Passions — a blog

Penstemons and Gooseberries

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Cascades Penstemon

Cascades Penstemon (Penstemon serrulatus), the purple flowers in the photo above, is native to the west side of the Cascades and a prolific self-seeder in our native plant garden. It stays in bloom for about three weeks for us, just finishing up now. If I recall, we started with just one or two plants in a different garden bed a few years ago. We cut a few stems with mature seeds and spread them in this bed and now we have masses. They seem to move themselves around to where they want to grow, which is how we ended up with this floriferous border. Continue reading

Channeling My Inner Lizard

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Camp chairs among the sagebrush

Last weekend Brian and I headed over the mountains for a belated camping trip to Seep Lakes Wildlife Area, just south of Potholes Reservoir and between Moses Lake and Othello. This was our fourth time camping there, but a month later than in previous years because of travel restrictions due to covid-19. For the fourth year in a row we essentially had a lake to ourselves.

What’s the attraction to camping in a place with no facilities, no shade, and a habitat degraded by masses of cheat grass and other weeds? After a long, cool spring we were ready to soak up some heat. It was over 90° when we arrived and set up camp. We also like getting outdoors under a big wide-open sky with no one else around. We like wearing as little as possible, sometimes just sunscreen, sandals, and a hat. And we like hearing the cacaphony of birds down by the lakes. Continue reading

A Hike Back to Spring

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Massed Corn Lilies

Saturday Brian and I hiked back in time. No, we haven’t invented some marvelous time machine. We just picked a trail that started higher than where we live and hiked uphill. While it was early summer down in Bellingham, we found early spring on the Hannegan Pass trail some 40 miles up the road and 3000 feet higher in elevation. There were no other cars in the parking lot and we didn’t see anyone else along the trail, though there were a few footprints in the mud that told us others had passed this way in recent days.

Green corn lilies (Veratrum viride), just getting started, complemented masses of slide alder (Alnus viridis) in this recently-melted avalanche track. We marveled at acres and acres of this lush foliage on both sides of the trail. Later in the season these plants will be over four feet tall. Continue reading

Down by the Road at Dusk

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Brian Small, smelling rose blossom

A couple of evenings ago Brian and I went out for our usual after-dinner stroll around our garden. We enjoyed a dramatic sunset from the back yard and then ambled down by the road to see how the front yard was doing. Brian plucked one of the first rose blossoms from a bush by the back door and inhaled deeply of its fragrance as we walked. Since we don’t get much traffic, I asked him to stand in the middle of the road for this photo. Continue reading

Finding Solace Among the Salmonberries

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Woodland with decaying stumps

We’re living in turbulent times. We face uncertainty about our health with a global pandemic circulating among us. People are getting killed and protests are raging in many of our cities. Our so-called leaders at the national level are failing to lead, choosing to incite anger rather than seeking to instill calm and rationality. Frankly, I’m stressed about the state of the nation right now.

I find solace in our woods. You’ve probably heard of shinrin-yoku, or the art and science of how trees can promote health and happiness. In English, we call it forest bathing. There are several books on the subject, including the one on my bedside table, Shinrin Yoku: The Japanese Art of Forest Bathing by Yoshifumi Miyazaki. Continue reading

Dusk in the Garden

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Russell Hybrids' Lupines with 'Fireglow' Euphorbia

I’ve been a big fan of nearly dark photography for a long time. A couple of days ago Brian and I headed out to enjoy our garden after our usual late dinner. We didn’t get far, as the view from our driveway compelled me to run to the studio and grab my camera.

These ‘Russell Hybrids’ lupines, paired with ‘Fireglow’ euphorbia, are right in front of the house. The red-orange euphorbia came with the house when we moved in, but Natalie started the lupines from seed and planted them out a few years ago. They self-seed as well as being perennials, so we continue to enjoy the combo each spring. Continue reading