Friday, December 25, 2015

Big Foot vs. Bigfoot

An impression made Christmas morning by a Big Foot in the snow on our back deck.  No Bigfoot, however.  It was my son.  Now, if he were wearing an Ape Suit, he could have perpetuated the Bigfoot nonsense, and that might have been fun.  However, we don't want to encourage believers in nonsense.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

All Thumbs!!!

Based on observations during my brief walk downtown to check the mail, I think it's time we update this idiom.  As unnerving as it is for me to walk by dozens of young folks who don't make eye contact with passersby, I have to admit that I can see a lot of skill involved.  I think these new skills come at a huge cost, but, nevertheless, the skills are there.  Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Not Your Ordinary Christmas Photos

 I often feel that I'm caught in a web at this time of year, so, as I looked out the window on my back door, contemplating photos of freshly-fallen snow, these remnants of last summer's spider feasts caught my eye.  The mummified moths have been in these webs since August, and they are constant reminders to me of my favorite photo subjects.
 I never did go outside with my camera while the surface of the snow was still pristine.  Now it's all tire tracks, snowplowed dirt, and evidence of kids' games with sleds and snow forts.  I did find this one undisturbed area near my firewood shed.  It's a pile of old cedar fence posts and rails that I never got around to cutting up for wood stove fuel.  They spent nearly 20 years as a fence, so I suppose one more season beneath the snow won't harm them.  It'll be my first wood cutting activity after the snow melts. 
 A large Douglas-fir where I park my car still has some snow hanging on.  We've had around 4" so far, and there's now a lull.  I wonder if we'll get the promised 7".  I read that Tahoe got over a foot, and that the lake has risen a little over an inch.  That translates to billions of gallons of water, but barely makes a dent in our drought.  Actually, it's hard to picture a dent in a drought.
Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

In my rear-view mirror

 I'm a little slow getting into the month of December photography-wise.  No new photos for a week.  However, as I look in my archives and delete bad photos, surplus photos, and photos that no longer interest me, I get a nostalgic feeling for the flying dragons of early fall at Dellinger's Pond. 
 Four different species in these photos, and I'm pretty sure all were posted on this blog this past fall.  For much of the fall, the pond was dry, but just a sprinkle of rain brought out lots of insects and birds.
 This was a particularly good day for Dragonflies.  I had been watching the stick in the photo below for at least 15 minutes when two different species of Dragonfly landed simultaneously.
This event triggered my memory of one of my favorite passages in Thoreau's Walden in Chapter Nine, "The Ponds," centered around the idea of Two Fish on One Hook.  And that happens to be the title of a book on Thoreau written by my late cousin Ray Tripp, Jr. So, that's a sample of what's in the rear view mirror of my mind.  Tomorrow morning I'm going to try to look forward again and find some new subjects.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Black Oak as Insulation

I took no photos today.  Today was all about eating.  The above photo is my favorite memory of yesterday, a Black Oak leaf keeping the snow from melting long after it had melted off the pavement.  There's a physics lesson in that. 

Winter Ecology

 Cat footprints in the freshly fallen snow reminded me that there's a lot more going on at this time of year than meets the eye - or most eyes.  I got these two photos around sunrise by my car, but it was so cold, I didn't bother to bring my camera with me to work.  Wouldn't you know, the snow-covered "green" on the way up to the classrooms was decorated with many signs of early morning activity.  Most prominent were the many wild turkey footprints.  There were also deer prints, Raven Prints, and photogenic leaves and mushroom caps covered with snow.  By Noon, the snow had melted and taken all this evidence with it. 
Young firs at the edge of my driveway looked really nice with a fresh layer of snow.  No need for a snowblower yet. There was fresh bear poop on Boyle and Coburn Streets, but no tipped-over trash cans.  It was nice to see the snow, but not all of my students from Florida were glad to see it.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Signs of the Times

 I was listening to Science Friday on the radio this morning.  Interesting discussion by two map-making experts who are involved in re-designing maps of urban transit systems.  It turns out the new mobile-device-wielding traveler likes to be told, step by step, how to get from point A to Point B, but is not so concerned about knowing where he is at any given moment along the route.  In a sense, these new maps are not really maps.  They are diagrams that simply identify key points along a route, and perhaps estimated times.  I had bits of this program rattling around in my brain when I got out of my car to look at a Forest Service map (above) that informed me where I was.  No surprise.  I was here!  And I knew that.  It would have been impossible for me to be anywhere else, particularly there.  I'm always here; never there.  So, if a person on the London, or New York, or San Francisco subway asked a fellow passenger "Do you know where we are?" it would always be appropriate to say, "Yes.  We are here."  So, the above Forest Service sign didn't tell me anything I didn't already know.
 This experience obviously put me in a mischievous mood.  So, when I looked at another part of the map, a part representing Feather River College, I thought "it has never looked better!"  No gopher holes, no litter, no dog poop and no outdoor ash trays.  Just topography and a nice, meandering creek.  I wish we could start over and preserve the natural watercourse and some of the wetlands.  No lawns.  However, I must admit, I see more wildlife on campus than I do anywhere else around town.  I especially enjoy the Ravens.
This last bit was posted right next to the above-mentioned map.  It's not often that one sees a sign favoring older ways rather than the new.  Here horses have the right-of-way over bicycles and humans, although there are usually humans with the horses.  I'm somewhat partial to humans, so I'm ambivalent about this hierarchy.  I don't like hiking through horse poop.  And I definitely don't like to be forced to dodge out-of-control, downhill bicyclists, and that is happening with increasing frequency.  I really appreciate the concept of "trail courtesy" and I still experience a lot of it around Quincy, despite my mild grumbling about some trail users.  It's probably all a function of population density.  That's why I hope Plumas County doesn't grow in population.  To most economists, that's backward thinking.  But I'm with the late Ed Abbey when he said "growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell."

Thursday, November 19, 2015

"Subvert the dominant paradigm"

Here's a mugshot I took a year or two ago.  Today, I'm drinking to freedom of speech and press, such as they still exist.  My students will be doing research papers on Censorship.  I do the research, too, always expecting to discover new things.  Some of my colleagues and I are discussing censorship, and in the midst of these discussions, a quote by the late great Chief Justice Earl Warren, has surfaced.
"The censor's sword pierces deeply into the heart of free expression."  I like that.  Ironically, the word "sword" contains the word "word," although there's no etymological connection that I can find.
As is the usual practice in this blog, I will explore connections between my teaching of English (critical thinking and writing) and the natural world.  I'll be looking for activities in nature that may be seen as analogous to censorship.
I stole the title of today's post from the late Edward Abbey.  I don't know if he stole it from someone else, but it seems likely.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Dust of Snow

 We got the first "dusting" of snow at our house Monday night.  I didn't hear rain during the night, so it was possible there was no precipitation at all.  I was delighted to find a new layer of the "white stuff" on the ground when I woke up around sunrise.  I was immediately reminded of one of my favorite short poems by Robert Frost.  I decided to see what has been written about this poem that I first learned about in junior high when Frost was still alive.  It turns out a lot of really stupid stuff shows up when one Googles "Dust of Snow, analysis."  So many common stereotypes of crows and snow, mistaking Hemlock trees for the Poison Hemlock (a small plant, not a tree), the presumption that Frost included many "opposites" in the poem.  Opposites such as the evil crow inadvertently causing a moment of pleasure.  There's no direct evidence in the poem about why the narrator (who may or may not be Frost; we have to assume not) might have "rued" the day until receiving the pleasurable "dusting."  In any case, I've never had a negative feeling about crows.  In fact one of my favorite memories from childhood is of my Uncle Ray, a WWI veteran, taming crows in his back yard while they remained free.  He'd go outside with a dish of "crow food" and call to them.  Two of them, as I recall.  They would swoop down out of the trees and land on his outstretched arm and gobble up the food.  I never heard Uncle Ray say anything bad about crows.  He loved them, and so did I.  Where I live now, I have more contact with Ravens than I do with crows.  Crows in the downtown parking lots, but Ravens in the surrounding forest and in the trees on the upper campus of FRC.
The poem, to me, represents an uncomplicated peacefulness.  I have fond memories of hiking and skiing in the "back country" during snow storms - places so quiet that I could actually hear snowflakes landing.
Then my thoughts turns to humorous memories, such as creating the above painting of a polar bear hiding behind an iceberg during a blizzard.  It was actually quite easy to draw.
I suppose if I'd had my camera handy when I first left the house, I would have taken a couple of photos of the front yard and the dusting of snow on top of my firewood.  Then this post might have turned out differently.  Hopefully, there will be more snow soon so I can experiment with both photos and words.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Palmate images

 I grew up not far from the famous fall colors "mecca," the Mohawk Trail.  Since I've been in California I've made a lot of photos of fall colors, but in recent years I've begun to enjoy zooming in on individual leaves more than taking the more popular panoramas of whole trees or whole hillsides of colorful trees.  Here are a few from around the county courthouse.  Above is a leaf of Bigleaf Maple, measuring around 9" across.  Like every other leaf, a marvel of engineering - without an engineer.
 Here's a typical leaf of Thimble Berry.  They tend to stay green later into the season than the maples, then suddenly turn brown.  This one's around 7" across.
 On the northeast corner of the courthouse lawn is a popular Sweetgum, or Liquidambar, whose leaves turn many great colors, mostly on the warmer end of the visible spectrum.  Reds, oranges, yellows, and combinations.
 Liquidambar leaves usually change colors while still attached to their trees, although they often continue to change once they're on the ground.  Some deciduous drop their leaves while they are still green, the the color changes take place on the ground.  I've noticed that with White Alders and Cascara Buckthorn.

I'm still thinking snow is just around the corner and that I won't be taking any more leaf photos this season, but you never know.  Next I plan to post some photos from the same walk through the neighborhood, but ones whose shape and venation are described as pinnate, or feather-like.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Introduction to November

 A walk in the woods by my house gave me what might be the seasons last look at certain colors and features.  One forecast calls for snow by mid-week.  I'd like to be optimistic about that, but....
Most of the dogwoods in this area have dropped their leaves, but a few trees in my neighborhood still show some color. (above)
 In keeping with my love of small things, here's a really cute little mushroom surrounded by moss, and next to a Douglas-fir cone for scale.
A leaf of Cascara Buckthorn lit from behind.  The ones by my driveway have lost nearly all their leaves which makes each remaining leaf seem special.  After this walk, I went down by the Plumas County Courthouse where there's lots of fall color - Mountain Ash, Sweetgum, Maple, Sycamore, Incense Cedar, and more.  Will post some of those photos tomorrow.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Look what the cat dragged in!

Things I Hope Will Be Covered with Snow

What are we salvaging?

 Up on Mt. Hough cutting firewood last week, we came across this beautiful dead Black Oak.  Beautiful, you ask?  It's dead!  However, it is and has been a home to many creatures, not the least of which are woodpeckers.  A nest hole is apparent in the second and third photos.
 Then there are the lichens.  Soil makers.  And moss.  Beetles.  Oak Treehoppers (although they only live on the oaks when they are alive.  With the aid of lenses, one could probably identify a hundred or more species of organisms that depend on this oak at all stages throughout its life until it becomes soil again.
 There is considerable controversy over so-called salvage logging - taking out of the forest all salable wood after a fire.  I'm siding with the critters.  I think the damned federal government knows what it's doing in this case,  The people of the United States own this forest, not just the people of Plumas County who own wood stoves, of which I am one.

 AS the bark begins to separate from the wood, the resulting cracks are great hiding places for lizards, beetles, spiders, and all manner of other invertebrates.  A great situation for kids to learn about ecosystems, and not just about board feet or cords of wood.  We should be thinking about salvaging
whole ecosystems, not just marketable wood.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Water Invites Life

 Last Thursday's rain has been dripping down the mountain, and as of yesterday morning, Dellinger's Pond had enough water to attract wildlife.  I stopped by Early yesterday morning and was startled by a group of deer near the entrance.  As I approached with my camera, they ran along the dam, stopping several times to see if was still in pursuit.  Low-level early morning light made photography difficult, but here's the best image I got (above).  As I walked slowly along the dam, I spotted a Grey Fox running through the pond weeds.  I only had my 55mm lens, and by the time I got a shot off, the fox was at least 100 years away (below).  I cropped the photo a bit, and it's just barely clear enough to be evidence of a fox.  A fox made of pixels.  I think I'll start mounting the telephoto lens before I go through the gate.  More rain expected tonight and tomorrow, so this place might be come a good watering hole again soon.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Firewood-gathering distractions

 A week ago, I was up on Mt.Hough with my son Greg cutting firewood.  We found a nice group of dead Incense Cedar downhill from the truck.  Maybe it was the prospect of carrying the logs up hill, or of the incoming rainstorm, that made me particularly prone to distraction.  I did have my camera, so maybe I was hoping for distraction.  In fact, we saw a Bobcat run across the road on our way to the site.  No chance of getting a photo, but it did raise hopes of photogenic distractions.  So, after cutting down our first cedar, the holes made by ants begged for attention.
 The ants tried to hide by crawling deeper into their network of tunnels, so I kept poking at them with a pine needle with one hand while holding the camera in the other.
 You can click on these photos for a closer look, but I never got what I'd call a great photo of an ant.
Most of them had wings, so maybe they were ready to find another home after our chainsaw disturbance.  Before we left the scene, I did find one other photogenic scene (next post), but my delays were just enough to let the rainstorm catch us while we were loading the truck.  Arrived home an hour later, cold and soaking, but relishing the fact that "real" weather seemed to have returned after weeks of drought.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Change of Season

First day of morning frost on my windshield.  Bear tipped over trash can.  Aroma of skunk in the neighborhood. Oak  Treehoppers gone. Dead raccoon in road.  Did not tote camera this morning.  These are all signs of a change in season, not obedient to the Autumnal Equinox.  A weekend is nigh.  I will get my bearings, clean up the trash, split more firewood, and keep my camera handy.  Maybe also get new windshield wiper blades and refill the windshield washer fluid. "Spirit Week" and Halloween irrelevant, and I am irreverent.  Time for "winter readiness."

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Found while jaywalking

 Is it possible to commit this crime in Quincy?  I'm not so sure.  I've seen judges do it.  I've seen people from all walks of life do it (pun intended). and I do it every day.  I've never seen anyone get cited, so it must not be a crime.  Today, as I jaywalked by Quincy Natural Foods, I stopped suddenly to pick up this beautiful Liquidambar leaf.  It was not rush hour, or I wouldn't have stopped. Anyway, I haven't paid much attention this year to what most people visualize when they hear the words "fall colors."  Instead, I've concentrated on insects, fungi, and other things that caught my attention, and enjoyed other people's stories and photos about the changing leaves.  I brought this bright red leaf home and photographed it.  I guess you could call that tokenism.  The above photo was taken without flash on a cardboard box illuminated by compact fluorescent bulbs.  The photo below was illuminated by my camera flash.
Lots of trees around Quincy are "peaking" about now.  Better hurry.  There are a variety of maples, oaks, choke cherries, and shrubs on display, and the Black Cottonwoods are starting to change.
Enjoy, but watch out for traffic.  :) 

Almost a pond again

A place locally known as Dellinger's Pond has not been a pond at all for several months.  That is, until this past week, when we got some pretty good rains.  Now there's enough standing water - or slightly flowing water - that I think of it as Dellinger's Almost-a-Pond.  The above photo is of a spot one sees soon after passing the entrance gate and shows where a little tributary coming from the South feeds the pond.  The photo below shows the large open area that hopefully will soon be a pond again, but for now shows a tributary feeding the western end of the pond.
I'm looking forward to more water and the return of the waterfowl.