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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

FIRE IN THE SKY ~ SANCTUARY ~ OUR TREE ~ BIRDS ~ ARTY PHOTOS OF THE WEEK ~ GARDEN UPDATE ~ PARTING SHOT

FIRE IN THE SKY


During the summer it stays light here in Yakima until around 10:00, and when we get up in the mornings it has usually been light for an hour or so. We don't stay up very late, so we hardly ever see the night-time sky. One night this week we just happened to be up a little past our usual time. We finally decided to call it quits for the day and headed towards the back of the house. On her way, Linda glanced out the window and exclamed, "Wow!" The clouds in the sky were amazing, so we both went outside to take a look (mosquitoes be damned!). I grabbed my camera on the way out, and we were both rewarded to these gorgeous views below.

Summer sky
Even Yakima sky is Carolina Blue!
I've posted before about sitting outside in my lounge chair in the afternoons and staring up at the sky. We tend not to go outside after supper due to mosquitoes, and I know we miss out on a lot by doing that. But that just makes it an extra-special treat when we do go outside and come across a beautiful sky like the one above.


SANCTUARY


It is so much fun to be able to watch nature in our own back yard. We try to keep our yard safe for the critters and insects (well, except for the Black Cat Ninja). Our efforts result in a variety of visitors on a daily basis. The number of visitors we get is way lower than what we had in North Carolina, however. There, it was commonplace to have 15-20 different species of birds visit our yard in any given day. I would sit outside for hours (with sweat streaming off me) watching the birds, squirrels, butterflies, and dragonflies play around in our back yard. My good friend Sheila even had this sign below made for me by a local potter from Pembroke. I had it in my back yard in North Carolina and now it is in my back yard here in Yakima.


A haven for all critters
Birds are mostly what we get visiting the yard now. In past years we have had the occasional skunk, wild turkey, raccoon, and sage rat make an appearance. But for the most part, it's birds. So you can imagine the excitement when something other than a bird pays us a visit. The past couple of weeks we have seen some butterflies, which is always a good thing. We even saw a lovely dragonfly, but I wasn't quick enough to capture that one with my camera.



Those little buggers are hard to video because they move so fast! Every now and then I get lucky and capture one flitting about. "Flitting" is a most appropriate word for them.

Some of the visitors that we have are not as welcome as the birds and butterflies. Whenever we come across these guys in the video below, we give them a wide berth. I would give this video an "Ew" factor of about 8.




OUR TREE


I posted some pictures a couple of weeks back of our Catalpa tree in full bloom. This is the tree I like to sit under because it provides so much shade. Well, it is not providing quite as much shade now. Our tree is subject to some kind of disease every summer that makes the leaves on random branches dry up and fall off. Sometimes the leaves come back on that branch in a few weeks and sometimes the leaves never come back. We have learned to just put up with it and move on. This year seems to be way worse than previous years, though. It just breaks my heart to see our beautiful tree ravaged this way. I am hoping that most of the leaves come back at some point.




In case you can't tell from the video above just how bad it is, I am including a close-up picture below. It looks like about half of our tree is dropping leaves.

Tree problems

BIRDS


I know you're saying, "Here she goes again with the birds." They just happen to be one of my favorite subjects so you will have to bear with me! I remember one time Linda was reading an article that stated you should work at a job that you love (it was probably an Oprah thing). She asked me if I could have a job doing anything, what would it be? I answered that I would love a job where someone would pay me to sit and watch birds. That would have been my "dream job." Now that I am retired, I can basically do that, I just don't get paid. But that's okay with me. Here are some of my most recent bird observations.

Eurasian Collared Dove in flight


Goldfinch leaving sunflower


Yes, we live near the airport


I'm sorry I don't have an update on the May baby quail. I haven't really seen many quail out in the front yard this week. I am attributing that to the fact that we have had temperatures over 100 degrees and it may be too hot out there for them. It is supposed to cool off a bit for a few days so maybe I will be able to get an updated picture of him/her.


ARTY PHOTOS OF THE WEEK


I love taking close-ups of things I find in the yard. This always affords the opportunity to examine a common subject in greater detail. I find that with close-ups, I see things I wouldn't otherwise notice. Flowers and bees (and sometimes other insects) are favorite subjects for this endeavor.

Close-up of Stargazer Lily

Bee on Perennial Sunflower

GARDEN UPDATE


The garden is still a little behind schedule. I picked my first cucumber, jalapeno pepper, and tomatoes this morning. Also this past week we got our first zucchini, of which I am sure we will have many. I also got another N.C. Squash with a little baby on the side.


These were great on our tofu kabobs!


Destined to be my lunch

Some sort of alien (dill plant)

PARTING SHOT


Summer Girl continues to amaze me as to her ability to absolutely do nothing. Here she is stretched out on our back yard pathway. As always, she makes doing nothing look so easy. And, she always looks good doing it.


Hard at work

That's all for this week, my peeps. On a side note, I'm glad the blog has returned to its original colors. Tune in next week to catch up on what's happening in these parts!



Wednesday, July 11, 2018

FLOWERS IN THE YARD ~ UPDATE ON THE GARDEN ~ THE "NURSERY" ~ VISITOR TO THE BACK GARDEN ~ PUZZLE UPDATE ~ PARTING SHOT

FLOWERS IN THE YARD


I tell you what, we have a beautiful yard, if I do say so myself! Everyone who comes to our house remarks on how pretty all the flowers are, and I always give credit where credit is due. Linda is the reason we have such a lovely yard. She works very hard at taking care of the flower gardens in the yard, and I do the vegetable and herb garden. I think she does a wonderful job. Here are some pictures of some of our flowers so you can judge for yourself.

Our Stargazer Lilies
 A friend of ours gave us the Stargazer Lily plant about 9 years ago and it has gotten bigger and bigger over the years. There are so many blossoms on it that I had to stake it up yesterday because the stems were bent over and almost touching the ground. The flowers are absolutely gorgeous.


Butterfly Bush (top) and Bee Balm (bottom)
I got our Butterfly Bush last year at the Yakima Master Gardeners sale. It was very small and didn't bloom last year, but it grew a bit over last summer. This year it has numerous beautiful blooms on it and we have seen a lot of butterflies going to it. I am hoping, when the hummingbirds return to Yakima on their way back down south, that they will go to it also.


(Clockwise from top) Yellow Currant berries, the Dad Rose, and Lobelia

We bought one Yellow Currant bush a couple of years after we moved to Yakima. Over the years it has proliferated and we have had baby bushes coming up all over the place. We routinely pull them up unless one happens to be in a spot we want a bush. A few years ago, Linda decided to make a hedge of these bushes across the back of the vegetable garden area, and along the side of the house. She carefully transplanted tiny babies along the line where she wanted the hedge, and faithfully watered them in for the first summer so they could establish themselves. We now have a nice hedge growing in both places. The berries of this plant can be picked and made into a jam. I made Currant Jam in the past when Linda's dad was up here visiting, because he loved jam and toast for breakfast.

Hedge along side of house

The garden also yields some flowers when it is producing vegetables. Right now we have a plethera of squash blossoms on all of the squash plants. The flowers are so beautiful when they are open, and when you think about what develops at the base of the flower (the squash itself), you realize they are even more beautiful. These gorgeous pictures below are of the North Carolina Yellow Straight Neck Squash that we grew from seed sent to us by my good friend Sheila.

Squash blossom (top) and squash fruit (bottom)

UPDATE ON THE GARDEN


As I mentioned above, we have loads of squash growing out in the garden. The potato plants are doing great, and the cucumber plants are starting to get bigger and creep along the ground. Here is a picture of our biggest cucumber plant, with a little spoiled brat beside it for size comparison (sitting in the shade, of course).

Lemon Cucumber (left) and Summer Girl (right)
We have a few peppers on the pepper plants. Some of them are finally getting bigger, although the two Habaneros and one of the Jalapenos are still small. Also, we have some tomatoes coming on too, so everything is starting to get in the swing.


Black Krim tomato (top) and Sun Sugar Cherry tomato (bottom)

THE "NURSERY"


Right before we went on vacation I took some video of the sparrows underneath our feeder in the front yard. I was hoping to get video of the quail babies, but they didn't show so I settled for the sparrows. They were quite comical as there were probably 10 or 15 babies out there, hopping around. I think the parents were trying to teach them to fend for themselves. The babies seemed to be having a good time playing in the dirt.




There was some bizarre behavior on display by some of these youngsters. It appeared to me that they were exploring the various objects out there, trying to figure out what they were supposed to do with them.





As the videos above show, one little guy sees another one pick up a twig and fly off, so he tries to imitate his friend but doesn't quite know what to do. And then we have a little sparrow inside a Basket of Gold plant, and it looks like he is trying to take a bath in it like they do in the dirt. These little fellows were very entertaining to watch!

I was hoping to have better news to give you on the quail babies, but I have only seen the one May baby and the Papa since we got back from vacation. He's growing, though, so Papa is doing a good job of taking care of him!

Baby May

VISITOR TO THE BACK GARDEN


Last week we finally had a visitor to our garden that I have been looking forward to seeing. A gorgeous Western Tiger Swallowtail butterfly came to our butterfly bush and visited each flower on it. I was able to get some good video of her as she sipped on the nectar from the flowers. As far as I can tell, this one is a female because she has a lot of blue on her wings. The males have more black than blue at the bottom of the wings.



I saw one again earlier this week so I took some pictures of it to compare. I don't know if this is the same butterfly, but it looks like a female as well. The video above was taken on July 3rd, so in the span of a week's time this butterfly's wing has taken some damage. Their lifespan is only two weeks, so by the end of that time their wings are sometimes in tatters.

Top picture taken 7/3, bottom taken 7/9

PUZZLE UPDATE


It was my turn to pick out which puzzle we were going to work on after we got back from vacation. I picked out my favorite puzzle thus far. We did this one way back in February and really enjoyed it, so I picked it to do again. It is the first puzzle that we got using Colin Thompson's design (thank you, Emily!). This one is called "The Gardener's Cupboard" and we will probably finish it today or tomorrow. I just love this type of puzzle because there are so many little interesting things to see on each piece.

The Gardener's Cupboard

PARTING SHOT


Whenever I go outside and get out my lounge chair to sit under the tree, Summer Girl usually comes nonchalantly ambling up, and this is where she usually winds up.

Sitting in the lap of luxury
I apologize for the look of this week's blog. Google apparently changed something and the colors went all wacky. I will try to get it fixed before next week's blog because these colors are not very easy to read. Thanks for your patience.

That's it for this week, my friends. Please check back again next week because I have a feeling that we will be harvesting something out of the garden by then! Until then, have a safe week!





Wednesday, July 4, 2018

BIRTHDAY VACATION ~ UPDATE ON THE KIDS ~ PARTING SHOT

BIRTHDAY VACATION


Last week, Linda and I took a couple of days around my birthday to take a quick vacation to Leavenworth, Washington. We went there last year on my vacation and had a good time, so we decided to go back. Last year, my back was hurting because I had tweaked it right before we left, so this year I was careful not to do that.

Our vacation spot

We arrived in Leavenworth on the day before my birthday. The plan was to spend our two days enjoying ourselves with lots of shopping, eating, and drinking...beer (it is, after all, a Bavarian village, so = great beer) and coffee.

Our favorite brewery in Leavenworth, Icicle Brewing
Our favorite coffee spot, Starbucks

Our first day there began with lunch at our favorite brewery, Icicle Brewing. We ate outside because it was a beautiful day, although a bit chilly. It was several degrees cooler in Leavenworth since it is higher in elevation than Yakima, and also is right beside mountains.



Next, we walked around the shops and checked out all the restaurants to see where we wanted to have supper. About mid-afternoon we decided it was time to take a break from all the walking and looking, so we visited Viadolce, a gelato shop beside an Italian restaurant. I couldn't make up my mind on what flavor to choose, so I got one scoop each of Pistachio gelato and Mango Pineapple sorbetto. They were both excellent!

I would love some right now!

We walked back to our motel and rested for a bit. One thing we love about Leavenworth is that everything is right downtown, so you can stay nearby and walk anywhere. Also, there are lots of nature trails that are only a few minutes drive away. This little town pretty much has everything you would want for a short vacation.

Vacation home base

After resting we decided to head to our restaurant of choice for supper. They make the best artisan pizzas at Blewett Brewing, so that wasn't a hard decision to make. Before we had supper, though, we wanted to sample some of their beer. We ordered a flight and we got to choose which five beers we wanted on the flight. Here's what we thought of it...


All of their beers were IPA's except one, and that's not our preferred type of beer. Yet, we still drank all of the flight and then ordered another pint each to have with our pizza! We were on vacation, you know. By now we were pretty tired and headed back to the motel to turn in early. We had a nature hike planned for the next day so we wanted to be well-rested.


The next morning (my birthday) we set out for our nature hike, which was up the road just a little way to a place called Ski Hill. Leavenworth is a major destination for winter sports, but in the summer Ski Hill is open for walks along the many trails that crisscross the area. Just as we got out of the parking lot we were greeted by a cute little wren singing us a song.



The majority of our walk was in forest, which we love to do because we love the greenery. We were both amazed at how quiet it was. You could barely hear a sound. I was surprised there were not any birds chirping, but we soon found out that there were quite a few mountain bikers going along the trails and I am sure they were the reason the birds were so quiet.


Of course, there were many Ponderosa Pine trees along the trail. Linda and I both had to step off the trail to sniff one, just to make sure it smelled like vanilla. Yep, it did!

Too bad we don't have smell-o-vision

There were a lot of pretty wild flowers along the trail. The temperature was very pleasant making this the perfect day and place for a walk in the forest.



We exited off the trail onto a road leading back to the parking lot. Across from where we were was a gorgeous view of the valley below.



When we got back to town it was getting close to lunch time, so we stopped by a Dan's Food Market and picked up a sandwich to split. They make the best deli sandwiches and they are huge. We headed to Waterfront Park to have a picnic lunch. We arrived at the park and were greeted by signs warning us that a mother bear and her cubs had been spotted in the area. We found a picnic table and had a nice lunch while watching some kids play football nearby. I was also busy watching the bushes for bears. We even spotted a couple of baby deer off in the distance. After lunch, we walked along the hiking trail which goes beside the Wenatchee River, then crossed over the river to Blackbird Island. Afterwards. we headed to Starbucks so I could get my birthday reward drink. It was still a bit chilly outside and there was quite a wind blowing, so I was glad to wrap my hands around a nice, hot coffee.


We did a bit more shopping that afternoon for presents for some upcoming birthdays. We found a kitchen store (always my favorite) that had some hilarious tea towels, pot holders, and such. I took a few pictures of them and this one below is the only one that is safe for posting.


By now it was time to head to our favorite brewery for a celebratory beer. I also bought a new beer mug, and upon telling the bartender that it was my birthday, I was treated to a free beer! There's nothing like getting a free coffee and a free beer all in the same day! I chose my favorite, the Colchuck Raspberry Wheat, and Linda had her favorite, Dark Persuasion. Dark Persuasion is a chocolate stout with coconut overtones, and tastes like you are drinking a slice of German Chocolate cake. If you ever get a chance to have one, give it a try.

The best kind of beer...free
My birthday glass

We walked to our restaurant on the other end of town for my birthday supper. We took it slow not because of the beer, but because we were so tired. I had chosen Los Camperos, a Mexican restaurant, because I was craving nachos. Typically when we go to Leavenworth we always wind up having German (Bavarian) food for meals. I wanted to try something different, thus the nachos. They did not disappoint. I was so full after all the indulgences of the last two days that I could not even finish my meal.

Los Camperos
By the time we walked back to our motel, I was literally dragging. My feet and left hip were killing me. When I took off my Fitbit step tracker and synched it up for the day, I could see why. I've never gotten this many steps in one day. Hopefully I burned off those nachos.

Whew!
It was a perfect birthday spent doing the things that I love with the person that I love most. There is nothing better in this whole wide world.


UPDATE ON THE KIDS


I am not happy to report that we have only seen one baby quail since we got back from vacation. I haven't seen the one with the bad foot, so I'm afraid he's no longer with us. The June family with the 10+ babies seem to have moved on to somewhere else. Perhaps they do not like visiting a yard where there is a cat. The one remaining May baby is now on his own as we have seen him foraging around in the front yard without the parents. Here is a picture of baby May that I took this morning. You have to look closely because his coloring is almost the same as the ground. It's still to soon to tell if it's a male or female.




PARTING SHOT


Yesterday Summer Girl and I were sitting under the tree in my lounge chair and I was explaining to her about the upcoming July 4th holiday and all the noise that she was likely to hear. I don't think she was listening to me.

What?

Hopefully I will have more updates on the baby quail next week. Until then, I hope everyone has a relaxing and safe July 4th Holiday!




Friday, June 29, 2018

UPDATE ON THE QUAIL BABIES ~ GARDEN UPDATE ~ ANOTHER CEMETERY WALK ~ BOILED PEANUTS ~ PARTING SHOT

UPDATE ON THE QUAIL BABIES


A couple of weeks ago in the blog I showed you a video of two baby quail that we have in our yard this year. I am happy to say that they have grown a lot in the last couple of weeks, and the parents are now letting them fend for themselves a little bit. However, the parents are still close by to look after them. I got this video below through the window as they were sitting on the fence outside. Papa Quail was looking after the kids while Momma Quail was foraging around on the ground.




If you have your sound on, you will notice that you are NOT hearing the sound of quail, but rather the sound of a little spoiled brat who was upset because she wasn't getting any attention. Look closely at the video and you will see that one of the babies keeps pushing against the other one. The one doing the pushing is the baby with the hurt foot. We have noticed that he always stay close to the other baby as if he expects that one to protect him. We first saw these two babies on June 4th, so I am guessing that those eggs hatched sometime near the end of May. The video above was taken on June 22nd, and this picture below, taken on June 24th, is the most recent one I have of these two. You can really see how much they have grown compared to the June 4th photo.

June 4th picture

June 24th picture

One day I was sitting out on the front porch with my camera, hoping that the quail family would show up. All of a sudden I noticed movement out of the corner of my eye, so I very slowly got my camera ready to film. At first I thought it was the May babies, but then I noticed that these babies were much smaller, and there were more than two of them. Then Momma Quail made an appearance and she looked like some sort of giant bird (kind of like from that old movie "Food of the Gods." Click here to see a trailer).



It appears we have another quail family in our yard! To distinguish each family I'm calling the first ones the May Family, and the new ones the June Family.


These little guys are so cute running around, and there are so many more of them. We counted at least 10 babies, although I think there may be a couple more than that. We are keeping our fingers crossed that all of them survive.


The video above shows the babies foraging around, and then a noise or something startles them. They cluster together underneath the rose, all huddled up for protection. They don't stay scared long, though, because they run right back out and continue foraging. It probably helps that Mom and Dad are nearby. It's interesting to see how tiny they are compared to the sparrows and finches. I will try to continue taking video of them so we can watch them grow up together.


GARDEN UPDATE


I try to let my garden be a learning experience every year. So this year I decided to try making some "fertilizer tea" to put out on the plants, hopefully to help them grow bigger. I bought some organic fertilizer and followed the instructions to make a 5 gallon bucket of fertilizer tea. I mixed the fertilizer with water and put a lid on it (to keep out inquisitive cats) and let it sit overnight. I actually didn't have time the next day to put it out, so mine sat for 48 hours. When I took the lid off of it, you could never in your entire life imagine the stench that came wafting up from that bucket. There was a disgusting layer of bubbled up slime on top to boot. I managed to haul the bucket out to the garden and distributed about a cup of this foul stuff on each plant. I may have missed a few, I don't know, it was hard to concentrate while trying to keep from gagging from the smell. After I had distributed all of the "tea" (I may never want to drink tea again), I was left with this horrendous sludge in the bottom. I managed to dump it out back behind some bushes. By the way, I want to stress that I made sure to get a fertilizer that was harmless to pets and humans...if you can stand the smell. Well, after all, it is "fertilizer" and we all know what that means. This particular garden learning experience has taught me not to make fertilizer tea again. I would have included a picture, but it was just too gross for the blog.

On a less smelly note, I finally got my potatoes mounded up. I should have done this weeks ago, before I put down my hoses and straw. But I managed to get it done, now I just need to cover up the mounds with more straw.

Mounded-up potato plants

I have several different kinds of squash plants this year. The one that I am most excited about is a Yellow Straight-Neck Squash that came from seeds my friend Sheila sent me from North Carolina. It is the biggest squash plant out in the garden. I am hoping that this is an indication of how well it will produce. You can see another squash plant to the left and that one is much smaller.

North Carolina Yellow Straight-Neck Squash

Below is a picture I took this morning of my tomatillo volunteers. They have grown a lot since last week. Pretty soon I will pinch off all of them except the biggest one.

Tomatillo volunteers getting bigger!

ANOTHER CEMETERY WALK


Linda and I took a guided tour of the Tahoma Cemetery this past Sunday. I posted some pictures of this cemetery back in the winter when we used to go walking there. Taking the guided tour gave us a lot of history of the Yakima area. For example, there is a grave of a young girl underneath this huge tree (see pictures below). The guide said that most likely the tree was planted after she was buried, and grew over her grave. There are quite a few trees in the cemetery over 100 years old, as this one most certainly is.


And here is that same tree in all its beauty.



BOILED PEANUTS


As you may know, I love to cook. So, in keeping with the times, I got myself a 3 quart Mini Lux Instant Pot Pressure Cooker. This is a wondrous machine, it does just about everything. I may never use my stove again. Actually, that's not true, but it sounded good. Anyway, one of the things that I have discovered you can do with a pressure cooker is make boiled peanuts. Those of you not from the South are probably saying, "What??" I can assure you that this another Southern delicacy that is not found in the Pacific Northwest. I have not seen a boiled peanut since we moved here 11 years ago. I can't even find the canned ones in the grocery store...not even at Walmart. You can imagine my excitement when I saw a recipe for making boiled peanuts posted on Facebook (by a fellow named Keith Tant from Anderson, South Carolina). All I had to do was find some "raw" peanuts. Luckily, Linda saw some at one of the local fruit stands, so we picked up a container. I plan to pressure cook these bad boys in the next week, hopefully before next week's blog so I can report on it. Wish me luck!

Soon to be turned into a Southern delicacy



PARTING SHOT


If there's one thing that Summer Girl likes about summer, it is the fact that she has a nice, big bed of straw (also known as The Garden) where she can take a nap.



This week's blog was a couple of days late due to the fact that we took a short vacation trip to Leavenworth, WA, for my birthday. I will be posting highlights from that trip next week, so be sure to tune in. In the meantime, I hope everyone has a great week!