Wednesday, July 10, 2013

What Did You Notice Today?

I'm in the middle of reading a book called "The Tangled Bank" by Robert Michael Pyle - all essays originally published in Orion Magazine.  The essay "Roll Call" caught my attention this morning, with this quote: "In the country, many people (though fewer every year) still take their livelihood directly from other forms of life.  Townspeople are less likely to connect with nature on a regular basis.  Some, such as bird and butterfly watchers, wildflower and mushroom fanciers, organize their free time around nonhuman encounters.  But such folk are uncommon overall, and considered strange by many of their neighbors:  eccentric, obsessed, if harmless.  The majority, in fact, shows little awareness of other life forms beyond cats, dogs, lawns and fellow humans."

I decided it would be interesting to follow his suggestion to make note of all the species I could today, to the best of my ability.  Of course, I was at work for 8 of the day's hours, and unless there's a spider hiding somewhere, I'm unaware of many additional life forms in my office (aside from my house plant and lunch species, as noted below).  I didn't go out of my way to find any of these, I only noticed what I saw on my usual rounds.

Birds: House Finch, Common Raven, Mourning Dove, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Western Kingbird, California Quail, Acorn Woodpecker, Western Scrub-jay, Brewer's Blackbird, Anna's Hummingbird, Roadrunner.  This is actually a bit of a light bird day for me, for some reason, although the roadrunner was a good sighting.

Mammals:  Ground Squirrel, Gray Squirrel, Homo sapiens ssp. sweetii (my husband), Homo sapiens ssp. moronius (the icky person in the jacked up F350 who tailgated me on the way to work until I found a safe place to pull over), Homo sapiens (all the other generic folks in town and non-icky drivers), dog, horse.

Reptiles: Fence Lizard

Insects:  a light insect day also.  Only a couple of ants in the house - evidently they are giving us a respite at the moment.  These were ants of medium length, stocky body, dark brown and a strong formic acid smell.

Cultivated Trees/Plants:  fig, apple, Italian stone pine, the old olive and walnut trees on the neighbor's place, rose, a large number of plants and trees in town that I can't name, the house plant in my office Zamioculcas (Zanzibar plant), oleander, juniper, rosemary, quince, pomegranate, iris, mugo pine

Trees/Shrubs/Wildflowers/Grasses:  Interior Live Oak, Blue Oak, California Buckeye, Mountain Mahogany, Manzanita, Lichen, Moss, Wild Oats, a large number of other grasses and forbs not known to me, Tarweed, Bull Thistle, Turkey Mullein, Wooly Mullein, Datura, Purple Milkweed, Pearly Everlasting, Blue Elderberry, Yerba Santa, Poison Oak, California Broom, Manzanita, Deer Brush, Cedar.  I have no doubt there are many other species I could have added to this list if only I'd known what I was seeing.

Species or products thereof that I've eaten today:  peanut, chia, coconut, sunflower, mango, cow milk (yogurt), bacteria (yogurt), grape, cinnamon, vanilla, chicken eggs, carrot, tomato, tomatillo, onion, coffee, almond, cocoa, wheat, black beans, lettuce, bell pepper, cucumber, celery, asparagus, red cabbage, apricots and whatever spices were in the jarred salsa.

Other:  sheep (the lanolin in my hand cream), whatever the old carbon life forms that ended up producing the gas in my truck, the bacteria or virus that made my hairdresser feel too unwell to get to my haircut appointment today, various natural fabrics in my clothes and household, and whatever wood the fence posts and utility poles are made of.

A picture of a species I ate the other day (not today, darn it):  wild blackberry.  Yum.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Hot Dry Season

A couple of weeks ago, we took a short overnight trip to the Bay Area to visit my parents. When we came back on Saturday afternoon I'd just sat down with a nice afternoon cuppa, ready to relax and unwind when our neighbor called to say:  "Are you aware there's a fire on Lily Peak?"  That's about three miles or so away from the house.  Nope, we hadn't noticed that.  Good thing he was taking on the phone round robin chores.  After the big Carstens fire from a week or so before that, which wasn't close to us but was pretty scary anyway, I'd identified a group of sentimental mementos that I'd be sad to lose.  I scurried around and got those loaded up in the truck, just in case, plus a couple changes of clothes.  Then we went up into the orchard to watch.  Within not too long, there were helicopters bringing in big underslung buckets of water to dump on the area and we could see the vehicles of the fire crew on the top of the ridge.   (Binoculars came in pretty handy here.)  One plane came by and released a big red plume of fire retardant on the back side of the peak where the fire must have been at its worst.  It was difficult to make out the forms of the firefighters in the smoke, but we could see frequent glints of light off what I guess was helmets or face shields.  Basically, they put most of it out in about an hour's time, with a couple of daylight hours to spare.   We've done the best we can to make the house defensible if it comes to that, what with clearing a big area around the house, placing the big water tank on the top of Ant Hill, choosing the best fire safe roof, etc etc.

Since then, it's been just pretty doggone hot.  I'm getting as much cooking done first thing in the morning on the weekends, or making cold suppers.  I haven't really felt like shouldering my big camera bag with its 30+ pounds of equipment and then sweating my way around the neighborhood. 

That means that you're stuck with this iPhone shot of a super nifty California King Snake that I found sunning itself in the middle of the road while on my way home the other day.  After I took the picture, I waved my arms at it and it decided to head back downhill to somewhere safe for snakes.

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