Sunday, September 24, 2017

Multi-Faceted Growth

When I choose photos for my blog, I look over everything I’ve taken over a given period, usually hundreds or a thousand, sometimes more, and try to get that down to 40-50. It’s quite a task, and as always many details are left out, but I aim to include a representative sample of my life. It is usually progress on whatever is important at that moment, nature and how it is changing depending on the season, some wildlife. having fun with my wife, lots of tree work and finding a way to tell a coherent story. These days I’m leaning more heavily on the photos than the writing, getting lazy I guess, but I still feel the urge to document and share. I have actually been doing this since before social media was really a big thing, and I only post on Facebook once or twice a week at most, usually a nature photo I took, maybe some tree work or an activity with friends, but this blog, which started out to just document my travels in South Asia originally, soldiers on. When I started writing new posts after my trip across Africa, I actually started titling my documents ‘back in the USA post __’ because I thought being back home would be temporary and I’d be on the road again shortly. Then I fell in love with an island, a lifestyle, and a girl. Now I have a new place to call home, a new life, a wife and a business. Huh. As I type this, I am actually in Iceland, after spending two weeks in the Netherlands with Marijke and look forward to sharing that trip here eventually. I was also hiking in Utah fairly recently which was stunning, climbed Mt Baker with Marijke, my dad and Marijke’s brother Stijn and am trying to fit the new business into all of that. Anyways, this post covers about a month of spring, has a lot of bird photos and not a single tree work photo. See for yourself:

When I left off, Marijke’s mom was staying with us in our home, and after a few days it was time to head down to Seattle for more family time. I brought down the new truck for my parents to see, and we had a great visit.

As often happens we went on a walk through Kubota Gardens.

We were also near to Volunteer Park, so we found our way there as well. Margriet was very impressed with the trees.

Once that visit was over and we returned home, I found myself spending a lot more time than I used to in the office at my computer.  A byproduct of starting a business I guess, and I spent a lot of time procrastinating by watching the birds at my feeders that were just out my window. A welcome distraction, but the pigeons who have discovered the feeder are not so welcome....

This huge truck, one of my favorites from the large list of cool old vehicles on the property, has spent the past few decades just below the top of Ben Nevis hill. That era finally ended recently, when it was brought down as part of the property clean up, and a new owner for this piece of rolling art is being sought out.

A foggy morning as we look out the windows.

I probably mention this every year around this time, but my favorite color ever is sunlight coming through new spring maple leaves. I won’t pretend this photo captures it at all, but because I’ve put so much work into opening up space for the maples around the house again, I have had the opportunity to watch them leaf out and flourish, and enjoy it greatly.

My friends Brendan and Caitlin staying with us and enjoying a meal together.

This time of year of course is the annual Beltane party. Friends came up from far and wide, dressed in white, to eat, drink, dance and celebrate the new season.

Jenn cooking the awesome stew.

Some of the crew.

Marijke and myself at the finished maypole.

And as always, the feast is the most important part. Many of our friends are great cooks (I am not one of these people) so the food at our parties is always excellent.

After eating, most people find their way to the top of the hill. This is the actual top which is on my friends property, just opposite where the big truck was just taken from and the property where Marijke and I live. Nice to have such a good neighbor and neighborhood!

No party is complete without a bonfire and this evening did not disappoint.

I swear I work hard, but the photos in this post sure aren’t showing it! It was a nice afternoon, so Marijke and I went out for a little boat ride, a wonderful way to wind down after a long day.

So I don’t have any real work photos, but I haven’t forgotten the ferry pictures, I seem to always wind up with one or two of those. But it’s just so scenic, how can I not?

Seals, in their usual spot on the edge of Bling Bay.

A while back, when I got the truck stuck in the mud actually, I took down a huge dead juniper and saved some of the wood. In hindsight I should have taken a lot more, but I dried it slowly, sanded it and put a coat of poly on it to show off it’s colors. One is currently hanging in my hallway, the other I gave to my old boss Austen as a going away gift.

“Sup?” Found this little birdie as I was weed whacking along the road and yes, I moved it safely out of the way.

That very same day, Marijke and I decided to go for a wander around the property. At 80 acres, there are still corners we haven’t really explored and we set out to do just that. As we wandered through the woods and towards a mossy bald, I spotted a baby owl, just sitting on the ground. Being a favorite animal of Marijke, she was very excited to see a baby up close.

Owls are amazingly chill creatures, and it didn’t seem bothered by our presence one bit (we did avoid touching it or making any quick movements of course). After a minute of checking it out, I noticed the mom was actually sitting in a tree just about 15 feet from us, hardly paying us any attention and also seemingly unconcerned with our proximity to it’s baby.

The fun part of starting my business is buying all the cool new tools I’ve always wanted but could never justify before! I’ve made a number of large orders and tool purchases including this one, and there is more on the way.

And speaking of more, how about more birds? This is the nightly show out our window and it never gets old.

One day while Marijke and I were working together I came across some snakes and needed to move them out of the area where we were working. Being the little boy that I am, I caught one and showed it to my wife, only to learn she had never held a snake before! I had her take off her work gloves to really feel it, and she was quite intrigued by the way it wrapped itself and moved around her fingers.

Back in Seattle on a social visit, and happened to cross paths with my sister Robin who lives in Montana.

Games with friends.

No mainland visit is complete without a huge haul of supplies and this didn’t disappoint. I returned with the lumber to start building the chip box for my work truck, a few weeks worth of groceries, a lawn mower, a gas pole saw, new blower, wood cart, and much much more.

I’ve never had my own lawn to mow but the house does and it was getting long. On a whim I stopped by a place called ‘The Shop’ in Mt Vernon and found a well used but freshly tuned up Toro for $80 and couldn’t say no. It does a good job, and it’s satisfying to look out at a nice patch of grass beside the house, even if I’m mostly using it as a work space instead of using it to relax on…

Marijke’s symphony group was having it’s final concert of the season at the Orcas Center and then a dinner for all the members at the Outlook, so I tagged along.

I enjoy finding life in funny places, and while cleaning out my gutters one evening found this frog hanging out up there…

And as I got to the gutters on the other side of the house, I came across this bundle of recently hatched spiders.

My business paperwork was finally in order and while I haden’t even begun building the tool box in my truck, there was work to be done so I loaded up and began working. It is still very early in the life of my business, just a few months, but it really is a good feeling to work for myself and be responsible for every step of the process. So far everyone I’ve worked for has been extremely happy, and work is coming in at a good pace.

It is the time of year for the broadleaf stonecrop to bloom, and the tall stalks and bright yellow flowers really add a fun splash of color to the old quarry.

Our lawn was looking pretty empty and boring, just grass with a few doug firs, so Marijke spent the afternoon making a little garden space with rocks, logs, moss and ferns.

I usually spend my weekends working on my never ending project list, but this time we decided to spend the day having fun. While it is a bit of a journey in my little 9.9hp boat, we decided to go all the way around Shaw and to Friday Harbor. The weather was perfect, so why not!

A great blue herron standing in Blind Bay.

The north east tip of Shaw has a stunning view of Mt Baker, and with the timing of the ferry just below it, I couldn’t help but include this photo…

Victory, a beer in Friday Harbor! From there we returned to Shaw, enjoying the scenery, the fresh air and our circle around the island.

Of course the most important tool for doing tree work, besides the truck to get you there and the saws to cut the trees, is a chipper to deal with the material you put on the ground. I’d been watching craigslist, Equipment Trader, and arborist specific sites for a while now and was always coming up empty handed. For some reason, it is amazingly hard to find a good used chipper in the northwest. Eventually I found one on craigslist that was all the way in central Montana, so I hit the road for a long, solo, last minute road trip! The above photo is in Washington at one of my favorite views, crossing the Columbia river.

Montana was really georgous. I haven’t been out that way in a while, and although this sure wasn’t a sight seeing trip, I enjoyed it a great deal just from the driver seat.

After driving for 750 miles straight and sleeping in the cab of my truck in a Walmart parking lot, something I’ve never had to do before, I found the chipper and checked it out. Everything was as expected, so I handed over a pretty big check, hooked it to my truck and was suddenly the owner of a 2008 Vermeer BX1000XL chipper with only 1,500 hours. It is a 12” chipper, has a great auto feed, super adjustable discharge chute, 85hp Cummins diesel and weighs 4,200 pounds. To be honest it is a lot more than I was expecting on spending, but in the end I am really happy to have this machine and it ought to serve we well for years to come.

Once hooked up, I turned right back around and drove to Seattle, all 650 miles. The truck handled the extra weight no problem, just as I expected.

I started this post taking about showing my parents my new truck, now it was time to show them my new chipper. My mom made a great breakfast, and my bad had a few branches in the yard he wanted me to cut and chip, so after that was taken care of, I drove my new chipper to the ferry home.

Next post will have some tree work photos again, especially playing with the chipper, but is mostly about hiking in Utah and two nights in Vegas. It’s a serious change of scenery, so look for that in a little while.   

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Arrival of Spring and Another Big Step Forward

A lot of my posts start by discussing the seasons. Sometimes it's the season the post is about, but more often, it's about what is going on at the moment I'm writing, and how the post is about a few months before that...  Oh well. If I'm being totally honest, I'm less motivated to blog these days than I used to be. I'm not totally sure why that is, and I know people are still checking out my posts, so I feel like I should keep it up. Things are going well, and the new chapter in life I hinted at in the last post is that I've started my own business!  That is certainly a change from being an employee, but I'm doing the same work as before, so really it's just that I have more paperwork to do. That said, it is rewarding, but I'll get to that later on.  For now, here is how I got to that part.

Working on the north side of Orcas Island.  I was up a tree taking out some deadwood or something, I forget, when I looked out and saw a lovely rainbow.

Back  home I was still doing work to improve my view. I've found it's really hard to get the true perspective of being up a tree when you just have the camera in your hand, so this time I brought up a selfie stick, which I'm almost embarrassed to admit I bought... That said, it made for a pretty cool photo and one I've since used on the posters for my business, as well as on the back of my business cards. So it was worth it.

So although the interview for Marijke's green card, and the approval that made everything official happened in the last post, she still didn't have the actual card yet.  I think they told us it would be a month or so, but only like 10 days after the interview, my wife had the card in hand and the saga could finally and truly be declared over.

An old cabin on Shaw.

Looking down while doing a big tree removal.  The tree was dying, was surrounded in buildings and there was no place to drop it.  I think it was something like 130 feet tall, and was actually the largest fir removal I've ever done.

The tree was so large that after I'd exhausted the usefulness of my 361 with a 20" bar, I pulled up a 460 with a 32".  I dropped a few logs off like this, and then came down to pull the stick over.

Safely down on the ground, and a LOT of big wood for someone to deal with... Even though doing a tree this big is using all the same principals of a smaller tree, it's just not the same and takes a lot more ability and experience.  I was a little intimidated when I showed up in the morning but after 5 hours in the tree and it all going perfectly, it was a big confidence booster.

My 99 year old great aunt Wilma had just moved out of her home where she was still living unassisted (talk about good genes!) and into a home.  It was time to make a Seattle visit to see her, other family and some friends.  Usually when I come to Seattle it's a busy tip full of errands, so this was only about seeing people.  It made for a nice change of pace from the usual visits.

That night I went to a house party with my good friend Brendan, and a bunch of his birder friends.  The host of the party was also host to a house full of interesting birds, including this very chill owl.

While I was on the ferry home, I looked out on what was a lovely, clear day and saw the old ferry the Hiyu heading north.  This tiny ferry was retired many years ago, and was brought back into service as the inter-island boat for a summer, then retired again and sold.  When I later asked a ferry worker about it, he said it was headed north to a shipyard in Canada for some repairs and on to it's next stage of life.  I always enjoyed that little ferry, so it was fun to see it one last time.

For a while now Marijke had been a part of Island Symphonia, the island classical music group, and this was their Shaw concert. You can see her in the back standing up and being in charge of various percussion instruments.

Visiting friends on Orcas and enjoying their collection of animals that wander about the property.

Ah yes, getting stuck. I was at work one day, the customer had some trees on the low side of their fields where he wanted the chipper, and I drove right into the soft stuff and couldn't get out... I knew it was soft, but figured if I got stuck that I'd be able to pull the truck and chipper out with our other truck. No such luck. Nor could the tractor do it.  We ended up getting the truck out without too much trouble, but in order to get the chipper, which was axle deep in mud, Austen had to come back with his excavator.  At this point I was very much looking forward to dry weather again...

Another lovely day on the ferries.

Dinner with friends.

Tiny dinosaurs.  I forget the name of these, but if my memory is correct, they are the northern most lizard in North America.

I am always working to develop and improve where we live, and one thing we still didn't have until this day was a nice fire pit.  I collected rocks from the quarry, picked a nice spot in the lawn and came up with this.  I've got some cool pieces of wood to make benches with, but that step will come later.

Moss, wild flowers and the rusty saw blade on the edge of the clearing out our bedroom window.

At work with Marijke.  This days project was adding some post extensions to a fence in order to make it taller and keep the deer out of an orchard.

I've always really enjoyed humming birds but for some reason it took until this point to finally put up a feeder.  It hangs outside of our living room window, and by the second day it was there we would have 8 birds at a time jockeying for position.  It was a lot of fun to watch, but we were having to refill the feeder every single day they were drinking so much!

On my boat heading home from work.

Until this point we had been keeping our two cats indoors but it was finally time to let them explore, and explore they did, especially Baxter.  He loves to climb trees, and the big madrone on the corner of the house was no exception.

As part of letting the cats outside finally, we built a 'cat ramp', on the side of the house to the window in the laundry room, so they can easily go in and out as they please.  Here is Marijke making the steps.

I always have my eyes out for little creatures and spring brings plenty of them.

A large doug fir tree, mid-fall after pounding in a wedge to tip it over.  Probably one of my favorite activities, haha.

While I was out on the hillside falling big trees, I was also taking time to stop and admire the smaller and more beautiful things around me like this fairy slipper orchid, flowers that had only begun appearing in recent days.  We actually have a good number of them around the house, and they are always a fun little treat to spot.

As I was waiting at the Orcas ferry landing for my boss a few days later, I happened to look out the window back towards Shaw at just the right moment and caught a rare sighting, orca whales, an adult and a baby, in the channel.  Now they are fairly common around here, but they are usually spotted in other areas, the west side of San  Juan in particular, so to see them here was unusual and exciting.

At work with Dave the crane guy.  I'd brushed this tree out the day before as part of a large project, and on this day it was time to take the trunk wood down in sections using the crane.  This was actually my first ever crane job which was fun, and I look forward to more in the future.

I can't help myself, always catching snakes...

This is one of my favorite trees on the island, a mature big leaf maple on the edge of Blind Bay, draped with green-grey lichen and made even more pretty by the fresh spring leaves sprouting out.

Marijke watering freshly panted apple trees in the orchard where we worked on the fence.

It was still far too early to call it 'warm' out, but it wasn't cold at the end of work at least.  With the improving weather, Marijke and I have begun having 'deck beers' together, a wonderful way to relax a bit after a long day of work.

The sun, seen through spring showers from our deck.  It's been a real joy to watch all these maple trees below the deck leaf out.  When we moved in over the summer the trees weren't even visible, so to expose them and add them as a feature to our daily life is fun.

Looking over the mossy bald to the north of the house, this view is roughly from the new fire pit I built.

One more scenery photo... sunset out our living room window. Man I love this view....

This is both cool and a little sad, it's a violet green swallow, a very pretty bird that has recently showed up, flying over the meadow.  One of them flew into the living room and one of our cats got to it...

A better look at our wonderful deck.

This curved tree was one out our living room window that I wanted to take out, and as long as I was doing that I figured I'd better make use of the interesting log.  By using some painters tape to make guide lines, I halved the log as it stood upright, and set the material aside to make mirror image benches that will probably go around the new fire pit.

With the improving spring weather, clear views of Mt Baker are becoming common.

Passing the Shaw Landing (where the above view is) and heading into Blind Bay where I keep my boat.

With us well settled into the house and our lives by this point, it was easy to host guests and our first long visit came from Marijke's mom.  The first time I met Margriet was actually when I married her daughter, so it was nice to have her around for a length of time and get to know her better.  When she arrived, she brought a wonderful gift, a 'life painting' that is a custom painting incorporating elements of a persons life, and this one has elements of Marijke's life in the Netherlands on the left, life on Shaw on the right and other fun things like our two cats, haha.  It's a lovely piece that has a great story to go with it and it hangs proudly in our living room.

About to hop in my boat and go to work I noticed this large crab just below the surface, and stuck my waterproof camera down for a closer look.  I'm usually focused on life above the water, hopefully at some point I can explore more of what is below.

My boss Austen heading up a huge cedar on the north side of Orcas.

A close up of the life painting.

Since both Marijke and I work for and spend a good amount of time with the Rawls family, they invited us and Margriet over for dessert one evening and we had a great time snacking and chatting.

On the mainland with Margriet, we decided to go out to Mexican, something she had never had.

So I mentioned at the start of this post that I'm starting my own tree business, and this new (to me) truck will be the foundation of that business.

First off, the truck is a 2001 Ford F350 with the 7.3 diesel.  The previous owner was literally an older couple that really just used it for hauling their camper on road trips and kept wonderful care of it.  Not only that, but it has the most desirable motor, the powerful and ultra reliable 7.3, which only had 79,000 miles!  These things are known to hit 500,000, and others I was looking at often had 250,000, making this one hardly broken in.  I'm incredibly excited to have this truck for doing tree work in the islands and am lucky to have come across it because it is exactly what I wanted and extremely hard to come by.

So the business:  My boss told me he was planning on moving off island, and that I should start my own business to fill the gap in the market he creates by leaving.  Now I hadn't really considered having my own business before, but it all seemed to make sense and Austen was very willing to help me make it happen and has been a wonderful resource.  It's hard to say how everything will pan out, but this marks a big step in my life and one I am really looking forward to.  I know there is a lot of work ahead of me to make this a success, but I'll start small and simple, and see where the path takes me.