For my daughters and grandchildren

I’m here.

I’ve shown up.

This is my second time at a small writing group gathering to learn more about writing ones “Life Story” for their children and grandchildren.

What am I thinking?

What am I doing here?

I’m not a writer.

Who am I kidding?

What is driving me to try this? 

I don’t know!

Maybe I can start small, just a short essay, or another blog post.

If I practice, and practice, and practice, and put in my 10,000 hours, could I really become a writer?  I don’t even have a burning desire to write. But I enjoy recording the stories of my simple life observations.

There’s only one way to find out if I can write and that is to start, and then to stick with it.

My parents were actually told to not expect much from me by my high school English teacher, Mr. Bruce Robertson.  He even cautioned that they shouldn’t be surprised if I didn’t make it to college. More on that another time.

So, the next questions are what to write about? What do I love? 

Nature and solitude.

So I’ll start small and close to home.

My quarter acre retreat.

Morning often finds me taking 10 minutes, with my first cup of coffee, outside, observing my garden. 

You see, I’m a “dolphin”.

Oh, that’s my chronotype. Dolphins are rare. Let me transition here before I barely get started.

The dolphin chronotype describe me to a T. Dolphins have a hard time waking up. Stick with me here, we’ll get back out in the garden in a minute. 

The author of the book The Power of When, Dr. Michael Breus, writes about our chronotypes and recommends that dolphins get exposure to bright light to wake up. If you don’t know your chronotype, I recommend reading the book. You’ll learn more about how you are driven by your innate circadian rhythms. Anyway, this is why I’m in my garden observing nature at its finest.

It is an early fall morning. Not too early, but not mid-morning either.  The sun is rising but still low in the sky and the shadows are long as the morning rays strike my California fuchsia from a low eastern angle backlighting the reddish-orange tubular flowers making them appear iridescent. 

The critters that share my suburban community are already up and busy.

A single hummingbird visits the early sunlit red flowers. But only one hummer at a time. These tiny colorful birds are territorial and don’t like sharing.  Within a short period of time, another swoops in on the one feeding. A high-speed chase ensues. In a flash of color and wings, the two birds are gone. 

A few native bees and honey bees are already visiting the same bush. A honey bee lands on the throat of a flower with open anthers and a sticky stigma. It proceeds to climb, wiggle and pull itself into the flower. It disappears into the tube. If you look now, you’d never know there is a full-size honey bee down the tube. I wait for it. The flower begins to jiggle. I tiny bee butt starts to appear. First the black and white stripes, then two long bent golden legs. Finally, a fuzzy body, more legs, and a fuzzy head slide down the stamens. The bee takes flight to its next receptive flower, seeking its reward of a tiny bit of sweet nectar. Payment will be made in full as the bee leaves a bit of pollen behind to fertilize the flowers eggs deep within the bloom.

In the oak behind me, I hear the repetitive rhythmic call of a chick-a-dee. It is echoed by another off in the distance. The crescendo of birds near and far builds like a tuning orchestra. 

Simultaneously, I hear a rather loud and shrill scrapping sound. I had heard this exact same sound the other day.  When I investigated the source of the grinding and scraping, I found a squirrel sitting on the fence, with a 5-inch section of dry cow bone, like the kind one might buy for their dog. It appeared to be sharpening its teeth on the bone and with each gnawing, this odd bone rattling, tooth grinding sound emanated forth. I startled the squirrel that day and the bone fell into my yard.  How in the world did this small critter get this bone up onto the fence? The grinding commenced again this morning as I took another bite of my frittata.

A moment later, a familiar chase sound begins. I turn to look upward to see two common oak tree visitors. With their bushy tails flickering and tiny paws and toenails grabbing at the oak bark, another friendly backyard critter chase begins. The second critter chase of my morning.  The sound of the squirrels fast moving claws on the bark is almost like the tinkling of gently falling glass shards as the two playfully chase each other. The chase ends as fast as it started with a leap into the neighbor’s palm tree. A quick flutter of fronds, then nothing, just the gently barely perceptible cool morning breeze. 

The warmth of the new dawn on this fall morning begins to evaporate the minuscule amount of morning dew visible on solid surfaces. The dew is only slightly perceptible on the plants with tiny hairs. Native plants survive the long summer dryness in this Mediterranean climate of central California by having tiny leaf surface hairs which are capable of capturing the slightest amount of moisture from the air.

My chickens scratch the ground, rustling through recently fallen oak leaves. These first autumn leaves of the season drift downward to become food for the overwintering soil decomposers. 

There is a clanking sound as a tumbling acorn bounces off a solid surface on it’s way to the ground. The magic of that morning sun which heats up and expands a layer of cells in the stem of the acorn just enough for it to separate from its attachment point on the thin twig.

No signs yet of the blue belly or alligator lizards. Later in the day the butterflies and dragonflies will come to visit. The native chaparral sages will release their fresh scent as the day warms. 

I will remain blissfully ignorant of the billions of soil microbes, bacteria, fungi, and earthworms busy below my feet.

And then, my peaceful morning is interrupted by the squealing and grinding noise of a circular saw cutting a 2×4. My neighbor’s contractor has arrived. Pulled back to the reality of my day, it is time to start tackling the never-ending to-do list. The rising sun has done its job in so many ways. I’m feeling awake and ready to take on the day.

What a blessing to be able to start my day in nature. Eating my breakfast frittata and drinking my morning cup of coffee.

To my daughters and grandchildren: never stop pausing long enough to notice and love nature.

Comments and suggestions welcomed as I begin, continue and travel into and along this storytelling adventure

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.

2017 Year Of Prisma iPhonography

In 2017 I discovered the Prisma App for iPhonography.  People love the images I’ve created and so do I.  I decided my year of photos in review this year would be 12 images edited with the Prisma App. Enjoy.

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.

Wednesday Lunch Walk

Went for a walk at noon today. Here’s what I photographed. (click on images to see larger)(Now back to outdoor furniture staining and other obligations.)

My moment of "Zen" place today.
My moment of “Zen” place today.
Found this grove of young buckeye trees.
Found this grove of young buckeye trees.
Gray Mules Ears - Wyethia helenioides
Gray Mules Ears – Wyethia helenioides
Some more common fiddle neck.
Some more common fiddle neck.
First poppy I've photographed for 2016
First poppy I’ve photographed for 2016
One of many lady beetles seen
One of many lady beetles seen
One of the backyard Adirondack chairs dear hubby built and I'm finally sanding and staining.
One of the backyard Adirondack chairs dear hubby built and I’m finally sanding and staining.

“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

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

Salt Marsh and Pickleweed

Estuaries, marshes, wetlands, sloughs, ponds, lakes, oceans, lagoons – the list of words to label bodies of water is immense.

I am drawn to water.  Be it a tiny creek or a vast view of the Pacific ocean.  I know that my survival depends on access to clean water. I am water.  I consume it and the food I eat depends on it.

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Recently, I visited the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay Wildlife Refuge. As it says on their website, the refuge is an “oasis for millions of migratory birds and endangered species.  The nation’s first urban national wildlife refuge sits on the southern end of San Francisco Bay…  The refuge, created in 1974… to protect the San Francisco Bay ecosystem.” 

When visiting the  Don Edwards San Francisco Bay Wildlife Refuge, I was keenly aware of how close I was to Silicon Valley.  I could see the Levi Stadium to the south and the old Moffet Field hanger to the west.  Yet, at the same time I was in the middle of a wildlife oasis.  At first glance one might not see much.  But after spending a few minutes observing, the place comes alive.

I’m not a birder, so I was here just to enjoy the sound of birds, the view of water and maybe to notice nature going about its routine.  Several long legged, long beaked birds wadding in shallow muddy water seemed happy to be pecking into the mud.  Some duck like birds farther out where diving under the water, disappearing for what seemed like a very long time, only to pop up a few yards away from where they dove. On a sandy island several sea gulls gathered.

Mudflats
Mudflats

From what I understand, these salt marshes are one of the most productive habitats on earth, rich with food for these year round and migratory birds.  The mud is rich with worms, plankton, microorganism (copepods), shrimps and clams. The more open water is rich with small fish.

As usual, what I often do, is I look down.  Besides mud flats, gravel paths and calm waters I found myself drawn to one of the first salt marsh plants I ever learned about.  I find this plant to be charming in it’s own way.  Of course, I’m a little bit odd.  The plant is commonly called pickleweed (Salicornia pacifica).

Pickleweed
Pickleweed

Why am I charmed by this plant? Maybe it is because it can survive in what appears to be harsh conditions. Here the salinity is high and the plant can often be submerged by salt water for short periods of time, yet survive. It’s hardy.  It’s overlooked by most people. And it has silly little chains of pickle like segments forming it’s stems. Maybe I like Salicornia because I know it is a plant like cattails, another species that performs bioremediation. It grows at the edge of the high tide line.

An estuary can be a very calming place.  On this day, there weren’t many people, the winter sun when it peeked out from the clouds was warm and there was a gentle breeze.

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about this little plant that plays an important role in our environment.  When you get a chance, visit a salt marsh or estuary and appreciate how rich it is in often unnoticed biodiversity.

FUN FACTS: When the roots of the pickleweed plant take up salt water, the plant’s cells

Pickled with high salt concentrations
Pickleweed with high salt concentrations

move the salt to the tips of the leaves. As the amount of salt gets higher and higher, the leaves turn red. When the leaves cannot hold any more salt, they begin to die, and eventually fall off.http://virtualmarsh.org/marsh-field-guide/china-camp/pickleweed/

The Chumash and the Tongva-Gabrielino Native Americans used the ashes of pickleweed in the production of soap and glass and the stems of the plants for seasoning and as a vegetable.

In the summer pickleweed (sea asparagus) is harvested for its tender green tips. The tips are used fresh in salads, steamed to serve as a vegetable, or pickled. http://www.aquariumofpacific.org/onlinelearningcenter/species/pickleweed

Leave the flying to the birds
Leave the flying to the birds

Sound of flowing water, music to my ears.

“There is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.” Explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes

Misty rain drops swirl every direction in the slight breeze appearing to make wind visible to the eye. The droplets make the quietest of pitter patter’s on my umbrella.

When was the last time you took a walk in the rain? Pull out “appropriate” clothing and head outside.  It’s time to wake up your senses.

With my eyes, I spy a red breasted American Robin perched on a fence nearby.  It’s mid January in this central California locale and the American Robins are delighting in the plethora of earthworms flushed to the surface by this now “normal” amount of winter rainfall.  I always delight in my first sighting of an American Robin (Turdus migratorius).  It means spring is just around the corner.

Winter is barely a concept here.  Winter is more of a short transitional state from fall to spring: A brief cleansing of the environment.

Cattail's
Cattail’s

In the middle of the creek still stands the dried cattail seed heads from fall. This native plant used to be an abundant food source. Today it provides habitat and food for wildlife and acts as a natural filter of toxins washed into the local waterways. The sound of cars reflecting off the hillside a block away remind me that most drivers are unaware of this environmental service that plants provide for free.  We really must take care of our waterways.  They take care of us.

Further along my attention is pulled toward the sound of babbling water.  The sound is soothing, music to my ears.  Two branches of a local creek merge into one, picking up speed as the water heads to the center of the valley.  Over the sound of the creek I hear the chatter of a squirrel.  I become aware of the twittering of songbirds in the trees.  Click link to hear and see the creeks:  Green Valley and E Green Valley Creek’s merge

I pass by several other biped trail walkers.  Those that are in groups appear to be deep in conversation.  Those walking solo often have earbuds in and appear to be traveling in a parallel universe to the natural world around them.

Miner's Lettuce
Miner’s Lettuce

They are so close to nature, yet so far.  They might very well be unaware of the benefits they are receiving; the breathing in of the fresh air and the glimpses of the lush green miner’s lettuce (Claytonia parviflora) and bedstraw (Galium sp.) that line the path are soothing their souls.

Bedstraw
Bedstraw

Further down the path I watch two robins that flutter and dart about in what appears to be some kind of dance.  Then I spy the worm they are fighting over.

My path comes to an end.  I turn back onto a sidewalk that leads past a larger parcel of land in this community.  I smell the damp manure from the horse pasture.  A goose honks from beyond.  I’m so fortunate to live within blocks of a tiny urban farm.  Several chickens and a couple more geese scratch and peck at the mud in their enclosure.  Hmm… I don’t see the turkey’s anymore.  I can only guess as to why they disappeared over the winter holidays.

What’s stopping you from taking a walk in the rain? Let me know what you noticed that surprised you on your rain walk.

East Green Valley Creek, January 1998
East Green Valley Creek, January 1998