Archive for the ‘Wildlife’ Category

April Flowers

How could I start with anything but Daffodils??  These are called “Tete a Tete” and have multiplied for 3 years now.  So nice at the entrance to the house.

A Goshiki Kotohime Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum “Goshiki Kotohime”).  The name of this beautiful maple means 5 colored Old Harp for the multi hued leaves as it opens up, and for the Koto, a traditional Japanese instrument that is harp like.  It’s the first Japanese maple to leaf out every spring and has grown in this pot for years now.  I hope it does so for awhile longer cause I can’t figure out how to get it out!!

A PJM Regal Rhododendron (Rhododendron “PJM Regal”). This is a very early Rhodie that is just vibrant with its color.  It adds some bright color into the grey days of Spring and brings some beauty to the front garden.

I wish I could let you smell this one.  It’s a Winter Daphne (Daphne odora “Marginata”) and is one of the most fragrant plants in the garden world.  We can smell it all over the front yard, even when we walk up onto the front porch.  It’s a classic!

This is a Prostrate Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis “Prostratus”).  It’s a weeper that sometimes falls over the edge of the wall here.  But it occasionally freezes back – it’s only mostly hardly.  It’s very fragrant to touch.

This is another Rosemary – one that most people would more easily recognize than the last one.  It’s a Tuscan Blue Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis “Tuscan Blue”).  It’s notable for having been introduced to the plant world by the noted author and traveler Vita Sackville-West.  It’s delightful to brush by this plant and smell it on your hands as you walk away.

This is what’s known as a species Rhododendron.  That means it’s not a cultivar but rather one found in nature, (tho this one is a cultivar of the native (confused yet?).  It’s a Rock Rose Rhododendron (Rhododendron racemosum “Rock Rose”). I’ve tried to grow this plant for several years, but they keep dying on me.  This one was trashed by the raccoons that ran over it from the old garage next door.  I put re-bar around it and that solved the problem, but I still sorta wanted to eat raccoon for dinner that night!  (Not really….!)

This is a unique plant.  It’s called a Zig Zag Camellia (Camellia japonica “Unryu”).  The name means “Dragon in the Clouds”.  The branches all grow at 45 degree angles to each other.  It’s very interesting to watch it become itself.  Lovely flowers too.

A lovely specimen of Lily of the Valley shrub (Pieris japonica Mountain Fire”).  The new growth is fiery red and looks like flowers it’s so bright.   The flowers are fragrant and are bell shaped – the hallmark of plants in the Ericaceae – the Heath and Heather family, which also includes blueberries and rhododendrons as well as many other familiar plants.

Near the Pieris is this lovely Blue Diamond Rhododendron (Rhododendron “Blue Diamond”), another early blooming one.  There aren’t a lot of Rhodies that are this kind of blue or purple, so it’s unique for us here.  It stays small.

Next to the Rhodie is this Pink Icicle Camellia (Camellia hybrid “Pink Icicle”).  We got this as a large plant and it’s put on several more feet of growth in the last few years.  It blooms early and has lovely pink blossoms with orange centers.

This one is subtle, but I wanted to include it because it’s a wonderful plant.  It shows how the color develops first on the buds.  It’s a Hino Crimson Azalea (Azalea kurume “Hino Crimson”).  It’s a brilliant scarlet red when it blooms and is covered almost totally with tiny bright red flowers.

No flowers here.  This is a Crimson Pygmy Barberry (Berberis thunbergii “Atropurpurea Nana”).  I’m showing it for the purple new growth.  It leafs out early and looks very nice next to the rock path beside it.

I love this one.  It’s a Howard McMinn Manzanita (Arctostaphyllos densiflora “Howard McMinn”). It has wonderful brownish red bark that I’ve exposed by pruning up the branches.  This smells so sweet and is prized by the bees and hummers, and by people too!!  Manzanita means “little apple” in Spanish and some of the species have small red orbs after the flowers leave, but not this one.  Too bad…

This is a big one, and again no flowers.  It’s a Diana Japanese Larch (Larix kaempferi “Diana”).  I’m showing it for the light green needles it’s rapidly covering itself with.  They look so delicate but this tree is very hardy.  It’s put on some 13 feet in the last 3 years alone!  I can’t wait to see what it becomes!

This tree is the first to leaf out in the whole garden.  It’s a Korean Butterfly Maple (Acer tschnoskii ssp. “Koreanum”.)  It’s another fast grower and has gotten to this size in only 4-5 years.  It turns a striking color of reddish orange in early fall.

Here’s the last one – an Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifoloium).  It has these wonderfully bright yellow flowers in early spring, then they turn into edible blue berries.  Even people eat the fruit but it’s the birds who love them.  But they’re a bit dangerous to be around – they’re prickly – and Louie keeps threatening to blow them up with dynamite cause they scratch him when he mows the lawn.  But I won’t let him…  Obviously…

This is just the beginning of the flowers to come, but I wanted to give you a taste of what it looks like around here this time of year.  After a dull grey Seattle winter with little color, it’s so exciting to see all these flowers and leaf colors now, and it’s just glorious.  Everyone loves flowers don’t they?  I hope you do!!

Happy Spring!!

Steve

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Hummer Heaven

This is a Mahonia x media “Charity” and it’s a haven for the hummingbirds.  In the middle of Winter it’s hard for the little guys to find good food, but this is one place they can always get it.  It’s not uncommon to see several of them at one time on this bush.  Later on the flowers will turn into blue berries that are treats for other birds. All in all it’s a good plant for the bird lovers among us, tho it’s not so friendly to people.  It lives along a path to the greenhouse with the ferns and you have to be careful or it’ll stick you badly.  Still it’s so beautiful that it’s worth the risk.  It grows pretty fast too.  It’s been in the yard for about 6 years and is 8′ tall.  It’s in the Berberidaceae family, and is related to the barberries, various Oregon grapes and the nandinas.  It’s a cool family with lots of colorful plants and many of them have good food for the birds as well.  Check it out and enjoy!

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

A Week At the Ocean

Louie and I continued our third year of tradition by going to the Ocean for a week last week. We got to a little town called Moclips on the Olympic Peninsula near the Quinalt Indian Reservation land. In fact we wandered on the edge of the Res. in our hikes around the territory. It was a peaceful and wonderful week at the Sea, just being with the tides and the woods and the sun, which amazingly shown the whole time we were there. Wow!

We left Seattle on Monday with plans to stay thru Friday and saw a bit of rain on the way but it wasn’t bad, and by the time we arrived it was sunny and bright out. I immediately took the first picture here from the porch outside our window. This is the view we had the whole time we were there on the ocean. It was magnificent and so close it felt you could just touch it.

You can see how old this motel is, and how funky. It’s about a 1/2 a star rating I have to say but we like it OK and it’s so close to the beach you can’t beat it for the price and ease of access. And being so close to the Res. is wonderful all by itself. We spent a whole day on the Res. at the Quinalt Lake and I’ll post a couple posts on that later on. This is about our time at the sea.

You can just make out the bald eagle in the shot here. It’s right in the middle of the picture, which I blew up so it’d seem closer to us. This was the first day we were there and it’s a real treat to see it dancing in the wind. We have them in Seattle too of course but there’s something that’s really cool about seeing one in the wild like this. Such a magnificent bird.

There’s a lot of trails into the rain forest and I’ve tried to capture a feel of what it’s like to walk along the beach and into all the forest itself. The wind does a really cool job of sculpting the plants and trees at the waters edge. It gets pretty high sometimes but when we were there we had a big beach to wander on. But in winter’s high tide time it gets pretty high and all the beach is under water. I’d not want to be there then I think…

We just wandered all over in the rainforest. The area gets over 100 inches of rain a year and it shows with all the mossy growth on the trees. I shot a picture with a huckleberry and a salal just growing in the top of an old piling. This is called a nurse tree and I’ll show more in another post. Many plants start out on rotting timber. It’s a handy spot to be in I guess.

Many of the rest of these shots show what it’s like to be inside the forest, and some of the cool things we found in it, like the treefort some kids probably put together to hang out in. It’s perfect for that and only a short walk from town, tho it feels miles away. I can just imagine the parties they hold there in the summer… 😉

It’s almost eerie inside the forest, it’s so green with the sunlight filtering down thru the plants. The trees are mostly Sitka Spruce which usually get huge but here they’re almost dwarf but still large in the trunk. They make the forest so interesting and the ways they’ve found to grow is just amazing.

We wandered along the edge of the Res. every day we were there, taking pictures and just being amazed at the scenery. There’s something very magical about being in a rain forest with all its colors and the constant dampness and rot. It’s very primeval seeing it in its growth and decay.  It makes you feel like you’re all alone in the world and no one can touch you. An amazing feeling to have.

I’ll write more on visiting the Quinalt Reservation later on and show you some big trees we saw. I’ll do that in a few days or so. We’re still recovering from all the walking we did on the trip. I’m not used to so much and it got me pretty good, but it’s OK because it was so healthy to do and made us feel so good to be there. We’re lucky to have been able to take this trip and I hope we can make it a 4 year tradition next year.

From Moclips on the Sea,

Steve

Forage

In creating this Nature Sanctuary here we’ve tried to include as many creature friendly plant as possible. Primarily this means feeding the bees, birds, butterflies and squirrels where we are. No deer to contend with thankfully, here in the city, tho sometimes the raccoons squash things. I don’t know if they’re eating them too. Probably. Oh well, everybody has to eat, eh?

In no particular order I’ve included many of the things I’ve planted that attract bees in particular, since they’re in such a bad state now I want to do all I can to help them out here in this small oasis. But the butterflies and the hummers are my favorites, especially the hummers when they play in the water when I do the garden. It’s grand to watch them dancing around.

Some of these plants are annuals, some are perennials and some are shrubs and even small trees. I didn’t include pines or large confers but their cones will provide food in time to come as they get bigger. I did include berries since they provide good food for many creatures. It’s cool to watch the squirrels go after the sunflowers or the Irish Yew berries. And they all like the Bee Balm.

I’ve labeled them all so you can tell what they are, and I think you’ll be able to tell just what draws what by virtue of the kind of flower it has. The tubular ones draw the hummers best tho they also love the bee balm. And the bees go absolutely crazy over a few things like the Oregano and the Jade Frost Eryngium that are both covered it them when they’re in season. Of course all the flowers love the bees, and vice versa.

I’ve tried to include a bunch of natives, from the west coast and from the rest of the US too. The huckleberry, the western azalea, the windflower, the coneflower and the manzanita are some examples of these. We also have many plants that provide cover for the birds in particular and that will only increase as the trees grow and the shrubs get larger. Already the hedge along the north side is alive with birds year round. It’s so cool…

The last part of a Forager’s Garden is water, and tho I didn’t show pictures of them we have a fountain in back and a water bath in front so both areas have that precious commodity to offer even it winter. We froze our fountain this year because it got so cold but we still put hot water in it to allow the birds some fresh water as needed even in the freezing weather. The cats like it too.. 😉

Of course I did include the bird feeders. Louie takes care of them all and does a great job of keeping the hummer water fresh and feeds the birds several times every day to make sure they always have plenty to eat. Right now the suet holders are empty since it’s warmed up a bit, but in winter we keep them full as well. The birds and the squirrels love the high protein mixes they provide.

This is the part of the garden that really interacts with the rest of the creatures that live here. I think it’s so cool to have all them in the garden and Louie and I spend hours just watching the birds and butterflies and even the bees when they’re around. It feels good to provide a haven for them and it enriches our own experience so much.

These are all plants that I’ve personally watched the creatures munch on so I know they work here. But it may be different where you live. I highly recommend that you try to find out what plants work best in your area for the critters. You’ll be glad you did!

Feeding the birds, bees, and butterflies!

Steve

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