This is a blog featuring my personal stories of food, gardening, yachting, photography, travel and life. I love it all!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Garden Thoughts

It's been a very long time since I spoke of my back yard garden, mostly because I've been so preoccupied by the needs of our boat. But recently I have taken notice of the garden again, especially the area I call Evie's Secret Garden. I built this area of the garden especially for my grandchildren, should I have any. With Evie's arrival and now being the ripe old age of 2, I thought it might be a good time to take back that special space from the weeds and blackberries that have invaded it.

It is bounded on one side that blocks your view from most of the rest of the yard, by a 7 foot tall English privet hedge I planted with her in mind. You enter the space through an arbor which stands between two hazlenut trees. Inside the garden area are two raised beds, borders with a variety of flowers, blueberries, and fruit trees including three apple varieties and an Italian Plum.

My first task was to weed the two raised beds which had primarily been taken over by dandylions. They were doing very well, many growing as tall as two feet! Out they went.

In their place Evie and I have planted carrots, Walla Walla onions, snap peas, and lettuces of all types. The carrots were seeds and they are beginning to pop up making a nice row of carrot tops. All else was planted from starts I purchased at the store.

Evie was particularly taken with the lettuces which I showed her could be eaten if a piece was carefully torn off. She thought that was pretty cool. We got a photo from her mum and dad the next week showing Evie eating her very first salad at home. I'd like to think I had a little something to do with her enjoyment of her first green salad.

I found, through a source on Facebook, that the use of white vinegar on weeds is deadly. Good news for me since I just won't use Round Up any more due to it's being so poisonous. Certainly not something I want Evie exposed to. So I plan to go out with a sprayer and attack the weeds that are in gravel areas adjacent to the raised beeds and see what effect it has on those pests. I'll get back to you on that.

Meantime, we have about completed preparations for departure on our first cruise of the summer, this one to Canadian waters. So I'll be away a while. You didn't think I could write without mentioning something about the boat, did you?


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Weekend Aboard The Key of Sea

     Last weekend we headed off to spend a weekend aboard the Key of Sea. We had no plans to take her out beyond the break water. Just a quiet time aboard and a chance to do some much needed cleaning, We brought the pressure washer down and a dock cart full of provisions for a planned Friday night dock tail party with a few of our boating buddies.
A dock cart at Squalicum Marina
     Leslie had to spend part of the day at school so I was left alone knowing I had to get the pressure washing done. My trusty Craftsman pressure washer is about 10 years old now and I use it to pressure wash my boat and the decks at home once a year. Then it gets put away in the back of the barn until the next year. Year after year I pull it out, fuel it up and pull start it. Every year, after a few pulls it kicks right over. I don't know why I got so lucky with this machine. I went through two Craftsman riding mowers in 10 years which literally fell apart, before I finally broke down and bought a John Deere which has given me no trouble at all in the past 5 years I've owned it.
My Craftsman power washer
     With the power washer roaring to life and having switched out the nozzle on the wand to use the one with the least amount of pressure, I headed for the fly bridge up top where I began cleaning the deck and other fiberglass parts of the boat. It easily eliminated the green mold and other crud off leaving the appearance of a fairly clean boat. Of course, I knew it was far from clean but at least the first and worst layers were slowly washing away. I worked my way down the sides and bow and stern until I was knocking down the seaweed growth off the waterline.
      Much of the rest of the initial washing was handled by the boat brush. This long handled brush gets dipped into a bucket of soapy water. I have two different kinds of this liquid soap. One is pink and other orange. If I want to wash off the wax from previous years I use the orange one. It is harsher. If I'd like to save the current wax and only wash the salt off, I use the pink. The first wash of the year needs that harsher stuff. So a few ounces of it in the bottom of the bucket filled with cold water, I dip the brush and start in scrubbing. 
     Now the boat was beginning to take on the look of  a clean boat. But there was still a long way to go and it wasn't going to happen this weekend--WAXING!
    The options here are many and everyone has an opinion on which wax product to use and what to use before and after. Depending on the overall condition of your boat, this process can take many steps. My boat is older and the finish hasn't always been maintained with the best care. 
    There are so many products on the market and as many opinions on which is the best as there are boaters it would seem. My choice was based on a bit of the product I was given by local boat yard, SeaView North which is where my boat goes when it needs work on the bottom, repainting, etc. I used a bit of the 3M Marine Cleaner & Wax and was astonished at the ease of use and finish quality the product produced on the boat. The down side is that it is expensive.
     SeaView North is my boatyard of choice when I pull the boat every couple of years. They have excellent workers and often have deals that help lower the price of pulling it out or on a paint package. Anyway, I've been impressed by their work so I keep going back.
SeaView North's TravelLift 
     The process of taking a big boat out of the water is unnerving but interesting to watch. SeaView has two TravelLifts that literally lift or "haul out" the boat and set it on "the hard" which is the term for setting the boat on the ground. It doesn't actually ever
Boat on blocks
touch the ground. It is set up on blocks.

     This next weekend will be the date to begin the waxing project provided the weather cooperates which is any one's guess this time of year.

King-sized bed on a Bayliner 32
    In the meantime, last weekend we managed to pull off a great dock tail party with probably 15-20 people stopping by. We had a great spread of appies and plenty to drink. Everyone wanted to sit out in the sunshine which worked pretty well until the sun got lower in the sky and forced us inside. The party was done by around 9 and after cleaning up we headed off to bed.
Master Stateroom's lockers & sink
    Bed on the Key of Sea is a king-sized bed, not a commonly found item on most boats of any size but certainly not in ones in the length of our boat. It is a remarkable use of space not found on any other boat our size that I am aware of. The trade off is its location and the feeling of claustrophobia it gives some folks. The Master's Stateroom, as it is called, is located beneath the salon. A three step ladder leads down to the stateroom where there is enough space to stand and dress. Clothing lockers and drawers are located next to the bed along with a sink and locker behind a large mirror where we keep personal items. To get into the bed you have to bend over and sort of crawl in. I actually roll over into m corner of the space since Leslie likes to sleep next to the exit. I love the coziness of my little corner.
     You can sit up at the head end of the bed quite easily and read. Two port lights can be opened just above your head for fresh air and their is a large window to the stern end of the room that slides open for even more fresh air. The bed space is the opposite form of the salon above so your knees have less space and your feet only about 18-24 inches. Quite cozy. Too cozy for some folks. We have friends who chose not to purchase the 32 Bayliner due to the claustrophobic feeling they got when down below.
Web Locker
     We've added 2-inches of memory foam to our bed which has made it very comfortable indeed.
     The rest of our weekend was comfy, cozy. Naps, a walk down to the Web Locker for breakfast, reading and puttering. 
     Sunday afternoon we decided to head home. So, after cleaning up one last time and loading up the dock cart, we headed up the ramp to load the car. A shower at home and back in our own bed felt great. We finished the weekend with the newest episodes of Call The Midwife and Home Fires before heading off to bed.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Easter With Evie

Easter morning with Evie was anything but a sure thing. She had been feeling sick for several days, throwing up, not eating and a general malaise.

We drove down to Seattle anyway because, well, we just miss opportunities to go see her and her mommy and daddy.

After stopping at a couple of boating stores, we headed over to the house about 3:00. Evie and her parents were all taking naps so we let ourselves in and sat, quietly waiting for them to stir.

Evie is always slow to wake up. She needs some quiet time to shake off sleep. She's also been a little shy around us when we first arrive the last few times. I always wonder what she must think happens to us when we go away and then reappear every few weeks.

Her mom and dad decided to go out to dinner that night so we took care of Evie. By the time they left, Evie was fine and waved bye to them happily. We had a great time playing before it was bedtime. She went down easily, being very tired.

But in the middle of the night she began to cry. We figured her mom and dad would come down and take care of her, but as time went on no one came downstairs. We finally went into her room when we heard her say, Clean UP! We gathered her up to find her covered in vomit and very unhappy. We comforted her and got her into new jammies. I stripped her bed and remade it. We had also gone upstairs and knocked on mom and dad's door to wake them. Turns out the baby monitor had pooped out and they didn't hear all the commotion downstairs. They got Evie settled down only to have her throw up again. It was a long night for all of us.

Easter Sunday, dad had gone off to play the organ at church. I'm sure he was in no mood for the gig but he had to go. The rest of us were able to sleep in a bit late. Evie woke up a bit more out of it than usual but soon snapped out of it and seemed more herself.

When dad got home we handed Evie her Easter basket with a puzzle, some Peeps and a Cadbury egg.

Mom went out to hide the decorated Easter eggs in the back garden. Evie had a ball finding the eggs and then hid them herself and fund most of them before looking interest and going in the house. Mom and dad prepared a delicious Sunday roast, a tradition in their home and in most British homes--roast beef, gravy, Yorkshire puddings and parsnips. Yum!

We decided to stay the night again in case Evie needed to stay home the next day, normally a school day. As it turned out she was feeling pretty good though still not eating much. So we said our good byes and waved as she and her mom drove off to school.

We headed home stopping off at a favorite breakfast spot before heading home. Beth's Cafe has been open since 1954, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, and it looks like it. It is truly a "joint" in the old style use of the word. Famous for their 12-egg omelettes and all you can eat hash browns, this is a place you have to try when out on Aurora (old Hiway 99) Avenue.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

From My Window

I live on a mountain, really a hill, in northwest Washington state. A hill that looks out towards the Cascade Mountains and Mount Baker.

As I sit writing these entires, I sit at my desk overlooking tall fir trees swaying in the spring breeze. The quiet street below is lined with lovely flowering plum trees covered withpink blossoms dancing in the wind like pink popcorn popping as they dance trying to hold onto their blossoms for a few more fleeting days each spring. Then there are the fluffy dark clouds scudding by bringing the threat of rain and, all too often, the reality of rain so common here. There are the promising blue openings that tease us with a bit of sunshine only to disappear when more clouds glide into view.

Other days the clouds sink in amongst the trees like puffy bits of fluffy cotton balls, clinging for dear life and painting a stunning view I never get tired of.

There is nothing quite so beautiful and or as eerie sounding as the wind blowing through pine trees. You know what I mean if you've ever heard that distinctive sound that makes the hair on tha back of my neck stand up, especially on the darkest night or when the full moon peeks from behind a cloud or between the branches.

Not everyone is happy living up
here in the northwest. Too, rainy, too, cloudy, too, cold too much of the time. But this place became home as soon as I laid eyes on it some 20 years ago. No other place has the same peaceful, fulfilling calming effect on my soul. I have traveled to six continents and explored many countries on most of those unique, far off places. Many of them have had a deep and emotional impact on me as I explored them and met their people. Then there is your home town. I spent my growing up years in central California. They say you are always drawn back to home. That there is no place like home.

But here is home for me and no other place has the same draw for me. When I leave it, I am always glad when I return, can't wait to return. In fact, I have no deep interest in traveling to other places that take me far from here, as I felt most of my life.

Now, it is my quiet home on the hill and the comfort of my Key of Sea sitting in the harbor to the west, that give me the most satisfaction. For those who can't wait to head off to warmer climates, Florida or Arizona, winter birding in the warm southern sunshine, I say, go. But here on my hill I see and feel the seasons. The smells, the sights and sounds of each--fall, with its colorful foliage and crisp evening air, the snow fall in winter, the riot of color from spring flowers and the short, stunningly brilliant summers.

Oh, ummm, excuse me, but the view outside my window is calling me. Bellingham.....   

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Tree Down!

So, after 20+ years of watching this fir tree grow from a 15 foot baby to a 50 foot giant and watching as the root system spread across the ground, I finally had to call in a tree guy. He showed up and recommended that I let him feather the tree. That entailed having one of his guys climb the tree and remove enough of the branches to allow it to more easily withstand the windy conditions we get up here on the hill several times a winter.

I hoped that the feathering would do the trick but two years later the roots running across the ground were pulling up further above the ground and was getting more nervous about what could potentially happen if we left the tree alone much longer.

I called several tree experts in to take a look and give us a bid on taking it down. All seemed to agree that removing it would be a good idea. Their bids to remove it varied wildly.

This fir tree towers above our home, the hot tub and has spread out to crowd out a beautiful dogwood. So, I was not much concerned with its demise. Leslie, on the other hand, has the philosophy that we should leave everythng alone. After a discussion though she has begun to defer more to my thoughts on this so this time it was easier to convince her the fir needed to be removed.

We got bids from three outfits here in town. The bids varied from $1,000 to $1,700. In this case I wanted the roots crawling across the ground removed and the stump ground so we could plant new grass. Stump ginding adds several hundred
dollars to the price of the job so, in the past, we have left the trunks. In the other cases the trunks were out of the way and didn't make a difference aesthetically. This stump would.

This morning, the crew showed up and made fast work of the tree. It's kind of sad when you think about how long it took for that tree to grow and the beautiy it added to our yard. But, if it had fallen it would have cost far more to repair the house, which is where it most certainly would have landed.

The branches went first as the tree climber ascended to the top. These were hustled off by the crew to a grinder parked out in the driveway. This kind of work doesn't even attract any gawkers around here. So many nasty, dirty cottonwoods have been taken down in the neighborhood as well as other species due to rot and or the danger of falling, that no one pays much attention.

The tree was down and carted away in about an hour leaving only the stump and roots to be grinded up. The chipper and sounds of chain saws ended and the take down team drove off to the next job.

Sometime later in the afternoon, a single guy drove up in his truck towing the stump grinder, a pretty massive device that looked out of some medieval torture chamber.

The goal was to grind out all the roots running along the ground and to grind the main stump down about 18". We'd come along after a few weeks and fill in the holes with new top soil and reseed with a new lawn.

The biggest issue aestetically is the gapping hole the absence of the tree leaves for the neighbors to peek in on us in the hot tub. So we plan to plant a tree or two later on. But these must not be of a species that grows anywhere near the height of that fir. We thought of a couple of dogwoods similar in height to the ones we already have in the yard but ones of differing colors. That'll be a ways off. Maybe in a year or two when the lawn is well established and the stump has settled down. Anyway, the project is done. Happy day!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Spring and The First Mow

It happenss every year about this time. I head out to the barn out back, unlock the double doors, swing them out and peer into the darkness at my John Deere riding tractor.  I love that tractor. The green and yellow paint, the very idea of owning a John Deere tractor even though it's really a riding mower, makes me smile.

When we bought this place my one caveat was that we would have to buy a riding mower. The steepness of the landscape and the size of the lawn made it all but a necessity. But, even I thought a John Deere brand tractor was a bit pricey when I compared it to a Sears Craftsman mower. So, I went with the Craftsman, and then a few years later after that one began to literally fall apart, I bought another one. After a few years that one. too, began falling apart. Enough!

I headed out to Washington Tractors up in Lynden where I new they had a great selection of John Deere equipment and took a look around. Sure enough there was my new tractor!

Well, maybe I was aiming a bit high. Maybe something a bit smaller would
do. After my daydream of all the cool stuff I could do with that first tractor, I shook it off and wandered over to the area on the lot where riding mowers were on display. I compared the different models and their price tags and settled on that little beauty whose green and yellow backside was staring out at me from the barn door.

I always reach out and give the top of the seat a little stroke before I do anything else. It's also where I hang my ear protectors, A few years too late to protect me from hearing loss, but at least the tractor won't be responsible for any further damage.

As the tractor hasn't been started since last October, the next thing I try and do, usually doesn't work--starting the engine. Inevitably, the battery has gone dead requiring me to connect up the Craftsman device I have in the barn that does still work after 20 years--the battery charger. I pull back the hood and connect the red and black wires to the associated battery leads and turn on the charger. A few hours of this treatment and the tractor is more reasonable about starting. A few cranks until the fuel is running through the lines and she fires up. A puff of smoke comes out the front end and after turning the throttle from choke to run the tractor is ready to back out into the spring sunshine.

The first mowing of the year is usually done with the blades at a higher level as the lawn has become lush and long after all the rain. A second swath at a lower level will usually get the lawn about the right height.

The biggest problem with the first mowing is all the leaves and branches and twigs that lie all over the yard as a result of the sometimes fierce wind storms we can get. I can mow over a lot of it, mulching it as I go. But, there is always enough that can't be mowed to fill the back of the pick-up truck, often a couple of times. Some of that is clippings we have created as a result of new branches that pop out from exisitng plants and trees and out over areas they are not welcome. Blackberries are the biggest offenders and they are a huge pain to get at, always resulting in scratched up arms and hands, blood oozing as if I'd had a fight with a cat. It never seems to matter whether I wear a long-sleeved shirt and leather gloves, I'm still a mess.

And so it goes. Another trip around the sun. Spring has sprung. Daffodils are blooming, camilias, too. The flowering plums are a riot of pink color up and down our street.  The tulips won't be far behind and then we'll leap into those short precious summer months when the sun is up at 6 in the morning and doesn't set until well after 9 PM. Then, as is the way of the far pacific northwest, the days will begin to shorten until the sun comes up later and later and sets by 4.

Happy spring everyone. Enjoy it while it lasts. I know we will.

Shakedown Cruise

We left the harbor on what was predicted to be a maybe go, maybe stay kind of day on Thursday, March 30 from our slip in the Squalicum marina. As it turned out it would be a glorious day full of sunshine and a light breeze. In short, a perfect spring day for cruising.

Our Key of Sea had only recently had its spring maintenance completed--fresh oil, fuel filters, new coolant, battery fluids checked and a general check up.The engines were prronounced in great shape. With the waste tank cleaned and the fresh water tank fresh and topped off, we started the engines at about 1:00 in the afternoon and pointed the bow to the south for the 2 and a quarter hour cruise to the Cap Sante marina in Anacortes.

Snagboat W.T. Preston on the Anacortes waterfront.
This marina is a favorite of ours. It is well managed, with plenty of slips available at reasonable prices. The shore power system is so easy to plug into, the exact opposite of our home port where skills as an acrobat would be very handy to get yourself plugged in. The biggest attraction at Cap Sante is its proximity to so many services, amenities and attractions. 

View from Cap SantePark
Two major grocery stores are within an easy walk, as are several restaurants. Every kind of boat repair and maintenance service is right there in the harbor. The entire main street of the town, Commercial Street, is only a block walk away. It is lined with restaurants, antique shops--a shoppers delight. Add to that a couple of unique attractions including the historic snagboat, W.T. Preston and a hike up to Cap Sante Park with its amazing view of the marina and in all directions.

We arrived in the marina about 3:15 and edged into our prearranged slip, C28. It was a bit of a rough landing. Two other boaters nearby came running to help get us finally into our spot. We tied up and began settling in. Aside from a couple of other boats, we were really alone on the dock. The rest of those attending the rendezvous wouldn't arrive until the next day.

Our cruise south to Anacortes had been sunny so I'd decided to run things from the flybridge. Unsure of the weather the following day, I decided to close things up up top. I covered the captain's chair with its canvas cover and then pulled the main canvas over the entire bridge to protect it from the wind and rain in the forecast.

We hadn't paid our moorage or power fees so we walked up to the marina office. The reciept included a discount for marina customers at Anthony's so we headed over for lunch. 

Crowd for dinner Saturday
After a great night's sleep we prepared for the boats arriving from our squadron as well as those from Friday Harbor's squadron and from the Bellingham Yacht Club. Boats began trickling in by around noon. By 5:00 most of the boats had arrived and the dock was pretty full. Docktails began down at the party barge at 6 and the evening was spent visiting with friends and making new ones.

Saurday morning dawned with overcast, windy skies and the threat of rain. Most folks seemed to hole up on their boats. Our friends Erik Senuty and Ione Adams were heading into town for a walk and some breakfast and invited us along. We wound up at Adrift, a great restaurant. Then wandered town before heading back to the boats.

Joe and Carol Young performed
Dinner that evening was a chicken BBQ and potluck on the party barge, There was a great spread of goodies from the boaters and the evening was filled with the music of Joe and Carol Young, well-known Bellinghamster musicians, who played music classic rock and folk songs most of which the crowd could sing along with.

Sunday morning we packed up and bugged out earlier than most of the others as we needed to get Leslie back to B'ham for a couple of music department events. We were unsure of the weather for Sunday but it wound up quite lovely for the cruise home. Not much sun but no rain and flat calm seas.