Friday, June 20, 2014

West to Fort Nisqually. . .

Guard Tower with fireweed (2013)
Fort Nisqually here in Washington is a living history museum. But once it was a trading post for the Hudson's Bay Company, and part of the setting for the next book I'm just beginning to research.

Here we can wander, imagining what life was like back in 1850, when we could tell how close we are to the end of summer by how many blossoms yet appear on that hardy wildflower, Fireweed. 

Notice the guard tower and the small cabin in the small cabin above. Here single men slept on one side, with married men on the other. Or so the guide told our friend who brought me these pictures. 

The guide wore clothing of a typical 'country wife' of the 1840s and 1850s, a woman of mixed blood, valuable to the traders for her links to Native American families and her skills for survival in the wilderness.

We can easily see class distinctions in the housing that remains true to the period -- the Commandant with every luxury of the 19th Century, a formal parlour, perhaps even a European wife. 

Officers and gentlemen lived in separate quarters, and the workers in a homely barracks. Notice those Hudson Bay blankets.

While relations with Native Americans at this point were mostly friendly, wooden walls surround the Fort Nisqually compound, with stock and gardens inside. 

Herbs and staples -- corn, tomatoes, squash -- supplemented fresh venison and beef. Even speckled chickens -- true to the period -- scrabble in their pens for food.

Goods, rum, mail, and news drew people to the fort's store, trappers and emigrants alike. Here at the store, people could buy or trade for kettles and pots, hats, bolts of fabric, dishes, blankets, and maybe some tobacco in a twist or maple candy. 

Perhaps one day soon, we'll wander around Fort Nisqually to watch the trader use a fur press or the blacksmith hammer out new shoes for horses. We'll admire the rich traditions of the Native American, Scottish, Hawaiian, French-Canadian, and English people who lived here and who came to this fort built in 1833 on the Puget Sound.

We'll gather around the campfire at Fort Nisqually and listen to the tales of life over 100 years ago, far from the comforts of the 21st Century.

Click on any picture to see a larger version.

For more information, visit the Fort Nisqually site HERE or Wikipedia for a bit more history.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Recalling Ollantaytambo in Peru . . .

I've been transferring pictures very slowly from the old computer to the new computer and came across this set of images from our trip to Macchu Picchu in Peru, just 5 years ago.

As we travel independently, we stopped at Ollantaytambo, a small town along the approximate two-hour hour train ride up from Cusco to Macchu Picchu, to acclimate to the high elevation.

Our charming hotel, the El Alburque, was right beside the train tracks where several times a day, that tourist train to Macchu Picchu made the trip up and back. 

We found ourselves quite at home, Peruvian textiles on the walls of our room and a tropical garden in the back. 

Above the town, Incan ruins awaited to explore later. Everyone said tea helped combat altitude sickness, so properly fortified, we headed to the center of town and the ruins.

We just happened to be in Ollantaytambo on the very day that local farmers brought their cattle to town, properly decorated with ribbons and vegetables for the annual spring blessing of the first corn. 

We joined the costumed dancers and followed the procession to the church, delighted to be a part of the town on this bright and sunny day.

Then we hiked above the town to the Inkan ruins, a formidable jaunt through 15th Century terraced fields and stone walkways that once formed a royal center.  

In the morning, we would leave for Macchu Picchu.

Note: You can click on any image to see a larger version.

Monday, June 09, 2014

A little horse sense . . .

Early May we spent down in eastern Oregon, visiting friends at Eagle Crest for a blissful week of hiking in this high desert country. On one of our walks, we came across a paddock of horses and watched them for awhile. They watched us as well.

On this hot afternoon, the horses were taking turns before they drank deep at a single barrel filled with water on one edge of the field. They seemed to wait for permission from one alpha horse before they dipped their delicate noses into the barrel.

The strong and fattest horses ate first, using nickers and nudges to keep the scrawny horses from getting too close to the bundle of hay spread in the field.

I had never seen horses interacting like this in groups before. Maybe this is part of Darwin's "survival of the fittest," to not waste food on the weak. Or the influence of the environment, this dry, dry land. We sedentary city folk are only a few generations away from living this close to the land, when taking care of animals like these meant survival. 

Any horse stories to share?

Note: Click on any image to see it a little bigger.