Celebrating Dads in a Solstice Garden by Janine Donoho

Texture & color at solstice

Texture & color at solstice

A pop of color

A pop of color

Doe browsing through the landscape

Doe browsing through the landscape

With the double joys of summer solstice and remarkable dads getting their due, this post celebrates both. As happens so often, my photos perform word service. My intent? That you’ll feel buoyant and refreshed as you return to your celebrations.

Wildflowers and mature gardens punctuate summer solstice in our northern climes. We plant our garden rooms with both native species and perennials to nourish our spirits and the local wildlife. In due course, our plantings expand into an enhancement of our high desert landscape.

Wild sunflowers

Wild sunflowers

Father’s Day became a day of revelry in the early 20th century, an American original that has spread throughout the world. While nearly any man can father a child, it takes someone exceptional to be a dad. In observance of those singular parents, let us raise a glass and give thanks.

Intrepid Guy, dad & adventurous soul

Intrepid Guy, dad & adventurous soul

Baby grouse drinking

Baby grouse drinking

Mountain Bluebird of happiness

Mountain Bluebird of happiness

Young buck browsing

Young buck browsing

Grouse Eggs & Kestrels and Seedlings & Soil (as sung to ‘My Favorite Things’) by Janine Donoho

Arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagitatta)

Arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagitatta)

In this remote conservation area of Washington State, vernal equinox triggers messy chasms brimming with snowmelt. Summer’s alkaline dust transforms into muck capable of entombing my 4-wheel drive eco-diesel up to its wheel wells. Days collect into weeks of treacherous roads.

Glimpsing spring in the melt

Glimpses of spring in the melt

I wait to plant seeds until after mid-May, since hard frosts shrivel tender cotyledons. After years of starting seedlings indoors, I reverted to direct sowing into compost enriched soils. The hardening process for young plants is fickle, and planting seeds works just as well. To stave off  my untimely itch? I turn to my daily writing habit and coax my Earth Elemental into bloom.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Still the promise of spring causes me to excavate lighter clothing and bury the thick layers of winter. I begin to wake earlier with a curious lift to my spirits. Fragrant springtime starts me along this path.

When wild grasses poke through the drying crust of alkaline silt in this high desert, I move into the bliss zone. Yes, these are the same grasses that require vigorous slashing to maintain defensible space around our home as fire season roars into being. Yet at this stage, the verdant color and lush bouquet—well, it makes me ridiculously happy. I breathe more deeply.

Okanogan Highland Grouse - MaleSpring is also when the dusky blue grouse male begins to court his harem, drumming ‘oot, oot, oot’ from his air sacs while he struts his stuff. Not long afterward, his hens lay buff colored eggs beneath Ponderosa pines and sagebrush. Incubation takes almost a month before hatching in late May.

This is the sweet time, when my drip system is optional and yellow jackets aren’t dive-bombing me in the gardens. Native arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagitatta) splashes the steppes with festive yellows as raptors freewheel along Young Kestrelthermals. My particular favorite, the kestrel, sets up housekeeping in our nesting box. By late summer, the fledglings scream their fear and excitement as they take their first flight from one branch to another, then one pine to the next before departing to establish their own territories.

But today, it’s a scent and the promise of lush Mediterranean gardens while the quality of light fills me with hopefulness. Daylight hours have stretched from winter solstice’s threadbare eight to nearly twelve. By summer solstice we’ll enjoy sixteen hours of light. For now, I wander forests and sagebrush steppes, cherishing eggs tucked into grouse nests.Dusky Blue Grouse eggs

Soundings, Water Elemental

LaunchFebruary 27th, 2015
The big day is here.

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