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Showing posts from September, 2013

New Book:  Two Hands and a Shovel

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"Their work made Deception Pass the iconic gem that hosts two million visitors a year -- two million individuals appreciating the opportunity created and developed by the men of the CCC, one stone, one log, and one shovel full at a time."  -Jack Hartt
Of the things I enjoy, three of them are history, vintage photos and Deception Pass State Park.  How fortunate to find a newly published book that satisfies all three delights.  And satisfy it does.  At over 300 pages, with more than 400 illustrations, this is a major accomplishment by the authors Jack Hartt and Sam Wotipka.  This is more than a picture book.  It presents a brief history of the Washington State Park system and the establishment of the Civilian Conservation Corps.  Most importantly, the photos introduce us to the men of the CCC's as they were building Deception Pass State Park in the 1930's.

I have had the privilege of meeting the authors Jack Hartt, Park Manager and Sam Wotipka who was a Park Interpreti…

Madrona Bearing Fruit

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This past spring, one of my Madronas bloomed profusely.  This was a rare event for my trees and a bit exciting to see.  Now the tree is loaded with clusters of berry-like fruits.  At the moment, they are yellow to green in color and the size of large peas.  Eventually, they will swell further and turn bright red.  This is the source of the tree's nickname, "Strawberry Tree."  The fruits should last into December, provided the birds don't get them first.  It will be interesting to watch how this progresses.


Madronas also go by the name Madrone, and in Canada they are called Arbutus.  They are members of the Heath family (Ericaceae) and related to rhododendrons, Kinnikinnick and Salal.  This is only the second time I have seen blossoms on my own trees, and the first time any of them have borne fruit.

They are almost impossible to transplant.  Feel lucky if one springs up naturally in your garden.  The secret to growing Madronas is to do pretty much nothing.  By all me…

Pacific Wax Myrtle

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Wildlife and native plant gardeners are always on the lookout for plants to add to the home habitat.  In the Pacific Northwest, the California or Pacific Wax Myrtle(Myrica californica) appears to be a nice choice.  The evergreen shrub grows in a narrow band along the Pacific coast from spots on Vancouver Island to the Long Beach, California area.  In Washington this includes the coastal strip between the Quinault Reservation and the Columbia River.

Two summers ago, I planted one as an experiment.  Pacific Wax Myrtle appears to be highly adaptable regarding sun exposure and soil conditions.  Mine is growing in glacial hardpan with a lot of clay and must tolerate summer drought.  It gets full sun until late afternoon and appears to enjoy its seaside location.  In its third summer, the shrub is almost 8 feet/2.4 meters tall.  The height and evergreen foliage make a neat and attractive screen planting as well as a beautiful specimen plant.


In the wildlife garden, those purple fruits are …

Labor Day at the Beach, Part 2

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Similk Bay is the northern end of Skagit Bay in Puget Sound.  Some of it is lined with beach-front homes, but there are sections of shoreline which are still wild and pristine.  Beachcombers can expect to find unusual plants and a rich habitat.

On Labor day, I spent the morning hiking into Similk Bay.  The previous post brought us here.  Now we will turn around and return home.


There were dozens of Glaucous-winged Gulls working the shoreline during my visit.  This one was taking a rest on a barnacle-covered rock.


Liftoff!  The human got too close, so the Gull decided to skedaddle.


On the way back, I spotted my new friend again, still in the same location.  The injured juvenile Gull from the last post was checking a bit if Eel Grass for tidbits to eat.  I might try and return in a week or so to see if he is still around.


Someone in the neighborhood has been clam digging and left this pile of shells.  These are Horse Clam shells (Tresus capax), also called Fat Gapers.  These are big cl…

Labor Day at the Beach, Part 1

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I stayed home for the Labor Day holiday.  With a good low tide, however, I spent the morning hiking the beach into Similk Bay.  There are always interesting things to find in the intertidal zone.  These tracks in the sand, for instance, were quite large and probably mark the route of a Great Blue Heron.  Come along and enjoy this photo gallery of the things that I found.


The shells of Varnish Clams(Nuttalia obscurata) littering the beach have an interesting story.  They are recent immigrants from Asia.  It is believed they entered the waters of the Salish Sea when Asian transport ships dumped ballast water near Vancouver, B.C. in the 1990's.  They now inhabit the North Sound, Strait of Georgia, Strait of Juan de Fuca and west coast of Vancouver Island.  The empty shells are always broken, thought to be due to predation by by Dungeness Crabs.


Speaking of Dungeness Crabs, we have those too.  This is the empty shell of a baby that lost it's life somehow.


This is a typical Puget …