Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fire and Ice

Icicle loses a drop and the reddish leaves of the apple tree in the background reminded me of one of Frost's earliest poems.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Nature As Distraction? So Be It!

As I was driving the 22 miles of beautiful country road that I do at least twice a week, I was listening to the BBC news. Nearly all the news was bad: the WikiLeaks crisis, desperate lives involved in the oil industry in Nigeria, North Korea's shenanigans, and so on. However, it wasn't long before that became mere background noise. What was really occupying my mind was the natural beauty around me and also a forthcoming geometry lesson involving Pythagoras and Fibonacci. In other words, my mind was just as cluttered as my office. Imagine if I were inclined to use a cell phone on top of it all! I'd be dead by now.
Later this evening I plan to add to this post a couple of illustrations of what I'm up to with the geometry lesson. Also, I want to thank someone from Chester who sent a comment two posts ago. The one titled "Doldrums or Transition?" I don't have a basement, so I can't follow the person's suggestion literally. However, my woodpile will serve the purpose. A theme of "where do all the critters hide out during winter" is a good one and I'll address it from time to time. I'll undoubtedly continue to expose some of these hiding places as I split my rounds into kindling. Other hiding places are probably nooks and crannies in the garage and house that will be revealed when the critters get warm enough to explore. These posts will be supplemented by my occasional trips down the Feather River Canyon. In winter, I always make a few stops to tip over rocks and logs or peel bark off fallen logs in order to expose the dormant critters for photography. I make a special effort to restore their hiding places after shooting a few pictures. That's more than the bears do.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Transition It Is!

Click on any image for a close-up view.

Doldrums, or Transition?

Reserving this title and date for text, the first draft of which is evolving in my pen-and-ink journal. It has to do with, among other things, the challenge of writing text that does not require a photograph for openers. When I settled upon this theme it was snowing heavily and I was contemplating another few days, at least, without photography. But now I have a plan. Please tune in later.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Getting Through Winter

My son Ryan made a bunch of these stick figures for our indoor potted plants. They're made of paper clips with his home-made spot welder. Looking at these little guys helps me to ignore the heavy snow crushing plants outside my window.

Storm Takes a Toll

Over the last 48 hours we've received over a foot of snow in my neighborhood and most of downtown Quincy. I drove around a bit today to survey the results. The Sweetgum by the courthouse that I photograph often was a brilliant red just a couple of days ago. As you can see from the top two photos here, most of the leaves have been knocked down as well as a major branch. The bottom photo is of a Sweetgum across from the Quincy Natural Foods Coop. Its leaves were still mostly green, but it suffered a similar fate, losing several major branches. The leaves are hanging on, however. I wonder if these trees are two different cultivars since they are at quite different stages of coloration. The tree is native to the Southeast, so I wouldn't expect it to hold up well in winter. The third photo from the top is of the Mountain Ash by the courthouse that I often photograph. All the leaves have been knocked down, but the berries persist. I wish I could hike up to Spanish Peak and look at the Mountain Ash around 6,000' where they are native. Probably all leaves and berries are knocked down, and the trees themselves, mostly smaller than the ones in town, are probably totally buried under snow. If the current deposit of snow melts away quickly, I'll return to the phone booth on Main Street and see how those poppies that were blooming just a couple of days ago fared. It's storming again as I type. I think I'll stay inside and work on my Natural History of Phone Booths.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

How Quickly Things Change

Last Thursday it was sunny in the morning and I was greeted at my Greenville work site by a good-sized, "forked-horn" buck. (Convenient expression, I guess. "Forked antlers" is awkward.) By afternoon, the sky was clouding over and the weather reports all indicated a double-whammy storm was coming. Well, the first wham arrived last night, and early this morning we awoke to around 4" on the ground. A nice lull allowed for a few photos without getting my camera wet, but as I type, a heavy snowfall has resumed.

The second photo down is of a California Black Oak by my driveway that, as of last night, has lost all its leaves. It seems like only a few days ago I was photographing the beautiful Oak Treehoppers on its branches on a warm and sunny afternoon.

The next photo down is of a Douglas-fir in my back yard whose branches slope gracefully downward under the load of snow. Like a willow, when the weight reaches a certain point, the branches bend downward enough for the snow to slide off. They quickly spring back toward horizontal and begin collecting another load. Seems like watching this through a few cycles would be a good meditation, but who sits still that long? Certainly not I.

Next photo down is my tool shed. The adjacent split-rail fence covered with snow is one of my favorite subjects.

Last is a driveway scene in which the last little tree bearing colorful leaves is peeking out from under the larger oaks and Douglas-firs. I suspect its leaves will not survive the second wham that's supposed to arrive tonight.

I can't say I'm quite ready for winter. One symptom of that is that I have a powerful urge, right now, to drive down to the Oroville-Chico area to photograph some insects. :(

Friday, November 19, 2010

Winter's Here!

A little rain this afternoon, then the snow began after dark. Around 3 inches so far and really big flakes are coming down - it's now 9:45 p.m. Will try my winter photography skills in the morning.
Quincy High just won a football playoff against Modoc in the snow. Who suffered more, players or spectators? I guess the locals are all happy. We won!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Out of Season

Not just the poppies and gumplants, but the phone booths! Have you used a phone booth recently? I can imagine a Natural History of Phone Booths. They're on the endangered species list, you know. I have many pleasant and unpleasant memories of phone booth experiences. The passage of time renders some of the unpleasant ones humorous. Like the phone booths without doors placed at busy intersections so it's impossible to hear the other party. In Florida, during warm spring rains, sharing a phone booth with dozens of tree frogs. Some of my earliest photos with an SLR were of the bellies of tree frogs adhered to the glass walls of phone booths. great for viewing how the suction cup toes work. Then, the ones in rural Utah (is that redundant?) that had generators that needed to be cranked in order to make a call. Then there's Eugene, OR, where last year I tried at least six before I found one that worked! At any rate, the next generation will grow up not knowing what these are/were. When I stopped to take these photos, I had actually been looking around for photogenic sticks, boards, etc., basically brown things emblematic of the passing of fall colors, when the poppies by a phone booth glowed like little flames. I stopped to photograph the poppies then walked around and also saw a tumbleweed and some gumplants. The photo of gumplant above includes a leaf from my signature tree. Then the phone booth idea struck me. After taking a few shots by the phone booth across from the high school, I drove over to the 76 station which has phone booths that have frequently frustrated me and took a photo. The best thing about these is the view of the mountains behind the college and in the direction of Spanish Peak. I doubt if I'll have occasion to use this one again. Sad, in a way. I'm still a troglodyte who doesn't like cell phones.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The End Is Near!

The end of fall colors season, that is. As occasional rains and freezing mornings sever that last petioles from their branches, I savor scenes like this one which I pass several times a day on my way home. The bright red foliage closest to the corner light post is a Sweet Gum whose leaves I've featured here before. Immediately behind it and slightly left is a Mountain Ash. Behind that are two evergreens, a California Incense Cedar on the left and a non-native fir or spruce on the right. The yellow-orange foliage both in front of the courthouse (right side of photo) and behind the Incense Cedar are non-native maples and California Sycamore. Quite a show.
I highly recommend a casual walk around the courthouse, and perhaps a couple of blocks in any direction, to savor the fall colors.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Representing Their Families - Before the Leaf Blowers Return

The maples belong to the genus Acer. Around Quincy, we have many species of non-native maples as well as the two native species, the Big Leaf Maple, Acer macrophyllum, and the Mountain Maple (AKA Rocky Mountain Maple), Acer glabrum. The family, Aceraceae, takes its name from the most typical genus. Photos 1, 3 and 4, from the top, are maples around the county courthouse in Quincy. The second photo from the top is a ground cover of mostly American Sycamore, Plantanus occidentalis, of the family Plantanaceae. Literally hundreds of varieties of maples have been cultivated and some nurseries specialize in maples. They put on quite a show in and around Quincy this year. Soon the sap will mostly return to the roots and the leaf blowers will gather up the leaves to be shipped off to some burial ground so the grass will again look like Astroturf.

Celebrating Mountain Ash

Mountain Ash, a beautiful member of the rose family. I'm not playing with Photoshop here. Stop by and look for yourself. This great variety of color, both on the tree and on the ground, is the product of one great tree on the east side of the courthouse in Quincy. This species of tree often gets pummeled by wind and snow at higher elevations, and can be battered apart before it gets more than 10 or 15 feet tall. However, this specimen in the relatively protected environment downtown is probably 30 feet tall and looks quite healthy. I love following it throughout the seasons.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

No Toad, but Found His Stool

Went over to my friend's house to look for the rumored large toad. Grovelled around in fallen leaves under his deck to no avail. It was while raking these leaves that my friend exposed the toad. Anyway, i did photograph a handsome pair of toadstools. Low light = slow shutter, so it's a tad blurry. The toad is undoubtedly still hiding out under my friend's deck and he tends to sing around sundown. Hopefully, I'll get a phone call saying that the toad has reappeared and was captured this time. I'll run out for photos then set up a terrarium for a few days' visit and maybe photograph him/her feeding. They usually feed quite readily out of a human hand if the proper morsel is presented.

Autumn Leaves

The autumn leaves speak for themselves, but, knowing me, I'll probably have something to say for them later today. meanwhile, I'm off in search of a rumor of a very large toad. In the next post, you'll see that I didn't find the toad - yet. Anyway, a day late, here are a few comments about the above leaf photos.
Top photo is sycamore. There are several large ones adorning the constantly groomed lawn around our county courthouse. Our courthouse is a stately building of historic interest (aren't they all?), and the lawn is well-kept. However, I periodically grouse about the excessive use of leaf blowers (redundant?). I think it's on Monday mornings that four or five of them swarm over the lawn, blowing leaves into piles. They are then collected and trucked off somewhere. I'm opposed to this!
The Sycamore leaf, by the way, strikes me as a perfect example of a palmately lobed and palmately veined leaf, almost like a textbook diagram. They turn various shades of yellow or slightly orange in the fall. I've never seen any red on them. Collective effect of thousands on the lawn can be quite beautiful as is the sight of children jumping and rolling in big piles of them - if they get a chance.
The middle photo is of Mountain Ash leaves. The red one (Yes, one. It's a compound leaf.) has lost a couple of its leaflets. This one is classified as pinnately compound in that it resembles a feather. And, each leaflet is pinnately veined. The tree from which these fell is extraordinary. Maybe I'll photograph it tomorrow. First, in September, the berries turn bright red while the leaves are still a deep green. Very Christmasy! Then the leaves start turning and today a large part of the tree is covered with very bright orange leaves and a few yellow, while other large branches are covered with bright red like the one in the center of the photo. When they litter the lawn after falling in random patterns they are quite striking against the green grass. Yes, I think I'll go back today and do them justice (In front of the courthouse, get it?).
The bottom photo is of a couple of Sweetgum leaves. Like the Sycamore, they are palmately lobed and veined. They turn a variety of bright shades of red, orange and yellow, and their seed capsules are spiked balls that are quite interesting-looking in their own right. Other trees around the courthouse include some maples and California Incense Cedar. Within a block or so of the courthouse can also be found Giant Sequoia, Catalpa, California Black Oak, and Black Locust, among others. This neighborhood begs for a book, "The Trees of Downtown Quincy." Maybe I'll take that on. The only other place I've been with sidewalks and a great variety of trees that matches downtown Quincy is the Capital Mall in Sacramento. I haven't been there in years. I assume the trees are still there, but I don't really have the desire to check. This is home!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Arachnids and Myriapods

I'm looking through my photo archives and journal entries, making final plans for the contents of my book, "A Crack in the Sidewalk." Since it's been cold and rainy today, and most of the colorful leaves have fallen to the ground, I decided to share a couple of my favorites from last summer. The Goldenrod Crab Spider has been featured on this blog often, but this is one of my favorite photos of it in its white phase. Same patch of Yarrow where i photographed the yellow phase beuaties that appeared here a week ago. It takes them several days to change from white to yellow or vice versa, so it's not of much use as camouflage. Theory is they are trying to be noticed, perhaps mistaken for flowers so when bees or other flying insects come in to pollinate they zap them for a meal. The scorpion and pair of immature millipedes were found in the lower Feather River Canyon by peeling some bark off a downed tree. Remember, you can click on any photo here for a close-up. Click twice for more detail.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Squeezing the Last Color Out of Autumn

Sunday's rain knocked down a lot of colorful leaves, but there are quite a few left. A few more days of enjoying the rich range of oranges on the oaks. Will be looking out for maples, black cottonwoods, and various shrubs for a while longer, then will direct my attention elsewhere. Not sure where yet, but nature always provides.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Science Moves Indoors

We're bracing ourselves for significant change in our daily routine. My son Ryan has accompanied me on most of my wildflower and bug photography outings during the summer and fall colors sessions recently. All the while, when we get home he usually goes to the garage and works on his various science and engineering projects. But the wildflowers are mostly gone, the deciduous trees have mostly shed, and the garage is getting pretty cold. So, Ryan's thoughts have turned to building a waste oil heater for the garage. Photos of a prototype are above. Being an under-funded scientist, like Thomas Edison, Ryan has become adept at salvaging parts from discarded appliances and electronic devices and various discarded containers from recycling bins. The burner above is mostly a tomato juice can inside a paint can and the oil is coming in through black hose from a partially hidden reservoir. Extra oxygen is supplied by a salvaged fan. Besides heating the garage during winter, Ryan has other kinds of furnaces in mind for melting metals and casting various items. The top two photos were taken in my geometry class where Ryan shares his expertise in paper crafts, especially in modular origami. Skill with paper crafts can lead to all sorts of other useful skills - home repair, art projects - and launch careers in construction or engineering.
In the top photo, students discover that if you tie a simple overhand knot in a thin strip of paper and carefully tighten it, you get a perfect pentagon. After a series of additional folds and a final tuck, the pentagon can be "puffed out" into a solid - see the pile of colorful ones on the table. The talented hands on the right belong to students Amelia Beck and Jasmin Martinez. In the next photo down student Damien Boudreau works with Ryan to build various modular origami figures and a series of Platonic solids.

Reflecting on Fall

The top photo today was an afterthought. I stopped by a field to photograph a flock of ravens feeding. By the time I got my camera out, they decided to relocate. Then I noticed the colorful oaks on the hills toward the North in my rear view mirror. Voila! Then, on the way home, one last stop at my "milkweed spot." Looks like the milkweed show is over for the season.
The next two photos are scenes along the Middle Fork of the Feather River near the LaPorte Road. Last, a model virus made by my son Ryan. No particular connections among these photos. Just the mood of the day.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

You Missed It

This photo of one of our most beautiful wildflowers, Crimson Columbine, hung in the gallery at Main Street Artists during the last two weeks of October. But, you've missed it! As of today, an all-new show is up for the month of November. This "group show" features three works from each of the member artists. Don't miss it! Some great photography, painting (all media), sculpture, jewelry, fine woodworking, artistic ceramic tiles and encaustic. There are also miniatures, prints and greeting cards by several of the artists. Take the Art Walk this Friday night, 5:00 to 8:00, and enjoy the hors d'oeuvres and chit chat with fellow art lovers at Main Street Artists and well as Plumas Arts and other art venues in downtown Quincy. By the way, the Columbine has been replaced by beautiful spiders.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Oaks' Last Stand

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the California Black Oak on all roads leading into and out of Quincy are very colorful. For another week or two, the bright patches of orange with occasional reds will stand out against the evergreens. Then the leaves will fall and the snow will follow. I live on a cul de sac known locally as "the cold spot" and most seasonal changes here lag behind those of the greater American Valley. The oaks along my driveway and in my back yard have just begun to catch up to those along highways 70 and 89 in intensity of color. In the photo immediately above, taken toward my back yard, two adjacent oaks have turned color quite differently, one the more common orange and the other bright red. But the reddest of all, so far as I have seen, is still the pair of oaks in front of Papa's Donuts in East Quincy (top photo), and they are just now beginning to lose their leaves. I saved two leaves off these trees from the fall of '09. They're pinned to the wall in my office, and they are still bright red.