Saturday, April 22, 2017

Spring Crawls Up the Hill

 Until today, nothing new has bloomed in our yard since the Spring Whitlow Grass that arrived a few weeks ago.  Downtown along Main Street the tulips in front of various shops have been blooming for a couple of weeks.  We've only around 100' above the downtown elevation, but we are in the shade of tall firs and pines.  So today, three of our tulips fully bloomed, and there are a couple dozen more waiting in line.

 Our Dandelions are doing great, possibly the best in the neighborhood.  I suspect they are liking the canine excrement and renal outpourings diluted by the recent rains.  And for the last couple of days they've been attracting hundreds of Painted Lady butterflies.
 Today while photographing this activity I enjoyed watching one of our cats lunge at butterflies a dozen or more times with ever catching one.
 I think I'll enjoy this show of Dandelions and butterflies for a couple more days, then cut down the Dandelions before they go to seed. It seems that most people are at war with Dandelions, but I need to have a little fun before succumbing to the neighborhood standard.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

R. I. P. Dandelion

I stumbled across Hallie Bateman's clever and sensitive eulogy to the Crayola (r) color "Dandelion." The illustrated eulogy appeared in the New York Times, but I found it while surfing through my subscription to Austin Kleon's weekly newsletter on April 14.  I haven't blogged as much as I'd like to in recent months, but the Dandelions are making their appearance in my yard (above and below) and Bateman's piece has fired me up again.
I read that this color will be replaced by a new hue in the Blue family, and maybe it will be formally announced before I finish with this post.  Besides arousing my protective spirit toward dandelions, this news launched some serious net surfing during which I found that Crayola currently produces 120 colors.  Their common box sizes contain 8, 16, 32, 48, 64, or 120 crayons.  I'm not sure why they didn't continue the geometric series they started by having a box of 128.  A box of 120 is cool, though, as 120 has many factors.  I was visualizing the possibilities for box shapes: 2 x 60, 3 x 40, 4 x 30, 5 x 24, 6 x 20, 8 x 15, and 10 x 12.  And that's only the rectangular boxes.  Imagine other possibilities such as triangular, parallelogram and hexagonal boxes!
My net search also included Prismacolor pencils.  I read some histories and found that Prismacolor is no longer made by Berol, and that they currently produce 150 colors.
Since I had my camera in hand to get some shots of my dandelions, I walked around the yard a bit to see what else was brewing.  One of our yellow tulips (above) is about to bloom. We've tried to eradicate the tulips several times in order to plant something different.  However, they keep coming back.  I admire that, so I think this time around we'll leave them alone.  We do have at least 6 varieties that display an amazing array of bright colors.  Maybe we'll see them in a couple of weeks. The forecast for the coming week is cool and rainy, so it'll be a while before the other colors are revealed.
Companions to our tulips are these Hyacinths.  This name applies to quite a variety of flowers, some that are not even in the same family as the ones above, Amaryllidaceae.  Lily relatives.
Last, I'm gathering notes for a possible book on my educational experiences.  One of my strongest memories from 1st grade is that my teacher posed the question: What comes after yellow?  Back then I said "that's a stupid question" or words to that effect.  If I were a first grader today, I might answer "a funeral."

Thursday, March 30, 2017

A Natural History of Magazine Covers

 This magazine cover caught my eye at the FRC library the other day.  I guess that's what magazine covers are supposed to do.
 Here's a wider view for context. Crude refers to oil in the ground as well as the president's behavior. OK.  I moved on.  I was looking for articles on natural history, weather in particular.
 Then I wheeled around and saw this next one on the cover of New Republic. Looked as though the same artist might have produced both.
 Then The Progressive was more subtle, but obviously had at least two articles expressing concern about our president.
 Nice juxtaposition here - magazine called Reason featuring an article about what's unreasonable about Trump's border wall idea.
 When I got to Harper's, a magazine I greatly respect, the cover illustration cemented the idea that I was seeing a pattern here.  Since seeing and trying to explain patterns is something naturalists do, I figured I'd give it a shot here.  Onward...
 There he is again in "destroy public schools" mode.  His argument, such as it is, is based on the idea that the public schools are already destroyed.  But, when I look at his "plans" for fixing the situation, starting with the appointment of a rich ignoramus to head the Department of Education, I realize that the cure will be worse than the ailment. See below, the cover of Rolling Stone.
 More of the same.  All about Trump putting us on war footing - again.  Baiting foreign powers, showing no interest or capacity for reasoned discussion with friend or foe.
 On the cover of Rolling Stone, reference to an article inside about Betsy Devos' beliefs about our educational system.  Yikes.  Another Ayn Rand disciple on the loose.
 Click on any of these photos for a closer look so you can read what is featured.

 Even the conservative Arnold realizes there's something very wrong going on.
 The Chronicle of Higher Education features an insert, a magazine within a magazine, with profiles of the people providing "academic" support for Trump's decisions.

 I thought I'd finish with a photo of one of the most beautiful "weeds" growing alongside the road into FRC.  Henbit Dead Nettle, a member of the Mint family, just started blooming here this week.  I envy them for their not knowing what's going on.
A footnote to this display of a pattern - I have a cartoon project going on in my Interpersonal Communication class.  The assignment was to find at least five cartoons by a single artist that find humor in situations where interpersonal communication is challenged.  We study how issues such as race, gender, occupation, place of residence, among many other factors, can make it difficult for people to communicate with each other.  Each student presents his or her cartoons to the class on a big screen and gives their interpretation of the humor.  Seems like quite a few students found anti-Trump cartoons.  There are many new ones being created every day!  Then the students were to solicit feedback from the class alternative interpretations, etc.  One student came to see me with his concern that there was an overriding bias in the class.  As an experiment, I suggested that he find cartoons supportive of Trump and give an alternative presentation.  Together, we Googled phrases such as "pro-Trump cartoons," "cartoons supportive of Trump," etc., and then clicked on "images."  It turns out that nearly all the cartoons, even when we were searching for "pro-Trump" were actually anti-Trump.  Further evidence there's a pattern.  Much of the biosphere is worried about our future.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Amphibian Selfie!

 I consider myself the APP in this situation.  Connected to the frog by a thumb-belly connector, the frog positioned himself in such a way that compelled me to push the shutter button. Thus, an amphibian selfie.
 A side view of the same frog, but this time I made the decision on my own. :)
 My wife, Bib, sitting on a giant oak limb.  Click on the photo for an enlargement in which you can see the large patches of Goldfields (below) in the background.
 Another of my favorites, in the mustard family, is the Lacepod.  Looks especially nice when backlit.
 The majority of the Seep Spring Monkeyflower were still closed under cloudy skies, and actually looked wilted.  But I did manage to get a pair that were open.  All in all, I saw only around a dozen
species of blooming wildflowers.  In previous outings when I hit peak blooming time I'd get over a hundred.  We had a great day anyway.  This place is aways beautiful, even in mid-summer and fall when the streams and waterfalls have dried up and most flowers have long since gone to seed.  I'll have one more post on last Saturday's trip before moving on to a new topic.

Sunday, March 26, 2017


 Why not?  Went to Table Mountain yesterday to photograph wildflowers, but for reasons I'll explain later, these first two photos made a more lasting impression on me than the wildflowers.  An unusual and productive day. More tomorrow.  [Mar. 28, actually the day after tomorrow.]
This merger of two streams on Table Mountain got my attention.  Saw very few wildflowers and decided that maybe the peak of flower blooming is a couple or three weeks away.  I'll try again in mid-April.  This Y reminded me of the junction of the Little Colorado and the main Colorado in northeastern Arizona.  A totally different habitat, of course, but all river junctions interest me and remind me of each other.  Another one I love and will see again in May is the junction of two great rivers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where the great Lewis and Clark expedition began and where Annie Dillard grew up.  A special city where my daughter is currently an art professor.  Looking forward to the road trip.
Another Table Mountain icon, this beautiful Valley Oak is along the trail leading to the first big waterfall that we usually visit at Table Mountain.  The better known one near the parking lot had lost some of its former grandeur, and is usually surrounded by people (and litter), so this one seemed more photogenic to me.
Owl Clover was the prettiest flower I saw on this day and was one of the few species that was fully open under the clouds.  The poppies (no photos) and Bitterroot (below) were not open.  Too cool and cloudy I suppose.  I'll be back.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Words Will Come

 I took these photos a few days ago to celebrate the arrival of Spring.  But, I couldn't find the words.  Now I'm contemplating a trip to Table Mountain tomorrow, hoping to find a break in the rain.  That's what I'll be thinking about tonight, so I still can't find the words.  But, the words will come.
Mar. 28, four days later, here I am again.  The arrival of blooming Shelton's Violet made my walk up to the FRC water tank a pleasure.  My mind was already wandering toward the planned Saturday trip to Table Mountain.  In preparation for what I might see and what I would specifically look for, I reviewed previous Table Mountain posts on this blog.  Got a chuckle when I discovered a comment posted back in 2015.  A guy from South Africa commented that the "real" Table Mountain, the one in his country, was the superior nature experience.  I wondered if he had actually visited ours, or if he deduced that from the photos on my blog.  At any rate, I don't see it as competition and feel a bit sorry for anyone who does.
I go to Table Mountain for the total experience, not just the flowers.  So, this excellent specimen of bear poop on the road up to FRC's water tanks reminded me of the scatological possibilities at Table Mountain.  I know the cows will not disappoint.
THere was a trickle of a stream meandering down the hill in the dirt road leading to the water tanks.  It is fed by leaks and/or overflows, I'm not sure which.  But there's enough water to support Watercress (above).  A scrawny specimen, but Watercress nevertheless.
This friendly Pacific Chorus Frog did not resist being picked up, nor did he jump out of my hand.  I held him for a couple of minutes and got photos from different angles before placing him where I caught him.
Last, a harbinger of the next wave of wildflowers at this site, some new leaves of Lupine.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Spring has sprung!

 I haven't posted since the end of January, and had a spotty stretch before that.  On March 8, while attending a gathering in celebration of International Women's Day (bottom photo here), I saw the tiny Spring Whitlow Grass all over the place, hiding in the grass.  One would have to know it was there to notice it.  After all, who besides me always looks at the ground while walking around?  That encounter Whitlow Grass, actually a member of the Mustard Family, stirred my urge to resume blogging regularly.  But, I got distracted by an over-booked teaching schedule, and the urge didn't strike again until March 16.  On that day, I decided to introduce one of my classes to nature writing. I said let's take a walk, each going alone in his or her chosen direction and write about the first natural object you see that interests you.  Tree, bird, bug, worm, whatever.  You just have to look until you get motivated to stop and take notes or draw a sketch.  They were asked to report to the next class with a 100-word description.  I did the same and walked up a hill above my office.  Lo and behold, I found a Chorus Frog out in the open (above on my left hand) and Whitlow Grass (below) along the sides of the dirt road.
 On the next day, I looked up Whitlow Grass on this blog and discovered the last time I wrote about it was March 15 2015.  Two years ago almost to the day!    Even on that day, I promised to write more about it, but was immediately distracted by a trip to Table Mountain.  I posted several days' worth of Table Mountain photos before I got back to the Whitlow Grass where my story about it continued.
Here's a shot someone took of the Women's Day gathering from a hill or deck above it.  Not sure which.  I'm the guy with the white hair just to the right of the center.  I hope that now I've finally got around to this, I'll be more regular.  For instance, on that walk up the hill I also saw the first blooming Shelton's Violets of the season.  Will see if I can post those tomorrow and get this thing going again.