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!YES! FENCE ME IN…

Our Island’s deer population is increasing since there are few predators… excepting automobiles. Any suggestion of introducing cougars seems unpopular… while my favorite fantasy of a “bevy of bare-chested bow-hunters” has proven complicated as well! After gardening here for years with only minimal damage, the past several seasons have seemed to educate their palates to a boldness which I can no longer tolerate… I vowed this summer to not garden until they are fenced out!  I took inspiration from our neighbors’ having recently enclosed their garden with recycled fish netting.

Because they now are nibbling many plants in our landscape beyond the potager kitchen beds… even ornamentals which have been “safe” for many years… I wanted to fence the entire property, meaning almost 400 feet of length. A project made more daunting given the steep slope & uneven terrain through the woods from one cliff edge up to the road & house then down & around to the cliff edge again.

Fortune smiled when a young man named Tom arrived to help me realize such solution. He’d gravitated to our bell booth at our local Strawberry Festival in July… with a charmingly wide smile. At 19 he has finished his Associate’s Degree & is heading to Evergreen College to begin studies anticipating his becoming a farmer… how could we not put him to work?!?!!

Tom wore this wrap of the netting so as to carry it down through the woods to keep it from dragging & snagging on  the brambles before it got hung & fastened…

Here he contemplates throwing a line to fell a small tree for a fence post…

But we first needed to have some major tree work done, a clump of huge, too-old & diseased Alders were required to be brought down, before another fell as inopportunely happened last winter… blocking the road during a big snow storm.

The cherry tree which has always reclined will remain a character.
In this part of the yard has long been a shade garden…
Now the light has broken through… to our mixed emotions.
Aaron has done such work for us before, although not at such scale
The result is now much more open…
Even as the trees fell crashing into heaps below…
Piles of wood were bucked into lengths ready to  split…
Stephen consults with Tom about the work he will do…
He contemplates the task…
 Answering with his predictable attitude…

Those random piles became some 6-7 cords of fire wood,  split & neatly stacked by this young man’s energy… now curing until next year… clearing space we needed for completing the fence line.

A large pile of debris awaits the end of our unusually long dry spell’s  burn ban.

While he certainly did the major part, he also put me to work. He’s small & wiry & energized in a way quite unfathomable, with all the necessary experience & tools to make improbable work seem easy. He’s regular & reasonable.  He’s bright & creative. We worked well together, having good mind connections wrestling with the problems we tackled. I became his go-fer & assistant, while maintaining an eye toward design.

We used as many standing trees as possible, filling in with fence posts as necessary. We acquired a quantity of salvaged netting & rope we found for free in the city.

The north end of the fence begins down at the cliff to the left in this view 
… continuing along the road approaching the house.
Looking back from closer to the house…
down, around the wood piles, to end at the cliff on the south..
The aesthetic mostly works…
Looking south, the coil of extra rope will be gifted to some other…

Tom ultimately gave me one last of his deliciously big hugs… habitual to our hellos & goodbyes… on his way to his next admirable adventure… leaving me quite wallowing in the blessings of a fine Platonic love.

Such definition of territory protects & gifts me with new richness.

Internal Winter Weather…

 …remember you may click & click again on the photos to enlarge them…

My lifelong habit prefers to work in the studio during the long winter nights. This nocturnal mode sometimes allows me to see sunrise on my way to sleep…

Sunset seems always to follow too quickly, but can reward us on these short days, if the weather is clear enough to see Tahoma [the mountain most know as Mt Ranier] with the alpenglow reflecting raspberry colored light in our eastern view. The spine of the island prevents any direct view of sunset from our aspect…

The last full moon rose dramatically just as I was on the beach, fortunately with my camera, even as I’d thought about leaving it at home when I left at dusk for a quick walk. I’d not been paying attention to its cycle & was surprised to wonder at its unexpected light rising behind trees on the horizon…

Later I took the tripod out onto the Prow Deck to make some longer exposures as that orange orb climbed high enough to make a causeway of reflected light in cooler coloration…

So my internal weather is affected by that of the external… deep, creatively dark, lit dramatically… productive, even as I am also feeling less than “on top” of the schedule finishing one year’s business & moving into the next, which speeds along. Now it is Imbolc, St Bridget’s celebration, when diurnal time begins again to balance day & night.

There are additional stories, explaining somewhat more mundane matters of weather on the “read more” button below:

We’ve had a share of harsh weather, as seen here in the birdbath’s water frozen quite solid…

Cracking into patterns of stress against the stone basin…

Some plants hold structure in the garden being fair corpses of their previously vibrant form…

While inside, the remainders of holiday decor linger as the carved wooden putto I bought in Venice hovers on a big brass candlestick I’ve had for years… above the small army of oil lamps which have lighted the holiday season, which we spent at home this year.

Our climate is already bringing early signs of the longer days, like the butter burr or pesticides, which later make the huge leaves which we love seeing spread around the neighborhood for its dramatic size. Its early blossoms seem tentative… curiously small in contrast.  I see cautiously joyful promise toward spring!
 
The usually quite hardy Lacinata kale has survived nicely, but is not exactly thriving. I’ve been postponing much harvest of those delicious leaves… but I’m reconsidering day by brighter day!

One result of our wet weather is some predictable shifting along our cliff. We’ve had an unexpected slide & have been watching the progress of several long active movements on the clay slope we’ve been monitoring for years with concern & have recently acquired… so as to attempt mitigating ongoing loss of mass.

Now… I’ve explained before that I agree with the ecology of clay’s nutrients supporting the eel grass, which is so important to the salmon fry, whose survival is essential. I figure we can now eat that food, which we love, with an easier conscience… for the ongoing donations of our real estate!

The  12 year old stone bulkhead is our salvation… relative to the slumping clay… but even its substance has been challenged by La Mama. Several stones had shifted last year so we needed a somewhat adventurous repair… requiring getting a large piece of equipment down onto the beach during a low enough tide, with sufficient daylight to rebuild the breech.

[Photo by Stephen Silha]

Soundcliff breathes easier in this long view from out on that low-tide beach. Bulkhead renewed, the house perches bravely. The structure we call the Prow Deck juts seeming cantilevered yet sits on retaining walls holding an earlier slide. We live on a delicious edge!


Back up on the third floor, at another dawn, my camera caught the sun rising through the frosted glass collected on the wide windowsill.

An accidental shot might be my favorite, so I leave you with one fabulously fortuitous moment in my interior weather…

FABULOUS INDEED…

SILENCE BROKEN… quietly

After months without posting I return with flowers to begin making amends…

I have little more to say for my silence than that I’ve missed this process & I’m wanting to share again. There have been numerous beginnings & several drafts are ripe to consider, including one large collection of recent photographs illustrating some stories about my spring & summer. But since I still feel some kind of block to my writing, I must begin quietly.

I photographed this nocturnal still life last night after a late solitary dinner, especially enjoying the small bouquet of roses we were gifted from a friend’s garden several days ago & knowing they will shatter before I am finished being charmed by their rich color. The lilies are from our own garden & the dining table exudes scents from more than food… I am thus blessed with beauty I must simply celebrate!

Summer has always been my favorite season. Being a gardening Leo, having reached a certain age, I hold innumerable memories of the fullness inside the deep heat which brings time to bloom so lazily luscious, even in the stingy cool of the Northwest.

Silent solitude is part of such memory & this image shares words I won’t write now. I have some days to mull & ponder alone all which fills my life. Rich & rare time to find my own blooming into work & play…

There is small doubt I hold my usual chatter in more than temporary abeyance, so please savor the sweet stillness of this current mood with me… even as we also know these petals will join the potpourri of memory with a certain sadness.

ENJOY!

MISSING BIRDSONG IN THE TIME OF SPIDERS…

As the season turns toward cooler colors & becomes typical more rainy I realize that the birdsong so abundant in the mornings several months ago has quieted. I’ve been missing that early morning music, while wistfully appreciating the singers’ capability & choice to fly south…

It is now the time of spiders. One cannot walk through doorways or along garden pathways without destroying hours of diligent web spinning. I feel quite badly even if I thus only can see my carnage through newly web blurred eyeglass lenses… all the while reflexively doing yet more damage as I flail to rid myself of the tickling on my pate & in my ears.

Chagrined, I still must suppose that makes me just a common vandal… finding my conscience too late.

But I have been enjoying continuing to learn from watching them, reminded of Arthur C. Clarke’s novel The Fountains Of Paradise which I read at least 25 years ago, in which he speculates the possibility of a “space elevator” begun by spinning a single lightweight strand of hyper-strong filament out beyond earth’s atmosphere, quite as do these spiders between doorposts & bushes, dancing with air currents to seemingly fly… spanning between otherwise improbable distances & thus gradually building a series of intersecting strands to support their web structures in the spaces I must walk through.

His fantasy of then similarly adding more filaments, increasing the strength held “up” or “out” from earth’s gravity, just as one can swing a ball on a string, to then lift material up such an “elevator” toward a building satellite like our space station — without the complicated launch system we use now — doesn’t seem so preposterous to this observer!

Well, I’ve destroyed a lot of arachnid art once again this morning, just going down to the studio, even as I know it is being rebuilt, albeit not to the desired specifications of their original beauty & organic symmetry,,

LIFE ON A SHIPPING LANE…

I’m returning after weeks of dark silence with a bit of regatta, having been collecting shots toward a blog posting such as this for several years. If everyone loves a parade then this flat-lander, who grew up on a wheat farm in the waterless central plains, hopes you might enjoy this endless variety of boats as seen from our perch. I love realizing atop this cliff overlooking the lower Puget Sound… I’m most certainly not in Kansas any more!

To give a bit of orientation, here is a photograph from the air of Dilworth Point, the easternmost point of Vashon Island. Just to the south of that is Soundcliff.

[To see any of these images larger click on them…]

Stephen named Soundcliff as both a description & a prayer for this sensitive site perching some 40 rather vertical feet above the high tide. Lower tide on the rocky beach shows the result of eons… the erosion of alluvial layers built from melting ancient glaciers, rocks ground from wherever north it might still take days to drive by car, laid down between the residual clay resulting from stress under such immense weight. Still, that relatively recent construction of geologic compaction is far more fragile than any bedrock. We are rather vulnerable to rain & wave. We are indeed quite frail against tidal forces. We sit atop the cliff here… you can barely see Soundcliff just above & to the right of the two green patches of this bleak winter shot at low tide. We celebrate the stone bulkhead, even as it looks ultimately inconsequential to the obvious history…

From up here, however, even from bed, we enjoy an expansive view over the shipping lanes to & from the port of Tacoma. Beyond the water is the mountain known commonly now as Mount Rainer, but we prefer the native name… Tahoma. Here she is with one of the huge container ships which pass by daily.

We can hear them well before they come into view from the north around the point where they fairly fill the view with their broadside before turning to shrink into the perspective of distance… looking rather more toy-like as they move toward Lady Tahoma.

I enjoy the mystery of what is inside those sealed steel boxes, knowing that most are filled with the mundane stuffs of everyday trade, but at least some must be fair troves of treasure bringing finer dreams from faraway…


Especially when the sun strikes from under our fabled cloud cover to inspire such speculation with golden light!

The real treasure here, visible or not, is always the mountain…

Of course others, like these barges of crushed automobiles wending their way to further recycling behind tugboats, are obviously trundling treasure of quite a different kind…

As often come gems…

As go lumps, blending into the intense vagaries of our ten thousand grays…

One recent day I was amazed to see a barge loaded with four of the huge cranes seen in the harbors of any modern port, used to load & unload those containers onto truck beds or railroad cars to continue their journey by land. They look like prehistoric science fiction hard at work in that usual place, but in this situation are themselves a rather precarious & uncomfortable looking cargo! Birds mimicking cage?

They too fade into Tahoma’s much sturdier story…

Another rare sight is one of our Washington State Ferry System’s vessels sailing far from any of its usual runs, presumably out for a maintenance test drive or perhaps for training?

This colorful dowager looks like a quite the floozy version of fun for cargo of the human variety! She looks to be a remnant of our famous old “Mosquito Fleet” of ferries which once plied the Sound in a veritable swarm of possibilities no longer possible in today’s economy. There were numerous docks around the Island served daily by dozens of such boats. That was before we had so many roads up on the Island. Now we are constrained to an ever decreasing schedule for the same commute to the mainland from only two docks…

Progress?

More placid times give us glimpses of small sailing craft, sometimes in true regattas…

Occasionally they come close enough we might shout to them…

Here is a view, from one ferry, of another just pulling into the dock on the north end of our Island. A sail boat uses it’s engine to make it’s way across the route we were using to get to Southworth, on the Olympic Peninsula. Thus I come to liken these waters unto the freeways of my Midwest filled, in something approaching Biblical abundance, with cars, buses & trucks.

A photo earlier showed our view from the bedroom of fishing boats, which during the various salmon seasons often wake us early with the racket & roar of their process. We love to eat their catch, quite literally, since there are fishers on the Island who also sell directly & tell us that the fish we are buying was caught within sight of our house, one of the landmarks they use for the rich situation resulting from the Point’s sheltering of the tidal currents.


The method involves the spreading of a long net across the current with a smaller, but quite noisey boat which strains, holding that length against the flow & circling back to close the hopefully bulging net & reconnect it to the large boat in a dance of a struggle.

Our theater often boasts a troupe of 4-5 rigs all doing & repeating this process in turn as the tide tugs them past our vantage point.

In a quick pas d deau the smaller boat passes off its end & ducks under the upper line of the net to continue its roaring work, closing the lower line of the net into a purse to secure the catch which will be hauled up onto the deck & into the hold of the fishing boat… if the catch is good we sometimes hear shouts of exclamation in celebration.

More often we don’t hear a thing except that infernal sound of fuel being burned.

Our fish stock is being depleted. Living so close to that life cycle we must accept only a temporary custodial joy on this fragile cliff. The clay which slumps from our garden is the major nutrient for the eel grass which, growing in the tidal shallows, hides & shelters the salmon fry [baby fish] until they are large enough to protect themselves, or not, on their years of further migration out into the Pacific. We must share our security as part of theirs.

We thus become students of the food we eat. The reality of our situation allows & requires us to make peace with this moment in time. Everything always changes & we live on an actual edge of all that. We must trust one day we too will become useful as part of that food chain. Better to accept that gracefully than the alternative of no survival at all, which is what the salmon must be trying to tell us.

More important is the message from the magestic Orcas, who do not show up so frequently as they used to, even in my short experience on this cliff… they eat salmon too. We live in each other’s back yards. If they can’t survive, how much oil will it take for us to learn the same lesson?

I suspect we are becoming the fossils to fuel some next intelligience…

So, I now offer an example of how much fun the problematic interim processes can be. We accepted an invitation one summer evening to go for dinner at a dockside restaurant in Tacoma with friends whose family speed boat was moored, along with many sailing vessels, in Quartermaster Harbor, the boater’s haven enhanced between what once were more actually two islands. Maury Island still keeps a certain identity even as it was long ago attached as an ithmus to Vashon by filling the tidal spit with more sand to make a connecting roadway. Once the tide sloshed over to help refresh the harbor… but, that is another lesson learned lately by the prey of environmental process. Try banking on any “safe haven” these days…


Our Wheee! exuberantly spends our temporary dividends in the wake…

Motoring out of the inner harbor & around the Burton Penensula we passed the camp with the same name where most summers finds us as counselors for a group of differently abled adults. A favorite part of each day with them is canoeing after dinner out into the same channel, just as the sun begins to settle… [see Stephen’s blog] Boats become an evermore intimate part of my life far from Kansas.

Since I’ve already strayed out of our immediate baliwick I’ll hold a couple more boats which I want to share… later, perhaps. I close this already long post with a view of Our Lady Tahoma in some furious drag several days ago, with my best wishes for clear sailing into what is.