The Dead of Night

Just as there are things that cannot be sufficiently described in words, there are sights that cannot be captured by a camera.  Many of the hours between sunfall and sunrise, when the light is most distant from us, are like that.



We were beset by an eldritch fog the other night, a fog that may have lurked imperceptibly at the edges of our senses were it not for the dazzling brightness of a full moon just over the mountain.  Absent illumination, we may have felt that the air was just a little thicker than normal, that the sounds of the night were just a little closer, but just another dark night save for a creepiness we could not quite place.  The night’s strange echoes and odd ticks may have been attributed to our own over-active imaginations.


But the moon’s light shew us the true source of our unease, a fog so thick you could grasp it in your fist.  The moon hung pale and cold like a distant sun over an alien planet.  This was the stuff of werewolves and zombie apocalypses.  The very air glowed with a phosphorescence that is hard to describe, let alone photograph.


If you look at that picture and don’t immediately think our house is about to be devoured by Cthulhu, I just don’t know what to say to you.


Not only does the camera fail to capture the depth, but nothing can convey the eerie sound.  The fog makes noises feel closer, like you’re in a cave.  The effect is just surreal.  Like you’ve wandered into another world, and you better not wander past the orange glow of the windows of your house, lest you become so lost you can never be found again.



If only every Halloween could be like this


Pics from the new telescope

I got a new telescope, one that makes my old telescope look like one of those plastic magnifying glasses you find buried in a box of cracker jacks.  It’s a Celestron reflector with a nice wide opening that lets lots of light in.  If you’re shopping for a telescope, you really want to look for two big things:  a sturdy tripod, and the biggest diameter you can afford.  The diameter of the opening dictates how many photons the telescope can see.  More photons = more light.  More light = more of what you can see.  Reflection power doesn’t mean crap.  Go for diameter.

To give you an idea of the magnitude of the telescope, here is a picture of the trees on Matia Island, which is about 3 miles away from our house.


You can see woodpeckers if you look hard enough.  Seriously, this telescope gets up close and personal.  I can sort of fit my camera over the eyepiece to get pics like that.  It’s not perfect but I think I can devise some way of fastening it securely and maybe find a fine-tune focus knob to get crisper images.

Now, here is a picture of the moon, which is 238,900 miles from our house.


I hope to get crisper images and once I can get the camera better secured to the telescope I can connect it all to the laptop and I’ll have my own little observatory right out on my front desk.

Being on the north slope of a mountain, most planets rise and set out of my view.  And being on Orcas, clear nights are not very common.  So I’ll have to be opportunistic to get some nice pics of planets and things up there.  I’ve seen Jupiter’s moons through my camera’s zoom lens before, so I think I can do better once I get this new telescope fully set up.

A special and heartfelt thanks to Charlie, Judy and Mindy for conspiring to bequeath the telescope to me in the first place.  I promise to be a worthy custodian, and when/if ever I take cool pics with it I’ll be sure to post them here.  Thanks, guys.  This telescope is a lot of fun up here.

Stormy Days



The winds have been so loud at night that Inky’s been hiding under the bed.  If the wind isn’t howling, the rain is hammering on the roof.  I turned the outside lights on one night at 2 a.m. and the rain was going every direction there was – up, down, sideways, diagonal, you name it.  It felt like we should have been rocking back and forth like we were out to sea ourselves.

Sometimes the winds drive all the clouds away and you get a clear shot of the sky.  We had this big cyclopean moon up there like a flashlight shining on our little snowglobe.  And yet, all the spiders and snails and birds and assorted critters out there are doing just fine.  Wind hasn’t blown anyone away yet.  Including us or our house, though we’ve wondered when that’s going to happen.


Ironically, most of the tourists have gone home now after spending a lovely summer here thinking we have the best weather on the whole planet and they can’t wait until next May when they come back and visit us.  Great.  See you then, guys.

Blue tape. Scaffold. Rollers and brushes.

blue tape

Yeah, when you see all that blue tape and plastic sheeting, it can only mean one thing.  Over the course of three weekends we painted the house.  That colorless layer of latex, peeling and flaking off in places, permanently dirt covered in others, was just getting on our nerves.  Pretty sure that was the only layer of paint the house had ever seen before we came along.


Graffiti would have been an improvement, if we had any gangs or crews of taggers on our island.  Which we don’t.

LightWe used an airless paint sprayer, which means we spent about 9 hours taping everything off and then 20 minutes painting, per section.  A sprayer is really good at painting odd shaped objects, such as bat and board siding, but it does go through a lot of paint in a very short amount of time.

wet paintThis is a small house, but for some reason it’s still a bitch to paint.  Go figure.  And yes, I painted the rusty flagpole too.  How do you paint a flagpole?  Get some rustoleum and put it on a 4″ paint roller and put the roller on a telescoping pole.  The roller can reach about 10′ off the ground, or 20′ if you stand on top of a ladder.  My advice is to paint the top part of the flagpole first, so you can hold onto an unpainted section of the flagpole for balance.  Otherwise you just get wet paint all over your hand.

Unsafe scaffold

There’s the scaffold setup for the other side of the house.  Note that part of the scaffold had to rest on the deck.  The other part?  Well, I had to make those footers out of 2×6’s.  Fortunately I have about 900 board feet of 2×6’s leftover from the garage construction.  It was wobbly as hell but the wobbliness came from the two legs seated on the deck.  The footers I made were sturdy enough to support a Mack truck.

Scaffolding is fun.  Remember the jungle gyms we used to have on playgrounds?  (younger readers may not have these; they were probably replaced with something much safer)  Well, those things were training for your future on a scaffold painting your house someday.  When you’re trying to keep your balance on them, you use muscles you didn’t even know you had.  I’m not exactly afraid of heights but I’m not too fond of them either.

all finished


The trim around the windows we left white.  We weren’t terribly happy with it at the time but it’s grown on us.  The five logs adorning the front of our house were painted that same disgusting beige as the rest of the house so I painted them with varying shades of brown to make them look more like real logs.  At first they looked cartoonish, but after some dry brushing they acquired a bit of texture and now they either look really cheesy or they look like real logs.  Or both.  No one’s really had the honesty to tell us yet.

even side looks nice


This is the ugly side of the house.  The side with the electrical connections and disfigured deck and crap.  The side people first see when they approach the house.  Anyway, it looks much better.  And I have plans for it.  Slowly, over time, it will improve to the point that people might actually look at it and say “ooh, nice house.”  We’re about a million miles away from that point (not to mention dollars) but someday it will come.

new lights too

We got some new light fixtures for the side and the rear, and they look much better than the Ace Hardware clearance flood lights that used to be there.  Previously on the side, there were two flood lights set on a motion sensor.  Not a bad idea in theory, if you didn’t mind being blinded every time you walked up to the side door.  Pretty sure they caused brain damage in the short time I tolerated them.  They are now trash.  We don’t miss them.

nice place to relax

The front deck has now become a nice place to relax.  To sit and just stare at the sea.  Do I ever sit in those chairs?  Ha ha ha!  I own a house on Orcas Island.  I have things to do.  Sit in a chair, ha, that’s a good one.

chairPainting the house was a real milestone.  Now that it’s done, we’re a lot less embarrassed when people have to come over or walk up from the road or simply see us out in front of the house working on some chore or another.  It used be like “yeah, we’re just contractors.  Migrant farmers.  Just passing through.  Live here?  Oh, ha.  Who would live in such a dump?  Of course we don’t live here.  Silly tourist.”  But now, finally, the place is starting to look like a nice little house, and we don’t hide our faces when the cars drive by.  Maybe someday I’ll actually sit in one of those chairs and just, well, sit there.

looks nice now

Yeah, it looks much better.  I really do enjoy painting, it’s fun and kind of soothing and there’s a huge sense of accomplishment at the end of it.  But as far as I’m concerned the next person who paints my house can be the executor of my estate.


If you want a good place to watch every fireworks show in northwestern Washington state, look no further than our front porch.

Ooo!  Ahh.

The Canadians, who copy everything we do except our units of measurement, have their fireworks on July 1st, or Canada Day.  So we got tons of fireworks on the 4th and kilograms of fireworks on the 1st.

Socked In

A thick fog rolled in the other day.  The air was calm and quiet.  Nice thing about a fog is it traps the heat in, gets nice and warm.  And you totally expect a horde of undead zombies to come crawling ashore from a wrecked pirate ship.  Some of these old growth forests are spooky enough as they are, dark as a cave and crawling with critters.  I’d hate to be in a boat out there, when this fog rolls in.

Strange orange object seen in sky

sIMG_0345We saw this strange orange thing up in the sky this morning.  Not sure what it was.  It was really bright and hard to look at.  I think it was a spaceship, or some kind of weird fireball that inexplicably appeared for a few moments.  Going to contact NASA and see if they know anything about this.

sIMG_0343We were on the ferry when we saw it.  The winged sea-rats (depicted on right) did not seem terribly alarmed.  I think they use the orange light to help them scavenge for food.  They’re always staring at me like I have popcorn in my pockets or something.

sIMG_0347Once we got off the ferry, it turned into a really foggy day.  The highways were downright eerie, and flanked by the gray silhouettes of gnarled, leafless trees.  Not to mention the california drivers shooting by at speed limit +20, oblivious to the fact that they can’t see more than 30 yards ahead of them at a time.  Maybe they were just watching their GPS to make sure they were following the road okay.

sIMG_0353 sIMG_0356The weather on the way back was nice.  Clear skies with little banks of fog socked into the lowlands.  Like hordes of zombies moving slowly from suburb to suburb to prey upon the living.  Seriously, fog like that is really creepy.  Got a neat view of Mt. Baker with the moon right behind it.  More winged rats were scavenging the beaches for anything they could wrap their beak around.  They’re in league with the zombies, I’m sure of it.

sIMG_0334While on the beach, we found a bird feather that we brought home for Inky.  She went absolutely ballistic.  It smelled like bird, real authentic Bird!  She was completely nuts over it.  I mean, Cuckoo-for-Cocoa Puffs nuts.

Well, we got back from the mainland with a carload of goods from Target and Walgreens and other various luxuries we don’t often find on the island.  It’s a balancing act.  Not only does it cost around $50 just to get the car on the ferry, but we’re talking 12 hours of Life that goes by between the time we have to get up and the time we get back.  So $50 + (cost of gas) + (whatever you think your free time is worth per hour × 12 hours) is the base cost of dragging yourself to the mainland for a shopping excursion.  Naturally, we save a bit of money at the big box stores stocking up on paper towels and napkins and stuff, but if your net savings isn’t greater than what you came up with in the equation above, you lost money.  Not monopoly money.  Real, live, legal tender for all debts public and private.  In this case, I think we broke even.

sIMG_0337We bought a cord of firewood a while back, so when we got home we had plenty of fuel to make this house nice and toasty.  So we could unfurl our retail store prizes in the comfort of a warm home.  I must say, that is well worth the price of admission.

Critter List

I think some people have this internal Critter List where they mentally keep track of all the critters they have seen.  I know I do.  These are critters we’ve seen in their own natural habitat, their home, the places they actually live.  When we see them in a zoo or at a circus, while cool, it’s not the same thing.  The guy down the road has llamas and geese on his farm, and it’s neat.  But it’s not like a wild critter sighting.

We’ve all seen the usual ones, the squirrels and birds and pigeons and stuff.  Bats and foxes and raccoons are not uncommon.  If you’re from Florida, I’m sure you can cross alligators off your list.  Most people have seen snakes and frogs and turtles in their travels.  Hawks, sure.  Rats?  Hey, they’re critters.  Starfish?  Got ’em.  Wild turkeys?  Yup.  Owl?  Haven’t seen them but I’ve heard one.  River otters?  Yup.  Never seen a bear or a mountain cat myself but I know plenty of people who have.

Well, now I can finally add this little critter family to my list.  Orca whales, headed east across the sea, right outside my front door.  Not in a zoo, not at sea world, not on the farm up the road or in some guy’s backyard swimming pool, but right here.  How cool is that?

They don’t surface for very long so you have to be quick with a camera.  I’m very happy to have been able to see these guys.

Clear day

sIMG_1229On a clear day, you can see pretty far out here.  Those mountains are in Canada, and they’re about 50 miles out.  You can only really see them when they’re not obscured by clouds, an event that occurs about one day out of 300.  Usually you look out to sea and just see this foggy haze over the water and it looks like it just goes on forever.


Camera + Telescope = Fun

sIMG_1236Well, not like laser-beams-coming-out-your-eyeballs fun, but it’s pretty fun nonetheless.

I could sink a lot of money into astrophotography.  The tripod I want costs as much as a slightly used volkswagen.  And there’s a telescope I’ve seen that sells more for a house.  Seriously.  They make some neat stuff nowadays.  If I win the lottery, that’s where all my money is going.

I snapped these lunar pics while there was still daylight left.  The focus wasn’t as crisp as I’d like but for a little amateur telescope I’ll take it.  We don’t get many clear nights out here but when we do, I’ll get a few nice pics out of it.