Sunday, February 16, 2014
Well maybe the first few photos do not indicate "spring is right around the corner" but believe me, I can feel it coming.
I've been told by locals that on occasion we can view the northern lights. Here, just as beautiful is our sunset on a regular basis.
We took a Friday drive to Sullivan Lake about 40 miles from the house to see if any of the eagles we spotted here a month ago were still hanging out. Here the Pend Oreille River is nearly frozen over but I wouldn't walk on it at this stage.
Donna made a good effort to find some of the birds but none were seen by us. I'll check at the U.S. Forestry Station near the top of the lake to find out if there are resident eagles in the area.
Sullivan Lake is about 5 miles long, 1 mile wide, 300 feet deep and frozen solid shore to shore. I expected to see some ice fishermen but either it is not a great fishing lake or too secluded to consider.
It was fairly easy to see that this ice cliff is formed by a spring along side the road.
It was a good thing we have four wheel drive in order to get to the forest station at the upper end of the lake. We did find them open during the week but closed for lunch...damn, just my luck. We headed home after the station to free our dogs from the garage...no hate mail please, it's heated.
Now to the point of the blog...spring is on its way. The daytime temperatures are hitting over 40 degrees lately and then a 1/2 inch of rain two days ago turned my driveway into an ice rink. Even though the current night time temps are just under freezing I was amazed how quickly and hard the driveway froze.
I thought about putting salt down but it only melts the ice during the day and then freezes again at night. Sand came to mind but I didn't want to risk getting yelled at for the dogs and I dragging sand into the house during the next week. I settled on wood chips. I can get a compressed 50 pound bag of shavings for less than $6. All it took was one bag of 12 cubic feet of screened soft pine shaving... compressed to 3 cubic foot... to do the whole driveway. I'm sure it will be easier to sweep up any wood shaving than trying to get the sand out of the house.
I am getting my birdhouses anchored in the trees so when the spring or summer crowd returns there might be a vacant house they can use. This is a robins nest and not much over six feet high from the ground. Obviously they enjoy a very open patio, with a view.
Here is a house I built for a wren, warbler or nuthatch of different dimensions and height requirements then the robins in order to keep sparrows and european starlings from occupying the property. I tossed around how to anchor the houses to the tree without damaging it and I settled on lag screws. Some folks use bands but unless you adjust the band constantly you could severely deform and damage the tree.
When we bought the house, a plastic ball hanging on the side of the garage was always a question mark for us. In the weeks following our purchase we talked to the neighbors and found out that a northern flicker (woodpecker) was attacking this side of the garage...a common problem here. All failed until the ball was hung, the northern flicker or flickers hated it and left the garage alone...it was either that or a pellet gun.
Here is the screech owl nesting box...time will tell if I can attract one or not, of course based on it's name... do I want to?
The last birdhouse (for finches) is sitting on the workbench waiting for me to place it. I was surprised in researching birdhouses on how the requirements change for each specie. It was automatic for me to include a dowel for the birds to sit upon but nearly all websites advised against dowel...seems they are used primarily by sparrows and starlings, unwanted birds. The work bench, while being thoroughly rejected by a woodworking union, is a recent addition to the original work bench in the garage, because I needed more bench space.
See that little green spike? That is how I know spring is coming. I call it the "Donna Spike" but it's actual name is "Cajun Bell Hot Pepper" sowed on February 1st and will be considered the first occupant of the......
ZWART GARDEN....yeah! This beautiful cut metal sign was a Christmas present from my favorite sister-in-law on my wife's side of the family and will adorn the entrance to the garden...when the soil thaws. ☺
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Donna and I went to a public talk at the library here in town given by a local biologist Chris Logger.
Before I get to the talk, I have a amusing story of my own. I was headed across town to check up on the motorhome, which is parked very near the Little Pend Oreille Wildlife Refuge, when out of the corner of my eye I noticed a Red-Tail hawk skimming the brush and suddenly swopped to the ground. I parked and shot a few pictures as he flew away to a fence post and didn't think about it again until I uploaded the photos on our PC. I took ten or more photos and was so focused on the hawk that I never even noticed the deer in the background until I got home.
It is hard to see, unless the previous photo is magnified, the hawk had a mouse or vole in his beak while flying. Here the hawk is on a fence post...having lunch. Bon Appétit :-)
I always take the loop around the wildlife refuge in hopes of seeing a moose or wolf but only saw many groups of white tails.
This pretty girl caught my eye while she was resting on the snow. I'll assume most females are long impregnated and it won't be but a few months before we start seeing some fawns.
In all honesty I was thinking this might be a discussion about traveling in our part of America...not so much.
The "forgotten corner" refers to the circled area which encompasses all of the Colville National Forest and the three mountain ranges within in it, the Okanogan, Kettle River and Selkirk mountains. The forgotten part is partly because the ranges only rise to approximately 7000 feet and we are stuck in the farthest northeast corner of the state. Besides the mountain ranges there are also many great rivers that include the Columbia, Pend Oreille, Kettle and the Okanogan all of which run through glacier carved valleys.
Chris Logger is a long time Colville resident who has initiated many studies involving animal behavior, forest animal counts and their habitats . As a bonus his wife is also a biologist
in plant life of the area.
Donna enjoyed the discussion especially when the talk turned towards birds of prey.
This is Chris's way of telling us he is not the Paul Bunyan of the forest despite his last name.
Most all the photos were shot with my phone from slides that were projected on the wall so the quality may be slightly lacking...this is done in order not to annoy any of the other listeners.
Chris lectured that at the moment the forgotten corner is the only place in the lower 48 states that still have as residents the same large mammals that were here at the time of the Pilgrims landing.
I'll assume buffalos were not living in the area at that time.
While it may look like the wolverine is trapped or stuck on the tree stand he wasn't. The wolverine is hard to study as they roam large tracks of land from the Arctic through Canada and the top of the lower 48 states and although they (biologists) have proof he passes over the Colville Forest they have no proof he resides here. He was captured on film by a "game camera" set up over looking some meat hung in the tree.
I love this description by Doug Chadwick:
Thursday, February 6, 2014
I'm sure you are asking yourself "what's with the photograph of a garbage can"?
Well, to make a long story even longer it started two weeks ago. We had a storm a day or two before "pick-up" but really no big deal. Garbage day comes and we all put our cans out and that first night they are still sitting by the road, full! Okay, I'll leave mine out by the road another day and when there was still no pick-up, I finally called the office in Spokane. "Hello, somehow our road was missed on the pick-up day" sorry I was told..."too much snow" WTF? Hey, we live 30 miles from the Canadian border...is this something that might not of been anticipated? No, I did not say all of that, but I was thinking it in my head and instead asked "well what happens if we get more snow next week...as unlikely (ya right) as that sounds... what do we do"? Her answer was that they would credit our bill which helps me none whatsoever because there is no local place to dump around here without a charge. Heck this same company will charge us extra if the lid is cracked open only a slight amount. I was happy to see the garbage truck today but still can't help thinking that "Sunshine Disposal" really didn't think it through when they bid for our service. (or maybe their name is a clue we should of caught ahead of time)
Well that's enough griping about trash. Last Sunday Donna and I did what every good Washingtonian did...watch the Superbowl.
I first have to admit that I am not a huge football guy but seeing that I had a substantial wager with my young sister in Denver.
We enjoyed a couple of beers and sandwich while watching part of the game at one of only two bars in town open and celebrating the game. I did feel bad for my little sis, because from the very first down of the game I am sure she was physically sick...but I will enjoy my $25 Starbucks card all the same...thanks Teri.:-)
Another cold spell hit us this week and I find it hard to believe in a few months I could be fly fishing for german browns that hang around in the Colville River, in the meantime I might give ice skating a try.
We have seen many eagles in the valley but this "first year immature" bald eagle was just sitting off the road going into town so I had to shoot it. I can tell it is a first year (born in the summer of 2013) because of how much white he is still carrying and the beak has not started to change color to yellow.
Like all birds of prey, he/she only gave me one shot before taking off... even though I was 100 yards away.
Donna and I have seen 5 or 10 of these small buildings, usually 10 to 20 feet from a residence, (some no larger than a big bathroom) and guessed that they might be smokehouses with all the wood stacked around the outside walls. I knew that didn't make sense because the smoke is going up a smokestack, hardly an efficient way of smoking meat. Curiosity got the best of me, I stopped at a fireplace company and asked the guy at the counter. He thought it could be a smokehouse too. Lucky for me the bosses door was open and heard the conversation so he stepped out to the counter clueing both of us. Seems years ago a lot of homes had "boiler buildings" that supplied hot water to the floors of cabins or homes for heat. Not environmentally clean and outlawed for now but if you are grandfathered in, you are good to go.
Just so you don't think I am the only "tree hugger" in the area. I have driven past this farm many times, never having my camera when I needed it, while witnessing the farmer haul bales of alfalfa with a tractor out to his horses all the while the deer are a mere 50 feet away... just waiting. He doesn't think twice about shooing them away but he might take one or two a year for meat...I got no problem with that!
Thursday, January 30, 2014
It seems the middle of winter is an excellent time to think about the coming spring.
Paul, our neighbor from across the road, has a new tractor to play on and I contracted with Paul to keep my driveway clean. Since we have had a dry January, until yesterday, this is the first time in three weeks that it needed to be plowed. Donna and I have used our shovels on the driveway the first two storms in December but I kept thinking about newspaper articles I've read stating so and so died of a heart attack a hour after clearing his driveway...so I'll error on the side of safety.
With a cleared driveway it's a little easier for the deer to find the scraps of food that I have thrown out to them. The other day I found that one of our bananas had gone very brown so I tossed it out to see if they would eat it...they did, skin and all. The deer do turn their noses up at orange peels at first...but it too is eventually gone in a matter of a short time. This is not the rare "spotted white-tail"...it is snowing.
Off to Colville Donna and I head to stop and check on our friends Chris and Lori who own Hedricks Floral Greenhouse and Nursery. Chis told me last month to stop by near the end of January and we could tour his seeding area. Chris has already started seeding hot peppers and a number of flowers for springtime.
Heating coils run underneath the soil and damp newspapers are covering the young plants. Chris said that at this stage the plants get 70% of water through leaves...hence the damp newspaper.
Chris is showing me the delicate root system of the geraniums in this flat.
Chris has two growing rooms that can handle hundreds of flats and each flat has the capacity to propagate approximately 150 individual plants. I was offered to come in after Valentines day and "get my hands dirty" just for the knowledge...I will accept. As a bonus, Chris is an avid fly fisherman and fly tier and this is definitely on my "to-do" list come spring, the fly fishing... not tying.
This handy hook and heavy plastic attached to a 2X4 piece of wood is used to cover or uncover the young seedlings. The plants are only watered with very warm water. Chris said if he used cold water it would then take 5 hours for the soil to come back to the proper temperature.
The automatic seeder was old when Chris and Lori bought the property in the late 80's but it still works great. The mat has very small holes and a vacuum pump is pulling the air down so the seeds are all sucked into place.
A flat with soil is inserted below the box and the top piece with the seeds is then flipped over while at the same time reversing the pump so it now blows the seeds down onto the flat, exactly where they need to be.
In a couple of weeks the seeds sprout and each flat is marked with species type and date to germination.
I'm looking forward to helping out and at the same time learning all I can absorb about gardening and fly fishing in Northeastern Washington.
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
The last part of our tour is following the rough cut wood to one of six large kilns.
All this wood is not just from the Vaagen mill, some of the local small operators do not have drying kilns and Vaagen dries their wood.
Four of the kilns run at 200 degrees, whereas the two newer kilns are limited, for environmental reasons, to 180 degrees.
After the kiln, the lumber enters this large building for sorting, planing and packaging.
The lumber is shot down the assembly line with these circular devices.
I took a shot of this just for my brothers who are the electrical geniuses. Me? All this means is to stay the heck away from it!
It was extremely loud in the planing room, which was behind glass for our protection, so I believe I heard Rich correctly when he said this planing blade was $700.000 or maybe it was the whole machine he was talking about.
The lumber comes out of the planing machine in varying sizes.
The lumber is photographed and all the knots or any other damaged area's are recorded for grading. Rich had said they sell a lot of lumber to Home Depot and they are very picky about the wood they receive. Couldn't prove that by me, seems I have to dig through piles of warped wood to find one straight piece when I go to Home Depot?
Towards the end of the line all wood is processed, regardless of length. The pieces that are not your average size are strapped and sold separately.
This machine is the stacker. Those large blocks of lumber being delivered by truck to your local home center are stacked by this "bad boy".
Here, a couple of workers wrap stacks of wood with the protective Vaagen name.
Out in the yard were plenty of these "Premium" wrapped wood, ready for delivery. We were told that Home Depot requires their wood to be marked this way.
There are at least a couple of acres of wrapped wood waiting for trucks.
Some of the wood is being moved by train.
Halfway across the valley, on our way home I had to take just one more shot of the crane.
We really enjoyed our tour of the mill. We cross the "mighty Colville" river every time we go into town. This spring I plan on float fishing the Colville. While it's not deep I have been told it has a good population of German browns just waiting for my fly rod.
Till next time.