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Saturday, October 23, 2010


Saturday, I attended an interesting presentation on Cattail reeds at the Mercer Slough Nature Center. This facility is shared between the Bellevue Parks and the Pacific Science Center. Located just south of the downtown core, along the freeway it exists as a preserved area of rare environment.

The facility is beautiful and blends into the environment. The original education center was a house moved to the property years ago. The new buildings hang on the hill and there are walkways and viewing towers.

Filed with light and wood, the floor was stunning.

When Lake Washington was lowered as a result of digging the Ship canal, several native habitats were lost. Sloughs and marshes were waters from the creeks and streams ran into the river were lost and diverted. The whole Black River, which connected the Cedar to the Duwamish disappeared. The Cedar was channeled through a canal to the lake. The Mercer Slough is being protected as an important habitat for plants fish and wildlife. It is also the location of the settlement Sah tsu khal.

There has been historic settlements on these waterways for thousands of years. The Duwamish people inhabited settlements at the slough all along Lake Washington, Lake Union and the Black River and the Duwamish rivers. The clan was powerful, controlling commerce and transport of goods coming in from over the mountain. Chief Seattle was a member then leader of this tribe. Duwamish means "People of the Inside"

Much of the culture was centered on the use of both fresh water and salt water resources. The Lake People used the resources of Lake Washington , Lake Sammamish and the large rivers. Canoes of different types were made. Small canoes were used to maneuver in the calm waters and rivers, handy for getting into low water marshes. Larger salt water craft were for rougher waters and the long distance travel across and north and south along Puget Sound.

Tom Speer began the presentation with a welcome dance and song from the youth group and many member adults joined in. He then told the story of Little Silver Salmon.

Now is the time for this story since Silver Salmon go upstream when the Big-leaf Maple leaves fall. Here is an image of part of the story in Lushootseed and English. Tom told the story in both languages.

There was discussion of the use of cattail reeds for weaving. These mats formed the walls within the longhouses which were homes for extended multi-family groups. During the summer the population would become more mobile. They moved throughout the region working the land for harvesting and trade. Their houses were portable pole structures with the reed mats serving as walls and ceiling.

Mary Lou Slaughter was present and she demonstrated her craft of weaving and clothing production. Cattails are harvested in the late Summer and early Fall. Fine reed ends were stripped and formed into twine. The reeds are woven in a familiar fashion to make baskets.

The mats are made with a technique that is more like sewing. The reeds are laid long ways and a long wood needle was used to pierce through the reeds. D"Ann , an apprentice weaver demonstrated.

A cord was drawn though to bind the reeds together. A grooved mat presser, which matches the dowel, presses the reeds to prevent ripping.

Mary Lou is holding a bundle of reed twine she had worked on. Notice her shirt and the caption. Lushootseed for cattail, it is today's title.

Bark and abalone hat

Mary Lou was working on this Reed Vest

This shows you the needle part way along, the traditional double headed reed presser and the previous row and cording.

There were other items presented. I loved the cod fish lure. It is about eight inches long.

The little graphic shows how it works. Pushed down into the depths and let go, the whirling lure catches the fishes attention and draws it upward.

You can learn more here http://www.duwamishtribe.org/ about the tribes history and their current struggle to gain recognition.

Here you will find information on the Lushootseed language. Not having the proper program to type the font used in this language , our title today is the best I can do to write "cattail" in Lushootseed language.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"Feed Me, Seymour!!!"

My friends Ron and Nancy Hanko ( http://www.ronaldhanko-orchidhunter.blogspot.com/ ) invited me to join them on a visit to Summer Lake; Ron's "Little Bog of Horrors". I had expressed interest and wonder over this unique place in Skagit County. Sometime in the past, no record of when, someone planted non-native insectivorous plants around this small lake. I was interested in seeing them for myself. Ron first wrote about the bog in his June 22nd entry. As usual he has spectacular photos to share. There is one photo of what appears to be a Meadowhawk Dragonfly trapped in a pitcher.

I am glad I had a personal tour. I would not have felt comfortable going into this unique environment for the first time. It was unlike anything I have ever experienced. The small lake, perhaps 1/4 mile long and perhaps 200 yards wide is located in a fairly rural area. There are no homes in the immediate area, so the who and when of the plantings takes on a bit of mystery.

I was dressing in my finest getting-wet clothes. Rain pants over jeans and my NEOS which are one piece overshoes that go on over shoes and pants legs. Ron advised my a ski / walking pole was needed so I brought that along. I didn't question it. Arriving at the lake we had to cross a small wet area to get to an island. there was an assorted collection of boards and small scraps of wood that you ventured across. They were very loosely, sorta kinda, connected to each other. I think someone used the "by guess and by gosh" method for this. I very quickly realised that this was going to be a bit more than a stroll around the edge of a lake.

I successfully crossed the planks only sinking to mid calf. The boots kept me dry. Reaching the apparent land I was in for another surprise...

It wasn't land. It was a peat island. A thick mattress of Sphagnum moss and other vegetation. The ground was spongy and in some places if you stool too long your foot would slowly sink in a bit. Most unnerving was if you walked heavy of step, the ground would quiver. It was like walking on a firm water bed. Along the way I thought I would check out the shoreline. I stuck my ski pole in, and it never reached bottom. Straight down, no bottom felt.

Immediately we found Purple Pitcher plants and Sundew. The Purples were short and wide-mouthed, growing in dense clusters.

They have tall elaborate flowers which have long since dried and gone to seed.

Most of them were filled with water and had quite a collection of bugs. This hapless moth is doomed.

Pitcher plants and other insectivorous plants produce tempting smells or sweet attractants. Bugs will enter the plant and become trapped in sticky hairs or be unable to navigate back out.

Spiders take advantage and there were many cob webs.

Sundew is a tiny native plant. The filaments hold a drop of sweet , sticky attractant. When a bug lands in the fibers, the pad curls up and traps the bug. The dead bug is broken down and the nitrogen and minerals in the body are used by the plant. Thus these plants can grow in soils that are acidic and mineral poor. These Sundews were tiny, most not bigger than the tip of my finger. Usually they were one or two pads. I did find this nice one that I can even see a remnant bug in the left-hand pad. I love how the sunlight glinted off the drops.

The Sphagnum moss is Brown Sphagnum, which turns bright red in the Fall. Wild Cranberry was everywhere but I needed a bit of a learning curve to actually see it. The berries grown right on the moss and sometimes even tucked into it. The ripe berries blended perfectly.

Ron told me to bring a container and I was prepared to pick some as we went along. I would put them in my pocket and transfer them to my backpack container periodically. They rattled nicely. They are way smaller than domestic cranberries. They also had less dense skin so I figured I could use them for baking scones. I did a little tweaking of my favorite recipe and they turned out OK!

We made our way around the south end of the lake. Ron pointed out an island at the end. He said last time it was at the opposite end of the lake. You can see another perspective of this island in the topmost photo here.

Now I know some people like to tease but I don't think that is Ron's style. Sure enough, the island is a huge raft made of very large logs/ trees. When you are up close you can see where metal spikes were used to construct it. The trees growing on the raft appear to be hemlock and Western Red Cedar and I would guess 20+ years old. I suspect that this was once someones foundation for a vacation cabin. Possibly a cabin / office for a timber pond. I got the idea to check out the lake on Google and see where the "island" was and it is clearly to the west of where it was on Saturday. Ron managed to get it embedded in his Blog Page, or you can check out "summer lake skagit county Washington"

It was here that we found an abundance of Yellow Pitcher plants.

They are taller and really stand out. From the road I could clearly see them on the other side of the lake. I now know what to look for and I suspect I might be looking for them on other pocket lakes as I drive here and there.

Some of the yellows have striking red veins.

Again many were filled with the former bugs. Many supported a resident spider that had spin some bits of web in hope to trap an arrival. Or perhaps a few well placed web strands were their own lifelines. The spiders lurked near the entry and I imagine what didn't get trapped in the web could be tackled.
I am pretty proud of this "The Time Tunnel" shot. The minute I saw it flash up on my screen after getting the shot, I remembered that old TV show. Yes it is on Hulu.

This red bug is living dangerously on the edge.

The final spot to search is for the rare and fading White Pitchers. There were only about 7-10 plants , small and straggly, clearly past their prime.

Aren't they spectacular!!!

Everyone knows this plant.

The Venus Fly Trap has a few small hairs on the inner surface of the pad. The bug needs to strike the hair once to set off a timer. If the bug strikes a hair a second time within 20 seconds of the first trip, the pad clamps shut, trapping the bug. If the bug escapes, the plant will not shut. This is an interesting energy saving adaptation. It makes sure the pads stay open to receive nutrition.. There were few Venus Fly trap plants in this small section. If there were more plants in the area they were small and hidden. Ron said there were some Cobra Lily at the opposite end of the lake but he did not find it prior to our meeting. I saw Cobra Lily at Trader Joe's this week. They are somewhat popular for having in the home.

Have your own Audrey II, just in time for Halloween.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Kubota Gardens

I woke up this morning at very dark'o-clock listening to the rain torrenting off the roof past clogged gutters. The first deluge of the Fall is here.

I pondered what I would do this day. Being in bed, listening to the rain is a cozy thing. I spent Friday night with my sisters and together it pretty much gave me the feeling of wanting to feel "home". To me that means my childhood neighborhood in Rainier Beach. I knew at this season, on a gritty rainy day I needed to see Kubota Gardens. http://www.kubota.org/

Entry gate by Gerard Tsutakawa, son of sculptor George Tsutakawa. The representation of the sunrise is a nod to the tradition of honoring the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu.

Fujitaro Kubota was born in Kochi Prefecture in Shikoku Island, Japan in 1879. He came to America in 1907 and established his home. In 1927 he acquired the land that the garden sits on and studied landscaping. He and his son Tom worked the land and were key figures in the Seattle garden and landscape industry. The family was interred in Mindoka, Idaho while Tom served in Army Intelligence. The garden was completed in 1962 but remained a private place, not open to the public. I can remember walking past and wondering what it was like inside. I do remember getting one opportunity to enter with a school group. It was Toms wish that the future provide for the elders and other citizens who could not climb "the Mountainside". Since then, a flat garden was established with plenty of benches for sitting.

In 1987 the city of Seattle acquired the garden and the land is protected and cared for by the Kubota Garden Foundation. They offer tours for groups as well as on a drop in basis on the fourth Saturday every month at 10 am, April through October. There is a chance for one tour at the end of this month.

I wandered about. Trails and paths lead here and there. Few signs or markers point the way, one must explore. Small paths no more that a person wide take you into and out of groves.

Stone steps are well placed. Several creeks and waterfalls cross the property and with last nights rain they were running swift and muddy.

I saw the genius of Mr Kubotas work. It was as if he knew exactly how to plan this garden so that 50 years from now, "Marti will appreciate this wonder, or that vantage point". Every plant and tree looks like it was planned to be just so. But, at the same time, nothing looks manipulated or structured.

The Moon Bridge is a focal point of the water complex. It symbolizes the difficulty of living a good life. A steep rounded pitch "Hard to walk up and hard to walk down".

Maples and conifers of every kind dominate the landscape. I cannot begin to identify the international encyclopedia of plants. I assume most of them are Japanese and Asian in origin. The garden paths show you wonderful views and hidden surprises. Small paths take you off to see something from a different advantage. The magic of such a place is in what you choose to see, both in close detail and in the broadest sense.

The colors were starting but I am sure that in a few more weeks the full effect of all the Maples changing will be stunning. Robins flew about in noisy flocks. They are feeding on Ash and other berries. No doubt most of them are pretty gorged on fruit. As the Fall progresses and the fruits age on the trees and plants they start to ferment. It is not unusual to see Robins drunkenly hanging on branches, floppy and drunk.

A Yew species and berries. It is from the bark of this Genus that Taxol was discovered.

I drove home past my childhood home . I marveled, once again, how the city did such a great job at making the length of the blocks shorter and the hills less steep. I stopped in front of the house and could see that there is still at least one apple tree in back and it was filled with apples. Oh how I wish I was brave enough to go beg some of those apples from the current resident. I took the long way home via Seward Park and Rainier Valley, 23rd Ave to Montlake. So much has changed and so much remains the same.

I came home with well over 150 photos. It is hard to select favorites to share with you but here they are.
A variegated cedar

I wish the sky had been an easier backdrop for this twisted old tree.

Hydrangeas added a burst of color.

The Heart Bridge, crossing Mapes Creek, a replica of a traditional red bridge on Shikoku.

A cone of an unknown conifer. It was stout and solid, unlike many of our cones.

These bushes resembled a Laurel species and the blue berries with red twigs were dazzling. I feel like I have seen this plant in Belize or in Tikal, Guatamala.

It would be a wonderful experience to see this garden in snowfall.