We've had beaucoup de rain this winter which makes for great hikes in the moist and magical landscape. The moss we discovered in the Santa Cruz mountains covering Los Gatos Creek bridge (19th century) and the mushrooms were in our own backyard -- Nisene Marks State Park:
We've been having such a lot of rain this past week that cabin fever was setting in. Marcel and I took advantage of a slight break in the weather to venture out to the neighboring college horticulture department. We really had to get bundled up against the icy damp chill. When we arrived at the campus for our little stroll we were like moths to a flame when we eyed the little hoop house greenhouses containing the succulent collections.
It was so warm and toasty in there and the moist air was a welcome treat for dried out winter sinuses and skin. Ahhhh. Like taking a bath with your clothes on. Hmm, that doesn't sound very pleasant. I'm making it a goal to someday own one of these enriching little pleasure domes (boy, that "someday" list is getting long).
We also visited the hydroponic veggie greenhouse. This place would make a great home!
Charts suspended from the rafters:
We ended our visit with Ernie the horticulturist sending us off with a bunch of freshly harvested Satsuma Mandarins from a nearby orchard. Little globes of sunlight!
We are lucky to live near Cabrillo College. Especially for their Horticulture Department. For the Fall semester the students have grown some amazing varieties of Poinsettias. Marcel and I paid a visit:
I could go on and on with many more photos. The lighting in here is incredible. In fact the air and the lighting make me want to live in a greenhouse. So rejuvenating. Mind you, I realize that Marcel looks forlorn in the photos, but in reality this is his calm, zen plant face. He's really in heaven.
I want to give a shout out to Ernie, Dylan and Andrew of the gardens. "Bonjour and good cheer!"
We journeyed to Trinidad for the Thanksgiving holiday! No, not that Trinidad. The one in Humboldt County in Northern California. It's a spectacular drive passing through vineyards and small towns, farms and incredibly changeable landscapes -- Avenue of the Giants takes you through massive redwoods, and you find golden hills with gentle oaks in the Sonoma Valley.
This rock formation is about 200 feet tall and gorgeous.
The weather was exciting. Bright sun & outbursts of rain and rainbows.
I've been meaning to photograph this cottage for years. It's south of Laytonville.
(click for larger views)
The natural foods store that I like to get lunch at in Laytonville was closed so we stopped at my other favorite spot there, Chief's Smokehouse.
Very cool concert poster collection...
Here are Jesse and Marcel waiting for those great fries...
Dazzling architecture in Eureka...
Dear Green Wellies, I found these at a thrift shop in Eureka but they weren't my size!!
Autumn is such a lovely time for a drive in California. Many thanks for being able to live here. Glad to be back home with our cat Nella. It rained last night so I can go out into my "back forty" and look for some more of that special fungus. Cheers!
I went on a hike yesterday in the open green space behind my house. It was simply magical. The recent rain we had gave the fields a phosphorescent glow and all the birds and bunnies were out. I decided to venture down some smaller animal paths that I hadn't been down before and that's where I made my happy discovery. There, beneath a graceful old oak tree, in the dappled sunlight was not one, but four Amanita Muscaria:
I suddenly felt like I was in a dream. They seemed too good to be true. In my 48 years I've never chanced to make such a discovery. I was ecstatic! I scurried home and grabbed my cameras and some containers (gives a new meaning to Glad Ware) and returned to the site, trying not to burst out along the way, passing by several neighbors who were sitting on their stoops or working in their gardens. "Poker face, poker face", I kept telling myself.
When I got to the field I saw a couple of bunnies out on the grass at the edge of their habitat. I walked toward them to try to get some photos and they hopped into the bushes. I went over to the place where they entered and saw more Amanita Muscaria! Bigger than the ones I had seen before. I felt like a little kid on an easter egg hunt. Lewis Carroll must be smiling, "She followed the rabbits through the hole and there you are."
I found several types including this lovely golden one. You can see a little bug chewing on it in the close-up (you can click on all of the photos for a better look):
I remembered from reading so many Italian travel memoirs that you don't pull the whole mushroom up, root and all. You break it off at the level of the soil, leaving behind a stump (seen at the bottom of the next photo) to regenerate. I was very careful to do this, covering the stump afterward with soil and a top dressing of decaying oak leaves.
Below is a cluster of two. the one on the left is half-eaten. I left these for the critters who were enjoying them.
The next one was hiding snug down in the dirt. I didn't know it was so big until I harvested it. It weighs about a half pound. Very dense.
The one below was a strange sort of orb shape. It really did look like an easter egg.
Here you can see how little creatures have nibbled on this one and licked off the white spots on half of it:
Careful to leave a stump:
I could only safely fit a couple of them into my containers. Two of them I had to carry openly in my hands so as not to damage them. I live less than two blocks from this site and it took me at least an hour to walk home with all of the people stopping to chat. A cute couple in their pick-up truck with their dog drove in reverse down the street when they saw what I was carrying. They were on their way to forage and were keen to caution me several times over, "Wash your hands really, really well." Which reminds me, I need to go and check on the neighbor's dog who licked my hand on the way home.
Marcel took the photo of me when I got home. You can see the state of my hair from crawling through the bunny brambles!
We made an impromptu stop yesterday at the San Francisco Bay Wildlife Refuge. It was a soulful deviation from the hustle and bustle. I can handle hustle, but then you throw in the bustle and I'm overloaded. Must be in fresh open air now. Pull over.
This refuge is the first urban National Wildlife Refuge established in the United States. It's located on the Pacific Flyway and encompasses 30,000 acres of mudflats, marshland, salt ponds, open bay, and vernal pool habitats.
The Refuge continues to acquire sensitive habitats for migratory birds and hosts over 280 species each year. Millions of shorebirds and waterfowl stop here on their spring and fall migrations. I'm more than a little confused though by the allowance of open hunting of waterfowl here. What's up with that? In fact a motor boat sped by us at one point, crashing into the silence and calm. It's a wild, wild life. You have to grab your silences inbetween. Have mercy.
Despite those criticisms, it's definitely worth a visit to this unique open space, with some otherworldly landscapes, and some very dedicated and sweet volunteers.
Sitting in the autumn sunshine in front of my house, eating my lunch as the neighbor's cat "Shadow" looks on, I shoo away a bee from the presence of my sandwich and get to thinking...suddenly thinking the way a child might...how many bees have I met in my life? How many have I not shooed away, but allowed to light upon my arm and rest a spell?
How many spiders have I met? How many have I carried, gingerly, from the bathroom or bedroom to the porch; or if I'm feeling extra generous, carried further to the garden and, held by a silken strand, lowered him to a shrub or plant? "Hello Mr. Spider", and he sat down beside her...
I think it's the changing of the seasons that stimulates this heightened awareness of nature. It makes me pay attention. Sit up and take notice. For me, Summer and Winter are the extreme seasons. They can stop you in your tracks, force you to hunker down, whether from being too hot to move, or too cold. But Spring and Autumn, my favorites, allow us to move about with inspiration and keen senses. They stimulate a certain activity. Our habits change a little, and the creatures around us change their routines as well. I've noticed the busy squirrels, deer, and butterflies. The birds have had a lot to talk about. Everything feels so alive.
In my 45 years I would guess that I've carried about 30 spiders out of the house; maybe another 10 out of the car. I've probably sat and observed a couple dozen more. I've guided many a fly, wasp, and bee out through an open door or window. And even a few birds and mice. But I've only let a precious few bees sit on my extended index finger for a visit; maybe 7 or 8.
One of my favorite encounters with creatures was about 22 years ago, when I was pregnant with my Jesse, and I camped out on a beach north of Santa Cruz. When I woke in the morning there were dozens of little wild rabbits scurrying about the dunes and cliffs. It was otherworldly, and magical.
What are some of your memories of visits with wild things? Also, I'd love to read anything you want to share about the seasons.
My mother sent me this lovely image; her garden in Portola, California on Easter Sunday. I post it in memory of Tom Cat who died just before Easter. He is buried in this special place seen in the photo. I give thanks and honor to these superior creatures we call cats. Happy trails Tom.
Here is a photo of a ceramic vent on Monet's house that I took a few years ago.
I said in my last post that I would write about Utopian Neighborhoods, and on this green day I think it's appropriate. A couple of years ago I had an idea about getting together with neighbors and helping them to make a transition to nontoxic home and garden products. Recipes were to be provided on how to make your own pleasant smelling and nonirritating potions. My hope was that other neighborhoods would join in and the idea would spread far and wide. Well, I bowed to unresponsiveness in my Santa Cruz neighborhood. People embraced the "idea" enthusiastically, but when it came to making time in their schedules things fell apart. Was it merely a utopian daydream?
I encourage you to browse the list of Eco-Home Cleaning books in the right-hand sidebar. If you only buy one, I suggest the title pictured above.
One of my favorite recipes for an all purpose cleaner: 2 gallons hot water 2 cups white vinegar (make sure it's made from grains and not petroleum derived alcohols) 10 drops pure essential peppermint oil
Use on linoleum, tiled and wood surfaces, stainless steel sinks, toilet seats, and plastic finishes (such as telephones). Use also for soap rings in the bath or sink, and film on shower walls.
Vinegar is a disinfectant, and peppermint is an antibacterial and antiseptic.
Important note: If you have cats be aware that their livers cannot metabolize the compounds in essential oils and liver damage could result.
Above: a green toy store in Paris.
Happy spring cleaning. Now, I'm going to go listen to Greenday!