Tag Archives: wildlife


When the road serenaded me with its song, I followed the music into #Canada. We hopped the ferry out of Anacortes headed for Sydney, Vancouver Island. Once there, we kicked our bikes into gear and zipped over to the motel to rest up for the coming day and a trip to #Butchart Gardens.

IMG_2658  Loved it! As do about a million visitors a year. We even ran into a family of bears among the trees.

IMG_2661 Fortunately, they were of the vegetative kind.

Not far down the road, we whipped into the Butterfly Garden.

This beauty is actually a moth! IMG_2908

Several birds flitted about the gardens. IMG_2971 This one decided to land on my wife’s shoulder and tell her a secret. I didn’t ask Deva to reveal the bird’s secret.

After seven plus hours on my feet, I was ready to just cruise the roads of Vancouver Island the next day. The day after that, we caught the ferry to Tsawwassen on the mainland of Canada. From there we rode on into Harrison Hot Springs. The internet teems with articles about the Hot Springs, so I will simply say that the town of Harrison, in addition to the hot springs, can boast that their little chocolate store has lip-smackin’ good English Toffee.

The following day found us scrambling up the mountain side to stand at the base of Bridal Veil Falls. In spite of it being mid-summer (an off season to view the Falls) and the area being in a four-month drought, it was worth the sore muscles to stand there, gazing up toward the source. IMG_3078

The days blended into one another and our next notable stop was the small town of Hope, British Columbia–not far from Harrison Hot Springs. Hope is a bit of what I would call a ‘sleeper’ town–it will absolutely surprise and charm you. This small town of 5,969 people not only hosts an art gallery well worth the time to check out, but carvings done by internationally reknown carvers scatter throughout the town.

I was especially pleased to meet Harry of Harry and the Hendersons. IMG_3126

The next town that hosted us required a ride over the hill. IMG_3141

Princeton sits in the middle of, well, nowhere. After dinner at a local restaurant, we decided to call it a day and veg out. Not given to listening to the news and being out of touch with all media, we finally turned on the television as we flopped out on the bed. The next day’s ride would be on the Crow’snest Highway, or BC-3, into Osoyoos  then drop into the United States by way of Oroville and onto Omak on US-97.

As the news flashed to the scene of a blazing inferno, I gaped at the reader line across the bottom of the television screen: #Omak, #Washington. Needless to say, we turned around and headed back to the United States via Chilliwack, British Columbia, to Sumas in the States.

Unfortunately, our shock wasn’t to end with leaving Canada. We arrived in Darrington to a beautiful sunset and the smell of smoke. IMG_2552

Approximately a year and a half ago the town of Darrington wrestled with the devastation of the Highway 530 Mudslide that destroyed homes and took lives. Last night we once again gathered at the Community Center to face fire this time. Though our small fire only encompasses approximately eighty acres on the side of Jumbo Mountain that towers above the town, concern lay heavy on the room. Avalanche chutes and winds could easily spread the burning debris.

Only thirty-three miles away–less if you draw a straight line between the towns–the Skagit Complex fires–eight of them–rage around the small towns of Newhalem and Diablo. Only a small percentage of those fire perimeters are contained, meaning that a line has been built that will stop the progress of the fire.

Just over the mountains, fire devastates communities. Three firefighters lost their lives. Homes and farms and dreams go up in columns of black smoke.

All over the states of Washington, Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Northern California fire claims lives and homes; businesses and farms.

Less talked about are the countless thousands of animals and birds–both wild and domestic–that have lost their lives to the greedy flames. The decimation of their homes and food supply will have tragic, long lasting consequences. Some of the species may not fully recover for years, if ever.

So while I urge you to continue to send prayers, and relief aid, to the victims of those most devastating fires, such as the Okanogan Complex Fires, I would like to ask that you send a prayer, a thought out to the Universe for the wildlife, wild birds and domestic animals that are suffering.

Meanwhile, here in Darrington, we watch our small fire on Jumbo Mountain as we send relief efforts and prayers to those who face raging infernos.

mountain with smoke above restaurant

To view more photos from Biker Granny, go to http://www.pinterest.com/ayawalksfar

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DSC09967 White Horse Mountain, Cascade Mountains, Darrington, Washington

Lessons Learned (The Observations of a Wildlife Habitat Manager)

Other than #author, I have several hats that I wear. Among them is the Wildlife Habitat Manager Hat. Habitat is NOT a sanctuary. It is a place where wildlife and wild birds can arrive and depart as they please. Habitat offers the wild ones food (in the form of plants, trees and the resultant insects), water (sometimes in the form of water dishes if the natural water source dries up), and shelter/nesting areas (in the form of bushes, trees, tall grass areas, undergrowth and deliberately maintained ‘slash piles’ of natural plants including tree limbs), and, hopefully, a measure of safety from domestic predators such as cats and dogs.

In 1996, my wife and I bought twelve acres of abused farmland. When I label the land abused what I mean is that the fields had been overgrazed, invasive weeds such as non-native blackberry bushes and morning glories had taken over approximately eleven acres of the land, garbage had been dumped on the creek banks and piled in a variety of other places (all of which we discovered as we took down the invasive blackberry brambles); old cars, farm equipment, freezers–complete with the rotted carcasses and hides of deer, bear and other wildlife– and other appliances also hid beneath the blackberry brambles; and, sadly, we also uncovered the skeletons and other remains of animals and birds killed for the sake of killing and left to rot where they lay.

When we first moved here, no birds flew over the property. It reminded me of the silent spring that Rachel Carson evoked with the title of her important book. Not until our medicine man came and blessed the land did the birds return. The first bird in was the tiny Rufous Hummingbird.

Since that time, we have cataloged sixty-eight different species of birds who visit our land, usually staying to shelter and/or nest. We have had a variety of wildlife, including a family of deer who frequently have their fawns in our back field and coyotes who sing their mournful songs to the dark of night.

But, the journey has not been without it setbacks and detours. So here are a few of the lessons learned by this wildlife habitat manager:

—When calculating the amount of time a rehab project might take, add in one-half again of what you think (ie: 40 hours would become 60 hours). This will allow for delays, surprises and just days when you want to play instead of work.

—Be aggressive with invasive plants! Whether the plants are Euro-Asian blackberries, morning glories, scotch broom or English daisies, begin a program of spray-mow-spray immediately. For the sake of the wild ones, try to use eco-friendly herbicides such as Round-Up. It you really need more toxic herbicides, such as some of the caustics, try to spot spray and limit the amount of the chemical used as well as the amount of land it is applied to.

—Not everything the experts tell you to try will work. For several winters, I fought a losing battle with snow tearing the gutters off of the barn. We tried a number of different remedies, including snowjacks that are in use in places like Alaska. The problem with our snow is that it accumulates, partially melts, refreezes and accumulates some more making most types of snowjacks not very efficient and often the victim of the snow pack along with the gutters. The way we resolved our issue was with four foot deep trenches around our barn under the roofline. We filled the trenches with two different sizes of rock/gravel and with French drain then created a ditch that leads to a depression where the water can slowly dissipate. It works, for us. Don’t be afraid to try out your own ideas.

—Try different plants in different areas! You may be surprised that what will grow in one place, won’t flourish in another place that appears to be the exact same type of ground, sunlight and moisture.

—When visiting nurseries, ignore most of the statements like “Oh, no, this is not invasive”; “no, you won’t have any problem with this spreading where you don’t want it” and similar statements. Many of the current invasives that we battle daily were brought here deliberately by other people, including the scourges of farmland and wildlife habitat–English daisies and scotch broom! No one thought these “pretty flowers” would become noxious weeds. We can eradicate invasive plants. Be consistent and persistent!

Try to use plants that are native/indigenous to your area. (Our neighbor planted a black walnut tree and now we have bunches of baby black walnut trees sprouting up everywhere). Think twice about eradicating what your neighbors may term ‘weeds’ if that plant is indigenous, such as salmonberry bushes and Indian plum bushes. Many times the wildlife/wild birds that are native to your area really need these plants (sometimes, the very ones your neighbors labor weeds)! Both salmonberry and Indian plum are early spring flowering plants that provide much needed nectar for the hummingbirds who arrive before other trees and bushes set their blossoms.

DSC01752 Patch of Thimbleberry bushes (Pacific Northwest native plant; edible by humans, birds and wildlife. A tasty red berry on a thornless bramble.)

Salmonberry bushes are much more sensitive (especially to herbicides) than many people believe and can be controlled (kept to one area) by mowing the young starts that sprout through rhizome propagation. As well as providing nectar, these delicate blossoms are a lovely relief from the barrenness of winter. According to my adoptive mother, Vi taqseblu Hilbert, who was an Upper Skagit elder, new shoots were once eaten by #NativeAmericans much like asparagus. The berries are red or gold colored and delicious for people, birds or other wildlife. salmonberry bloom Salmonberry blossom (Pacific Northwest native plant)

—Be gentle with yourself! This was a very important lesson for me. I tend to demand not only perfection of myself, but perfection as of yesterday! No matter how dedicated and hardworking you are, take time to stop and just walk the land, enjoy all that you have accomplished. Be sure to take ‘before’ photos you can refer to because many times we don’t see the progress we are making. Sort of like being in a dense forest–rather difficult to see the whole tree.

—Remember, even though one person can’t save the entire planet; we can’t even save the entire species–whatever the species–we can make a difference one person at a time; one small piece of land at a time. So, whether you have a small backyard or a hundred acres, what you do matters. When you provide food, water and shelter for two birds that gives that bird species one more place to rest, to eat and grow strong, and to bring young into this world to bless all of us. And, each time one of us provides habitat for the wild ones, we demonstrate to our neighbors and friends that it can be done without sacrificing the use and enjoyment of our property. We can make a difference; and, we can make this world a tiny bit better for us having been here.

We are saving, preserving and increasing beauty each day.

JUNE 2015 144 Oregon Grape (Pacific Northwest native plant; berries are edible by humans, birds and wildlife)


To see photos of the author’s land, go to Pinterest (http://www.pinterest.com/ayawalksfar) and view Jaz Wheeler’s farm. My character in Run or Die has much the same kind of place as we do. Funny how that works!






The Lighthouse Award

I’d like to thank #AllisonBruning at  http://www.allisonbruning.blogspot.com for nominating me for The Lighthouse Award. Never heard of it, but love what it stands for: #bloggers who like to help people! It always feels so good to be recognized.

There are gifts given to every person. How we use those gifts determines what kind of human we become. Writing is one of my gifts. For me, writing is about helping others: it provides mental relaxation, adds to knowledge, highlights important issues, provides role models and most of all, gives us hope.

Another gift is my love for Mother Earth. In 1996, my wife and I purchased 12 acres of abused farmland that we named Wild Haven. What had once been forested wetlands had fifty or so years before been logged, the pathways of water changed and made into farmland. The farmland was then abused by overuse and negligence. By the time we bought it invasive weeds controlled eleven acres of the 12. Bodies of dead animals and birds lay scattered like discarded rubbish. The people that had owned it loved to kill, not to eat but to destroy. Not even a bird flew over the land until our medicine man came and cleansed it. The first bird to return was a hummingbird. Now we host 68 different species of birds over the course of a year’s time as well as a number of mammals such as coyote, fox, rabbit, possum, raccoon, deer, an occasional cougar, and a black bear who loves our fall apples. Three species of salmon now call our creek a pathway to spawning grounds. In 2001 the National Wildlife Federation certified our farm was Wildlife Habitat. In 2002, we have won a county award for Wildlife Farm of the Year. In 2003, we won the Washington State Award for #Wildlife Small Farm of the Year. #Conservation is the gift we give to the generations yet to come. What kind of world will we hand on?

Gnarly apple tree To see more photos of Wild Haven, go to http://www.pinterest.com/ayawalksfar  Look at Jaz Wheeler’s Farm board.

The third gift I have been graced with is the ability to look at writing of others and see where I can suggest changes that will make it stronger, clearer. I don’t do the polish editing like my wonderful editor, Lee Hargroder Porche, but what I call developmental editing. I help clarify timelines, pick up on dialog that isn’t realistic and other details that can make an author’s work a bit more real.

The Lighthouse Award requires that a blogger:

• Display the Award Certificate on your blog.
• Write a post and link back to the blogger that nominated you.
• Inform your nominees of their award nominations.
• Share three ways that you like to help others.
• Nominate as many bloggers as you like.
When I think about all the people who #blog and who make helping others a large part of their lives, there are too many to list. But here are some that I nominate for The Lighthouse Award:
#RubyStandingDeer at http://www.rubystandingdeer.com  whose Native American series is a spiritual journey
#ErikaSzabo at  http://www.authorerikamszabo.com who tirelessly worked to bring to us the Read for Animals book and event
#WiseandWildWomen at http://wildandwisewomen.com whose entire goal is the uplifting of women
#JenWilliams at with http://myraysoflight.wordpress.com who constantly brings forth issues we need to consider
#JumbledWriter at  http://www.jumbledwriter.com whose blog and subjects are all about conversations that help people consider timely issues
Please visit these wonderful blogs. You’ll be glad that you did! Be sure to CLICK and FOLLOW so you don’t miss new posts!
To share in the conversations, join Aya on http://www.facebook.com/ayawalksfar
To check out Aya’s latest works go to http://www.facebook.com/AyaWalksfarAuthor
To see some really cool photos click over to http://www.pinterest.com/ayawalksfar


I am thrilled to announce that Mountain Springs House Publishing is doing a blog tour from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

This is the VERY FIRST blog tour I have ever been involved in and I am honored that my publisher, Allison Bruning, has asked me to participate. I will be getting to host some really fine authors on my blog, and I will be doing guest posts on other blogs. This is going to be so much fun! Even for a technosaur like me!

Check out Mountain Springs House on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/groups/mountainsprings/
And “LIKE” us on http://www.facebook.com/MountainSpringsHouse?fret=ts

I have been asked to post a bio and photo so you can get to know me a bit better.

One dark night, just as the wolves howled…. Oh, wait! I’m supposed to do the true stuff, right? Okay, try again.

I was born. I grew up. I am now a big monster. Oh, okay, that’s not quite what I was supposed to do. Do I ever do what I am supposed to do? Not really. Probably why I like Sergeant Nita Slowater of the Special Crimes Team.

Sooo…here’s the real skinny:

Born in a rougher section of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, (and there were several of those areas when I was growing up. I hear they’ve cleaned Pittsburgh up very nicely, now. Haven’t been back in many years.) I soon learned how to make myself invisible. If you tend to be on the smaller side, this is a very good talent. As a result, I got to observe people in their myriad of attitudes and emotions. They fascinated me.

In self-defense against loneliness, I learned to read very early, and to write. My first story was written in pencil on those tablets for little kids with huge spaces between lines. It was a story about a lost dog. Do you ever forget your first?

Ever since that day, I have been creating alternate realities.

Fortunately, my life has been anything except traditional, and therefore, I have never run out of stories to tell. I lived on the road for several years, have worked non-traditional jobs (and a very few traditional jobs), and have walked many dark roads and city streets.

Currently, I live on a 12 acre wildlife/wild bird/indigenous plant habitat that my wife of 25 years and I have created. During a single year, we host over 68 different species of birds, and many different animals.

When I am not either reading or writing, I love to hike, take photographs, work with my dogs, tend the land, horseback ride, travel, learn new things, and recently, I acquired a motorcycle, so I am having a great deal of fun learning to ride. Whenever I have the opportunity, I also search for the perfect chocolate. There are many good chocolates in the world, but I am convinced that there is a “perfect one”. Have to eat a lot of chocolates while I am researching!

Aya Walksfar

Aya Walksfar

Now that you know who I am, let me share what I write.

My novella, Dead Men and Cats, is a murder mystery set on an island in Puget Sound, Washington. Two women, Megan Albright and Janie Sampson, while walking on the beach, discover an old rowboat stuck in a driftwood tree. As they turn to continue their walk, a calico kitten leaps from inside the rowboat and onto the slick tree trunk. Nearly falling into Shallow Point Cove, the frightened animal leaps back into the boat.
Megan wades out to the rowboat to rescue the kitten, and encounters the body of a dead man lying in the bottom of the boat. A few days later, Dan Uley’s bookstore is firebombed. With a black cat.
Not long after his bookstore is firebombed, Dan is gruesomely murdered.
Fearing that Sheriff Johnson’s lack of progress may stem from his well-known anti-gay sentiments, Megan and Janie launch their own investigation. They never expected their search to lead to a young man that they both considered a friend.

In mid-July, my literary, coming-of-age novel, Good Intentions, will be re-released as a second edition, by Mountain Springs House.
In August, the first book in my three-book series about the Special Crimes Team, Sketch of a Murder, will be released by Mountain Springs House.

So, there you have it: who I am and what I’m up to!