Category Archives: nature

Effusions and fields of aromatic lace.

The heavy and late rains that fell 2016-17
watered the Queen Anne’s Lace into a bumper crop.

It’s not as though this wildflower Daucus carota needs much water.
Even in drought years it faithfully decorates
the roadsides and paths all over northern California,
and of course many other places where I don’t happen to see it.

All of my photos here come from the paths near my house,
where I walk once or twice almost every day,
past these swaths of what I read is also called Wild Carrot, Bird’s Nest,
and Bishop’s Lace, though I’ve never heard those names in person.

One warm evening I began to notice that the flowers were giving off a scent
like cake coming out of the oven.

More recently, they evoke corn tortillas hot off the griddle.

When I encounter another walker who shows the slightest sign of being willing to talk,
I tell them to get a whiff of what my flower friends are offering for sustenance.

I never noticed these scents in the past,
when I had fewer blooms to focus on, more visually.
But this is a festal year for lacy Anne blooms,
and I happily look forward to several more months
of sensory overload.
If you breathe really deeply and concentrate hard…
can you smell them, too?

 

Water, watercress, and catsear.

Dandelions and false dandelions – Over the last couple of years the false kind, or catsear, Hypochaeris radicata L., has flourished in dead or dying lawns in our town. Many people have let their lawns go, because of the drought, and there’s no recovering them now just because the winter was wet.

The catsear is prettier, I think, because the flowers are on long stems that wave in the breeze. I had them before my re-landscaping project began, and several of my neighbors still have them in abundance; here I am showing Ray’s place, as good as it ever looks, because he never does anything but mow once or twice a year….

And below, Vera’s front yard. Unlike Ray, Vera likes to garden, and she gave me my aloe saponaria start many years ago.

I never see real dandelions anymore. They must need more water, and the recent conditions are letting the catsear dominate.

I walk by this rose bush several times a week. It’s not cared for, and looks generally bad, but on this particular morning there was one rare perfect bloom proudly standing out from the mess.

The most interesting thing I’ve seen in a long time on my walks was two Asian women down at the creek gathering watercress.

And the prettiest thing was bees on Russian sage. I can’t resist trying to photograph one more bee on one more flower, especially if it is a pairing of insect and flower that I haven’t captured before. I was so happy on my walk this morning, I didn’t want it to end, so I changed my route to add a few more blocks, and that’s how I happened to see these bees.

 

Back in my own garden, more plants are blooming. Kim gave me hollyhock seeds three years ago, and I planted them in my new greenhouse last fall and transplanted them to a spot that I think must be too shady, because the plants are diminutive – but the first bloom is out!

 

 

When designing my backyard garden, we deliberately planted the salvia near the dodonea, to get this color contrast. It’s working right now!

Above: fig tree, mock orange, and sea holly.

I have two kinds of lamb’s ears: the old ones that were propagated from my old garden, and which are all sending up long flower spikes right now.

…and new ones bought at a nursery, which have broad leaves, more green, and may not flower much. Lots of people have told me that their lamb’s ears don’t. But one of them is sneaking out a flower, only to send it on to the sidewalk to risk a trampling.

June has brought warmer temperatures, and I hope to spend more time in the garden again. Yesterday my dear godmother came over and we did sit eating our ice cream where we could hear the bees humming and the see the goldfinches at the feeder.

And we could smell the sweet peas! I ended up picking four bouquets of them yesterday, including one to send home with her. I also had to trim back some of the stems to keep them from squishing the pole beans. So this may be the peak of the bloom. There’s not much room for me to grow anything else just yet, because it’s the Year of the Sweet Peas!

North Fork Weekend

Over Memorial Weekend I stayed with the majority of my children and grandchildren in a couple of cabins in the foothills near Yosemite National Park. One day we were all attending the wedding of my niece. The other days we explored in smaller groups, or hung out at the larger cabin with all nineteen of us together, cooking, eating, playing bocce ball or swinging on the tire swing.

On my drive in to the village of North Fork, near which our cabins were located, I saw lots of these recumbent white lupine plants along the roads. Just now, trying to identify them, I read that there are around 200 species of lupines. I can’t find any that look like these, so I’m giving up.

But those pinkish flowers under the lupines appear to be clover. It covered the dry slopes around our cabins.

We trust that Jamie will soon grow out of his love for his toy cell phone that he uses remarkably like silly adults. After all, it is always dead.ย  His imagination obviously isn’t — but just what can he be imagining?

For a couple of hours Sunday Maggie and Annie played on a paddle board in Bass Lake while the others of us watched them, or watched Liam with his bubble wand. We might have rented a boat but they were all taken. Then we ate ice cream; it was hot!

In 2015 I was in the Sierra foothills south of here, and first learned of this plant below, called Bear Clover or Mountain Misery, Chamaebatia foliolosa. Back then we were in the same sort of dry terrain at a similar elevation, so I wasn’t surprised to see it again. Last week I couldn’t remember the name, but I recalled something about it being smelly.

A species of collinsia or Chinese Houses.

I had taken a big box of old maps up to the mountains with me, to offer to the family before I recycle them. Several people were curious, but Scout was most captivated by them and thrilled at the possibility of having some of them for his very own, now that he can read and decode them. His parents helped him sort them into categories, and eventually they let him take the whole box, to be more thoroughly sorted and culled later. He searched me out several times to thank me for the maps ๐Ÿ™‚

One of the maps was called “Indian Country” and showed mostly the Southwest U.S. I don’t think it covered much of the territory that Lewis & Clark’s Corps of Discovery explored, which was certainly Indian Country as well. One of the plants the Corps encountered was a wildflower called Arrowleaf Balsamroot or Balsamorhiza sagittata, and I believe Pippin and I saw it, too, on a walk near our cabin.

The flowers had not quite opened yet, but they were showing some yellow. In the Corps’ journal we read, โ€œThe stem is eaten by the natives, without any preparation. On the Columbia. Aprl. 14th 1806.โ€ By the way, lupine seeds were also food to Native Americans.

Our group didn’t eat anything like that. Our big meals together were BBQ on Sunday night, and bacon and eggs on Monday morning before we departed for our homes. I fried three pounds of bacon and drove off with my clothes and hair still pungent a couple of hours later.

It was far from North Fork, but I will end with this photo of alfalfa fields I drove past — slowly, in holiday traffic — in the Sacramento Delta. In one field I saw they were mowing, so I rolled down my window and got a whiff of that.

I’m happy and home and too tired to pull this all together somehow…. Oh, well, they are all things that I like, and/or think about. ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Breakfast by the creek.

It’s invigorating to get outdoors in the springtime, at least, when we aren’t having cold winds and cloudy days. Last Saturday when Liam and Laddie were here, they collected manzanita berries from my bush and made pies.

Every time I go to church lately, something new is bursting with color. A type of salvia I haven’t seen elsewhere has flowers that glow like jewels:

And the California poppies! I feel that own garden will not be truly complete until these orange poppies are blooming in it — but I am a little afraid to throw out the seed and have them grow like weeds.

This morning, I took a walk by the creek. You might guess from my shadow that I am shaped like a bug. But I assure you, I more closely resemble a human.

From the bridge I heard a toad croaking;
blue jays were busy about something, hopping around in the trees.
Many other birds were singing and chirping. I don’t know who they were.

blackberry flower

I had set out before having breakfast, or so much as a glass of water. Uh… forgot that I can’t do that anymore. The squirrel scrabbling up and down a tree contrasted sharply with my slowing gait.

Besides the many wild things growing along the path, there are the backyard plants that have climbed over the fences. Like this trumpet vine:

 

privet
honeysuckle

Oh, the banks of honeysuckle were sweet! But I’m afraid they didn’t make a proper energizing breakfast, no matter how deep the whiffs I inhaled. And I stopped so many times to frame pictures with my phone’s camera, my excursion grew longer and longer…

Salsify is opening its puffy blooms.

I think the Queen Anne’s Lace must bloom six months of the year. It is already bearing fully opened flowers, as well as these darling younger ones:

When I finally got home, it didn’t take long to satisfy my body’s need for fuel.
My soul had already had a full breakfast!