Photo by Angie Quantrell
Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, WA state
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in the pasture.
Due to needing my Christmas photo background early, we went tree hunting this month-November. With indoor trees, this is a big no-no, but since we will keep this tree outside of the RV, it will be perfectly fine and not pose a fire risk as it dries out.
My honey drove us up along Oak Creek Road in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. Ready with our tree tag and saw in hand and mud boots on feet, we settled in to search for the perfect tree.
Before we hit the area where we could cut a tree, I noticed two big red blobs out in a meadow. Judging by the size, deer. Skinless and headless, left to rot. Ugh. Poachers. While I don’t personally hunt for meat, I understand some people enjoy the outdoor activity. In our state, hunters draw tags and their hunting helps control the numbers of herds roaming the forests. But to leave two carcasses and not use the meat was totally irresponsible. Grrrr.
On the way up the mostly deserted road, we saw a trail of smoke. From an untended campfire. Hoping that hunters or hikers were just out of view, we continued on our way, though I was fuming, because despite drenching rain, the fire was still smoldering. And we are just out of a horrific forest fire disaster of a summer. Even with the rain, fire is still a problem!
After 8.5 miles of rutted dirt roads and several “That one’s pretty good,” we finally found our tree. Though I tried to get Kevin to cut me a HUGE tree (heh-heh, wouldn’t that be funny, trying to drive down the road with a tree hanging off both ends of the truck?), we had to settle for a much shorter one. Cue the Christmas Vacation music.
We secured the sweet-smelling tree and headed back down the road. The fire was still going! Mr. Firefighter to the rescue. He literally got his hands dirty (the shovel was buried beneath the tree) to make sure it was dead. Good job, honey!
And much further down the road, we drove around a bend and startled a huge gathering of carrion birds! At least three bald eagles, numerous turkey buzzards, and magpies. All of them were enjoying the feast of deer meat. Whew. Nothing goes to waste in the wild, right? They were quite happy to take care of the deer carcasses. I imagine at night other predators would be drawn in-coyotes or wild cats.
A forest full of adventures. Here she is, our beautiful tree!
wet drippy wander
way off road and tummy growls
pop forest popcorn
forest popcorn by Angie Quantrell
photo by Angie Quantrell
Oak Creek Road, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Pacific Northwest
NOTE: This is not really popcorn, though it looks as if popcorn grows on trees, er, shrubs. I’m not sure if it’s edible. Do not eat this popcorn!
Last January I was elated to learn I had been granted a special writing residency and retreat at Holly House and Hypatia-in-the-Woods. What a great way to begin a new year!
Located outside of Shelton, Washington, not far from Olympia, Holly House would be overlooking Hammersly Inlet if it weren’t totally surrounded by a mixed forest of deciduous and coniferous trees. The setting is absolutely gorgeous. Cool, green, shaded, quiet, peaceful. Did I say peaceful? And all mine for the week.
After shopping for enough food to last 3 months, as if grocery stores did not exist 5-7 miles away, I arrived before lunch on my appointed Sunday. Outside appearances did not prepare me for the spacious and beautiful inside environment. Incidentally, Holly House is very close to the small house size my honey and I want to build for ourselves.
I’ll let the pictures do the talking. I had everything I needed for a creative, imaginative, stress-free week. Loft bedroom, large bathroom, living room, dining area, kitchen, and even a deck with the most perfect table and chairs.
I was so blessed to visit and stay at Holly House. The neighbors (a couple and their huge dog) were fantastically helpful and reassuring. After all, I was in the middle of the woods in the middle of nowhere. And I heard there had been evidence of a bear. My imagination supplied the rest of the excitement.
The Hypatia-in-the-Woods board was wonderful. I enjoyed a potluck one evening, getting to meet most of the members. I was met by Carolyn at Holly House. She brought me some snacks and gave me a working tour of the cabin. Every single thing I could have wanted or desired was provided. Or all I had to do was ask. Thank you to all who gave me the opportunity and welcomed me to Holly House.
I’m so thankful for my writing residency. Thank you, Holly House, Hypatia-in-the-Woods, neighbors, and the Hypatia board. Thank you!
If you ever have an opportunity to go on a writing retreat or residency, do it! Worth every second.
green feathers, boas,
cushion path, moor silver threads
hide eight-eyed hunters
green boas by Angie Quantrell
I’m going to to miss these lovelies, but not the walking into and through spider webs. But it was worth every minute spent trying to remove clinging strands to see such verdant green life.
red crest, heavy head
hop, skittle, scrape, taste, chitter;
pileated woodpeckers by Angie Quantrell
I feel like I struck gold! Or black and red, the colors on my 2 feathered guests.
I almost didn’t see them, as they were very quiet. I went out the Holly House front door to my car and spotted huge black birds, one on a dead stump, clawing to grasp and dig in, the other on the ground scooping bits of snack with a sideways tilt of the head.
As soon as red-crested heads popped into view, I knew exactly what they were. And they were huge! Due to my constant perusal of A Guide to Field Identification, BIRDS of North America book, in particular the page on woodpeckers and flickers, I recognized them. But only when I saw them in person did I realize the immense size compared to the flickers and scrub jays I usually identify. The guide says their length is 15-inches. Fascinating.
According to the guide book, pileated woodpeckers are “uncommon and local; a wary bird of extensive deciduous or mixed forests” (p. 180). I feel like I won the lottery. Here there were two uncommon and wary woodpeckers gently hopping along the driveway, chittering quietly to each other, sort of like chickens chat as they go about their day.
I watched them until they hopped beyond the bend of the driveway. They didn’t take off while I observed, and didn’t seem too bothered by me. They seemed a bit gangly in movement, young, perhaps teens? Not sure if they were mated or siblings, but I was thrilled to listen and watch.
I love that Holly House has a copy of my favorite bird book. Their book is in much better shape. The pages are stuck in the proper place. What a special opportunity! Smack dab in the middle of a mixed forest, plenty of deciduous and coniferous trees and stumps for all to enjoy. Says the resident who learned the black bear is back and loves to scrub at trunks for bugs and wander behind my cabin on his dusk forays. Yikes! I would like to see him (or her) but only from my car or cottage window.
dance, whisper, reach
effervescent life, calling-
immerse in nature
immerse by Angie Quantrell
This Haiku Moment is brought to you compliments of Holly House and Hypatia-in-the-Woods. My kitchen table view is glorious – windows that make me feel as if I’m living in a tree house. Such wonderful windows of light, movement, trees, glimpses of water and sunlight. This is what it is like to live as a wild thing in between the canopy, understory, and floor of dense forests. Like a bird, or squirrel, perhaps a bear, life is found in movement, fragrance, sound, texture, even taste if but a few berries are ripe – a rich sensory environment inviting you in.
Come, be welcome.
We have a Sunflower Forest.
Not intentionally, but as happenstance. Last year, I planted sunflowers. This year, the birds planted sunflowers (leftovers from their grazing and dropping last year). I love my Sunflower Forest. It really does resemble a forest with all its many layers, shadows, heights, and wildlife.
Just this morning, I was again (and again) gazing out the window to enjoy the peeping antics of goldfinch families. They flit, flirt, fight, and feed throughout the Sunflower Forest. Swarms of bees, many varieties, wasps, and other flying hungry insects buzz and float around the Forest, a veritable cloud of life shifting back and forth. I don’t need a fish tank for gazing and relaxing. I can sit on the deck and watch visitors enjoy the Forest. Relaxation and entertainment all wrapped into one ball of delight.
It’s interesting how our brains work, those miracles of human technology. Thoughts and ideas zip and zing along brain pathways so fast I often find myself wondering How did I get to that thought from this?
Take ecosystems. As I watched the Sunflower Forest with rapt enjoyment, I realized it was an ecosystem in its own right. Our Forest is approximately 25-foot-square, give or take a straggler standing tall along the edges. The top height is at least 15-feet, well as tall as the RV, which rests high atop tires and tire stops. That’s plenty of ecosystem space for the myriad of wildlife I see every day.
The Undergrowth (Forest Floor):
I’m so excited about this level of the Sunflower Forest. Baby oak trees have sprouted from last year’s planting of numerous (I mean NUMEROUS) acorns I brought back from my cousin’s house. I love science activities and free exploration and invited my grands to play at will. They did. Played and planted. Baby oaks have been discovered in very surprising places!
Other nature on display in the undergrowth layer: weeds (of course), ants, spiders, worms, earwigs, beetles, frogs, millipedes, roly polys, mystery bugs, snails, grasshoppers, and cats. Our cats LOVE hiding in the Sunflower Forest.
In the Sunflower Forest, the understory is crammed full of bamboo-like stalks, mottled leaves, dappled light, and fluttering life. I imagine myself small, wandering amidst the trunks of sunflower trees, climbing too high for my own good. Tall weeds populate this layer, plentiful, but not enough to trouble sunflower trees. Anything that creeps, climbs, and flies traverses the Sunflower Forest understory.
The majority of my sunflower trees litter this layer with bright blossoms, wilted petals, and plump seeds. This is where the action is! Goldfinches love the canopy of bright yellow, fragrant and fruitful. Before the seeds were ready, nearly as soon as the first few yellow faces opened to the sun, goldfinches made forays into the canopy, checking to see if food was available. They didn’t stay long, since seeds were not even pollinated yet. But now? Layers of unopened buds, fully exposed golden orbs, droopy petals, green seeds, and ready-to-go seed buffets lure our state bird (Washington, goldfinch) by the droves. I love the families, fledglings peeping loudly and shuffling their feathers, waiting for mama or daddy to bring the seeds to them. Parents, proud and busy, race to pop seeds into open mouths. Several males pop in, notice each other, and fight for feeding rights. Never fear, my little finches, plenty for all.
Also seen in the canopy layer: red-winged blackbirds, sparrows, finches, butterflies, spiders, yellow jackets, and multiple varieties of bees and flies.
The Emergent Layer:
I hadn’t thought much about this layer, the very tip top of the forest and everything above. Until this morning, still observing the finches, I noticed the shadow of a fledgling hawk pass across the top of the Sunflower Forest. Aha! Besides the very tallest of sunflower trees and nearby ornamental corn, our emergent forest layer is filled with other wildlife. The hawks (two parents and the tween), crows, starlings, magpies, and geese regularly putz back and forth above our heads. The only ones we all keep sharp eyes on are the hawks, of course. Hunters they are, and Junior is especially attached to our pasture, nearby power lines, and a few strategic trees. I can only guess how many friends have met their end as he learns to fly, land, and hunt.
So there you have it. The Sunflower Forest and its ecosystem. I’m sure your garden, yard, or field has yet more exciting nature (flora and fauna) inhabiting the different layers. Take a look. Grab that cup of tea or coffee and sit for a bit. Who do you see in the different sections of your ecosystem?
lollipop curl road
dancing, growing, reaching high;
what flavor opens?
forest lollipop by Angie Quantrell
Don’t these fern swirls look exactly like fuzzy lollipops? Of course, I don’t want to lick treats containing fuzz, but my imagination considers what interesting tastes live in forest lollipops.
Happy Haiku Day!