A newsy, catch-up post
When the world is full of danger, fear and catastrophe, it’s a good time to plant. At my house, we make improvements slowly. We’ve been looking over our property borders for two years, considering what might make them more inviting to our senses, and to neighboring wildlife. We brainstormed for a while and decided to add three little fruit trees beside the driveway, and some smaller evergreens and bushes along the fence. We buried some sonic thumping spikes to encourage the moles out back to dig farther away from the house. Yeah, they aren’t as effective as trapping or poison. So what. There are more earthworms farther up the hill, and that’s what the moles prefer to eat.
If you want to encourage birds to visit, the easy way is to bribe them. We’ve put out a hanging house for small nesters that holds suet, a bottle-based hummingbird feeder, and bought the kinds of feeders and food preferred by woodpeckers and finches. We’ll be adding some kind of running water source and a deer lick soon.
We haven’t been away from home for more than a day in the three years since we moved to the Olympic Peninsula. First, we took a day to enjoy some of the music at the 20th Juan de Fuca Festival of the Arts. Festivals are my favorite way to learn about music I generally wouldn’t hear on the radio. Among the dozens of fine performers appearing on four different stages, two acts pleased me particularly. Tony Furtado won two national banjo competitions in his twenties, and he’s been expanding his repertoire into guitar, songwriting, teaching and touring for two decades. Tony’s set was precise and expressive, and his band was uniformly excellent playing a range of styles from ballads to blues to bluegrass and beyond.
My other favorite was a quartet of Irish players based in Olympia called The Burren Boys. There’s something endlessly infectious and energizing about jigs and reels that makes you feel as if you are dancing, even when seated. These guys can play them for hours, with barely a sentence or two between songs.
The next morning we drove to Neah Bay, the Northwest point of the whole country. It’s the ancient homeland of the Makah, a people who live by the sea. Five hundred years ago, Mother Earth drew a blanket of mud across their village of Ozette, preserving six longhouses and thousands of artifacts from the passage of time. Beginning in 1970, the area was excavated, revealing the life lived by these people for two millennia before the coming of the Europeans. The artifacts, and a replica of one of the houses, are displayed in a wonderful museum, complete with gift shop and DVD presentations.
Mary and I stayed in an adorable A-frame cabin named “The Bird House”, out on a spit of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. When we walked the beach at low tide, we saw Bald Eagles perched on the rocks. They were less than 50 yards away, and seemed unconcerned by our approach. I’ve never seen eagles in the wild so close! Bald Eagles make the largest tree nests of any bird, up to 4 meters (13 ft) deep, 2.5 meters (8.2 ft) wide, and one metric ton (1.1 tons) in weight.
Upon returning home, we found out Spice, our guide dog puppy in college, has been paired with a 27 year-old musician who lives in Los Angeles County. Being around live music was a big part of Spice’s life in the year we raised her. It sounds like just the right match. I’ll write more about the young man if I get his permission next week when we speak. The two new partners are completing the final phases of guide training together, and if all goes according to plan, graduation will be on June 8th. We’ll be passing Spice to him on stage, to officially begin the next part of their lives together. After that we’ll continue working with other dogs at the Puppy Club until winter, when we hope to begin training another prospective guide.