Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Great Bees of Fire

Not really. Not of fire. But just busy and helpful to us, so perhaps we should extend a helping hand in return. For example:

The Great Sunflower Project (GSP) is an on-going, citizen-science, hands-on (just how many hyphenated adjectives can I string together in one sentence?), participatory activity with over 100,000 members that helps scientists better understand bees and other pollinators.

I would encourage everyone with any sort of garden space to volunteer with the GSP. It takes very little time, effort or equipment. You can even do it from your home. Right now, the GPS is looking for participants able to commit to at least 4 data counts during the year (we're talking 40 minutes total). And if you live or know anyone who lives in the Midwest, please start the counting, because info from there is really incomplete. This map tells the story.

I have been participating in the GSP for 10+ years, and back then I would grow sunflowers in the parking strip. Needless to say, the sidewalk in front was pretty entertaining, but more than a little crowded.

So I wised up and planted coreopsis. My coreopsis counts cannot be used as part of the official GSP pollinator surveys, but are useful in helping identify important pollinator plants. And yes, even if they don't officially count, bees and other pollinators absolutely adore the coreopsis.

Perhaps that is the big lesson - just plant some bee friendly flowering plants. The pollinators will love them and you, even if you don't get around to counting.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

The Cruelest Month

This year it would seem that the cruelest month is June, not April, what with families being split apart with no easy way to be reunited, and legal authorities determined to, well, I'm not at all sure what they're on about. I just know that it doesn't make for happy reading.

When I'm done with the letter-writing, phone-calling, petition-signing, oh-do-I-have-to activities, I have a few methods for coping:

o   Elizabeth George mysteries;

o   Working on mosaics in the garage;

o   Searching for my new baby friends - the return of the katydids!

Let's all hope that July will be better.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Rain in Spain Had a Silver Lining

Although Audrey Hepburn would tell you that "the rain stays mainly in the plain," nearly everywhere was wet. So rather than heading north for more days of soggy weather, we turned south. To the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba:

It was a very good decision. 

Further south in the Sierra de Grazalema, the rains had produced the most astounding wildflower displays. The ground was rocky, but entirely covered with blooming plants.

My inner Flower Floozy was never happier.

Identification Resource: Wildflowers of Andalucia

Friday, May 18, 2018

"She's Nutty as Squirrel Poo."

-- J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

December, 2017. San Diego Botanic Garden. I was the squirrel.

The nuts - acorns from a cork oak (Querus suber), an evergreen oak, native to the Mediterranean basin. And important to a wide range of life forms, including the common wine drinker (Homo sapiens potator).

Obviously, cork is used as a stopper for wine, as well as for flooring and other useful things. What's critical is that cork can be harvested from the bark of the tree without harming the tree: the tree lives on to grow another layer of cork bark for future harvests.

Acorns w/tap roots
For me, I just wanted to see whether I could get them to sprout. So I loaded up my pockets and planted them in two large pots and waited. And waited.

And waited until I got so impatient (hard to believe, I know) that I dumped out one of the pots and was shocked by the long and sturdy tap root emerging from many of the seeds. Now what?

Reload the pot and wait some more. That was late March. A month later, baby oak trees started peeking out of the soil.

Now I did not need to be reminded (ahem, Michael) that we have no room for another tree. But there are people, a few of whom we know, who have space for a really cool, drought tolerant and handsome tree in Sonoma County. May they live long and prosper there!

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Springtime in the Deserts of Oakland

The Heads on Stakes are in bloom. The bright orange-red flower belongs to an expanding peanut cactus (Chamaecereus slivestrii). Pieces of this little guy were given to me (yup, freebies) once upon a time by some generous helper-person at Westbrae Nursery. I took them somewhat reluctantly - just what I didn't need was yet another thing to feed and water. In this case, though, little need to feed, and only requires water every three weeks. So perhaps we will have a satisfying long-term relationship.

The big blooming white jobbie is Echinopsis spps. 'Dominos'. It's supposed to only bloom at night, and only for the one night (perhaps its nickname should be the 'One Night Stand Cactus'?), but this particular one had other ideas. Bloomed for two days. Days, not nights, and then the blossom flopped over and fell off. I'm not complaining. Maybe he'll even call me again?

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Oh No! No Wildcat!

What a surprise this morning when the most recent post appeared on my iPad without the video!

Blame me, blame Blogger (let's not go into the frustrations of Blogger right now), blame whoever you like (your lawyer? Your not-really-my-lawyer lawyer?) but let me try and make it right.

First, if you click on the title of the post, you will be taken to the blog where you can see the video (I checked. It's really there.)

Second, I have, once again, attached Ati's video here. I've crossed my fingers, lit some candles and now hope that maybe it will show up here.

Third, it's probably best just to click on the post's title to see the video. And if that doesn't work, light some candles, pour a glass of wine, take a deep breath and remember that it's only Tuesday.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Wild Cat!

Hah! Now I bet that you're thinking that this piece will be all about Princess the Cat. You know, the reigning Rodent Slayer and DoodleFart of Love? But you'd be wrong. In truth, I'd have bet on Princess too, given that her name comes up here every so often.

Anchuela del Campo
Neither is this wild cat an out-of-control feral cat (Felis catus or Felis silvestris catus) that one encounters in cities, parks, fields and neighborhoods around most of the world.

Rather it's the European wildcat (Felis silvestris), a truly wild - as in, not domesticated and apparently not domesticable - cat who probably couldn't even conceive of a litter box. 

Larger than a typical housecat, the European wildcat quietly and secretly lives throughout much of Europe and has recently been caught on film in Spain, near Anchuela del Campo.

Atilano Lima Sauz, really known as our good friend Ati, has kept his Bushnell camera busy. I can't say for sure, but I'm thinking that there was many a night when the camera came up empty. Until at last, this wildcat showed up:

Congratulations Ati!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Bad Photos of Fun Flying Things

When you're the tag-along on a teaching trip to Mendocino, you have to be able to entertain yourself. Generally in Mendocino, that's not a problem.

But recording the fun time with photos may be more difficult. So trust me, I was happy, even though it was a little chilly and blustery and the photos stink.

The Common egret didn't seem to mind the wind and the blurry female kestrel in the tree could not be distracted from her search for breakfast. I also saw a Common merganser bobbing like a colorful cork in the high surf, but no way was that photo going to turn out with my little camera.

I got lucky with the Wood ducks. Never mind the lousy photo - just seeing them is pretty special. They are generally shy birds, and those two males hiding behind the larger female Mallard duck were no exception. My excuse for the Yellow-faced bumblebee? Those buggers are really fast!

The Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens  was the site for the art installation of giant dinosaur/bird eggs (concrete?) in an appropriately-scaled nest of branches. If it had been any windier, I might have climbed inside for warmth. It sure would be some photo if they were ever to hatch out and fly away...

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Belated Holiday Blooms

Last year, the amaryllis didn't do caca. Maybe two really dinky flower stalks, and no additional summer blooms.

Now this plant has been sharing space here for at least ten years, and probably closer to fifteen (yup, these days, time is delineated in five-year intervals. Anything briefer, unless it is something from last week, is just too hard to measure) and should be paying its way.

So I gave it a talking to, a warning, and a deadline: shape up by next year or it's the compost pile for you. 

And for a teenager, it gave me a very respectable response. Nine flower stalks, all with great shape and size. Now we just need to work on the timing.