Allergies and oak pollen

If you have seasonal allergies to oak pollen, I would suggest you avoid central California, my yard or stay inside. I know this happens every spring but the coating of pollen seems extra thick this year.

Just a mere week or so ago we had rain and freezing temperatures. Then the temperature shot up to the 80’s the last few days and in the photos below you can see what coats my backyard bricks, tables and chairs. What’s even scarier is I cleaned the yard yesterday and wiped the tables down.

My pet hens are very happy to gobble up the pollen which is highly nutritious and will help color their yolks an even deeper orange.

Earth Day

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Do you choose THIS?

We choose our future?  What choice will you make today and every day hereafter?  EVERY Day is earth day!

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Or do your want more of THIS?

Read the History of Earth Day <——

Why am I taking so may photos of nature?

Looking at the world through a lens gives me a chance to pause and to truly appreciate what I’m seeing.

Sculptural old oak in Sycamore Valley Regional Open Space Preserve
Sculptural old oak in Sycamore Valley Regional Open Space Preserve

Photographing a plant, a bug, a rock, a child, a water droplet, a pet, a pattern or a landscape causes me to stop and to really begin to look and see.

I slow down. I breath deeper. I feel more. I notice more. I feel more alive. Colors start to appear more vibrant and rich. Sounds become clearer and more melodious. Scents become more perceptible. I start to notice associations and repeating patterns in nature. I notice how most of life can and does live in harmony. I find myself relaxing. My compassion and patience for other fellow humans increases.

And, now my photos and observations can have a greater purpose and impact. Through technology my images and limited knowledge can be shared. My photos can have so much more meaning when I share them with databases such as iNaturalist, Calflora and CalPhoto.

With the recent emergence of the field of big data, scientists can make better use of contributions from citizen scientists, citizen naturalists or wannabe botanists like myself.  We will now be better able to monitor biodiversity and the changes which are occurring on this delicate blue sphere we call earth.

Sycamore Valley Regional Open Space Preserve
Wide open grasslands of Sycamore Valley Regional Open Space Preserve

By sharing my images on iNaturalist I give a purpose to my pictures. They are shared with the scientific community and others of like mind. iNaturalist has encouraged me to look and see the small stuff on the trails.

iPhonography and iNaturalist have helped me become a better observer of nature. I have been richly rewarded with what I have seen. May it be the learning of a new species or the sighting of an old friend again.

iNaturalist Project

Check out my local biodiversity project that I have created on iNat: Project: Sycamore Valley Regional Open Space Preserve I have started documenting the species on a few acres of open space preserve near my home.  I couldn’t find good data on the area so I decided to create my own data.  Maybe, someday, this information will prove useful to the surrounding community or maybe even to scientists as they monitor the movement of species caused by climate change.  Or, maybe I will be able to document the natural recovery of this region from the historical aspects of cattle grazing or the impact of modern day humans on this now preserved space.

With advancing age, I continue to grow in amazement of the natural world around me.

So, instead of taking another selfie, think about using your camera next time to collect data about the world around you. You too can be a citizen scientist.

Death Valley Flowers – March 2016 Superbloom

Here’s my photo dump of just SOME of the flowering plants seen on our weekend BioBlitz to Death Valley. Two days was not nearly enough time, but it was all the time we had.

There is, oh, so much that I didn’t see and will never see because there isn’t enough time in life to see it all.

A visit to Death Valley can only capture just one singular moment in time.  The variety of species blooming can literally change from one day to the next.

I have “guestimated” many of the scientific names and added common names.  Several of the flower’s I have just ID’ed to genus.  Without pulling some of the plants apart or waiting for seeds to set I can not confirm ID’s.  Knowing where the plant was observed, the soil type, elevation, associated species and time of year, a pretty good guess can be made in most cases.

For lack of a better way to organize the photos, I have attempted to display them in a color sequence.  Please enjoy and let me know what you think.  The photo’s have not been edited.

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Castilleja chromosa    Desert paintbrush

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Calycoseris wrightii    White tackstem

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Opuntia basilaris – Beaver Tail Cactus

{"focusMode":1,"deviceTilt":-0.007064298787389234,"whiteBalanceProgram":0,"macroEnabled":false,"qualityMode":3}Desert Five-spot (Eremalche rotundifolia)

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Aliciella latifolia    Broad leaf gilia
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Desert Gold

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Encelia farinosa    Brittlebush

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Turtleback (Psathyrotes ramosissima)

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Mentzelia obscura – Pacific blazing star

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Camissonia brevipes ssp. brevipes    Golden sun cup

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Mohavea breviflora    Golden Desert Snapdragon

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Little Desert Tumpet   Eriogonum trichopes

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Little Desert Trumpet   Eriogonum trichopes

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Desert Trumpet   Eriogonum  inflatum

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Desert Trumpet   Eriogonum inflatum

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Malacothrix coulteri    Snake’s head

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Malacothrix coulteri    Snake’s head

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Devil’s Spineflower (Chorizanthe rigida)

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Gilmania luteola  Golden carpet

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Malacothrix coulteri    Snake’s head

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Nicotiana obtusifolia    Desert tobacco

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Desert Rock Nettle (Eucnide urens)

pebble pincushion (Chaenactis carphoclinia)
pebble pincushion (Chaenactis carphoclinia) with Concrete Mites
A WHITE Five Spot
A WHITE Five Spot

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Gravel Ghost (Atrichoseris platyphylla)

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Seaside Heliotrope (Heliotropium curassavicum)

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Brown Eyed Primrose

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Perityle emoryi    Emory’s rock daisy

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Monoptilon bellioides   Desert star

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Monoptilon bellioides  Desert star
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Panamint Cryptantha   Cryptantha inaequata

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Narrow leaved cryptantha

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Eriogonum fasciculatum  California Buckwheat
 Salvia funerea Death Valley Sage
Salvia funerea Death Valley Sage

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Lilac Sunbonnet

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Lupinus flavoculatus   Yellow eyed lupine

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Xylorhiza tortifolia   Mojave woodyaster

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Erodium cicutarium   Redstem Filaree
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Fremont Phacelia
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Fremont Phacelia

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Caltha-leaf Phacelia   Phacelia calthifolia

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 Notch leaved phacelia

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Cylindropuntia echinocarpa  Wiggins’ cholla

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Cactus

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Echinocactus polycephalus  Cotton Top Cactus

Bio Blitz – Death Valley: Discovering Life on the Edge

In mid-March I found myself registered to participate as a volunteer botanist and iNaturalist contributor for the 2016 Death Valley National Park BioBlitz, part of a centennial celebration of our National Parks.

Botanists - spreading out to search an area an to tread lightly by not walking in each others footsteps.
Botanists – spreading out to search an area and to tread lightly by not walking in each others footsteps.

A BioBlitz as defined in wikipedia is “an intense period of biological surveying in an attempt to record all the living species within a designated area. Groups of scientists, naturalists and volunteers conduct an intensive field study over a continuous time period (e.g., usually 24 hours).”

Researcher's and iNaturalists collecting data within the creek.
Researcher’s and iNaturalists collecting data within the creek.

For the DVNP BioBlitz, the primary area of study was the area of Salt Creek.

Not only would scientists and iNaturalist be out in the creek area collecting data, but several programs and presentations were set up for the general public.  The access road to Salt Creek was closed to traffic and the public and volunteers could either park out on the highway or another designated parking area and take a shuttle to the sight.

The park was blessed this year with above normal rainfall resulting in a rare super bloom of wildflowers. And, just the night before the BioBlitz, the valley was blessed with another rare sprinkling of measurable rain.  The creek would be flowing a tad higher and some of the plant habitat’s would present some unique water crossing challenges for the field botanist.  Not something one would expect in such a barren and hospitable landscape.

Here’s a link to the iNaturalist posts showing the species count results for the DVNP BioBlitz of March 12th, 2016.

Death Valley iNaturalist BioBlitz Species Count Results

Herpetologist trying to photograph the fast and small critters.
Herpetologist trying to photograph the fast and small critters.

These images where taken at the BioBlitz of the groups working area’s of biological study.  I was able to contribute to the iNat project site 17 observed taxa, 20 total observations, of which 16 qualified as research grade. To date I have been notified that 9 of my observations have been selected for use by the project.

Your's truly get an up close macro documentary image.
Your’s truly getting an up close macro documentary image.

I am so honored to have been a participated for the 2016 BioBlitz. In another post I will identify some of the more common wildflowers seen over the weekend. We had an absolutely stunning and amazing visit to Death Valley National Park(DVNP).   More Death Valley posts to come.

A walk amongst the redwoods.

On the east side of the San Francisco Bay are some wonderful regional parks operated by the East Bay Regional Park District.

Hooker's fairy bells
Hooker’s fairy bells

At the end of February I took a midwinter walk led by David Margolies, the treasurer and Bay Leaf Assistant Editor for the East Bay California Native Plant Society.  The walk followed the Redwood Creek and returned along the ridge in Redwood Regional Park.

Common Redwood Sorrel
Common Redwood Sorrel

Redwood Regional Park is many acres of land that was once an original stand of old growth Coastal Redwoods, Sequoia sempervirens. It is in the hills and canyons just above Oakland, California. The old growth trees were logged in the mid 1800’s. What is left is 2nd and 3rd growth groves.  It’s pretty cool to know that I live less then an hour from this grove of redwoods.

Redwood Violet
Redwood Violet

David was a fabulous leader and he had lots of trivia to share about much of the common flora of this rather disturbed habitat.  I learned from David that this area had not only been logged but later was converted to a dairy farm and orchards.  So, needless to say, there are lots of non-native plants growing with the natives.

Climbing bedstraw - light green flowers are 1 mm across.
Climbing bedstraw – light green flowers are 1 mm across.

David was great at pointing out little things to look for on various plants that would help with ID’ing and to remember which plant was which. This blog post has some photos of common redwood and mixed hardwood forest plants.  The walk was a good review for me and maybe an enjoyable read for someone who wants to become more familiar with these common forest species.

Coffee berry - note promenient venation that curves upward at leaf margin
Coffee berry – note promenient venation that curves upward at leaf margin

He pointed out on the common coffee berry bush the prominent venation on the under side of the leaves and how the veins curved upward as they reached the margins of the leaf.

Poison Oak branches with spurs
Poison Oak branches with spurs

Poison Oak is still dormant (hasn’t leafed out), however David pointed out the straight light brown branches and emphasized that we observe the short side spurs as a good way to recognize this toxic plant, Toxicodendron diversilobum.  I love that name which translates to poison tree.  However, I don’t love the rash caused by coming into contact with most parts of the plant.

Oso berry or Indian Plum
Oso berry or Indian Plum

Regarding the small shrub called Nine-bark he shared the trivia about this multi stemmed shrub that has continually shedding thin strips of bark exposing a new layer of bark as if it had “nine lives”.  Common mugwort was pointed out and we were reminded that as a member of the genus Artemisa, the leaves have a similar smell as our native California Sage, Artemisa californica.  I imagine the scent of California Sage will be one of those plants that will evoke childhood memories for my daughters. For me it is the smell of home and the chaparral which is so characteristic of the places I have lived in California from the Bay Area to Santa Barbara.

Did you know that the California buckeye tree is the only native California tree with opposite palmate leaves? Well, now you know.

Spreading gooseberry
Spreading gooseberry
Canyon gooseberry, Ribes menziesii - flower is 1-2 cm in length
Canyon gooseberry, Ribes menziesii – flower is 1-2 cm in length

How to tell a current from a gooseberry? Well, most of the time, currants have smooth round fruits, while gooseberries have prickles or spines.  The plant genius name is Ribes. In Europe they make drinks from the European species and the drinks are called Ribes and Ribena.

Sword Fern
Sword Fern

I had never thought about the notch on the leaflets in the “sword” fern.  The notch is similar to the hilt of a swords handle. Ah, maybe that has something to do with the common name “sword”fern.

Western wakerobin, Trillium overtime showing color change after pollination
Western wakerobin, Trillium overtime showing color change after pollination

The Pacific Trillium, Trillium ovatum flower changes from white to pink after it has been fertilized.

Albino redwood tree’s are really, really rare. Bucket list: go see an albino redwood. http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/wilderness-resources/blogs/the-mysterious-world-of-albino-redwood-trees

Huckleberry
Huckleberry

I need to get my old hand lens out and take a closer look a the stamens of Ericaceae. The stamens‘ anthers open by a pair of holes at their tips (not along their sides)  How cool is that? Okay, I’m really nerd’ing it up.  (

Indian warrior, Pedicularis densiflora, like others of its genus is a “root  parasitic plant, attaching to the roots of other plants to obtain nutrients and water. This species is a facultative parasite, or hemiparasite, in that it can live without attaching to another plant but will parasitize if presented with the opportunity. It often parasitizes plants of the heath family, such as manzanita.”

Well, hope you’ve at least enjoyed the photos if not some of this posts common plant trivia. Congratulations if you have read this far.  You must be one who appreciates nature.

“Googleville” and “Appletown” Open Space Explorations

On a recent Friday afternoon we found ourselves on the other side of the bay to run some errands. We scheduled in an hour or so to spend on a hike in the local hills of the Santa Clara county mid peninsula region.

Trail
Trail

We chose to explore the Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve and Deer Hollow Farm in an area very near Los Altos on the northwest end of Santa Clara valley and part of Silicon Valley.  The preserve is near “Googleville” and north of “Appletown”. The write up about the open space sounded intriguing in that we could walk a trail through riparian, meadow and coast live oak woodland and visit Deer Hollow Farm. Deer Hollow Farm is a recently restored (1993) working farm from the 1850’s.

Black Tailed Deer
Black Tailed Deer

We walked through a woodland consisting predominately of Coast Live oak, buckeye, California bay and poison oak. A few of the bay tree buds were starting to bloom. The understory consisted of a lush bright green covering of native grasses mixed with numerous common annual and perennial wildflower seedlings.  Plenty of buttercups, miner’s lettuce and California Manroot were already in bloom. New growth of bedstraw, coast iris and native bulbs could be seen mixed in under the tree’s.

White Barn
White Barn

Critter’s filled the air with their tweets, chirps, hoots and chatter. We were treated to the call of a Great Horned Owl in the distance, the loud squawk of a scrub jay in the trees, several Pacific Chorus frogs near the creek and the chatter of a few too many squirrels. We watched a cottontail bunny near a big log and numerous ground squirrels. We spotted a large wood rats nest of branches not far from the trail.

Mircantha californica - California Saxifrage
Mircantha californica – California Saxifrage

It is so nice that these park lands have been set aside for all to enjoy and to provide habitat for the native species that have lost so much land to development.

Kid, doeling, buckling.... or just baby goat
Kid, doeling, buckling…. or just baby goat

Once again we realize how fortunate we are to live in the San Francisco bay area and in California.  A state that has taken land preservation seriously, and has created a fair amount of parkland and protected wildlife habitat.

The following are a few photos taken during our short time in this open space.

Sheep, ewe's, lamps.... whatever, got to love the farm terminology
Sheep, ewe’s, lamb’s…. whatever, got to love farm terminology
cow, heifer, a head of cattle, bovine
cow, heifer, a head of cattle, bovine… more farm terminology

 

 

 

Pentagramma triangularis - Goldenback fern
Pentagramma triangularis – Goldenback fern
Pedicularis densiflora - Indian Warrior
Pedicularis densiflora – Indian Warrior
Lathyrus vestitus; Bolander's Pea
Lathyrus vestitus – Bolander’s Pea
Salix lasiandra - Pacific willow
Salix lasiandra – Pacific willow

 

 

 

Pacific Hound’s Tongue - Cynoglossum grande
Pacific Hound’s Tongue – Cynoglossum grande
Western Gray Squirrel - Sciurus griseus
Western Gray Squirrel – Sciurus griseus
Trillium chloropetalum  - Common trillium,  Giant wakerobin
Trillium chloropetalum  – Common trillium,  Giant wakerobin

Bike Touring Training Ride

B.O.B. Trailer being pulled by significant other.
Retro photo of B.O.B. Trailer being pulled by significant other.

We aren’t getting any younger and the bucket list sure isn’t getting any shorter. So, with an almost fully loaded B.O.B. trailer, green hills calling and a free afternoon we were off on a trial run.  Destination, “The Flynn’s” and a late lunch picnic somewhere in Livermore wine country.

“The Flynn’s”  didn’t disappoint with gorgeous green hills splashed with fields of yellow mustard, fringed redmaids and gold fiddlenecks. The giant wind generators contrasted nicely against the deep blue sky.  In the distance we could see the snow capped crest of the Sierra Nevada range.

Altamonte Pass, The Flynn's and wind mills.
Altamont Pass, The Flynn’s and wind mills.

The willow tree’s along the creeks were full of yellow catkin blooms. Non native fruit tree’s buzzed with bee’s and sweet fragance of spring blossoms.  Barbed wire fence lines along cattle pasture’s where lined with perched red winged black birds as we progressed down the long windy roads.

Long road to ride
Long road to ride

All in all, a great day for a training ride: forty three  miles and about 2,000 feet of climbing.  Conclusion from the day, I’m still in better condition then I thought but I still need lots more training before our Oregon tour in late spring.

How I replaced 3,000 square feet of lawn for FREE!

How did I removed 3,000 square feet of lawn, replace it with California native plants, expand my brick patio, add a fire pit area, convert a play structure to a grape arbor and add gravel paths and a creek bed all for FREE?

I had been thinking about removing my backyard lawn in 2013. California had now gone through a 3rd consecutive year of low rainfall. Water rationing was being discussed, again!  This was the third time since we’ve lived on this lot that California has had a “severe” drought and the water provider has either requested customers, “voluntarily”, drastically cut back on their water consumption (which translates as “let your lawn die”) or they’d implemented water rationing and increase rates. (Which would happen in 2015).

Pre-lawn removal and patio expansion.
Pre-lawn removal and patio expansion. Food forest garden anyone?

Before this most recent multi-year drought, I had been thinking of converting the yard into a food forest. Now that my children are adults and out of the home, why were we keeping a lawn and play structure? A  lawn that had become mostly Bermuda grass. I could make better use of my small plot of land by growing more food on it.

As I age I won’t want a garden that is as labor intensive as a lawn. Currently, I don’t have a gardener. I’m the gardener for this quarter acre lot. I hated the weekly work of mowing, edging, weeding and watering.  I disliked the need to be spending money on fertilizer and water. Essentially throwing money away to keep something looking nice because that’s what is expected. Having a big lawn that we didn’t have children playing on anymore just seemed stupid.

Narrow patio made it hard to entertain.

I still want a garden that I could enjoy when I would no longer be able to get up into the hills and hike to my favorite meadows, streams, chaparral and woodlands. Slowly the idea began to evolved that I should reduce my lawn, increase the hardscape for entertaining and put in plants that would still be of value yet require less maintenance. I could make my backyard my own campsite. My goal would be to provide a place for natives bees.

Some of the eclectic bricks found around are property.
Some of the eclectic bricks found around our property.

 

I wanted to use drought tolerant native California plants. I would include several sitting areas for enjoying the garden.  I wanted a slightly bigger patio and an area for a fire pit. I wanted to include some paths for garden access and interest.  I wanted to use up a collection of eclectic bricks that we’d collected over the years.  I wanted to reuse and recycle as much material as possible.

Preparing to solarize lawn area. Mowed, watered then covered with plastic.
Preparing to solarize lawn area. Mowed, watered then covered with plastic.

I had already started by mowing the lawn super short in the fall of 2013 (Ok, wrong time of year, but I didn’t want to wait until spring of 2014 to get started).

I used thick paint tarps to solarize lawn area.
I used thick paint tarps to solarize lawn area.

 

 

 

 

I watered it well, then covered it in plastic to solarize the soil. I was hoping we’d still have enough warm days to start the process. I wanted to do this step because I suspected there may be lots of weed seeds in the soil and this is a chemical free way of killing some of those seeds before germination without using pre-emergents which can be harmful to the natural soil biota.

Lush, water loving expanse of front lawn.
Lush, water loving expanse of front lawn.

By 2014 our water district offered a rebate based on square footage of lawn removed. We were now in the 4th year of this “great drought”.  The time was right.  Get rid of the entire lawn.  I was going to do this! Though I wasn’t sure I’d apply for the rebate.

Armed with a tape measure, some graph paper and a can of spray paint, I started planning out my lawn-less garden.

I would need to start on the hardscape first.  In the spring of 2014 I hired a friend of a  friend who did stone and mason work.  He was willing to work with my ideas and use the material that I had on hand.  We expanded the brick patio by just 3 feet and incorporated a 13 foot circular area for our old fire pit.

Installation of circular fire pit area
Installation of circular fire pit area

Incredibly, with a creative design, we could move and use existing patio bricks and my collection of old bricks and not have to buy any new bricks for the expanded patio.  I would buy bricks for the fir pit area.  That brickwork hardscape was completed late spring 2014.

Old brick accent, new fire pit area, expanded patio.
Old brick accent, new fire pit area, expanded patio.

By summer of 2014 I had researched sheet mulching and attended a seminar on the topic.  More and more people were starting to think along the same lines of how to reduce long term water needs.  It was mentioned at this seminar that the local water utility still had funding for lawn removal projects but would run out of funds by the end of the year.

I decided to apply for the rebate program early fall of 2014. My site would be evaluated before and after work was done.  Uh, oh! I had already started my work of removing the lawn and had completed the hardscape. My proposal and graph paper plans were accepted and approved. Now for my first inspection.  Turned out they were so overwhelmed with people applying for the rebates that they wouldn’t be able to get out for several weeks to verify that my lawn existed.  I was going to go forward with this project regardless.  I communicated to them that I was sheet mulching in September and had already completed the brick work. I had to get started so that I could get my native plants in by winter.  They didn’t have the staffing to get out to my site and ended up relying on satellite images and Google Street View from the previous spring to verify that I did indeed have 3,000 square feet of lawn at that time. I qualified for funding.

Front lawn area covered in purchased rolls of cardboard.

In September of 2014, I did sheet mulch the front and back lawns.  I had saved and collected as much free cardboard as I could. Clearly, it was going to take way more cardboard then I could acquire. In the seminar a supplier was mentioned for purchasing huge rolls of cardboard. I drove to Richmond with my van and filled it with these giant rolls of cardboard.

FREE mulch (I would get multiple deliveries of free mulch.)

 

 

 

I contacted local tree services and found several that would deliver shredded mulch for free.  It was fall and they were busy pruning customers trees in the area. It saves them time and gas to dump a load of fresh mulch locally in someones driveway.

Backyard sheet mulching
Backyard sheet mulching

By the first of October both the front and back lawns had been completely covered by sheet mulching.   I had already purchased my first set of plants from the UC Botanical Garden fall plant sale and I desperately wanted to get them in.

Bee (Bee'r) Garden Coming Soon
Bee (Bee’r) Garden Coming Soon

In the meantime, I put a sign in the front to explain to my neighbors that a “Bee Garden” would be coming soon. My husband had some different ideas.

By the end of the year, I had gotten my first foundation plants in. I started with tiny plants, most came in 1”-2” diameter tubes, some in 4” pots and a few in 1 gallon size pots.

California native plants purchased.
California native plants purchased.

 

Nothing larger then 1 gallon size was purchased. This kept the cost down. Small plants take to transplanting better then larger ones.

I did most of the labor myself. I had hired the mason for the brick work and had some helpers to work with me to lay the cardboard and move the mulch.

Front sheet mulched and ready for native plants.

I had done it. The lawn was gone! Now it was time to wait for spring. My rebate came in around early 2015. It more then covered all my receipts and labor for the project. Which could only mean one thing, come fall of 2015, I could buy more plants.

Spring 2016 is now around the corner. Most of the plants have had a year to establish their root systems. Most, though not all of the plants, survived another dry year. I hand watered the natives about twice a month to carry them through the hot, dry summer of 2015. We’ve had to date, an almost normal winter rainfall. A welcomed relief after 5 dry years. But, we’ve now had a VERY dry February. The drought is far from over. We’ll need several normal rainfall years or above normal rainfalls to recover from this drought if we do recover at all. This maybe the new normal for California. Regardless, I think I made the right decision to remove 3,000 square feet of lawn.

I’m excited to see how the garden does this spring. I was amazed and please by how much these itty bitty natives plants did grow in that first spring. I even began to see an unexpected diversity of critters of all kinds visiting the garden. But, this will be the year I think my garden will really bloom.

What 3 feet buys. 5 months - May 2015
What 3 feet buys. 5 months – May 2015
Backyard - 6 months after planting. June 2015
Backyard – 6 months after planting. June 2015

 

What’s happening in my garden on this warm February day?

In this northern California urban garden there is a flurry of activity.

Pajaro Manzanita
Pajaro Manzanita

Winter is not a time of rest for this native plant gardener. It is a time to get into the garden daily to witness the changes which come quickly at this time of year. The variety of flora blooming and the fauna visiting are changing daily. (Note: We don’t really have winter in most of California, we have a transition period to and from summer)

The floral, honey and spice scent of the paper white narcissus compete with the memory

Paper white Narcissus
Paper white Narcissus

evoking chaparral smells of the native California sage.  The sage oils are being released by the heat of the winter sun and permeate the fresh winter air mixing with the narcissus fragrance.

The baby lizard’s activity increases as the day warms.

Garden Lizard
Garden Lizard

I see them darting under the rocks on my porch.  I’m glad to see that they have survived the winter and have decided to stay in my garden. They must be growing.  On the front brick walkway I find the dry skin that one lizard must have wiggled free from and left behind.

The bustle for this February day is unreal.

Bee Plant Flower
Bee Plant Flower

There are so many different species of song birds.  I don’t know all the species but recognize a few as sparrows, house finches, goldfinches, hummers and robins.  My chickens chase the sparrows out of their free range area of the yard.  I chuckle as I watch them.  They also chase the squirrel’s, but the sparrow chasing is new.

B-Color Daffodile
Bi-Color Daffodile

I’ll be watching to see what blooms next.  I can tell that the California lilacs, sages and poppies are forming flower buds. Buds are swelling on my many small tree’s indicating that the light apple green of new leaves isn’t far away.

Frost kissed Jelly Bean plant
Frost kissed Jelly Bean plant

Other plants blooming today are my

Hellebores, vinca, apple tree, daffodilis, rosemary

Rosemary flower
Rosemary flower

and an unnamed bulb bloom.  Okay, so I still have several plant species that are not native California species.  If they can survive not being watered, I guess they get to stay.  I make one exception though and that is my few rose bushes.  They’re not native and they are water hogs but they have been in my garden for decades now and I don’t yet have the heart to take them out.

Buttercup bud
Buttercup bud

if you live in California, I hope you are noticing all the flowering trees that have started to bloom. I call these popcorn trees, they look like they pop into bloom almost overnight. Hope you’ve enjoyed today’s photos. Soon I’ll blog about some resources for purchasing native plants and how to sheet mulch your lawn.  Stay tuned.

Doffodile cup fringe
Doffodile cup fringe