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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Petra's Perch and Other Projects

Summer is in full glory up here at Cascade Bluff. Brilliant blue skies and lush aspens greet us every morning, it seems, except of course when it rains.... but not this morning! 


As you saw on the last post, summer is also time for us to have visitors to The Bluff. Sometimes our friends stay in the cabin in our guest loft, sometimes folks bring their own tents or camper... and this time we managed a little different sleeping arrangement. Our friends Beth and Louisa wanted to visit with their wonderfully gentle ... and huge... dog, Petra aka "Petie" who is a Leonberger. Dr. Google and other useful sources will tell you that the leonberger is a "giant" dog breed... and they are right! Petie is really sweet but she's getting on in years and she is massive. And there is the problem of those three spoiled rotten felines, you've met them before but here we go again: 

Rosie

Walt

 ...and Walt Boss Cat on his walk in the labyrinth...
 and sweet lazy "Rub My Belly" Magpie. 
our three aristocats are not in the habit of dealing with dogs, and we anticipated much hissing, growling and general carrying on with the arrival of our friends, until they kindly and generously suggested, how about the garage? 

 Hmmm, how ABOUT the garage? Don't we have a screen tent around here somewhere? Why yes, we do... and voila, "Garage Mahal" appears! 

... complete with comfortable sleeping cots, sleeping bags, pillows and blankets... even carpeting! Fans, flashlights, water, the best outhouse in the north woods... Garage Mahal has it all! 
Beth and Louisa made it through a few nights without much problem, and Petie slept on the floor just fine! 

 Rosie, Walt and Magpie all felt much more secure indoors with Petie outside - and the weather totally cooperated, thank goodness. There were a few big tails and a small amount of hissing, but everybody calmed down and no doggie or kitty Valium was required. 

Any friends that appear even remotely willing to get dirty, sweat and wield sharp implements are routinely "invited" ie "pressed into service" for helping us out with projects... Here is Louisa down on the bottom of the bluff, checking out the spot for yet another new overlook with a river view... this one will be way up there on the top of the ridge! You can't see them, but Val and Beth are up there waving a huge flag that looks so small from down here that it is invisible! But we found it, with the help of binocs and lots of shouting...
 Up on the Ridge top, this is the view from our current lovely overlook, named "Aquila Avenue" for the eagles that we've seen flying by from this spot. If you've been here you know that this one comes complete with a short stairway and a "safety fence" in case anyone decides to lean off the edge.... lookout below, its a long ways down...

Here is the happy crew who willingly carved out the next ridge top lookout site, just a hundred feet or so up the path but my oh my, what a difference! 
 Some hours of work later, and a bit of scrambling, clipping, chainsaw work, sawing, and some fun times with the mini-chainsaw we call the Jaws of Death, and Petie-Petra is resting and surveying her new perch! 
 Look at that view of the river! Nice! And yes, that is a big mature white pine on the edge of the photo on the left, growing right at the edge of the cliff. 
 Petra's Perch! 
This is the new sign... still in progress... will take more pix when complete and in place! 

 Hard work requires some good grub...
 Mm, mm! Ribs and roasted green beans, yumm! 
The next morning brought a more contemplative view of the forest and the labyrinth...
 ...and a final visit by Beth and Petie! Now you get a sense of just how big that big rock actually is, not to mention that DOG! (But she is really sweet!) 

Of course, it is never just all hard work and new projects at Cascade Bluff. A morning walk the other day revealed that it's time for the coral root to bloom, a native deep shade wildflower that we don't find every year... nice to see you!
...and in our garden, the "Strawberry Seduction" Yarrow is really popping right now...
Here's the much shyer and less showy native variety of yarrow...
 Our milkweed is blooming, alas no monarch butterflies so far this year...
 ...and right beside the milkweed is our butterfly weed... come on, Monarchs, the feast awaits you! 

 Our cultivated blueberries are chock-full of berries, slowly ripening... now the race begins between us and the chipmunks, and guess who usually wins... not us!
 An unusual and welcome second blooming of our pasqueflower patch...
 ...and the "100 assorted day lilies" are beginning to show their colors....
 The big rock bed is in full bloom...
...and the bumblebees really love that catmint! 


Speaking of bees, new for us this year is bee balm...

Quite a nice deep color, and the bumbles love it too.
 A patch of Depford pinks by the main garden... 

 ...and the final variety of sedums to bloom are showing their colors at last...
...while the others just keep at it...
 The bush beans are getting bigger and bigger all the time... 

...as is the second (or is it the third?) seeding of lettuce! Mmm! 
 We can't complain too much about the heat, since we barely topped 90 degrees on just a few days, and the rest of the region was sweltering for over a week.. but we'll complain anyway, on behalf of our lettuce...
I had to put a shade topper on the bed of lettuce and found this old reflective windshield screen...
 It worked great - felt at least 5 degrees cooler under the screen and the lettuce perked right up after looking very wilty.
 Beans getting taller and some blossoms are starting... yes! Green beans fresh from the garden is THE BEST!! 

And a few days of heat started things rolling for the blueberries too...

The race is on! Scram, chipmunks, those are MINE! 

See you next month... and grateful thanks to Beth, Louisa and Petie for all their help!  

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Alex's Overlook or All That Work For A View?

The story of the spring and summer of 2016 has been all about rain. Here's another result of one of our torrential downpours in late June... that's over 3 inches again! 
So all that rain means that the Cascade River has never run higher or fuller for longer in the summer, at least not in our limited experience since 2006. I used this exceptionally high river run as an excuse to make good on a "project"... yes, another project ... to explore more of our river edge. Our land mostly have pretty steep slopes by our river, so the exploration involved a fair amount of scrambling and climbing down. 

Once there, a few shots of the river's edge near to our north boundary....
...some lovely blue flag wild iris, like the image on the "front page" of this blog...some river foam in the background.... 
Looking upstream...
...and down...
...and proof that it was me taking the pix...
Hard to get a sense from this 2 dimensional photo, but the bank was very steep looking back up! 
Along the way I found a few new-to-me wildflowers and plants... this little starry flower caught my eye...
... it is nestled in next to some ground strawberry plants (not in bloom or berry at the moment) but I had not seen this down-turned star before. Digging through the books back up at the cabin and I discovered this is called a one-flowered wintergreen. Cute! Also, not rare - once I found it I started seeing it lots of places...
Here is an interesting fern-like plant, there was lots of these and they are larger than they appear in the pic. Couldn't find these in the books... anyone know what this is?
These big green leaves were as large as extra-large dinner plates...
...and underneath was a small packet of green seed pods. My friend Kent says that this is the late summer leaves and seeds of marsh marigold, which blooms a nice yellow in the early summer. I'll have to come back next year for another look! 
One more mystery plant - kind of looks like tobacco! 
I didn't succeed in finding a better route to the river than we already have, and no good places to clear a spot for a better "overlook" than we already had started on the road. So, the story unfolds like this - our friend Alex visited last year in September and helped us clear brush and get a really good start on an excellent "river view" overlook on our road. So this year, when Alex decided he hadn't had quite enough punishment in his regular life and he needed a few bug bites and some scraped knees, we put him to work helping buff up and further develop that overlook! Here he is with Val muscling a small tree up and out of the way... all of the brush we cut got hauled up to the road to the truck...

Many hours of labor, about 18000 steps (on the FitBit) and a few hundred "flights of stairs" later... 

...we could stand at the top...
... and show off...
"Alex's Overlook"!! 
And here is the roadside view up the river ... all this view is new as of Alex's visit at the end of June! Wow, what a view and you have NO idea how much work this represents!! 
And here is the "old" view looking downriver from the road side, spiffed up with more open to catch a better glimpse of that blue water...
Alex and I slid and clambered down to the riverside to clip a few branches and brush right at water level...and managed to not fall in.
Just above river level... beautiful! 
...and a peek from the slope down into that clear but tea-colored river water. 
Underneath the layers of moose maple, scraggly balsam fir, skinny birch, half-dead cedar and other stuff we'd just as soon get out of the way, were several very healthy looking Canada Yew bushes.
Not for consumption - poisonous - but quite lovely, very slow growing and reportedly a sign of good healthy land and biodiversity. We'll take it! 
This was the first of ...umm.. 3 loads of brush from the work that Alex helped us with that day... wow! 
We are fortunate that it is a short drive for us to haul brush to one of the County brush deposits, ie, our gravel pit that sits along our access road. About 3 miles away. We haul brush there all the time and are "big contributors" as they say. In late fall the county will bulldoze all of this into one enormous pile and burn it. 
Thank you Alex, thank you so very much... and you are invited back anytime! 


Back down by the riverside again, on another day... sweet...



I think we might have found our new "best spot" to enjoy the river! Though getting there might involve stairs, or perhaps a tow rope...

Finally, rain means, of course... 
Hard to capture the image but this was a complete "bow" half circle from one horizon to the other! Gorgeous! Makes all that rain completely worth it!