Boolie vs. the Garden, Summer Edition

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This past weekend we went to the nursery to pick up a few plants for the yard. I wanted to replace the lobelia the slugs devoured last fall, and pick up a couple of hostas and maybe a fern for the shady spot out front. We went to pick up a few plants and came home with twelve. And a bird bath. And a little stone owl.

We started a hummingbird garden last fall in memory of my mother-in-law, plus a dogwood for the backyard and a handful of plants for other parts of the garden. This is more of that story. In the first picture, I’ve labeled the plants of the hummingbird garden, as well as whether they were planted last fall or this summer.

I also labeled a few plants in the back I transplanted in previous years. The patch of daisies at the back is where many of my insect pictures are taken, including a ladybug that remains one of my favorite pictures.

When we moved in, this little patch had an overgrown grape vine above and overgrown weeds below. I dug those out and then the raspberries and mint took over until last summer when I cleared it down to bare dirt. And then again and again until it stayed clear enough that I could get the hummingbird garden started.

And while the slugs got the best of the lobelia I planted last fall, I did get to see it bloom, its brilliant red flowers against the maroon stems and leaves, and knew I wanted another. We got two for good measure, we’ll see how long they last. I’m thinking of setting up some really tiny electric fences.

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The other plant that appears not to have survived, done in not by slugs but by the long wet spring, is one of the salvias (I haven’t given up complete hope, not yet, and left it in the ground just in case). We picked up another salvia ‘hot lips’ since we like the one we got last fall, as well as another salvia ‘black & blue’ since the black and blue flowers are both arresting and provide a nice change from the red flowers of many of the other plants. And a salvia we haven’t tried before, ‘icing sugar’, with more pinkish flowers.

The bee balm I planted last fall has come back strong so we added a little dwarf beebalm at the far edge. Both varieties of coneflowers survived the winter and spring, the little green coneflower in the front and the ‘hot papaya’ variety behind it (of all the plants I was most worried about that one as it isn’t as hardy, but it has grown like a champ and is about to bloom).

Then there’s the zauschneria, a native to the Western U.S., which has soft leaves and should bloom orange-red flowers in the fall. Our cat Emma was giving it such rapt attention that I thought she was eating it, but on closer inspection she was just sniffing each and every leaf. I thought back to last summer when she discovered the catnip for the first time and had such a wild look in her eyes that I began to fear for the safety of Sam and Scout.

Finally there are the cape fuchsias that I grew by transplanting runners from the plant out front. I planted half a dozen runners in this part of the garden during the fall, hoping one would take, and now five are thriving. I may remove a couple that are in the back since it does spread quickly, but for now it’s filling in the garden nicely.

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I’m glad the transplants are doing well because the original cape fuchsia out front, planted by a previous owner, wants full sun but gets full shade. It has never thrived there and was looking rather ragged after the long wet spring, so it was time to dig it up and put in some shade-tolerant plants. This little strip shown below sits beside the steps leading up to the front of the house. The hostas are probably too close together but I didn’t want to leave too much of a gap since it’s such a visible area, I’ll move them later if need be.

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On the Trail of the Boolie

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My wife recently picked up car chargers for our iPhones so last weekend I used the MotionX-GPS app on the iPhone to record GPS data of my movements during a day at Ridgefield. This takes a hard toll on the battery, and since I was there for 13 hours I couldn’t have pulled it off without the charger.

What I want is to merge the data with my pictures so that I can get a visual map of where I took my pictures, an idea I first had many years ago during visits to both Ridgefield and Yellowstone. The pieces are all falling into place now although I haven’t yet learned how to tie it all together. Next I need to learn how to merge the GPS data with the pictures, then I can use Apple’s Aperture to display the locations for each picture on a map.

The picture above is the GPS data overlaid on a satellite image of Ridgefield and shows how I spent 13 hours on June 19, 2011. I’ve annotated it with the names of lakes and marshes at Ridgefield. I’m not exactly sure where Bower Slough starts and ends as there is a series of dikes and canals, but this is my best guess. Google Maps only labeled one lake and they got it wrong, they have Long Lake incorrectly named as Quigley Lake.

At first I was a little confused by the satellite photo as there didn’t appear to be much water visible, but this would make sense if the picture was snapped during the summer. Many of the lakes are seasonal and even during the spring the shallower lakes fill with vegetation.

The GPS trace shows two main loops with the green and red dots showing where I started and stopped the recording. The larger loop on the right is the auto tour where I spend so much of my free time, the smaller loop on the left is the Kiwa Trail, a short hiking trail that opens up during the summer. Traffic flows counter-clockwise around the auto tour, most of it is one-way but the first stretch does allow for two-way traffic.

Many of the lakes to my eye are really ponds, or even large puddles, but what does it matter? Some of my favorite places to sit and watch are some of the smallest lakes. Some like South Quigley Lake and Rest Lake were favorite spots from my very first visit, while others like Horse Lake and Long Lake took me a while to learn their rhythms and charms and only recently have become favorites.

The Wonderful Wet

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The iPhone is one of the best devices I’ve ever owned. One little thing I love is the ability to set multiple repeating alarms. I have one for 7:00 a.m. on weekdays to get me up for work, and another for 5:00 a.m. on the weekends to get me up for Ridgefield. Another thing I love is the ability to carry around weather maps in my pocket. And oh how I loved the weather map on the morning of May 15th!

I love photographing wildlife in the rain (and snow and frost and fog) and the beauty of the auto tour is I can do it from the relative warmth of a dry car seat. Not everyone shares my love for the rain of course and I didn’t see another car on the refuge for the first couple of hours. It rained much of the day and traffic on the tour was fairly low despite being in the midst of spring migration.

I kept an eye on the weather maps during the day to try to be at a favorite location when the best weather (in this case, the heaviest rain) hit. Even so, I got caught out by a sudden downpour. I had just finished driving past the lakes and started onto the large meadows at the end of the tour where there isn’t much to see at this time of year. So I couldn’t believe my luck when I saw this bittern in the tall grass of the meadow near Schwartz Lake, where I’ve not seen bitterns before, the green grass nicely showing off the pouring rain.

I stayed all day from sunrise to sunset (assuming there was a sunrise and sunset), you’ll see a number of pictures in the coming days and weeks of the Ridgefield rain.

The Wonderful Wet

June 12, 2011 to …

The new notebook and pens sitting on the old

The new notebook and pens sitting on the old

Having filled up my old notebook it was time to find a new one, and this go around I wanted to upgrade the quality a bit. The internet hipsters seemed to be pretty fond of Moleskines and after looking at a few of my wife’s (and confirming that the pages are not in fact made from the skin of the molemen, who frankly have suffered enough), I ordered the Moleskine squared red large notebook. The bold red color nicely matches my in-your-face attitude and should be easier to find in an overstuffed camera bag or backpack.

It was also time to upgrade my pens. Over the years I’ve just used whatever cheapo pens I had laying around and noticed that some of the ink had faded on some pages of the old journal. And I wanted something that wrote with a fine point but also flowed smoothly. Once again the internet came to my rescue when one of my favorite podcasts discussed pens and based on their recommendations I ordered the uni-ball Signo RT Gel (0.38mm point) and uni-ball Signo 207 Gel (0.5mm point).

I was expecting sunny weather all weekend but when the clouds and scattered showers rolled in Sunday afternoon, I made a quick run to Ridgefield and had a chance to use the new journal and pens in anger for the first time. So far I am thrilled with both notebook and pens, so many thanks my internet heroes!

The new notebook and pens sitting on the old, both sitting in front of a sitting Sam

The new notebook and pens sitting on the old, both sitting in front of a sitting Sam

December 28, 2003 to June 5, 2011

I taped the edges of the cardboard covers when they started shredding but otherwise the notebook has held up well to over seven years of hard use. One of my better $2 investments.

I taped the edges of the cardboard covers when they started shredding but otherwise the notebook has held up well to over seven years of hard use. One of my better $2 investments.

I used to keep notes about my hiking and photography outings on loose sheets of paper that were quickly lost. One day while in Office Depot I grabbed an inexpensive notebook to see if I’d prefer keeping my notes in more permanent form. I think it may have cost all of two dollars. It’s a simple notebook from Roaring Spring Compositions, designed for children I’d guess given that the cover asks for your school and grade. It was quad ruled which I liked as I tend to wander without the guiding hand of the grid. It measures 9 3/4″ by 7 1/2″ and was made in the USA, presumably in Roaring Spring, PA.

My first entry is from December 28, 2003 and starts with a visit to a National Wildlife Refuge — but not Ridgefield as you might expect. No, this was Colusa National Wildlife Refuge, part of the Sacramento NWR complex down in California. My wife and I spent Christmas with family in California and she flew back while I took the Subaru and planned to visit the redwoods and the refuges near the border.

After a quick visit to Colusa I drove the auto tour at Sacramento NWR, but only once as a sudden snowstorm was blowing in and I needed to hurry to get across the coast range to the redwoods. I didn’t make it too far before discretion proved the better part of valor and I retreated to spend a couple of days in a hotel in Redding. Once I-5 reopened and it was safe to drive back home, I canceled the trip and arrived at our house just hours before a nasty ice storm hit Portland.

For each visit I keep track of what animals I see and I try to make notes about how the day went, although some days I never get round to filling in the notes. Every once in a while I’ll make a little drawing in the notebook, but rarely so, for even a caveman of Lascaux once called them “rather crude”, and he was being charitable.

Look at this drawing and you can almost hear the red-winged blackbird singing in the cattails. It helps if you close your eyes while looking.

Look at this drawing and you can almost hear the red-winged blackbird singing in the cattails. It helps if you close your eyes while looking.

Flip over a few pages from the aborted California trip and there’s our first visit to Olympic and Mount Rainier National Parks in the summer of 2004. Then comes my first real visit to Yellowstone a few weeks later (we visited for a few hours when my wife moved to Oregon but that hardly counts).

There’s my first (and only) visit to Japan in 2005, then my first visit to Huntington Beach State Park in South Carolina a few months later that at long last re-introduced me to alligators. And a few months later a return to Yellowstone and my first visit to the Tetons. In between the big trips most of the pages are scrawled full of visits to Ridgefield, long ago I taped a map of the refuge to the inside of the back cover to help me keep straight the small lakes along the auto tour.

Flip a bit more and there’s my trip to Yellowstone and the Tetons in 2006. Another visit to Huntington Beach in December of that year, my first time out after my stepfather passed away unexpectedly, when the quiet serenity of the off-season provided much needed comfort.

Another visit to Yellowstone and the Tetons in the fall of 2007 which was my last. Good grief has it really been that long since I’ve been there? In the fall of 2008 I went to Rainier and the Olympics instead and saw my first hoary and Olympic marmots, continuing an obsession ignited by Yellowstone’s yellow-bellied marmots.

This entry from Yellowstone starts out with "WHAT A DAY!", and what a day it was, for I saw my first (and only) wolf up close.

This entry from Yellowstone starts out with "WHAT A DAY!", and what a day it was, for I saw my first (and only) wolf up close.

In 2009 instead of my usual fall hiking trip I took a spring trip to the redwoods in California, my first visit since the snowstorm aborted my attempt back in 2003. The big trip of 2010 was our visit to Maine to spread my mother-in-law’s ashes.

Where will 2011’s big trip be? Wherever it will be, it won’t be recorded in this notebook. My June 5th visit to Ridgefield filled the final page.

Fittingly the journal closes out with a visit to and map of one of my favorite places on the earth, the unassuming little auto tour at Ridgefield.

Fittingly the journal closes out with a visit to and map of one of my favorite places on the earth, the unassuming little auto tour at Ridgefield.

Brisk!

An Eagle Drinks

Winter is a good time for viewing eagles at Ridgefield but this young bald eagle at Schwartz Lake was the only eagle I saw during my visit on January 16th. I didn’t expect to have much time for pictures when I pulled the car over as I feared the eagle would spook when the next car came past. But the steady rain kept traffic on the auto tour so low that no one else came by and since the eagle was in no hurry, I was able to watch it for quite a while. Most of the time it just stood on a submerged log, but a few times it leaned down for a drink before finally flying off to a nearby tree.

Schwartz Lake (like most lakes at Ridgefield) is quite small and shallow since it is really just a flooded field. The water levels of many of the lakes are managed to mimic the floodplains of the Columbia before the dams were built, flooding during the winter and drying out by summer.

An Eagle Splashes

Queen of the Decade

Our cat Scout in her favorite cat bed

Our good and gentle queen turned ten back in March. We’ve had Scout since she was a kitten so she’s been by my side the entire decade. She is a queen that rules with a soft furry fist. Her monarchy is characterized by a modified form of laissez-faire — everyone is welcome to do whatever they want as long as it doesn’t interfere with what she wants.

For example, if Sam is sleeping on my lap and she wants to snuggle too, he’s welcome to stay where he is just so long as he doesn’t mind when she steps on him as she goes through her rituals of getting petted before she’ll lie down. I try to tell her that a good queen doesn’t walk all over the little people but this subtlety is lost on her.

She also considers one of the cat beds hers. The others are welcome to sleep in it as long as they get up when she wants it. When they don’t, she gives them the evil eye for a few moments. If that doesn’t work, she comes over and starts giving me the business until I evict them.

Yes, she can be a little grumpus. But she’s my little grumpus. I wouldn’t trade her for the world.