Smith Meadow

How I come to be here is another story for another time, Smith Meadow being enough of a story in itself. A clearing in the middle of a parcel of forested land has become dear to many in my family. Part of the farm my father came to the year he and my mom were married, it has had a part in my brother’s lives as they have cared for it in various ways. Lately the forest around it has been harvested leaving wide paths through the pines and hardwoods that are still plentiful. Dark, cool, and full of mosquitoes, the path winds through the forest all the way around the meadow.

Really if it were not for the forest, the meadow would not have the magic that it does. It is a surprise of openness, with a feeling of privacy. It is a secret that cannot be seen from outside. There is a grass covered road through a field of hay by which to approach the meadow. Those who don’t know it’s there, would not notice it at all. From cars on the nearby paved road all that can be seen is a tall wall of trees on the far side of an expanse of timothy grass and clover.

In the aftermath of a disturbing discussion, I stepped out into the meadow looking for some peace, looking for the path into the woods. Trees have always helped me feel sheltered, covered, and aware of their bigness and the smallness of my problems. It was fall when I last walked on the path so the trees were mostly bare and leaves covered the ground. This evening, everything was green from the floor to the ceiling overhead, an endless variety of patterns and shapes in green, green and green…

The path itself is predominantly covered with white clover and grass, almost like it has been seeded. It creates a perfect dining area for deer and I expect to see one every time I go around a bend, but no. Only once did I hear a sound and see the momentary flash of white in the woods. But the grasses were disturbed and flattened in many places all along the mile or so of my walk. The deer had been there.

I returned, along with my mosquito friends, to my abode for the night. This lonely little trailer house, on the edge of Smith Meadow, no electricity, no water – just peace (and mosquitoes).

More Wonderful Things

6-18-2019

Flowers, guys. Flowers are wonderful. There is something so special about northern flowers too, a different special than the Florida flowers I’m used to.

Here we go. Korean lilacs, late bloomers.

Iris – such fancy ladies – and they smell so good!Daisies in mom’s garden – so pretty!I love Wave Petunias.

And if flowers are too common for you to get excited about, I’d ask you to look at this ice cube I found in the fridge. It’s uncommonly wonderful. It has a stem. How does that happen?

Before You Know It

Time goes so fast! The fun thing I’ve been looking forward to for months, the hike in the Grand Canyon, is only six days away. I know from experience that it will only be a short time and I will be looking back on it and wondering how it could be over already.

While believing (strongly) in living “in the moment”, I also love to plan ahead, and I enjoy remembering good things from the past. So to alleviate my disappointment on having one adventure end, I like to have one always cooking for the future. I’ve picked my next enjoyable, spring activity! I’m already excited about the summer garden.

I love gardening. Almost everything about it is fun for me. Even if nothing were to grow (this has never happened) I just enjoy being out in the dirt, spending time in the sun, watching bugs and birds, loving on my plants. I know plants are not people and they don’t have feelings (not actually sure of that, but…). However, they do respond to good, thoughtful care which makes them seem kind of like people.

And so, I like to think about what plants will be in my garden, what kind of soil will be prepared for them, how I will keep other plants (weeds) from competing with them, and all that kind of stuff. I like to buy seeds and starter plants. I like to watch the garden grow from its early stage to being full of greenery and fruitful. I like to keep the edges neat.  Experimenting is allowed and there is always something new to try.

My brother Dennis says hi.

This year there will be a new garden location. My brother has chosen a plot in his yard, close to a water source and has it all worked up. There were a lot of grass clumps in the topsoil so he is tilling it up every couple of days to dry them out and hopefully kill the roots. I can already imagine being out there laying out the rows, mulching, getting dirty.

I’ll enjoy the hike thoroughly and concentrate on it while I’m there, but thankfully, I am a good multi-tasker and will probably have a thought or two about the garden while I’m trying to fall asleep, on the hard ground, in my tent… just sayin’.   

Thirteen Thousand Steps

One day this week I took a longer than usual walk, for training purposes. Since the first day walking at the Grand Canyon will be at least four hours of descent, I’ve been trying to think of places that would be interesting for the longer training walks. The trails around Hospital Lake fit the description.  Hospital Lake, named for the Hayward Area Memorial Hospital which can be seen from nearly every vantage point around the lake, not only has ski and hiking trails but actually has a very cool bike trail designed and maintained by the Chequamagon Area Mountain Bike Association (CAMBA).

ATV trail on old railroad bed

From home, I took the railroad bed ATV trail. Right away I had to take pictures of the fungi and moss. There aren’t a lot of green things growing yet so these plants get top billing. And they are so interesting they deserve it.

Love these colors and textures!
Different!
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And a bit of color.

A short distance on Hospital Road, and then I ducked into the pine woods where I knew I would intersect with a trail. It’s a small enough area that is fairly familiar to me so I wasn’t concerned about getting lost. My motto is “I’m never lost if I don’t care where I’m going.” So true. And if the goal is to get in as many steps as possible…

All the trails aren’t this wide and smooth. This is one of the ski trails.

In opting for whichever trail looked most interesting, I ended up on some I had not seen before. I discovered that some new trails were being made in the woods by workers with heavy equipment – they weren’t there at the time but there was lots of evidence. Part of this forest is old growth pine – trees which always have me in awe of their size and bearing. Guardians of the forest, who have seen a lot of action.

The guardian and his weapons.
Swans on Hospital Lake

Reaching the lake, I got a glimpse of swans on the far edge, too far for a good picture. I counted five and watched them for a while.  On the way out I did try a couple trails that took me in circles, and again I ended up in places I hadn’t seen before. The area is bigger than I thought. Thirteen thousand steps, for me, is 5.84 miles and I was beginning to feel the strain so I headed home. My sis-in-law met me on the way back and we walked home together.

Hospital Lake – beautiful area for walking, biking or in winter, skiing. Try it if you are ever in Hayward.

Xeriscape of the Canyon

Xeriscape: a landscaping method that employs drought resistant plants and special techniques to conserve water.  I love plants! Can’t forget to do a little research on plants…

I’m thinking that someone did a pretty good xeriscape job in the Grand Canyon. Looking at the chart below with rainfall averages for the South Rim, North Rim and the Inner Gorge, I see only one month, August, with significant precipitation. The highest number for any month is 2.85 inches. The Grand Canyon is mostly desert.

I am so glad we are not going to the Inner Gorge in July or August (the numbers with the little stars by them – see note about 120 degree temps!!!)

In spite of that, and because of the climate changes with elevation, it is amazingly rich in plant life and almost all are drought resistant. Here’s a list:

  • 1, 737 known species of vascular plants
  • 167 species of fungi
  • 64 species of moss
  • 195 species of lichen

There are 12 plants that are only found in the Grand Canyon (endemic), and only 10% of the plants in the Canyon are exotic (from somewhere else and probably invasive). Those are pretty special statistics.

There is such a variety of eco systems in the canyon. As you can imagine, along the river where there are seeps and springs and tributaries joining the Colorado, there will be willows, acacia, rare plants and hanging gardens. At higher elevations there is desert scrub, then pinyon pine and juniper, then at about 6,500 feet above sea level the Ponderosa pine forests start. On the north rim there are some mountain meadows and subalpine grasslands.

I’m glad I don’t have to forage for food while I’m visiting the canyon, but how good is it to know that there are things there that can be eaten? I found a website telling me that the top three plants that could save me from starvation are the banana yucca, the currant bush, and the cereus cactus. Maybe you should know about them too – you never know where you’re going to find yourself. Click the link. https://grandcanyonhelicoptertour.net/top-3-edible-plants-of-the-grand-canyon/

I would have a tough time creating a xeriscape that would have the natural features and beauty of the Grand Canyon (unless I had a couple billion years to work on it) but I am expecting to enjoy and photograph it – a favorite pastime. Hoping to add some stunning pics to this post after the hike.

Ordinary Times and Travels: Alki Drive, post 7

Come along. Charlie (the dog) and I are going for a walk.

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A summer shot along the sea wall from Alki Beach.

West Seattle is a peninsula of sorts with a variety of geographical features. In previous visits I’ve posted about the Alki lighthouse, the stairways leading up the steep bluffs, the old growth forest in the interior, and some of the sights along the default exercise walk, Alki Drive. Today, Charlie and I went on that walk just to see what it looked like in winter.  It has been so cold, wet and windy that we were glad to have time outside on a calmer, warmer day.

On Alki Drive one can traverse the western side of West Seattle from the lighthouse and Alki Beach all the way up to the northern point where there is a good view of downtown Seattle across the water. It’s hard to describe in words so you really have to look at a map. Puget Sound has many islands, inlets, peninsulas and bays and is a long body of water. There are some beaches but often the shoreline is rocky and steep. My daughter’s house is only a few blocks from one of the few beach areas so that is where my walk usually starts.

There is the water, a sandy beach which gives way gradually to a cement sea wall, then a wide grass and shrub strip, then the sidewalk for walkers, another strip of shrubbery, the wide paved area for bikers, skaters and long board riders, then the street, the sidewalk again, a row (sometimes two) of dwellings and finally a steep, unbuildable cliff covered with trees and vines. Every once in a while there is enough of an outcropping that someone feels safe attaching houses to it, but the roads to them are narrow, switch-backed and have very inventive parking areas.

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The bluff is not very high here. Another row of houses hanging on up top.

Although it is cold here, it doesn’t freeze hard enough to kill many of the plants and shrubs. There is green grass, many of the trees still have leaves and the houses and condos along Alki Drive looked much like they do in the spring and summer. I passed the monkey tail tree, araucaria araucana, one of the oddest conifers I have ever seen.

This is the thought game I play while I walk past all the small summer houses, the old ones. Many of them are run down, poorly maintained, and some are uninhabited (condemned most likely), in spite of the high priced land they are sitting on. I look at them and plan what I would do first if I lived there. Give me a sledge hammer, some paint, a shovel. They beg me to pull the weeds, pick up trash and simply make them look like someone loves them. I know if they are not fixed up they will soon find themselves replaced with high rise condos.  Some are fixed up and are very cute – showing that it can be done.

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Draw a circle around the one that is not like the others.

The goal today is to walk to the so-called “flower house”. Nestled between two high rises, a small house and adjoining building have become locally famous for being festooned with flowers throughout the summer, extremely festooned. The flower house is right on the sidewalk and the owner has seating for tourists to have their pictures taken surrounded by flowers. I’ve posted photos of my daughter and I in those very seats last year. This winter the décor is more sparse but still lovely.

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On the way back, the house that wins my vote for Christmas prettiness is this one. I choose it mostly because of the blue lights which are my favorites.

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I walk a little further and see another one of my colorful favorites, the Blue Moon Burger joint. They have some crazy good sweet potato fries there.

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One of many eateries lined up along Alki Drive in the beach area.

And then we head inland a couple blocks and are back to Esther’s house, “Ocean’s Arms”, immediately below the path leading into Schmitz Park.  To end, I am showing you a picture of the Star of Bethlehem tree, which you saw in the dark a few nights ago.  This is how it looks in the day, along the walk going up into Schmitz Park. Both pictures are from my bedroom window. We think they must leave the star up there all year, although Esther has not thought to look.

 

Thanks for coming along on my walk down Alki Drive.

#atozchallenge: What exactly is a fig?

 

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A “figgy” picture of two different kinds of dried figs that are commonly available.

If you’re like me and didn’t grow up in a warm climate, your only exposure to figs was a cookie called Fig Newtons.  Since growing up (getting bigger anyway…) spending time in California and Florida, I now know that a fig is a fruit about the size of a plum that grows on a small tree or bush and is part of the mulberry family.  It can be eaten fresh but since it has to ripen on the tree and doesn’t keep for very long, it’s most often encountered as a dried fruit, a lot like a prune. There are a lot of different varieties with differences in flavor but because they are so perishable you won’t often find them unless you grow them.

The taste of a fig is very mild and that is probably why we see them dried more often than not. Drying concentrates the flavor and makes it more distinctive.  The dark ones I have pictured are the variety called Mission figs and the lighter colored ones are California figs.  Organic is a good choice, as with any product where you are eating the skins and all.

Nothing too remarkable in their appearance – most dried things are not lovely – but the fruit before being dried is very interesting.  Figs can be grown in most any temperate climate. I have been trying to grow figs in Florida, which is not exactly temperate, but even here they survive.. To pollinate and have true seeds they need the help of a little wasp that we don’t have in North America but the plant will produce fruit even without that pollination.  Summary: they are easy to grow but do better in loamy soil with adequate water and some pruning. If you don’t get fruit, be patient, it could take a few years. One tip I read for plants that don’t fruit is to add lime to the soil. I need to do this and to prune in the dormant season.

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Ooops, missed the dormant season – my fig is already budding out.

Eat figs fresh in salads, or as table fruit. Use them dried on your cereal, in soups, stews, to enrich poultry or lamb, and in baked goods. Here’s a favorite recipe that use the dried figs you would normally find in most grocery store. Give it a go!  Fig-Bran Muffins  Or,  you could always go and buy some Fig Newtons… just sayin’.

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They even have them in the healthy food stores!

Nature’s Twists and Turns (a freak storm)

The last two times I have visited my hometown of Hayward have been connected with storms of note. Last fall I was there for the first blizzard of the year. This week I happened in on a freak storm that colored most of this visit.

The morning started like any other in northern Wisconsin in the late stages of summer, overcast and grey. Then it changed to something unusual. Everyone who witnessed it starts their story with “and then it got dark”, “it was as black as night”, “it got as dark as this black shirt I’m wearing”.

From her living room window my mom can see the top of the flagpole at the next door furniture store. The flag was flapping in a west wind. The rain began and the sound of it soon grew louder as hail began hitting the windows and siding of the house. There was a fury in this storm that sent those who had basements down for shelter. After about an hour, when the wind had subsided and the sky was lighter many people came out to look at the damage. There were piles of ice here and there. The fence around the development had been shot through with holes where it was still standing and completely twisted and blown down everywhere else.

this fence will not go up again
this fence will not go up again

holes from the wind driven hail
holes from the wind driven hail

As they stood in the street talking, my brother noticed a dark bank of clouds rapidly approaching from a different direction. It was as if the storm turned around and came back for a second round. More rain pelted the area and winds continued from what seemed like all points of the compass. There have often been tornado like events in this area without any sightings of funnel clouds or advance warning of any kind. This seemed to be one of those times. The area affected had no clear boundaries, the destruction had no apparent path.

A day later, we drove around to check on nearby properties that my dad owns. I saw firsthand what hail can do. Cornfields with stalks still standing but no leaves on them. Lawns looking like they had been mowed. A green carpet of chopped leaves on roads, roofs, and the forest floor. Trees looking like fall had already stripped them. In addition, many trees were down, sometimes in clumps having come down together, but often randomly, here and there. Trees that had fallen on the road had by this time been cut allowing cars to pass, but clean up was going slowly.

What's left of the corn
What’s left of the corn

Trees nearly bared by hail
Trees nearly bared by hail

Chopped leaf salad covers  many roads
Chopped leaf salad covers many roads

and roof tops
and roof tops

Many roads obstructed with fallen trees and utility poles.
Many roads obstructed with fallen trees and utility poles.

Gardens and flower pots that had been still in full bloom and production were decimated – an early demise. I worked at cleaning up my mom’s patio where she had several planters, one full of herbs and flowers. The plants had been chopped and spread about and my sweeping stirred up the aroma of basil and parsley. The garden that had received compliments the week before was empty of everything except a few cabbages. I pulled up the bare corn stalks and cucumber vines. The small creeks that flow through my brother’s property were overflowing and flooding the drive. The downed trees numbered 40 and as already mentioned, the fence was history. In the nearby town there was much flooding and standing water. One other noticeable post storm effect – the birds were gone.

The garden I helped plant last May.  I got to help tear it down after the storm.
The garden I helped plant last May. I got to help tear it down after the storm.

A lot of loveliness shredded and beaten down...
A lot of loveliness shredded and beaten down…

People are helping each other clean up. Those without electricity are borrowing generators. Things are slowly getting back to normal. Much has been lost but the landscape will recover. We are all reminded that nature is still a powerful, untamed force.

After the hailstorm,  Those are not bullet holes.
After the hailstorm, Those are not bullet holes.