Archive for April, 2009

Guess Who’s Coming to Breakfast?

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

roosThe cockatiels, that’s who!  Chipper and Charlie always like to check what I’m eating.   If it happens to be cooked millet, they’re in.  But if it’s oatmeal, well – their opinion is “Yuck”!  Today, oatmeal was on the menu, so they stuck around long enough to be sociable.

And then – off to another exciting new day.

Going Solar!

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

solarMy workplace is going  solar!  Yay!

This has been a dream in the making for a long time.  In the space of a month or so, we will be entirely off the grid, even for our HVAC needs.

It’s been exciting watching the progress, not only for us but for all the traffic whizzing by.   As our installers put the panels into place over a period of several days, people off the streets would walk in and ask about them.

As the last solar panel went up yesterday on the big steel awning made for the panels, the sky opened up and poured down a driving rain.  One of the installers brought out his banjo and began playing, being in a joyful mood.  I like to think of the rain as a celebratory equivalent of a champagne bottle being uncorked for a festive occasion.  Cheers!  Here comes the sun….well, soon!

A Livestock Kind of Day

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

twohorsesI had some errands to do today and needed to stop at the fabric store for a particular type of cloth.  Lo and behold, apparently these friendly horses had need of fabric too???  Anyway, they were patiently waiting for their folks in the parking lot, sort of bored but enjoying the cool breezes and the warm sunshine of a mellow Sunday.

By the time I returned to my car, they were getting more bored but still very patient.  They were such lovely, intelligent  horses who seemed to be very good pals and very comfortable with each other.

Back at the home front, the local goats were out and about.  They seem to have become streetwise and don’t invite a roadkill situation which would be easy enough, since their pen is not far from the street.  They also seem to be smart enough to  stay close to home when they’ve been let out of their pen.

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This fellow’s name is Skye, and I wrote about him in an earlier post.  He has a brother, a black Nubian goat, who is quite bit more shy and tentative than Skye.  Skye is very vocal,  always complaining that he isn’t getting enough attention!

Both these guys were thoroughly enjoying the rich green wild grasses.  Soon enough those grasses will turn  brown, so they are enjoying while the eating  is good.

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Bones

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

bonesdeerYesterday during my woodlands trail walk I was surprised to keep running into dead things.  Before I even got onto the trail proper, some animal – probably a dog or coyote – had dragged the remains of this yearling deer carcass to the side of the road.  There was little left to the carcass – just the spine and legs and loose fur.  Not even ants or flies were attracted to it, as it had been picked over long ago.  But the pretty, dainty feet were still present with fur on these leg bones.

Then, not far away, I came across a lizard, belly-up.  We don’t get to see the beautiful electric blue flash of color on the underside of the Western Fence Lizard very often.  I’m glad of that!

For the rest of my wak, I ruminated over what had become my “bones” walk.

Today, since that line of thinking was running in my mind, I noticed a lot more “bones” on my walk this morning.  They are not hard to miss.  Some are more beautiful and delicate than others,  such as the skeleton of this leaf on a stone.bonesleaf

I noticed another thing too.  While all these colorless bones and skeletons seem lifeless and pointless, there is something very important happening.  These lifeless objects are feeding the surrounding ecology.  The deer, which was likely in poor health, fed a predator.  The lizard fed a bird, insects,  and the soil beneath its body.  The leaves feed the earth.  The charred tree trunk provides support for a wild honeysuckle.

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The long-dead tree trunk has provided nutrients for these beautiful mushrooms, which in turn has fed some animal that has given them a few bites and nibbles.

And so it goes, ever cycling from one form to another.  I felt even closer to nature, knowing that such giving and taking is constantly happening.  This is part of a whole that makes sense, unlike much of what humans make of life!

boneslog

Gopher Convention or Alien Invasion?

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

photo-2During my walk after work this evening,  I came across a section of the woodland trails that was pockmarked with what appeared at first glance to miniature landmines that had exploded.  I imagined  mole and gopher wars being waged under my feet.  It was quite bizarre.

Upon closer inspection, not gophers, moles, or alien invasions after all.  Just Ground Cones.  I wrote about them in a previous post last year.  They are a most peculiar  bit of plant life and look like small weird purplish plant aliens coming up from deep in the ground.

We had several days of extraordinarily hot weather for this early in spring – mid-80s F.  These Ground Cones usually don’t erupt till a bit later.  Perhaps the hot weather fooled them into surfacing sooner than usual.

I’m glad the gophers and moles were not at war, after all.

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This Jewel Called Earth

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Happy Earth Day to our beautiful blue-green jewel whirling through space! I can understand easily why astronauts rhapsodize over you with affection and homesickness.

earth-in-space

In thinking about Earth Day,  I can be a tiny bit proud that as a sophomore in high school, I participated in that very first one in 1970 (yep, the years are piling up… For a history of the first Earth day, click this link). I chose to walk to school, a round trip of 7 miles of winding, very hilly road. At that time I lived in a semi-rural  town that overlooked the Carquinez Straits in the San Francisco bay area.

carquinezsunrise

At dawn, as I began my walk, the spring cacophony of birds was everywhere. I could see the occasional tugboat pass by in the straits. The narrow winding road was very quiet that early. As the sun rose, it was warm and comforting after the pre-dawn chill. I had a lot of time to think, and to see the Earth and its beauty with every step. The Beatles song “Here Comes the Sun” kept running through my mind. It was a day that simply underscoredwhy I was walking. I wished even then that my life could be as simple and grounded as the feeling I had as my feet pounded the asphalt.

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Owing to a string of significant health issues in my life, I am no longer able to walk or bicycle to work. But I find small ways to do what I can. I recycle every scrap of paper and plastic, I finally have a fuel-efficient car (yay!), I try to make smart choices in purchases, use cloth bags for shopping, avoid harmful chemicals for cleaning and laundry, try to eat locally and organically, buy organic cotton when it’s on sale, etc. When I have a spare $20, I donate it to a nature conservation or wildlife organization.

As you can see, these are not large accomplishments and may not make any changes in the greater global scenario. But somehow, I think that making even small efforts creates a way of looking at life with more awareness and respect. That has to be a good thing.

Painting wildlife and the beautiful things of this earth has come naturally to me because I want to express my love and appreciation for all the animals and flowers that roam and grow on this planet.

Sometimes when we think we can’t do anything, we still  do have choices. Perhaps the greatest and best choice is to cherish and love this amazing, sparkling, breathtaking place we call our home in the Milky Way, and to care for it as if it were our most dearly-loved family member. Everything else just has to follow naturally…

plumblossom

Shooting Stars at Sunset

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

shootingstars2These wildflowers are called Shooting Stars (Dodecathion Hendersonii).  They are currently carpeting the woodland trails.

It was rather warm today, so I opted to take my walk close to sundown, which was a great idea.  The light was golden, the flowers shown with a magic not seen during the harsher light of the day.  I was so happy wandering from one clump of wildflowers to another.  This colorful blooming time is all too brief, so I’m reveling in it while it lasts.


Glorious Spring

Saturday, April 18th, 2009

greenspring1It’s official:  Spring is gloriously here.  We’re having a spate of cloudless warm days (can you believe it?  Monday it’s supposed to climb to mid-80′s F!).

I had a long walk yesterday and this morning, checking the progress of the wildflowers.  They come in waves.  First the Fawn Lilies, then the Shooting Stars, Hounds Tongue.  Today I saw the beginnings of wild Larkspur, and some small cheerful yellow flowers.

The glory of our protected woodland trails is our wild fritillarias, and particularly Gentner’s Fritillaria (Fritillaria gentneri).  Wikipedia states:

Fritillaria gentneri, or Gentner’s fritillary, is a rare member of Lily family (Liliaceae), that is endemic to southwest Oregon and adjacent Siskiyou County, California. It was discovered by 18-year-old Laura Gentner in 1942 in rural Jackson County, Oregon. Dr. Helen M. Gilkey, curator of the herbarium of the Oregon State College, published it as a new species with Gentner as its namesake. In her paper published in Madrono in 1951 she distinguished it from the similar Fritillaria recurva: “As brilliant in color as F. recurva, the blossom of this new form is consistently of a different shade of red; its flowering period begins two weeks later; the plant is typically more robust…”   … It was listed as an endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1999. The city of Jacksonville in Jackson County actively preserves habitat for this lily.  Its habitat is dry, open woodlands and chaparral from 1000-5000 feet, where it blooms from March through July. (However, most populations generally are done blooming by the end of May.)

And here is the star of the show:

fritilaria1 The Gentners are quite beautiful and just beginning to pop their lovely red blooms – the only deep red native wildflower around these parts.

I love how my community  respects these plants and considers these endangered flowers a spring emblem of the town.  There are currently flags around the town shouting “Fritillaria Festival”!  All the local young school children make crayon drawings of the fritillarias, and these are posted in the windows of the town’s shops.

I hope your spring is just as beautiful and that you are finding some spring flower gems too.

“Drawing for the Artistically Undiscovered”

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

klutz1My friend Dweezeljazz introduced me to this really fun book by illustrator Quentin Blake.  Blake does some really great illustrations.  If you’ve read any of Roald Dahl’s books, you will be familiar with his style – loose, easy, and extremely expressive and full of character.

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You can see more of his stuff at his website here.

What I love most about it is that it is a book for ANYONE of any talent – dubious or otherwise.

In fact, here is one bit of advice given right at the beginning, which sets the tone of the entire book

klutz3So you see, it is for anyone, and very encouraging and affirming.

For someone like me, who tends to draw and paint realistically and very carefully, it is helping me enormously to break out of my detail-style drawing to be more flowing and spontaneous.  There are no wrong strokes here, and the narrative of the book is encouraging, anything-goes, and very fun.

You never know what’s going to come out of your pen, or pencil.  By the way, this “100% KLutz certified” book comes with two watercolor pencils – black and red.  And a fine point felt pen.

Here’s a sample page.  Quentin Blake has drawn the hot-air balloon and the fellow quaking below it.  I filled in the rest.  You can see how fun this can be.  It’s great for loosening up and getting over any artistic blocks and fears you might have now and then.

And by the way, the book is for ages 8 and up, so more than likely, you’re safe.

klutz4

Cockatiel Walkabout

Sunday, April 12th, 2009

My cockatiel boys, Chipper and Charlie, went on walkabout in the living room recently.  Chipper is the one who finds the coupon and takes it with him.  Charlie follows wherever his Chipper goes.  Cockatiels are such rascals!