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Tuesday, March 29, 2011


A lone Blue Dick rises above the meadow grass

The BLUE DICKS Wildflowers ARE UP! Ah, me - I never tire of that juvenile joke.

A couple of days ago, Barb and I drove up the street to Pioneer Park to see if the vernal pools are at the show-off stage, but no dice. Not that there wasn't pretty sights galore; there was a beautiful pair of Great Egrets. Both had 'egrets' the long flowing feathers that cover their backs in breeding season.

Pioneer Park Vernal Pools, Stage one: WET

I could see bright yellow flowers off in the distance, but didn't want to wade through the ponds to see them.

Soap Plants are popping up everywhere

Next we drove out to Mather Field, one of my favorite springtime haunts. We were there on Saturday, but it was cloudy and somewhat rainy so the little poppies of the fields were closed up as tight as [insert rude tight reference HERE]. So as the sun was shining today, we headed out to Mather for a look-see. We found a nice fat patch of Butter and Eggs, also called Johnny Tucks.

A patch of 'Butter and Eggs'

Frying Pans!

The Frying Pans, a sort of mini-California poppy, that were closed up tight during the last several days of cloudy weather, are now OPEN for business! The yellow flowers are currently sprinkled about in small groupings that I think will grow to be massive in the coming weeks. There were also Fiddleheads, yellow flowers are also up everywhere one looks.


Then we found one of the major showy flowers at Mather - Meadow Foam! They are large, bright and sit in great mounds in the meadow - later in the season that is - looking like ocean foam blown ashore.

Meadow Foam

Alas! Barb and I were in low gear and for the most part, so didn't wander far from the car so no close-up photos today. Wouldn't have bothered with this post at all if it weren't for wanting to shout from the blogger rooftop: THE WILDFLOWERS ARE UP! THE SHOW HAS BEGUN!

Napping Geese at Mather Field

Monday, March 28, 2011

Auspicious Night in Fair Oaks

My friend Barbara has been visiting me the last week, and tonight we decided to go for a drive through Sunrise Park along the American River. So, about 45 minutes before sunset tonight I went outside to put my hens 'to bed' in their coop. I no sooner bribed them into their pen with mealworms, when I heard a loud, "KEK KEK KKEK KEK KEK!" A Coopers Hawk and a Crow shot by overhead, like arrows. The crow was in front of and above the hawk, so it was a toss up if the coopers was after the crow and missed or perhaps the crow harassed the hawk then pulled up. I wish they had hung around for a bit longer.

Later driving in Sunrise park we saw the 'usual suspects', a couple of big arsed tom turkeys, strutting. I gobbled to them and the tom quickly gobbled back, calling me a %$^& which was quite rude. Later on we saw this tree full of roosting turkeys, one of whom was sitting puffed up on his branch, looking all macho.

No one up here but us turkeys

Then something amazing happened - we saw a little group of two does and a young fawn. The fawn was quite pale - not albino, but in the twilight it appeared quite pale. Made me wonder if the fawn was pale enough to be the sort the California Hoopa Indians would use in their white deer dances. I wonder what they would say if they knew there was a white-ish fawn wandering about. Of course, no surprise, I didn't have a good camera with me, only my cell phone and what I got was a crap photo of the fawn's pale backside. Maybe I'll manage a photo of him/her later in the season.

On the drive home, Barbara squeaked, "One, one, one, one...!" She got a look at my Honda's mileage which was at an interesting number.

Hum... Cooper's Hawk bulleting by overhead, a white fawn, a binary sort of number popping up in my car... perhaps auspicious things are in the near future.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Drive Home from San Diego

Purple Owl's Clover

It's not often that I climb out of bed earlier than the first sparrow's fart, but to avoid Los Angeles traffic, I was up and on the road from San Diego at 4:15 AM.

I was over the Grapevine and into the Central Valley after 3 hours and decided to take Hwy 5 north with a stop at Kern National Wildlife Refuge. As I drove toward the refuge I decided to stop and admire the roadside wildflowers. I had my iPhone so I put it to good use, snapping a shot or two with its camera app.

My camcorder was on hand, and I spied interesting blue flowers on the far side of the meadow. Binoculars and camcorder in hand I headed off for a look.

WHOOPS! My foot shot out from under me and I was lying in a puddle of mud. It happened so fast I was stunned - where the HELL did the mud come from? I hadn't noticed it before. I 'saved' my camcorder by tossing it over onto a dry patch, then tried standing. My hands kept slipping out from under me - the mud was as slippery as a pot full of snot.

Slip, slip, slip! Every time I tried standing my foot would slip, every time I tried creeping forward, my hands would slip. GAK! I was trapped. I had my binoculars in my hand, and they were already coated with mud. I put both hands on the binocs and used them as a sort of anchor to inch my way across the snot and over to where I could get my feet under me and stand without sliding.

In the center - the Evil Pot full of Snot

Once I was back on my feet, I rescued the camcorder and surveyed myself - I was coated with mud, head to toe. Oh well! Nothing for it but to open the back of my Honda and strip to my skivies. There are times when being in the middle of nowhere is a bonus. Soon I was in fresh clothes, glaring mournfully at my mud coated binoculars. I was headed up the road for the refuge headquarters.

Kern National Wildlife Refuge

Approaching the refuge headquarters

I marched into the HQ & was greeted by a volunteer lady.

"Can I help you?"

"Can I wash these binoculars with a hose?", I asked, holding up a lumpy brown object, inside of which were my binoculars.

The lady was a gem, leading me to a sink where I washed the mud off my binocs.

She then tore up the front office until she found my second request of her - a holy grail - the official stamp of the Kern Refuge, for my Blue Goose Passport stamp. Believe it or not, it is my first refuge stamp for California. I have stamps from probably 6 or 7 other states, but not my own resident state.

Ok, might be corny, but I love my refuge stamps

I only spent about an hour touring the refuge before I left and headed home to Fair Oaks. The only refuge photo I got worth mentioning, and I assure you it is a CRAP photo, is of this Great-tailed Grackle. It was far away and it is only 2 pixels, taken with my mud soaked camcorder. Oh well!

Great-tailed Grackle

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hair I Go!

If you spoke to people who know me, you'd I'm not exactly a tom boy, but I've never been into make-up and such. So, it came as a HUMONGOUS surprise to me, to find myself in San Diego all this past week to learn how to do hair!

No. You're not in an alternate universe.

Yes, this is still Claire. I was not stolen and replaced by an alien entity.

Yes, I learned how to install Sisterlocks, which I myself have worn the past couple of years and will continue to wear for the rest of my life.

Last week I drove down to San Diego to Sisterlock Headquarters for the four day class. Driving down I wondered if perhaps I'd done something stupid and was wasting a chunk of my money on the class. Happily, the class was AWESOME! Everyone in the class rocked their own Sisterlocks. Generally speaking, all of our locks were different, as everyone's hair has different properties. Some of my classmates had locked into tiny little curls in only a few weeks. One classmate Angela - everyone thought we were sisters because we share the same sort of freckles - had hair with a long curl like me, but her individual hairs were twice the thickness of mine, like comparing my whimpy dandelion stem hair to Angela's robust oak tree hair. Our hair resists locking so took longer to do so than anyone else in the class. Loved my classmates! Only like 3 of us are from California, the others came to the class from Oregon, Washingon, Colorado and Tennesse.

Jodie and Angela

Our teacher was Dr. Joann Cornwell. She, with her sisters, invented Sisterlocks. She doesn't often teach classes so we were all pretty tickled. She taught us everything about 'Sisterlocks'. There was a moment in the class when were were practicing how to make the locks when I had an epifiany, "I've done this before, a zillion times!" I hadn't of course, but what I have done is hand spin, weave, knit, sew, crochet and do every sort of fiber art one can imagine, so for me, locking hair for me was immediately do-able and easy. Damn! Felt like my whole life has been leading up to hair locking. I think it was on day two of classes we were each given our own manikin head for practice. We were encouraged to name them, so with little fanfare, I named mine "Headwig".

All the manikins, including "Headwig", have real human hair

GAK! I was rather intimidated by my manikin, not really having combed anyone else's hair unless you count pets. But soon I was locking away, just like everyone else in class.

Practice makes perfect.

Dr. C spreads the wisdom

In the photo below, Linda got her hair locks analysed by the class. Everyone took a turn with their hair being at the center of attention. When it was my turn I found out - no surprise - some portions of my hair - the rear bits - still haven't totally locked after 2 years; my hair is uber smooth with too uncooperative curls. Why was I not surprised? Oh well! Happily most of my hair is locked now and I adore it. I've NEVER loved my hair the way I love it now.

Linda, a Tennessee gal, takes a turn

Dr. C has had her locks since 1993! They hang down to her bum.

We even had a day when a young man in his twenties, Norman, came to class so we could all have a shot at 'tightening' his 'Brotherlocks'. Brotherlocks have differences from Sisterlocks. I totally loved getting my hands on locks with a breathing person beneath them. It was a great class and the last day we all got a full line of the Sisterlocks hair care products for freebee, even getting a Sisterlock's bag to carry them in. When I get a chance I'll post a photo of all the stuff we got as part of the class. Class is over and tomorrow morning I'll be up dawn, headed north to Sacramento. The time I spent here in San Diego learning all about Sisterlocks was time well spent.

Friday, March 04, 2011

San Juan Bautista

Mission San Juan Batista

The very nearly R&R visit to Monterey is over. Joann and I boogied out of the county and on our way north visited the Mission San Juan Batista. I've wanted to drag Joann there for ages, and as luck would have it, I didn't have to drag her at all, she was eager to enjoy the grand old mission. We started off viewing the museum and inner sanctum.

The Mission Church

Pretty little holy ghost dove, hoovering over a baptismal font

Baptism room

The side festoons of holly & flowers are all hand painted

A fountain setting for quiet contemplation

A spot to burn candles in remembrance

Next we took a leisurely stroll through the gardens. Being early March, the gardens are largely devoid of anything flowering, but the gardens are nice just the same. We were greeted early on in our walk by the holy mother.

Holy Mother loaded with offerings

Not to be left out, we also got a visit from Saint Francis of Assisi, my favorite saint, due to his bird watching skills and concern for animals.

Saint Francis - beautiful wood statue

After tour of the mission we rendezvoused with Joann’s son Phil in Stockton. Joann went off with Phil to visit her toddler granddaughter , oh yes, and her daughter –in-law Krista. Bright and very-nearly-early on Saturday I picked up Joann at Phil & Krista’s in Livermore. I got to meet baby McKayla who is quite the cutie. Then Joann & I were back to Fair Oaks. Joann flew back to San Diego Sunday morning and, as expected, I miss her already.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Monterey Bay Aquarium

I could not get out of the conference fast enough to suit myself. I was just not in the mood, so after a decision to skip the final luncheon, I whisked back to the room, grabbed Joann and we were off to and afternoon of fishies at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Now, it was about a year ago Joann had the unpleasant experience of breaking a pedal extremity (OUCH!). So, on entering the aquarium via the special guests like US area, the first thing we asked "Got a wheelchair we can rent?" The answer was Two words we are all fond of: "YES" and "FREE". Quick as a Golden Trout in sparkling waters, we were off touring the aquarium, no stress on any bruised or broken bits.

Joann posing in her special "That's right, I deserve pampering, wheel-me-around" Chair

We headed out to the 'back porch' of the aquarium, where the local wildlife show the tanked in wildlife how wildness is done all proper like. Of the back porch, you have a view of the ocean and way the heck out, so far off you had to use a telescope or Joann's fancy camera, were a party of Sea Otters, smashing up their abalone lunch balanced on their bellies.

Sea Otters, enjoying a Surf-no-Turf luncheon

Heerman's Gull, so tame it sat on my finger.

Inside the aquairum I couldn't wait to get to my favorite exhibit, a room that duplicates a sandy beach, complete with bits of ocean plants and many species of shore birds.

This Black-necked Stilt looks like a garden ornament

Sometimes I don't think to get photos of the most interesting stuff. For example, the shore bird exhibit's sand was strewn with hundreds of meal worms that the shore birds gobbled down like greedy little poof-balls.

This Snowy Plover knows how cute it is

Giant tank of the sort the aquarium is famous for

On the second floor of the aquarium, we found my new favorites, the Sea Dragons. I like them because they look like swimming seaweed.

Leafy Dragons

There was a second kind of Sea Dragon of a beautiful electric blue, that hadn't as many leaflets on it. It was a handsome little slip of a fishy called a 'Weedy Dragon'.

Weedy Dragon

One fish, Two Fish, we be Blue fish

Gangway, Dolphins, coming through!


Fishies you can thread a needle with.

Spot Prawn that's 'spot on' in the stripes department

Golden yellow kelp

After a while we treated ourselves to a nice lunch at the aquarium's restaurant. Then it was time to drive back to the Hyatt, by way of every back road and side street we could think of. I think there was one critter at the aquarium that was a little sorry to see us go.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Dining for Three

Couldn't wait for the day's end. I raced back to my Monterey room at the Hyatt, and soon Joann and I were flying along the coastline again, to meet up with my other best buddy Barbara.

Racing past the Scenery

Joann and I beat Barbara to the Fish Wife and immediately dived into starters - an excellent ceviche with loads of lemon for Joan and savory clam chowder for 'moi'. By the time Barbara arrived we were all up for drinks all around. Barbara had the house wine and Joann and I had our first ever 'Appletinis'. Oh YUM!
I've known Joann since I was 17 and Barbara since I was 21. They are both three years my junior. This was only the second time they've ever met, the pair being divided not by me, but by a HUMONGOUS expanse of California - about a ten hours drive worth.

Joann and Barbara

We stretched out our meals as long as we could, but then it was time to say goodbye. I wish we all lived closer to each other, but maybe that's for another life in another time. Meanwhile, Joann and I drove on a slighty sight-seeing drive that took us through the dark streets of downtown Monterey. A little side trip from there took us past Dennis the Menace Park where during the daytime kiddies climb all over a full sized steam locomotive.

Local Locomotive - for local kids to climb on

Soon we were back at the Hyatt, relaxin' and maxin' in comfort.