Archive for the ‘Palouse Pathways’ Category

Spring News

31 March 2014

More photos of the tiny white roadside flowers!
They’re back! They are a crucifer, probably an alyssum that most would consider a weed. I took my camera out to “the vacant lot” on a brisk, sunny Sunday afternoon for these shots.

flowers look like snow

They look like snow on the ground from a distance…

drift of tiny white flowers

Get closer and you still can’t really tell..

mat of tiny white flowers

Yes, they are flowers!

huge field of tiny flowers

From an ant’s eye view, they look like a huge field!

flowers in gravel

Basalt gravel adds a little character.

defiant little flower

They defiantly grow where no plant has grown before!

 

One year on the Palouse as of end of January!

tiny flowers with bicycle

My bicycle celebrates its first year in service.

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Freezing Fog

23 January 2014

view wide

We have had “freezing fog” on the Palouse for the past five days now. It may disappear tomorrow when the sun comes out. I was not used to it, so took some photos. Technically, it’s probably not “fog” but extremely low clouds. But as you can see, it turns the trees, bushes and plants white.

view narrow

Here are what some rose hips by my apartment looked like on the second day.

rose hips

And here’s what a branch up on the hill looked like on the fourth day.

branch with crystals

An undropped oak leaf is encrusted with fine ice crystals.

oak leaf

Up on the hill, the crystals were long and whiskery by the fourth day.

branches closeup

The structure of these crystals is quite fascinating and appears quite delicate. I’m sure if there had been more wind, they would have all been knocked off.

crystals closeup

A little further down the hill, a different branch carries its crystals in a stubbier pattern.

bush branch

Teasel Time

23 July 2013

This article includes quotes from my favorite wildflower book, Michigan Wildflowers by Helen V. Smith with illustrations by Ruth Powell Brede, first published in 1961.

It’s “teasel time” on the Palouse; the teasels are blooming!

teasel-at-roadside

Teasels growing in a gravelly area.

Teasel is in the Valerian Family. Valerian was a Roman emperor, notorious for being forced by others to persecute the Christians. The “valerian” herb is considered a rather potent medicine. Teasels are not native to the Americas.

teasel-in-field

“Teasel is a troublesome weed, but one species, Dipsacus fullonum L. (originally named by Linnaeus), was formerly grown commercially because the ripe inflorescences (flower heads) were used by textile mills for raising the nap on cloth.”

teasel-heads
These flower heads are quite noticeable when blooming, particularly up close.

teasel-head
The flowers are very small, but numerous, and bloom in rings around the head, which gives an unusual and distinct appearance.

teasel-head
teasel-head
This of course is also the time when many other summer flowers bloom. I photographed a few notable examples in a nearby field. Next we see a teasel growing alongside a Mullein plant. Also known as “Flannel Plant,” its leaves are unusually fuzzy.

teasel-and-mullein
Mullein is in the Figwort family. This family also includes Foxglove.
It is plentiful here, but it is one of many weeds introduced from Europe. In this area its flower heads are commonly attacked by insects. I know from other sources that its leaves and flowers have been used for centuries for their medicinal properties. One fascinating aspect of studying wildflowers is to find out how many were used for medicine in past times.

st-johns-wort

St. John’s-wort is showy when it first blooms because of all the flowers. When not blooming it is rarely noticed, but grows practically everywhere. Its small leaves are peculiar in that they are speckled with numerous translucent dots. The common species (Hypericum perforatum L.) was introduced from Europe. It was known there as an herbal medicine and the plant does indeed produce at least two biochemically active compounds.

star-thistle
I have yet to positively identify these striking blue-flowering plants, though they seem to be very similar to the Star-thistle.

cow-parsnip
This large Umbellifer (flowers in umbrella-shaped clusters), is probably Cow Parsnip. The family includes carrots, celery, parsley, anise, chervil, dill and fennel, as well as Poison Hemlock. Smith says of Cow Parsnip:

“The Indians used this species for medicine and food. The young stalks were roasted over hot coals. The leaf stalks were peeled and eaten raw like celery. The young roots when cooked taste like rutabaga.”

grasses
Of course the Palouse is covered with grasses. I am not a grasses expert, so can’t tell you which one these are.

grass-seed-heads
I should not ignore the fruit trees. They are growing produce that will turn ripe a bit later in the season.

unripe-apples
It is calming to walk among these growing things and see them surviving, persevering, quietly and without complaint. Is it not part of our work here to look after them?

Grand Avenue spring overview – closeups

8 June 2013

Top of Grand:

mullein and teasel

Last year’s mullein and teasel still lord over the smaller plants.


dames rocket and flax

Long-time garden escapees, Dame’s Rocket is the four-petaled flower, while Flax has five petals.


SEL Wayside Garden:
The pea family of plants is highlighted in this area (like the most-cultivated crop – lentils)…
lupine

Lupine.


broom groundcover

A carpet of bright broom stays close to the ground.


Upper Grand:
showy composite

I have not yet identified this one.


vetch

Vetch – very showy while it blooms. Another pea family plant.


cinquefoil bush

I believe this is a cinquefoil.


iris

Garden iris in a city-maintained corner mini-park.


slasify

Purple goat’s beard, also called Salsify. The roots are said to be edible.


Mayor’s Grove:
plaque

Mayor’s Grove plaque.


horse chestnut

Horse Chestnut. A very showy tree while blooming.


Lower (South) Grand:
willow fuzz

Willow fuzz looks very pretty when the sun shines through it…


wild rose bush

Wild rose bush, with dogwood in the background.


storksbill

Storksbill going to seed. A tiny spring flower related to the geranium.


Grand Avenue Greenway trail:
grand avenue greenway

Grand Avenue Greenway trail sign.


dames rocket

Dame’s Rocket abounds in this area. It is a crucifer – mustard family.

Grand Avenue – Spring overview

1 June 2013

I thought it was about time to take a ride down the main street in Pullman, Grand Avenue, and take some photos of what is there.

I actually took photos going down and coming back. But I have put them together into a single sequence.

I live near the north side of town, and this tour starts looking north from the bridge that takes cars over the creek (and railroad tracks) that come down from the north. To the north is the city of Spokane. Closer north is the city of Palouse.

grand-avenue-overview-20130601-00-498

The immediate area around the train tracks is a nature preserve with a walking/running/biking trail going through it. This trail goes downtown and then turns east towards Idaho. It follows a creek upstream all the way into Moscow, Idaho.

grand-avenue-overview-20130601-02-517

Grand Avenue has received a lot of civic attention recently, which has resulted in the running trail and in several mini-parks. The northern-most of these is the “SEL Wayside Garden.” I pass by it every day on my walk to work. Evidently, it was sponsored by SEL, my current employer.

grand-avenue-overview-20130601-03-519

Several entrances into the running trail show up along Grand Avenue. I will skip by the first for now (opposite Larry Street, where I live).

grand-avenue-overview-20130601-05-533

…And the second…

grand-avenue-overview-20130601-06-534

…which is across from the power substation (which has recently been upgraded with SEL protection devices).

grand-avenue-overview-20130601-08-547

Next we get to the first big cross street, which heads up into the north part of the WSU campus. Dominating this corner is Dissmore’s Market and its parking lot.

grand-avenue-overview-20130601-09-554

Just behind Dissmore’s is my favorite thrift store, Palouse Treasures.

grand-avenue-overview-20130601-10-558

And at the corner below the thrift store is another lovely little garden.

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The next entrance to the running trail is at the “President’s Grove.”

grand-avenue-overview-20130601-12-577

…This time I will peak in for a closer look…

grand-avenue-overview-20130601-13-575

…To find a nice little rest area with some benches. There is also a little picnic area further up the trail.

grand-avenue-overview-20130601-14-682

The next improvement along Grand Avenue is the “Mayor’s Grove.”

grand-avenue-overview-20130601-15-585

It contains a bench, a plaque, and a lovely horse chestnut tree.

grand-avenue-overview-20130601-16-582

And now we arrive at the point were the train tracks turn east and west, and where the little creek running down from the north meets the bigger creek running downhill from the east.

Scouts’ Park

grand-avenue-overview-20130601-18-667

In this park, you can also see where another creek that runs down from the south comes out from under the sidewalk and joins up with that same creek running west.

grand-avenue-overview-20130601-21-670

Here we are at Main Street, downtown Pullman. The area is planted with lots trees (peppers?) which are just leafing out now and very light yellow-green. The creek running down from the south runs directly under this crosswalk.

grand-avenue-overview-20130601-24-588

Here is where the little creek submerges, a few blocks farther south.

grand-avenue-overview-20130601-28-649

Across from the Old European restaurant is Bill’s Welding, which includes a junk yard with this fence and planting in front of it.

grand-avenue-overview-20130601-33-640

…In back of the fence…

grand-avenue-overview-20130601-34-639

Also from this position can be glimpsed a vacant lot across the street full of blue-purple flowers.

grand-avenue-overview-20130601-39-636

Just a bit further down is a large old house in a very large yard. It is now Kimball’s Mortuary, but I’m sure it has a lot of history behind it.

grand-avenue-overview-20130601-42-610

Next, a more modern building, the Living Faith Fellowship church. Below it are the Post Office, a car dealer and other businesses of less notable architecture. Since I am more attracted to the flora and fauna, let’s next look at a roadside section of the little creek overgrown with willows currently full of “fuzz” from their flowers going to seed, and also filled with wild rose, dogwood, and cattails.

grand-avenue-overview-20130601-43-612

The wild rosebushes are in full flower right now. The cattails are from last summer.

grand-avenue-overview-20130601-46-624

And here we are at Bishop Boulevard, near the southern end of town and the southern end of Grand Avenue. A sign tells us that the Ford dealer up the street has sponsored the plantings in this area.

grand-avenue-overview-20130601-47-621

Some closeups of trees and flowers will appear in a follow-up article…

Vacant lot by the bluff

16 May 2013

The day was beautiful so I took some time to walk around the corner to the vacant lot, with my camera.

The lot, showing bluff, apartment buildings, grass, trees and flowers.
the lot
California poppies are the first to catch the eye…

poppies and alyssum

…shown sharing the field with alyssum.


Their orange flowers are unmistakeable.
poppy flowers
The small trees are cottonwoods.
cottonwood leaves
A wild daisy makes the perfect landing pad…
daisy with fly
Last year’s teasel stands tall.
teasels

They thrive in disturbed soil.


The cliff beneath the bluff is man-made.
cliff
A dandelion flower survives in the cliff’s shade.
dandelions

A view from the bluff

12 May 2013
view from the bluff

The view from where I live, looking roughly north.

I live on a bluff. Opposite are the buildings owned by the company where I work. In this photo, you can see the route I take each weekday morning on my way to work.

In the valley is a little creek. It is one of the few protected areas in this region. On the communications tower live two hawks; their domain is inhabited by rabbits, geese, ducks, a variety of other birds, snakes, and at least one coyote (I’ve seen it).

On another day I may go with my camera down there – there is a bike/exercise path that goes through – and take some photos for you.

This weekend marked the grand opening of a totally renovated Church of Scientology building in Portland. I helped a bit on its “files project,” as I did at Seattle while its building was being renovated. I would have liked to go, but the time and expense involved in getting there was more than I could confront. That does not mean the occasion was not momentous. In the grand scheme of things, our churches do very important work. I doubt it will ever be officially recognized.

So I stayed home and worked on setting up my work area. Below is what it looks like so far.

I don’t need it excessively fancy. Part of my experiment now is to re-purpose mass-manufactured electronic goods for personal use, and some of the results of that experiment are illustrated in this photo.

As I have mentioned previously, we have an amazing thrift shop in Pullman (Palouse Treasures) not far from where I live, and it has helped me to stock my work bench with power supplies, tools, and organizing bins.

Though I do miss re-PC and the huge Goodwill Outlet in Seattle, Palouse Treasures always has something interesting for the discerning shopper!

my work bench

My electronics work bench, as of this date.

Larry visits Idaho

5 May 2013
Chipman Trail sign

Pullman entrance to the Chipman Trail

Idaho is only about 6 miles from Pullman, so it wasn’t that long a trip!

The area was experiencing an inversion. Warm air pushing down from the east. Temperatures around 80°F and dry. I couldn’t resist going out for a bike ride. I didn’t pack water because I didn’t think I would stay out long. But after an interesting visit to Palouse Treasures thrift shop, I set out to see if the North end of the Pullman bike trail connected to the Chipman Trail. And sure enough, it did!

So I went out on it. My basic purpose after getting under way was to reach someplace where I could get some water. This happened just across the Idaho border, at the Moscow (weird name for a Western town!) Walmart. That’s about six miles out on the trail; I skipped the last mile and came back.

There were quite a few people using the trail. A few walkers and runners. A lot of bikers. And a group of student-age people riding bikes, skateboards, roller skates (a church group?). The trail follows the creek, so is somewhat scenic, unlike much of the surrounding area, except on a grand scale (the rolling hills). If you slow down and watch you’ll see lots of birds. And a few butterflies and insects were out.

The ride “up” to Idaho is indeed uphill (though very slight gradient – maybe 100 feet in 7 miles) but was also against the odd east wind. But as I glided back down towards Pullman I thought: What a joy this is! The greenery, the birds, the rustling grass. The sun twinkling in the moving water of the creek. What a simple pleasure!

I wish everyone on the planet could enjoy such things!

Chipman Trail info

Info sign at Pullman entrance to the Chipman Trail.

Springtime “snow” falls

13 April 2013
snow on ground

“Snow” melting on the ground.

I was on my way home after finding a great used FM tuner at Palouse Treasures and forgetting to buy more solder at Radio Shack. It was about 1pm. And as I rode my bike that last half mile back home, the skies opened up! But what fell down from those dark clouds on this cool Spring day? Rain, right? And I came home all wet and had to change my clothes…Nope. As pictured above, it was something more like snow. Riding through it, it felt sort of like little bits of styrofoam. It was little icy pellets, but they weren’t hard. They bounced on the ground like popcorn.

“I want to get a picture of this!” I thought, and after parking my bike on the tarp I have for it just inside the door, I went and got my camera and stepped back outside. The “stuff” had been falling in sheets! But now it was mostly gone. I walked up the hill a bit and found some still visible on the grass beside the driveway. And then I noticed more lodged in the junipers that serve as our landscaping here. And so I got a few more photos of the stuff before it all turned back into liquid water.

spring snow

Our “snow” caught in the juniper just before melting.

Cope and Organize

Most of us spend too much time coping and never organize for increased efficiency or expansion. Others do nothing but “organize” and get no real work done. You have to cope with the real scene and also make some time to organize towards the ideal scene. The game is to achieve the ideal scene. We seldom ever get there. That’s what makes it a game, of course. But if you don’t even try, it’s for sure you’ll never get there. And one way of saying “working towards a more ideal scene” is “ORGANIZE.”

We do far too little of it at work. Production Troubleshooting is a study in the perfection of COPE.

At home I get some chance to indulge myself. And though I still feel miles away from any scene one could consider “ideal,” at least now I can see some movement in that direction. Like the nice new (used) FM tuner I got today for $13 (I bought it because it had a power connector on it that I needed for another project; that it works it just gravy!).

Short list of projects

For the sake of trivia, I will list some of the organize efforts going on at home:

  • Make several real tables using IKEA table legs. These are my favorite table legs because they work and they are also easily removable. I finally got around to ordering a dozen (they cost $3 each plus shipping) so now have a second real table (in the bedroom, where I am now) and legs for two more 2-foot by 4-foot wood tops which have yet to materialize.
  • Put heavier projects (power supplies with transformers) in boxes on the floor, while most projects are closer to table height, to make the front panels accessible. I found some cool aluminum enclosures on eBay and got two. Perfect for this purpose. Recently some parts needed to complete them came in, so they are becoming useable.
  • More furnishings (for my living room). My plan is to make the living room into a study area with three sections. One for the arts, one for science and electronics, and one for Scientology. The area needs tables (above), shelves, and chairs. But I didn’t want heavy furniture, and one night I thought: “I wonder if they make inflatable furniture?” And they do! So I am going to try some.
  • Electronics projects sort-out. These were in some disarray, as I was coping for so long with either too little time or too little finances. Now they can begin to move forward in a more orderly manner. My box of manual controllers (called “faders” in the business) is now ready, and the old circular display has been upgraded so it’s easier to use. It will eventually be joined by other displays that operate in different modes, and one will be very video-like.
  • Computers sort-out. I no longer feel the need to access the internet on a different computer from the one I store all my files on. So that older computer is being re-purposed into an experimental computer for the “learning room.” My under-used little netbox will now serve as my electronics bench computer, and my two portables will eventually be deployed at the other learning stations. My “main” computer was recently upgraded from 1GB of RAM (Random Access Memory) to nearly 4GB and the difference is really noticeable. Besides the fact that my phone line is quite noisy, the DSL connection to the internet works well, so for the time being, that’s all good.

Yes, these are the results of letting an electronics hobbyist with an income loose in a 2-room apartment!

Don’t talk to strangers

26 March 2013

The tiny flowers that look like snow

The edges of the sidewalk up at the northern end of Grand Ave. have recently become speckled with sprinkles of white. It looks like a little bit of snow hanging on in the last cold days of spring, or the salt sometimes used to make such snow melt at a lower temperature.

But it’s neither of those things; it’s a white-flowered ground cover. I picked one of the flowers the other day and brought it home and looked at it under the microscope. It’s a four-petaled flower only 5mm across (that’s about 3/16 of an inch). There seem to be more than 4 stamens, though. The foliage is dark and looks a little like a succulent, or like bedstraw (a wildflower used as ground cover). I haven’t figured out for sure yet what it is. Walking along, you can’t really tell it’s a flower. Just something white sprinkled on the ground.

tiny spring flower

Our tiny roadside spring flower.

Don’t talk to strangers

A few days ago I saw a girl walking up Grand as I was walking down Grand after work. She looked a little worried or something. Then I saw, up Terre View to the west, a little boy – her little boy. She waited for him at the corner then walked home with him.

The next day (or the day after) I saw him again. He was walking home himself this time, and he took the “shortcut” up to the first level parking lot of my building. Did he live in the Glendimer?

And not soon after that I saw him again. He looked at me like he kind of recognized me, and climbed up the rock at the mini-park at the corner and said, “king of the mountain!” and smiled at me. We walked together for a while, then I asked him if he lived up there in those buildings and he said yes. I told him I lived there, too. I said something else – forget what – and he answered but said, “but you’re a stranger, and I’m not supposed to talk to strangers.” “It’s good they’re teaching you that,” I said, thinking that probably wasn’t exactly true. Then I walked ahead of him and crossed the street. But as I was getting across, he ran to the corner, and I waited for him to cross, and we walked up to his “shortcut.” “I like to go this way,” he said. “I know you do,” I said, “I go around the other way.” When I got up the driveway, he crossed my path again, then took another “shortcut” up through the juniper bushes that cover the hill between the lower parking lot and the next higher one.

Not advice for a lifetime

I wondered later if people were getting stuck with this advice that they were taught as children. I wasn’t taught this. And for good reason: It doesn’t work. Even for a child it doesn’t work. What if you’re hurt and need help? What about your first day in school when everybody is a stranger? How do you make friends? It just totally doesn’t work.

Adults do it, I figured, because they feel like children are too trusting. They haven’t developed adult discernment skills yet, so can’t tell a slime ball from someone who might be a valuable friend. But then, lots of adults can’t tell the difference, either!

The lessons they never taught me

When I was a teenager, I developed quite an upset over the fact that there was no place that taught me about people. How to understand them, how to help them, how to live with them. My parents didn’t seem to know much about this. The only real advice I got along this line was from my mother who told me once that if I got attacked by a bully I should fight back. They’d leave me alone after that. Pretty good advice.

I desperately wanted answers to why people were the way they are, and what to do about it. But just as my parents seemed a bit clueless along this line, so my schools didn’t seem to want to touch this subject with a ten foot pole.

Now they teach psychology in school. But these days, psychology isn’t really about people, either. It’s about behavior and how to control it. That’s what the people who pay psychologists have always been interested in. I don’t know if that’s what most psychologists are actually interested in, though.

 

What we should tell our kids, and what they deserve to be told, is that we don’t want them to make friends with adults until their parent or parents have met the person. That’s because adults have the skills to be able to tell slime balls from good people. And when they are grown up, they’ll know too, because it’s taught in school.

In fact, being able to talk to “strangers” is one of the higher of adult social skills. And a person who can turn strangers into friends can have a good, full life. One who can’t will still feel like that little boy walking home from school, not sure it’s okay to talk to that somewhat interesting old man.