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2017-06-24 05:15 pm

Howard Creek Ranch Inn and Two State Parks, a State Natural Preserve, and a State Forest

Barry and I spent June 10-13 at Howard Creek Ranch Inn in Westport, California. We also stopped at Jackson Demonstration State Forest on the way there and back, and while there, we made side trips to Jug Handle State Natural Preserve, MacKerricher State Park, Seaside Beach, and Russian Gulch State Park. And now I'm going to show you pictures of all of it!

First, on our drive there on Saturday, we stopped in Jackson Demonstration State Forest. This is the largest of eight demonstration state forests maintained by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, which uses them "for experimentation to determine the economic feasibility of artificial reforestation, and to demonstrate the productive and economic possibilities of good forest practices toward maintaining forest crop land in a productive condition." (Source.) We were trying to follow these directions that I had printed out in advance so we could go hiking on the "Chamberlain Creek Trail and Camellia Trail," which turned out when we got there to have yet a third name, the "Waterfall Grove Trail." I'm not sure why one three-mile trail needs three different names. Anyway, I had neglected to alert Barry to put the specific trailhead turnoff into his cellphone to give us directions to the trailhead rather than just to the forest as a whole, so we ended up having to double back for a few miles before we managed to find the turnoff. Then the directions neglected to mention that we needed to drive the last 5.5 miles on poor-quality dirt road, which was not entirely fun in my two-wheel-drive Nissan Sentra. And then when we finally made it, the sign seemed to indicate a different trail than the one we were looking for!

Waterfall Grove trailhead

Click for much more! )
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2017-05-18 03:44 pm

May Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, at Two Houses . . . but Mostly at Barry's House

I'm several days late for May Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, but here I am at last. Let's just say I was somewhat delayed by the fact that I set my boyfriend's front yard on fire . . . with hot pink flames made out of flowers. Specifically, mountain garland (Clarkia unguiculata) - a species known for putting on a big show in late spring, much like its cousins whose common name is farewell-to-spring.

Clarkia unguiculata (mountain garland) and Eschscholzia californica (California poppies)

But I will show you more of that later. Right now, three different versions of my gardening self are having an argument about their vastly different gardening skill levels. It is clear to all of them that the me who gardens in Barry's front yard is the most talented gardener, and the me who gardens in Barry's back yard is the least talented gardener, while the me who gardens at my own house is somewhere in between. But they are arguing over the finer details of that. They all have different advantages: Barry's Front Yard Me (BFYM) and Barry's Back Yard Me (BBYM) have an ever-so-slightly milder climate than My House Me (MHM) . . . not so much that you'd really notice, if you're a human, but if you're a plant who spends all day long and all year round outdoors, you might. The two houses are less than 40 miles apart as the crow flies, and they are both in the Sacramento Valley, and they both see similar levels of frost in winter and similar levels of heat in summer. But the summer heat cools off slightly more at nighttime at Barry's house. On the other hand, MHM generally has a somewhat shadier garden than BFYM or BBYM. And then there's the soil. BFYM has several inches of pure compost on top of the native soil and a couple of inches of storebought cedar woodchip mulch on top of that. MHM has basically no compost but an inch or so of fairly dense mulch in most areas, made from a mix of storebought cedar woodchips and the naturally occurring detritus of the garden plants. BBYM has basically no compost and also very little mulch - just a very thin scattering of some sort of black-dyed woodchips and some twigs dropped from nearby redwood trees.

And they are going to hash out the results of their different garden conditions in photographs here. )
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2017-04-17 02:23 am

April Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, at Two Houses

This is my boyfriend with what I have done to his yard. His life used to lack flowers. Now he is completely inundated with flowers.

He does not know yet, as I do, how much the mass of his garden will shrink back down, by June or July, to a tamer and more traditional-looking garden. But there are enough perennials under the mass of annuals that there will still be a decent garden here in summer and winter and fall. It just won't be like this anymore. Until next spring, that is. Each spring we can do this all again.

Like last month, I'm going to cover both his yard and my own yard in this Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day post, because I'm the primary gardener at both. (Almost the only gardener, for most of this year - but lately, Barry has been starting to help me out pretty regularly with the weeding and learning to recognize more and more plants, so I may have to give him a lot more credit next year!)

I'll start with Barry's yard. It turns out that I actually took more photos of his yard than I did of my own yard this month. I can't get enough of it lately.

Barry in his front yard, April 2017

Click for tons more! )
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2017-04-11 02:19 am

Mavis Henson Field

This is my first time cross-posting between LiveJournal and Dreamwidth. I have the same username on both sites. I'm not sure yet which one will be my primary account in the short-term future, but LiveJournal is no longer feeling to me like it can be relied upon to have much a long-term future. I do not think LiveJournal's Russian management is likely to attempt to impose significant free-speech restrictions on English-language accounts, because Vladimir Putin has little reason to care about what Americans writing in English think of him. However, I think LiveJournal's business decisions lately seem designed to drive the company into the ground. As I understand it, the main reason LiveJournal acquired such a large userbase in Russia in the first place was precisely because Russian users wanted to host their journals somewhere that wasn't in Russia or subject to Russian law, so the decision to move LiveJournal's Russian free accounts to servers in Russia can only scare Russian users away. LiveJournal's Russian paid accounts are apparently not being moved to servers in Russia, which I guess might be some incentive for Russian users to pay for their accounts, except that those users are still forced to accept LiveJournal's new terms of service that apply Russian restrictions on political (and LGBTQ+) speech. Between that and the fact that their friends with free accounts must be leaving in droves, I can't imagine that this is a sustainable way to run a business in Russia. I can only infer that Putin and his underlings must have offered LiveJournal's Russian management a large enough bribe for suppressing free speech to make it wothwhile to them to utterly destroy LiveJournal's profitability. Meanwhile, we English-speaking users are relatively fewer in number, and furthermore, LiveJournal's management has now also destroyed the main remaining incentive for English speakers to pay for their accounts, because LiveJournal is now displaying ads on all journals, whether paid or not, to users who aren't logged in to a paid acount. Sure, paying for your account will still spare you personally from seeing ads on LiveJournal, but come on - if that's all you want, you can achieve that goal just by installing a free adblocker. The real motivation to pay was to have a journal that didn't look like trash to anyone else who visited it. Now, whether you pay or not, anyone who visits your journal will see giant banner ads on it. This is a stupid way to run a business. If paid accounts weren't profitable for LiveJournal, management could have raised the prices. By making paid accounts no longer worth paying for, management is making themselves wholly dependent on ad revenue alone, while simultaneously driving away users, which means they will receive fewer hits on their ads. This cannot possibly be a sustainable business model.

I've been on LiveJournal for almost 16 years, and I have a permanent account here. I have a big stake in the site's survival, because as long as it survives, I get to continue benefitting from all the perks of a permanent account (including a considerable amount of photo hosting, which Dreamwidth doesn't provide). But I have no actual ability to stop the site's management from making suicidal business decisions, and that is what they appear to be making lately. Therefore, I am not expecting the site to survive very much longer, and I'm trying, regretfully, to prepare for its demise as best I can.

Anyway, let's get on with this.

This past weekend, while Barry spent most of his time playing and/or running board games at ConQuest Sacramento, I went on a portion of the Gardens Gone Native Tour. I just went to the two gardens in Woodland and the six gardens in Davis, out of the total of 28 gardens. I don't think it's actually possible to see all the gardens in one day unless you really hurry through them. I might have made a gardening friend at the second garden I visited; I struck up a conversation with the homeowner/gardener and gave her Barry's address and invited her to see the native garden I've planted in her yard, and gave her my own email address so we can talk native plant gardening. We agreed that it's nice to know someone else who has a native plant garden nearby. The next garden I visited after that was the only other one that made a strong impression on me; in that garden the homeowners weren't home, but the woman showing people around the garden explained that the homeowners had been ripping out California golden poppies (the state flower) and purple needlegrass (the state grass) because they didn't like the look of them. I remove a few purple needlegrass seedlings myself when they show up where I don't want them - or I transplant them to Barry's house - but I thought it was rather hilarious that anyone with a native plant garden would be ripping out California golden poppies because they don't like the look of them.

Anyway, after I finished the portion of the tour I wanted to see, Barry wasn't home yet, so I decided to go back out in search of native plants in a different location: Mavis Henson Field. This is a local park of sorts that I found out about via the LocalWiki entry for Mavis Henson Field, which makes it sound like a great place for seeing wildflowers. But I had tried to find the field once before, with Barry, and we had failed to find it. This time, when I tried again, I realized that the directions on LocalWiki were inorrect; the field is on the opposite side of County Road 25 from where the directions claimed it was. But I figured out where it was because it was supposed to contain a lake, so I looked for a lake. The field still did not turn out to be a good place to see wildflowers, though, except maybe for the select few wildflower experts who are allowed into the fenced area where the meadow and vernal pool habitat are. For the rest of us, it is a pretty good birdwatching park and a decent place to see some native shrubbery, but it's the wrong place to go to see annual wildflowers.

Still, I took some pictures while I was there. I didn't feel comfortable taking a lot of photographs during the garden tour, but taking photographs of Mavis Henson Field was unlikely to bother anyone. So now I'm going to take you on a photographic tour of Mavis Henson Field in Woodland, California. Here are a silver bush lupine (Lupinus albifrons) and a Western redbud (Cercis occidentalis) among miscellaneous grasses alongside the parking lot. In the background, a family is riding bikes on the gravel path around the lake.

Lupinus albifrons (silver bush lupine)

Pictures! )
queerbychoice: (marble)
2017-03-15 10:53 pm

March Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, at Two Houses

It's time again for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day! I haven't participated for nearly a full year . . . the last time I managed a Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day post was in April 2016. After that, posting about the beautiful new boyfriend I acquired early that April took precedence over posting about the plants I was acquiring. But the plants have also been beautiful, and I've planted about half of them at the beautiful new boyfriend's house, so today I bring you Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day from both our houses.

I have a backlog of garden from the past 11 months that I haven't posted yet, and in the past, whenever I've missed a few months of Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, I've included my backlogged photos in the new month's post. This time, though, I've missed more consecutive months than ever before, and I simply can't possibly catch up with the backlog. Instead, for now I'm just going to try to keep up with the current blooms. Maybe when the current bloom season winds down, I might have time to go through the backlog and post some 2016 photos in the appropriate months of 2017 (June photos in June, July photos in July, and so on).

I will post about Barry's house first. And for this first picture, I do have a couple of comparisons from earlier in the year!

Here is my beautiful boyfriend's front yard, as of a few days ago. In the lower right, you can see the "Native Plants live here!" sign I received during the Fall 2016 California Native Plant Society sales. They were selling these signs but also giving them away to people who spent a certain minimum amount of money on plants. I always spend a lot of money on plants at these sales, so I got a free sign. I may get another one this spring or next fall for my own house. I gave the first one to Barry because his front yard is more nearly pure native than mine. It is all California native, and almost all locally native, except for two crepe myrtles (Lagerstroemia indica) and a Chinese pistache (Pistacia chinensis), which were the only plants in the front yard when I first went to Barry's house. The crepe myrtles (located on either side of the driveway, not visible from this angle) were planted by previous homeowners, coppiced (chopped down to ground level) before Barry bought the house, and covered with lawn. They resprouted after Barry bought the house and are now chest-high shrubs. I might try to kill them in the future. The Chinese pistache tree (visible below, currently leafless) was chosen by Barry and planted before he met me, and I plan to leave it alone, because it is a reasonably well-behaved and ornamental tree that is plausibly more marketable than a lot of the native options - and besides, if I tried to replace it now, it would take some years for a replacement to achieve comparable size (not that this tree is very big yet, but it is not fresh out of a pot, either) - so leaving it there could be a meaningful selling point for the house.

The plants currently blooming in Barry's yard are baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii), the only flowers you can see in this picture; Cedros Island vervain (Verbena lilacina 'De La Mina'), behind the Chinese pistache; cream cups (Platystemon californicus), on the other side of the driveway; and California buttercups (Ranunculus californicus), in the back yard. Well, and the deergrass (Muhlenbergia rigens) in the foreground of this picture. Also present in abundance, but not blooming yet, are Douglas' meadowfoam (Limnanthes douglasii), white meadowfoam (Limnanthes alba), California poppies (Eschscholzia californica), bird's eyes (Gilia tricolor), blue globe gilyflower (Gilia capitata), mountain garland (Clarkia unguiculata), and farewell-to-spring (Clarkia amoena). There's also plenty of other stuff that's less abundant, but those species are the ones I expect to make the biggest showing in the next few months. The Douglas' meadowfoam and California poppies at my house have already started blooming, but the ones at Barry's house were seeded later in the season because I was trying to beat back the weeds to make room for them, so their bloom season is being delayed due to their delayed planting time. Otherwise, they should start blooming sooner at Barry's house, because it is (as the crow flies) nearly 35 miles south of mine, and bloom season moves progressively northward over the course of the spring. None of the baby blue eyes at my own house have started blooming yet, but the ones at Barry's house are at peak bloom now.

Barry's house, March 2017

Click for more! )
queerbychoice: (marble)
2016-09-18 11:49 am

Camping at Silver Lake

Barry and I went camping! At Silver Lake Campground (near the town of Quincy), which I also camped at last year. Last year I was camping alone except for Boston. This year I brought Barry and also Boston. I think, though, that this was Boston's last camping trip. She seems to be getting too old to handle camping anymore. After our six-mile hike on our second day there, Boston was hobbling and limping so that I was afraid to attempt any further hiking, and on our third day there, Barry noticed she had peed in the back seat of my car, and during our third night there, she peed all over the foot of the sleeping bags, while we were sleeping in them. It's common for older female dogs to lose bladder control, so I'm assuming that's what's going on. Her legs seemed to be fine when I got her back home, so I'm assuming that was just temporary sore muscles or sore foot pads or some such thing. The discomfort while walking might have contributed to her failure to ask to be let out of the car or the tent to go pee somewhere else, but I had also noticed a suspicious stain in the back seat of my car when I was packing for the camping trip, so I think she also peed in my car when I took her to and from the vet's office a couple of weeks ago.

Anyway, we had originally planned to stay four nights and five days, but we decided to go home one day early because Boston had peed on the sleeping bags and we didn't want to sleep in dog-pee-soaked sleeping bags. And I would like to avoid encountering that problem on any future camping trips.

We encountered several other problems as well, including running out of drinking water and getting stuck on a dirt road with speed bumps on it that were so high that they were completely impassable at any speed in my Nissan Sentra. But solving problems together is an important relationship-building experience, right? So, we solved our problems and emerged just fine, and also had a wonderful time. We hiked to Rock Lake and Gold Lake, went swimming in Gold Lake, drove to Snake Lake, and drove to the town of Quincy to buy more drinking water. And we took lots and lots and lots of pictures.

Running out of drinking water was actually semi-planned. It isn't easy to pack two adult humans, one medium-sized dog, and five days' worth of camping gear into a Nissan Sentra, and my Nissan Sentra doesn't even have a roof rack for extra space. Barry has a pickup truck that might have fit our stuff much better, but it has no back seat for Boston, so we squeezed everything into my Sentra instead. But we scrimped a bit on drinking-water space because the campground is not far at all from the town of Quincy, so I knew we could easily buy more water there if we ran out.

Anyway, we packed everything into my car and set out early Wednesday, September 7, with a bunch of Barry's and my CDs to listen to along the way, and we arrived at the campground in early afternoon. We parked in campsite 1 and got out and walked through the rest of the campground on foot to decide which campsite we wanted. There are 8 campsites in the campground, with sites 6 to 8 closest to the lake shore, and a large gap between sites 5 and 6. Last year I stayed in campsite 2 because sites 1 to 5 were all empty, and I wanted to be far away from the numerous people who were at the other end of the campground. This year there was only one other person there when we arrived, and that person was in campsite 7. We selected campsite 6 for ourselves, because there was an adequate distance between campsites 6 and 7 for us to still feel isolated, and there was no other campsite any nearer that anyone could move into later.

This is Silver Lake. We camped alongside it - across a dirt road from the shore at the far right.

Silver Lake

Click for much more! )
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2016-05-11 10:35 pm

Lake Berryessa

On Sunday my wonderful boyfriend and I went to Lake Berryessa. I don't remember ever having been to Lake Berryessa before, and it seems ridiculous for me not to have been there before, because I've always lived within a 1.5-hour drive of it, all my life, and for much of my life I lived within a 1-hour drive of it, and it's a pretty big and readily accessible lake to just randomly never go to. But now I've been to it. It was Barry's first visit there also, but his previous neglect of the place was more excusable than mine since he grew up in Arizona and only gradually worked his way north from there toward this end of the state.

I researched the trail options the night before the hike and quickly settled on two: the Smittle Creek trail, which is a fairly flat, 5-mile round-trip, out-and-back trail between Oak Shores Day Use Area and Smittle Creek Day Use Area, and the Stebbins Cold Canyon trail, which is a rather steep, 4-mile loop trail at the far southeast end of the lake (the nearest end to us). I decided on the Stebbins Cold Canyon trail, because it was nearer to us. However, when we arrived, we found that the trail was closed , shut off behind a chain-link fence for repairs.

So we decided to look for the Smittle Creek trail instead. However, we were already out of range of cellphone signals, and we remained out of range for the rest of the drive, so Barry's cellphone would not give us directions. What it did do was show where we were going (using GPS) and where our intended destination was. It just didn't tells us where any of the streets were between us and our intended destination. But we set out to find our own way, using tried-and-true methods such as "Look for a right turn somewhere. If you see a right turn, take it." Barry was driving, and I was watching our GPS dot move around on his cellphone. Eventually we found the correct turnoff - actually, we found our way all the way from Stebbins Cold Canyon trail to Smittle Creek trail without taking a single wrong turn at any point, and with no particular stress at all over getting lost. Barry even said he likes getting a little lost now and then. This is a very desirable attitude to have when lost. I feel that I have now confirmed that Barry is a good person to get lost with.

This is a basic view of the lake from along the trail, before I get into the chronology of the pictures I took.

Lake Berryessa from the Smittle Creek trail

Click for more pictures. )
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2016-05-05 11:47 pm

Table Mountain

So, last Sunday my lovely and adorable boyfriend and I celebrated our then-impending one-month mark by wandering Table Mountain in search of waterfalls. Okay, it wasn't specifically planned as a celebration of the one-month mark, but it served the purpose anyway. One of the many great things about this new boyfriend of mine is that he takes excellent photographs of me, such as this one he took on Table Mountain. It probably helps that he's just very good at giving me reason to smile.

me on Table Mountain, May 2016

But I took a lot of pictures there too, and mostly I'm going to be showing you the ones I took.

Pictures from Table Mountain )
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2016-02-14 08:06 pm

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, Valentine's Edition: It's Spring!

Spring may be more than a month away by our human calendars, but my plants have already begun their celebration of its arrival. Daffodils everywhere! Even several of my shrubs are blooming. And the first of my California native annuals! I have far more to show you for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day this month than last month.

This is in my front yard. The blue flowers are a non-native hybrid larkspur (Delphinium belladonna 'Bellamosum') that I'm trying out this year for the first time, and the yellow daffodils in the background came with the house.

Delphinium belladonna 'Bellamosum' (hybrid larkspur) with Narcissus sp. (daffodil)

Click for more pictures! )
queerbychoice: (marble)
2015-09-26 09:21 pm

Native Plant Sale!

I bought plants today!

I arrived before the doors even opened. I've never done that before. It was interesting to stand around for five minutes with 30 to 40 native plant enthusiasts. I noticed that I was far from the only one carrying a shopping list. Usually I do seem to be the only one carrying a shopping list, but I guess the crowd that arrives before the doors open is more obsessive than the crowd that arrives later.

As I was leaving, one of the cashiers asked me whether I would have any help planting everything I bought. I said no. She said, "Remember to pace yourself!"

That isn't something I need to remember; it's inevitable. Since I never know ahead of time what will be available at the plant sales, I can't plan ahead of time where each plant ought to go, so I have to take time to decide that as I plant each plant.


These are all the native plants I need to plant. The seed packets on the top step are ones I already owned before the plant sale, mostly leftovers from a year ago. The items on the next step down are ones I bought at the plant sale - three seed packets in tiny manila envelopes, two ziplock bags containing three plugs each (potless plants with tiny rootballs holding a bit of soil between the roots), and six ziplock bags containing three bulbs each. And then, of course, all the potted plants.

The bulbs I bought are crown cluster-lily, harvest cluster-lily, yellow mariposa lily, blue dicks, forktooth ookow, and roundtooth ookow. The plugs are deergrass and dwarf silver bush lupine. The seeds are yellow-ray goldfields, miniature lupine, and sky lupine.

The potted plants are common deerweed, yerba mansa, mugwort, woolly Indian paintbrush (potted with a bush monkeyflower), 'Joyce Coulter' California lilac, sticky cinquefoil, canyon liveforever, rubber rabbitbrush, yerba santa, Eastern Mojave buckwheat, Wright's buckwheat, spider yarrow, Great Valley gumplant, twinberry honeysuckle, silver bush lupine, scarlet bugler beardtongue, hollyleaf redberry, skunkbush sumac, white sage, blue elderberry, California skullcap, alkali sacaton, and common snowberry.

I'm most excited about the Indian paintbrush. I would so much like to have Indian paintbrush in my yard, but it's an incredibly difficult plant to establish. It's hemiparasitic; to grow well, it needs to get its parasitic roots into an appropriate host plant. That's why the one I bought is potted with a bush monkeyflower: it's parasitizing the bush monkeyflower. (It doesn't seriously damage the host plant.) In the past I've only been able to find seeds of Indian paintbrush, and I haven't been able to get any of the seeds to sprout. It's not clear what all the potential host plants are or which host plants are its favorites, so although I tried to put the seeds next to appropriate host plants, I may not have picked the best possible hosts. Or maybe I just didn't get the seeds close enough to major roots. Or something. I don't know. But now I have Indian paintbrush! Now I just have to manage to keep it alive.

There are two more nearby fall plant sales left: one next weekend, and one the weekend after that. I want to get the majority of today's haul planted before I bring home the second haul next weekend. And then repeat the process for the weekend after that. And then plant that third batch and whatever unplanted backlog I have from the first and second batches. I'll be busy for a while!
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2015-08-15 01:30 am

August Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

My garden has been less than spectacular this summer. I skipped July Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day because I had so little to show, and I have equally little to show this month. But at least now I have a backlog of pictures from July to add to the ones from August, and I guess it adds up to enough to merit making a post.

The big excitement in August has been that my tiny pomegranate tree (Punica granatum 'Wonderful') is blooming for the very first time ever. This "tree" is about three years old but still only about one foot tall. I was surprised to find a flower bud on it.

Punica granatum 'Wonderful' (pomegranate)

That bud has now turned into the flower you see below.

Punica granatum 'Wonderful' (pomegranate)

A few more flowers. )
queerbychoice: (marble)
2015-07-31 01:29 pm

Camping at Silver Lake, Part 2: The Hike to Gold Lake

I hadn't slept well on Saturday night because the air mattress was uncomfortable. On Sunday night I added more air to it, and I slept much better after that. Well, at least until some bizarre bird landed high up in a nearby tree at sunrise and spent about half an hour making very loud, extremely bizarre nonstop bird calls that sounded like nothing I've ever heard before. It had two separate types of calls: when it first landed, it cawed several times like a crow, and after that it spent the next half hour making a bizarre, repetitive sound that was something like bubbling water. It was a sequence of clear musical notes repeated identically over and over. The bird did the same thing at the same time on both Monday morning and Tuesday morning. I haven't been able to figure out what kind of bird it was. Later on Monday I saw a large black bird that I think was a raven and wondered whether that was what had made the noises - I imagine the bird making noises to have been very large because of how loud it was - and upon looking up recordings of raven calls I've found some degree of resemblance, but not enough resemblance to make me think the bird I heard was actually a raven.

I eventually resorted to getting up and making myself visible just to get the bird to go away. (I first tried just letting Boston out of the tent, but this was not sufficient to scare the bird away. Only I was sufficiently frightening.) Once the bird finally left, I went back to sleep for several more hours and then got up at around 11:00 a.m. When I got up, I immediately started preparing to hike to Gold Lake. I spent half an hour shelling some homegrown pecans and adding the shelled pecans to a bag of home-dehydrated banana chips to create a homemade trail mix, then checked the water level in my hydration pack, put Boston's harness and leash on her, and set out for the trailhead that I'd noticed the day before.

As noted in my previous entry, the landscape on this hiking trail was chaparral - mostly manzanitas varying from less than one to occasionally as much as four feet in height - so there was very little shade, and I was forced to place great faith in the power of my sunscreen.

I didn't visit Bucks Lake, but the wilderness area in the entire Lakes Basin region is named after Bucks Lake because that's the largest lake in the area. Bucks Lake is vastly larger than Silver Lake, which in turn is several times larger than Gold Lake.

Gold Lake Trail 2.jpg

Let me tell you about the hike. )
queerbychoice: (marble)
2015-07-31 12:33 am

Camping at Silver Lake, Part 1

I went camping! Alone except for Boston. I'd never been camping without another human being before, but I was tired of waiting for an acceptable other human being to agree to join me, so I decided to go it alone. It was fairly successful!

Silver Lake campsite 4.jpg

When I was trying to pick a place to camp, I fairly quickly narrowed the choices to two places: Silver Lake Campground in Plumas National Forest and Camino Cove Campground in El Dorado National Forest. (They are both small, free campgrounds with no running water.) Then the area near Camino Cove caught on fire, forcing the closure of the nearby highway, so that settled my decision in favor of Silver Lake.

I left home Saturday evening and returned Tuesday evening. I had originally hoped to leave Friday evening, but I knew this was a long shot that depended heavily upon my being able to finish all my packing and preparations during the work week. There are some weeks when I can get a fair amount done on short breaks in the middle of my workday and in the evenings, but on this particular week, the work I was doing required intense concentration to a degree that made it very difficult to switch back and forth between work and camping preparation tasks. No matter: I'd taken Monday and Tuesday off work, so leaving on Saturday evening still allowed me enough time to camp for three nights.

There are two main routes of traveling from here to there. The larger, more traveled route is Highway 70, which follows the north fork of the Feather River for the majority of the distance between here and there, and therefore offers spectacular views of the river and the rocky cliffs sloping down to it on each side. The smaller, less traveled, and slightly shorter route is Highway 162, which offers the compensatory advantage of traveling through dense forest for the majority of the distance between here and there, and also allows you to travel for miles and miles without ever seeing a single other car. Basically, both highways are spectacularly scenic, but on Highway 162 you're enclosed and shaded by tall trees all around you to the point that you can hardly see any sky, whereas on Highway 70 the view is mostly of rocks and water and is more open to the sky, less closed in by trees. I took the forest route on my way there and the river route on my way back. I liked the fact that the forest route made me feel that I'd already arrived in wilderness extremely quickly after leaving my house.

The California Camping book I consulted when choosing a campground sometimes notes the poor quality of roads to and from campgrounds, but it failed to warn me that the last seven miles of the route to this one were on a dirt and gravel road carved into the side of a steep cliff, with no guardrails. I actually quite like driving on winding mountain roads carved into the sides of cliffs - the quality of concentration required for it is pleasingly meditative - but I could have done without combining this with a dirt and gravel road. My little Nissan Sentra does not have four-wheel drive, but I felt a need to put it all the way into first gear to try to get a decent grip on the road. Also, I happened to be arriving at the exact time of the evening when the angle of the sun lights up every speck of dirt on the windshield to the point of turning the entire windshield opaque - because dirt roads do not waste any time getting car windshields dirty - so I had to drive the road practically blind. I came to a complete stop very regularly while straining to figure out where the road in front of me was located and where the sheer cliffs without any guardrails were located.

But I survived! And I have lots of pictures! )
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2015-07-22 12:32 am

Fairy Falls Birthday Hike/Swim

Since I'd already celebrated my birthday with my family on the day before my actual birthday, I decided to find something else fun to do for my actual birthday. I decided to hike to Fairy Falls in Spenceville State Wildlife Area, because I had never been to the falls before and had heard a lot about them. And I decided to bring Boston with me, because the trail allows dogs, and we needed some human-doggie bonding time.

Well, we found the falls! And went swimming at the top of them! And I couldn't seem to tear myself away from them until after sunset, so we ended up hiking the 2.5 mile return trip in darkness, with a hundred thousand stars shining overhead and a tiny flashlight in my hand. But it was a delightful birthday trip!

me at Fairy Falls

But let me tell you the whole story. )
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2015-07-03 11:17 pm
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Swimming in Spenceville

I made a firm decision to get out of the house this holiday weekend, picked a place or two to go to, started packing, and then discovered that the hydration reservoir on my hiking backpack has broken irreparably (an important piece of plastic broke off). Since I live in the middle of nowhere, traveling to buy a new one before the weekend is over would mean traveling significantly in the opposite direction from wilderness, which would cut into my wilderness time quite inconveniently.

However, I adapted to this news by deciding to swim rather than hike. I drove today to a swimming hole on Dry Creek in Spenceville State Wildlife Area, the same place I went last year and various previous years. First, though, I thoroughly sunscreened the entry hall of my house. Can someone please invent a sunscreen for single people that can be easily sprayed onto hard-to-reach spots on one's back? I have a spray-on sunscreen that I thought would do the trick, but the sprayer is awkward to grip, and becomes all the more so once my fingers are slippery from sunscreen; I found that I needed two hands to make it spray, and the need to use two hands really interfered with my ability to aim it. The result was that it took me twenty minutes to apply sunscreen to myself, and by the end of it, I had also applied large quantities of sunscreen to the mirror, the tile floor, an area rug, the wall-to-wall carpeting, a potted plant, my front door, and a chair. Then it took me fifteen more minutes to clean up the mess. I guess my entry hall will not get sunburned anytime soon. The good news is that I also do not seem to have gotten sunburned, so it seems I managed not to miss any spots.

The drive is 45 minutes long, of which the last 13 minutes or so are on a rough gravel road that it feels somewhat foolhardy of me to take on in my eleven-year-old Nissan Sentra without the benefit of four-wheel-drive. I take some comfort, however, from the fact that even if I lost control of the car, there's really not much I could possibly crash into. As long as I could manage to miss the occasional oak tree, it's just miles of dead annual grasses. Anyway, I did not lose control of the car, so it wasn't an issue. I arrived safely. And I always forget how beautiful this place is! I never feel that I can safely bring my camera with me, because my camera is expensive and came with warnings that I should not leave it sitting in a hot car because parts of it might melt. And if I didn't leave it sitting in a hot car I'd have to leave it unguarded on the bank of the creek, where it might fall into the water or get stolen or, again, simply melt in the heat. So I leave it at home. But this means I can't properly show you how beautiful the place is. I will just have to describe it for you as best I can.

The first glimpse that always gets to me is the sight of the deergrasses lining the entire bank of the creek: huge, fluffy, bright green grasses, native grasses that I grow at home in my garden, but they're a brighter green when growing on the bank of a creek. Seeing them lining the entire bank of the creek makes me think I've wandered into one of those Dr. Seuss books in which characters are transported to strange landscapes full of billowing pillows everywhere.

I always enter the creek at the first place I come to, directly under the bridge that I park next to. For some reason, no one else ever enters the creek here. Everyone else walks downstream to a wider spot in the creek, where the water is a bit deeper and there's a rope swing that many people jump from. But at the spot where I enter, the water is deep enough that my feet occasionally can't touch the bottom, and even when they can touch the bottom, I can choose not to let them and swim up and down the creek for a bit farther than the length of most backyard swimming pools. I descended the bank, which was dotted here and there with California poppies, and hung my car keys on a dead tree branch, and placed my sunscreen at the foot of the tree; I'd locked all my belongings in my car except for these. Then I walked into the water. The water was not particularly cold; in fact, in a few places it was shockingly warm, to the point that I could have sworn it was heated. It wasn't that warm where I first got in, but it wasn't cold enough to be at all difficult to get used to. Immediately I saw fish swimming around me, fish about the length of my hand, greyish in color but with white outlines around the edges of their fins. They were shaped like sunfish, but I don't know what species they were. There were two of them; they seemed to stay in a very small area in the shade of the bridge at all times, because whenever I looked for them, they were always still there. Above me, the underside of the bridge was covered with cliff swallow nests, and I could see a few cliff swallows poking their heads out of their nests to look at me. All the birds I saw seemed less afraid of letting me come close to them than birds usually are; I had the impression that when I was submerged in water except for my head, the birds perceived me as a much smaller creature, only the size of my head. In addition to the cliff swallows, I saw several dark-eyed juncos and some house finches. I also saw dragonflies and damselflies galore, and quite a number of monarch and swallowtail butterflies visiting the buttonbushes blooming along the creek. I also saw a Pacific tree frog sunning itself on a leaf. And I glimpsed a lizard between some rocks, though I didn't get a good enough look at it to be able to identify it.

Eventually I made my way downstream, wading in the creek, toward the wider and deeper spot in the creek where everyone else always congregates. It would be much quicker and easier to get out of the creek and walk on the bank; the creek bottom is uneven and painful to walk on in thin-soled water shoes, and I always fall down a few times. But it always feels like more of an adventure to wade in the creek than to walk on the bank, and anyway, I'm pretty sure that walking on uneven rocks is good for strengthening the arches of my feet, which is considered important for preventing plantar fasciitis, which I've had quite enough of in the past and would not like to encounter again. So I wade in the creek. Much of the distance from the place I enter to the larger swimming hole is too shallow to actually swim in, so I have no choice but to wade. Along the way, I help myself to the invasive Himalayan blackberries, which have crowded out the native Pacific blackberries that ought to be there, and I admire the remaining native plants: field mint, mugwort, rosillas, ragweed, common horsetail, California grape, white alders. I've grown most of these in my garden - everything but the ragweed (too ugly and weedy), the horsetail (too impossible to control), and the alders (water-guzzling trees that I don't want to allocate adequate space and water to). There's something amazing about seeing a wilderness area in which nearly all the plants present are the same plants I'm growing at home.

Eventually I emerged through some minor rapids into the main swimming hole. I stayed and swam around there for a while, but the rope swing had been commandeered today by a group of teenage boys and young men probably in their early twenties who had very little sense of caution; they were riding the swing two or even three at a time, trying to do simultaneous backflips within inches of one another, and this made me increasingly uncomfortable. I felt that by increasing the size of their audience I might be partly responsible if one of them got maimed for life, so I decided not to stay there any longer; I crossed to the opposite side of the swimming hole and continued to follow the creek further downstream until I reached an impassible barrier: at a particularly shallow spot in the creek, all manner of large branches and small twigs had piled up across the full width of a creek. It looked like a beaver dam at first, but on closer inspection I wasn't so sure; perhaps the current had piled eeverything up on its own. Anyway, there was no good way to get out of the water there and go around the barrier, so instead I turned around, waded back to and through the main swimming hole, and returned to my original spot under the bridge until the sun set.

On the gravel road in and out, I noticed signs for Camp Far West Lake, which reminded me that I've never been there yet. I'm resolving that next time I go swimming, that's where I'll go.
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2015-06-17 08:50 pm

June Garden Blogger's Bloom Day

I'm a little late for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day this month, but here I am - though slightly the worse for wear because of the heat, and the same can be said of my garden. Last week brought our first 100-degree weather of this spring: it reached 104° F (40° C) on Monday and 106° F (41° C) on Friday. Several of my plants transformed, over the course of one day, from looking perfectly alive and healthy to looking entirely dead. Some of them resumed looking alive, though somewhat less healthy, after I watered them. Others of them might actually be dead, but I'm not completely sure yet. Also, the suet in my suet bird feeder is melting! Suet is a mixture of birdseed (and sometimes nuts or fruit) and beef fat (to provide the kinds of nutrients that insect-eating birds need). The beef fat is melting out of my suet and creating a grease spot on my cement patio under the suet feeder. This is the first summer I've had a suet feeder, so I didn't know this was going to happen.

One does not spend one's life in the Sacramento Valley without learning a few tricks for coping with heat. Here are mine:
  1. Douse your head in water regularly. A lot of people think it's better to have as little hair as possible during a hot summer, but this is only true if you don't have the good sense to keep your hair wet. Long, thick hair is an excellent tool for holding water; it is very useful if treated as such. Also, there's never any need to worry about drying it off before going out in public, because on a 100° day, all you have to do is step outside the house for ten seconds and your hair will be instantly dry. (Also, if you have curly hair like mine, the constant dousing with water will have the bonus effect of making it more intensely curly than ever.)
  2. Buy some stretchy fabric headbands, preferably four or five inches wide. Stuff ice cubes under them regularly. Make sure the dye in them is colorfast, though, because otherwise you'll end up looking like you just murdered one of the alien species from Star Trek who have oddly colored blood. (I speak from experience. Experience with non-colorfast headbands, I mean; not experience murdering Star Trek aliens.)
  3. Carry an insulated thermos of icewater at all times; drink fifty gallons of icewater per day from this thermos. It must be insulated because otherwise the icewater will cease to be icewater in about ten seconds.
  4. Freeze any and all other beverages and consume them as popsicles.
  5. When gardening, always water yourself just as much as you water the plants.
But on to the plants. Spring ended earlier than usual in my garden this year, and now it looks like August. Ordinarily this would mean that September was just around the corner, which would be a good thing, since the weather generally cools off a bit in September, and the plants start to perk up a little. In this case, though, I'm pretty sure I'm in for at least two more months of August.

Buckwheats are best known for blooming in the fall. Here's Eastern Mojave buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) blooming in my side yard right now. The smaller white clumps are the buckwheat flowers; the larger white clumps are yarrow (Achillea millefolium), which generally blooms in July but is already winding down this year.

Eriogonum fasciculatum (Eastern Mojave buckwheat) with Achillea millefolium (yarrow)

More pictures! )
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2015-05-18 01:10 am
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Plant Shopping Challenge: No Labels Allowed!

On Saturday I drove to Oakland because a native plant nursery that I'd never been to before, but that I had long aspired to go to, was having a sale. My hopes for this nursery were sky high: its website gave me the impression that it carried hundreds of species that no other nursery in the state carried, and on top of that, its owner is a Facebook friend of mine and a frequent contributor to various online discussion forums that I read regularly, and, well, he consistently impressed me on all sorts of different levels. You might say he was a gardening idol of mine. So I was very excited to finally visit his nursery.

Most native plant nurseries have lists on their websites of what plants they have in stock. These lists, in my experience, are usually years out of date and bear no relation to what they actually have in stock. In this case, though, the owner specifically stated that he'd updated the list last week. Also, the list included a feature I don't usually see on such lists: an indication of exactly where in the nursery each plant species was located. I was impressed by the thoroughness. I downloaded the list, deleted all the plants I wasn't interested in, sorted what remained by location within the nursery, and felt brilliantly prepared to march in and locate exactly what I wanted.

The visit did not go quite as well as I'd hoped.

The first thing that happened, almost the first moment that I arrived, was that a sudden ripping noise alerted me that a rusty wire protruding from a post had torn a four-inch gash in the skirt I was wearing, around mid-thigh level. You know how it feels to be excitedly looking forward to an extremely fun outing and then realize you're going to spend the whole time embarrassed by some unexpected problem with your appearance? That happened. The rip was on my left side, and a bit too low down to be covered by my purse, but I switched my purse to my left shoulder anyway and pretended to be left-handed for a while, just because putting my purse there blocked the rip from my own line of sight, even though it didn't block it from other people's. It is awkward, though, pretending to be left-handed when you're actually not. Especially when bending down over plants a lot, when purses tend to swing around and you need to use your hand to keep them under control. Really, perhaps I should just take to carrying a few safety pins with me at all times in case of wardrobe malfunctions. It might at least somewhat reduce the feeling of awkwardness.

Having driven two hours to get there, though, I certainly wasn't going to turn around and go home without doing my plant shopping. So I forged onward. Where was the first plant on my list? No sign of it. Where was the second plant on my list? No sign of it either. More to the point, there were hardly any signs of any plants. This was a nursery full of thousands and thousands of plants, but only about 1% of the plants in the nursery had any labels to tell you which species they were.

Okay. Deep breath. This particular problem was not a problem I had ever encountered at a nursery before, nor even imagined ever encountering at a nursery. But surely there must be some way around it. How do they sell any plants at all here? Well, at least I did have the list of where each plant was supposed to be. Unfortunately the locations given on the list only narrowed it down to something like "This plant must be one of the 300 plants in this row," and only about 3 of those 300 plants had any labels, but still it was something to go on. I had a decent idea of what most of the plants I was looking for should look like, either because I'd owned or seen them before or because I'd owned or seen other plants in the same genus, or at least in the same plant family, so I could take a guess about which plants might possibly be the ones I was looking for. A lot of the plants I was looking for were plainly not there at all; presumably someone else had bought them during the past week. But others I was able to locate. Often if I could pick out a group of 50 pots that were all obviously the same species as one another and that looked as if they might possibly be the species I was looking for, I could eventually find a plant label in one of those 50 pots. Unfortunately many of these labels were obviously wrong (no, this fern is not a redwood tree, and no plant label claiming it's a redwood tree will ever convince me that it is), and a vast number of other labels were simply blank. It was maddening. And a few plants sometimes turned up in different locations than where the list said they would be! Argh.

I perservered. I came to see it as a test of my plant identification skills. Other customers resorted to simply grabbing a nursery employee and telling that person which plants they wanted, and getting the nursery employee to go retrieve the plants for them. But those customers were generally buying 5 or fewer plants. I was buying . . . well, I ended up with 28 plants, but the list of plants I was trying to find was a lot longer than the list of plants I actually succeeded in finding and buying. It wouldn't have felt reasonable to me to make a nursery employee spend an hour looking for a hundred different plants for me. So I did my best on my own. Mostly I did okay. A few times I resorted to asking for help. Once I asked the nursery owner, "Is this Sidalcea calycosa?" Yes, it was. Another time I asked two employees, "Which of the grasses in this row is Poa secunda?" (There were about 15 different species of grass in that row, and in most of them, none of the pots had any labels.) The two employees looked at each other blankly and resorted to Googling for pictures of Poa secunda on their cellphones to try to figure it out. Eventually they took a guess and brought their guess to the nursery owner for confirmation. Was this Poa secunda? No, it was Festuca idahoensis. Poa secunda was somewhere on the other side of the nursery entirely, not in the location where the list said it would be. The employees retrieved it for me.

It was abundantly clear that the nursery owner knew instantly exactly what every plant was and had no need for plant labels. It was equally clear that nobody else was anywhere near as skilled at identifying things. One of the drawbacks to being brilliant is that one may have difficulty comprehending how much less knowledgeable other people are and properly accommodating other people's limitations. The nursery owner is brilliant with plants but less brilliant at understanding how hard it is for other people to navigate a nursery without any plant labels. I will forgive him his failings, because I like him, but I'd probably have bought more of his plants if I'd been able to find them. I decided that a lot of them weren't important enough to bother asking someone to find them for me if I couldn't find them myself.

Also I was convinced I'd already spent a ridiculous amount of money, although it actually turned out that I'd spent less than half of what I thought I had. The plants were cheaper here than plants normally are. He could probably charge more money for his plants if he bothered to label them.

As I shopped, a nursery employee who spoke Spanish almost exclusively (there was clearly no sense in torturing him by trying to ask him to identify plants for me, even if the actual plant names were in Latin rather than English) fairly unobtrusively but fairly dedicatedly followed me around for an hour, taking plants out of my hands over and over and carrying them all to a table for me, since there weren't any shopping carts. Then the nursery owner came to the table where my plants were grouped and tallied the plants for me, and gave me tips on how to take care of some of them, and commented on what unusual plants I'd chosen. Yes, that's because I already owned the more usual ones and only bothered driving to Oakland to find the less usual ones. One of the employees who had helped me locate Poa secunda told the nursery owner, "She really knows her plants. She did all that shopping almost entirely by herself!" That's right, but I would have done more shopping if it hadn't been ridiculously difficult.

While tallying my plants, the nursery owner noticed that one of my plants was not what the label claimed it was, and exchanged it for me for the plant I actually wanted. (I wanted Viola glabella and mistakenly picked up a pot of Viola adunca that had been mislabeled as Viola glabella. It wasn't in bloom, so I couldn't tell that the flowers were the wrong color, and I'd never seen Viola glabella before.) After I got home, I realized that another of my plants was also not the one I actually wanted. I had wanted "goldenfleece" (Ericameria arborescens, pictured here), which is native around here, but I ended up with "goldenbush" (Isocoma menziesii, pictured here bearing ridiculously close resemblance to goldenfleece), which is native only within about 100 yards of the Pacific Ocean. The goldenbush probably will not survive here. I did not intend to drag it to a terribly ill-suited location and slowly torture it to death. But this is what happens when a nursery has no plant labels.

The Spanish-speaking employee helped me carry my plants to my car. I had parallel parked, which was probably only about the fourth or fifth time in my life I've ever needed this skill, and was blocked in, and I was proud of myself when I managed to escape from the parking spot successfully. (Though it was easier than it could have been; I had more maneuvering room than is sometimes available.)

Then I went home. Along the way, I took a slight detour through Sacramento, where I saw the cutest gay male couple ever to exist, walking down the street holding hands in front of the state capitol. When they paused to wait for a street light to change so they could cross the street, one of them kissed the other, and I may possibly have died of the cuteness. But if so, I was miraculously resurrected and continued driving home.

On Sunday I planted 11 plants. Only 17 left to go!
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2015-04-12 10:28 pm
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Plants! And Cake! Made from Plants!

Now I have more plants! There was another native plant sale today. This one was in Chico, and I didn't find out when it was going to be until the night before. There should still be one more sale later this spring, but I haven't heard a date yet for that one.

Today I bought showy milkweed, silver bush lupine, sticky monkeyflower, scarlet bugler, evergreen currant, Sonoma sage, California skullcap, California goldenrod, and two rather large trees that I'm going to have trouble figuring out places for: California buckeye and California bay laurel. The bay laurel, in particular, was a somewhat unrealistic purchase. But it was only $4, so if I can only grow it for a few years before it dies or I have to kill it for lack of an appropriate spot for it, so be it. In the meantime I'll at least get a few years of enjoyment. (And apparently it sometimes reacts to being poorly located by just staying tiny for a very long time, so maybe I'll get lucky and manage to turn it into a permanent dwarf somehow?)

It's always interesting trying to plan a garden while having no idea what plants I'll end up with. Native plants are not easy to find, and there are many species I found once at some point years ago but have never found again since. So I make long lists of plants I'd ideally like to find, then buy whichever ones I can find that are on the list. Today one of the nursery owners saw me with my list and said, "You look very organized and on task." I agreed. I study better for native plant sales than I ever did for exams. I take native plant sale studying very seriously. The bay laurel was not on my list, though. I disobeyed my list and bought it anyway.

There was a native-plant tea-tasting booth at the plant sale. I tried a native blackberry tea. The woman at the booth made it extremely weak, so it mostly just tasted like water. I've never met a tea that I liked the taste of, though, so the taste of water was an improvement.

Also I inexplicably volunteered to bake my mother's birthday cake this year. This was not sensible; I have neither much free time this week nor much knowledge of how to bake cakes. But I do have a good head start on the baking; I actually already baked the actual cake. What I need to do now is extract the second half of the cake from the pan without breaking it, then invent some sort of frosting and use it to stick the two halves together, then frost the rest of the cake, then decorate it. And then freeze it until next weekend. Hmm.

It is an orange-pecan cake, made from my homegrown oranges and pecans. This is the only explanation for why I volunteered; I must have wanted to show off my gardening skills, because my cooking skills are not generally something I want to show off. There was a conversation on Easter about how all the family's birthday cakes for the past couple of decades have been storebought, and it was entirely unnecessary for me to volunteer to change that, but I did. Anyway, the cake now requires homemade frosting just because its other ingredients are so homemade and homegrown that it would be wrong not to continue the pattern. Even the eggs I used in the cake are from chickens that, although I didn't raise them myself, I have met them and even taken care of them for a few days; they belong to my friends Alyson and Jackie, and I house-sat at their ranch last year and fed the chickens (along with the ducks, guineafowl, goats, donkeys, etc.) The only thing in the cake that I can't claim any role in creating is the sugar. I did not grow and harvest my own sugarcane. Sorry. (Oh wait, there's also one teaspoon of baking powder in each half of the cake. I have no idea what one would even do to create one's own baking powder, but whatever it is, I didn't do it.)
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2015-04-05 12:49 am
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Spring Native Plant Sales!

Today I attend the first of the spring native plant sales. It was in Placerville - about an hourand a half away from me, but quite close to where my parents live, and practically right next to where my brother lives. I'm driving to see my parents tomorrow, but I'll be going via a different route, so between the two days of this weekend I'll drive more than 300 miles and pass through six counties: El Dorado, Sacramento, Nevada, Placer, Sutter, and Yuba. I also came within sight of Yolo County today, but I didn't cross the river to actually enter it.

Actually, I only entered Sacramento County and came within sight of Yolo County because I missed a turn. The missed turn landed me unexpectedly in Rancho Cordova, where I lived from 1999 to 2008, and I needed gasoline, so I thought, "I'll just drive through my old neighborhood and go to the gas station that I always used to go to." But I've been away for long enough that the neighborhood was less familiar than I expected it to be, so I got distracted by all the new sights and the unexpected foreignness of it all and missed that turn too, so then I stayed off the freeway for much longer than I'd planned because I had to look for a new gas station, and along the way I ended up on a strange tour of my entire past life, in that way that only happens if you've lived your entire past life in a fairly small geographic region. It went like this: "Oh look, this is my early adulthood! Now here's my college! And I had a doctor appointment here once about ten years ago! Now I'm somewhere near my dead grandmother's house! Ack, here's where I proposed marriage in the form of a Spenserian sonnet that I wrote myself, which was all very well except that it turns out I picked a terrible person to address it to. And now here's where I got radiation treatments for cancer last year! And my high school co-best friend lives near here too, with her husband. And here's Lavender Heights, where the gay bookstores used to be that have both gone out of business now. Ick, this was where my icky boyfriend from 20 years ago (!!!) used to work. Which is also part of the scene of a more recent bad date. And now I'm where I met [livejournal.com profile] sammka earlier this month. . . . and now I'm on the freeway, following the same route I used to take to see my irritating ex who trapped me in Marysville by buying a house with me one year before dumping me."

So my life sort of flashed before my eyes, and continued doing so for half an hour or so. Some of it was parts of my life that I got to write for myself, more or less. Other parts felt more as if other people vandalized my life and scribbled all over it with things I never wanted in it. Oh well. Life for most people seems to consist in large part of making the best of other people's vandalism, trying to come up with one's own designs to overwrite it with, like the way people seek to cover up unwanted tattoos by designing new ones that creatively incorporate the old ones.

Anyway, I got plants! I got up early, drove to Placerville, and came home with all these plants. Then I spent a few hours talking to Mikie, and then I spent a few hours planting the plants. I got most of them planted. I saved some of the larger ones for later because I haven't finished deciding quite which shrubs I want where. I might save them until after the next plant sale so I'll know what other shrubs I'll have to choose from. The plants shown below are (read from left to right and top to bottom as if the two boxes were pages of a book) bush anemone, golden currant, Oregon grape, low blueblossom, seep monkeyflower, two narrowleaf mule ears plants, another seep monkeyflower, two-tooth sedge, soap lily, Eastern Mojave buckwheat, death camas, and hummingbird sage.


I'm still rather disappointed with the way my garden looks so far this spring. It just isn't living up to last year in my eyes. I blame the drought. Though we had that last year too! So I don't know what to think. But I do have a decent field of meadowfoam blooming in my culinary garden now. (Meadowfoam seeds are edible, so it does make some sense to have meadowfoam in the culinary garden, though I've never yet actually tried eating them. I should probably do that this year.) Here is my field of meadowfoam.

queerbychoice: (marble)
2015-02-20 11:54 am

Spring is Coming! (February Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day and Bird Feeder Action Shots)

I'm a bit late for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day this month, but I couldn't just skip it because spring is definitely starting to arrive. Spring seems to arrive earlier with each passing year. Ah, climate change. The flowers are nice, but the mosquitoes aren't, and the air conditioning bills won't be, either, when it warms up a little more. Also the warm weather creates the atmospheric ridging over the Pacific that blocks rainstorms from arriving and is causing the prolonged drought, which is not good for the flowers or the trees or the people or anything else.

Still, I may as well photograph the flowers while they're here. My daffodils are blooming!

Narcissus (daffodils)

And more! )