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Wednesday, April 06, 2016

More Wildflowers and a little Bird Porn

Yeah, you read that right, flowers and birdie porn. Don't judge me, it's spring isn't it? And I'll get back to all that in a bit. First, I recently made a potentially rash decision to upgrade my Canon SLR camera from mid-range level to the 'can I really afford this stuff...?' level.

I find that quite amusing. You see, when out shooting wildlife photos, sometimes people are often impressed with my camera, particularly because it is always attached to humongous long lens and many people suffer big lens envy. When they do, without a trace of
modesty I tell them, "You know, in my expert hands I can make this baby function like a high end Brownie Box camera!" The joke being - on me - meaning a camera is no better than the person peering though the lens.  Unfortunately for my equipment, I'm always the untrained rube making the decisions, seldom holding still enough, seldom taking atmospheric conditions into consideration. I refuse to weigh myself down with yet another piece of equipment, however desperately needed for stability (e.g., a tripod). Therefore I decided to go for the 'if-you-can't-improve-photographer-improve-the-equipment' ruse. Probably won't work, but it sure gives one cool new stuff to mess with.

Spoiler alert: I'm shifting back to this post's heading now, so send the kids out of the room.

With new camera in hand, I was out early-ish today, to the boondocks looking for something to photograph when I spotted a likely looking subject - a beautiful dark phase Swainson's Hawk, sitting in a Cottonwood tree.


The beautiful bird didn't do anything so while it sat, I faffed about my new toy camera. Before I knew it, a second Swainson's Hawk entered the scene, stage right.
Well Hello, pretty lady, what you doing out here all alone...?
Of course the male bird was only joshing, they seemed quite familiar with each other.
YIKES!
Now we know the origin of the Imperial Russian Double-headed Eagle
And just like that he was gone. 
He doesn't call... doesn't write...
Now, now, I'm just rufflin' yer feathers. That was a cool thing to see, and unlike the Bald Eagles doing a courtship flight recently, at least I had my camera ready for it.

The Swainson's weren't the only birds I saw for the day. This poor fellow below seemed a bit lonely, and was clucking to himself, that the lady pheasants were too picky, and it wasn't his fault that his tail met with an unfortunate accident.








I'll bet his missing tail was as least as pretty as the rest of his impressive feathering.


The outback was rather wet from recent weather. This little Black-necked Stilt was found on Meiss Road where you'd never expect to see shorebirds, but when its many pastures are flooded I've seen a fair share on that area over the years, .


I actually spent more time photographing flowers with my new camera than birds.

The California Poppies were delightfully photogenic today
Great year for Larkspur 
Standing ovation for these lovely, intensely blue-ishy purply thingies
The Wally-Baskets are banging
Wild White Hyacinth
But-tuh melting over the valley
Not much of a workout for the new camera but you can't tell the birds when to fly or the flowers where they'd look best blooming.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Meet the Sheep day at Meridian Ranch

A special Saturday at Meridian Ranch
When visiting the new spring lambs a few weeks ago, Robin told me of today's Meet the Sheep event. Meet the Sheep means Open House on the ranch, an opportunity to meet Robin's spotted Jacobs sheep and to practice fiber arts. I'm glad I decided to participate before my spinning wheel has a chance to accumulate any dust.

On arriving I first went to the barn. There were a couple of adorable baby Angora Goats, the cutest being this loud little female, kid here.
Young Angora goats are the source of fine Mohair
There were also lots of fuzzy wuzzy baby English Angora Rabbits on display for the day as well.
Some baby bunny coochie-cooing going on here
I met the lady, Betty Chu, who owns the Angora bunnies and goats on display. She had a lot of samples of dyed fiber which caught my eye. I also caught on that she had angora rabbit fiber on sale at half off - getting ready for this year's harvest. That stunning info caused me to break a promise to myself, 'No more new fiber until you've spun all the old fiber'. Ooopsy... two bags of fiber for the price of one does a lot to heal one's soul.
The basket of pink & yellow pastel fibers were 'sun dyed' as
with sun tea. I intend to experiment with sun dying wool 
The basket - above - of darker fibers are dyed mohair fiber from goats - beautiful stuff with a nice curl. I tried to buy some raw mohair, but the goat and bunny lady is currently out. I did get her info so I have a source for more - later - after I spin up the life time's supply of fiber I already have.

When I tore myself away from the bunnies and goats it was time to set up my spinning wheel and get some work done. Many of Robin's spinning friends were here today, all set up under some lovely shade trees by her shop. Shop.. yes, must have a peek at Robin's shop before I get to work... Oh, but first, I had to walk past the display and demonstration tents...


And as long as I was passing by, might as well check out some of the demonstration items...

Felted Wools... 
Hand dyed, knit then felted decorative bowls...
Some more felted goodies...
Finally made my way into Robin's shop...
Weaving wishes...
 Sleeping Beauty's spinning wheel accouterments
And lots of ready to knit, crochet or weave, wools
Judy and Rusty

And the niftiest fibers this season, are Meow and Woof Yarns, inspired by and dyed to match pets. There are other types as well, such as tortoise shell cat, Malamute or Siamese kitten. The A portion of the profit goes to animal charities.

The skeins below are 'Rusty's Yarn'. You may recall Rusty,  young female Border Collie that played ball with Judy in a post a while back.

Now that's some premiere Rusty-quality yarn in those bags!
ACH! Always side tracked by gift shops. Enough of that (note to self, must try sun dying wool from the dye I bought...). Where the HECK was I? Oh yes, spinning.

My wheel is the one on the far right.
Always interesting to see what is on everyone else's spinning wheel. Meself, I'm spinning up some of my wool fiber cache, a warm brown wool sliver - it has reddish highlights and a sprinkling of white hairs. When dyed, the brown picks up a little of the color, and the white hairs pick up the color completely. The end result is awesome, and I'm going to hopefully dye this batch of yarn after I've plied it.

RIP My dear Adele
I have spun a lot recently, but even so I was off on how much I could accomplish in one afternoon. I brought enough wool to keep Rumpelstiltskin up to his knees in gold for a week. Still, it was fun and I enjoyed chatting with the other women. A few years ago, one of them adopted several of my Faverolle hen, Adele now scratches about on that big, free range pasture in the sky. Today Adele's Mom arranged to pick up two fully grown Cochin hens to boost her thinned flock. I got to meet the new hens and they were rather pretty girls. Oh how I miss my girls!

Enough of that! Had a nice productive day which boisters my basket of spun wool at home. I still haven't found my calling in knitting yet however. Haven't done a project in ages. A while back at a party at Rick n' Nancy's I met a woman who belongs to a knitting group called... love this name... The Woolverines. I am working up my courage - and a project - so I have something to work on. They meet every Sunday afternoon at a Sacramento coffee shop. Coffee & cakes? Knitting? I'm very-nearly-almost there already.

Hum... as it is Meet the Sheep day, a parting photo of
one of Robin's peaceful flocks seems apropos

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Wildflower Drive

Wild Lupine on a roadside
Took a drive in the sticks today to look for interesting bird, but mostly found wildflowers. I have hoped this would be a year for wildflowers that would match the blooms of 2009. Oh well, what we got this year is better than last, and far better than the year before that, so I'm chuffed.

What I enjoy the most is when a field or hillside looks painted with color, like Mum Nature got out her paints and went nuts. There are touches of that around, such as here at Mather Field.

Um.. think these are Vernal Pool Meadowgold
White Meadowfoam at Mather Field
Another spot with a fair amount of wildflowers is over on Michigan Bar Road. Again, this year can't hold a candle to 2009, but there are still a lot of flower out there.
Only found these growing in one low puddled spot
They are another type of Meadowfoam 
The usual bounty of Tidy Tips are about
I spent a lot of time on Michigan Bar Road, staring at Fiddleneck, hoping to see some 'first of season' Lawrence's Goldfinch, but no dice.

Fiddleneck, check. Lawrence's Goldfinch... nope!
There are still a fair amount of Cluster Lilies and Popcorn flower about
Of course, there are loads of California Poppy, just about any place you look
Recently I was driving in downtown Napa and saw California Poppy growing from cracks in the sidewalk, so when I say the poppies are everywhere, I mean everywhere!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

A Quick Visit to Annie's Annuals

Yay, a visit to Annie's Annuals!
My friend Barbara and I were visiting her Aunt, & my friend, Judy in Napa. On leaving, it was decided that a visit to Annie's Annuals was in order. Annie's is a massive nursery that always has facinating plants for sale. Myself, I decided not to buy any plants, because if there were an ASPCP (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Plants), I would be first up on their most wanted list. As much as my mother had a green thumb, my thumb seems to specialize in plant neglect.
Only a portion of the massive Annie's grounds
I like the 'trick' plants at Annie's. You know, the plants that are just cute for their size, shape or habits. Here's a plant called 'Minnie Mouse'. I think it was my favorite flower, for today, anyway.

Minnie Mouse flowers!
Bluest of Blue Honeywort
I never even gotten Hollyhocks to sprout!
Bluebells
I tromped up one side of the nursery and down the other, in and out of the greenhouses. I was getting in my walking for the day, and stretching my legs before the long drive, through Bay area highway traffic which can turn a freeway into a parking lot. Ugh! One needs to sniff the roses before attempting such a drive.
Red seemed to be my favored color for the day

Poppies, red enough to please a wicked witch 
No color at all, really, but pretty none-the-less
Love these 'ashes of roses' tinted Poppies
There are some cool gardening ideas at Annie's too.

Voila! From hunk of junk to clever 'Object de Arte'

A cow - uh... so you can replenish your soil after milking it for all it's worth
Angel Froggie to guard against mosquitos in your garden pond
I walked a fair amount and soon Barbara had chosen some new sprouts for her own spectactular container garden and it was time to head on south.  
Annie's Annuals Exit