Saturday, October 31, 2009

Fire in the Sky

Sunset, halloween night, Seattle

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Last time I hiked up the ridge I'd spotted several fir and cedar seedlings along the road under the power lines. I try to dig these up before they get too large and transplant them in the woods near my house. The power company will poison or cut these eventually, so besides providing me free trees, I get to feel righteous for saving trees. I packed the shovel and boxes into my farm vehicle to get as many as I could.

While I was up there I decided to walk down to the end of my property, where I hope to eventually install a fence. I went into the woods to see if I could find the surveyors tags. Woods are so amazing. Within a few feet the outside world goes away, and all that exists are the woods and the birds in them. These woods were filled with golden-crowned kinglets, busy birds barely bigger than hummingbirds. It was too wet to get to the surveyors marks, but I managed to get back out of the woods without stepping into the stream hiding under the very tall grass and rushes, and bumped into posts from an old boundary fence. Right where I thought they should be.

As I started back up the track alarm calls burst from the woods, and then silence. I too stopped and looked around for the danger. A pair of bald eagles came into view, flying low over the clearing, white heads and tails gleaming. What a treat! I've been seeing these large birds more frequently lately, but still rarely enough that it gives me a thrill.

The trees are replanted, and I still feel the glow of my bird encounters, and can hear the high twits of the lovely kinglets.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Another Shelter Covered

It's always good to see one's hard work appreciated. While Charlie isn't using the elevated platform complete with dog bed, he is enjoying the sheltered space. This is very close to his favorite spot in the woods, where he can oversee most of the fenced areas.

This carport frame is in a very windy area, so I used a new Costco tarp (10 x 12) as the bottom layer, and then the old hay tarp to cover more of the frame. If it lasts the season, I'll replace them with a brand new large tarp. I have ends for the structure too, but can't decide if it's worth putting them on. I bought 3 of these Costco carports 4 years ago. This one only lasted one season before the wind ripped the cover to shreds. The other two were OK until last year's snow collapsed them.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Upcoming Resident

This 15 month filly will be coming to Ravenwood as soon as she accepts the halter and can be led and trailered. I've been making friends and getting her used to me and the concept of foreign objects on her body.

We have become friends - I couldn't get back far enough to take a head shot. Her half-sister is in the background. Their dad is a Spotted Draft Horse.

Getting her used to the lead rope, and having something resting on her body.

This is dad. Handsome guy. The mares think so too - they constantly come by in ones, twos or threes to chat with him.

My escort out. Notice the miniature bull at the end of the line - Norman. It felt sort of like leading a parade. Actually they were all hoping for some carrots or apple.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Rivers in the Sky #2

Driving to Renton yesterday was very interesting, and very beautiful. Hawaii has come to visit the past few days, bringing relatively warm weather and lots of water. Some of that water cascades down from the sky in tropical-weight showers, and some of it is flowing north in sky rivers.

Land rivers - at least wild ones - change their paths in the rainy season, carving new tracks through the earth on their way to the sea. Sky rivers, it seems, change their paths too, but vertically as well as horizontally.

The major rivers moving from the southwest - the center of the Pacific Ocean - to somewhere in the arctic seem to have dipped down a few thousand feet, flowing perilously close to the ground.

I followed these rivers all the way to Renton, where they seemed to flow eastward into the mountains, spread out, and cover Bellevue.

The textures and colors were endlessly changing, like water flowing down a river - always changing, and always the same.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Autumn Oddness

In the rear view mirror dark, threatening clouds loom. Thunder can be heard rumbling around the hills. Ahead is blue sky and bright sun shining off of yellow autumn leaves and fluffy white clouds, as I drive out of the foothills into the valley.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

New Resident

Our newest resident had just entered the field. The current occupants are not at all certain about this.

They immediately grouped behind the shelter for safety, keeping a close eye on the newcomer.

Charlie on the other hand is most interested, perhaps even pleased.

Blue is most curious about her new soon-to-be friends, and is trying hard to make their acquaintance.

Blue wants to make friends, but the current residents are wary. Whenever she approaches, they run off.

A little grain helps break the ice. Sheep are much more interested in food than they are afraid of the newcomer.

Not friends yet, but maybe she's ok. Blue seems to like her new digs. She's been exploring up and down the hill at the back, and taken peeks into the woods. She keeps talking to the sheep, goats and donkey, but they silently retreat.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Birth of a Hay Shelter

Costco carport - no tools required. Except the ones needed to open the packaging. The tarped lump in the background is my haystack, not a lopsided vehicle. The time from laying out the materials to zipping the last door was 5 hours, with two inexperienced installers and 2 dog overseers.

Materials released from their packaging, roof bars assembled. This stage took slightly longer than needed because we got our As and Bs mixed up.

Roof and one set of legs assembled. Jesse doing an inspection.

Second side legs assembled, framework magically moved over hay, and canvas attached. Actually, these steps were so consuming I forgot to take pictures. But isn't this a lovely sight?

Resident hen a little surprised to lose her snug covering, but thinking this shelter might be a good thing. Silly hen is sitting on 22 eggs, ready to hatch in about a week. That would be late October.

Jesse patiently laying in wait for mice to dart out from under the stacks. He's using one of the cement blocks that held the tarp down for a pillow. Might as well be comfortable while waiting for mice.

Charlie performing his overseeing duties. No one is going to steal the tarp or the shelter.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Fall Color in Vermont

A friend has just posted pictures of her recent trip to Vermont, visiting a historic farmhouse surrounded by gloriously colorful woods. Check out the beauty at Shaman's Tales of Anatolian Shepherds.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Mt St Helens - Johnston Ridge

My daily view of Mt St Helens makes me very fond of the mountain. A trip up to the National Monument is always a treat, and we were delighted that even though it's October we had beautiful, warm, sunny weather.

As barren as the landscape looks, it's actually teeming with life compared to just a few years ago. The blast part of the eruption sterilized this area, on top of the landslide that buried the old growth forest. The ash laid down on top of everything else prevented plant roots from reaching nutritious soils, and made it difficult for animals to move through the area.

The new dome has also built up an amazing amount since I was last here. A new mountain top in the making. Steam is rising throughout the dome and crater.

The river has cut through the ash and pumice, creating 150' crumbly banks.

The elk have been an important part of the restoration of the blast area since the May 18th 1980 eruption. One of the largest herds in the state roamed this area - 1400 elk. The blast killed them, covering them in super-heated ash. That winter scientists noticed moss-covered elk-sized lumps. In death, they provided the nutrients needed for life in a newly created desert.

Surprisingly, elk from surrounding areas started coming in to the blast zone almost immediately. Grass and plants were seeded along the river valley to provide food for them. These elk were large enough to walk through the ash and pumice up the slopes looking for food. Their hoofprints provided hollows for rain and seeds to collect in, and as the seeds germinated they became flowerpots, further protecting the young plants. The elk paths loosened the ash, rains made gullies, and more protected places were made to collect water and seeds.

Besides all that, the elk droppings contained a multitude of seeds (one scientist grew 8 plant species from just 3 elk pellets). They also reseeded the areas they walked through.

There is once again a huge elk herd living in this barren-looking land.

Mt. Adams peeks over the ridges. The vine maples are turning brilliant red. Very surprisingly there are still flowers blooming. The white in the foreground are small daisy-like flowers.

Spirit Lake, nestled against the far ridge. Part of the landslide that preceded the eruption slid into Spirit Lake, pushing the water up the ridge behind it. When the water crashed back down it brought with it the trees killed in the heat of the blast. The lake now covers a much larger area, but is half its previous depth.

Plants on Johnston Ridge

It surprised me to see flowers blooming so late in the year, at such an elevation.

This tree is on top of the ridge. Obviously a strong, cold wind regularly comes off the mountain.

Coldwater Lake - Hummocks Trail

For our main hike we followed the park ranger's recommendation of the Hummock Trail. This, he said, provided the most variety if not the most mountain views. When he mentioned the beaver dam we were sold. He also suggested doing the trail backwards, as there's a long and steep incline at the end. Better to do that downhill at the beginning.

The trail is a 2-1/2 mile loop with a total 300 foot elevation change. The unstable footing made it more arduous than you might expect, but it's a nice hike that fits in well with the long drives.

The hummocks provide pockets for water to collect, which allows plants to take hold.

The trail winds up and down through lush mini-valleys to near-barren hillsides.

Punctuated by views of the remains of the mountain. A reminder of where this land came from.

Coldwater Lake - Hummock Trail Beaver Pond

The ranger at Johnston Ridge told us there was a beaver dam along the Hummocks Trail at Coldwater Lake. We came to a small pond and found several beaver signs, like these felled trees.

And then we came upon a small offshoot of the main dam - new construction is at the far end.

This is the main dam. There is a distinct difference in water level in the dammed pond, and you can hear the water trickling through to the creek. The dam created the pond but does not stop flow in the creek. The dam is huge. I wish I could see inside!

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Saturday, October 03, 2009


This weekend Shelton, WA hosted Oysterfest, a yearly fall festival designed to provide a fun time and raise money for charities in Mason County. It includes live music, lots of wonderful food (the curried muscles from Xihns are to die for!), a huge wine tasting area, and outside entertainment - not always scheduled. From the cowboy with a low belt packed with hot sauces to the RV Pirates, you never know who you'll see.

One of the attendees was the Chicken Lady, "newly hatched, bloomers and all." She delighted in all the wonderful people in her new world -

My nephew Mike gets a peck on the head

Chicken Lady kicks high in delight of life

Friday, October 02, 2009

Autumn Clouds

The sky is so beautiful. These clouds are typical of this area, marching across the sky.