Monday, July 16, 2018

Here a Dog, There a Dog, Everywhere A Dachshund

It's been a little chaotic at Dog End of late.


I've had a four-day gig watching Winston and Chloe while their owners attended a family reunion on the Oregon coast.  They sent me cheerful messages about going on dune-buggy rides and kayak river trips and how lovely the sandy beaches were on 70-degree days.  Meanwhile, I did this:


Four dachshunds do fit neatly into the back seat of my car.  And they didn't get into any altercations on our drive to the park--they are well-mannered pups.  Luckily, I didn't have to try walking four dogs at once, since Truman doesn't like to walk away from the car (only towards it), and Chloe is 14 and prefers to stroll.


Pippin and Winston had no trouble getting out and about, though.


On the way back towards the car, I let Truman get his exercise while forcing Pip to ride for a bit.


Truman, however, refused to be photographed.  It is hard to take pictures while pushing a stroller and walking two dogs on leashes.  They wouldn't all get in the frame at once.


Chloe did get a short walk at the very end of our outing.


And finally I kind of sort of managed to get all four dogs in the same shot.


This little adventure took place at 7:00am.  Why?  Because by 8:00am it was already too hot.  While I had to turn the heat back on in my house during the first week of July, when it barely cracked 60 for the high, this past week it's been 80+ relentlessly.  Yesterday it hit 91.  Today and tomorrow should top out at 87. 

There is no air conditioning at Dog End.


I seem to write a lot about the weather on this blog.  Well, it affects me greatly--my hobbies are birdwatching (kind of need to be outside, mostly), dog-walking (ditto), plein air sketching (obviously) and gardening (I don't do houseplants). 

Thus my obsession with weather.  It's not terribly predictable here, most of the time.  Mostly we get vague intimations of what it might be like--I mean, what exactly is the difference between "partly cloudy" and "patches of sunshine"?  Why does the forecast have a full-sun icon next to "20% chance of precipitation"?  And why do people from elsewhere look at us funny when we talk about "sunbreaks"?

Ah, well, the mysteries of Pacific Northwest weather will never end.  I just get up every morning and scan the gray blanket overhead for signs of blue holes.


Meanwhile, back to dachshund adorableness.


You may have noticed the poor quality of these photos.  Or maybe you didn't.  But I sure did!  You know why?


I'll tell you why:  they were taken with the poor quality camera on my smartphone.  I didn't buy it for the camera, I bought it because it made phone calls and sent texts and accessed email and maps.  I don't use if for anything else.  It cost $30.  I am frugal.

And why did I take these photos with a cheap smartphone?

Because my real camera broke down.  This is the THIRD camera in five years that I've managed to destroy, due to my inability to keep them clean.  Yes, they always come with cases, which I never wind up using, because when I'm out in the field (dust! dirt! grit!) looking at birds, and I see a great bird, the last thing I want to do is fumble around with a camera case while the great bird is thinking about jaunting off to Mexico.

So it's my own fault.  Grit gets inside the lens housing, and the lens stops retracting properly.  These are souped-up point-and-shoot cameras, not real DSLR cameras with interchangeable lenses.  The lens unit is one solid piece and it costs nearly as much to take apart to repair as it does to buy a  new one.  Sigh.

The new one, by the way, is slated to arrive tomorrow.   It comes with a case.  Hm.

Finally, while it's been mostly too hot to go sketching, I did get out one day last week before the heat hit, to a small park called Twin Ponds where there are always good trees and fallen logs and other fun stuff.  So here is my one sketch from the past week:


Stay cool out there!

Monday, July 9, 2018

Out and About, with Dogs

Last week I was determined to get more sketching in then I have of late, and succeeded two whole days in a row:


At the UW campus (above) and at the church I spotted on an earlier attempt to draw stuff.


Then came the 4th.  After a very early morning walk, I stayed home with the Hounds to make sure they weren't too freaked out by the nonstop fireworks (last one heard at 2am).  Here they are looking terrified:


On Thursday I planned to draw at the Montlake Fill, but became distracted by a Great Egret.  This stunning bird is typically found in southeastern Washington and sightings in the Puget Sound are rare.


I called Connie Who Practically Lives There (who wasn't there!) and although she was not yet dressed, and the egret was a half-mile round the pedestrian-only trail and she has bad knees, she got there within 30 minutes, a long 30 minutes during which I mentally willed the bird to stay put.  It did.  Connie was thrilled.



I was also distracted by the sighting of a tiny Osprey chick poking its head above the nest rim.  Hoorah!  I couldn't get a photo of the chick, so had to settle for this series where the female adult dried off her feathers after an unsuccessful fishing effort.




On Friday I managed to get back on the sketching track.  My friend Tina and I headed off to Whidbey Island for the day.  Here's the view from the ferry as it departed Mukilteo:


And here is the standard photo of the ferry from the opposite direction crossing our path:


We stopped at the small town of Langley, which has an old-fashioned shopping district:


Truman did not seem to appreciate the view from this bench:


There were bunnies!


Alas, the sketches I tried to do there were not good.   The first spot I chose, across the street from a couple of picturesque buildings, was fine until a large truck with lawn equipment parked right in front of me despite the yellow painted curb which I thought would protect my view from vehicles.  It was a gang of city workers doing landscaping and they could park wherever they pleased.  Drat. 

The second spot I tried was interrupted by a nearby construction crew (hidden from view) starting up very loud power tools.  I gave up.   It was time for lunch anyway, so we tootled on down the road to Greenbank Farm, a working farm which also has shops, a pond, gardens, and an outdoor cafe where dogs are welcomed.  After eating, we wandered the grounds.

And I sketched!  This was my view from the outdoor cafe.  I thought I'd have time to add watercolor, as the place was packed, but our food arrived sooner than expected.  Oh, well.


While wandering the grounds, Pip spied a gaggle of geese and got quite excited.



Here are the gardens, where I did a second sketch:



The watercolor got a bit messy in that one.  I think my favorite sketch of the day was this little 10-minute one done while waiting in line for the ferry back:


On Saturday I went out for a short visit to a nearby park, and I did a lovely sketch of some fallen trees, but didn't realize until I started to add the watercolor that the pen I had used did not have waterproof ink.  Oh, what a mess it made!  Oh, well.  Live and learn.

On Sunday the Seattle Urban Sketcher group met up to draw at the annual Georgetown Garden Tour.  I found a lovely home where I did a small scene of pots and gargoyles.  And yes, the home was painted bright purple.


So while I wasn't entirely happy with some of the results, at least I got out there more often and tried to draw stuff.  And most of the time, I got to bring the Hounds along, which is all that really matters, right?

Right!

Monday, July 2, 2018

Not Exactly a Heat Wave

I hear it's been Too Darned Hot in other parts of the U.S.A.  I watched a baseball game aired from Chicago in which players left due to the heat, and the home plate umpire sported a towel around his neck.  I watched this while indoors during the early afternoon here in the great Pacific Northwest, when it had just cracked 60 degrees.

Please don't envy us, Rest of the U.S.A.!  And please don't move here!  Yes, we have more moderate weather in general than other spots, but we also have The Gray and The Damp.  In June.  In LATE June.  Nay, even yesterday, on the FIRST of JULY, I had to turn the HEAT on in my house for a few minutes in the morning.  Steer clear!

However, we did get glimmers of sunshine now and then, during which I ran outside to bask (or tried to, with my jacket and hat on).  Surely it must be Summer by now--for the flowers are all in full bloom, and I saw butterflies in my yard:


This is a Western Tiger Swallowtail.



Sometime in August we will have a week of 90+ weather during which many people (including me) will complain vigorously, since nearly no one here has air conditioning.  In the meantime, BRRRRRRRRRRRR!

Which meant I didn't get out to sketch.  I tried, though!  One day it actually reached 65 and there were blue holes sneaking through The Gray, so I tootled down to my favorite spot, Magnuson Park.  Having sketched a whole lot of it already, I searched for something new.  There were old naval station buildings undergoing remodeling--I spied them as I drove around, and thought they looked fun.  I parked a mile away to give The Hounds a walk, but when I arrived at the construction site, I found chain-link fencing all round, which I found uninspiring.  Thwarted!

We hiked back to the car.  I remembered getting a glimpse on another recent drive of intriguing landscaping at a nearby children's hospital.  This time I wisely parked within two blocks.  But the hospital campus was ginormous, the paths were confusing and often ended in locked gates, and while the various bits and pieces of landscaping I found were pleasant enough, they were smallish with no good focal points.  Drawings should have strong focal points!  Thwarted again!

And there were hills.

Back at the car, I remembered a wee park and community center nearby where I'd successfully sketched before, so once again I tootled off, snagging a spot in the parking lot.  Alas, just as I was lining up the best view (with focal point!), I heard the dulcet tones of power tools.  Right behind me a Parks Department worker had fired up his leaf blower.  Seconds later, another fellow started up a massive riding lawn mower.  I have tinnitus, and even if I didn't have tinnitus, these sounds would not prove melodious to my ears.

Thwarted, I tell you--THWARTED!

I'd been out and about for nearly three hours.  I was tired.  I was hungry.  I had hefted the dog stroller in and out of the trunk far too many times.  Reluctantly, I headed homeward.

I took a different route back, and TWO BLOCKS from the community center park, I spotted a delightful church made of stone and wood with lovely decorative windows and lovely landscaping.  A perfect place to sketch!

I drove on.  I was tired, and hungry.  AND THWARTED all over the dang place.  Next time, though, I'll just go straight there.

At least, this past week, there were birds:


I spent over three hours at the Montlake Fill on Saturday morning, keeping Connie Who Practically Lives There company while her intermediate birding class students scattered over the place on a bird scavenger hunt.   We birded and chatted while the Hounds expressed boredom by rolling in stuff.

The scavenger hunt which Connie deviously devised included items such as "find an American Goldfinch and state the bill color", and "describe the breast spotting pattern on a juvenile robin", and "what is the flight pattern of the Downy Woodpecker" and so forth.  I wasn't in her class and not participating, though at one point while we chatted, I happened to glance up to see two birds flying towards a tree and shouted, "Downy Woodpeckers! Undulating flight!"  Alas, there were no students anywhere near.  Connie awarded me five points.

Later, I briefly abandoned her to take a stroll through the swamp, where I snagged another five points for "what color are a Barred Owl's eyes, and is it solid or not?"


The owl had its back to me at first, but when I snapped the photo, my camera made a little beep, and the bird slowly turned its head my way.


Another photo, another beep, and....


Hoorah!  It's back was still towards me, of course.  It just swiveled its head round as they do.  Amazing birds.  And the eyes are solid black:


And this past week wasn't a total loss art-wise, as I managed a very quick sketch at the Fill (AKA the Union Bay Natural Area) while we birded and chatted:


Now that you've managed to reach the end of this rather lengthy post, I shall reward you with the required weekly dose of dachshund adorableness--this is Pippin with his best girl Chloe.  Enjoy!



Monday, June 25, 2018

Of Ospreys, Compost, and Wiener Dogs

It was a relatively quite week at Dog End, where I've decided that I'm not really retired.  Instead, I am dedicated to getting in touch with my 10-year-old self.  I hesitate to call this "Second Childhood", as that tends to imply diminished mental capacity, though you never know.  But the general idea is to devote my time to the activities I most enjoyed during childhood, such as drawing and painting, reading tons of books, and spending time with wiener dogs.  And while not an active birdwatcher, I was also attracted to nature--and even occasionally birds--for here is one of my earliest drawings:


Not bad for a 7-year-old, if I do say so myself.  You may wonder, however, why there's a clock behind the owl.  It's because the unfortunate bird was no longer quite so natural--it was, in fact, stuffed and sitting on my uncle's mantlepiece.  Sigh.  Oh, well.  All great artists have to start somewhere!

So nowadays, being fully in touch with my inner 10-year-old, I am busy drawing and painting stuff, reading tons of books, and spending time with very fine wiener dogs, and I've added live, natural birds to the picture.  Of course, I never really stopped doing any of these things during my alleged adulthood.  It's just now I get to do them all the time instead of only on evenings and weekends.  Yay!

Down at the Montlake Fill, for instance, my fellow birders and I have been keeping a keen eye on the Osprey pair, Chester and Lacey, who should have chicks hatching any day now.  I got to see Lacey doing one of my favorite activities--redecorating--as she brought a new stick to the nest:



I also spotted my friends Connie and Inge over by the Main Pond.  Sometimes it can be difficult to spot birds, even with binoculars....


As for drawing stuff, we had a mini-heat wave here (85+) last Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and all I did was haul out the wading pool for the Hounds and take them for walks at 7am.  On Thursday, I was dog-sitting all day.  I can't remember what my Friday excuse was, but on Saturday I did manage to get out with Tina to a small and lovely public garden in Shoreline.


Yes, I drew compost bins.  What can I say?  They were different from what I usually draw, and I was attracted by the variety of shape and texture.  And then I drew what I usually draw:


I have other ideas on how to reconnect with my 10-year-old self.  For example, we used to have fun looking for license plates from other states whenever we went on road trips.  So about a year and a half ago, I decided to find all 50 license plates with the restriction that I had to see them within Washington state.  Someday I'll post pics of them, but only when the set is complete, for as of today, I am still at 49.  And which state am I missing?

Well, it's not Hawaii:


Which I spotted in my own neighborhood.  And it's not Maine:

Nor is it Alaska (we get tons of those here), nor Delaware, nor Arkansas, nor West Virginia...no, the license plate which tasks me to this day is none other than Rhode Island.  It's a small place, I hear.  And apparently, none of the population venture westward.  At least, not very far.  Sigh.

I have other fun ideas, but I know that what you really come here for is the adorable dachshund pics, so I leave you with oodles of wiener dog fun.

Though it wasn't all fun--poor Pippin had to say goodbye to his favorite mail carrier, who is switching to a different route.  They've been very good friends:


Every time he heard the mail truck arrive, Pip bolted outside, tail wagging ferociously, leaping at the gate.  Our carrier, Ms. Chou, enjoyed cuddling him on her lap, and giving him treats.  He will miss her!


Later he distracted himself from his sorrow by romping with Winston:


I also distracted Pippin by buying him a new toy--a ginormous monkey, which he adored in the store but wasn't too sure what to do with when we got it home:


So Truman demonstrated the proper Giant Monkey Attack Method:



Pippin loves to model his behavior on that of his big brother, so he quickly picked up the attack method:



So that was life at Dog End this past week.  My conclusion, after getting in touch with my 10-year-old self, is that I never actually left her behind, that adulthood is highly overrated, and as Moominpappa* likes to say, All responsibilities are only a nuisance.

*If you don't know Tove Jansson's Moomintroll books, get thee hence to a library!