Detail from "Rain Dance," an original quilt by Sherrie Spangler

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sky and Sea

This is how the sky looked over our house yesterday evening (Monday). I snapped the photo on auto setting -- no manipulations or cropping or coloring. The clouds billowed, blew across the bay and glowed orange.

An hour later, it looked like this. Billows had turned to orange-purple-pink streaks, and a heavy layer of clouds settled over the Olympic Mountains on the horizon. It stays light up here until around 10 p.m.

Twelve hours later, at 10 this morning at Kopachuck Beach, the billows blew back in and it was chilly and gray. Dave and I were the only ones on the beach, and we wondered where our other Harbor WildWatch volunteer was for our 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift. We also wondered why we were scheduled to volunteer when the tide was in. We finally discovered that our shift was noon to 4! That made more sense, since low tide was just after 2 p.m.

So we went home and came back later, and around 3 p.m. the same spot as above looked like this:

We found some good stuff to put in the touch tanks, thanks to our naturalist, John. Above, he points to a small moon snail. The shell is in the center and the beige blob around it is the snail itself oozing out of the shelf. To its lower left is a bigger moon snail. They can pull themselves all the way into the shells by squeezing out the excess water. The gray curved thing to the left of the big moon snail that looks like a broken toilet plunger is a moon snail egg collar. The snail forms the case out of sand, mucous and eggs and it curves around its body, like a collar. Then the snail slips away and collar is eventually broken up and the eggs disperse.

The orange-colored sea star is actually an ochre star. On the rocks in the lower right corner are anchored anemones. (Close-up photo below.) When the tide goes out and uncovers the anemones, they curl their spines inward and look like blobs. They open back up when the sea washes back over them.

Close-up of moon snail's "eyes" -- the two skinny spiky light-sensing protuberances. You can also see the two anemones' rings of tentacles, which make them look like flowers. The stinging tentacles have millions of cells called cnidocytes, each of which has a tiny, harpoon-like mechanism to help capture prey.

Such drama, all in our own backyard!

In this next touch tank (above) we have a mottled sea star, a sand dollar (the live ones are a dark purple), a bunch of little crabs at the top, and some oyster shells at the bottom.

At the end of our shift, everything goes back to the same tidal zone in which it was found.

Good-bye beach,
until we meet again.

P.S. Please correct me if I've misidentified anything.
Additional info is always welcome.
Either leave a comment below or e-mail me at

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Bad broccoli babies!

Some of you have asked for updates on Farmer Dave's broccoli babies. I have bad news. They bolted and went to seed (above) before making nice bunches of broccoli. He'll try again in the fall. The peas, on the other hand, are behaving quite well (below).

While I was out weeding today, I picked a salad for lunch and some young onions to carmelize for sandwich topping. The kale leaves are for the rabbit's lunch. (Nothing but the best for Bunners.)

Have a colorful day!

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

"The Highest Tide" professor hits our beach

This is Alan Rammer and a mottled sea star at Kopachuck Beach. Alan is the guy who inspired the character of Professor Kramer in the WONDERFUL novel, "The Highest Tide" by Olympia, WA, author Jim Lynch.

The "prof," who in real life taught lucky kids about the wonders of the sea for Washington state, led a free beach walk this weekend at Kopachuck. Dave and I were out there to volunteer with Harbor WildWatch, which we recently joined, and we got to be part of the enthusiastic throng that followed him up and down the beach for an excellent adventure. Here are some photos:

Lots of budding young naturalists showed up, and most of them knew more than I did. Alan fed us fascinating facts such as: Sea cucumbers can blow their guts out from their mouth OR from the other end. And the oldest recorded geoduck (pronounced "gooey duck") clam was 164 years old and was from the Puget Sound. It beat out the previous claim from Alaska.

Sea stars don't always have five arms. A sunflower star like this one can grow more than 20.

This is the bottom of the sunflower, showing its little sucking tube feet. Alan reminded everyone to only touch the sea critters with wet hands and to gently place them back where they were found. How would you like it, he asked the kids, if a giant picked you up and then put you back in the wrong house?

This is a male red shore crab. Notice the purple ta-tas. Alan said the males of this species grow bulbous purple pincers which they wave around to attract females. As he put it, the crab with the biggest pom poms get the girl, sort of the opposite of the human species. If you EVER get a chance to hear this guy speak, GO.

And afterward, go to The Tides Tavern in Gig Harbor for the best sweet potato fries I've ever come across. We adjourned there after the beach walk and stuffed ourselves, as usual. (To replace those calories burned up on the walk.)

If you haven't yet read "The Highest Tide," check out some reviews by clicking here and here. The Pierce County libraries have it, as do any good book stores worth their salt.

Now, to give proper credit for the beach walk/talk: It was sponsored by Shellfish Partners, which is made up of the Pierce Conservation District (farms, streams), Tacoma Pierce County Health Dept. (septic systems, solid waste), and Pierce County Surface Water Management (flooding, storm water) ... and they say:



Anything that hits the ground
eventually ends up in The Puget Sound.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Happy Belated Summer Solstice

Normally I make a big deal out of

Summer Solstice
because I crave sunshine.
I forgot to post about it Monday,
so here, two days late and two days into

are some summer quilts:

"The Purple People Celebrate Summer"
Juried into the International Quilt Festival-Houston, 2000

"Beach Houses"
Rejected from IQF's West Coast Wonders, 2008

Detail from "Beach Houses"
I painted most of the fabric and embellished it with yarn and beads.

BAM! Let there be light!
This is a 4x6 inch fabric postcard that I donated to a cancer fund-raiser in 2006 at the International Quilt Festival in Chicago. Some nice person with good taste bought it for $30, but I don't know who.
I titled it "Energy Exchange."

Have a Sunny Day!
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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day!


To the man who taught me everything
a gar-girl needs to know.

(Thanks, also, to my very tolerant mother.)

Have a Happy, Colorful Day!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The black thumb gardener

Step into my garden!

My column this week in the local newspaper is about my life as THE BLACK THUMB GARDENER. I promised to show pictures on my blog, so here you go:

"I tried. It died."

(My green thumb friend Nancy called today and said she saw this quote at the garden shop and thought of my column. It's so true.)

On the other hand, I have had some successes, thanks to my fairy godmother of the garden (from the Olympia, WA, farmer's market) and the garden bunny (from last summer's Gig Harbor Garden Tour). The bountiful pink blooms behind them are from a divided wild geranium plant that a friend gave me last year. (I think that's what it is.) I actually got it into the ground and it survived!

Here is one of my front porch pots, with flowers that another green thumb friend, Rosemary, helped me select. See my column for details on that trip to the nursery.

Now, which pot looks better, the one above (No. 1) or below (No. 2)? Do you detect anything unusual? No? Good.

Our side yard is full of ferns, which I love not only for their ferniness but because they don't need any care whatsoever from me. I painted the silk fabric and plopped it in the center of this fern for a photo.

This is another part of the yard that I love because all I have to do is pull weeds every now and then. I like a wild garden much better than a manicured one.

So there you have it. Proof that even the black thumb gardener can have a piece of green.

Have a colorful day!
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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Will this quilt never end?

I've clearly lost control of the quilt.

This is the quilt from a few posts back that I thought I ruined with black lines. I picked out the black then tried to beef up the orange focal square. That's easier said than done when the piece has already been quilted. So in the second photo, I turned it on its side and pinned on a green roof (from a piece left over from another quilt) and gold "steps." My daughter complained vigorously about the gold. She thinks it's tacky. I love gold.

I removed the steps. I liked the roof, especially since half the roofs here in the Northwest have moss on them because of all the rain. I added a mossy green moon. Why not? Then I replaced the steps with pier pilings because you see so many of them out here that they've been burned into my brain.

Pilings and water are slowly displacing
the forest and desert imagery
from my previous lives.

But I refuse to yield to the gray skies!

I still don't know if this is done. I'm probably going to staple it around the stretcher frame tonight and move on.
Comments welcome

Have a colorful day!
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Sunday, June 6, 2010

Maritime Festival in Gig Harbor

Sunset over Gig Harbor
during June 5-6 Maritime Festival

Everyone loves a parade, especially the big kids who dressed up like pirates during the Maritime Festival, one of Gig Harbor's most popular downtown events. It continues Sunday, so get down there if you haven't yet. Blessing of the Fleet is from 1-1:30!

Harbor WildWatch brigade!

Extra floating docks were added for the festival, and I took this picture Saturday from one of them looking back at the old net shed. You can see the tents and balloons beyond.

Little moon jelly (about 2-3 inches) that we spotted in the harbor.

See you at the festival Sunday!

Friday, June 4, 2010

I screwed up the quilt

I screwed up the quilt with the black lines!
Need suggestions!

I decided that the quilt (at the bottom of my last post) needed some definition, some emphasis. My idea of a soft, loose, breezy confection worked better when I just had a pile of silk than when I cut and quilted it. My sew group agreed, and I couched on some black cording.

It doesn't work. I'm going to rip out the black (and I almost never rip). I'm not sure where to go from there. Any suggestions? This is when I wish I had more formal art training.

The colored straight stitching was fun to do, but it almost disappears.

Black begone!

On a more cheerful note, a few days ago we had half a day of sunshine and joined the rest of Gig Harborites who came outside for the occasion. Here's Julia (who took the deer photos) relaxing after we worked out at the Y.

And so do you!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Work in progress

Remember all of that silk I painted a few posts ago?
Here's how I'm turning it into a quilt.

1. Narrow down the selection and choose some hand-painted cotton to lay under the sheer silk. (Above) Options are unlimited!

2. Spread the blue and orange cotton background over a piece of quilt batting. (The white fluffy stuff showing around the edges.) Cut, arrange and rearrange silk pieces, along with some glitzy gold fabric. Keep cutting and tossing and rearranging and shuffling. When satisfied, pin in place.
(Normally I would also lay a backing fabric under the batting, but since I'm planning to stretch this piece over a frame, I left that out.)

I'm going for a loose, breezy feel.

3. Roll up quilt from the sides and begin quilting in the center. I'm using gold thread -- I love glitter -- and making up the quilt design as I go, responding to the fabric.

This part is the dance.

I love watching the colors pass under the needle. I love seeing how an overlay of violet silk affects the colors beneath. I love leaving the edges raw so they can move.

4. I'm almost done with the quilting, but there's a lot more needed. I think I'll add some hand embroidery and maybe some beads next. I'll keep you posted.

Colorfully yours!