Archive for June, 2014

WolfDance Sanctuary

 

I’m a lucky guy to have 2 gardens to be involved with. These pictures are of my 40 acre Homestead that I purchased with my friend Cedar 30 years ago this year. We lived there for several years, building cabins and trying to make a home on a piece of land where no one had ever lived before. It’s completely off the grid, with no electricity, running water, or phone, and we have a great outhouse too. It’s 1.75 miles just to drive up the driveway from the main county road and the last 1/2 mile is 4 wheel drive only because it’s so steep.

It’s a huge amount of land and I had great visions of creating my botanical garden there when we moved there in 1984. Unfortunately the pond we thought would give us water for years went down to a mud puddle by September and the work I did was so hard on me that my back eventually went into a bad spasm and I had to move back to the city in the fall of 1989. That 5 1/2 year period living there was quite wonderful and so exciting, but also so very hard on my body and spirit as I realized that I could never create the homestead and garden I’d envisioned there and had to give up those dreams in favor of just keeping the land as a retreat for ourselves and our friends.

I feel very grateful to “own” this land, tho our plan all along has been to entrust it to a Land Conservation Trust at some point when we can no longer manage to make it there and take care of the place. It’s a 7 hour drive from Seattle so we don’t go often but when we do we try to do the maintenance work that has to occur to keep it from being overtaken by the wild nature of the land. We have black bear, cougar, coyote, mule deer, pheasant, grouse, bobcat, lynx, eagles and hawks, and so many birds you can’t even keep track. The forest covers 1/2 of the land with a mix of Douglas Fir and Ponderosa Pine with some Quaking Aspen thrown in here and there for their beauty. The rest is Sagebrush and Bitterbrush Chaparral, or High Desert Plateau.

We tried planting some things there but only a few survived due to lack of regular water. One is the Bristlecone Pine in one picture we planted as part of a ceremony in 1987. It’s grown some with no water, but the native trees on the land have grown immensely in the 30 years we’ve had the land and it’s a Sanctuary for the plants and animals that live there. We plan to put restrictions in the Conservation Easement when we sell it so that it can never be logged or mined so this small 40 acre parcel will always be that Sanctuary in a very real sense. The land is wild and surrounded by other wild land, so it’s isolated at the end of the road and no one ever comes there but us.

It’s a safe haven for the animals except during deer season when hunters cross our No Trespassing signs and come to shoot our deer. Not much we can do but when we’re there we discourage it and I’ve had some run ins with hunters that were pretty scary to me, who doesn’t own a gun and never has and I confronted guys with rifles on occasion to get rid of them and not let them hunt there. It’s a challenge at times, but it’s been a hunting ground for some of the locals for years and they consider it their right to hunt there. It’s an attitude that we can’t change but can try to discourage, and we do.

The pictures are somewhat self explanatory with the labels I put on them, I hope. When I say we’re looking down into the Bowl, that’s the part in the center of the land that is surrounded on all sides by larger hills and is where the pond and all our cabins are located. It’s a 5 acre area that is about all the area we’ve done work on , and we’ve kept that to a minimum. We cleared out lots of the old wood that had been left by the loggers who cut some trees in 1980 before we got there and we used the timber to build our first cabin, mostly out of poles and scavenged wood and windows from friends and neighbors.

The whole first cabin only cost us around $200 in nails and roofing and it’s still standing and we use it for storage now because the rats have taken over there. It’s awful but we hate to kill them so we’re trying to remove all the places they can nest and get rid of them that way if we can. We were just there last week and did a bunch of work to clean up the old cabin and make it safer for humans again, tho we’ll never use it for sleeping or food prep. again. It’s just too gross. Sad but true. Rats are awful!

We started building our first cabin in the Fall of 1984, after living in a tent for awhile and then a Tipi for a few more months. It was really cool to live in the Tipi and we had our woodstove in it to keep it warm but it was all pretty intense. It was a good experience in living close to the earth and being in tune with the land as much as we could be. We finished the cabin on December 15th and moved in for the winter, only to discover the road was too steep and snowy to drive in and so we had to rent a small house in town to work each year, except for when I lived on the land one winter all alone. It was a real challenge since my back was hurt badly and my partner Cedar could only come up now and then on weekends. It was a rough winter for me.

By then I was living in my own cabin which I show in some of the pictures. You can see how small it is at only 12 x 10 feet with an addition I put on a few years ago of 8 x 8 for a bedroom area. All this was done on a shoestring budget so it’s pretty rustic to say the least. My cabin is made from Slab Wood from a Chain saw mill our neighbor gave us after he logged some of the land he bought nearby. Cedar’s cabin is made of dimensional wood and framed correctly and will stand for years and years. I dunno about the main cabin or mine but the shed is also very strong and will stand for a long time. As I said there were no buildings on the land when we got there so we built all of them ourselves and it was a Lot of work. Just living in that environment was hard work, having to haul our water, except for when we had a water system from the pond for a couple of years until it was too hard to maintain so we had to give it up.

I tried to include views of many parts of the land itself as well as views of what it looks like when you look out from the land. It’s at 3300′ elevation and at the top of a range of hills that means we have about a 330 degree view  from the top where I took some of these pictures. You can see down into the main part of the land to where the pond is located and also the area where we have all the cabins and the shed. We try to keep the road mowed each year but this year our mower died so it’s still all grassy and hard to navigate thru. Hopefully  we’ll fix our old mower here in town and take it back there to mow some later in the year or else next year. It doesn’t require much maintenance anymore except for cleaning out the old cabin, but it’s still work to mow the road and we only do it once a year.

I ended the tour with a few shot of the animal presences we have at the land. You can see both bear and cougar scat as well as a small ants nest (yes I said Small – they get twice this size!) just to prove there are such creatures living there I guess. It’s hard to get pictures of the animals themselves and we didn’t see any deer this trip but did see signs of them as well as the others.

We really try to keep this land safe and are intent on putting it into a Trust someday to keep it safe forever. I hope we can do that as we love the place and it’s a treasure to have it. We adapted to the legal fiction that we own it, tho our attitude  is the land owns US and we have to adapt to its needs and the way it is there and not do too much to change its natural state. We manged to not impact most of the land for which I’m grateful. It’s a beautiful place. I’m sorry I can’t live there anymore but I’m just too banged up these days to pull it off. But I still enjoy going over there and spending time with it.

It’s peaceful and you can see a million stars since it’s so isolated. It’s located in the Okanogan Highlands and is in North Central Washington State, just about 20 miles as the crow flies from Canada which I show in one picture at least. It’s wild and natural and we hope we can still go to it until other folks live there some day, which I hope can happen. It’s a hard land to live on tho and hard to homestead there because of all the rock and lack of water, but it can be done, as we showed. I could write books about our experiences living there and trying to make it work. It eventually beat us up too much to live there but just being able to visit is truly wonderful and we’re so grateful to be the caretakers of this land for now at least. We hope it stays safe as a Sanctuary for a long time after we’re gone….

Now it’s back to the City…

Steve

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Shades of Red

 

 

And Pink, and Purple, and some in between colors too, but they all fit in the spectrum of Red. I’m amazed by all the plants I have that have red tones to them. It’s obviously a pretty popular color. I’ve tried to add them to the garden because they add so much interest and I love the varied hues they represent. Some of them are in the leaf and others are in the blooms, but all are in the reddish range and provide some intense color to the garden at most any time of the year. These pictures cover the last few months since things started to bloom and leaf out well, tho they’re not in any particular chronological order.

First up is a Yarrow that just keeps getting better each year. It’s called Paprika and has intense red blooms with yellow flecks in the centers. Then are 3 different red Japanese maples that are even named red, like the Red Dragon and Red Pygmy, and the Bloodgood is considered the most excellent red cultivar of Japanese maples you can find. It’s been in circulation since the 1800’s sometime as I recall.

The weeping beech I planted as a memorial for my brother and it has his ashes underneath it. It’ll get taller eventually but since I stopped staking it up it’s stopped getting taller for now. I’m hoping it’ll mound up on itself as time goes on but it may just get wider I’m not sure. The Red Fox Katsura is hard to see I know but it has deep purple blue green leaves that are even more red at first growth. It hasn’t grown this year at all which concerns me but patience is called for here and I’m trying my best to just allow it to grow on its own pace. It’ll be a lovely tree in time.

The Physocarpus, or Ninebark as they’re called, is a small shrub with deep maroon leaves and light pink flowers that didn’t bloom much this year but it grew well. While the Blue Peter Rhodie has been here for years and always puts on a fine display of flowers. The lavender and the sage are in the Herb bed and I’ve gotten a lot of good food from this bed. I harvested my savory and oregano awhile ago while it was in fresh growth and some rosemary too. I’ll have a good stash for cooking this year.

The Mountain Fire Pieris, or Lily of the Valley shrub, has such fine red tones when it first leafs out that turn to a light mahogany and then to  green as time goes on. Buds will set on it from this fall and it’ll bloom in winter with white blooms. I’m rooting for this one to get bigger so it screens us from the neighbors on the deck. It takes time tho so I have to be patient again. It’s required when you a start a garden mostly from scratch and use smaller plants like we did. It takes time and waiting is hard for me but I do it because what else can one do?

I know the Columbine I showed is more blue than red but it’s so beautiful I had to show it. It’s a self sown seedling that just came up in a bed of them I let happen. I love them so much I just let them grow since they aren’t in the way at all. The Heuchera is in the front yard and adds some nice color to that area there with its delicate blossoms and fine maroon leaves. The Anna Rose Whitney Rhodie is in the back of the whole garden and will be a foundation of the corner of the yard as it gets bigger which is doing well now.

The Barberry is a small shrub that has to compete with the Spruce next to it on one side and the Giant Sequoia on the other. It seems  to be holding its own tho so I’m not worried. A little bit of pruning on the spruce and it looks fine. The next azalea is one Louie planted years ago so I don’t know its name but it’s sure lovely isn’t it? Bright and lush it always makes me smile. So does the Ward’s Ruby, one of my favorite azaleas. It’s a kurume so it doesn’t get too big but has loads of blooms when it does so. The Bow Bells and Ken Janeck Rhodies both come on light pink and then one changes to deep pink and the other to white as they age. Both are lovely. The Ken Janeck is a Yak rhodie, a small form with huge leaves that I love. Very cool.

Clearly the Tulips have been here for awhile and it’s amazing that they still come up thru the soil we put there and the plants grow thru them now. They add some bright color to the winter garden when they bloom. The Elephant Ears or Saxifrage, are in the front of the whole garden and provide a soft haven of their flowers with their lush foliage. I love the deep color they have.

The Thrift, the Daphne and the Bleeding Heart are all in the same area and are quite wonderful when they all bloom together. The Daphne is so fragrant too, it’s possible to smell it standing up next to it but if you really want to smell it you have to get down on your knees. It’s wonderful. The Blue Diamond Rhodie has grown a lot this year but only bloomed a bit. It’s so healthy tho I’m happy with it. The currant is blooming well in this picture but hasn’t grown much yet this year, as have so many plants. It seems to be the year of patience for me this year as I’ve said before. Ah well, as long as they keep growing I have faith that they’ll do well in time.

The Racemosum Rhodie is a species Rhodie that has wonderful light pink blooms at an early stage in the season. They come when you’re just tired of winter and need a bit of color in the garden. They provide some wonderful  blooms. The Winter Daphne has wonderfully fragrant flowers in pink and the Ural False Spirea has such cool pinkish tips to its growth I’ve included both which live next to each other in the front yard. You can smell the daphne all over he yard when it blooms.

The Goshiki Kotohime maple means “variegated old harp” in Japanese. It supposedly reminds one of the Koto, a stringed instrument that is endemic to Japan. A lovely plant and a wonderful instrument. This is the new growth that is so very bright and then fades to green as the year progresses. Very lovely. The Heath  is in the Heather garden and adds some blossoms in winter when the heathers are dormant.

The next shot it is of under the starting bed in the greenhouse and has a Persian cyclamen and a Tradescantia which both are doing well this year. They get a bit of water from the bed but we still give them extra to keep them going well. Last is a Moyers Red Nandina in full color with both leaves and berries red as can be. It’s a nice one to finish off this tour of red shades I think.

I hope you enjoyed this tour of Red. I’ve done blue before but never red and it seemed like it was time to do so. With all the maples in particular and the other plants now in such fine colors I just had to share them. They brighten up the garden like nothing else and are so varied as you can see that they provide much interest even beside the color. The forms and the textures too add dimensions to the whole interplay of color and style in this garden as they do in so many others.

Red Rules!

Steve

Yellowstone – Land of Boiling Waters

 

Louie and I recently took a trip to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons National Parks. We came back filled with wonder and about a zillion pictures of our visit. This time I’m focusing on scenes of steam and water and the amazing mud they create in wondrous colors and forms. The whole land is just bubbling and gurgling with underground steam yet to be released. As one fellow traveler remarked, we were taking pictures of a Lot of steam! It’s truly an awesome place and we had a wonderful time there.

Yellowstone is the first National Park in the whole world and the biggest in the contiguous United States. It’s absolutely huge and contains a 30 x 45 mile wide caldera from a giant volcano that is still active and spewing forth steam daily in its many geysers, more geysers than anywhere else in the world. There are so many it’s impossible to see them all but we tried to see a good cross section of them, tho we stayed on the main roads and paths rather than going into any back country areas.

I’ve included a few of the trail signs that tell some of the story of the park and the geysers and the constant smell of sulphorous steam that permeates the landscape as you wander around the various hot spots. Some places are so dangerous that you have to stay on the boardwalks the Park Service has constructed because otherwise you’d fry your feet off if you tried to walk onto the ground. It’s a little terrifying to say the least.

I’m not going to talk much and just let the pictures tell their own stories here today. I wasn’t able to keep track of just which geyser I was shooting at any given time so it’s a jumble of places  that we happened to visit in no particular order, tho of course the first geyser shown is of Old Faithful at its highest point when we we there. It was pretty cool alright. Lots of visitors for so early in the year too.

I’ve always loved National Parks because of the natural beauty of course, but also because of the great diversity of people who travel in them and the many languages you overhear on your walks. They are truly places that welcome the World in and it’s so cool to be among so many different types of people, all inspired and in awe of the natural sights that the different parks have to offer.

I hope you enjoy these pictures. I’ll post more of other things over the next bit of time. I haven’t been posting much lately due to some serious depression, but I’m doing much better now. As some of you know, I live with Bipolar Disorder and sometimes it takes me over and I can’t function very well, and writing is impossible. I’m still a bit shaky so I’m starting off slow. I’m glad to be back…. 🙂

peace,

Steve

 

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