Tag Archives: creek

The life force of words and wild things.

The Queen Anne’s Lace, or Daucus carota, one of the “wildflowers of the carrot family,” is in full glory this month along the creek near my house. It was a mild winter and a wet spring; though we are now well into the dry season, their plantation is lush.

Once before I posted a gallery of images of them, various angles and perspectives. This week my walk along the path was greatly extended and I explored the current neighborhood that has grown up, full of a unique assortment of plants and animals developing from this year’s natural and man-provoked conditions. That means a completely new gallery!

The picture just above shows a morning glory weed or bindweed (Convolvulus), which has twined around the stem of an opened flower, grown on through a bud, and is now reaching out into space. It has an opened flower just above the lower Queen Anne’s Lace bloom. And I just noticed a little seed of something, close to the bottom of the photo, and about to drop down, down… and make a contribution to next spring’s neighborhood.

Fennel in the background.

In my last gallery of Queen Anne’s Lace, I featured the red spots that are found in the center of many of the blooms. This year what were more eyecatching were insects and the other umbellifers.

I learned that word almost a year ago when Pippin and I were exploring wetlands together. As I walked along my nearby creek path I began to think about the flower form that Queen Anne’s Lace shares with the wild fennel nearby, and the word was struggling along my mind’s synapses for several minutes… and finally arrived where I could grab it. Today I researched its meaning again; it comes from the old name for the plant Family Apiaceae, which was Umbelliferae.

I found several helpful webpages besides the Wikipedia information. One has a timeline of North American invasive species: “We came on the Mayflower, too!“, where I learned that our wild fennel likely did come with those first pilgrims in 1620, and it spread all over the continent. That site also has lots of recipes for using wild plants, and I would be interested to try using the tender green fronds of fennel, or even the stems. But on the fennel page they were a little sloppy with their botany, telling me that fennel and anise are the same thing, which they are not.

Let’s start with fennel, which is my neighbor: its botanical name is  Foeniculum vulgare. Anise is Pimpinella anisum. They are both in the Apiaceae family but different genera. The fleshy bulb that is eaten as a vegetable is a fennel bulb. Anise looks very similar in the field, but I don’t ever see reference to eating the bulb.

On the Spiceography page I read a paragraph-long comparison of the seeds, which both contain the essential oil anethole. I found its guidelines confusing, and concluded that I will just try to use whichever seed a recipe calls for. By the way, two other plants with this flavor but completely unrelated and different in form are star anise and liquorice.

Anise is an ingredient in many alcoholic beverages traditional to the Mediterranean and Asia. At least one of them, absinthe, includes fennel as well. I was pleased to see a map showing the locales and the names of the drinks.

When I was in Turkey I did enjoy rakı. (Yes, that is an i without a dot. It designates a schwa or ə sound.) Usually it was served with water; you would pour a little rakı in your glass and then add water. It turned all milky then, as in this picture. No one ever tried to explain to me why this happened, and I doubt they could have if they knew, because when I read the explanation for it now it’s very complicated to my unscientific mind: The Ouzo Effect.

Fennel flower

I seem to have drifted from flowers to food and drink (passing quickly over insects). Truly this earth is full of enough animal, vegetable and mineral to keep us forever occupied examining, experimenting, cooking and brewing — and thanking our Father for putting us in a world so packed with beauty and life.

The sun and a spider mite.

The sun up above does feel like the ball of fire it is, today when the thermometer stands at 100 degrees. Summer caught up with itself and arrived with stored up (solar) energy!

It was too late to take a walk, on a day like this, but I did it. Maybe it was the heat that made the phrase “ball of fire” come to my mind as I watched a spider mite racing around on a blackberry flower, never stopping. What can a mite accomplish if it never pauses? It’s the little smudge appearing in a different spot in each of the shots below.

I also looked at the bees and flowers. I saw a syrphid fly and had to learn all over again when I got home that it was not a bee. In the process I learned that in the United States alone there are 4,000 species of bees. Here is another insect I don’t know… Is it a wasp or a fly? At least, I know it’s not a bee.

I also can’t remember what this shrub is that all three insects are posing on. [So fast! My first commenter reminded me that it is cotoneaster.] Maybe I never have known. But I didn’t really want to spend today doing insect or plant identification. I need to wash the dishes and strip the bathroom floor! So if any of you know about my insect or shrub perhaps you can tell me.

syrphid fly

Most of the salsify have scattered their seeds, but some flowers are still opening.

Mustard plants eight feet tall are growing out of the drying-up creek, along with lots of thistles. What is that orange spot that catches the eye…? Not a piece of trash, surprisingly, but California poppies! I’ve never seen them down there before.

All of this life, in many colors, pushing forth. I wondered… if I focus my camera on one small part of the very ugliest thistle, might I see something pretty? I did:

Last night at church we had a thanksgiving service for a couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. When the husband retired from being a professor and a full-time Orthodox priest in Michigan, they moved from Michigan to California to be near their children. The wife said it was as though she had died and gone to heaven. 🙂 Since then they have been part-time participants in three parishes, and from all three of them people came to congratulate and rejoice with them.

I had been to only one other Moleben of Thanksgiving ever before, which was prayed for my husband and me in thanks and praise for God’s faithfulness during our 40 years of marriage. That was already seven years ago! This service was a joy – I was so happy to be part of it and to pray with them.

I had mixed up the time and arrived an hour early, which was kind of nice because I got to chat with the husband and his son a bit. The son was getting the barbecue ready for the party that would happen after the service. We were enjoying the shade of this beautiful catalpa tree whose flowers smelled like the fancy dessert was baking in the oven nearby. But this picture shows what my daughter told me about iPhone cameras, that they distort the sides of the image. Do you see how the buildings on the sides are both leaning in? Okay, now go back and enjoy the tree.

Before I go to my housework, I will have a tall glass of water, and before that, I’ll give you a little lotus weed in warm summery tones. I’ll meet you back here on a slightly cooler day.

Asparagus shoots up, and I wait.

The rain continues, glory to God! But… it’s hard to get enough endorphins to keep in a good mood, when the rain keeps us indoors. A few times I’ve put on Celtic music and danced in order to get muscles exercised and my whole self warmed and enlivened. Yesterday I went for a walk that had to be shortened when the weather forecast proved wrong, and in spite of my longish raincoat I came home drenched.

But a few minutes previous, I had just got on to the creek path when I came upon a eucalyptus limb that had fallen the night before, when there had been no significant wind. Those of us who stopped to analyze the situation finally saw where the tree (on the left below) had broken, higher up than this picture shows. The log must have bumped lower limbs that forced it to flip over before it hit the ground.  We thought it likely it was so waterlogged that it snapped off from sheer weight.

One day neighbor Kim and I walked her dog between showers and I saw this friendly face on a cactus. My own garden is looking fresh and clean; asparagus are pushing up and the fava beans getting taller.

This morning a couple of ladies were coming for tea, and I found one calla lily with which to decorate the table. Last night when I thought to bake a cake for the occasion, I remembered these Brazilian Cheese Rolls that I love, and made them instead. I knew I had all the ingredients on hand, too, and since I’m still working on Using Up, they worked out perfectly.

 

The only starch in the recipe is tapioca flour, so they are grain-free. The first stage of dough containing hot milk, butter and tapioca is gluey. After it rests a few minutes and egg and cheese are added, lumps of the soft dough are pulled off and baked. This time my rolls were smoother on the outside than I remember. The inside is always moist and chewy with that dense mochi texture.

My remodeling project is not making much progress, because the architect seems to keep my small job at the bottom of his stack. I can’t apply for a permit until I have certain drawings, and who knows when they will ever be done. In the meantime I have plenty of work to do on my end, all falling into the broad category of Housework, but not so much that I can’t enjoy the rather restful pace I have fallen into, in my waiting. Lent begins on Monday, and especially in that first week I’ll be glad the house is not yet filled with sawing and hammering and men in boots tromping up and down the stairs. By the time construction starts the rain will likely have stopped, and in every way we will be feeling the lightening of springtime.

I wade in the icy (atmospheric) river.

The frogs were singing in a jubilant choir last night. I heard them when the rain paused briefly and I took another load of old papers and cardboard and stuff to the recycling. Early this morning it was the storm I heard from my bed, hammering on the roof and windows, but soon it ceased, and my weather app told me the respite would be long enough for a walk. When I closed the front door behind me I saw this:

They say we are in an Atmospheric River. I love the sound of that! It’s surely a cold river today; not even close to freezing by the thermometer, but my hands were getting clumsier by the minute, so that when I got home I had to wait a while before trying to get the pictures off my phone.

Blue patches of sky and rays of sunshine were setting off the blue-black storm clouds, and no frogs were croaking as I walked along the creek. Buckeye trees are raising up their new leaf clusters like trophies, at the same time the leaves of a liquidamber tree are still colorful and holding on. Is that one in a space sheltered from the winds we’ve been having? Branches have been knocked down from most trees, including a redwood branch that I gather came from high up in the canopy, judging from its little needles. Below it is an example of what most of the tree looks like.

If I had been wearing those high boots Linda recommended to me last week, I’d have been tempted to wade into the creek below the bridge to drag out a large piece of rubbish. I wonder if they are sturdy against blackberry thorns?

Before I got halfway home, hail began to fall afresh, and even though the hailstones were smaller this time they hurt my face when I peered up from under my raincoat’s hood. The sky was completely dark again…. and then it wasn’t!  The pussy willows were shining, and when I got close to home I saw another bright blue-and-gray scene right above my house. It’s a splendidly wet day, and I’m glad for a cozy house to come into from the storm. 🙂