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Just a meandering soul sharing my backyard. Visit my Flickr page too! www.flickr.com/photos/meanderingwa/

Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Treasures

I often bring home an item that catches my eye. I place them in a pottery plate on the table.

Here is a picture of some of the treasures I found this year.





The Raven feather is a real find, 13 inches long. An owl left the large brown feather.

The starfish I found on Chuckanut Mountain. It was probably dropped by a crow.

You probably remember the cat-tail reed weaver and can spot the little duck.

There is a flake of tree bark with perfect sapsucker holes, still intact, at about 1:00. Next to it is a bit of sea plant that I brought home from Shi Shi Beach.

That is a little paper wasp nest at 12:00.

I love the nice blueish Serpentine rock I found in the Esmeralda Basin. (6:00)

The acorn was from the tree in front of my building. I do not remember seeing acorns from this tree. I collect acorns.





In moving them to a basket I found little items I have forgot I found.




I think that is a broken Killdeer eggshell. The seedpods from an interesting plant, Washington Twinpod, that started me on my Flickr membership. You can see the plant pods at full ripeness and their bloom from my Flickr page. You have to go all the way back to my very first entry.


http://www.flickr.com/photos/meanderingwa/


They are the oddest things I have ever found and certainly triggered my curiosity about the ecology of the Wenatchee Lobe and the Serpentine country of Kittitas county. We visited Professor Kruckebergs garden in November. He is an international expert in the ecology of this unique area of the state.

Have a wonderful , exciting 2011. Get out and explore your home, wherever it may be. I am off to work today then to a doctor for a Yellow Fever vaccine. That will be for an adventure later in the year. Someplace "Like Here Only Different".

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Sunny Frosty Day

Yesterday we started off with an interesting Convergence Zone snowfall. This unique weather pattern ranges in central Puget Sound, most predictably on a line that roughly cuts across King and Snohomish county. While Seattle proper was mostly missed, the area to the north and east (me) was hit with a short lived snowfall. It was pretty and what I call convenient snow. The roads, easy to drive, the view, pretty and temporary.







So here when the skies open and the insulating protective layer of clouds rolls away the temperatures plunge. It did so last night but not before dropping a small amount of frozen snow/rain pellets.

Overnight the wet environment from yesterdays short snow combined with a late precipitation equals solid frozen everything.

Streets are sheet ice and the grass is crunchy. Vapor rises from trees then re-freezes.

There is not much you can do but hunker down and wait for daylight. Proceed slowly and trust that everyone else is of like mind. Happily, I have no place in particular to be today.

I decided to try out a recipe for butter chicken so I walked carefully to the store.

NO one is waiting for the bus.






This frozen tree planter acts as a sundial and says it is Oh Chilly-o-Morn.







I now have a pot of chicken stock brewing on the stove top and a batch of butter chicken marinading in the refrigerator.



North Indian Inspired Butter Chicken



1 lb chicken breast meat

1/4 C fat free half and half

2 Tbl peeled and chopped ginger

6 cloves of garlic minced or pressed

2 Tbl of chopped cilantro ( my store is on recall for all leafy greens so I used dried parsley and a good grind of pepper ~ not a cilantro fan anyway)

3/4 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 Tbl butter

1/2 C no salt tomato sauce

2 T chopped celery greens



Slice chicken crosswise to 1/2 inch strips. Place in 1 gallon zip lock



Combine half and half, ginger , garlic, cilantro, coriander, cumin and cayenne in cup, mix well and pour over chicken.



seal and refrigerate 1 to 12 hours.



Place butter in a microwave safe cup. Microwave on high for 30 - 40 seconds until melted. Allow butter to stand 2 minutes then skim the fat solids off the top. Pour remainder into a medium nonstick skillet and heat over medium heat. Add chicken mixture with all marinade. Add tomato sauce. Cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently.



Stir in celery leaves and reduce heat. Cover and simmer for about 10 to 12 minutes or until chicken is fully cooked.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Radio Head




First of all. Happy Holiday Season to everyone!!!


I have the holiday week off so I am hoping the weather does not keep me too tied down.

First, for my friends on the east coast, here is Professor Mass and his discussion on your current bad weather. Here at home all is pretty normal, so he is discussing Nor'easters


http://cliffmass.blogspot.com/2010/12/noreaster.html

One of the best parts of being out and about, particularly on Sunday, is listening to NPR on the radio. I know where my stations reach and when to switch from one to another. I listen to Morning Edition and like to play the puzzler in my mind. I have learned a thing or two from Car Talk.

On Sunday at Noon, our KUOW plays Vinyl Cafe with Stuart McLean. This delightful show out of Canada features Canadian music and artists along with a short story that listeners send in. Stuart tells his own story every week about recurrant characters Dave and Morley. Dave owns the worlds smallest record store and the story revolves around friends, family and days of their lives. They are simple stories and when you get to know the characters you can almost "listen ahead" as to what is going to happen next. I was thrilled to see Stuart in person earlier this Fall up at Western Washington U in Bellingham.

Today it looked like there was a blue sky to the far north so I headed up to Fir Island to snoop around for swans and Snow Geese.

The reason we call those blue skies in the distance "sucker holes"???

Sucker.

By the time I got up to the Skagit Flats the wind was howling 40+ mph. The rain felt like ice. It gave me plenty of excuse to simply drive, park, to watch the fields and listen to the radio.

I stopped at one of the Department of Wildlife access areas. The Puget Sound waters appeared almost milky green and there were whitecaps everywhere.


I loved these little cat-tails. They were down in a low spot and the wind was not rattling them very much.


I watched a Great Blue Heron hunt in the grass. It came up empty billed, unlike last weeks rodent escapde.

As usual the Trumpter Swans were always far out in the fields well away from the roadside. I could not find any Snow Geese and figure they ware likely someplace sheltered from the wind.

I stopped into LaConnor for a cup of coffee. There were a few people about, but most of the shops were having a quiet weekend off.




As it was getting near Noon, I took my coffee to the Big Ditch access to listen to Vinyl Cafe. Todays Dave story was one about a misadventure of his youth involving trying to impress a girl and stealing a tree from someones yard.



I found some swans in the fields. I sometimes find Short-eared Owl here, but the ditches were free of any birds.




I discovered something new today. The WSU "talking field" program. I need to check this out. The Skagit is one of my favorite areas. This might be a great way to explore.




This is part of the organic dairy featured on this talking field spot. I hope I can find a listing for other Talking Fields in the area. The downfall of dairy in this county has been staggering. I will have to listen to this field again, but I think they said the county went from over 100 dairies in 1995 to now only ~35. That is a staggering loss of business.




On my way home I stopped by NOAH. This beautiful shelter is where I found my new kitty Ella Menohpea on Halloween.




They are nice people and I wanted to leave a little holiday donation for their good work. If you are in the area and looking for a new friend (coughcoughmary) I would certainly take a look. http://www.thenoahcenter.org


Monday, December 20, 2010

Winter Solstice



"A full moon hangs high in the chilly sky,
All say it's the same everywhere, round and bright.
But how can one be sure thousands of miles away
Wind and perhaps rain may not be marring the night?"


Li Qiao,

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Blue Day

Saturday morning I awoke very late to the roar of a wind storm. I knew that winds were due but they usually stay further east in the foothills. It sounded like a small jet passing back and forth outside.

I had decided to pay a visit to Olympia this day. My journey would be a two-fer. Visit Nisqually NWR if the weather was remotely humane and then stop at the excellent Olympia Farmers Market.

Knowing full well that weather here is never the same across the state, let alone across the street, I set off for Olympia, about 60 miles south. I was happy to see all sorts of cloud formations overhead, none of which said "rain " to me.

I arrived at Nisqually to a mixed sky. This refuge at the foot of Puget Sound is the delta of the Nisqually River. I have told you a lot about the lands upriver of this place, but I do not pay enough visits to the NWR. I wrote about my last visit in February 2010. Over the last several years this refuge has undergone a change. It has been long desired to return the delta to its natural state. The land had been diked off and made into farm land in the late 1800's. The Nisqually earthquake of 2001 collapsed one of the dikes and in 2008 the rest of the job was done. This precious land is rapidly returning to the salt water tidal marsh that nature intended.

When I lived further south than I do now, this refuge was one of the places I honed my birdwatching skills. Back then the loop trail was well over 6 miles. Now the hike out and back is only about 3 miles.





In winter it is a bleak and quiet place. The woodlands are leaf free and the migrant bird population long gone. The boardwalk in the riparian woods was slippery with greenstuf and there were little pebbles and sand everywhere. Clearly the recent rains and runoff had flooded the area. I had a sneaky quiet encounter of my first Great Blue Heron of the day. It made a pretty picture for me.





The original Brown Dike Ring Trail ends abruptly where it has been breached right at the edge of the Nisqually river. From here you can look down river. Today there was a Sea Lion noisily searching for salmon. It would come up for air and POOOFTH its breath out and quickly dive. If you missed seeing its head, you could have convinced yourself you were in the presence of a tiny whale. I never saw the Sea Lion eating a fish, so pickings might have been slim. A little Harbor Seal also politely worked the area seeking any swimming thing it could find.

Along with plenty of Great Blue Herons there are Bald Eagles galore. Full adults are easy to spot with their bold white heads and tails. Here there were many young birds at varied stages of plumage maturation. It was exciting to spot a bird that was just coming into its Four year, adult feathers. It was still a little blotchy. Most likely this year it will not nest but next year it will start Winter by courting and fighting for a nesting territory. Here at Nisqually there are several nesting eagles along the river valley

I spotted a heron frozen in the grass along the path ahead of me. I waited and was rewarded with seeing the bird capture a small rodent in the grass. The hapless critter was struggling as the heron walked to the waters edge and gave it a quick swish in the water and down the hatch it went

still wriggling.

Seems pretty risky to me and I have heard of birds being killed by a well placed bite or scratch in the crop. Here the bird is, post swallow with a rather bunchy neck.





It was wonderful simply being out. Even though there were a few sprinkles they were quickly followed by a wonderful sky of broken clouds. Sunlight came and went making photography and binocular work a challenge.

The Cross Dike trail is a great vantage point to seeing the duck ponds. Eagles like to fly over the ponds hoping to pinpoint a sick or injured bird. Sometimes you might spot a mink or river otter. Eagles and gulls fought over a dead fish. I noticed in the distance a structure I had not seen the last time I was here. A viewing platform and leading from it a long meandering boardwalk all the way out to the mouth of the river.





I read last night that this is a new feature. We will now have the ability to walk out into the tidal marsh and see it during high and low tide. What an exciting prospect. It holds great potential for wonderful views of the Sound and possibly Mt Rainier.

You can see a video about the project here.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/flatpages/video/mediacenterbc3.html?bctid=715284330001

This was the sky as I was leaving the NWR. There had been every flavor of sky this morning, none of it particularly rainy and even better out here on the flats, it was not windy. Around here, in Winter, such an event deserves a photographic record.




In time for lunch I paid a visit to the Olympia Farmers Market. This is the second largest Farmers Market in the state and they have a wonderful covered building for their main market.




A lot of local food producers including several vendors providing organic beef, pork and poultry. Cheeses, spices and herbs, vegetables and wonderful , wonderful apples. Many of the apples are types you are not going to see at your local store. I bought Mutsu apples to make a cake for work.





I really wanted to buy the oysters, bu know I have zero skill in getting them open. The Olympia Oyster has become so rare. They are no bigger than a 50 cent piece.








Several secondary buildings house vendors who provide yummy food for lunch. I could not resist a Polish sausage with onions and sauerkraut. It was just the thing since the weather had taken a sharp turn and you could feel the temperature falling just waiting in line. I used it as a hand warmer while I scurried back to the car before the long drive home.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Soggy Wet Girls Weekend

A soggy wet Girls Weekend with my sisters. We stayed at Olive 8, a somewhat new hotel in the Hyatt chain.








We did our usual rounds of the area, including shopping at Pacific Place and stopping by Sees in Westlake Center.







The gloomy weather made for interesting lighting.





The new AllSaints Spitalfields store window certainly caught my eye. An umbrella comes in handy for killing the reflection when taking pictures through windows.







And no matter what the sign says, this is still the Bon Marche.









Then up to see the windows at Fox's Gem Shop. They have one display I don't remember from before. I love them.



Sushi Restaurant









Sewing Room







There was a lot of wet walking about. I am here to say having sensible shoes is a must, even if you want to get your sparkly girly girl on.



I will never live it down, I am sure.








We had dinner at Tulios again this year. I think we have decided that this is the best restaurant for us. Comfortable with great service and great food. The calamari appetizer was particularly memorable. "A Christmas Story" at the 5th Avenue was fun but certainly does not match the movie it was taken from.




We are having more than our share of weather this season and this weekend in racking up some big numbers in the region for rainfall.








Amazingly enough this is not as bad as some recent years. I had to detour getting home as my usual main road is flooded over.



Hooray for Pineapple Express.






From www.cliffmass.blogspot.com That is downtown Seattle just to the right of the big green spot in the center.



Friday, December 3, 2010

Tracking on the Beach

Soft sand or snow works!



Gull





Crow






Killdeer







Killdeer ( from Google images)






ME!



Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Thanksgiving Get Away to Neah Bay



Traditional figures give the open palm greeting of "Welcome" at the Makah Tribal Museum.

Last Christmas Week I wrote about my trip to Neah Bay. I returned last week for a little get away. I had hoped to leave Wednesday mid-day but a late meeting at work and the less than wonderful weather made me wait until Thursday morning. Being met with a new layer of snow and huge flakes falling did not brighten my mood.





By the time I got to the freeway the road was wet and clear. There was no waiting line for the ferry so I knew all was right with my world! The drive on Highway 112 snakes along the edge of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. There were some places with amazing frozen waterfalls right on the road side. The upper Peninsula got hit harder with the Fraser River airflow and they took a beating as far as snowfall. Here at sea level there was snow and it remained in the shady spots all through the weekend.


I could not have asked for a prettier picture than this.




The rooms at Bullman Beach Inn are cozy and perfect for doing nothing more than drinking cocoa and watching the waves.



It rained overnight and the morning was beautiful. I decided to drive up to Cape Flattery while the weather was fair. It didn't feel chilly, but this was my car window.




You can compare the pictures from my entry last year to these. The clouds really changed the light and sharpness in the pictures. I love the lichen covered trees in this area. Alder trunks are white with lichen and mosses enrobed all the limbs.



This vantage point over the caves reminds me of a ships bow.



The caves will eventually erode and collapse this cape point. I am not sure if then it will be considered the most north and west point of the lower 48.



On the way back I found Trumpeter Swans in the same location as last year. There was a young bird. Very likely these are the exact same birds I saw last year, a small family.




The weather was ever changing. I stopped at the salmon smoker. He just pulled a rack off the fire. During cold weather he says the process takes about 3 1/2 hours. In hot weather ,only 1 1/2. He says the heads make great stock. He gave me a fin to chew on. Crispy fin and that little nugget of fat at the base. Wonderful. A begging dog got the little bone.




Neah Bay is a real working bay with boats used for fishing and shrimping close at hand. The Coast Guard also maintains a facility as this is the entry from the Pacific Ocean. The Upper Coast is a very dangerous navigation area and the remote upper Peninsula is a historic area for sea wrecks.




This afternoon, before the above picture, we have rare thunder and lightening then a rainbow. The new weather front brought hail after dark!




I didn't know what to make of this weather system on Saturday morning. We have had the full meal deal so far..


A stroll on the beach was productive. I found the usual shells and lovely sea greens.




This Ratfish was on his final journey. A gull patiently waited until it stopped flopping.




I decided that I would visit Shi Shi again. By the time I hiked the two miles from the parking lot the sky had cleared.


There were many people hiking setting off south to Point of the Arches. I preferred to stroll and poke and explore. I found the usual array of stones and shells.




Beautiful sea grasses, I do not know their names.





I also found an unfortunate pair, an Elephant Seal and a baby Sea Lion, both dead. They serve to feed the birds. I also found paw prints which were clearly felid, a Bobcat.
A type of sea bird was the next unfortunate find. I had to examine its unique bill. These type of birds are called tubenose. The tube at the top of the bill holds a gland which gets rid of excess salt from their body. The stormy seas bring these creatures on the tide and leave them high and dry. The beach here is quite steep in places. I am not sure of the identification I am guessing this all black bird is a Northern Fulmar.



I hiked about 41/2 miles down the beach until I came to a creek crossing which turned me back. I hate wet feet. There was a sizable number of logs I could have crossed but I had a fall Friday morning which resulted in a still undiagnosed finger injury. I just didn't feel up to potential slippery logs.

I did not "trust my feet"
So I returned up the beach. By the time I got to where the trail sets into the woods it was noticeable that the seas were changing. The tide was coming in and it was coming in rough. This cedar log appeared while I was taking pictures. It was there in an instant. Being in the breakers is not safe on the rising tide.



I love coming here. I love the moodiness and changeable nature of the beach. I know people who have said they would want their ashes brought here. I understand. The hike through the woods is great while you are on the boardwalk. The mile nearest the beach is a sodden mucky trail where you pick and weave your way through and around permanently wet areas (wet feet, remember???)




I am already wondering if I can make it back out for Christmas Break. This year does not look as promising as last year as far as free days but I will try my best.


Salt Water does something for me.