Friday, May 26, 2006

Owl Crew Sunset - May 25th, 2006

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I keep forgetting to take my camera along on the Spotted Owl surveys and have missed some spectacular sunset photos in the past couple of weeks.
Last night I remembered the camera and this picture, taken at 7:57 P.M. as we reached the first owl territory of the night, isn't particularly stunning but the dead tree makes the photo somewhat interesting.

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Cabin Industry...

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Some might call producing notecards at home a cottage industry, but we live in a cabin not a cottage, and I call it a cabin industry. I finished cutting and folding these 150 cards last night just before leaving for owl crew duty. But this batch isn't for sale, they're being donated to the 2006 Xeriscape Garden Tour as part of a gift assortment for those who take the guided tour with DWP water conservationist and native plant expert Bill LaHaye.

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Monday, May 22, 2006

Bird On A Wire...

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A Violet-Green Swallow (Tachycineta thalassina) perches on the electricity supply line to our house near a nesting box the swallows have been using for many years now. As if posing for the camera this fine looking swallow was kind enough to lower its left wing a bit so we can see the colorful violet patch above its tail-feathers.

This one and several others have been visiting the box since the beginning of spring and a pair will almost certainly move in very soon now.

There has always been a lot competition for the gourd nesting box they have traditionally used and two years ago one swallow actually knocked another out of the air onto the front porch. The momentarily stunned swallow just flew back up and resumed the battle.

Last year I added a second box near the gourd and birds were nesting in both.

Violet-Green Swallows are known to live in small colonies so I'm thinking of building a sort of swallow hotel with several nesting boxes for next season.

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Saturday, May 20, 2006

Blue Flax...

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Measuring 1 1/4 inch in diameter this Blue Flax flower (Linum lewisii) reveals its delicate beauty in a close-up super-macro photo.

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Nectar Love...

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A fuzzy little Bee Fly (Bombyliidae) extracts nectar from a Blue Flax flower while also collecting the sticky pollen along its proboscis to fertilize the next flower.

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Blue Flax As Art...

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Another photo of Blue Flax, this time from the underneath side, which I then rendered in Photoshop with some quick brush effects. The painted 'look' is much more obvious if you enlarge the picture.

So anyhow, right now, much of any given day here is spent weeding so I apologize for being a negligent blogger as far as any from the heart writing, philosophizing, or keeping up with everybody and responding to comments goes.

I do keep the camera outside with me and at least try and take a few pictures to post.

We had Dallas sheared yesterday to help get rid of any remnant skunk odor and for comfort in the heat (it's been in the 80's for several days) and I'll be posting a picture of his new look soon.

We're only 21 days from the Xeriscape Garden Tour and the weeds are still winning! But the good news is that the areas of the native-plant habitat that have been long established now require little weeding, it's the newer areas that are the problem.

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A Brief Case Of Lupine Fever...

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Grape Soda Lupine (Lupinus excubitus) began blooming a few days ago and while I was up close taking pictures today the delicious grape-soda fragrance lulled me into a nostalgic, almost hypnotic, state as I briefly revisited a childhood moment of walking down a rural-summer dirt-road drinking an ice-cold 10 cent bottle of Nehi Grape Soda.
There's magic in this flower that transports me to another time & place with the simple casting of its scent upon the breeze, and the yellow banner spots bring a festive cheerfulness to the lavender flowers too.

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Indian Paintbrush With Blue Flax

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So begins the flowering of native plants at Earth Home Garden and I'll finish with this Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja applegatei) blooming today with a backdrop of Blue Flax (Linum lewisii).

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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Sandra & Jimmy...

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Our son Jimmy came over from Catalina for a visit on Mother's Day weekend bringing his new girlfriend Sandra to meet us.

Sandra just glows, from the inside out, and Peggy and I were both very taken with her beauty and joyful spirit. We've known and loved her brother Gregor for years but we had never met Sandra before. Wow!

She and Jimmy went camping at Deep Creek Hot Springs Thursday night and Friday, spending Friday night and Saturday morning here with us.

Sandra, 25, is a tour-guide who captains inflatable boats for small-group excursions from Catalina Island, while sharing with the tourists her infectiously outgoing personality and love of nature, as they view Sea Lions, Otters, Dolphins and other wildlife of the area in its natural habitat.

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Thrift Store Sunflower Dress

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While Sandra was here, she and Peggy were talking about how much they love thrift stores, so, while the kids were gone camping, Peggy found Sandra this red sunflower dress at our local thrift store for 3 bucks.

Then this lovely young woman in her three-dollar sun dress, while gracing Earth Home Garden with some early color, also brightened up my day considerably by allowing me to take some photographs.

Thanks Sandra, I'll send some prints...

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Just Another Day...

Click on photo to enlarge (2005 Owl Crew work-shirt logo)

Tuesday morning...
May 16, 2006

After spending five of the last six nights hiking the San Bernardino Mountains, under a beautiful moon in search of Spotted Owls, I got home at 3 A.M. this morning and was fast asleep very shortly thereafter.

I woke up at 10:25 A.M. to a lazy morning of sunshine through the window, chicken-cackle in the yard, and a day all to myself.

Nothing pressing to do, except I have to pee, right now!

Stumbling half asleep down the stairs, I notice the crock-pot on high, burning the finish off the dining room table.

I try and cross my legs while hopping into the kitchen, grab the hardwood chopping block, put it under the slow-cooker, remembering as I go that I was supposed to take my blood pressure pill four hours ago.

Hopping back to the kitchen, dieing to pee, I bang my head into the open cupboard above the sink (god-dammit!), grab my medicine, and turn on the burner under the coffee pot, as I hear the knock at the front door.

It's Cheri, from across the street, asking if it would be alright for her to use my bathroom during the day while they put a new floor in hers.

I groggily answer yes, with blood dripping down my forehead, and ask if she needs to use it now?

“No”, she says, "I just wanted to make sure it would be OK before we get started", as Neo the bird-hunting cat sneaks out the door between my legs during nesting season.

Neo hides under my sons weight-lifting bench on the front deck, so I get down on my knees "kitty-kittying" him into coming close enough to grab.

Phew! Got’im.

I sit up, bang my head into the end of the bar-bell shaft, drawing more blood from exactly the same spot on my head, drop the cat, and pee my pants.

I tell Cheri "I gotta go, the phone's ringing, the coffee's boiling away, and I'm bleeding".

But I didn't mention that I pee'd my pants as she said, "Well thanks, and I'm so glad I didn't wake you".

I turn off the boiling coffee, answer the phone, "Oh sorry, wrong number", finish peeing, and wipe the blood off my head.

I look at the clock.

It's now 10:29 A.M.

Well, there's 4 minutes of my day out of the way, how's your day going?


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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Next Door Nuthatch

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After the local Gray Squirrels relentlessly chewed away at their wooden bluebird house our friends and next-door neighbors, Grant and Bill, put up this sturdy secure concrete birdhouse and a pair of Pygmy Nuthatches (Sitta pygmaea) have moved right in. I took this photo from our deck at about 8:30 this morning. We also have a pygmy pair nesting in one of our boxes back near the chicken coop.

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Saturday, May 06, 2006

First Daffodil

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Most of our yard (aside from the vegetable garden & chicken yard) is planted in locally native drought-tolerant plants, but at the base of the hop pagoda, and along the fence behind it, we have space reserved for a few more traditional garden flowers. There you'll find a few daffodils, tulips, iris, oriental poppies, and also some hollyhocks back along the fence. Daffodils have been blooming in Big Bear gardens for weeks but ours aren't in full sun so they're a bit later, this being the first one. Several tulips are ready to open as well and I'm hoping the fantastic oriental poppies will be flowering in time for the Xeriscape Garden Tour on June 10th.


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

So, What's In Bloom At 6,750 Feet?

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Greenleaf Mazanita (Arctostaphylos patula) is the earliest locally native plant to bloom in our garden. To give an idea of the scale, the lovely little upside-down urn-shaped flowers are 1/4 of an inch long. Greenleaf Manzanita is common, at or near this elevation, throughout the San Bernardino Mountains. The light and shadow play on these leaves is one of my favorite photographic subjects.

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Creeping Oregon Grape

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Mahonia repens, or Creeping Oregon Grape is one of the few non-native shrubs in our native-plant garden. These plants are very drought resistant and will spread to cover shady areas with their deep-green holly-like foliage. Bright yellow flowers bring a welcome splash of color to the yard in late spring along with the also-early pink blooms of the manzanita above. Later on the branches will bear clusters of bluish berries that attract wildlife.

The flowers are tiny, each bud only 1/8th inch in diameter, but they bloom in large clusters which makes them quite attractive. The pear, plum, and peach trees are also flowering (a bit early I'm afraid) and that's about it for the bloomin' moment.

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