Friday, April 24, 2020

Exploring Bellingham: Yellow Spring Flowers

A sunny spring walk on the Division Street Trail in Bellingham.
I love spring flowers. As Wayne and I walk around our Bellingham neighbourhood, we see lots in gardens and natural areas.

On a walk this week, I noticed several bright yellow blooms in natural settings or crevices where they are trying to take hold.

Three of them are non-native species. One is considered a useful weed and two, while they have beautiful yellow flowers, are on the invasive species list.


Everyone is familiar with dandelions. If you have a yard, you might not enjoy them taking over your lawn, but they are a welcome sight early in spring.

Dandelions holding on in a precarious spot next to the sidewalk.

Seattle Magazine had an excellent article about using dandelions in the kitchen. If you decide to try, make sure you gather from areas that are not polluted and have not been treated with pesticides. Suggestions included using the young leaves in salads, sauteing leaves and unopened buds (open flowers are bitter),  making jelly from the petals, teas and toasting roots for a coffee-like drink. Dandelions are good for you as a natural source for iron, Vitamin A and Vitamin C. I haven't tried eating dandelions - yet.

Scotch Broom

I just saw Scotch Broom for the first time in our neighbourhood. When it flowers, it's very evident. Scotch Broom always reminds of my Powell Lake home. In spring, cleared areas break out covered in bright yellow.

As pretty as it can be, Scotch Broom is an invasive noxious weed in Washington State and BC. It's poisonous for livestock, overtakes native plants and crops, and is very hard to eradicate because of it's prolific seed production and deep roots. To help quarantine the species, you cannot buy, sell or transport Scotch Broom or its seeds.

Lesser Celandine

Along a retaining wall at our condo complex, I've been watching a ground cover plant. It's bright green leaves first caught my attention. Then it had tiny yellow flowers. I took a picture and went to Google images to make an identification.

A thick mat of Lesser Celandine in a condo ornamental bed.

I'm pretty sure this is Lesser Celandine. Maybe a reader can confirm or correct my identification. If it is Lesser Celandine, it's an invasive noxious weed in Washington State. It aggressively takes over in lawns, planters and natural areas. It's toxic to humans and livestock. Like Scotch Broom, digging up down to the roots and careful disposal in spring is recommended.

What flowers are you seeing in your neighbourhood? Are you allowed to go outside to walk? Can you use parks or other natural areas? Stay home (or near home) and safe until we get a handle on this horrible pandemic. -- Margy

Monday, April 13, 2020

Exploring Bellingham: The Division Street Trail

A Greenways signpost at the Aldrich Road end of the trail.
While walking for exercise in our North Bellingham neighbourhood, we discovered a trail. It's a Greenway path that runs east-west from Eliza Avenue to Aldrich Road. It's called the Division Street Trail.

It's included in the Bellingham Trail Guide that you can access by following this link. You can read about the Greenways trails by following this link. There's lots to do and explore in Bellingham while still maintaining social distancing.

You can use Google maps to locate the trail and follow your route.

The half mile long maintained trail runs through residential and natural settings.

We entered the Greenway trail at Eliza Avenue near backyards.
From our condo, the entire walk was two and a half miles. It's the farthest we've gone so far, but our increased stamina made it possible.

From busy Bakerview Road we walked north up quiet Eliza Avenue.  We previously took this route to walk through the Whatcom Community College campus which is currently closed.

The trail entrance isn't well marked, but the gravel path on the west side of the road is evident.

Towards the Aldrich Road end of the trail there's a protected area.

The trail itself is only half a mile in length. We only passed one dog walker at the Eliza end and two women walking in from the Aldrich end.  The entire length is flat and well maintained.

While the first part of the trail is flanked by homes and apartments, the last half passes through a Native Growth Protection Area.

The sign says: "This planting area and buffer are protected to provide wildlife habitat and maintain water quality. Please do not disturb this valuable resource."

It's much like the riparian area behind our condo, but much larger.

As we exited the trail, we found this cluster of painted rocks left to brighten our day.

Painted rocks "donated" to a planter along Aldrich Road.

What are you doing for exercise and to get fresh air? Do you live in town where your options are limited or do you live in a rural area with lots of choices? -- Margy

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Doing Our Part: Sewing Face Masks for Personal Use

A reverse selfie with my new face mask.
One advantage of heeding Washington Governor Inslee's "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order in our Bellingham condo is it's fully equipped. When Mom passed, we kept it as our U.S. part-time home.

Here I have her sewing machine, ironing board and sewing supplies. When it came time to make face masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, I was prepared except for fabric. That's where an old sheet and T-shirt came in handy.

I picked Billettes Baubles Eco Alternatives's video to follow and one about washing them.

Mom here in her Bellingham condo in 2008.
As children, both my mom and dad survived the 1918 Influenza Pandemic in Los Angeles. This account by the University of Michigan Center for the History of Medicine has parallels to our current COVID-19 Pandemic.

Strong mitigation including bans on gatherings, and school and business closures resulted in a lower death rate in Los Angeles than similar cities. And there was controversy about face masks.

I laundered the fabric before I began. I cut two 7x9" rectangles from the sheet and one 5X7" of T-shirt knit. The knit took more ironing to keep it flat. The video called for flannel, but I didn't have any and I trimmed wide elastic narrower for my two 7" ear loops. 

1. Cut 7" sheet strip. 2. Then cut 7X9" rectangles. 3-4. Cut 5X7" T-shirt rectangle.

Here are the steps I used to assemble the mask. Watch the video to see it even better.

Stitch a smaller piece in the middle.
  • Pin and sew the 5X7" knit piece in the middle of one7X9" cotton cloth piece. I made my knit piece 5" wide to cover a larger portion of my face.

  • Pin and sew the two 7x9" pieces together leaving an inch and a half opening at the top. Make sure the front sides (if your fabric has a print pattern) are facing each other and the extra stitched on center piece is facing outwards. 

Turn it right side out through the hole.
  • As you are sewing, double stitch one end of elastic in each corner between the two pieces of fabric. Watch the video. It's easier to see than describe. The two elastic strips will create the loops that go behind your ears to keep the mask in place.

  • Trim the corners. Use the hole you left open at the top to turn the mask right side out. Iron the seams flat. Double stitch around the sides of the mask to close the hole and secure the edges.

Make two horizontal pleats.
  • Create two horizontal pleats and pin them in place. These pleats will allow the mask to shape around your nose and chin.

  • Double stitch along the sides of the mask to hold the pleats firmly together.

  • Your mask is ready to wear.

Stitching the sides to hold the pleats in place.

This type of mask will not protect you from the coronavirus. They can penetrate even three layers of cloth. However, a mask like this can help reduce spreading the virus if you are infected but asymptomatic. Wearing a face mask cannot replace social distancing. Stay home. If you must go out, always stay at least six feet (two metres) away from others.

Are you wearing and/or making face masks? What about the people in your community?

p.s. After I wrote this post (and made my masks) I read an article about preferred fabrics for homemade masks. It said that T-shirt material was less desirable because holes in knits are larger than woven flannel and cotton cloth. If you have these materials available, I would recommend using them instead. If you have these materials available, I would recommend using them instead. Also, this style of mask made with a soft fabric rides close to your nose, making it hard to breathe while walking or exercising. -- Margy

Friday, April 3, 2020

Exploring Bellingham: Walking Our Neighbourhood Streets

A showery day walking on Bakerview Road near our condo.
Monday I shared how we are using our condominium's "backyard" to get outdoors and for exercise.

Today I'm expanding our walking distance using neighbourhood sidewalks.

After leaving our condo's path, we walk along the streets of North Bellingham. We have several directions to choose from, north towards Whatcom Community College, east or west along busy Bakerview Road, or through the Bellis Fair shopping center.

Hilly sidewalks around the mall are a good place for heart healthy exercise.

Bellis Fair is a large shopping center with several anchor department stores and an extensive indoor mall  area. The mall is now closed following Governor Inslee's "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order. The only exceptions are Target which sells food and essentials, and restaurants offering takeout and delivered food.

Bellis Fair's Target store is open for groceries and other needed products.

Heading north we come to Whatcom Community College. I've taken a number of writing and art classes here. We also used to go basketball games when the semi-pro SLAM team played here. Like the mall, the college is closed so the sidewalks are empty for easy distancing.

The entrance to Whatcom Community College.

Each route includes a few hills to give us an extra push. I'm happy to say that my endurance has increased and my heavy breathing has lessened over the last few weeks. It also gives a boost to my mental state.

Cordata Parkway north of Whatcom College is a beautiful place to walk.

And even better, my last visit to the scale didn't include any extra pounds despite staying indoors for the vast majority of the day and eating more, albeit healthy meals.

What are you doing to stay healthy in these difficult times? -- Margy