Staircase of the Olympic Mountains

In the late 1800s, Lieutenant Joseph P. O’Neil headed a group that explored possible routes across the Olympic mountains, in northwest Washington state. One route brought the men to the headwaters of Lake Cushman. The plan was to go upriver along the North Fork of the Skokomish River, cross the mountains, and travel downriver along the Quinault River to the Pacific Ocean. It proved very difficult. The terrain was steep and heavily forested. Pack mules had a difficult time walking in the steepest parts. A solution involved cutting small trees across the trail, filling the spaces between logs with mud and debris. The effect created a sort of staircase up the slopes that the mules could use. That area today has the name Staircase and has camping and trails into the surrounding region. We visited and enjoyed a day of hiking.

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Rain Forest | Pacific Coast

by Jim and Melanie

On our recent trip to the Pacific Northwest, we ranged from Tacoma, WA at the north end to Portland, OR at the south. We shared a little about the C-17 cargo planes at McChord Air Force Base and about Portland Art Museum’s exhibit on burly antique cars. Between those two, we also enjoyed lower-tech experiences.

The Temperate Rain Forest

From Tacoma WA, we drove along I-5 to Olympia, where we headed west on highways 8 and 12 toward the Pacific coast. Route 101 then took us north. Before we turned west, a sign pointed to the Quinault Rain Forest trailhead nearby. The coastal plain geography meets the Olympic Mountains at that location. The gain in elevation of the moisture-laden air causes large amounts of rainfall in the region, between 10 and 15 feet a year, resulting in a temperate rain forest.

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Hands and Hearts — A Quilt From the Whole Family

A quilt made by me, with considerable help from Jim, for our son and his bride. Read about the process of designing and making.

Catbird Quilt Studio

Do you remember this piece? I made it in April as a “sketch,” just something to try forming shapes and colors and lines into a picture in appliqué. It’s a representation of a Claddagh ring. The traditional Irish symbol represents love (heart,) loyalty (crown,) and friendship (hands.)

The pretty heart in the middle was printed like that from fabric I bought eleven years ago. I drew the hands and crown from the basic Claddagh ring symbol. And then I encircled it with a ring of batik. It is all on a black Kona cotton background.

At the time I wasn’t sure what I’d do with it, or if I would do anything more. I considered the possibility of creating a small wedding gift for Son and his fiancée. But I didn’t have a plan.

Then about a month before the wedding, I started hankering to make that gift. I…

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The Shape of Speed

We visited the Portland Oregon Art Museum on 22 July 2018. Their featured exhibit until mid-September is called The Shape of Speed. The exhibit featured rare streamlined automobiles and motorcycles from 1930–1942 that looked like they were moving fast even while at rest. Some of the vehicles are highlighted below starting with a BMW, R7 Concept Motorcycle from 1934. It was in a German show in 1934, crated up, then lost until 2005. BMW craftsmen restored it. Click any image in this post for larger more detailed views.

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Iowa City Airport | 100 Years of History

by Jim and Melanie

The Tin Goose

We visited our local airport in Iowa City on 9 June 2018 as it celebrated 100 years of service to the community and the country. One of the highlights of the visit was the Ford Tri-Motor, which offered rides for $75. What a beautiful and graceful machine. We watched it fly over our neighborhood several times before we went to the airport. It deserved a closer look. The corrugated metal structure gives meaning to the nickname of “Tin Goose.”

It first flew on 1 December 1928. It was sold to Transcontinental Air Transport in January 1929 and was named City of Wichita. The TAT logo is on the fuselage. It and sister ship City of Columbus inaugurated transcontinental commercial air service in 1929.

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Catbirds

Jim has been watching the phoebes for weeks. A few days ago he noticed the nest was empty, and it seemed the family was gone. Just this morning he spotted them again. Though the fledglings are out, the phoebes are still in our yard.

The nest, a “permanent” structure, sits on a beam under our deck. With the babies gone, Jim drilled a small hole between floor boards to get a better view. The hole is only about a quarter inch across, but the camera lens on the phone is smaller than that. He was able to get this photo looking down into the nest.

Phoebe nest 2018. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

Of course the photo makes it look as large as an eagle’s nest, but in truth, the cup of the nest is less than 3″ across.

The wrens also seem to have sent their first brood out into the world, as it’s become less noisy out our back door. Often they have a second brood, so we’ll look forward to their chatter returning before the summer is out.

We still have the catbirds. Early this year we were treated to several of the plain, grey birds in our yard. Usually we’re only aware of one or two.

Catbird. 2018. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

Catbirds on suet feeder. 2018. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

What birds are hanging around your yard these days?

Cute Speckled Fawns

We love watching the visitors to our yard. Jim’s been sharing photos of the phoebes that took up residence under our deck, and a few days ago he showed you a video of a groundhog, twenty feet up in a tree eating mulberry leaves. Deer often come around, too.

Recently we watched a doe with one tiny speckled fawn as they approached the house. The doe caught sight of us in the window and stopped next to a tree. While she stood, fawn nearby, a mama raccoon came down the tree next to her with two babies! It was like a scene from a Disney movie, choreographed so the animals are in the same shot.

This morning a different doe appeared with two fawns. They are so sweet and spindly, with the pale freckles making lines along the ridge of their backs.

Jim caught some video of the three of them.

Do you have visitors in your yard or neighborhood?

PhoebeCam | Three PhoebeBabies

PhoebeCam – a long stick, small digital camera, macro mode, 10 sec timer, and flash.

It was a success. But, I was scolded harshly by the parents. They did not like my intrusion on the nest territory. Back inside the house, I watched through a nearby window. One of the parents scouted the space under the deck very carefully. It looked over the long stick. It was very vigilant. I will leave them alone now.

Eastern Phoebe | Time-Lapse Exposure

We have enjoyed watching our new neighbors, a pair of Eastern Phoebes who took up residence under our deck. Previous posts about the nest location, tail wags, and 3 eggs are here and here.

We are happy to say the eggs have hatched. Mom and Dad are busy gathering insects to feed the babies. They fly to a perch not far above ground. There they scan the grass and bushes nearby for movement of insects. They must have excellent vision.

Upon spotting something, they quickly fly to it,  grab it with their beak, and fly back to the perch. After a few quick tail wags, they thrash the insect left and right on the perch a few times and fly to the nest to put it into a wide mouth.

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