Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Two more from Friday the 13th

 I'm burning the midnight oil again, several hours before midnight.  But, I had to keep striving for my one-a-day goal.  The above pink radish and the below Filaree were found on my Friday, February 13th trip to Chico.  Tomorrow, I hope to start posting photos from the recent Friday the 27th trip to the same places and say a little more about the incredible hail storm we experienced in the vicinity of the Cherokee turnoff. 
Consider checking out Plumas County's Bloom Blog.  The slide show on the opening page begins with my photo of a bee hovering by a Lupine taken on Table Mountain.  One of my favorite photos, and it was nice to see it posted again to launch a new season of the Bloom Blog.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Friday the 13th. Twice?!!!

 A little over two weeks ago, on Friday the 13th, I drove to Chico to do some errands.  Silly to drive that far for the particular errands on the agenda.  An ulterior motive was to get a sneak preview of the spring wildflower show.  One might tend to dismiss the roadside weeds while driving 70+ miles per hour while wearing headphones or using a chatting on a mobile phone. That's why I don't do those things.  Driving with the windows open, taking in the sounds and fragrances, I get excited about stopping to get a close-up look at the wild radishes.  Even if you're not familiar with technical terms like spike, raceme, and panicle, it only takes a few minutes to notice things about the radishes like the fact that the flower bloom from the bottom up.  Note that on the left side of the photo (of the above radish) the flowers have "gone to seed."  Fresh blooms are in the middle, and flower buds are at the top. 
Within a few yards of each other I found white, yellow, and pink varieties of wild radish.  Note the four petals may be seen as a cross.  Thus, the old nae for the family was Cruciferae.  Prodice people and nutritionists still speak of the Cruciferous vegetables - broccoli, mustard, radish, cauliflower, etc. - there are many.  For interesting technical reasons the family is now called Brassicaceae.  Perhaps more about that sort of thing in  later post.  And, as followers of this blog know, I always jump at the opportunity to photograph a flower being visited by a bug or bird.
Adventurous amateurs, suspecting that these are radishes, might pull one up by the roots and take a whiff, or even a little taste.  Definitely radishes.
On that same drive, I took a 100-yard side trip on the Cherokee Road (to Table Mountain) to see if the Shooting Star were blooming in one of my favorite spots.  They were!  To be continued tomorrow with a few more photos and stories.  Then, onward to my more recent Chico trip on Friday the 27th.  Lots of changes in the two weeks that passed.  Then we move on to thoughts about the forthcoming Friday the 13th in March.  For now, I need to do some more school work.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Will March roar in like a lion?

 We coould use a bit of a roar.  It's been another very dry winter.  Last Friday I went down to Chico and enjoyed a warm, sunny day, and saw several species of spring wildflowers, a hint of what's come come up here in Quincy in another few weeks.  The Purple Nightshade (above) and Indian Paintbrush (below) were blooming on the grade just west of the Pulga bridges.  I actually stopped to photograph the Redbud, but as I wandered around a bit I found several other species blooming.  It was exciting, but I couldn't stay long.  We had errands calling in Chico.
 The real excitement began on the way home.  Around 5:30, just before sunset, we were approaching the Cherokee turnoff when the sky darkened and we were suddenly in the midst of the most intense hail storm I've ever experienced.  That's saying something since I lived for a year in the middle of USA's best hail storm locale, the northeastern corner of Colorado.  My son got this photo (below) of the storm through the side window of the car as I was trying to see the road ahead through huge gobs of 1/2 - 3/4" hail stones.  One tends to exaggerate such things, so after we emerged from the intense hail, we turned around and drove back through it.  This time, we stopped at the side of the road and picked up a few handfuls of the hail.  The individual stones were definitely 1/2 - 3/4" in diameter!
I got a photo of my son holding a handful of the white stuff.  It was soft, so I guess my windshield was never in danger of being smashed.  But for around 10 minutes we wondered. 
I've managed to start the month of March with this thrown-together post, but I have taken a few dozen photos over the past two weeks that I hope to post soon and maybe get back to my one-a-day goal.  Two weeks ago on a trip to Chico we got some good wildflower photos and saw some interesting things we couldn't photograph.  Also nearly ran out of gas in the canyon when CalTrans came to our rescue.  More details later.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Harbinger of Spring?

 It's now mid-winter, right?  What was this Sharp-tailed Snake, Contia tenuis, doing crawling along the pavement outside my office at FRC?  I rescued it from foot traffic, leaf blowers, and people who think the only good snake is a dead snake.  I'm sure there are some of those people around.  Before I released it to a safe hiding place, hoping it would stay there, I hailed a student office assistant, who is generally nervous around snakes, to photograph it for me.  Thank you Rebecca!
Here's the scene of the discovery.  By the way, this is an adult snake!  They average around 12" long as adults, and rarely reach 18".  This one appeared to be around 11" when stretched out straight.  It was still rather cold because it moved very slowly and didn't try to poke me with its sharp tail.
This happy interlude in my office work has got me fired up about resurrecting my blogging activity.  Still overdue are flower photos I got on last week's drive to Chico.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

It's not over 'til it's over

The power was restored in Quincy around 4:00 this afternoon after 30+ hours of chaos.  The college shut down early on Friday, and people started buying beer, chips, and batteries.  I bought toilet paper and cold cereal.  Should have bought gasoline, but didn't anticipate the stations having to close.
Witnessed extremes of human behavior last night and today.  On the plus, I greatly enjoyed listening to my son Greg Willis and his friend Johnny Walker play blues by candlelight at the Drunk Brush Friday night.  Kudos to all concerned for holding this event even though the power was out and all other businesses were closed and events were cancelled.  Had a similar feel to the movie Titanic. Lots of efforts to keep spirits high despite reports that we might be without power for days.
During a break in the rain at mid-day today, I drove around to inspect conditions and spotted this great rainbow from Quincy Junction Road.  The forecast calls for certain rain tomorrow and likely rain on Monday.  Hopefully, it won't be accompanied by horrific winds.  If I have internet service tomorrow, there will be more photos to post and more stories, including the one I announced in my previous post. I'll call it "Beware of Knowledge."

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A Little Knowledge....

 Several winters ago, when we had some very heavy snow around this time of year, my neighbor's snow blower flung quite a bit of the white stuff onto my birch trees.  The one pictured above was bent down onto our garage roof.  When the snow melted off, the tree recovered only slightly, and we didn't bother to figure out how to straighten it up. During the next couple of years, I noticed something reminiscent of high school biology labs. A few new branches bent and started growing straight up - the new straight up, which would be parallel to the trunks of the tall firs and pines in the background.  This response in opposition to gravity is called negative geotropism.  (And spell check doesn't recognize that word! Pathetic!)  Tap roots exhibit positive geotropism.  By standing erect, we are practicing negative geotropism.  I suppose one could say that falling down is an example of positive geotropism.  Until now, I never thought of anything positive about falling down.

At the time of the heavy snow we had three birch trees.  One of them has since bit the dust and only a 3-foot stump remains.  I featured that one here a few days ago because of the great growth of Turkey Tail Fungus now decorating it. 
 This closer view shows how our tilted birch has become a kind of clinometer.  (Another word that spell check doesn't recognize!)  In the years since the original upward thrust of the new branches, the root system of the tree has started to give way and the main trunk has sunk another few degrees.  Note that the branch with the sharp angle has tilted a few degrees off vertical.  The older branches to the lower left have only begun to curve upward at their tips.  The new branch probably "thinks" it's a new tree.
So, while it's enjoyable to me to share a little bit of knowledge about plant behavior, in the spirit of the late Richard Feynman's The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, I am doing so in a climate of anti-science and anti-knowledge, two terms for the same thing.  For more on this topic, check out my next post, probably tomorrow afternoon.  I have to take a break to correct some student papers.  The next post will be titled "Beware of Knowledge!"

Sunday, February 1, 2015

I'll Drink to That!

I'll go out on a limb and forecast a cloudy day for Quincy tomorrow.  I got this idea from the U. S. Weather Service, which I understand has around a 50% batting average, similar to the old Farmer's Almanac.  The closest thing to a groundhog around here is the Yellow Bellied Marmot, but they are mostly hibernating at high altitudes, and I don't know anyone who's planning to go up Mt. Hough and drag one out of its den.  Besides, whatever the Groundhog in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, sees is probably irrelevant around Quincy.  On a more serious note, I have enjoyed not having the hassle of fighting icy roads and frozen car door locks, but I'm actually hoping for snow or rain - lots of it.  The continuing drought is causing the people with political power to consider scary fixes, many of which will make matters worse in the long run. Let's all do rain dances.  Can't hurt.  Happy Groundhog Day.