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Friday, April 29, 2011

The Shackles Drop, the Real Works Begin

Waking early this morning my first thought was, "I retired yesterday?"

My answer to myself was "Yes."

Yesterday I left nearly 30 years of State service with as little fuss and fanfare as possible and I find myself FREE!

So, naturally no sooner had I fled downtown Sacramento, then felt the need to celebrate with a bit of nature. Went to Pioneer Park to see what the vernal pools are up to.

Pink Checkerblooms spill through the vernal pools

A cheery Yellow Brick Road of tiny yellow Goldfields

A shame you can't make out the Valley Tassels or purple Vetch

White Hyacinth are scattered around the meadows

Not quite as splashy as 2 years ago but I must say it's a pretty good show at any rate. Now! I'm up. I have my coffee, and I see what a crap state my house & yard are in after weeks of neglect. I think I know what my first retirement project is. Now. Where is the vacuum cleaner? Probably under that pile of junk I brought home from the office. Wills & Kate, you think YOU'RE having a big day? Think again!

[Right. Management throws in the towel on that one.]

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Grand Afternoon for Ushering

Been quite a while since I ushered so I was tickled to be called in for the tiny Cosmopolitan Cabaret in downtown Sacramento for a matinee performance. The show was A Grand Night for Singing, an homage to the songs of Rogers and Hammerstein. Think of The King and I, Cinderella, South Pacific, The Sound of Music and other such classic musicals.

The Music Circus uses dozens of ushers per performance, but the Cosmo Caberet is so v. teeny, I was 50% of today's ushers. We seated the audience is mostly at small tables that each seat four. The rest of the audience was in rows and all guests could order and drinks and appetizers to enjoy during the show. Fairly big city venue for a little tomato town that aspires on in the vein hope of becoming a 'world class city'.

So the ushering was a breeze and I enjoyed hearing the familiar tunes. It was fun to find out how the various unrelated tunes were tied together with very-nearly-a-plot. That kept the five cast members from belting out songs every few minutes for no apparent reason. Nice job; terrific voices and oh yes, very nice work by Messers R & H.

Oh! And the song I found myself humming into the late hours of the day? From Cinderella! I mean really, Cinderella beat out South Pacific and Oklahoma. Not bad for a babe in rags. Hope this is only my first ushering gig for the year, and not the last.

Free and Fun for Very Nearly All

Tiny post here. It rained last night and this morning I 'released the girls'. No, not those girls, I mean my hens. Leisurely I followed my hens around the yard. I was absolutely amazed how many worms they sucked up in just a couple of minutes. When I say sucked up, I mean that literally. The worms hang out with their heads (butts?) poked out of their tunnel systems to escape their wet basements beneath the soil. My girls spot the worms easily - they are a tad closer to the ground after all - then pull the worms up and suck 'em down.

Sometimes two hens spot one worm and it's a free for all. One grabs the worm and pulls it out of the ground so fast the worm's tail end whips up out the ground. But hen #2 grabs the flying tail end and for one sweet second it's two hens with one worm between them. Yes, poor worm! Then it's a matter of playing chicken - whichever hen loses her grip first loses the worm. All that takes only seconds, someone usually has only a lose grip on the slippery worm, but sometimes that's the hen that pulled the worm up in the first place. But when the hen that actually found the worm loses it, there are no hard feelings. OK, sometimes there is a noisy indignant cluck or two, but hey there are plenty of worms for all so the hunt continues.

Now rainy mornings are a pleasure because I get to go on a worm hunt with my girls. OK, not as charming as an Easter Egg Hunt, I know, but still just as fun. Huh? What do you mean "you don't think so"?

Hunt for Worms, Hunt for Easter Eggs...
Which is more fun? A mystery for the ages, eh?

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Bear Valley Trek

I know, I know. You're tired getting a bit tired of my annual tirade over wildflowers, right?

Well, tough Tidy Tips!

Tidy Tips

Wildflowers are damned near as exciting as birds, so to make up for it, they DO NOT fly away as you approach them. Isn't that amazing? Heck, I think it is. Anyway, early this morning I sat in my car, in the driveway, so excited about hitting the wildflowers, I couldn't sit still in my own house. I think it's 'cause flower pollen is sort of a derivative of hallucinogens. Anyway, my friends, the pair of Terrys made it over and soon we were OFF. No, not that kind of off, I mean we were on our way to beautiful (cause I say so) Bear Valley.

As very nearly hinted at above, the first flowers we saw was an old cattle coral full of tidy tips. On a distant little hill you can see the flowers are sort of orangy-yellow; those are Goldfields sort of a tiny daisy.

The first wildflower patch

The drive around Bear Valley is interesting. The first few miles run along a little creek that I imagine is dry most of the year. Right now it's lined with flowering shrubs that aspire to be Japanese Cherry Trees.

A few miles in we spotted Common Merganser, which are sort of ducks with teeth. No, really, that's a great description; toothy ducks. If you click on the photo below you'll just be able to make out the green headed drake and his red-headed sweetie.

Common Mergansers

After you leave the creek the drive goes up hill where you hit some huge pastures, sprinkled with loads of wildflowers: butter and eggs (Johnny Tuck) an adorable parasite and a nice spattering of blue Larkspur.

Terry checking out the pale yellow Butter and Eggs

Sprinkling of Goldmeadows, and the odd violet or larkspur

Just for the fun of it, Mom Nature stuck a few little yellow Violets, so cute, they have loads of different names: Johnny-jump-up, Yellow Violet, Yellow Pansy, Wild Pansy and the best name of all, California Golden Violet. Don't you wish I'd spent a little time taking a better photo of it? Yes, me too.

California Golden Violet

Independent Larkspurs dotted the Pastures

Then we drove along a long stretch of road, with me driving on the wrong side of the road, not to piss off other sightseers of which there were only a few anyway - but because I was looking for the Adobe Lilies, a rare early season wildflower. Unfortunately those lovelies finished up and dropped out of the picture a couple of weeks ago. They may not fly, but you still have to sneak up on some flowers pretty early in the season if you hope to see them.

Ahead of us we could see the largest stretch of valley - and TADA! There were were flower patches down there - I'd been worried we were arriving too early - or too late to see any flower spreads.

You can see white patches of flowers
on the right in the valley ahead

The Terrys and a field of dreams... er... Cream Cups

The valley flats are the bits that thrill me the most. There's something about seeing flowers drifting out onto the distance - hypnotically beautiful.

I like to imagine there are no fences, or houses, just wildflowers

Some year I will have to take wildflower photography seriously and take some time in capturing their beauty. Just now I'm still like a silly child, racing from one patch of blooms to the next, barely taking the time to focus or even aim my camera. Some day I'll calm down a bit and take my time. Some day I'll get nice photos with no sun bleached blooms and no fuzzy edges. Some day I'll then turn around the camera and photograph the pigs flying by.

Click here and hunt down Cream Cups,
Owl's Clover and Bird's Eye Gilia

Surprisingly, there were few California Poppies

We were, I think, too early for large orange spreads of California Poppies. There were wet bits of land that sprouted yellow buttercups that grew in what looked like dark green rushes. Oh, and there were cattle - fat happy cattle and tiny calves, free to graze and lick up those tasty Cream Cups. I envied the cows!

The Gateway to the Bear Valley Ranch

We stopped for a fantastic lunch, which was BBQ'd for our picnic lunch by Terry (not Terry, the other one). Yes, I get confused too. We had tri-tip steak on cibata bread - yummy.

After our lovely lunch we left the flats, headed into the hills, curling eastward again. The hills passed are very rocky and are great fodder for the imagination.

Doggy Head Mountain

Once you're headed up hill, there are a whole new variety of wildflowers to peek at. Ok, some are a repeat - we found loads of Larkspur hugging the hillsides.

Larkspur hug the hills

We found a little patch of chia, yes, chi-chi-chi-chia! A species related to the chia pets. I have grown a re-seeding patch of this species in my yard, because I love that it was a food species for the Valley Indians. The chia seed when wet forms sort of a gelatin coating that is rich in protein, and is kind of crunchy. I haven't harvested mine for food yet, but I get a kick out of it popping up all on it's own annually.

Wild Indian food: purple flowering Chia

Also lining the hillsides were bush Lupines. There were also teeny little mini-lupines that weren't more than 3 inches tall, and yellow lupines that looked like tallow candles and were half way in size between the bush and mini-lupines.

A bush Lupine framed against the sky

Bright Orange Wallflowers also stood as tall as candlesticks, and they seemed to exclusively like slopes.


I think our Bear Valley drive through, once we got there, took maybe three hours. Aside from the showy spreads of Cream Cups, Bird's Eye Gillia and Purple Owl's Clover, there were tiny and sometimes weird flowers to enjoy too. Here's a weird one - Purple Sanicle, so strange, it hardly looks like a flower at all. Odd yes, but as worthy of a day's driving as any of the other wildflowers we saw at Bear Valley. All in all, it was a nice day for enjoying Mother Nature and, come to that, my friends the Terrys!

The Bizarre little Purple Sanicle

Friday, April 08, 2011

Soaring with the Turkeys

Move along, nothing to see here! That's right, move it along. You there, you raised an eyebrow. Want to see something sort of cute? Here.

Those turkeys were gobbling along with me right up until I started filming. Rather humiliating to be made into a turkey by a flock of the buggers. Oh well! Turkeys crack me up every time; amusing bird - beautiful and hideous all at the same time. Isn't that the definition of some kinds of cute?

I saw this little flock of Tom Turkeys at the River Bend Park of the American River Parkway. I just wanted to stare at a few birds and maybe see a deer or two. I haven't been to River Bend in ages, but was not surprised that my favorite part of the park is cut off from the public - that is unless you're up to hiking through the woods. I'm up to that, but wasn't up to picking ticks off myself - a bit early in the season for that yet.

You're as interesting to stare at as they are

These photos and video were recorded on my iPhone - my camera when I don't have a good camera on me.

Grazing on Through

And now for a little Turkey Trot. Not a clue what that big Tom was up to.