Monday, May 31, 2010

Growing Up and Growing Old

Yesterday, younger son and I did a little bicycle ride on the Sammamish River Trail.  I had to get him out and active.  Last week he was sent home from school because he couldn't stay awake in class.  He's been spending a lot of time on the computer and video games, way too much time.  He's now banned from computers and video games for at least a week.  It was good to get out with him.  We only did a few miles in some mild drizzly conditions.  I could tell he was getting a little winded.  He's naturally lean, not fat at all, but apparently not in the best aerobic condition for a lad his age.  We're going to work on that more.

On the way back, we got the message that my parent's car wouldn't start.  My Dad doesn't drive because he failed the vision test and frankly, he's just too far gone to drive.  He suffers some dementia and maybe a mild case of Parkinson's.  He has delusions of other people living in the house and has fabricated in his mind a whole story about this other family living in the house and their various activities.  He can't remember his grand-kid's names or what car is parked in the garage.  There's only one car there now.  My Mom only drives this car to Fred Meyer and back and so with the short trips, the battery never fully charges.  Plus my Mom is too afraid to park the car in the garage because it's a tight fit, so she has my Dad park it in the garage.

I turned the key in the ignition and, sure enough, it wouldn't start.  I checked the headlights just to rule out a dead battery issue.  Whoa!  Someone had left the parking lights on and drained the battery.  According to my Mom, after my Dad parks the car in the garage, he diddles with the buttons and switches, probably thinking he needs to do something with those but, at this point, not sure what.  He used to know. 

I jumped the car and it started right up.  I took it for a long drive to charge the battery back up.  I told my Mom that she has to park the car in the garage from now on.  I will have to give her some lessons so she'll feel confident in doing so.

My poor Dad, he's fading away.

Hanging Baskets and Containers

I'm giving up trying to make up my own hanging baskets from scratch using tiny little starts.  By the time summer is over, they're just getting going.  This year I went for the big, bold statement and bought full-on ready to go baskets.  These will go strong from the get-go.

Ivy geranium from Home Depot:

New Guinea impatiens and fuchsia from Flower World:

 And a couple other containers:

We'll see how well they do over the next few months.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Nest Boxes 5-23-10 : A Tale of Two Chickadees

Both of our nest boxes are occupied this year.  We have one up on a big Douglas fir just beyond our back fence at the edge of the woods.  Chestnut-backed chickadees have nested here every year for almost 20 years, except the one year I didn't clean it out and a colony of bumblebees started up in it.

This year I moved a nest box that was hanging from our large camellia out front to a location by our back door where it hangs underneath a balcony.  A wren pair started a nest in this box last year when it was hanging in the camellia but for some reason the wrens abandoned it or something bad happened to them.  This year a pair of Black-capped chickadees have occupied it in the new location.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Feeder Watch 5-16-10

Hairy woodpecker (Picoides villosus) at the suet feeder.
Hairy Woodpecker

Black-headed grosbeak - male (Pheucticus melanocephalus) at the sunfloer seed feeder.
Black-headed Grosbeak

Black-headed grosbeak - female (Pheucticus melanocephalus)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Browns Bay 5-2-10

My favorite place to chill is the neighborhood beach on Browns Bay.  There's always something new to see.  On this day it was the herons working the shallows, a lone loon further off shore, and a dead harbor seal missing some parts.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Grilling Steaks and Learning Things

A tri-tip steak takes about 20 minutes or so to grill.  Setting up the grill and taking a few sips of beer brings your outdoor time to somewhere over a half an hour.  Here's what I learned in that half hour:

  • The chestnut-backed chickadees are back in their bird box for almost 20 years straight, except for the season I didn't clean it out and a bumblebee colony occupied it.
  • I learned the song of the black-headed grosbeak by patiently listening, then finally observing the singer.
  • I think I know the general area of a robin's nest by seeing them fly into the woods in exactly the same spot several times.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Saturday, May 8, 2010


Driving back from Tri Cities takes one through the Yakima Valley on Interstate 82, then up and over several anticlinal ridges of the Yakima Fold Belt between Yakima and Ellensburg.  The Yakima River has cut through these ridges as they were folded.  I usually like to drive the meandering Canyon Road that follows the Yakima River through this gorgeous canyon but I was eager to get home.  There's a great vista point just before you drop into the Kittitas Valley, a land of ranches and hay fields devolving into ranchettes and McMansions.  Wind farms are sprouting up like alfalfa hay on the surrounding ridges.

I made a stop in Cle Elum and tried out a new place.  It looks like a dive but they make a fantastic burger on a French roll.

It was on over Snoqualmie Pass through some of the nicest mountain scenery anywhere in the country.  It's hard to appreciate it as you weave through the traffic on Interstate 90.

Sacajawea, we hardly knew yea ...

After my fourth and final trip to the Tri Cities for this particular work project, I went to check out Sacajawea State Park located at the confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers.  It was here on October 16 and 17, 1805 at the confluence of these two great rivers that the Lewis and Clark expedition encamped for two nights.

"... towards evening we arived at the forks of the river which came from a northly direction and is larger than this Columa. R. the country around these forks is level Smooth barron plains not even a tree to be Seen as far as our eyes could extend a fiew willows along the Shores. we found about 2 hundred or upwards Camped on the point between the two Rivers. a verry pleasant place. we Camped near them on the point. ..." Private Joseph Whitehouse, Corps of Discovery, October 16, 1805

From my readings I know that the confluence area was used by several tribes including the Walla Walla, Umatilla, Wanapum, Yakama, and Palouse.  The Palouse, excellent horseman, gave rise to the Appaloosa breed of horse.  The Palouse were subdued when the majority of their horses were slaughtered by the U.S. Army.

McNary Dam on the Columbia River forms Lake Wallula and backs up the waters of the Columbia and Snake Rivers to the point that may obscure the original expedition campsite.  I'm not entirely sure to what extent the river water levels have been raised.  I do know that the only real free flowing section of the Columbia River in Washington State is the Hanford Reach which is a little further upstream.

Sacajawea State Park itself is a pleasant day use park.  It became a Washington State Park in 1931.  It has a recently remodeled museum, the Sacajawea Museum.  The museum is small but well worth a visit.  The museum and other park buildings are built in an Art Deco style and probably date back to the 1930s, perhaps some depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps project.  The park has broad green lawns, large trees for shade, trails, and lots of riverfront.

Sacajawea Museum

Looking downstream on the Columbia to a railroad bridge.  A wind farm is visible atop the Horse Heaven Hills in the distance.

Looking upstream on the Snake River to a railroad bridge and the twin bridges of US Hwy 12.  Grain terminals to the left and right.  Lewis and Clark wouldn't recognize the place.