Friday, June 26, 2009


Our new fence has been stained

We gave our new fence awhile for the wood to dry out and then stained it with a semi-dark oil based pigmented stain. We got the stain at Sound Cedar, the same place the wood came from. It is the same stuff they used on the cedar on the front of their building which was stained with it in 2004, about five years ago and it still looks good. And it faces west so gets the afternoon sun. We didn't want to leave the cedar to weather naturally because it doesn't do that evenly and didn't want to use a clear stain as you have to redo it about every two years. At almost $34 a gallon (we used all of three gallons) it is fairly expensive, plus the time it takes to do the work. Anyway, we both like the results.

Fence 06
This is the outside of the fence looking at it from one end toward the other end. The sunroom is in the background and the patio outside it with the picnic table, chairs and propane barbecue. This photo has a pretty good view of one of the solar powered lighted post caps we used on the ends of the fence. It has kind of a stained glass look. Later you'll see the one we used beside the gate which puts out a clear, white light and actually gives enough light to be a help coming in when it is dark. They all have rechargeable AA size batteries and the light comes from clear LEDs so they don't use much electric power. It will be interesting to see if we get enough sky light in the winter to charge them to run long enough after our early darkness to be useful.

Fence 11
This is again the outside of the fence that faces the common area in the middle of our park but closer to the gate. You can see the clear light I talked about earlier as well as the cedar post caps that we used on the other posts. We also decided that we wanted an arbor and found that cedar unit at Sound Cedar, ready made in three pieces. Our fence contractor set post holders in concrete and they hold the arbor which we stained in the same stain. Also notice Pat walking along outside the sunroom and the two hummingbird feeders. We have planted a grape plant on each side of the arbor and hope to have it grow up it and give us some good fruit.

Fence 05
Here is the gate and arbor looking straight at them from outside the fence. The hardware for the gate is simple black metal but it is pretty heavy and should last a long time. It is a fairly long distance from the edge of our yard where the fence is located to the concrete sidewalk that runs down through the common area and during much of the year that grass out there is so wet that it is like walking on a sponge. We asked the park managers if we could put in a crushed rock walkway to connect our yard to that sidewalk and he said we could, so now we can exit our gate and keep our feet dry to get out to that sidewalk even during the wet time of the year. The girls came from our house to the gazebo via that main sidewalk for our wedding but then they had to walk through that wet grass to get to the sidewalk.

Fence 03
This view is about the same as the first one but taken on the inside of the fence showing part of our actual yard. Pat is very good with plants and has done quite a nice job of setting up our yard/garden. The soil here isn't very good, just a little bit of topsoil over clay, so we have a few larger type plants that are in the ground but for many we have used planters and other containers. We took out a hill that was mostly just bark and roots from some cedar trees and put in a couple of raised beds that are over to the left, out of the picture from where this view is looking.

Fence 02
The arbor from the inside. We are trying an upside down tomato planter thingy and that is it to the right of the arbor. By now the tomato plant is almost reaching the ground so we may have to move it to someplace higher but we are not sure, never having used one of these before. There was some crushed rock in the back yard but along both sides of the house they had used a fairly small river rock that was really hard to walk over, so we had the gardeners bring in a few yards of crushed rock and even it out all over the sides and back. It is much better now. We have some lawn in front and that is all that I want to mow- the rock is nice.

Fence 01
I probably don't really need to put this photo in but it does show our pampas grass plant. It was badly damaged by the cold weather over the winter but is starting to come back. It also has Pat in the background working in the garden area. Those tall cedar trees on the other side of our yard are where all those roots in that bark hill came from. I kind of wish they were a bit smaller and may trim them. I don't think the former owners of our lot planted them as the neighbors have more of them across the back of their lot but these three or four trees are on our side so I think I can trim them back.

Fence 04
Here we are looking through the side of the arbor toward the garden. We bought stainless steel hooks to put one on each fence post and Pat has baskets of flowers hanging on each of them except the one with the tomato plant and the two corners and ones by the gate. You can just see the grape plant starting at the bottom of the photo and the small tree is a dogwood that has about 18 lighted solar powered butterflies in it. They look interesting at night.

Fence 07
Here is the other corner of the back yard. You can see a stump of what we called the bumblebee plant. We had two of them, one on each side of the yard in the corners. They were quite large and had a lot of purple flowers on them that really attracted bees, especially bumblebees. The cold of the last winter killed them so we took them out and are finding that we really like how it has opened up the yard. Not to mention that you don't have to fight bees all summer out there now.

I have a few more photos but this is enough for one post. The others are a couple of photos of the arbor from a different angle, one showing the light on the post top better and a couple of closer views of the ground cover. We thought about getting more bark to use out there but it has the bad habit of turning into dirt pretty soon and that doesn't do anything about stopping weeds. It also doesn't look good for all that long. My brother was shopping at Costco in Spokane one weekend about the time we were ready to do this and he found a product he told me about that we used. More about that next time.

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Sunday, June 21, 2009


Bob is home!

My son who has been in Afghanistan assigned to a joint Army/Navy thing there arrived back home in Washington State yesterday! How is that for a neat Father's Day gift? Now he can go back to being a Navy guy on shore duty for the rest of his assignment here before going to sea again. That should be for the next year and a half or so that he'll be home every night and on weekends.


Sunday, June 14, 2009


RV Trip - The return home

We left the home of our friends in Manson, WA on Sunday, May 17th. I got the VW Bug loaded onto the tow dolly fine and we headed out, after lunch, for one of my favorite small towns to visit, Winthrop. Winthrop has adopted an Old West kind of look, with wooden boardwalk sidewalks, etc. There are even a few hitching posts in front of some of the stores plus a snack place where you can sit on saddles to eat your ice cream cone or mocha.

Anyway, we got to the KOA park in town with no problems from the dolly and were able to get a pull through site so didn't have to take the car off. The park gave us a shuttle ride on into the downtown area and the Duck Brand Hotel & Cantina where we like to eat dinner. We did walk through town but it was late enough in the day that most shops were closed, then the shuttle picked us up and took us back to the RV. There are no TV connections at this KOA so we just read and listened to music until bedtime.

Monday morning we had breakfast in the rig, then got ready to leave. Our trip that day was only about 140 miles but across the North Cascades Highway (WA State Route 20) which crosses two mountain passes in the rugged North Cascade Mountains. Washington Pass is over 5400' elevation and the peaks around it rise well above that. The State does not try to keep this roadway open through the winter but they do try to reopen it by May 1st. This year they made their deadline although there was over 60 feet of snow that had to be removed from the roadway in places. This time of the year you will still see a lot of snow alongside the road.

I stopped about three miles before we reached the first pass, Washington Pass, to take some photos of the mountains. It was a gloriously beautiful day, with sunshine and really quite warm for that high in the mountains. I parked alongside the road in a wide spot that had been cleared and here are the photo results:

N Cascade Mtns 01
This first view is looking ahead on up the road toward the summit. The mountain peak shown ahead is one of the most famous in this area, called Liberty Bell Mountain. The Cascade Mountain range divides Eastern Washington from Western Washington. It is a curtain that stops much of the ocean moisture (read that as "rain") that we are famous for in Western Washington from going to the Eastern side of the state, so there is actual desert over there. We locals tend to think of it as the wet and dry side. These mountains are also geologically pretty new so the peaks are rugged, coming to sharp points as opposed to most mountains in the eastern part of the country where those sharp points have been rounded over eons by wind and rain. The roadway is still below the tree line but the higher part of the peaks are above that line, so there are no trees up there. The elevation of Liberty Bell is listed as 7720' and it is a popular peak to climb, with easy to hard routes.

N Cascade Mtns 02
This view is off to the left of the roadway and just shows a few more of the mountain peaks that were around us. The trees are all evergreens, mostly spruce or fir. On the wet side there are a lot of cedar trees while the east side, down lower, has a lot of pine. But, they are all evergreens with needles rather than leaves.

N Cascade Mtns 03
This view is just to the left of the previous one and looking a bit back toward Winthrop. You can see how close the road is to the slope where it drops off into the valley. I think it would be quite a challenge to safely plow snow from this road when the snow depth is measured in feet and you can not see the edge from the snow plows. These people do a great job at what they do!

Anyway, while here I walked back to check on the car on the dolly. Good thing. I found the strap on the right front wheel had pulled completely off the tire. The only thing holding that side of the car to the dolly was the emergency chain! We tried to remove the strap to start over but I had a hard time getting the ratchet to release so I could loosen the strap. I finally got it loose, then it would not return to position to tighten it. We fought it about 15 minutes, then finally decided we had to take the car off the dolly and have Pat drive it home, following the RV. She did that- about 104 miles. Other than this, we arrived home shortly after 15:00 with no other problems.

I've looked over the problem with the dolly with Pat's son-in-law and we think the biggest problem is that the dolly doesn't fit the VW. The tie down connections are off to the side rather than centered on the wheels, so the straps are pulled off to the side, where they eventually fall off with the vibrations from pulling it over the roadway. We plan to rebuild it to actually fit it to that car, since that's the one we will tow. We will also replace the ratchets that came with it as they seem to be fairly lightly made. J owns an auto repair business and used to have a tow business so he is pretty familiar with this kind of thing. I know a lot of people tow various vehicles this way and it seems to work fine, so I guess we just have to fine tune our rig. It sure was easier to flat tow the Saturn!

Addition: Wow, I just noticed my hit counter for this blog shows that I've had over 50,000 visits since I put that counter on when the blog was 3 or 4 months old. Thank you all for your visits!

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Monday, June 08, 2009


My Son has left Afghanistan!

My son left Afghanistan Sunday and is on his way home! He will probably arrive in the states sometime tomorrow and spend 14 days or so in out processing before finally returning to his home here in the northwest. I am so thankful that he is finished there and has left in good condition. Now wouldn't it be great if we could somehow get the rest of our armed forces home with no need for them to stay there?


Friday, June 05, 2009


RV Trip - Chelan/Manson, WA

On our May RV trip around the North Cascade Loop drive, we spent our first two nights at Icicle River RV Park and I've already posted about our stay there. We next drove north to the town of Manson which is on the shores of Lake Chelan. Here is where a friend whom I worked with many years at Metro Transit in Seattle chose to retire to. We parked our RV in their driveway, connected to 120 volt power to just run a few things and were basically dry camping, using our own water and holding tanks, although we had the house right there with all of its systems.

R & D bought a home there which was on a former apple orchard and they originally did have about three rows of apple trees from the orchard on their property. When the rest of that property was sold, the new buyers of it were planning to put in grapes as they were starting a winery and wanted to grow some of their own grapes. I guess that you have certain obligations to maintain apple trees if you have more than a very few in order to protect the other orchards, and my friends didn't want that as a job so when the new owners of the bulk of the orchard asked them if they would like to have their trees "picked" along with the others, they did except for a very few chosen ones. They brought in a backhoe and chained the bucket to each tree, then picked them like a carrot. They were then run through a chipper to make a great mulch. This was about 2002 and there is now a producing vineyard where the former apple orchard used to be. I showed a photo that was a view from the deck of R & D's home, looking down across that vineyard toward the winery, which is named Tildio Winery for a type of birds that are found there. Here are a couple of other photos of the house and their view:

Manson house 02
This is a similar view to the previous one but looking over the winery with a longer lens. You can still see a part of Roses Lake (R's fishing lake) as well as ridges and mountains around the area. Lake Chelan is something like 55 miles long, extending to the west-northwest from the town of Chelan. There is a small town named Stehekin at the west end. This link will take you to the City Guide for Stehekin. There are no roads into Stehekin from the outside and about the only access is via boat or aircraft. The "Lady of the Lake" makes daily boat trips from Chelan and carries mail, goods, passengers, etc. I do not know the permanent population up there but the City Guide says it is less than 100. If one wants a place to go that is a long way away from the rest of the world, this one fits the bill well. Plan to walk when there. This photo was probably taken on May 16th and as you can see, there still is quite a lot of snow at the higher elevations of the hills in the background. This area does have a "winter."

Manson house 01
Here is a part of R & Ds west facing deck and some of the bird feeders located there. Many birds of various types are in the area, including a family of owls that has lived for some years in the evergreen glen behind the house. D especially enjoys feeding and watching the antics of the birds. Behind these picture windows is the living room so as you can guess, there is a fantastic view from there, too.

One of the things we like doing in this area is wine tasting at some of the many wineries. The dentist that D worked for many years for in the Seattle area retired over here and started a winery which is now probably the largest operation in the area and one of the longest running ones. It is named Tsillan Cellars which is the Indian spelling of the town, Chelan. This link will take you to their web site. I have posted photos from there in the past so really don't have a lot to add now, although here are two new ones.

Tshelan 02
This winery is on the other side of the lake from R & Cs home. The town of Chelan is about 7 miles down lake from Manson, at the foot of the lake, and this winery is just around the end of the lake on the other side. This view is from the winery which is located on a hill above the road and is looking across the lake. Manson is over there at the left and if the lens were long enough you could almost see the house where our RV is parked, except for the hill that is between there and the camera. Tsillan Cellars grows many of their own grapes on their own vineyards but they also bring some in from other growers, especially from other locations in Eastern Washington State.

The winery grounds are beautiful as are the buildings. Live entertainment is offered here often, outside when the weather permits. There is a large water system that starts with a pond at the upper level, then the water falls down to a lower pond that is stocked with colorful Koi fish. There is a small island in the lower pond, with a cover over it and that becomes a very popular place to enjoy a meal from the Italian restaurant at the winery, Sorrento's Ristorante (we ate our lunch there one day.)

Tshelan 01
This photo shows a young father showing his baby daughter the Koi fish from the bridge over to the island. Go check the winery website for other photos and more info about the place. If you are ever in the Chelan area, be sure to stop in for a visit and tasting and say "Hi" to Doctor Bob if he is in.

While in this area we didn't forget my daily mocha's. There is a new Starbucks but we sampled mochas from The Vogue in Chelan the first night there. They have live entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights so it can be a destination place of its own. We were back there on Saturday and took R to a local place near Manson for our mochas on Sunday, the morning that we left to move the RV on to the Western themed town of Winthrop which is located at the Eastern side of the North Cascades Highway. Our home is at the Western side of that highway. I'll do another post soon on our visit to Winthrop. This time we did not see the deer family there we photographed last year, but did again eat a dinner in my favorite Winthrop restaurant.

More later. Pat's granddaughter is graduating from Mt. Vernon High School tonight and it is time for me to make sure our cameras are ready for the event and to start getting ready for dinner before we go.

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