How time flies when you are having fun.
I can hardly believe it is 2015.
Last year went racing by us in a blur, but 2014 was a memorable one for Longbranch Chronicles.
We played in the snow in February as winter’s final act turned the Key Peninsula into a frosty wonderland. We were there to celebrate with the lovely kitchen mavens of the Longbranch Improvement Club when they were honored by the Heritage League of Pierce County for producing an amazing cookbook.
Later in the summer, we learned about McNeil Island aboard the Tacoma-based charter boat “My Girl” on a history cruise under azure skies. Found our rhythm while tapping our toes to bluegrass inside Longbranch’s historic club house, and marched with Home’s free-spirited people in their traditional Fourth of July parade along the bank of Von Geldern Cove.
We proudly participated in the opening of the Key Peninsula’s first after-school youth center at Key Center. As the Christmas season approached, we were amazed by the generosity of the people on the Key Peninsula. Hundreds responded to a Wauna man’s desperate plea after a tree destroyed his home. The local Boy Scout troop warmed our hearts when they went neighborhood to neighborhood collecting hundreds of items of food for the food bank.
By late autumn, we listened to a Lakebay potter’s lovely tale and followed a Lakebay chef serve up smiles and hugs at the community services center.
Oh what a year it has been.
Here are the blog’s more memorable moments of the past year.
Sunrise commute, Jan. 3
Crews from the Washington Department of Transportation continue work to finish by spring the permanent eastbound state Route 16 viaduct in Tacoma. This piece of road construction is important to many who work in Tacoma and beyond.
Frosty Filucy Bay, Jan. 6
It is bloody cold outside. Not arctic cold like the frozen vortex that has descended on the midwest and northeast. With mist rising from frosty Filucy Bay, the sunrise did attempt an appearance. The sky turned crimson and purple for a moment before turning back to gray.
Winter’s Final Scene, Feb. 9
Horses huddled together in their blankets on snow covered pastures. Children slid down small hills at Evergreen Elementary School, parents watching nearby glad for the diversion. The view at the Longbranch Marina was simply divine.
’History, heritage and recipes’ a winning dish, Feb. 9
There is nothing sweeter than grandma’s sugar cookies served up with a dollop of local history.
It may seem an unlikely pairing, but the effort by women of the Longbranch Improvement Club to mix heritage and epicurean delights is a winner. Literally.
The Heritage League of Pierce County presented the seven women responsible for the cookbook “Savories & Sweets, South Sound Treats” with its Publications Award at its Feb. 1 meeting in downtown Tacoma. The honor lauds the Longbranch Improvement Club for cooking up “a beautiful and tasty combination of history, heritage and recipes.”
“There was so much thought, so much heart that went into this,” said Karen Haas, president of the Heritage League. “If you look through it there is history, there’s culture… its just brilliantly done.
Read more here: http://wp.me/p37rAm-1VE
Beached in Purdy, Feb. 12
Tim Sterling stood by the side of State Route 302 near Purdy, the wind blowing into his face, watching his sailboat sitting on its side. Strong winds blew the 28-foot boat off its anchors on Henderson Bay, washing it ashore on the Purdy sand spit.
Sterling said he called the Coast Guard because “it looks like a bad shipwreck.” But he said the boat is fine and he is waiting for the next tide to come in so he can put his boat back in the water.
Coming of Spring, May 20
There is something magical about Longbranch mornings. The birds are drunk with song, squirrels screeching and the sky over Drayton’s Passage an absolute treasure in all it’s golden splendor. It just never gets old.
Fire up the pit, May 25
Under a blue sky with puffy white clouds, my lovely bride and I made our first fire pit fire of the season.
The air was warm with hardly a breeze and we watched the clouds gracefully roll over our mountain. The smoky ambiance of our backyard fire pit was just right. The goofy golden doodle plopped down on the cold slate rock of our patio and enjoyed the quiet evening with us.
Dog v Squirrel, May 25
And so it begins.
The rite of Spring: Crafty squirrel go eye-to-eye with goofy golden doodle.
As far as caustic battles go between two opposing forces — Wiley Coyote vs. the Roadrunner, Bugs Bunny vs. Elmer Fudd, England vs. Germany (in football, of course) —Maddee’s relationship with Douglas, the rascally rodent, is as acrimonious as they come.
And extremely one sided.
Maritime relic arrives Down Key, May 16
The centerpiece for this weekend’s Down Key Festival in Longbranch, Wash., slipped into a dock at the marina with a handful of volunteers from the Longbranch Improvement Club to greet her.
The 110-feet Tourist No. 2 finally arrived on the southern tip of the Key Peninsula.
The vessel was once a ferry used on the Astoria-Megler route on the Columbia River in Oregon, according to columbiariverimages.com. The diesel-powered ferry could carry 20 cars and 155 people.
The vessel’s storied history includes a stint as a mine layer during World War II, a floating cannery in Alaska and, in 1967 when it was moved to Pierce County and renamed the Islander, was again used as a ferry on the Puget Sound.
Bringing the El Primero home, June 18
(This story is about a group led by Richard Hildahl, of Longbranch, that is trying to bring the El Primero back to Tacoma.)
On a cool and misty morning Friday on the Thea Foss Waterway, Henry Wong — with tape measure and boat plans in hand — methodically walked from stern to bow aboard the El Primero, a 120-foot luxury yacht that has been a fixture on Tacoma’s waterfront for more than half a century.
Wong and his agency, Houston-based American Bureau of Shipping, were hired to determine the size of the white-hulled boat, which was tied to a dock near the Foss Waterway Museum.
Wong was in town to help get the 121-year-old maritime relic permanently moored in one of the city’s docks as a working and floating museum. A local group led by Richard Hildahl and Stan Selden is trying to make the idea a reality.
Hildahl is a retired analyst for Ernst & Young, a specialist in energy and transportation. Selden is a local businessman and champion of Tacoma’s waterways.
“This (boat) reeks of Tacoma history,” Selden declared, the swirling breeze on the Thea Foss ruffling his silver hair. “It belongs here.”
Read more here: http://wp.me/p37rAm-20W
The day the sun stood still, June 22
Yesterday was the day the sun stood still (sol sistere), also known as the solstice — the longest day of the year.
I did not want it to end. I tossed on the grill a slab of Copper River salmon, rubbed with garlic and fresh rosemary from the garden. I harvested a combination of red and romaine lettuce for the salad, garnished it with green peas, and my lovely bride popped a bottle of the bubbly. Paradise.
County enforces anti-blight ordinance, June 27
UPDATE (Friday, June 27 at 7:15 p.m.): The last of the vehicles on the property was gone by early this morning — only a trailer and camper shell was left.
Two of about 188 vehicles deemed abandoned by Pierce County are what is left on a property on Key Peninsula Highway north, just past the library at Key Center.
“We’re looking forward to have the property cleaned up in the next month and a half,” said county code enforcement officer Mark Lupinno, to applause from the crowd at the June 17 Pierce County Council meeting at the Key Peninsula Civic Center.
The property has been the subject of the most complaints recently, according to Lupinno.
“We have been working with the property owner,” Lupinno said.
Read more here: http://wp.me/p37rAm-247
Down Home fun, July 4
It is funny how traditions are built.
Take the Fourth of July parade in Home. More than two hundred people — dressed in all shades of red, white and blue — marched down A Street Friday morning.
So how exactly did this piece of Americana get started?
“People just show up,” said volunteer firefighter Rick Price in explanation.
Price stood next to his canary 1972 Volkswagon Beetle convertible waiting for the parade to begin.
“We just happened on it one day because we live here,” he said.
Two cars down, Tucker Odegaard, 15, had a better idea of how the whole thing started.
Odegaard, his two brothers and two cousins were in a tractor and trailer they had decorated with patriotic ribbons and bows the night before.
“Our grandma started it,” Odegaard said, beaming proudly.
“That would be me,” said Donna Forbes — walking up in white capris, a red shirt emblazoned with an American flag, two fuzzy stars on her head and a tall cup of coffee.
Read more here: http://wp.me/p37rAm-25p
A hoot of a story, July 9
I was finally able to snap a picture of the Barred owl that lives in our woods.
This has been an unfruitful personal quest of mine the past two years. The owl’s familiar “who’ll cook for you?” hoot has taunted me during my walks with the goofy golden doodle.
“I’m so proud of you,” my lovely bride cooed.
Yeah, I’m pretty darn proud of myself too.
Baling Hay in the heat of summer, July 13
(Longbranch Chronicles accepted an invitation to ride along with a Key Peninsula farmer on his tractor while he baled hay for the winter)
An orange Kubota tractor lumbers its way slowly around the front pasture of a Key Peninsula farm Saturday, the plunger of a mechanized baler thumping a steady beat.
Warwick Bryant methodically drives down rows of dry cut grass, feeding the hay to the baler connected to a hitch behind the tractor.
Bryant, owner of Kaukiki Farm, is seated comfortably inside the air-conditioned cab, his black wrap-around sunglasses perched on top of a balding head.
A farm hand in a wind row tractor whip up the dry grass into neat rows on the other side of the field.
“This is winter feed for the animals,” Bryant said.
Perfect day for crabbing, July 20
What sweet, buttery bounty the Puget Sound has to offer.
Three women, three crab pots, four delectable crustaceans.
An afternoon out on the docks at Joemma Beach State Park Saturday was just perfect, my lovely bride said. The companionship: priceless.
A university professor, a life counselor and a banker enjoyed an outing on one of the Key Peninsula’s public gems.
This was my lovely bride’s first time to go crabbing.
History cruise around McNeil Island, July 28
Gloria Wing’s eyes lit up when she saw the red brick building where she once taught precocious children their ABCs.
“Heaven on earth,” Wing said, of life on McNeil Island.
Wing was a teacher on the island for three years in the early 1980s. Her students were the children of the prison staff.
But her connection to the 6.6-square-mile island go farther back, to her father’s family who settled on McNeil before the prison was built.
“They used to pick berries,” Wing said.
Wing, along with about 70 others, were on a History Cruise around McNeil Island aboard the Tacoma-based charter boat “My Girl” Sunday afternoon. The cruise was organized by the Key Peninsula Historical Society.
Read more here: http://wp.me/p37rAm-29e
All in a Day’s work, Aug. 1
Music is the Day family’s business.
Brothers Daniel, John and David were all weaned on it.
Their father Kenneth loved it, even when he could not read a note.
Their mother Margaret encouraged them, even if she could not carry a tune.
“(My father) liked to whistle and he liked to sing,” Daniel said.
“You could hear him from way down the block,” Margaret said, of her husband’s walks home from his chiropractic practice.
The brothers looked like they were born to perform.
“As you can tell, they are quite talented,” Mike Liles said.
In his father’s honor, Daniel wore a flat hat his father owned and that he inherited as the brothers took their turn on stage.
Kenneth died in 2011.
“He would have loved to have come here,” Daniel said. “He would have loved it if we called him up and sang four-part harmony.”
Read more here: http://wp.me/p37rAm-29V
‘Awesome’ cruise for a super moon, Aug. 1
There is nothing like capping a beautiful moonlit cruise on Filucy Bay with an unplanned dip in the drink.
“I wish I had gotten a picture of you,” said Richard Hildahl — captain of the 37-foot Lord Nelson Victory Tug dubbed “Awesome,” formerly the “Lady Margaret”.
That is quite all right captain.
Gilligan would have been proud.
Lightning show on a sweltering summer evening, Aug. 12
While my lovely bride and I stewed in the sweltering heat of a Longbranch summer evening, praying for a whiff of a breeze, lightning and thunder serenaded us to sleep.
We hoped the thunderstorm would sweat a few drops of cooling rain.
Anything to save us from the oppressive heat.
No such luck.
Drought is broken, Aug. 16
The rain this past week has broken the drought in Western Washington, according to weather super geek Cliff Mass.
We have had 1.24 inches of rain this week, an average of 0.18 inches a day, according to the Weather Underground station at the Tacoma Narrows Airport.
It has also been a scorcher of a week, topping out at 91 degrees on Tuesday.
Spectacular spectacular, Aug. 17
A marine layer descended on Balch and Drayton’s passages just in time for a bright red sun to rise over McNeil Island.
I know I often marvel at how our sunrises are the most beautiful. But this morning’s edition was breathtaking.
Goofy golden doodle romps with friends, Aug. 17
It was a family reunion of the shaggy variety.
More than 50 doodles — of every kind — ran and rolled around 10 acres of freshly mowed pasture on a bank of the Snoqualmie River near Duvall, Wash., Sunday afternoon for the 9th edition of Doodle Romp.
“I think they are all related somehow,” said Abracadoodles owner Cindy Hancock.
This is an annual gathering of dogs bred at Abracadoodles — a small farm in Spangle, Wash., a half hour from Spokane.
Read more here: http://wp.me/p37rAm-2cl
Red Barn: Dreams do come true, Aug. 27
Peter Hedin wondered nearly a decade ago if children would come if the community built a safe place for them to hang out.
Years of building support and a generous donation later, the Red Barn Youth Center opened its doors to parents and children from Peninsula Middle School yestrerday evening to showcase the Key Peninsula’s only after-school facility.
“It is a good feeling,” said Hedin, the soft-spoken president of the youth center board. “At times the process got a bit tedious. But now it’s cool.”
A beaming Olivia Gehrke, 11, agreed wholeheartedly.
“I expected a place with a bunch of teachers,” Gehrke said. “It’s cool. You get to play a bunch of games.”
Read more here: http://wp.me/p37rAm-2cv
Miracle in Purdy, Sept. 6
Gig Harbor students’ joy simply spilled over.
The four-foot chain link fence at Roy Anderson Field Friday night could not contain their celebration.
The Tide’s miracle comeback in the 36th edition of the Fish Bowl was too much.
Gig Harbor 30, Peninsula 29.
Read more here: http://wp.me/p37rAm-2cS
Walk on the beach, Sept. 9
It was a beautiful morning to take a walk down to the beach.
The marine layer hung jealously above Anderson and McNeil islands, shielding the sun. Seagulls are screaming in search of food; a blue heron glides over the cold blue water.
My lovely bride and I climbed down our ladder for the first time to enjoy a cup of coffee on our beach with sand under our feet.
Autumn is here, Sept. 20
This has to be my favorite time of the year — the transition from warm to cool.
As our sunrises yawn later into the morning, there is no stopping the dawn of autumn.
The air is crisper and the birds restless as the sun slowly slides south on the horizon.
Yes, fall is here.
To be exact, the autumn equinox arrives in our time zone on Sept. 22 at 7:29 p.m., according to earth sky.org.
It is time for harvest and preparation for the coming winter.
Fine day for a farm tour, Oct. 4
Bill Ketts loved this time of year.
When the sweet scent of lavender warms the crisp autumn air, the corn is ripe for the harvest, and throngs of city folk flood the quiet country roads of the Key Peninsula to experience farm life.
“He loved to see everybody enjoying the fruits of their labor,” said Stephanie Patterson, Ketts’ daughter. “It is something he always wanted.”
Ketts died earlier this year. The KP Farm Tour was dedicated to his memory.
Read more here: http://wp.me/p37rAm-2eW
Autumn’s true colors, Oct. 7
It looks like the fog will stick around for most of this week – exposing autumn’s true color in the Pacific Northwest.
The mist blanketed the soft hills of Kaukiki Farm, a beautiful backdrop for the grazing horses. The seagulls screamed as they fought each other for salty morsels strewn about the sandy bar. Henderson Bay was a glassy beacon for commuters like me headed for offices in Gig Harbor and beyond.
Minutes matter in business of saving lives, Oct. 15
Precious minutes matter in the business of saving lives.
This was a lesson about 20 volunteer firefighters learned, again, as a soft sprinkling rain moistened the yet to be broken windshields of two cars in a clearing behind Fire Station No. 47 in Home.
Instructors from the Puyallup Extrication Team were back on the Key Peninsula Tuesday night to help the firefighters brush up on their auto extrication techniques. The drill is part of a weekly program for Peninsula firefighters and a chance for most of them to hone their skills.
“This is where they get the hands-on, the meat and potatoes of what they do,” said Mike Riegle, a firefighter paramedic. “The training they get tonight are going to be invaluable in the real world when we get to an auto accident today, tomorrow night, whenever.”
Read more here: http://wp.me/p37rAm-2gg
Lakeway potter molds a good life, Oct. 18
Gary Andersen knows he has made a good life out of clay.
Nearly two decades after retiring as an art teacher from Peninsula High School, Andersen continues to mold and clip clay into pottery many on the Key Peninsula and beyond have in their homes.
“It’s a pretty good life,” said the 76-year-old with short-cropped hair and a gray beard. “If I dropped dead with a piece of wet pottery, don’t ever feel sorry for me.”
Read more here: http://wp.me/p37rAm-2gX
Wanna man’s desperate plea heard, answered, Nov. 14
(Hundreds of people on the Key Peninsula showed their generosity in helping out a neighbor this fall. Jon Goods received a motorhome and food for himself and his dog days after he lost his home.)
Like a message in a bottle, Jon Goods sent out a plea to the Key Peninsula on Facebook.
A large Douglas fir had just fallen on his house, a 31-foot motor coach, blown over by the strong winds Tuesday night. With the forecast of arctic cold air for Western Washington and temperatures sure to dip below freezing, Goods said he needed help.
“I have no windshield and no place to live,” he writes on his Facebook post early Wednesday morning. “Looking for a cheap motorhome or trailer to live in. Help please, Jon”
Read more here: http://wp.me/p37rAm-2jJ
Scouting for food, Nov. 15
It was a rewarding lesson in public service for about a dozen Boy Scouts as they sorted through hundreds of bags of food they had just collected from neighborhoods on the Key Peninsula.
In the dark basement of a brick building just south of the Home Bridge, the boys marveled at the mounds of food in front of them.
“Was this all us?” Carson Helland, 11, asked no one in particular.
With the holiday season fast approaching, Boy Scout Troop 220 on the Key Peninsula went door to door Saturday (Nov. 15) collecting donations of food and delivering it to the Key Peninsula Community Services Food Bank in Lakebay.
Read more here: http://wp.me/p37rAm-2kd
Mincemeat pie top church, Nov. 24
Begging for bids, more than a dozen beautiful pies were on display on a red checkered print table cloth at the Longbranch Community Church Sunday (Nov. 23) to help raise scholarship money for college-bound congregants.
This was the church’s first bid in using an auction to raise money.
“We used to have bake sales,” Betty Watkinson said.
The ladies of the Ruth Circle — a group that has been raising money to support the church for years — decided this year to hold an auction instead.
Smiles and hugs served up, Nov. 29
As she walked in the dining hall, Delores Ulsh – wearing a red fedora, orange wool scarf, pink T-shirt and a gold snowflake pendant – wasted little time chatting up a couple of old friends, her smile as bright as the late afternoon sun.
“It’s really a great thing for the older people,” Leslie “Bud” Ulsh, Delores’ husband, said of the weekly gathering in the building that housed the Lakebay school he attended in 1939. “Some people can’t get out and have no place to go.”
Just about every Sunday for nearly a decade, volunteers from three churches have served free meals at the Key Peninsula Community Services dining hall in Lakebay. So far they’ve given out about 25,000 meals.
“It’s a big social club,” Bud Ulsh said.
Read more here: http://wp.me/p37rAm-2lv
Wading into heart of winter, Dec. 1
The crunch of frozen gravel and frosty blades of grass are sure signs we are wading into the heart of winter.
It was a frigid 27 degrees on my drive to work this morning.
But what a sunrise it was. Shades of rich yellow and orange stained steam rising from Henderson Bay, as light feathery clouds float by.
Toys for Tots bring smiles and Santa, Dec. 15
For Jackie Baltmiskis, Christmas is about putting smiles on children’s faces.
She cannot remember not ever doing it — even as a Girl Scout Brownie.
As far as the Gig Harbor high school junior and member of Girl Scout Troop 40050 can remember, this is what you do during the Christmas season.
“We have been doing this for so long,” Baltmiskis said. “This is like part of our holidays.
“It is fun for us. It is fun to see the beautiful kids have fun,” she added.
Baltmiskis and girls from 10 local Girl Scout troops were taking part in the Longbranch Improvement Club’s Kids N Christmas toy giveaway Sunday afternoon in the club’s historic house along the Key Peninsula Highway in Longbranch.
This is the club’s third year hosting the event that is part of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program.
Read more here: http://wp.me/p37rAm-2lZ
Capping off our recap of 2014 with the year’s final sunrise, Dec. 31