This is a blog featuring my personal stories of food, gardening, yachting, photography, travel and life.

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.