Saturday, December 5, 2009

Golden Sky

Yesterday we had some fog, and the sunset was spectacular. I wish I would have been able to get more pictures, but we were riding in the car while the sun was setting, and I didn't have much opportunity to do so.

When we first saw the sky as the sun was setting, my five year old said that the sky looked like shining armor. I thought that was such a neat description that I wanted to remember it, so I'm posting to the blog about it. :)

". . . like shining armor. . . "
~ my five year old son commenting on the
sky last night as the sun sank down

Friday, November 13, 2009

Pile of Leaves Under the Maple Tree (haha!)

On October 28, 2009, we made a pile of leaves under the maple tree. . .

But wait! It's moving! . . .

Aha!!! It's alive! LOL

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Apples from our Apple Tree (back on October 7th)

We have an apple tree that used to be surrounded and hidden by blackberry bushes. As my husband began cutting back some of the bushes this past summer, we discovered this apple tree. It's still much covered by blackberry bushes, but I'd like to clear all the bushes from around it so the tree can grow freely!

This was the apple tree back in August. . .

We go four apples from it. LOL! These were picked on October 7th. I hope we will have more apples from it next year! I have no idea what type of apple they are, but they taste just fine. :-)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pineapple Carrot Cake

A little over a week ago, I made a really delicious carrot cake using carrots from our garden. I'm loving our carrots, by the way, and hope we can plant a whole lot next spring!

The carrots are really flavorful . . . pretty strong-tasting actually. My littlest doesn't care for them (he is five), so I thought I'd see if he'd like them in carrot cake. And guess what, he did! (Does that surprise you?)

I had some carrots already picked and was storing them in a bag in the refrigerator. . .

But that wasn't enough for the recipe, so I went and picked some more. . .

And here is the cake. Doesn't it look yummy?

Here is the recipe as well as I can remember it, so beware and tweak it as you see fit. I got the original from my Better Homes and Garden "New Cookbook," but I tweaked the recipe to make it egg-free (it originally called for 4 eggs), plus I tried to use some healthier ingredients than what it originally called for.

Egg-free and Dairy-free Pineapple Carrot Cake

Mix these together in one bowl. . .
*2 cups of whole wheat flour
*1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
*1 teaspoons baking soda
*1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Mix these together in another bowl. . .
*1 cup of turbinado sugar
*3/4 cup maple syrup
*3 cups finely shredded carrot
*1 cup cooking oil
*1 heaping cup of undrained crushed pineapple

Wait to add this until the very end (see directions below)
* 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

- Before you start pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees
- Also, prepare 2 greased and floured 9x1 1/2 inch round baking pans. I sprayed mine with oil from a can, and it worked really well.


1. Mix whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, and ground cinnamon in a bowl.

2. Mix turbinado sugar, maple syrup, cooking oil, crushed pineapple, and shredded carrot in another bowl.

3. After the ingredients in each bowl are mixed together in their own bowl, then pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix. Stir until mixed well (you can use a mixer if you want, but I used a spoon and it worked fine).

4. Then add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and mix it in.

5. Pour batter into the prepared baking pans.

6. Bake in a 350 degree oven for approximately 40 minutes or until a toothpick (or fork or knife, whatever you have available) inserted near the middle comes out clean. Then take them out of the oven and let them cool.

7. Cool on wire racks for 10 minutes in you have wire racks. I don't have them, though, and it works okay without them. I can't remember how long I did it for, but I think I kept them in the pans for longer, until they were pretty cool, before I took them out.

I'm going to try the recipe again very soon, and I'll let you know if I need to tweak the recipe that I wrote out above.

Here's a recipe for cream cheese frosting that goes really well with the cake. . .

Cream Cheese Frosting

*Approximately 6 ounces of cream cheese (I used Tofutti brand Better than Cream Cheese which is dairy-free)
*1/2 cup softened margarine or butter (I used Earth Balance Buttery Spread which is diary-free)
*2 teaspoons vanilla
*4 1/2 to 4 3/4 cups sifted powdered sugar (I didn't sift mine)

Combine the first three ingredients together in a bowl with an electric mixer.

Gradually add 2 cups of powdered sugar, and then gradually add the rest of the sugar until you get it to the consistency that you would like on your cake.

We served our's with mango vanilla soy ice cream. Yum!!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Red Sunflower from Our Garden

My older daughter chose to plant some red sunflower seeds this year. Red sunflowers are beautiful! Here is a little one she picked yesterday and put in our windowsill.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Friday, August 14, 2009

Deer on our Property

From time to time we see deer on our property. We've never had such a good view before, though, as we did the other day (on August 4th) where all the kids and could see the deer and watch it for quite a long while.

We were all near our garden when we saw a deer on our driveway. I had heard rustling in the bushes near the driveway a little before that and had wondered what was in there. I guess it was that deer!

The deer walked slowly down the hill and then stopped to eat some blackberries from our bushes. We stayed at the top of the driveway and watched it eat. Then the deer left the driveway and went onto a pathway and away into the forest.

See the cat in the bottom right of this picture? That's our cat Joe. (BTW, his sibling is named "Fank." They were named after the Hardy Boys.)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Will try to post more soon!

I really miss writing in the blog. :( I've been so busy that I haven't had time, but I hope to post a bigger post soon! Nature changes so quickly, so there are a lot of changes outside that have happened around here recently, and I really want to share them with you! Anyway, I hope anyone who reads this is doing well. :D

Friday, June 19, 2009

First Veggie Harvested from our Garden -- A Radish

Early this spring my children each chose one or more types of seeds to plant in our garden. My littlest one chose radishes as the veggie that he wanted to plant. Today he got to pick his first one! It also has the distinct honor of being our first veggie harvested. I cut it up, and we shared it amongst seven people (the kids, my husband and I, and Grandma). He and his brother even tried it (and they don't like radishes). He's so proud of his radish!

(picture taken by windchime)
(picture taken by me)
(picture taken by me)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Yesterday my older daughter (Windchime) told me that she thought that she had found another type of clover. She described to me a little yellow-flowered plant with clover-like leaves (she recognized them as such), and we looked it up, and she was right! I hadn't given much thought to that plant before then, but both my older children had noticed it, and it's encouraging to see them observing nature so closely and remembering and drawing conclusions from past things we have learned.

So far we have found four types of clover, none of them native to the Pacific Northwest (or North America), but the bees sure love them, and they are good for the soil. They are pretty little flowers, and when looked up close you can see amazing detail. Each flower head is made up of many tiny individual flowers, some with beautiful patterns. They are trifoliate plants, meaning their leaves are divided into three leaflets.

Small Hop Clover (Trifolium dubium)

The little yellow one we believe is called "small hop clover." Another name it goes by is "Lesser Hop Trefoil." It has small flowers, and I'll try later to post a picture taken from farther away so you can get more of an idea of it's size.

"Leaves held on short petioles along stems, divided into 3 egg-shaped leaflets. Flower head more or less spike-like. Flowers bright yellow, becoming brown and reflexing downward."
~ Pacific Northwest Flowers
(picture taken by my older son)

Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)

Wikipedia's page on Red Clover says that red clover is "native to Europe, western Asia and northwest Africa, but planted and naturalised in many other regions."

"At first glance, the bloom of the red clover may look like a single flower; but it is really a cluster of many tiny flowers, each projecting out from the center about 3/8 of an inch."
(picture taken by Windchime)

See how the leaves are right beneath the flower head?
(picture taken by my older son)

The leaves of the red clover almost always have a V-shaped white mark on it's leaflets, although sometimes the mark isn't distinct.
(picture taken by my older son)

See it's hairy stem? My son took this picture of very close to show the detail of the stem.
(picture taken by my older son)

"Red clover plant is an herb which when fully mature is about 16 inches tall, with straight, hairy stems, and leaves with three leaflets that are marked with a crescent shape."
~ Red Clover Herb - History and Information
(picture taken by me)

Alsike Clover (Trifolium hybridum)

Alsike Clover is a native of Europe. It was cultivated in Sweden as early as 1750 and was introduced into North America in about 1834. It gets its name from the Alsike parish of Sweden (Alsike Clover).

The flowers are pale pink or whitish. It's stems and leaves are smooth. The book Plants Of The Pacific Northwest Coast: Washington, Oregon, British Columbia & Alaska explains: "Alsike clover is the most similar to white clover, but it has more upright stems and pinker flowers; it is a hybrid between red and white clover" (page 196). While white clovers sometimes have a V-marking on the top surface of their leaflets, the leaves of the alsike clover are unmarked. It grows 1-2 feet tall (while white clover is only 2-4 inches tall). (See Wikipedia's page on alsike clover and Pacific Northwest Flower's page about white clover which mentions alsike clover.)

(picture taken by Windchime at Fort Steilacoom Park)

(picture taken by Windchime at Fort Steilacoom Park)

White Clover (Trifolium repens)

Even though it's called white clover, sometimes it is pinkish.
White Clover (Trifolium repens) is a species of clover native to Europe, North Africa, and West Asia. It has been widely introduced elsewhere in the world as a pasture crop, and is also common in many grassy areas in North America.

It is a herbaceous perennial plant. It is low growing, with heads of whitish flowers, often with a tinge of pink or cream. The heads are generally 1.5-2 cm wide, and are at the end of 7 cm peduncles or flower stalks [1]. The leaves are trifoliolate, smooth, elliptic to egg-shaped and long-petioled. The stems function as stolons, so white clover often forms mats with the stems creeping as much as 18 cm a year, and rooting at the nodes [1].
It was introduced into the United States from Europe a long time ago as a source of forage and hay. Habitats include pastures, fields, grassy meadows, lawns, parks, mowed areas along roadsides, paths through woodlands, and waste areas. This plant prefers disturbed areas that are grassy and subject to occasional mowing or grazing. In more natural areas, it is not tall enough to be very competitive with the native vegetation.
(picture taken by Windchime at Fort Steilacoom Park)

(picture taken by Windchime at Fort Steilacoom Park)

See the pretty detailed patterns on the individual flowers of the flowerhead and how they look so beautiful together?
(picture taken by Windchime at Fort Steilacoom Park)

(picture taken by my older son in our yard)

The leaflets of the white clover sometimes have a V-shaped whitish mark on the top of each one.
(picture taken by my older son in our yard)

There are a couple other pictures of white clover here:

Friday, June 12, 2009

Crane Flies

A Crane fly Resting on an English Plantain Leaf"Isn't it pretty cool?"
~ said by my four year old son

There was a really big bug resting on a leaf near my children's climbing toy a couple days ago. I was working in the yard, and my younger daughter excitedly ran over to me and got my attention, wanting me to come with her so she could show me a bug. When I saw it I was surprised at how big it was and didn't remember ever seeing a bug like that before, and I quickly snapped a picture.

My older son reminded me of a bug he had told me he saw the other day and said that this was the same type of bug. He thought it was a mosquito eater. I (embarassingly) dismissed that idea. After googling, though, guess what I think it is? . . . a crane fly, aka (according to Wikipedia) mosquito hawk, mosquito eater (or skeeter eater), gallinipper, gollywhopper, and jimmy spinner (and in the United Kingdom, Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland they are commonly referred to as daddy long-legs -- though here in the US part of the Pacific Northwest we call a type of spider by that name). By the way, even though they are sometimes called "mosquito eaters," they don't eat mosquitoes.

There are many types of crane flies, many or most looking very much like giant mosquitoes, and the poor creatures are often misunderstood and many people worry they will bite them or mistakenly think that they are mosquitoes. They don't bite humans, though, or animals. The EPA website says adult craneflies are "harmless."
In appearance crane flies seem long and gangly, with very long legs, and a long slender abdomen. The wings are often held out when at rest, making the large halteres easily visible. Unlike most flies, crane flies are weak and poor fliers with a tendency to "wobble" in unpredictable patterns during flight, and they can be caught without much effort. Also, it is very easy to accidentally break off their delicate legs when catching them, even without direct contact.

Crane flies vary in size, with temperate species ranging from 2 mm up to 60 mm, while tropical species have been recorded at over 100 mm. The Giant Crane Fly (Holorusia rubiginosa) of the western United States can reach 38 mm (1.5 inches). Some Tipula species are 64 mm (2.5 inches). Many smaller species (known as bobbing gnats) are mosquito-sized, but they can be distinguished from mosquitoes by the V-shaped suture on the thorax, non-piercing mouthparts, and a lack of scales on the wing veins.

On the website CraneFlyPests of the Pacific Northwest , Sharon Collman of the EPA wrote the following description of crane flies:

Crane flies are generally beneficial two-winged flies that look a bit like large mosquitoes. Despite their somewhat scary appearance, they don't bite, suck blood, or carry diseases. In fact the adults are harmless and rather comical as they bounce around the landscape and off interior walls. They are also an important food source for birds and other critters. The aquatic larvae of many crane flies are indicators of good stream health, and become fish food. Other crane flies are decomposers and help break down decaying organic matter.

I'm not sure what type we have, but I think it's a type that is native to the Pacific Northwest because there is a spot on it's wings (the identification guide below for the European crane flies says of the European crane flies that "there are no pigmented areas on the veins or cross-veins and no other spots or 'pictures' in the wings").

The CraneFlyPests of the Pacific Northwest has a lot of information about craneflies, including these identification guides -- A Graphic Guide for Identification of Adult European Craneflies; Tipula paludosa and T. oleracea and Pacific NW Native Crane Flies -- and this FAQ.

Edited to add a new picture of a crane fly resting on our front door. This picture was taken on 17 June 09:

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Some Pretty Photos from the Past Two Days

A Ladybug on a Forget-me-not
(taken by my older son in our yard)

A Damselfly on a Blackberry Leaf at Fort Steilacoom Park
(taken by me, but the kids spotted it)

White Clover at Fort Steilacoom Park
(taken by my older daughter, aka Windchime)

White Clover at Fort Steilacoom Park
(taken by my older daughter, aka Windchime)

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee,
And revery.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.

~ Emily Dickinson

A Bumblebee on a Red Clover at Fort Steilacoom Park
(taken by me)

A Snail on a Leaf on a Snowberry Bush
(taken by me in our yard)

Black Cottonwood Tree (Populus Trichocarpa) or "Where is all that Fluffy Stuff is Coming from?"

Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of this group of trees [in the poplus genus] is their cottony fruits that fill the air and water around them in early spring.
~ Common Trees of the Pacific Northwest
Back on May 29th as we were walking at the Tacoma Nature Center on a pathway around Snake Lake, we saw many white fluffy things floating down from the sky in a way that was reminiscent of snow. We figured they were seeds of some kind, but weren't sure where exactly they were coming from.

These pictures were taken by Windchime on 29 May 09 at the Tacoma Nature Center:

Then a couple days ago at Fort Steilacoom Park in Lakewood, we saw the white, fluffy "snow" again. We became really curious to know where it was coming from, so I looked on the 'net and determined that it must be falling from a type of tree called a black cottonwood (populus trichocarpa) -- also known as western balsam poplar or California poplar -- a tree that is native to our area. The fluff is the way the trees spread their seeds, kind of like dandelions!

Wikipedia says:

The seed ripens and is disseminated by late May to late June in Oregon and Washington, but frequently not until mid-July in Idaho and Montana. Abundant seed crops are usually produced every year. Attached to its cotton, the seed is light and buoyant and can be transported long distances by wind and water.

We went back to Fort Steilacoom Park yesterday on a mission to see if we could find out for sure if the fluff was coming from black cottonwood trees. After searching around, it really seems that there are black cottonwood trees at that park and that the fluff is indeed coming from that type of tree!

These were taken by me on 10 June 09 at Fort Steilacoom Park.

The reason they are called "cottonwood" trees -- Windchime collected a bunch of the soft fluff and made this ball. It looks a lot like cotton, doesn't it?

"Snow" (fluff from the black cottonwood tree) on the ground!

Black Cottonwood Bark

"The bark is grey and covered with lenticels, becoming thick and deeply fissured on old trees."
~ Wikipedia

"Furrowed and ridged on mature trees."
~ Common Trees of the Pacific Northwest

Black Cottonwood Leaves

"The leaves are 7-20 cm long with a glossy dark green upper side and glaucous light grey-green underside. . ."
~ Wikipedia

"The leaves of Populus [the genus of which the black cottonwood tree is a member] tend to have silvery or white backsides, and very long leaf stems, which makes it apparent when the wind is blowing through them."
~ Common Trees of the Pacific Northwest

"Simple, alternate, deciduous. Triangular; 3"-6" long (but sometimes much larger); green above and white below, often with rusty markings. Margins are smooth or with rounded teeth."
~ Common Trees of the Pacific Northwest

Male and Female Trees

We were surprised to find out there are male and female trees. The female trees have the white fluff on their trees, but the males don't. My older son noticed that the tree on the left must be a male tree and the tree on the right must be a female tree. See the female catkins with their white fluff in the tree on the right? And notice that the tree on the left doesn't have any at all. (These trees are near Waughop Lake.)

The female tree:

A closer look:

Catkins from the female tree on the ground: