldn't even stump them with his inquiries.

Parliament Building  my rate = 4/5 stars
How fun is this. A bit of politics, a lot of detail and astounding beauty in this building. Makes ya wanna run for office just so you can work here. The great thing - free! The guides were lacking and we were on the weekend so, the group was huge and wish we could have taken more time as we could have during the week. The guides seemed like they were scripted and did not know much beyond the speech with the exception of the surprise period speaker (not sure if there is a different one each time).

Waterfront  my rate = 5/5 stars
There is no lack of water-front on Vancouver Island. Walk the harbours, visit the parks. Fantastic! You can go at your own pace. Relax. Exercise. Eat. Watch the wildlife (people too).

Butchart Gardens   my rate = 3/5 stars
My 1st visit was (clears throat) about 20 years ago.Yikes. Seems about the same except the time of year.
It took us about 2 -2.5 hours to go through. We took our time and read signs and such. It is nice and the sunken garden is really nice. I was quite disappointed in the rose garden (they were labeled) because they planted carpet phlox along the pathway and it really really masked the scent of the roses. Carpet phlox is kinda stinky! If you are a garden person then I would suggest it otherwise... you can get your garden fill just walking around the city. It is a private garden not a botanical so, the plants are not labeled.

B.C's licence plates slogan is well-fitting and is not just a slogan - it is truly Beautiful! I would love to visit again and hopefully see some of the upper-lands.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Ah-guest 2013 part1

My daughter said that this year August is Ah-guest.
Rightfully so... the first part we were blessed with a visit from my brother-in-law all the way from the east side of the USA.

Most of the activities were done by my hubby and I chose to stay home for most of it. A whirlwind visit to Mt Rainier, visits to Pikes Place, downtown Seattle landmarks and tours etc... I am just not a high activity person and "once is enough" when it comes to city things. It also saves us a bit of cash for our next guests in 3 days arrival, and allowed Hubby and his brother some brotherly bonding time without having a wife to drag along. I know I appreciate sister time when I can get it.

I did join in in some things that I had been wanting to do or would do again (nature stuff of course). A first time visit to Mt St Helen's, a trip to the coast (been several times but who doesn't enjoy the coast?), and another visit to Northwest Trek (which turned out even better than the 1st time). And on his last nite here, we got to finally have the 1st campfire cook-out of the summer! I know, a bit late but, we've been kinda busy this summer. It was so nice to have him visit and hope he can come again another summer.

Time for a travel review...

Mt St Helens National Monument, Washington, USA

If you only have a day and it is your 1st time... Go to the Johnston Ridge Observatory.
This is only 5 miles from the crater and right smack dab in the blast zone. From here you can visit the center, watch films, read survivor stories, hear Ranger talks and go on Ranger guided hikes. This is THE premiere vantage point and learning opportunity for a day trip. Oh, and you can hike to Mt Adams from here (more than a day trip by the way).

It is not as easy to drive around this mountain as it is Mt Rainier. Mt. St. Helen's , although a smaller park, has a huge protective zone! This means you have to drive back out and all the way around to get to each of the other areas of the park from Johnston Ridge. Making for a 3 hour drive to the next section from Johnston Ridge, not including scenic stops along the way. And, you will want to stop. Along the road there are several vantage points and historic information from both the park and commercial ventures (much of the mountain was logged in the 1980's). A few commercial stops along 504 are the Forest Learning Center at mile marker 33 and the edge of the blast zone viewpoint and bridge around milepost 29 - the Hoffstadt Creek bridge and lookout point.

This area of St Helen's is amazing. It is fairly windy and the views are great (for now) because of the lack of old growth forest that was here merely 30 years ago. What a great opportunity we have here in the USA to be able to witness such a vast geologic history! We have old growth forest and ancient canyons to new-birth and re-birth of Earth like St Helen's.

Ocean City State Park, Washington

Ocean City is OK. If you are camping, by all means get a pass and go to the park. But, if you are going for a day trip to the beach... go south of the park down 115 onto Ocean Shores Blvd. into the town of Ocean Shores, visit some shops maybe and just drive onto the beach from one of the 2 access drives (Please know how to drive on the beach people!! We saw way too many people sink their vehicles and get stuck. Geesh! - Use some level of common sense.)
Now, it is not a pristine beach by any means. That's what you get when vehicles are allowed. There was an oily sheen on the "sweet spot" of the beach and who knows what other vehicular fluids and pollutants. There was also the pre-composted product from the business end of the horses (which is way cleaner than what the vehicles leave behind but the gross factor is still there). Considering the volume of humans, the beach was fairly litter-free which was the biggest, and most pleasant surprise.
Anyways.. pack a picnic lunch (don't litter you slobs), kites, a change of clean clothes, SUNSCREEN, and whatever else like... beach toys a shade tent to sleep under, wet-suits for boarding (the water is cold all the time) and just have some beachy fun.

Northwest Trek, Pierce County, WA

The 1st time I went was in the late spring and it was good. Now it is late summer here and it was even better. I want to go again in the fall for the Elk Rut and in the winter when all the undergrowth is gone and get a new perspective of the wildlife.

A collage of the little guys...

from left to right and top to bottom...

Virginia Opossum - recent introduction to Washington in about the 1980's.






Carnivores... from left to right and top to bottom...

Grizzly bear - sleepy bear.   Grey Wolf.   Black Bear!!!!   Bob cat - here kitty kitty.   Coyote - mangy mutt.

Birds...  from left to right and top to bottom...

Golden Eagle, Barn Owl, Bald Eagle, Snowy Owl, Crow

Herbivores / the Big Game Boys... from left to right and top to bottom...

Moose (one year old), Bison (very old), Bighorn Sheep, Caribou, Roosevelt Elk

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Garden 2013

Instead of millions of tiny posts, I will put all the garden updates for this year on this one post.

2013 Garden

I am trying several "new" things this year.

Getting started earlier.

More plants in less space by using better planning and lots of compost and crop rotation and mixing.

Sun tunnels. For warming the soil and extending the season.

Early 2013

Made hoop row covers from rolled plastic pipe and painters 3 mil plastic sheets.
I used cut sections of pipe as clips to hold the cover on the pipe and rebar and similar metal spikes for anchoring.

Last fall, I planted crop cover and so, I mixed it under to prepare the rows for planting.

The only thing that I grew and harvested through the winter was the swiss chard. I did cover it with the hoop cover in the harsh parts of this winter (we are talking upper 20's  harsh for this maritime foothills area).


I remodeled the strawberry beds.
The moles loves to make their way through the strawberries. The strawberries don't like that too much so..
I dug up all the berry plants and built raised beds with hardware cloth on the bottom. The project took about 4 days. In the rain. but, hopefully, this will work.

Later... It worked. Moles attacked but, the plants stayed safe. Can't say that for the path.

I just LOVE the look of red-veined swiss chard - SO Pretty!

April 18th

Everything is coming on nicely in the garden and out.

Tomatos are getting on well with the cover crop.

 The berries are doing fine minus the loss of 1/3 of the blueberry plants.

Some flowers for the spring. Camellias came in just before a frost hit and most got burned orange. But, there are plenty of buds left.

Spring surprises in the orchard. Including the fruit tree I discovered in the deer meadow near the garden shed. We removed it, pruned it dramatically and plopped it in the orchard to see what would happen. Well, what do you know....? The darned thing is blooming. I can't wait to see what it produces!

 After a strict pruning last fall I was hoping we would get more than one sad little lilac bunch as was last year's show. It worked and now that sad scraggly lilac bush is filled with buds on every branch tip! Looking forward to putting then in a vase in the house to fill it with that intoxicating fragrance.

On the wild side.... 

the forest has already given us delish nettle and we are looking forward to supplying our pantry with another year supply of homemade jelly!

August 1 2013

From about the start of June till about Mid July, I was out of the garden with travel, illness and remodel work in the house. Oh boy! The garden got WILD!

The re-located fruit tree didn't produce any fruits this year.

Tomatos are coming along well. the romas are in faster than the heirloom polish.

Strawberries - are huge but the fruits did not do so well because I was unable to prune them and they set out runners.

Blueberries did not do so well either. They are still small little things but only set out about 6 berries among the 3 of them.

Rasberries did GREAT! the Tulameen was wonderful and the Caroline had a decent spring crop and has put on a great deal of flowers for the fall.

Huckleberries - I got about a gallon this year. Could have gotten more but they started early this year and I was gone and ill.

I planted a few pototos and got 2 measly lbs but I guess that is not too bad for my 1st try.

I tried to get a few hazelnuts before the jays got them. I left a few on the trees and noticed the jays getting at them about August 1st and managed to get one off the tree. It's husk was a bit thinner than the previous and the meat was firmer.

Onion harvest - I think I needed a different variety. these were tiny and had a hard stalk from the flower. I tried removing the flower but did not seem to help.

Ginger did OK. I got 2 roots that were sizeable and the rest I put back in to make more.
I waited till the tops were dead and left the one in there that had the flower. I can't wait to see the flower it makes.

Gladiolas looking good!