Tuesday, May 31, 2016

More community garden

Abundant raspberries
Tomorrow is the first day of June! And our community garden is doing very well indeed. We will have raspberries for everyone, it seems. Last year Rob took cuttings from his raspberries and planted some in my plot, and they are heavy with fruit. At first we worried we wouldn't have any pollinators, but then suddenly three different kinds of bees were all buzzing around our plants. You can see one raspberry beginning to ripen above.
A row of something
One of our gardeners, Lily, has planted several things from seed. I smiled when I saw this little row of seedings looking very happy in her garden. I don't have a clue what they are, but I'll let you know later on in the season.
Garnet and black kale
I have already harvested some collards, kale, and a few ripe strawberries from my garden. This pretty garnet kale is next. I love looking at it and know it will be very flavorful when we do get around to eating it. The slugs don't seem to like it as much as the black kale and the collards. I'm not sure why.
A segment of Carol's plot
I couldn't find a good place to take a picture of Carol's entire plot, but here you can see broccoli in the lower right, luscious parsley in front of that, and I'm not sure what the purple leaves are. Everything she plants does very well.
Copper tape around my strawberry patch
I ordered some copper tape from Amazon and have placed it around my strawberries, hoping to keep the slugs away as they ripen. Unfortunately, it didn't occur to me at the time that any slugs already inside will not be able to leave, either. I guess I'll have to creep out to the garden before dawn some morning to capture them. It's a constant battle!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Wildflowers and more

Abundant daisies
Right at the beginning of our hike last Thursday, there is this field of wild daisies that just took my breath away, there are so many. It almost looks like dandelion seed heads, which is what I thought I was seeing at first. But no, it's nicer than that. Daisies always win out in my mind over dandelions.

I didn't go walking with the ladies this morning. They were headed over to Lummi Island for a nice seven-mile walk. I went last year and wrote about it here. It was the same time of year, the Memorial Day weekend, but when I woke this morning it was pouring down rain, and I decided to skip it. Instead, I went over to the coffee shop and visited with my buddies before going to the gym to have a nice dry bike ride. Of course it stopped raining rather quickly after I made that decision, but it was still windy and not exactly inviting.
Goat's beard
Peggy was the one who told me that this is called "goat's beard" and grows profusely when it becomes established. I found a Forest Service page that gives a little information about it:
Native to the northern hemisphere in North America, Europe, and Asia, this plant generally grows in moist woods, meadows, and along streams. It is also known to grow in moist to wet ravines, rocky ledges, and avalanche chutes. 
No wonder I see so much of it in the wild areas around here, the operative word in that paragraph being "moist." It's also called "bride's feathers," according to that link. I like that name better!
Banana slug
We also saw this guy, a HUGE banana slug. The front is the solid colored area and if you look closely you can see his eye stalks. In the back you can see his skirt, which is how he ambulates slowly along. I learned all this from that fascinating book, The Secret World of Slugs and Snails. You too can learn all you ever wanted to know about these strange creatures. Peggy picked this guy up with a leaf (so she wouldn't get slimed) and put him out of harm's way in the bushes.

They are native to the area, unlike the black slugs, and I believe that the invaders are taking over. Around here banana slugs are treated well. In fact, the banana slug, I learned, is the mascot of UC-Santa Cruz in California. Who knew?

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Olsen Creek/Stewart Mountain hike

Peggy, Melanie and Al on the trail
Eleven Senior Trailblazers went on a hike today, meeting at the Y Road parking lot. I hesitate to call this hike, labeled "Olsen Creek'" as that since we never crossed Olsen Creek today, but headed up the trails that lead up to several different views from high up on Stewart Mountain. We hiked this trail on my 69th birthday, and I got some great pictures. Over the years, we've done this Stewart Mountain area in sunshine, rain, and clouds; today we never saw the sun but we never got wet, either.
Carol and me, with Lake Whatcom behind
I have an earlier picture of Carol and me taken in this exact same spot, so I asked for it again. You can see the low clouds behind us,  but also that we are not wearing any rain gear. You know we had our gear close by.
New Guy Larry and Ward on the trail
We had a new hiker with us today, Larry. I think he'll be back, and it was sure nice to see someone other than Al who had a GPS and could show us the area on his phone. He knows Stewart Mountain well but this was a new way up to the top for him.
A nice part of the trail
After we left the area where we could see Lake Whatcom, we entered into a dense forest of salmonberries and stinging nettles, sometimes over my head. Once that ended, we had to navigate an area with plenty of downed trees, and this area seen above, which was so nice to reach. And then some ascent through a lovely forest, until we got to our final destination.
Peggy, Carol, Chris, Melanie, Rich, Sue, Linda, Ward
From this vantage point, we realized that we had no view at all, as the trees have obscured the view of Lake Whatcom and beyond. We were tired by the time we got here, having ascended more than 2,500 feet of elevation (around 800 meters) and were hungry, so we sat down for our lunch repast. Al, New Guy Larry, and myself are not in the picture. They were elsewhere while I took it. When we got ready to descend, we decided to skip the dense overgrown area and hike on the old logging road instead.
Ripe salmonberry
As we made our way downwards, I realized that my knee is not 100% healed, as the jarring on the road caused it to hurt a fair amount. I was careful, though, and by the time I reached the cars I was pretty sure it was not re-injured. However, I've got a few painful itchy spots on my hands from brushing against the stinging nettles on the descent. I know they will be uncomfortable for awhile but are nothing to worry about.

All in all, it was a very good day, and we covered around eight miles with plenty of elevation, not to mention a difficult trail with downed branches and trees. I managed to bonk my head at least twice as I looked down at my footing and missed some well-placed branches. Now that I am home, drinking my wine, things look so much better! A good day indeed.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

How does our garden grow

Standing in Rob's plot
I just went out to water my garden plot and saw that several other people had just done the same. It's cloudy but dry today, perfect conditions for our plants to soak up some moisture. There are five plots here, bottom to top: as I said, I'm standing in Rob's for the picture, with my plot the one with the purple flamingo just beside his. Then Lynn's, which is finally beginning to look quite nice. Nathan's is next, with the chair strategically placed for him to sit and admire his veggies. And last of all is Keith's, which just got planted this last weekend.
Keith's newly planted plot
Keith likes to start most of his from seed, and I notice with a bit of envy that he's also got two raised beds this year. I almost always get my plants from purchased garden starts, because I'm just not that handy with plants and like to have someone else start them. Plus, slugs seem to decimate those little tender shoots that come out of the ground.
My strawberries
And look! My strawberries are already starting to ripen! I've ordered some copper tape from Amazon to put around the patch so I won't come out to find that the slugs beat me to them. My slug bait (just add beer!) container is catching plenty of them, but there are still so many more.
Harvested kale plus garnet kale
I harvested my first kale from the garden yesterday, with Russian kale and black kale (on the right and in the middle) steamed and absolutely delicious. I let the garnet kale (on the left) alone so it can continue to get a bit more robust before I harvest it. The good thing about kale is that you cut all the leaves off and they grow back even more abundantly. In the upper left you can see the collards that I will harvest next.

So, as you can see, our gardens are growing wonderfully! The other side is doing well, too, except there are only three planted plots and the center section. We've got one dormant, and one that is just too wet for much success until much later in the season. I'll show you those other plots soon.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Showery but lovely Saturday

Little cuties with Mom
I snagged this picture off the internet, taken here in Bellingham by Pat Buhl, a member of the Whatcom birding group. They are so cute! I tried to get a couple of pictures myself while at Lake Padden on Thursday, but they ran away from me. Maybe I should consider getting myself a small camera with a good zoom. My friend the Furry Gnome mentioned a Panasonic with a 30X zoom, but when I read the reviews, I think I'll look around for something similar to it, but not that one.
Poppies doing their thing in the sunshine
Yesterday when I got off the bus, the sun was out and shining gloriously. Figures: it rains on Thursday (my hiking day), is sunny on Friday, and Saturday it rains again (my walking day). We had been dry for such a long time that nobody seems to be minding the rain. As I walked up towards the steps to my apartment, I saw this lovely picture of my apartment (top) and Linda's (bottom) with everything in full bloom.
Showing my front porch garden and Linda's blooms
That red rhododendron doesn't last long once it blooms out like this, so I was happy to have captured this picture. Maybe later in the summer I'll take another. Notice that the tree that was so scalped two years ago is now looking very good again. I guess they did know what they were doing.

I'm going to a yoga retreat for three hours this afternoon, so I guess I'd better get ready. It's at my yoga studio and is taught by a master teacher, Felicity, who I understand is 83 and still teaching. I'm looking forward to it and will probably write about it on my other blog in the morning.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Summer season is officially under way

Mike, Rich, Chris, Al
Yes, I know it's raining in the picture, taken this morning on our hike to celebrate the Memorial Day holiday at the beginning of our summer season. We haven't had ANY rain in several weeks and it was just saving up for today, I'm sure! When I woke to rain and saw on the weather forecast that there was a chance it would stop by noon, I figured we would still have a good time with friends and a moderately dry potluck afterwards.
Trails behind Lake Padden
On this hike, we usually head to the trails behind Lake Padden to make about a six-mile-long trek and then have a potluck gathering around noon with all the Senior Trailblazers from both the fast and the slow group, as well as any other Trailblazers who didn't go out with us in the rain today. Al follows his trusty GPS to keep us honest. Here's a map showing all the trails around the lake area.
We started at the southeast point
Al had rented one of the picnic pavilions for us to use for the potluck afterwards, and although there were only a dozen of us out hiking in the rain, we hoped that our friends would join us afterwards. Sure enough, they did.
Standing on the "summit"
But first, back to the trail: when we got to this place on the hike, Al told us we were at the summit, having reached the highest point of today's elevation gain. I see from the map that it was at 940 feet (285 meters). Altogether we gained and lost around 1,200 feet in around six miles, so it was a good workout. And gradually the rain slowed down, and finally stopped. We even had some sunshine! Good thing, too: when we finished our hike we saw that others were already beginning to arrive at the pavilion laden with food.
Just a small portion of the incredible spread
Almost everybody from all our Trailblazer friends and family were there by the time we sat down to eat. And although the rain had stopped, the sunshine was intermittent and a cold breeze began. Brrr! It was only around 59 deg F (15C) so we were not exactly dry and toasty. But it didn't matter, we had a great time.
A great feast
The food was so good that I found it difficult to stop tasting a little of this or a little of that. We had at least half a dozen different potato salads, fruit and vegetable salads galore, hot chicken wings and pizza, not to mention desserts that I found it hard to stop eating. Doug brought a homemade rhubarb pie that was still warm from the oven! He was the last to arrive and as full as I was, I still had to make room to taste a little bit of his heavenly pie.

So now I'm home, warm and full, and happy to have had such a great beginning to our 2016 summer season!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Out and about in Bellingham

Cloud and buildings
I was walking to the gym from the coffee shop and saw this pretty juxtaposition of angles and clouds, not to mention ivy climbing across the building. There was a gull squawking away which caused me to look up. He didn't cooperate but would have been a good addition to the picture.
Wild iris
And on my Saturday walk with the ladies, we passed by Scudder Pond and I saw this lovely wild iris. I think they are called "flags" when they're wild, aren't they? The weather has been just lovely; while it's been pouring south of us in Seattle, we have missed the rain completely. I think it's holding off for Thursday, our hiking day, when we're also having a picnic. Oh, well; it won't be the first wet hike we've had.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Bellingham family and friends

Gene with his tablet and me
Yesterday, I asked a fellow coffee shop person to take this picture of me with Gene, but he really didn't want to cooperate. This is the best of three shots. Usually Gene doesn't use his tablet in the coffee shop and gives the rest of us grief for sitting and staring at the screen, just like he's doing here, instead of visiting with each other. My iPad is taking this picture, or you'd see me doing much the same as him.
Robert and Leo
Before I walked out the door on my way to the gym, I saw Leo having breakfast with his dad, Robert. Leo obliged by letting me take this picture without making a face. And then this morning, I saw Leo with his mom, Nana, at the Farmers' Market and got this one to go along with the previous picture.
Leo and Nana
Again, I had to ask nice to keep Leo from geeking the camera. I was surprised when Nana picked him up (he's almost too big) for the picture. It was a wonderful day out there this morning, and when I went to the market after the walk with the ladies, I kept running into people I know. It makes me realize how much Bellingham has become my home, my family. There was even one woman from the yoga class with her entire family. I would never have recognized her dressed in street clothes, but she recognized me.
In Whatcom Falls Park
The day started out sunny and bright, but before long clouds built up and a strong wind lowered the temperature. Usually at this time of year we are in the low sixties (15-16C) but yesterday it was much warmer (28C) than normal. I am quite ready for a return to normal Pacific Northwest temperatures. Everything is two to three weeks ahead of schedule. Even a few strawberries in my garden are beginning to ripen!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The knee is working again

Me in the Church Mountain meadows, Mt. Baker behind
Yes! Today eighteen (!) Senior Trailblazers set out for Church Mountain up the Mt. Baker Highway. Five of the group decided to try for the summit, while the rest of us would be content to make it to the meadows, which (as you can see) are still under lots of snow. Later in the year the meadows open up to fabulous wildflowers, and I will hopefully at that time be able to climb to the summit.
Sun coming through the maple leaves
This hike starts at a fairly high elevation, 2,400 feet, and meanders up 17 switchbacks to the meadows, covering somewhere near 2,500 feet of elevation gain in around three miles. It was a sunny day, with a few clouds but plenty of sunshine to make us happy to have the tree cover for those three miles before we broke out into full sun at the meadows.
Stopping to add gaters and Yak-Traks before the snow
I was not at all sure how my knee would behave on this rather strenuous hike, but it was without any problem at all going upwards. It was the downhill that I worried about, but I wasn't going to let that get in the way of the wonderful views and fun in the sun! We stopped just before we hit the snow to don paraphernalia to help us navigate the snow, such as gaters (to keep the slushy snow from going into our boots) and Yak-Traks to give us some traction.
Lots of snow ahead
This picture looks 180 degrees from the previous one, showing what we had ahead of us. The summiteers were already ahead, and if you look carefully you can see their tracks in the snow. We were headed to a viewpoint on a ridge a little to the left of this picture. First, we had to cross the stream, which is still mostly surrounded with snowpack, as you can see here.
Still lots of snow as we headed to that ridge
We did have to cross a snowbridge to cross this stream, but it is still safe, but in a week or so it won't be. We made our way across to that ridge with the trees, where we stopped to have our lunch. Once we got there, we had the option to sit in shade or sun, or even make our way down a short slope to ground.
Carol and Melanie, with a great view behind them
This was the first hike where I got to meet Melanie, a new Trailblazer who joined the group right after I got injured. We rode in the same car at my request, so I could chat with her a bit. She's just moved to the area and will be a great asset to our group, I am sure.
Bill and Bob opted to have lunch on snow-free ground
Dr. Bill sometimes hikes with the other group, and Bob travels often, so I was really happy to be on a hike that included them both. I asked for a picture and they accommodated me. At this point, it was just about time for us to gather our gear and head back down to the cars.
Heading back across the snow to the switchbacks and cars
We never saw the summit group, except once while we were having lunch we thought maybe we spied them as they made their way upwards. The rest of us headed back to the cars, and after we had gone a short distance on the downhill, I realized that my knee needed some help. I took a couple of Vitamin I pills (that would be ibuprofen) and asked Mike if he would carry my pack, saving my knee from further trauma. He agreed readily, and I have to say that right now, after returning home and quaffing most of my wine, I am feeling as good as I ever do after a hike of this magnitude. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Mike, for being my porter for those three miles!

And now I think I can say that my knee really is working again, if not completely healed, at least mostly recovered from the meniscus tear. And what a day! I would not have wanted to miss this wonderful hike with some of my BFFs.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Spring is sliding into summer

My garden plot plus a new friend
My neighbor Lynn bought me this cool purple flamingo for Mother's Day, and I have to say I just love it! And as you can see, my garden is coming along quite nicely, too. I have been sneaking out in the early morning and tossing slugs off my pretty plants. Still can't bring myself to smash them, but I'm getting there. A few are going into the beer trap and dying what I hope is an easy, at least boozy, death.
Beatrix Potter
This morning I laughed out loud to see Jo's version of Beatrix Potter on her blog, A Brit in Tennessee. The gloves are a really nice touch. And finally, there are roses in bloom outside my front door, and they are so gorgeous and fragrant that I thought I'd share them with you. They were planted by a long-ago resident.
Can you smell them from over there? Enjoy!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Learning all about gastropods

I think this is an Arion rufus
When I was last at the library, I looked up a couple of books about slugs and snails, also known as gastropods, a family of mollusks that end up in my garden, eating everything in sight. I bought two large bags of those hazelnut shells in the background, because I was told that slugs didn't like their sharp points and would avoid the tasty garden plants. Yeah, right. As you can see from the state of my collard leaves, they did little to nothing to discourage this guy.

I did buy a bait trap for slugs and snails from Amazon, which should arrive today, designed as a rather humane way to kill slugs and snails. It has three wells in which the gardener is supposed to pour some beer in order to drown the slugs. They are attracted to the smell, and the book I am reading from the library has some interesting tips about beer and gastropods: apparently they much prefer Budweiser to other beers. It's been awhile since I bought that beer, but I'll give it a try.

The book is called The Secret Lives of Slugs and Snails: Life in the Very Slow Lane. The author suggested that I go out into my garden early in the morning to see if I could find any of my unwanted pests, which I did, and the guy in the picture is, I believe, an Arion rufus variety. Yes, there he was, hanging out happily in my tattered plant, so I tapped him on the back and watched him curl into a ball. Then I picked him up and threw him over the fence. After having learned about these gastropods from the book, I just couldn't bring myself to kill him. At least he'll need to navigate over the hazelnut shells again. By then, hopefully, my plant will have recovered enough to survive.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

A different hike for me today

Me, Jacqueline, Cindy
Instead of joining the Senior Trailblazers for their Thursday hike, we three decided to walk the North Shore trail at Lake Whatcom. It's mostly flat and only a little more than three miles one way. Today the Trailblazers went up the Mt. Baker Highway to try one of our longer and steeper summer hikes. I figured I wasn't quite ready for that, although it's possible I would have had no problem. Next week will be soon enough, unless they decide to do something next week that I am dubious about attempting.
Flowers along the trail
I forget the name of these flowers, which Cindy knows and told me, along with some well-chewed stinging nettle plants on the right. The slugs must really like them. Today we saw at least a half dozen banana slugs, which Cindy carefully picked up out of the trail and put to the side. (Peggy does the same thing; banana slugs are native to the area and struggle to survive against the black slug invaders.)
A small pond in sun and shadow
When we started out, it was overcast and quite chilly. As we meandered along the trail, however, enjoying the plants and birdsong, we warmed up. The sun eventually began to make an appearance and before long we had more sun than clouds. I suspect the Trailblazers experienced more sunshine than we did at lower elevations, but in any event the day turned out just right for us.

Afterwards, we drove down to the local cafeteria seating area at Haggen's to have our lunch inside, and then we went our own ways after a really wonderful walk. When I got home, I had a quick video chat with my sister Norma Jean while she was visiting another sister, Markee, who is temporarily staying in Tampa. Norma Jean is back home in Florida after a month in California, so hopefully things will begin to get back to normal before long.
Strawberries in my garden
Before I forget, I took this picture yesterday of the progress of strawberries in my little plot. These were the first to come out and are not far from being ready to turn red. I am so surprised at the progress of my garden, since everything is almost a month early. Guess it's time to get my tomatoes in!