Saturday, July 28, 2007

Devil's Club...

...a seemingly wicked little forest friend.

Devil's Club (Oplopanax Horridus) is a large shrub native to the northeast Pacific Ocean seaboard including the Pacific Northwest and reaching up into Alaska.

In Washington State it's normally found in large quantities along the floors of mountain drainages in the dense, temperate rain forests of the young coastal mountains, the Olympic Peninsula and the western slopes of the Cascade Mountains. Given the ideal growing conditions found at those locations, i.e. dense deciduous and conifer overstories and damp, rich soils the shrub will reach heights of 15 feet or more and will grow in huge seemingly communal "patches" making much of the forest in those areas impenetrable... unless you're insane or armored with a good hat, thick leather gloves, chaps, long sleeves and a very sharp machete.

Devil's club, affectionately referred to by some as "mountain cactus" or "Alaskan Ginseng" isn't all that hiker friendly.

From a distance the plant itself appears... errr, delicate.

It's tall, thick stalks curl outward and upward from the ground. As they continue to grow their many branches shoot for the sky in all directions.

The huge, innocent, delicate leaves invite the uninformed forest visitor to take a closer look. However be careful, the veins of these huge leaves are covered with spines top and bottom. Sinister, wicked, vicious little spines... brittle as all get out and filled with a chemical type of spine that, when embedded and broken off under your skin definitely will make you wish you were somewhere else doing something else rather than dealing with this particular shrub.

It's not so much the burning of the chemical that becomes the problem after getting in the shrub's way. Nope it's that darned prolonged itching, festering and burning of the spine itself as your body resists the invading, severed spear while trying to push it back out from under your skin in the days, weeks or months that follow... depending upon how intimate you got with the shrub.

I've had friends (and relatives) who have had their gloves "stapled" to their hands because they've reached out and grabbed the shrub's stalks or branches (the wrong thing) to slow them down as they tumbled or slid downslope through a grove of Devil's Club. Now that's quite a bit more than that annoyance you'll get when you encounter nettles or thistles.

The sight of a clenched, stapled glove and fist isn't a pretty sight for anyone involved... it's memorable but it's not pretty!

Either way, empathy reins!

However, in a morbid sort of way it can be a humorous sight if you're trying to put a humorous spin on things. It's certainly something to chat about around the campfire or to revisit as a "war story" over the years... after the trauma wears off. A good chat, a fun laugh, a memorable moment to be revisited in chatter but never again to be repeated in life.

I should caution everyone it's only humorous AT THE TIME if it isn't you trying to peel your glove off of your infested hand. So, reserve your laughter for a later date. Tend to the person in need of assistance at the time of the "encounter".

Laugh later.

Devil's Club has particularly delicate little flowers found hidden amongst it's leaves and stalks in the spring and eventually generates clusters of small, bright red berries in the late summer and early fall.

During this "growing season"... spring flowers to fall berries... the plant itself, all parts of the plant is particularly toxic. Hence, the discussion suggests that an invasive little prick from one of those brittle, little spines during this particular "growing season" is a bit more painful than those encountered in the "off season"... if that's possible.

It's been my unfortunate experience over the years that suggests those little spine "invasions" are as equally intense no matter what the season is...

The berries are toxic. The bark's toxic, the flowers are toxic... the whole plant is toxic.

So, what brings me to the point of writing about Devil's Club? Well... it's that time of year. As I drive through my office in the Pacific Northwest I take in the sights along the way... and while I'm there.

I've seen and dealt with Devil's Club all of my life here in Washington State. Not every day but a lot! I'll most likely be dealing with it for quite awhile longer too. It's not going to go away. But, I've learned some things about this Mountain Cactus... this Alaskan Ginseng.

I've learned that Devil's Club has a far less sinister side to it as well. It's a plant revered by the native people of this particular area. It's known to have healing and spiritual powers and is still used in particular tribal rituals throughout the region.

The healing qualities of the plant includes treatment of diabetes, fever and upset stomachs. Here's a great article on the shrub and it's uses.

The bottom line is this... Devil's Club is to be respected. Respected for it's attributes, respected for it's healing powers and respected for it's natural defenses.

People actually harvest Devil's Club after the berries and leaves fall and before the flowering begins. The stalks are severed, the spines and bark peeled and the cambium scraped to be dried and made into teas, powders for salves, etc.

Just when we think we've found the most sinister plant in the world we learn it's not at all as bad as we thought it was.

Isn't that the way life is?

Monday, July 23, 2007


I know you are there: in the beauty of the pansies, the peacefulness of passing a summer field with cows sleeping in the shade. A blue Jay come to snack on the porch, a bunny next to the road, the troll hanging in my car, the crossword in the Sunday paper that catches my eye, the cool breeze come to relieve the heat, The lasagna I make for supper, the color of my daughters eyes, the pride for my son, the deep Love of my family near and far.

I will miss you, until you come to lead me over.

Take a quiet moment to remember all the love..

and give her the gift of being your most amazing you!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

As things heat up...

...globally and around here I get the opportunity to travel around the state.

Last week during one of our unusual "hot spells" I ran up to the northwest tip of the Olympic Peninsula to have a looksee at a couple of wildfires. The weather was very hot and very dry for this time of the year and these little fires had some of the local folks a bit on edge. I can't say that I blame them though.

On the way back from my little trip I happened to catch one of our nation's submarines making it's way back to it's port. It was being escorted down Hood Canal by a Coast Guard vessel that ensured all vessels in the sub's path keep their distance.

I watched as the Coast Guard vessel led the sub through the opened passage of the Hood Canal bridge... vehicle traffic lined up on both sides of the opened bridge for miles.

The heat waves above the water distorted the views.

It was HOT.

Hot for around here... Hot for anywhere.

We have family in Arizona, Colorado and many other states where temperatures climb into the triple digits quite often throughout the summer months so I guess they're all going to claim they're "used to it".

But take away that air conditioning, that little pool, etc. and see how "used to it" they'll be then. In western Washington we don't normally use air conditioning in our homes because the weather only gets up into the nineties five to ten days a year. Our problem with the heat is the humidity!

Most folks know Washington State is a "wet" state. It rains a lot here and the rain keeps most everything green and moist throughout the year. It's those rare summer days when things heat up and the humidity is high that makes me remember my days in Fort Polk, Louisiana back in June through August of 1972 and several other wonderfully hot, moist locations that my fine Uncle Sam sent me to visit.

The bottom line is I didn't like it then and I don't like it now.

So, when I got home to our empty, sun baked house without air conditioning I checked out the temperatures in the shade and direct sunlight. Once at 4:00 p.m. and once again at 5:00 p.m.

The first picture (above) of the Kestrel was taken at 4:00 p.m. It shows the temperature in the direct sun (102 degrees Fahrenheit) that day, July 11, 2007 in our backyard.

The next picture (above) of the indoor/outdoor thermometer shows the temperature in the shade (100 degrees Fahrenheit) at 4:00 p.m. on July 11. Note the "inside" the house temperature is climbing past 90 degrees.

This next picture taken at 5:00 showing the "in the shade" temperature at over 103 degrees fahrenheit and the "inside" of the house temperature at over 90 degrees fahrenheit.

In all, the direct sun temperature peaked out at over 104 degrees fahrenheit in our backyard and another reading with the Kestrel on the deck showed the temperature at over 112 degrees fahrenheit... most likely because of the deck's dark color.

Not what we're used to, not what we planned for and certainly not fun!

But around here if you don't like the weather wait a day or two, it'll change.

Within two days the temperatures had dropped from triple digits to the high 60's, low 70's and the rains came.

Ah, back to that good ol' western Washington summer.

Those dog days of summer behind us for now. We're getting those comfortable Pacific Northwest summer breezes and cooling rains.

Something we all tend to enjoy around here... on the west side of this fine state!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

HI! I'm so glad you posted Denise! This is a great way to stay in touch. We also have a big garden, our corn is already up to about my shoulders, and we have tassles! We should be eating corn in the next month. Brian is doing most of the yard stuff also, but he loves it, besides, imagine being the only man in a house of hormonal women! I would be outside all the time too!!
I'll post pics of the garden when I can. I take them every week, but Brian hasn't shown me how to upload them yet. I know enough to be dangerous, that's all. So I stay away. It's been very hot here, we had 11 straight days of over 90, today we have some wet and grey weather, finally. Of course this is the day Andy was supposed to take his new girlfriend to water world! Sorry bud, no bikini watching for you today!
Our little pico dog was attacked the other week by a neighbors dog who got into our back yard via a small greenbelt. She attached Pico ( who by the way thinks she's a german shepard) but Buddy and Minne attacked the dog, and chased it off. Funny but when the dog dropped Pico, she took off after it like any good Dachsund-wanna be shepard would. We took her to the vet, turns out a very bad one, who gave us very bad advise, and wrong medicine, long story short, she chewed a whole in herself down to the muscle the size of a 50cent piece where it turns out she had a 2" puncture wound. Our new vet fixed her up, and while it was pretty bad, she is now healing quickly, and it is now the size of a dime. So here is a pic of her before she got hurt. She hated the cone they tried to put on her, she couldn't even walk, but she was very entertaining! She is back to her old self now, funny as ever!
Everybody take care, we love you all!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Hi Guys

Just a note to let you know we are still out here hanging in there and laying low. Bill and I have been working in the yard, especially Bill. I have a herniated disc and 2 bulging discs and had a epidural sterioid injection on 6/1/07 which has helped the pain considerably, but still don't want to over do it. He has really done a lot! Still both working, working. If we didn't, what would we do? I can think of a million things! Bill has also planted a vegetable garden and it has been slow starting but with the recent temperature increases and sun, it is starting to do better.
Bill took his grandson, Ryder (Rhonda's son) out fishing last weekend at St. Clair. They caught quite a few fish. Wish I knew how to post pics, but haven't figured that out yet. Ryder is almost 12 now and those were the first fish he has ever caught. He caught the 1st, the biggest, the most and the last. Needless to say, he won the money pool.
Jacob is almost 20 and still trying to "find himself" and has had a rough road of it. We are hoping he finds himself soon before we have to choke him or something.
So, we still have our 5 doggies, Jeannie, Gypsy, Angel, Joey and Leroy. We love them but they do act kind of crazy.
We also have 2 piggies. They are so cute. Brother and sister, Wilbur and Charlotte. Little black fellas.
Best of all, some guy came and scooped up all of our geese, he actually wanted them. Thank goodness cuz we were really tired of them and their shenanigans.
This week, my Aunt Rachel and 3rd cuz from NC came to visit. Love those accents and so good to see them. Bill and I really want to vacation there on the coast of NC next summer. The beaches are great there. I have not been back of NC for over 30 years. Oh and I turned 50 in May. So bizarre, I don't feel that much older mentally but physically, I am definitely there.
Jacob and I plan to go salmon fishing at Westport in August. Love it. We do it every year on his BD.
Angela, I loved reading your update and the pic of Katie. She is so pretty.
Ok, I'm finished. Ya'll take care now, ya hear! Denise

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Independence Day!!!

Everyone have a safe, sane and happy Independence Day!!!

Enjoy this day with your family, friends, neighbors and give thanks to all of those who have helped secure, defend and preserve our independence.

Have fun and enjoy the shows!!!


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Happy 4th

Hi! Just a quick note to wish everybody a wonderful 4th.
No much happens here in Denver for the 4th. Fireworks are illegal except for professional shows, where there is now valet parking. And there's a marathon to run ( yea right- not for me! ) I think we'll be sleeping in, taking in a movie, and grilling, then driving up to the top of the hill to watch the fireworks over Denver. No Valet parking needed! I hope you all have a great Holiday, stay safe, and enjoy each other and the wondeful traditions for the 4th.
Love ya