Category Archives: wildflowers

experiences of sand

A couple of weeks before my birthday, which is today, Mrs. C proposed a trip to the North Coast for a walk on the beach, which we planned to do yesterday. A week ago we noticed that rain was on the forecast all the way to the coast, so we thought we might end up taking a sedentary drive, and eat crab on the way.

We met at her house, where across the road I found sourgrass – Oxalis pes-caprae – in abundance. I didn’t know until I looked up the botanical name just now that it is considered a noxious weed around here. Its bright color drenched with rain made it reflect all the midday light.

 

Mrs. C has peach blossoms by her deck. I’m glad she is the kind of friend who doesn’t mind slowing down while I take pictures of everything. Well, not quite everything.

You can see from these photos how the sky was white or gray with clouds. We had our umbrellas with us when we set out.

After we enjoyed our little lunch, sitting in her truck on a bluff overlooking the ocean, we walked down to Schoolhouse Beach, not even bringing our umbrellas, because there was no sign of rain. I know God held the rain off because He wanted me to have a birthday walk on the sand. 🙂

 

And not just a walk, but a look at the sand. We sat on rocks and sifted through the sand that on this particular beach is very gravelly. No grain of sand was too small to hold separately in our fingers. Here is a close-up:

Remember when last month I saw the sand display in Pacific Grove? Soon afterward I did buy some small bottles in hopes of filling them with sand from my explorations. I managed to have two with me, and I collected the first sample at this beach. It even contained a piece of beach glass.

You might notice in that photo above the blue sky in the background. For much of the afternoon we were under a clear and blue ceiling, though we could see fog banks and clouds moving in on three sides of us.

Mrs. C didn’t bring a camera or a bottle, but she made her own collection of some of the larger pebbles.

This beach is dangerous for swimming, as are many on California’s North Coast. It has a sharp drop-off that I think is somehow connected to the frequency of “sleeper” or rogue waves, plus undercurrents that are hard to escape from.  Just last month a woman was swept off a rock here and drowned.

After a while we drove five minutes south to Salmon Creek Beach where the sand was more like sand. The fog and clouds had covered the sun, and the sea gulls were lined up facing the wind. Those birds must have known that we had no food, because they ignored us on both beaches.

We walked even more along here, after I scooped up “plain” sand into my second bottle. Iceplant and sourgrass and other flowers I don’t know are starting to bloom. This one I haven’t been able to identify so far:

It was growing on the edges of a lagoon that has been receding. Salmon  Creek flows through the lagoon on its way to the sea, making always-new carvings through the sand. This was our last view as we reluctantly made our way up the cliff and left the wide views behind us.

It had been a lovely gift of a day. Within a minute of my leaving Mrs.  C’s house, thundershowers began, and I drove through ten or fifteen of them before I got home.

 

I need to put a couple of empty bottles in my bags right now while I’m thinking of it, and start planning my next adventure so as to include sand. 🙂

 

Forest and crabapples with Ivy.

gl-s-crabapples-ivy-9-16At the lower elevations, the northern California forest in September is a dry and dusty place, but it still holds many sights to see and ponder over, if you are lucky enough to be with my daughter Pippin, as I was last week.

I had long hoped to travel the several hours to celebrate little Ivy’s birthday with the family, but business here at home kept me up in the air about my plans until the last minute, when I realized that it would be possible for me to make a quick trip up and back. On my one layover day we three “girls” walked in the woods. We chose to drive to a little park not far away this time, instead of making our outing to the woods right behind their house.

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I’ve written before about how Pippin has always had her senses keenly tuned to the natural world; when I am outdoors with her she stops to notice many details of flora and fauna that I am blindly passing by.

I doubt I would have seen these slugs descending from a tree on their slimy rope, but once I saw them I had to record them with my camera.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the way their line was attached so firmly and invisibly to the tree…

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Pippin told me that this plant is called Pinedrops, and is similar to Snow Plant in that it lives symbiotically on the fungi that in turn live on tree roots; for most of its life you don’t see it above ground.

 

 

 

 

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While my eyes were probably on my boot tops, Pippin noticed a large wasps’ nest in what she took to be a dogwood in the stage of bearing fruit. I wondered how many wasps might live in that large house.

 

 

 

 

 

We also stopped by a fish hatchery where Ivy fed the various species of trout, and I spied a commonplace wild sweet pea that I thought uncommonly healthy and pretty.

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wild sweet peas – Lathyrus

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Back at the house, I took up the challenge I never can resist: trying to photograph the crabapples. They make me wish I were a real photographer, so I could capture how gorgeous they are. At Pippin’s they have two or three varieties, and the Professor shakes the trees from time to time in the fall and winter so the fruit will fall on the lawn and feed the deer.gl-s-p1050555-ivy

 

 

 

 

Pippin is a gardener as well as a naturalist and her dahlias are worth the drive north just to visit them. This trio she had just brought in for the birthday party table.

 

 

I didn’t entirely ignore the grandboys, but because it was Ivy’s birthday I didn’t feel bad focusing on her this time. Given that I have eleven grandsons and “only” three granddaughters, you might understand my feelings for the girls.

This year it was a Dragon Cake she wished for, and her parents were obliging. They added a castle for context. Happy Birthday, Ivy!

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Little corner of my world.

9-13-img_3252Along these lower creekside paths in my neighborhood, maintenance vehicles may drive when they are taking care of things. Recently I had seen one down there that didn’t look very official, an unmarked white SUV, just parked, with no crew around, and I wondered… who? Yesterday I saw it again, driving slowly along, then stopping, then creeping forward, and then at one pause a man got out, and I backtracked so I could talk to him across the channel, as he was lifting away a dead branch.

He said he worked for the water agency, and that as they clean out out the creek beds in preparation for winter, they want to preserve bird nests. He was marking any he found, so they would be spared.

That explains the desecration I saw a couple of weeks ago, seemingly random messes where it looked like elephants had trampled across the streams in places. Now I’m guessing it was humans with some heavy equipment for cutting trees and carrying them off.

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Looks like pennyroyal.
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This old willow tree is a familiar friend.

These watercourses that flow from the hills are natural parts of the geography, but they also carry groundwater from the neighborhoods on either side, so it is a constant labor to preserve the ecology of the stream and keep it open, while not turning it into a mere drainage ditch. Occasionally they have to dredge out silt, and the stream looks momentarily ravaged, but quickly the willows and horsetail grass and myriad shrubs and vines start to fill in again. The egrets and mallards and frogs don’t get lost.

Darkness hangs on later these days, so I start my walks later in the morning. Today men with chain saws were already down in the dry areas of the creek bed as I walked by. One man was carefully grooming the lower parts of a small tree, getting it prepared for such time as fast waters will flow past. Let there not be any branches on which to hang debris and start the clogging-up again.

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Looking down from a bridge.

It’s been such a gift this summer to walk almost daily on these paths so close to my house. Each morning or evening the views are slightly changed, the birds and flowers presenting new events to witness. As the days shorten and the weather becomes a little less friendly, I hope I can still get myself down there often, and keep learning about this small corner of my world.

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I offer a nosegay.

IMG_2687 grass & fennelWhen the first rays of the sun were hitting stalks of grass, I was there by the creek with my camera. You can see wild fennel in the background, yellow-green flower heads forming. When I walk this early, my joints are creaky and my gait a bit crooked, for the first while. So I don’t mind at all when the flowers get my attention and beg me to stop for a closer look.

On my first expeditions along this route (26 years ago when we had just moved to this town) I was pushing Kate in a stroller, with at least a couple of her siblings in our company, and I would tell my children whatever I knew about the plants and flowers along the way, sometimes making up a repetitious ditty to imprint the sound in their minds.

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“This is juniper… and this is another kind of juniper… and here are blackberries!” When I did that last month with the grandchildren, we came home with lots of berry stains for Grandma to deal with. Today I noticed purple and black splotches on the path where fruits had been smashed.

I heard from Joy that Liam has remembered many of the plants that I showed him on our walks last week, and that he pointed out to her rosemary and kangaroo paws.

But now I am walking alone, and I like that very much, too. Right now it’s the Queen Anne’s Lace, daucus carota, that is at its peak.

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A block from home this rose is poking through the fence as though giving itself as a ready-made bouquet. So I “picked it” with my camera and offer it to you, with hopes that your day is sweet.

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