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Another Bainbridge Outing

August 20, 2011 Leave a comment

Bloedel Reserve

I was going to call this Bainbridge Outing, but then I did a search and discovered that I already wrote a Bainbridge Outing post, recounting our visit at the end of last December. I even featured the same house shown, once again, above. But last time I provided the front view. Here you see the rear view from below.

The impetus for the trip was an email to members from Bloedel Reserve* informing us of their evening walks a couple of weeks back and last night. They close at 7:00 PM in the summer, but on these special evenings, they remain open (for members only) until 9:00 PM.

*I have written about Bloedel before. This time, let me remind you of what the reserve is by quoting from their home page: “The Bloedel Reserve is an internationally renowned public garden whose primary mission is to provide a tranquil and refreshing experience of nature. The Reserve’s 150 acres are a unique blend of natural woodlands and beautifully landscaped gardens, including a Japanese Garden, a Moss Garden, and Reflection Pool, and the Bloedel’s former estate home. We invite you to visit this Northwest treasure.” The reserve is on the north end of Bainbridge Island, which itself is just across the sound from Seattle, a 40-minute ferry ride away from downtown.

Our plan was to head over to Bainbridge in mid-afternoon, have some time to wander around before dinner, then have an early dinner in the downtown area before heading up to Bloedel for our evening walk. This is essentially what we did, except for taking into account that one can’t expect to simply show up and drive onto the next ferry on a sunny, warm, summer Friday afternoon. Between peak tourist season, the best weekend weather of the summer, and the end of the week for commuters, the downtown ferry terminal was mobbed. We approached the terminal a little before 3:00, imagining that maybe we could be among the last to drive onto the 3:00 ferry, only to realize it would take 10 minutes just to turn into the the pay booth area and buy our tickets. We then drove into one of the waiting lines while the 3:00 ferry boarded, some 15 minutes late. To our right were column upon column of cars that also weren’t making the 3:00 ferry. Well, okay, we’ll wait for the 3:45, which we did. But when that started boarding, there were columns of cars to our far left who went first, and I realized we were at risk of waiting for the 4:40, which would totally mess up our plans.

It was pretty suspenseful, what with boarding being stopped just before our column of cars so that the ferry staff could figure out how much more room they had. Then they let us on. We were maybe the fifth-to-last car to make it. Phew!

We got into town and parked at around 5:00, giving us just enough time to visit one store before dinner and Bloedel. On to Churchmouse Yarns and Teas, always our first stop in town. I don’t knit, and I don’t drink much tea, so it’s a bit of a puzzle why I love the store so, but I do. The layout, the staff, the displays. It’s a most warm and welcoming haven. Right away, Gail saw a scarf (Churchmouse designs and sells many patterns as well as yarn) and discussed it with the saleswoman while I checked out the tea. Then we looked at the Emma Bridgewater bird mugs. And dog mugs. And flower mugs. And back to the teas, at which point the saleswoman joined us to explain what some of the more interesting teas were.

We talked over what to buy, at which point, John appeared from the rear and began to tell us more about the teas. John is co-owner, with his wife, and we had a good time talking with him about the store. (You can read more about John and Kit here.) We then selected several teas, headed to the counter, paid for the teas and yarn, and spoke more with our saleswoman. By the time we left the store, it was dinnertime.

On many of our trips over to Bainbridge in the last year and a half, we have eaten at Cafe Nola, a fine restaurant at the far end of the commercial strip. But yesterday Gail wanted to try another place, Hitchcock, which she said she had read a good review of. What she had failed to explain, or I failed to understand, is that she had just read the good review. In fact, it had appeared that very day, yesterday, in the Seattle Times.

Each Friday, the Times has a weekend entertainment section with movie reviews, theater and concert reviews and listings, and so on. Plus, a featured restaurant review and a short cheap-eats review. When I open up the Friday paper, I often turn first to the restaurant review, just to see if it’s a place near us or out in the suburbs, and whether we frequent or already know about it. Of course, if the review excites me, I make a mental note not to eat there for at least a month, since it will be too crowded.

Normally, finding the restaurant review in the weekend section requires turning to page 5 or 7. Not yesterday, for the restaurant was featured on the cover, with a full page picture of the chef exhibiting a dish of food and the words “From Farm to Fork.” I put it aside for later reading, not bothering to turn inside since I could already see what the place was. And then I never got back to it. Nor did I pay attention to the full wording on the cover: “Hitchcock: From Farm to Fork.” The restaurant name hadn’t registered.

No wonder, when we entered Hitchcock at 5:30, the hostess asked if we had a reservation. I hardly thought that would be necessary. Only when we sat down did Gail mention the review again, at which point our waitress, overhearing us, headed over to the door to grab a copy from the mound of Seattle Times in order to pull out the Weekend section and show us the cover. Sure enough, it said Hitchcock, the very restaurant we were now sitting in. And we were lucky to get a table at all.

To start, we shared a small plate of Marcona almonds, pimentòn. Then Gail had one of the cheeses by the ounce, the Big Boy Blue with bing cherry compote and lavosh while I had the Persephone Farm baby greens, cava vinaigrette, and pickled strawberries. Gail’s main course was the egg fettucini, which I see on the online menu as coming with pork confit, chanterelle mushrooms, and mustard greens, but I don’t remember the menu last night mentioning pork. Maybe I mis-read it, or maybe they changed the menu. I had the pork chop with creamy farro, mustard greens, and rainier cherry compote. Everything was superb. We passed on dessert, regretfully, both because we had eaten plenty and because it was time to get to Bloedel.

Oh, as for that Seattle Times review, which I still haven’t read, let me take a look and see if there are any quotes worth sharing. Well, it describes the reviewer’s experience with a tasting menu, very different from our dinner. Here’s one excerpt:

What he puts on the plate is often spectacular and scrupulously detailed. A single small turnip is unforgettable. Soft and sweet from its olive-oil bath, it’s set like a pearl in a swag of bitter turnip greens alongside a swipe of garlic and anchovy sauce. Cheeses each merit a different garnish. So do oysters: citrus granita for Baywater Sweets; peppery horseradish mignonette for Amai; simply lemon for tide-tumbled Blue Pools.

Bites like these leave you hungry for more. Move on to lemon-dressed arugula rampant with raisins, pine nuts and leaves of grana padano cheese. Or to crostini topped with gravlax: pale, lush marbled salmon cured with dill and dabbed with crème fraîche. Or to lonza — near-translucent rounds of salt-cured, dry-aged pork loin circling a scoop of grape granita that sends out tendrils of sweet-tart juice as it melts into fruity olive oil.

On to Bloedel Reserve at last. We arrived punctually at 7:00, parked, and walked the standard route outlined on their map. For a while, as we crossed the meadow and entered the wooded bird reserve, we saw and heard no one else. The reserve was tranquil, just as described on their home page. We soon crossed paths with others, as we walked through the woods and out toward the visitor center (the old Bloedel mansion). From the visitor center’s rear, we had spectacular views down to the lawn pictured in the photo above, out to the little inlet of Port Madison, and northeast across Puget Sound to north Seattle, Shoreline, and Edmonds, with the Cascades in the distance. We headed down the stairway on the side of the house, out to the lawn and the view just above the water, then followed the path through the glen and on to the Japanese Garden.

At the garden, the Guest House was open to visitors. We had never been inside before. Coffee and lemonade were available, and we could sit and relax or explore the guest bedrooms and bathrooms. (I believe the Bloedel grandchildren would stay there decades ago.) The self-guided tour booklet has this description of the house:

The Guest House was designed by Paul Hayden Kirk, a Seattle architect recommended to the Bloedels by Tommy Church, and completed in 1964. The structure is made of vertical grain, clear, Western red cedar (Thuja plicata), supported by Douglas fir posts that came from Mr. Bloedel’s timber property in Bellingham. The rest of the wood came from MacMillan-Bloedel Ltd. in Canada. The floor inside is teak from the battleship U.S.S. New Jersey, acquired from a government surplus property disposal sale. The chairs and coffee tables were hand-made by master furniture maker George Nakashima of New Hope, Pennsylvania, and were a gift to the Bloedels from the architect. Mr. Nakashima was a classmate of Mr. Kirk at the University of Washington. Paul Kirk once commented in an interview that this building attempts to combine a Japanese style with Northwest Native American.

As this suggests, it’s a wonderful structure, and we were glad finally to enter it.

From the Japanese Garden, we walked through Gail’s favorite, the moss garden, then past the reflection pool, around its far side to the meadow, and back across the meadow to our car. It was 8:15 and we figured we could make the 8:55 ferry.

As we got closer to town, I began to think, with the ferries running late, that maybe we could even make the 8:15 ferry. But no. As we pulled up to the booth to pay, it was pulling out. We would have a while to wait. Having done so much waiting already, I decided to make good use of the time. While Gail stayed behind in the car, I walked up the hill and back into town in order to shop for food at the island’s principal supermarket, Town & Country Market. We needed some items, and this seemed preferable to stopping back in Seattle. Plus, I got to explore the offerings, even as I worried that I might have mis-calculated and Gail would drive onto the ferry without me.

No such problem. I descended to the ferry waiting area just as the ferry approached the dock. Some 15 minutes later, we were on board. We pulled out around 9:15, in dusk. It was a beautiful crossing, with the Olympics silhouetted to the west, above Bainbridge, and Seattle’s downtown slowly growing and resolving to the east. A perfect ending to the day.

Categories: Garden, Restaurants, Travel

The Conscientious Gardener

June 8, 2011 Leave a comment

I know, this is a first — a post about a gardening book. But not just any gardening book. This one is written by a friend of mine, and it just had a rave mini-review in the Sunday NYT.

As you can see above, the book is The Conscientious Gardener: Cultivating a Garden Ethic, The author is University of Washington plant and garden expert Sarah Reichard, who recently became the director of the UW Botanic Gardens. One component of the UWBG is the Washington Park Arboretum. As some of you know, the arboretum is our neighbor. We see it out our back windows.

The NYT review was part of a summer reading roundup of gardening books. Sarah’s was the second book treated. Reviewer Dominque Browning writes:

Sarah Hayden Reichard has written a modest and unassuming but powerful book, THE CONSCIENTIOUS GARDENER: Cultivating a Garden Ethic (University of California Press, $27.50), arguing that gardeners should be on the front line when it comes to recognizing the interconnection of mankind and nature. “Practices and products,” she writes, have crept into the craft of gardening “that decrease its long-term sustainability.” I, for one, will never again resort to pesticides or peat moss after reading her book. Reichard’s chapter on soil, “the skin of the earth,” is an excellent refresher for any gardener.

Sarah had alerted her facebook friends a month ago that her book was slated to be reviewed on an upcoming Sunday, and I’ve been checking. Finally, she wrote last week that it was online. On reading the review, I went to Amazon, examined the contents in more detail, and ordered it. It arrived Monday afternoon. I got some ways into it that night, but then lent it to Joel. He has raised concerns for a couple of years about the nature of our garden. I figure the book will provide more concrete arguments for what we should change and why, and I look forward to the conversations we’ll have, once all three of us have read it.

Below is the blurb about the book at UC Press. Have a look at the book yourself. You’ll surely find it interesting, however engaged you are in gardening.

In his influential A Sand County Almanac, published at the beginning of the environmental movement in 1949, Aldo Leopold proposed a new ecological ethic to guide our stewardship of the planet. In this inspiring book, Sarah Hayden Reichard tells how we can bring Leopold’s far-reaching vision to our gardens to make them more sustainable, lively, and healthy places. Today, gardening practices too often damage the environment: we deplete resources in our own soil while mining for soil amendments in far away places, or use water and pesticides in ways that can pollute lakes and rivers. Drawing from cutting edge research on urban horticulture, Reichard explores the many benefits of sustainable gardening and gives straightforward, practical advice on topics such as pest control, water conservation, living with native animals, mulching, and invasive species.

The book includes a scorecard that allows readers to quickly evaluate the sustainability of their current practices, as well as an extensive list of garden plants that are invasive, what they do, and where they should be avoided.

Categories: Books, Garden

A Day in Portland

May 31, 2011 Leave a comment

I have already written about our first half-day in Portland, last Friday. Now I’ll go over the highlights of our one full day there, Saturday.

1. Heathman Restaurant. We couldn’t get in the night before, but no problem Saturday morning. We had a fine breakfast. Then we headed up to the room and got ready for our outing.

2. Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center. We drove up to the Old Town Chinatown neighborhood, which includes the Portland New Chinatown/Japantown Historic District, and parked just a block up from the center. It opened at 11:00 and we were there a few minutes early. At 11:00, we headed in. There’s an on-going exhibit, Oregon Nikkei: Reflections of an American Community, that we were enjoying when a guide came up to us and asked if we’d been to the center before. Once we said no, she began to give us a tour. This was a mixed blessing, given that the exhibit itself seemed up to that point to be extremely well laid out, with excellent explanations of the photos and objects. She raced us ahead, not allowing us to absorb all the items, but she also had much to say that was of interest. Then another group walked in and she dropped us in mid-sentence. Fair enough. By that point, we were on the threshold of the exhibit we had come to see, a temporary exhibit scheduled to end a day later, Taken: FBI.

The exhibit is no longer listed online at the Center’s website. Too bad. Here’s a series of photos someone has posted. It was a small exhibit, focusing on a handful of the men and one woman who were rounded up by the FBI on December 7, 1941. Some of the relevant background is laid out in a series of signs as one enters the exhibit, the key point being that already in the 1930s, Roosevelt gave the FBI permission to start collecting information on Japanese Americans, so they would know who to pick up first if war came. Mind you, the people to round up were not dangerous. They weren’t spies, or collaborators. They were simply successful members of the community, community leaders. Those focused on in the exhibit led exemplary lives. Extraordinary lives even. As you read about how each of them lived before the war, and how they tried to restore their lives afterwards, the message of national madness, irrationality, and hysteria comes through clearly.

How could it happen? Well, the exhibit takes pains to remind the reader of the racial stereotyping taken for granted 70 years ago, not that that justifies anything. Only in the final exhibit signage is it hinted that we really haven’t advanced all that far, as we continue to narrow the rights of certain ethnic groups in response to war, a war we now find ourselves in that by definition will never end. And indeed we seem willingly to take away everybody’s rights. Witness last week’s extension of the Patriot Act.

But back to the internment of Japanese Americans. Just a week before our tour, the acting solicitor general of the US, Neal Katyal, wrote about errors made by his office at the time of Pearl Harbor.

The Ringle Report, from the Office of Naval Intelligence, found that only a small percentage of Japanese Americans posed a potential security threat, and that the most dangerous were already known or in custody. But the Solicitor General did not inform the Court of the report, despite warnings from Department of Justice attorneys that failing to alert the Court “might approximate the suppression of evidence.” Instead, he argued that it was impossible to segregate loyal Japanese Americans from disloyal ones. Nor did he inform the Court that a key set of allegations used to justify the internment, that Japanese Americans were using radio transmitters to communicate with enemy submarines off the West Coast, had been discredited by the FBI and FCC. And to make matters worse, he relied on gross generalizations about Japanese Americans, such as that they were disloyal and motivated by “racial solidarity.”

See also the LA times editorial on this last Friday.

3. Japanese American Historical Plaza. From the center, we walked two blocks over to the Willamette River to see the Japanese American Historical Plaza, a part of Portland’s Waterfront Park. As the park site explains, “On August 3, 1990, the Japanese American Historical Plaza was dedicated to the memory of those who were deported to inland internment camps during World War II. In the memorial garden, artwork tells the story of the Japanese people in the Northwest – of immigration, elderly immigrants, native-born Japanese Americans, soldiers who fought in US military services during the war, and the business people who worked hard and had hope for the children of the future. A sculpture by Jim Gion, Songs of Innocence, Songs of Experience, also graces the plaza.”

We walked around, read the poetry on the stones, took in the atmosphere, examined the Gion sculpture. Most people milling around were overflow from Portland’s Saturday Market , which was in full swing just south of the plaza. We’d gladly have checked it out, but time was running out on our parking meter, and we had to get on with our plans. We could easily have spent the full day in Portland. Or we could have spent the day visiting wineries. We had decided to try to squeeze both in, and it was time to head out of town for our one winery visit.

4. Red Curry Thai Restaurant. We weren’t looking to eat Thai food. All we wanted to do was drive out past Beaverton to Ponzi Vineyards, where we thought we might hook up with our niece Leigh Anne. But when we were on the highway headed out to Beaverton, she texted us that she was a ways out, so once we got off the highway, we decided to stop at the first reasonable restaurant to eat lunch and kill time. The first reasonable restaurant turned out to be Red Curry. In fact, it was the first restaurant period. Just past the exit was a new strip mall. We turned in, found a 7-11, an Indian food market, and Red Curry. It didn’t look like much as we drove past. It’s extremely narrow, though deep, and we couldn’t see much. Once we walked in, we found it to be surprisingly elegant. I see now that it’s been open only two months. The reviews at urbanspoon that I’ve just been looking at sum it up well: “A very nice, elegant Thai restaurant in the ‘burbs! Nice decor and tasty menu!” “Don’t let the small store front fool you. They did a very good job decorating the place. The food can rival some of the better Thai restaurants.” “just the best food ever. … a fantastic meal. Service was very gracious. Decor is way above caliber for a restaurant in an office park.” We weren’t looking for much, but we had an excellent meal.

5. Ponzi Vineyards. Why Ponzi? No good reason, but there were reasons: (i) It must be the single closest winery to downtown Portland. As one heads west, past housing developments, one crosses Roy Rogers Road and all the development ends. I missed it, but Gail says there’s a sign saying you’ve entered an agricultural district. And moments later, there’s a turn down a small road that deadends at the winery entrance. (ii) The hotel gave us a card for a free tasting for two. Not that the tasting would have been so expensive. But we decided to take advantage.

The tasting room was crowded, and became even more so while we did our business. They start everyone off with a free tasting of their pinot gris. Then one can get a three-wine flight for $10. This is what our card entitled us to for free, so we took it. A rosé, a white, a red. I think they call their first one their rosato. Next was their new release arneis, which we were told would be sold out within the week. And then their lower end pinot noir. From there we could pay another $5 for their pinot noir reserve and $2 for their dessert wine, the gelato. We tried them. Then we asked how the reserve compared to the next level up in their pinot noirs, which was not available for tasting. She did pull from somewhere a chardonnay for us to taste unasked. And then we proceeded to choose wines to make up a case, with the 15% case discount. Four of the gelato, a few of the higher end pinot noirs, three of the arneis, a chardonnay, another white. Now we have some tasting to do.

6. Japanese Garden. We never did meet up with our niece. It was time to head back to Portland so we could visit the famed Japanese Garden. First we had to find it. I knew it was in Washington Park, just above downtown. I suspected we could get off US 26 at the zoo exit before reaching downtown, on the assumption that the zoo is in Washington Park, and then drive around until we found the garden. But I didn’t trust my suspicion. Or listen to Gail’s advice to take Canyon Road, the next exit. Instead, we drove right into downtown, back out to the park, but entered the park on a road that bypasses everything and puts you right back onto US 26 heading out of town. At that point, when the zoo exit appeared again, I took it. This had the benefit that we did in fact get to drive through much of the park and see what it has to offer. The zoo. The children’s museum. The world forestry center discovery museum. The arboretum. Holocaust and Vietnam memorials. The famous rose garden. And finally, the Japanese Garden. We couldn’t find parking, and suddenly we were right out of the park, into a fancy residential neighborhood that looks down from the hills to downtown.

We parked, walked back to the shuttle stop, took the shuttle up the steep hill to the garden entrance, paid our $9.50 apiece, got a map, and entered. Map in hand, we followed the suggested route and saw many of the sights. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see the amazing view that would have awaited us on another day of Mount Hood, sitting above the city. We never did see Mount Hood. It was quite a weekend of weather, with showers, hailstorms, sun, rain, but never views of the Cascades. And our time in the garden was probably the hottest, sunniest time of the entire trip. Highlights? Gosh. It’s all really quite lovely. I’d like to go again earlier in the day. We were near our limit in terms of taking in new sights by the time we got there.

We walked down the hill to the tennis courts, considered going down below the courts to the rose garden, but decided instead to call it a day. Minutes later, we were back in the Heathman.

7. Lacrosse. This was Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. Normally, that means I’m watching the NCAA men’s lacrosse championship semifinals. I wrote last week about the earlier rounds. We had already missed the first semifinal, in which Denver’s historic ride came to an end against Virginia, 14 to 8. But we were in our room in time to pick up the Maryland-Duke semifinal. Maryland won an amazingly low scoring game, 6-3. Time for dinner.

8. Pearl District. We headed up to the Pearl District, anticipating a meal at one of Portland’s renowned brew pubs. Alas, when we got to Deschutes, we were looking at a one-hour wait. We headed back to Henry’s Tavern, which sits within the old Blitz-Weinhard Brewery building. The doorman had warned us didn’t have the greatest food, though it did have the largest beer selection. And the wait was only 15 minutes. Soon we were seated. What we didn’t know was that we would then have a 40 minute wait for our appetizer, hummus and bread, which Gail wasn’t convinced we even needed. And 3 minutes later, our dinner came. A fiasco. The waitress apologized, I suggested we needed more than an apology, she said yes, of course, the manager already knew and would be coming to discuss adjustments. When the manager did come, she told us several tables had the same problem. The bread, it turns out, is really a thin pizza, essentially, with herbs but no toppings, and the pizza guy somehow flaked out. She assured us we wouldn’t have to pay for it, and we could have dessert on the house, which we did. Not the best experience. What can you do? Maybe next time we should wait at Deschutes.

9. Hotel. We had anticipated wandering through Powell’s Books after dinner, it being just the next block over. But dinner was so long that we were ready to call it an evening. We headed back to the hotel and our day came to an end.

Categories: Food, Garden, History, Travel, Wine

Beautiful Bloedel Reserve

August 2, 2010 Leave a comment

We’ve been getting out of the house a bit more than usual lately, thanks to our Glaswegian house guests. I’ve already written about attending a Mariners game two Fridays ago and an Amos Lee concert at the Seattle Center the next day. Last Wednesday we were off to the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island.

The Reserve, in the words of its mission statement, “is an internationally renowned public garden whose primary mission is to provide a tranquil and refreshing experience of nature. The Reserve’s 150 acres are a unique blend of natural woodlands and beautifully landscaped gardens, including a Japanese Garden, a Moss Garden, and Reflection Pool, and the Bloedel’s former estate home.” It is on the northern edge of Bainbridge Island, not far at all. Just take the ferry from downtown Seattle to the island, a 35-minute ride, then drive about 6 miles and you’re there. For no good reason that I can think of, I had never been to it before. Gail had, once. Reservations were once required, but no longer.

The Bloedel name is big around these parts, the family having established one of the continent’s major timber companies. Julius Bloedel and partners began buying timber land in British Columbia a century ago. In 1951, his son Prentice oversaw the merger of the company with HR MacMillan to form MacMillan Bloedel. Their plan in the 1990s to clearcut large tracts of land on Vancouver Island led to a major environmental battle that had them in the news regularly. In 1999, Weyerheuser took them over.

It’s Prentice who, with his wife Virginia, bought the property on Bainbridge in 1951 that became the reserve. They were also major arts patrons in the region, a tradition carried on by their daughter Virginia (Bloedel) Wright and her husband Bagley Wright. (I wrote in March about the Wright Exhibition Space, a small gallery east of the Seattle Center that hosts occasional shows curated by Virginia Wright and showing some of their famous art collection. Bagley Wright, one of the builders of the Space Needle, has also been a long-time supporter of the Seattle Repertory Theater.) The Reserve’s website recounts some of its history:

The Bloedel Reserve was created by Prentice Bloedel and his wife, Virginia, who resided on the property from 1951 until 1986. . . . He took an early retirement from the MacMillan Bloedel Timber Company in 1950 to devote the balance of his life to the creation of the gardens of what is now The Bloedel Reserve. Although he was advised by and worked with noted landscape architects, including Thomas Church, Richard Haag, Fujitaro Kubota, and Iain Robertson, the overall vision for The Reserve’s gardens was his alone.

Prentice Bloedel was a pioneer in renewable resources and sustainability. He was the first to use sawdust as a fuel to power his company’s mills. He replanted clear cut areas, and started a company that marketed fireplace logs made from sawdust. He also was deeply interested in the relationship between people and the natural world, and the power of landscape to evoke emotions ranging from tranquility to exhilaration. Indeed, some believe that due to his early school experiences and his bout with polio as a young man, Prentice Bloedel may have been ahead of his time in his understanding of the therapeutic power of gardens and landscape.

We took the 9:35 ferry on Wednesday, reaching the reserve around 10:25. With cars parked, admission paid, and maps provided, we headed off on the recommended walking route through the reserve. Our walk took the very two hours that the guide suggests. We could easily have spent longer, but lunch beckoned. Plus, our friends had plans to push on to Port Townsend for an overnight outing and we, as newly joined members, anticipated many more visits to the reserve, so the basic overview walk was sufficient for the day.

You can get a sense of the walk by going to the reserve’s on-line map here. The starting point is near the upper left corner, by the white expanse that is the parking lot. One heads south through the meadow to the bird refuge, then north through the woods to the road, then east to the visitor center (the Bloedel home), from which there are backyard views across the small arm of Puget Sound known as Port Madison to the Indianola area on Kitsap Peninsula to the north and across the main body of Puget Sound eastwards to what must be Shoreline, just north of Seattle. Next, down past the waterfall overlook, around to the glen, across to the Japanese Garden, through the moss garden, then back south past the reflection garden and back into the meadow for the return to the parking lot.

Most striking is how varied the different sections of the reserve are. At times, you feel lost in a northwest rain forest. And then there’s the formal Japanese Garden. Ponds, a reflecting pool. Open views, tall trees with dense undergrowth and nurse logs. One reason to return frequently is to focus each visit on a different portion of the reserve, allowing time to absorb its details and mood. Another reason, of course, is to enjoy the seasonal changes.

The 14-minute video from 2008 gives a good sense of the reserve, as well as allowing us to meet the Bloedel family and learn more of the reserve’s history. You’ll see the guest house, once used for family visits, along with the swimming pool that has since been replaced by a Zen garden designed by Koichi Kawana. (And by the way, it’s not just any swimming pool. It’s the pool where Theodore Roethke, poet and former UW faculty member, died on a visit in 1963. His Seattle home is a short ways south of us. We looked at it years ago when we were house shopping and it was on the market.)

If — like me a week ago — you are in the area but have never been to the reserve, don’t wait any longer. Go. It’s a magical place.

Categories: Garden, History, Travel

Dogwood

April 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Driving home in the late afternoon two days ago, I realized that the local dogwoods were all in peak bloom, and their variety of colors made the trip down the street glorious. Our dogwood was not in full health a few years back, so I was especially delighted, as we arrived home, to see that it looked every bit as good as its neighbors. This evening, I decided to take its picture. Alas, I went out too late in the day, what with the sun low in the west and the tree on the east side of the house. You can see the result above.

Once out, I took a few more photos, moving to the backyard, where the light was better. The azaleas are in the early stages of bloom.

So too is our west-facing lilac on the western edge of the yard.

The adjacent east-facing lilacs need another week or ten days. The nearby peonies won’t flower for a while, but they are visibly preparing. Here’s an unfurling fern.

Categories: Garden, House

Our Garden

April 17, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s planted, as you can see. Gail selected the plants three days ago. Yesterday, our brother-in-law — master farmer Jim — came over to lay it out, as he did one and three years ago. We’d be lost without him.

Before you know it, we’ll be eating lettuce and tomatoes and peppers and I don’t know what else. But maybe no zucchini. Please no zucchini. I had enough last summer. (See zucchini photo and post here.)

When the planting was complete, we (Gail and I, Jim and Tamara) sat down to the magnificent halibut and quinoa dinner that Gail had prepared. They will have to return during the harvest for another dinner and some of the vegetable of Jim’s labor. Especially the zucchini.

Categories: Garden