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In mid-November, I went with some relatives to photograph the tundra swans and other migratory waterfowl that descend upon my neighborhood each winter from the Pacific Flyway. The tundra swans are the largest and most visually obvious of the many birds that overwinter in the Sacramento Valley. Before the Gold Rush, the Sacramento Valley had a significantly higher water table than it had today; much of it was wetlands that amply supported these birds. Since then, people have drained much of the wetlands and filled the area with agriculture and cities. However, in recent decades, the rice farmers who cultivate many of the lowest-lying areas have agreed to flood their rice fields during their winter offseason so that migrating waterfowl can use the rice fields as habitat. These pictures are from the rice fields directly on the border of Marysville. The nearest of the flooded rice fields are within easy walking distance for me, and none of the pictures I took are from much farther than five miles from my house.

In this picture, the white birds are tundra swans (Cygnus columbianus) and the majority of the brown birds are greater white-fronted geese (Anser albifrons). There's a Northern shoveler duck (Anas clypeata) toward the left, with a green head, white breast, and brown underside; and a bit right of center, I can pick out a Northern pintail duck (Anas acuta), with a brown head, white breast, and grey sides.

Ellis Road: Cygnus columbianus (tundra swans), Anser albifrons (greater white-fronted geese), Anas clypeata (Northern shoveler), Anas acuta (Northern pintail)

Click to continue the tour! )
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I'm three days late for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, but I suppose that's still a significant improvement over recent months. I still have a garden! I haven't had much time to get out in it lately, but when I do get out in it, this California fuchsia (Epilobium canum 'Carman's Gray') is my favorite plant lately. California fuchsias are typically low-growing plants, sometimes only a few inches tall, but there's significant variation in height among the different cultivars. Even so, they're rarely said to grow much more than two feet tall. The 'Carman's Gray' cultivar is not advertised as being any exception to this; most websites describe it as growing about two feet tall. Well, this plant was labeled 'Carman's Gray' when I bought it a year ago, but if its stems are pulled out straight, some of them are taller than I am. (No, I am not actually under two feet tall. I am 5'5".) It is a strange and unexpected experience to find a plant blooming at eye level that isn't supposed to grow above knee level. I have no idea what inspired my plant to grow so tall (there's really nothing unusual about the conditions here, and other California fuchsia cultivars nearby are growing at their usual expected heights), but I'm extremely pleased with it. Nothing makes a gardener seem so impressive as plants that grow to three times their normal height.

The California fuchsia cultivar that is said to be the tallest is 'Catalina,' which is said to grow usually about four feet tall but occasionally up to five feet tall. Perhaps my plant was mislabeled and is really a 'Catalina'? I've never purchased a plant labeled as 'Catalina,' but if I see one in the future I'll check for a resemblance.

me with Epilobium canum 'Carman's Gray' (California fuchsia)

More fall garden pictures. )
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Both of the nearest chapters of the California Native Plant Society that have annual fall plant sales are having those sales this weekend! They've never had them on the same weekend before, at least not in the six or so years that I've been attending them. This is going to be a very busy plant-shopping weekend for me.

And I'm still trying to catch up on posting months-old garden photographs. This post will cover July and August. I'll start with two pictures that encapsulate those months for me. This is July: my Sacramento rose-mallow (Hibiscus lasicarpos) plant in full bloom in front of a broad expanse of lawn. I don't have many plants that bloom in July; the last of the spring flowers have withered by mid-June, and the first of the fall flowers don't start opening until August. But the Sacramento rose-mallow is very much a July plant, and it's pretty enough to just about make up for the absence of anything else.

Hibiscus lasiocarpos (Sacramento rose mallow)

This is August. The first of the fall flowers are open - California fuchsia (Epilobium canum × septentrionale 'Bowman's #1') and, if you look closely through the grass, a little clump of yellow from an elegant tarweed (Madia elegans) - but the flowers aren't entirely the point anymore; the huge clumping grasses somewhat steal the show. The grasses here are deergrass (Muhlenbergia rigens) in the lower right and alkali sacaton (Sporobolus airoides) a bit to the left, in the middle distance.

Epilobium canum x septentrionale 'Bowman's #1' (California fuchsia)

More pictures of my garden in summer. )
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It's absurdly late to be posting these pictures; the garden no longer looks anything like this. Most of the plants pictured here are no longer blooming, some are completely dormant and leafless, and a few are dead, the victims of the same neglect on my part that prevented me from getting around to posting these pictures. What can I say? It's been an extremely stressful summer. I've been working impossibly long hours for many, many months, and nothing else has gone very right either. But I want to catch up on posting my garden pictures, so here are the ones from June. I hardly managed to take any in July because July was so horrible, so I mostly have just August and September left to catch up with.

The plant I got most excited about in June was death camas (Zigadenus fremontii). Its intimidating name comes from the fact that when not in bloom, it closely resembles camas (Camassia quamash), a bulb that the indigenous Nisenan people regularly dug up and ate. Death camas is also a bulb, but if you mistake it for camas and eat it, it can kill you. So if you decide to forage for California native bulb to eat, make sure you don't get any death camas mixed in with your camas.

As long as you don't eat it, death camas is perfectly harmless. I only grow death camas, not regular camas, because regular camas doesn't grow as well in my area as death camas. So there's no danger of me mistaking my death camas for regular camas. And I grow my death camas in a large pot so that Boston can't easily get at it.

Zigadenus fremontii (death camas)

More pictures of long-gone flowers! )
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It's been several months since I last posted garden pictures, and I have rather too many of them saved up to fit them all in one post, so I decided to separate the ones with animals in them and just post those for now. I have quite a few of those right now, because I recently put up a bird feeder. So I have birds!

Passer domesticus (male house sparrows)

Birds! Insects! And more! )


Jul. 7th, 2014 11:26 pm
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Yesterday I went swimming! In Dry Creek, in Spenceville State Wildlife Area, near the extinct gold mining town of Waldo. First I had to drive my poor little Nissan Sentra over about four and a half miles of gravel road - so, about nine miles round-trip, which is probably the longest stretch of gravel road I've ever driven it over. At the end of this gravel road, when I was sure I was miles from the nearest human being, I arrived at a dirt parking lot completely full of cars. (I wasn't entirely surprised, because I've been here before, though not alone, not as the person doing the driving, and it always turns out to be crowded.)

There's a swimming hole there, a very popular one with a huge rope swing dangling from an oak tree, which I had actually never personally seen before yesterday, although I was dimly aware of its existence from having seen photographs of it, and also a smaller, nearly always empty one a bit upstream of the other, which was where I always swam before. Yesterday I started out at the smaller one but wandered downstream (walking on the creek bottom) until I discovered the larger one. I then went back and forth repeatedly between the two. Unfortunately the trip from one to the other was a bit bothersome each time, because the creek is about one foot deep for much of the distance between them, so I had to walk most of it rather than swim it, and the rocks are hard to walk on, so I fell down many times. It never really hurt, though; I only ended up with a few tiny scratches on one knee and a bit of a bruise on that knee.

The smaller, empty swimming hole is under a bridge. The underside of the bridge is covered with hundreds of cliff swallow nests, from which the cliff swallows were coming and going continuously, one or a few at a time. I floated beneath the bridge and watched the cliff swallows, and watched various fish in the water, and watched dragonflies and damselflies and honeybees and, once, a hummingbird, visiting the flowers of the buttonbushes lining both sides of the river. I helped myself to the Himalayan blackberries and examined the non-native grapes, though the grapes weren't ripe yet. On my way to the larger swimming hole, I discovered some very large tadpoles, approaching frogness.

In the more popular swimming hole, I watched people swinging out over the water from the huge rope swing. They would hold onto the rope with their hands, jump off the high part of the riverbank, and swing out as far as they could over the water before letting go. Most people made this look easy, although there was one woman, similar in age to me, maybe a little younger, but heavier than me, who dragged her feet along the bank the first time she tried it and let go of the rope before even hardly reaching the water at all. She was immediately coached in how to do better, and the second time she tried it, she made a very passable effort.

Getting tired of being surrounded by people, I returned to the more private swimming hole. On my way upstream, I suddenly found myself face to face with a muskrat. It was swimming straight toward me from about two feet away. We both noticed each other at the same moment, and we both swerved to avoid colliding. The muskrat then dived underwater and did not resurface within sight of me.

Eventually everyone else went home. I then returned to the popular swimming hole to have a try at the rope swing myself, now that there was no one around to embarrass myself in front of. (I prefer to embarrass myself later by describing my misadventures on the Internet.) I did exactly the same thing that I had watched the other woman do earlier. Except that I didn't get any better on the second try . . . nor the third. I gave up. It was terrifying each time, even though I never got more than about an inch off the ground. I think the problem was that I simply don't seem to be capable of holding myself up with my arms, not even for the tiniest fraction of a second. I couldn't do it in high school P.E. classes either . . . I remember that we were supposed to climb ropes one day, and I simply couldn't do it, by which I do mean that I literally never got off the ground.

But . . . muskrat! Cliff swallows! Hummingbird! And so on. There was so much that was lovely. I should go back again soon. Though it does mean driving my not-at-all-off-road-worthy car over an awful lot of gravel.

Picture! )
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Yet again, I'm quite a bit late to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. Well, despite what it may look like at times, gardening isn't actually my number one priority in life; sometimes things like earning my living have to take precedence.

People in more northern parts of the world may say their farewells to spring next month at the summer solstice, but around here, the farewell-to-spring (Clarkia amoena) is at its peak right now. Boston has been enjoying the show in the back yard.

Boston under the pecan tree

And here are lots more pictures of how pretty the garden isn't going to be for very much longer. )
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On Friday after radiation I stopped at two parks in Sacramento and photographed animals. I didn't exactly plan to photograph animals; I wasn't sure I could count on seeing many animals, so mostly I just planned to photograph the parks. But there turned out to be animals! All sorts of unexpected animals! So animals were what I photographed.

cats and geese

Squirrels! Geese! Magpies! Robins! Cats! Skunks! )
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It's time for March Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, but the garden doesn't look like any March I've ever seen before. It doesn't look like any month at all that I've ever seen before. For one thing, there've been no baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii) at all this year. For another thing, the mountain garland (Clarkia unguiculata) is starting to bloom more than a month earlier than usual. I assume the strange garden behavior is due to the drought. Should I be concerned about the survival of baby blue eyes all across the state? Well, at least it's a species that gardeners have collected a lot of seeds from.

The plant I've been most excited about this month is glassy onion (Allium hyalinum). My degree of excitement about plants is generally closely related to how difficult it was for me to obtain and successfully grow the plant. Glassy onion is hard to find for sale. I did find it for sale once when I lived at the duplex, and I planted it in little plastic pots, and some tiny seedlings sprouted, and I transplanted them into the ground . . . whereupon they promptly died, as so many plants did when transplanted into the ground at the duplex where there was no drainage. Well, I finally found it for sale again last fall, and this time I planted it in a large ceramic pot on my patio where I decided to plant most of my native bulbs (and a few native non-bulbs) that can't handle any summer water. The pot keeps them away from the sprinklers, and they all seem happy enough to grow together. This is the first one to bloom.

Allium hyalinum (glassy onion)

Other March flowers! )
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I've been trying a lot of dessert recipes lately. My dinner efforts have subsided (hopefully temporarily) into routine repetition of already familiar recipes, but my desserts have been adventurous. First, a few weeks ago, I tried Claudia Roden's orange almond cake recipe, which is a very strange cake recipe because, first, it does not contain any flour (which means I can serve it to my gluten-free friends!) and second, it does contain two entire oranges . . . including the peels. You're supposed to remove the seeds, but I used homegrown oranges that didn't have any seeds. Also, I substituted homegrown pecans for almonds, so what I made was actually orange pecan cake. It turned out quite well. Grinding the pecans into tiny bits was a lot of work, though. In the future, I should probably just buy pre-ground nuts rather than grinding my own.

orange pecan cake

Next, I followed a recipe called Impossible Pie. The recipe claims that although you just mix all the ingredients together, the "flour will settle to form crust" while the "coconut forms the topping." The different ingredients didn't really look to me like they separated much at all though, nor do they look to me in the pictures online like they separated much for anyone else either. I don't think it deserves to be called either impossible or pie. It turned out to be a perfectly delicious custard, though, and very easy to make.

coconut cream custard

Then yesterday I followed a recipe for Nutella cheesecake, except that as with the orange almond cake recipe, I didn't actually follow it. I substituted a Nutella-equivalent chocolate-almond spread for the chocolate-hazelnut that the recipe called for, and I substituted chopped homegrown pecans for the chopped hazelnuts on top. (I never miss an opportunity to use up some of my pecans.) It turned out extremely well.

nutella cheesecake

I also gardened a bit this weekend. It will be interesting to see what sort of results I get from my garden this spring, considering that I spent all last summer taking obsessively good care of it in anticipation of a backyard wedding, then completely ignored it from late September through late November while dealing with having the wedding called off, managed to pay more attention to it in December when I was starting to feel better again, and then promptly resumed completely ignoring it for the next month and a half due to being diagnosed with breast cancer. And then there's the drought; I provided absolutely no supplemental water, not so much due to eco-consciousness as due to being completely distracted from the garden. Hopefully my two huge 60-year-old trees (pecan and southern magnolia) will forgive me for leaving them to suffer through the drought without help. They seem all right. A few of the smaller plants I put in last summer are dead, but all things considered, the garden is in much better shape (and a lot less hopelessly overrun by weeds) than it easily could be - my December efforts must have helped.

A few of the plants are starting to suspect now that spring is on the way, but they're mostly the non-natives that came with the house. plant pictures! )
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I missed the last two Garden Bloggers' Bloom Days, and I'm already running a bit late for this one, and I'm likely to miss more in the near future, because, well . . . wedding-planning is time-consuming! At least if you're also doing other things with your life that keep you busy as well. But for now, I'm going to try to catch up by posting all my garden pictures from the last three months. We'll start with June. One of the most exciting garden events in June was the continued blooming of my leopard lily (Lilium pardalinum), which began blooming in May. It's native to California and Oregon. I saw this plant in the wild on our Snake Lake camping trip in 2009.

Lilium pardalinum (leopard lily)

June to August )
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It's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day again, and the garden has peaked. The wildflower meadow in the side yard that I showed off last month is completely gone now, and I've been digging out the Bermuda grass underneath it. Some plants are still at their peak, and a very small number haven't reached their peak yet, but the majority of them have passed their peak. No matter; I have photos from all throughout the past month, and nearly all the plants have looked great at some point in the past month.

I'll start with some plants that are winding down. The little garden I installed alongside the patio last summer  no longer looks as good as it did when I took this picture. The native annual mountain garland (Clarkia unguiculata) is not entirely dead yet, but there's a lot less of it now than there was in this picture.

Much more! )
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It's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day again, and I'm trying hard to keep up with it all. Skipping too many months of Bloom Day posts in a row has caused me to have more trouble remembering plant names than I ever used to. Now that the initial overwhelming period after buying a new house has somewhat subsided, I need to try to stay in practice better.

One of my first gardening activities when we moved in last summer was to dig out the Bermuda grass lawn in the side yard to create a food garden. However, I was only able to finish digging out about two thirds of the area before the weather turned too wintery to facilitate killing Bermuda grass. Upon realizing that I would have to postpone the rest of the digging until next summer, I decided, more or less on the spur of the moment, to toss some native wildflower seeds into the undug area. Not having planned this ahead of time, I'd already used up my seeds of most of the native wildflower species, so I only had seeds of two species left: birds' eye gilyflower (Gilia tricolor) and Douglas' meadowfoam (Limnanthes douglasii). I tossed them both in the undug area, and for good measure, I also tossed some in the pathway down the middle of the dug area. Having always believed that native wildflower beds needed to be weeded to grow well, I did not anticipate nearly such dramatic results as I got.

The undug area is in the foreground below. The tall plant with pink flowers is a native mountain garland (Clarkia unguiculata) that somehow got mixed in. The food is planted in the back two thirds, but there's a stripe of meadowfoam down the middle where the path is. Silhouetted against the air conditioner is a lettuce plant that has bolted.

More! )
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It's been many months since I last participated in Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. I haven't participated regularly since we bought our house, although I did make a token effort to participate in August and October. I took a few pictures in November and thought about participating, but then I got so busy refinishing kitchen cabinets that I didn't have any time for it. In December there was practically nothing blooming. In January there still wasn't much blooming, but I really meant to participate anyway - to start the new year properly. But I got busy with house things again and completely forgot. In February some things started blooming, and I intended more than ever to make sure to participate - but then we went camping during Bloom Day, and when we got back I had camping photographs to post, and by the time that was all over with, it seemed much too late to bother.

So now it's March, and spring is definitely ramping up. This means not only that more plants are blooming, but also that more of the plants blooming are mine - plants that I planted, that is, rather than plants that came with the house. And plants that I planted are always the most important.

This is my first time participating in Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day since I got my new camera in December. I had a very hard time figuring out how to take extreme closeups of flowers with my new camera. Unlike my old camera, my new camera doesn't have a macro button. It does have a macro function - there's a macro icon that shows up on the viewscreen - but the extremely short manual that came with the camera did not mention that at all, so it took me a lot of experiementation to discover that there was a macro icon at all, and then it took me a whole lot more experimentation to figure out how to make the macro icon show up when I wanted it to. And then there was this terribly annoying problem that whenever I did succeed in getting the camera to focus properly on something closeup, the camera would display the word "Processing" for several seconds and then reveal that the colors in the photo were unnaturally hypersaturated and unrealistic-looking. This, it turned out, was because my camera was set to apply "artistic effects" to macro images but not to other images. So it took me even more experimentation to figure out how to turn off the "artistic effects."

This picture is one that I took during my period of experimentation, when the "artistic effects" were still on. I later edited the picture on my computer to tone down the "artistic effects" because I didn't think neon colors were really appropriate, artistically speaking. However, some faint traces of the "artistic effects" remain, making the plant pot look a little more glazed than it actually is, and making my gardening clogs look slightly glazed as well. I kind of like the result. The plant in the pot is "baby black eyes" (Nemophila 'Penny Black'), a garden cultivar that looks like a hybrid between two California natives, baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii) and five spot (Nemophila maculata). I'm not sure what the cultivar's actual parentage is, however, and I must say that in my garden, it grows much more like baby blue eyes than like five spot - which is to say that it grows very well! Five spot isn't well adapted to the Central Valley, so I usually only get a few flowers from it. Baby blue eyes thrives here, and baby black eyes is also thriving. It has many more flowers on it now than it had when I took this picture.

Many more flowers! )

Tule Fog

Feb. 26th, 2013 10:59 pm
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Way back in May 2005, when I bought my first digital camera, one of the things I wanted to take pictures of was tule fog. Growing up in the Sacramento area and now living in Marysville, I have never lived apart from tule fog. Driving from Sacramento (or rather, from one of its suburbs, Rancho Cordova) to Marysville to see Susan when we were dating, I drove through sixty miles of tule fog each week. Tule fog is a very thick blanket of fog that covers the entire California Central Valley for much of the winter. From December through February, hardly a night passes without tule fog rolling in after the sun sets, although some days it burns off quickly enough at sunrise that you may never notice it if you don't have a reason to go outside in the middle of the night. In January, it often lingers till nearly noon, thickly enough that you can hardly see across the street. In January, even when it does burn off at ground level, it tends to linger up above, obscuring the sun in an undifferentiated gray. People with seasonal affective disorder hate it. But I don't have seasonal affective disorder, so I've always rather loved the fog. Though I don't so much love driving through it - but I'm sufficiently used to it by now that it's not that bad.

Anyway, I was disappointed to find that my first digital camera wasn't capable of rendering fog accurately. My pictures of fog all came out showing individual water drops in the air, which made them look not so much like fog as like . . . well, you tell me. Here's one of the pictures I took long ago with my old digital camera.

An unexpected benefit of my new digital camera is that it can take pictures of fog. So one morning earlier this month, I took pictures of fog. Look! Fog! Fog as it actually looks in real life! My new digital camera has allowed me to capture fog at long last!

More pictures of fog! )
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A week ago, Susan and I went camping. We used to go camping several times a year, but for the past several years we hadn't felt safe leaving town for more than a few hours because the duplex we were renting was becoming surrounded by unsavory characters who we feared would burglarize it if they saw that we were away for any significant length of time. Now that we own a house of our own where we can feel safe again, we're finally free to go camping again. (Meanwhile, there are now apparently about 20 people living in the 800 square feet of what used to be our half of the duplex - or maybe only 19 now, because the local newspaper reported that one of them was arrested for burglary in December and went to state prison.)

Anyway, we were eager to camp again, and a three-day weekend seemed like the perfect time to do it. It seems a little weird to spend our life savings (more or less) on a fancy house and then go sleep in a tent instead, but, well, we've never claimed not to be weird. This being February, however, we tried our best to pick a campground at a relatively low elevation and somewhat near the ocean so we wouldn't freeze to death. The ocean is quite a long drive from here, though, and we also wanted to be able to start driving immediately after we got off work on Friday and arrive at the campground before dark. And dark arrives early in February, so we figured we only had time to arrive at the eastern edge of the coastal mountain range, not really very near the actual coast at all. Specifically, we decided to camp at Indian Valley Reservoir. This was a drive of about an hour and 45 minutes, as opposed to the three hours and 20 minutes it would take us to arrive at the ocean.

We hoped to camp at Wintun Campground, because it is a single-site campground very isolated from other people, so we could let the dogs off leash all weekend and not worry about them bothering anyone nor about anyone bothering us. However, we recognized that it might already be occupied by the time we arrived, so we made a backup plan: Blue Oak Campground. Both campgrounds are at Indian Valley Reservoir, and they're only seven miles apart - although that's seven miles of twisting dirt roads, so it's a half-hour drive from one campground to the other. The sun was already setting as we neared Wintun Campground, and since we were driving west, each time we rounded a bend in the dirt road, the sun would blind us so badly that Susan kept having to bring her truck to a complete stop until she could figure out where the road was and where the cliff at the edge of the road was. Luckily, there were no other vehicles around, so we had all the time we needed to figure out where the road was. We did get a little lost. Our directions said that Wintun Campground was half a mile down Wintun Access Road, so we drove half a mile down an unmarked road that seemed to be in the right location and then, not finding a campground, decided that the unmarked road must not be Wintun Access Road. We turned back and drove several more miles but couldn't find any other road that could plausibly be Wintun Access Road. So we went back to the unmarked road and drove a little farther down it this time - and there was Wintun Campground! It looked beautiful. Unfortunately, there was already a truck parked and a tent pitched. Reluctantly, we turned around and made our way to Blue Oak Campground instead. The last few rays of sun vanished at just about the moment we arrived there.

Only one of the six campsites at Blue Oak Campground was taken before we arrived. It was taken by two hunters, men about fifty years old or so. They had put up separate tents for each of them, as straight men tend to feel the need to do when they camp together. They had a boat with them, and a dog. Their dog was off leash but obedient enough to stay in its own campsite. Our dogs are not so obedient, so chose a campsite at the far opposite end of the campground from theirs and then tied our dogs' leashes to a tree while we put up our tent and started our campfire. We've had trouble in the past with Boston breaking out of our tent during the night - she persistently bangs her head against the zipper until the zipper splits open - so I had brought along a canvas dog crate as a sort of separate tent just for the dogs. However, Susan insisted that Boston wouldn't be able to break out of the tent we were using on this camping trip. We have two tents, and Susan said that Boston was only able to break out of the large red one, not the little green one we had brought for this trip. I wasn't one bit convinced. But then the two hunters started shooting. From right in their campsite. When it was pitch dark outside! I have no idea what they were shooting at, but whatever it was, I also have no idea how they could possibly see it to shoot at it. Anyway, the shooting scared Susan to the point that whatever small chance I might otherwise have had of persuading her to let the dogs sleep in their own separate tent was clearly gone, and the dogs slept with us.

Blue Oak Campground is owned by the Bureau of Land Management, and it's illegal to shoot within one mile of any campground on BLM land. However, at free campgrounds like this one, there's pretty much never anyone present with the authority to enforce such laws. We were not happy about the illegal shooting, but since the hunters' guns weren't especially loud and they were at the opposite end of the campground from us, we just resigned ourselves to putting up with it. They did stop shooting by 8:00 p.m., which was before we went to bed, so they didn't disrupt our sleep. And Susan was right - Boston didn't break out of the little green tent.

But the unexpected turns of this camping trip had hardly even begun. )
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Last month I skipped Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. I almost skipped it this month too, because none of the plants that are blooming are ones that I planted myself. But then I realized that since I have in fact been doing quite a bit in the garden, it would be nice to document what I've been doing, even in the absence of blooms.

I've been digging and planting. More pictures! Maybe even a bloom. )
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It's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day again, and the garden I had a month ago is no more. And I do mean is no more, not just is no longer mine. On August 9 - four days before we were scheduled to officially move out, since we had paid rent through August 13 - our landlady made her son mow the front garden flat to the ground. She didn't give us any advance warning that she was going to do this, but luckily I happened to have already finished digging up one of every plant species that I wanted to keep before she killed all the others.

I'm not sure whether she's done the same thing to the back yard yet, but when Susan did the final walkthrough with her (without me present), the landlady avoided using my name (since she chooses to refer to me only as Susan's "roommate") but demanded of Susan, "When is she going to get all that crap out of the back yard? There was lawn there when you moved in, so there should be lawn there when you move out" - even though (1) there wasn't lawn when Susan moved in, just weedy thistles and occasional straggly patches of Bermuda grass in a predominantly brown, dead yard, and (2) the landlady specifically gave us permission to plant a garden.

Anyway, it's all gone now, or probably soon will be. But there was one exciting final bloom in the back yard before we left: Sacramento rose mallow (Hibiscus lasiocarpus), an endangered species with flowers four to five inches in diameter.

Pictures! )
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Here they are - my final "after" pictures of this garden. On this day next month I won't be allowed in here anymore, and all the plants I like best that are small enough to dig up easily will be already dug up and brought over to our new house. These are the last pictures I plan to take of this garden before I disassemble it.

My very last pictures here! )
queerbychoice: (marble)
This may or may not be the very last Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day post I will make about my current garden. We probably won't have moved out a month from now, but if all goes well, we'll officially be homeowners within a day or two of then, and I hope that our house will be all full of boxes in preparation for moving. The garden will probably still be intact, but we'll see how much time I have to take pictures of it.

Here is a picture of what, with any luck, will soon be our house. The inspections are done, and the (excruciatingly stressful) mortgage papers are signed, but we still have to get the appraisal, repair estimates, and repairs done.


The weird metal things in the lawn are in the lawns of most of the corner lots in the neighborhood, apparently intended to prevent cars from driving over the lawn. This house is not on a corner lot and is the only non-corner house that has these. However, this house is directly at the end of a street, so I guess the idea was that cars going down that street might just keep driving straight into the house without these metal things to stop them? Anyway, we don't think that's likely to happen, so we plan to remove the weird metal things. They are probably set in concrete, though, so removing them will require digging up quite a bit of lawn, so we'll probably wait a few years until I'm ready to convert the dug-up lawn to a garden bed. In the meantime, I'm not sure how we'll come to terms with them. Turn them into stick-figure animals by adding heads and tails? I'm not sure how the new neighbors would like that, though.

The house is considerably more suburban, both in architectural style and in actual location, than most of the houses we looked at. Its exterior appearance doesn't thrill me as much as that of some other houses we looked at. However, both its interior and its location are far better than anything else we looked at, and its exterior is certainly not bad-looking. I think it has a very "solid" look to it, and the house inspector tells us that it is indeed extremely solidly built, with very high quality wood throughout.

Although the new house is only nine blocks from the horrible place we currently live in, it's unlikely to have any remotely comparable flood problems. In fact, even the houses a few doors away from ours don't seem to have remotely comparable flood problems. We're not sure what the issue is with our particular place. The landlady told us the flood problems are caused by the fact that several neighbors have paved over most of their yards with patios and pool decks, so the water from their yards runs off into ours. However, the landlady told the former tenants in the other half of our duplex that the flood problems are caused by the fact that this duplex was built on top of a cement pad that extends under the entire yard, about ten feet below the soil level. She did not explain why it would have been built on such a thing or why there would have been a cement pad here in the first place. We're not sure whether to believe that story or not, but certainly the drainage does not seem to be as bad in most of town as it is here. In fact, even our current front yard is drastically better drained than the back yard. I think the new house will probably have both a front and a back yard that are pretty much like the current front yard, in terms of drainage. I will probably never again have a yard as thoroughly wetland-like as this one.

Many more garden pictures! )
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