Disc Golfing in March

Western Washington springs are usually pretty wet, but this one is starting off to be a whopper. Walking in my yard is like walking on a giant sponge. The dirt access road behind our property still looks like you could kayak on it–it even has some mild rapids. Trails in the area sometimes look more like creeks. If you are hiking out and about in this weather, bring extra clothes, especially shoes and socks!

Mother Nature did give us a lovely little break on Saturday and we jumped at the chance to get away for an afternoon. Jim had a shoulder surgery and two wrist surgeries recently, so he hasn’t been able to enjoy one his favorite past times–disc golf. We also haven’t been on many hikes lately so we combined the two and headed up to Hoodsport Hills, on the way to Lake Cushman.

The whole area around Lake Cushman is beautiful, with trails galore, but Jim has wanted to check out the new (and still unfinished) disc golf course that we always pass on our way up to Staircase. We arrived late morning with the sun working hard to warm us up, though layers were necessary to start with. There is a parking lot with a surprisingly clean and well stocked port-a-potty (always good to know for us ladies!). The course starts on the near side of a lovely little creek and continues on into the forest. So far, there are only nine holes completed and they are not in order (you go from hole 5 to 15)! Signs can be confusing, as they still have lots of work to do. Your best bet is to go to DGCourse Review and print out their 2016 review. Jim found it very descriptive and helpful.

I don’t play disc golf, but I do like to tag along, as the scenery is often very nice. This one is by far the prettiest course I have been on. It would be a nice area just to hike around, and in fact, there is a trailhead for some very short hikes nearby. The hikes and course cross over each other a few times. We saw eagles flying overhead and several small woodpeckers in the trees. Jim loved the course and is looking forward to its completion. I will certainly go back when he plays, just for the walk. As far as a disc golf course, I will say this–it doesn’t look like the easiest course in the world! If you love the game, I think you will enjoy this course. It seemed fairly challenging to me, and at this point, most of the underbrush hasn’t leafed out yet. When it does, it’s going to be even more difficult. There is also the creek, which Jim had to fish a disc out of! It’s running rapidly right now, so we’re pretty happy he found it.

For those who don’t know much about disc golf, here are some good resources to check out:

http://www.wsdga.org

http://www.dgcoursereview.com/reviews.php?id=8481&mode=rev

http://www.pdga.com

It’s a fun and inexpensive way to enjoy the outdoors.

Jim Finds His Artistic Side

I’ve always been the artistic one in our relationship. But with all the extra time on our hands from our unplanned retirement, Jim is exploring his creative side as well. He’s always been good with woodworking and made quite a few shelving units for our last house. He recently made a spice rack for me, and that has launched what may become a new little business. At the very least, it keeps him busy in a productive way.

His latest projects are making use of what’s growing on our own property, mainly in the form of small Douglas Firs that were never thinned properly when the property was owned by one of the local timber companies. Thinning out the smaller trees helps our forest environment and provides lots of wood that is just right for wooden coasters, spice racks, a shot glass display, and shelves for the liquor bottles. His next project is a display railing for my decorative plates that have been in their boxes for years. We’ll also be using some of the timber for our garden planter boxes (and some more hugelkultur piles). The rustic look of the fir looks just right in our little country home.

In addition to being a practical and thrifty way to added needed things to the house, the focus that comes with creative projects can really help in dealing with stress and depression. Regardless of what you plan to do with the final project, there is a sense of accomplishment. Even if it doesn’t come out quite the way you planned, there is always something learned in the process. If others compliment you on the work, there is that little boost to your ego. That might sound conceited, but there is a feeling of loss and damage to self-esteem when you find yourself retired without planning to be, and when you are at an age when it can be difficult to find a decent job to replace the one you lost.     

We are looking into the possibility of attending some local craft fairs to sell my photos and Jim’s woodwork. We’ll let you know when our first fair comes along! In the meantime, drop us a line if you are interested in the coasters or racks.

Dreaming of Summer Trails

Tubal Cain

Trailhead for Tubal Cain Mine trail #840

It’s March 7, and it’s snowing at our place in Belfair. I love the snow, but come on Mother Nature! I am so ready for spring. If you are out hiking in the Northwest today, you are far more hard-core (and hopefully more prepared) than we are. Today I am inside, trying to keep my cat off the keyboard and dreaming of my favorite hike from last summer–the Tubal Cain Mine trail in the Olympics.

We’ll be heading back there this year, as there is so much more to see. We didn’t see the plane wreckage from the 1952 B-17 (we missed the turnoff) and we didn’t get past the mine. We did, however, time things just right for the rhodie bloom by hiking in mid-June. If you like to see flowers on your hikes, this one is spectacular. About 2.5 miles of solid beautiful rhododendrons in full bloom. I think I drove Jim crazy by stopping every few feet to take pictures (there are some dangers involved if you are married to a photographer!). Luckily, there weren’t many others on the trail, which surprised me a bit (although we did go mid-week).

The trail itself is easy, though the scramble up to the mine took a bit more effort and I hear the trail to the wreckage is also steep, but not too long. Roundtrip to the mine and back is a little over seven very pleasant miles. You can get some good info on the Washington Trails Association site (http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/tull-canyon ). Be aware of a few things. Plan ahead, as not everything is well marked. There are no facilities at the trailhead so be prepared. Don’t pick any flowers, so they will be there for the rest of us to enjoy! The road to the trailhead is an adventure in itself. Personally, I think someone should open a little kiosk at the bottom and sell straight shots and tee-shirts that say “I Survived Forest Road 2870!” To say the road is full of potholes just doesn’t quite cover it. I swear some could swallow a Mini Cooper. It doesn’t help that Jim thinks “rally car” whenever our Subaru hits a dirt road. If you don’t like heights, you might want to close your eyes in a few places (but not too many, because the views are beautiful!). If you are the driver, ignore that last bit of advice.

We will hopefully have some new adventures to report in the near future, but for now, enjoy some photos from last summer (some are available for sale if you are interested!).

IMG_7264forFB

The tunnel of rhodies on the Tubal Cain trail

Garden Dreams, Garden Realities

This is the time of year when my thoughts turn to gardening. I always have grand visions, which usually don’t turn out quite the way I imagined. But it’s fun to dream big! This year, we have a lot of work to do. Shortly before Jim lost his job, we sold our big house in the suburbs and bought a small place on almost six acres out in the boonies. It turned out to be one of the few really good things that has happened in recent years, as we no longer have a mortgage, and that is truly a blessing with our money struggles.

It does mean that we need to be much more creative. We are trying to be more self-sufficient, which isn’t a bad thing, even if money isn’t tight. But for us, it’s a necessity. It can be a challenge, but it can also be a lot of fun! We have about an acre cleared out of a portion of 20 to 25-year poorly managed Douglas fir. I’m sure the timber company sold off the land some time ago, and therefore, it was never thinned properly. Our vision is to slowly restore the property to a more natural state. But first, we must deal with the cleared area and work on establishing our garden, so we can grow some of our own food (the deer think it’s for them, but we will work on that!).

One of our biggest problems is soil. Anyone in Western Washington probably knows what I’m talking about. Rocks, rocks, and more rocks. All of the lovely glacial stuff left behind. We do have a few pockets of good soil, but they are either in shade all day or under water seven months out of the year (or both). Cranberries maybe?? The one big sunny patch is also the area with the most rock (of course!). We’re not even trying to clear the stuff away; we’re just building up on top. And that’s where the fun and creativity come in. I’ve been reading lots of books and magazines about woodlot management and self sufficiency from the library and online. Last year we started a straw bale garden, which is becoming quite popular. We had mixed results. Some things did very well, others not so much, though I think weather had far more to do with it than the straw bale setup (growing tomatoes the the NW is always a crapshoot). The biggest problem for me was expense. We did it sort of last minute and it ended up being more expensive than I had hoped. Straw is not as cheap here as it is in some other places! It did, however, leave us with a nice pile of rotted straw that we can plant in again this year and then compost in what will become the main garden.

This year we are planning the main garden, which will eventually be fenced against the deer. We are using two strategies–lasagna gardening and hugelkulter. I must admit, I want to do the hugelkulter in part because of the name. Who doesn’t want to be able to say “I’ve got a hugelkulter in my yard!” OK, maybe I’m the only one. But both use what we’ve already got. Today I spent several hours (and about 2 miles of walking around the property, which is good because I’ve been slacking off on my exercise program!) building the hugelkulter mound. I won’t go into too much detail, but it’s a long-term garden solution using wood debris, tree limbs, and whatever organic matter you have around to build a big mound which breaks down slowly but adds tons of wonderful nutrients to the soil. Since we have lots of thinning to do, there will probably be quite a few of these mounds around the yard! The February/March 2017 issue of Mother Earth  News talks about both types of gardening, plus several others.

We’ll keep you posted on the progress of our garden experiments!

hugelkulterwr

Look at that lovely soil we’re starting with! Found a huge mound of fir cone remnants in our woods. Using several buckets of it to add to the pile. Still lots of work to do.

The Honeyed Ox

Today seems like a perfect day to share with you another hot whiskey drink. It’s cold and very, very wet here in the Northwest. Real whiskey aficionados will probably cringe at my constant mixing of whiskey drinks, preferring instead to drink it neat (my husband’s preference!), but I’m a whiskey wimp. At least this one is pretty simple. It makes a lovely night cap, and it tastes like apple pie!

We have been using Blue Ox Blended Whiskey from OOLA Distillery in Seattle, hence the name Honeyed Ox. OOLA produces this private label whiskey exclusively for Alderbrook Resort in Union, Washington. It was launched on Alderbrook’s New Year’s Eve Bootleggers Haul aboard the Lady Alderbrook to help celebrate a little Hood Canal history. It is now available at the Resort, for enjoyment on the grounds or to purchase in the gift shop. Blue Ox is a blended whiskey, combining Canadian Whiskey, Highland Scotch, and American Bourbon. You can learn more about Blue Ox and its inspiration at a special Whiskey Dinner at Alderbrook on March 10. (Wish we were going but we splurged and went on the Bootlegger’s Cruise!)

For my little drink, I pour one shot (or two!) of Blue Ox in a small mug, add one to two teaspoons of good, raw, local honey, and a dash of cinnamon. Add hot water to fill a small mug or half a regular coffee mug. Adjust to your own taste. It smells wonderful, tastes good, and is very relaxing. Sit back and enjoy!

img_9238blueoxblog

                                                         Blue Ox neat, the way Jim likes it!

www.ooladistillery.com

www.alderbrookresort.com