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Brad's Blog

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April 1  No news but the weather is almost nice...

April 3
The quack grass took over our flower garden last year, so I started digging it out today, including the iris bulbs, that are hopelessly entangled in the quack grass roots.  As I do it, I know I can't get every quack grass root, so it will have to be done all over again in a few years.  But at least we'll be able to see the flowers...  Now if my back and wrist hold out...
Here's a picture of our flower garden in 2011:


April 4
We were having the kind of sprinkle on and off day that almost makes you stay home, but that characterizes Spring around here, so I took the bicycle down around the Mill Pond and set up the game camera in a new area. The water is flowing over the dam finally.  The other day I took the family that's been staying with us out in the canoe, and we saw the first blue heron.  I took some pictures, and for some reason they were pretty washed out, like this:

I mostly use a paint program to brighten photos I've taken on dark stages, but in the paint program the brightness was turned down and the contrast up, making the photo much better:

I'm not sure if I wrote in the blog a few years ago about a photo taken on a security camera posted on the Spokane paper's website of a robbery suspect, where the photo was so dark you couldn't tell a thing.  I copied it into my paint program and lightened it up and it was clearly identifiable.  
Anyway it makes me think that I should be paying more attention to brightness and contrast on my photos.

April 5
    A walk to the ridge today revealed spring beauties in addition to the buttercups and grass widows.  There are hooded mergansers passing through, but the familiar twisted cackle of the red necked grebe was heard for the first time on the Mill Pond, and they'll stay through the summer...

April 6
    We went up to the Orthodox church at Bonners Ferry for church yesterday, then explored the local waterfalls and the bird refuge (if you can call it that since there are large parts open for hunting).  The bird refuge was a disappointment except for eagles--only mallards, coots, and Canada geese...  Here are the photos:



Myrtle Creek Falls, a half mile walk up from the parking lot for the wildlife refuge.


The view of the refuge (with the Kootenai river and  Cabinet mountains in back), which is still marshy and was once the bottom of a glacial lake (you can still see the islands that stuck out of it in places, although not in this picture).


Immature bald eagle down to one dark streak...


Mature bald eagle along the Kootenai river...


Rivulet near Snow Creek Falls.



Upper Snow Creek Falls

April 11
Two days ago we drove to the turnaround before the lake road gets really rural, and found a nicely maintained trail with views of the upper lake.

On the way this spruce grouse crossed the road, probably to get to the other side (in case you wanted to ask the obvious question)

There were lots of grass widows and some yellow bells, with trillium emerging, so it looks to be a good site to return and check for other wild flowers.



Yesterday I went into Spokane to play music with Jonathan, so I combined it with watching the Captain America movie (very fine if you like the action/fantasy genre) and briefly viewing downtown Spokane.   This is the Spokane Falls, with the gondolas left over from the world's fair in the foreground, and new green grass being installed in an improved viewing area (under construction).  The tower on the left is the Spokane County courthouse, with the classic Monroe Street bridge on the left.

And today we went skiing at 49 degrees North, since it is the last week of skiing and free...  No falls for either of us, so it went in the "fun" category.  We saw a couple elk feeding in a field on the way home, but the photos were blurry from their distance...

April 13


Today the family that has been living with us since October moved on.  They gave us two Rhode Island Red hen chicks a week or so ago.  The kids and mother all played with them quite a bit, so they're pretty tame--they follow you around the yard, and climbed up on me for this picture.


This is one of the new occupants of our birdhouse-- a mountain chickadee...


We walked again at the trail at the end of the lake, in search of the creek that enters near Bronze Bay.  These were the first shooting stars we've seen.  Also was a first for the year for glacier lilies, trillium, and skunk cabbage (pictured below)


The creek was in a dark hollow so the photos were all dim--hand held for 1/4 second, which is challenging.  At that long of an exposure, the water becomes a misty blur.


I tried a few shots with the flash, but as you'll see in the next photo, the natural light is more beautiful.   I took this shot to show the old truck tire rim with large trees grown through and around it.  It's probably from the first logging around 100 years ago...


Here you can see the flow of the water makes a prettier picture...


This one becomes almost abstract with the well defined sticks in the foreground and the blurred water in back.



Here's the same basic photo backed off to show the next waterfall above as well...

April 18th
It rained all day on Thursday, adding up only to 3/4 inch at the end.  That's enough to propel the greening forward...
Just across the bridge on the Mill Pond, to the left, there's a new osprey nest--we saw them bringing in sticks covered with moss two days ago.  Here's a picture of the pair at the nest:

They're making good use of a tree that died on top, as did the one to the right, perhaps by a lightning strike...
We went out picking a few flowers to use for Easter decorations-- grass widows, yellow bells, glacier lilies, trillium, and spring beauties.  On the way back a Canada goose moved off a floating log which was about 10 feet off shore--here's what she left:

It's a kind of high traffic area but geese have long figured out humans aren't much of a problem for them (if only vice-versa were true also).  
    The red-necked grebes are back for the summer also...
    Now that we're "empty nesters" ourselves again (until next month when our son returns to help sell pottery), we're doing a lot of projects, like adding rings to curtains so we can use the Roman fold system to raise and lower them...  We already had the curtains in place, and it only takes about a half hour to sew on the rings and add the cords...

April 21
It was a busy Easter weekend, playing Easter Hymns before the Bluegrass Showcase, doing sound for the Showcase, then going to Spokane to spend Easter with relatives.   So

April 23
The weather is back towards cold and rainy, with about a half inch of rain yesterday, and light snow overnight into this morning.  For variety there's a chance of thunderstorms forming, though nothing in sight.
    This weather prompts one to turn to inside projects, such as making the curtains scrunch up in a handy and somewhat orderly fashion with the Roman ring system.  It takes about an hour to sew on the rings and run the cords for each curtain--I got two done today after pottery work--4 more to go...  Good thing there's a 100 per cent chance of rain tomorrow...

April 24
We went for a two hour hike this evening in a break in the nearly continuous rain today, along a spur off the M41, one of the two logging roads leading into the woods from Spirit Lake. The flowers were great, including balsamroot, glacier lilies, yellow bells, dwarf waterleaf, and shooting stars.

This was the view from the end of the lake, including one of the two small islands on Spirit Lake.  After we got home it poured rain again.  
On Easter we visited family and a couple friends in Spokane, and I took this photo of downtown from the new Kendall Yards development...
This is most of the few 10 story buildings that are the core of downtown Spokane, plus the Monroe Street bridge.  Photos from the other side catch fewer of the buildings and more of the Spokane Falls...


April 26
We took another walk up Birch Creek today, getting as far as the first logging road above it...  The valley is strewn with dead rotting logs, which makes the going slow.  There were also more land snails there than any place I'd seen before.
Here's another falls shot from the creek:

The exotic flower in the front is skunk cabbage, named after its bad smell...


The most common flower in the woods was trillium, which this isn't, inspite of having 3 leaves and 3 petals.  This was a new one for us. A Facebook friend identified it as Round leafed trillium
We thought we might find some calypso orchids in the woods, but were surprised to find them in the ditch along the way back to our car.  The ditch is also the only place we've seen mountain lady slipper orchids...  (Don't spray the ditches!)

April 27
We went looking for the goose nest previously pictured, and the goose and eggs were gone...  It was in clear view only about 10 feet from shore.  One can only conjecture that something "got" it...
    It rained on and off all day again, so I sorted through the seedlings started in our south facing window and moved them to the greenhouse.  I also split apart double plants and transplanted them, increasing the number of viable tomato plants.  Some cantalope and cucumbers got transplanted into large containers in the greenhouse, since the squash family seems to enjoy the high heat encountered there. 
    Our two new chicks are also having the run of the greenhouse, since they haven't figured out how to scratch all the dirt loose yet.  Because of the cool wet weather (snow as we went north to church today), we've kept a 80 watt bulb heatlamp perched above them on their nest of straw (they may think it's their mother)...  They're still pretty tame when handled...

Books read and other media of note:
Hawkeye, My life as a weapon by Fraction, Aja, and Pulido.  Most modern comics are a bit too fractured in their storytelling for my taste.  But being a fan of the Avengers I couldn't pass this up, and it was fairly good.

Troublemaker by Janet and Alex Evanovich 
Being the kind of guy that likes Little Lulu comics (and happy to see it adverised inside the back cover of this graphic novel) I enjoyed the comic book styling of this Barnaby and Hooker novelette.  But a lot of the comedy in Evanovich is in the writing, so--less writing, less comedy.

Motor Mouth by Janet Evanovich
Evanovich reminds me of PG Wodehouse in that she uses the same formula regardless of trying different characters to fill the roles.  In her case it's the mostly unrequited love female lead who gets involved in tangled shenanigans.

Wicked Business by Janet Evanovich  
Trying to make a comedy about Satanic forces taking over the world is a tough trick (Good Omens a notable exception).  So the light tone of humor used by Evanovich in this series seems weaker than the same stuff with her crime novels.  But it's good enough that I'll probably read the rest of the series.

Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett  
It reads a bit like the history of railroad expansion, with greedy entrepeneurs and dedicated engineers, except this is Discworld, and the railroad is a means to restoring the Low King of the dwarfs to the throne. As in many of his books, intolerance of various sorts is pilloried.

Metro Girl
by Janet Evanovich.  Like Carl Hiaasen, this uses the oddball characters of the "special" state of Florida (only state with its own tag on Fark.com).  Stronger plot and weaker humor than the Plum novels, but enjoyable ride.



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