Thursday, April 24, 2014

Spring


Sunday afternoon's walk was darn close to five hours - I didn't quite intend to go for that long but it was so great that time slipped away from me.  I decided to take a route down to the river and see what could be found, thinking mostly of wildflowers.  There were lots of those, including a Harlequin Lupine I've never seen before.



The best part of the afternoon: I was utterly charmed by discovering that beavers are still in residence in the Chowchilla River.  At least one is anyway.  I took a bunch of pictures of the beaver, which I believe to be female because when she came out of the water to groom, I could see what I think are nipples.  After I figured I had enough shots to feel comfortable that at least one would be good enough, I just found a spot next to a rock and watched her swim around.  She kept one eye on me the whole time, but it was so neat to watch. Finally, she popped into a hole in the bank on the other side of the river and after a few minutes, I took that as my cue to exit.


This is a view of her grooming on the other side of the river.



I hadn't gone more than a couple hundred yards past that spot when I saw four of these beautiful male Bullock's Orioles, and at least one female.  It was shenanigans all around - don't know which boy won the girl, but there was singing, and calling, and flying and chasing and I don't know what all.



Early Saturday morning, we had a stonemason come out to look at our new fireplace and talk about ideas for building a nice hearth and stonework area around it.  He got quite enthusiastic about the job as we explained that we wanted to use local stone and would be fine with something asymmetric - well the whole thing will have to be anyway because we're building a bookcase on one side.  Evidently, it's a family business and has been doing work around the area for a long time.  We both ended up with a good feeling about hiring this contractor to do the work - as long as the estimate comes in close to the range we're thinking about which we believe it will.

With all that in mind, Dino and I took a walk this morning to the river to pick out some good rocks to use for the fireplace.  We have some really beautiful river rocks, many of which Dino has already dragged home to use in building rock walls.  We found quite a lot of nice ones, and I've basically given him free rein to make the final choices as he'll be doing all the work of getting the stone out of the river bed and up to the house.  It'll be tractor work, but some of the logistics will be interesting.

He also walked me to the far end of the Northwest Territory to show me a particular shrub in bloom that he hoped I could identify.  Yes - it was a snowdrop bush, really lovely blossoms.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

I Didn't Know I Needed to Be Prepared But Glad I Was

Sunday afternoon, I really needed to get out and about, not that I need an excuse per se.  Grabbed my stuff and walked down to the river; found all sort of wonderful wildflowers.  I felt a mite peckish mid-walk, found a good rock to sit upon and dredged up a protein bar from my camera bag.  (Side note:  I am known for pretty much always having a fallback snack somewhere on my person.)  As I was munching, I enjoyed the sight of a Black Phoebe working the same area of river, working hard for her afternoon snack.

I finished the bar and decided to try for a decent shot of the Phoebe, swapped lenses in favor of my telephoto and ended up with this nice picture.


I left the big lens on the camera, packed up my gear in the bag, and hoisted same to continue with the walk.  I hadn't walked more than a minute when I spotted movement at the bottom of the hill.  Gray Fox!  If I hadn't been interested in the Phoebe in spite of the fact I've taken many many pictures of these wonderful birds, I would have never been ready for the fox.  Happy happenstance.

I got several other pictures of the fox, including one of it sitting down contemplating whatever it is foxes contemplate, but I like this one because it shows how it moved in the landscape and also I love the idea of a Fox in a Field of Flowers.  Note the right ear aimed in my general direction - listening to the clicks of the shutter?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Small but Mighty. Wildflowers in Early March 2014

As must be ridiculously obvious by now, one of my great loves is abandoning my chores, er, going out for a walk on the weekend with my camera gear.  Although we are deeply in a horrid drought, the last ten days or so brought us a couple of needed inches of rainfall.  Most of our early spring stalwarts of the wildflowers are playing shy, but I found that if you stop looking for the big showy blooms and peek at the tiny ones, you can find some pretty interesting flowers.

This is the only one I've been able to identify so far:  It's Draba verna, common name Whitlow Grass.  I found about a one foot square mound of it near the Chowchilla on Saturday.  About 1.5 to 2 inches in height, the blooms were about 1/4 inch long.

 
 
One of the varieties of popcorn flower - there aren't very many this year.




















Mountain Violet - oh I do love a yellow flower.
























Baby Blue Eyes - one of my favorites.  I found a decent number of these on our Northwest Territory and Dino reports he saw a bunch in their usual spot on the sandy area by the river.

























Of the remainder:  tiny white flowers is all I know.









Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Too Small to Overcome Deficit

A couple of days ago, Dino sent me a graphic produced by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) that demonstrated how much a respite last week's rain was:  not much.  We're still only at 4.54 inches for the entire rainy season. 

 

We've already started doing some of those uninteresting and less fun things that will help us use less water - shorter showers (yours truly is doing the navy shower thing already which is un-fun in the morning) and capturing the warm-up shower water to use for flushes.
 
I gathered up all of my buckets and placed them in the most productively drippy spots under the eaves during the best portions of our little rainy moments.
 
 
 
Meanwhile, today is a bit of a milestone for the building project.  The power company was scheduled to come out today to install a new pole and finish moving our meter.  Dino has been working like crazy on the electric work to get ready.
 
 
 
 
 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The World is a Drop of Water

It's safe to say that we're all very worried about our drought situation.  I decided recently that I would start a photo project to document the drought rather than complaining about how hard it is to find subjects that weren't completely dried out. 

Yesterday, I set out with the intention of taking images that I could use in comparisons - this is what it looked like four years ago when rain was adequate, this is now all dried out. 

I got sidetracked.  I headed up one of the creek beds which had retained much of the small rainfall (a whole 1.02 inches at our place) that we received this last week.  The feeling of moisture and the heavenly fragrance of growing things were delightful, even as I knew they won't last.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Numbers 102 and 103

After a Christmas road trip to the Bay Area to attend various family festivities, at which yours truly consumed far too many rich foods and/or sweet goodies, we've returned to what passed for normal here.  The building project is starting back up after a short hiatus to allow Dino to get a few items accomplished - the roofers finally started getting the actual roof on this week.

Saturday, I hitched a ride with Dino to the red gate.  He had a meeting to attend in Madera, so he headed left up the hill, while I headed right toward the river.  I was torn between enjoying the lovely day and fretting about the drought. 

It was a great day for birding.  Number 102:  Hooded Merganser:  I saw two males and a female.  Number 103:  American Wigeon - not sure how many, at least four. 

I got photos of the Wigeons but again these images were good enough to confirm the ID but sort of embarrassing otherwise.  This Hooded Merganser shot isn't the greatest either, but at least it gives you the idea.














I had some fun taking pictures of this female Yellow-rumped Warbler, a species I am quite fond of and who has been given the nickname Butterbutts. 


Saturday, December 28, 2013

In Which We Recall Our Heroine's Last Post

I'm sure I've discussed Acton Grade in the past. The cute little snow I mentioned last time translated to snow and ice all the way up the grade - and it stuck for days. Tuesday morning (the week before Christmas) was a more eventful drive to work than usual; in fact it took me nearly 5 hours to get there.  I was making my way up the grade, repeating my crappy-road mantra "slow and steady", when I turned a corner and there in front of me was someone else's pickup truck, stopped and blocking the road.  The mantra changed to something more like "are you kidding me?".  I lucked out in that only a few feet ahead of me was a great spot to pull over so my truck wouldn't have to stop in the middle of the road.  I rather thought that being out of the way would be useful later on when whoever was going to have to unjam this mess showed up.  And in case you are wondering nothing was going to tempt me to attempt to back down the hill.

By some miracle of modern technology, I was able to get a cell signal and called the sheriff.  A few minutes after my call, one of the men working on our house remodel started down the hill but he was still on good pavement and was able to back up and out of the way.  I told him to go back up to the top of the grade to prevent anyone else from starting down.

I'll spare you a lot of the other details, but in time a sheriff's deputy showed up at the top.  And finally, a county road crew showed up at the bottom.  Some time after that, a big tow truck arrived, also at the bottom of the hill.  All of the rescuers put their heads together and the plan turned into:  chains from the tow truck were walked up the hill, attached to the stuck truck and to the sheriff's vehicle (big 4 wheel drive thing), and the truck was hauled out.

I spent my time waiting by watching birds, enjoying the view, and generally practicing my patience skills.  Occasionally, someone would ask to use my cell phone.  I had dressed appropriately in lots of warm layers, had my hat, gloves and uggs on, plus had a stash of snacks in my truck so I knew I was fine.


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