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From: Lindsay and Ian Harford

Spring is in full bloom in Seattle and the Emerald City, where there are more trees than people, is alive with all shades of green. The city is famous for its cherry trees and streets are awash with pink and white blossom — magic! And in our new garden (or backyard as the locals would say) which was a barren wilderness, our native white Dogwood tree lights up a shady corner while the clematis, honeysuckle, passionflower and climbing roses that we have planted are all thriving in the beautiful weather we have enjoyed over the last few weeks. We are loving having a greenhouse for the first time ever, and this weekend we will be planting our tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers while filling our small vegetable patch with courgettes (zucchini in the local lingo) and squash and possibly a pumpkin to be ready for Thanksgiving in the Fall.

The weather is benign right now but we had a hard winter. Snow only hits Seattle once every 4–5 years but when it does the city, which is built on a series of steep hills, literally grinds to a complete halt. This year schools didn’t close for ‘snow days’ as they were all on-line anyway due to Covid, but busses and trams stopped running for a week, cars stayed in garages and the streets were taken over by skiers, both downhill and cross-country, and the hilly roads became sledge-runs! Twelve inches of snow were recorded at SeaTac airport and here in Queen Anne there were at least 8 inches. We are half way up Queen Ann hill and were more or less marooned — we were very grateful for a neighbour who cleared the snow in front of our house, as here in Seattle it is the responsibility of the householder to keep their section of sidewalk (pavement) clear and snow-free.

One delightful outcome of the cold and snow was the visit of a snowy owl to our neighborhood, in fact just one road away from our house where she perched atop a tall pine tree for at least a week. Apparently such a visit is extremely rare as snowy owls don’t normally venture as far south as Seattle — and she attracted a steady stream of admiring visitors, most of them equipped with binoculars and cameras.

We have recently returned from a sunny Spring Break (Easter holiday) in our daughter’s ‘cabin’ in the remote Methow Valley where the snow has melted in lowlands while the tops are still deep in the stuff and the high pass — the shortest route from Seattle — remains closed until late May. The lower slopes are full of spring flowers — the wild sunflowers and wild Lupins are particularly lovely. We enjoyed some good hikes and enjoyed seeing the Methow river which runs just below the cabin, in full spate. We also enjoyed seeing evidence that a beaver had been busy gnawing a tree trunk on the riverside.

Other wildlife in our neighbourhood include a pair of bald eagles, huge numbers of rabbits (everyone here calls them bunnies)… and at least one coyote which is not such good news for local dogs and cats. So far the racoons which feasted on our grass last year haven’t made and appearance and we hope that they stay away — I read that the best deterrent is wolf urine, obtainable for a price from the Woodland Zoo a couple of miles away, but apparently it smells vile so I hope it won’t be necessary!

I don’t think that the newest member of our household, Riku, would present much of a threat to a racoon. He is a majestic Maine Coon cat who needed a new home which we were delighted to give him. I have always longed to have a Maine Coon… so it was clearly meant to be! He is a gentle giant with a purr like a bus and very friendly which is a good thing as he is regularly love-bombed by our 4 under-10 grandchildren!

We continue to miss friends and family in the UK but know that we have made the right decision. And the good news is that, all being well, we hope to return to Cumbria in September for 6 weeks. We plan to arrive on September 10 so hope to meet up with friends who are taking part in the SCOM walking weekend – though I think that it might be too much for Ian to have the usual tea at The Larches so soon after we arrive. We can’t wait to be back in the Lakes…

In the meantime we look forward to a summer of ever-increasing opportunities to live a more normal life — who knows, we might even get to go a restaurant, sitting outside of course.

Greetings to all our SCOM friends — and see some of you soon, we hope!

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