Friday, August 2, 2019

Summer Photos in the Blues and Their Close Proximity

  My latest summer electricity bill only $16 or so.  The canyon is so much cooler than town, that I even wear long sleeves inside most of the day without having to use the air conditioner.  The early cool mornings and the breeze in the canyon encourages me to get out.  A new hiking partner and his dog, Stella, get Lizzie, my dog, to get off the couch and wander off leash.  It has been a good summer for all of us to add muscle and breath fresh air.

  My computer goes to the shop today, so I thought that I would at least post a few of my favorite summer photos.  Enjoy!

Wheat ready to harvest on the ridge into the canyon.
South Fork of the Walla Walla River Trail from the top.  The quanity of hanging moss is impressive.

Stella fetching sticks in the pond near Deduct Springs

Lizzie cooling her belly in a stream.

A split-trunk Ponderosa pine in the late afternoon sun.

The south end of Indian Ridge Trail.

The essense of a cabin for a mouse!  Found on a trail.  

Red-tailed honeybee on a green cone flower.

And the neighborhood cherry picker! A cinnamon bear with a little notch out of his ear.
  Hope your summer has been equally delightful and includes bears, bees, and sky.


Sunday, June 23, 2019

Adding to a Life List of Wildflowers in the Blue Mountains

Searching for wildflowers is like looking for interesting new acquaintances.  You leave your house and head towards likely locations.  Because you have expectations and done some research, you arrive and begin surveying the landscape.  If you are fortunate, you are accompanied by trustworthy friends or guides.  When you see a new flower or meet a new person, you work at remembering their name.

The Blue Mountain Chapter of Audubon schedules an annual wildflower field trip to the Blue Mountains with Jeff and Cheryl Fredson as guides.  Cheryl has written a wildflower guide for the area (unfortunately out of print) and Jeff is an equally well-versed partner.  This year, Mike Denny joined us bringing his extensive knowledge of plants, bugs, and the Umatilla Forest.  As with most years, the company included old and new friends.

The Brown's peony or western peony (paeonia brownii) was this year's stunning "life of the party".  On Summit Road past Tollgate off Highway 204, this peony blossomed in a small cluster just south of the pond at the trailhead for Nine Miles.  The peony is named after the Scottish botanist and explorer, Robert Brown.  It is one of only two native species in the United States.  I have added it to my life list of wildflowers.  I doubt that I will forget its name or appearance.       

The flower's blossom hangs downward showing only it's brownish backside.  Taking photos demands creative angles or the hand of a friend to hold the flower's face skyward.

The pond by the peonies reflected thunderheads and blue skies.  The day was lovely for scouting.

A campground stretches into the woods beyond the pond.  Walking even a short distance into the dark evergreen forest, a dozen or so different flowers bloomed in the shade.  Although I have seen this white flower before,  I am determined to remember its name this year.  It is a woodland star (Lithophragma pariflorum).  They are small, but striking.  They are one of our native species.  

Nearby at the edge of the forest was a common camas flower (cammassia quamash).  These distinctive purple and yellow flowers were in abundance at almost every stop on the trip.  The camas plant was a coveted as a food source by the North American indigeneous populations.  It is not a new flower to me, but one that I always hope to see. (I wish I had a house with a front door in one of the shades of camas purple.  Pizza delivery folks could always find me then!)  

Two years ago, I learned the name of old man whiskers (geum triflora), but this year I added a new species called sugarbowl (Clematis hirsutissima); it has a similar wild-hair appearance.  Three sugarbowl specimans found on a roadside bank are pictured below in the seed stage.  In the next photo down are a few old man whiskers blossoming in their flower stage.

The third old man whiskers flower from the left below is just beginning its transition to the whisker-like appearance similar to that of a sugarbowl.  

We found one flower in a new color.  Giant-head clover (trifolium macrocephalum) are ordinarily tinged with deep shades of pink, but here Mike Denny noticed a white variation.  The ant gives some perspective on the clover's size.

Two pink giant-head clovers located near the white one are starting to dry to an orange.

Dry, but still striking.

We stopped for lunch on an overlook near a trailhead to a forest lookout tower.  While we sat watching for bluebirds and butterflies, we examined dryland flowers around us.

Our two last stops were at Bald Mountain and Target Meadow Campground on the turnout towards Jubilee Lake.  The boggy meadow at the campground was the site where we found slender bog orchids (platanthera stricta).  This one had been broken at the stem and hung in a curl.  So many of the plants in the area were predominately green; this one might have been overlooked.     

I'll end this post with a flower found on Bald Mountain.  This is a creamy buckwheat (Eriogonum heracleoides) in both the budding and pod stages.  It made a striking picture.    

As always, my list contains species whose names I did not catch.  The green flower below, I'll leave for another year.  I was too distracted by the bee to inquire as to its name.  Next year...

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Naming My Dandelions

                                                               Lady Queen Ellie

 "Christopher throws dandelion head after dandelion head into his bag.  It's getting heavy now and his fingers are stained from the work but there are still so many left to kill.  His biggest mistake was giving them names."  Quote from Brian Martinez's novel Kissing You Is Like Trying to Punch a Ghost

  I tossed my own share of dandelions into a bag this spring.  The usual crowd of common weeds reappeared on the slope leading up to where I garden in a couple of barrels that sit on the hillside in back of my cabin.  The soil on the rise is so hard and rocky that I never dig up all the dandelions' root systems.  Invigorated from their winter rest, the plants re-emerge from their old root stock, healthy and tall. 

  I don't name individual heads.  Or I haven't until now. 

  Lady Queen Ellie, pictured above, was down the road sunning in the late afternoon last week. Below the ruff at her neck, her body was cinched long and tight above the flounces of her leafy skirt.  She held her head as if careful of her coiffure, enjoying the interlude before her company arrived. The breeze coming through the pines was expected by nightfall.

  I haven't much noticed individual dandelion heads.  As author Doug Larson so aptly puts it: "A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows."  Dandelions arrive as a swath of yellow, a crowd heralding spring, bees, and weeding.

  But this year after most of my weeding was done, I noticed something that I hadn't particularly seen before.  After a light rain, a few of the dandelion heads down the road were just opening their feathery flight mechanisms.  The thin white shapes and fans were dotted with tiny drops of rain.  At first I thought that the specimans were a rare form of dandelions with their narrow white segments, but now I know that I had caught them in their transition stage from a bunched white bouquet to a spray of airy fans.

                                                             This is Miss Lilly White.

      And this is Captain Reginald Poof, floating in a puddle, beckoning a brown bug to come aboard.

         I am worried about next year.  What if every dandelion I kill, I feel compelled to name?

                                                                    Starship Hurtle

                                                                The Gang of Go Lightly
  Or, worse yet, what if I must name every seed:  Lazy, Twinkle, Twinleys, Pop, and Helicopter.  I would then have to name the obsession.  How about dandeonomamania (mania for naming dandelions)?  Ono.  That's a nice name, isn't it?

Friday, April 26, 2019

Burningword Literary Journal - Winter Photos

  The literary journal Burningword published two of my winter photos in April's edition.  They did a fabulous job of layout and the quality of the images is quite good.  If you are so inclined and want a copy, you can attain one here:  Collection Burningword Literary Journal / MagCloud  A thanks to the publication for their good work.

  This was the winter to take photos of barns or grain sheds against the backdrop of snow.  I took three other pictures besides the one of the barn in the Burningword Literary Journal. 

   My favorite one of those photos is this grain shed – partly because it makes me think of an uncle with bushy side whiskers and a quizzical, cocked head.

   In the photo below, I like the snowfall against the wood and the detail of the bush's branches..

   I loved this last structure partly for the varied colors of wood and partly for the feeling of it leaning intentionally against the whiteness.

  I'm already looking forward to next winter's photos.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Rocks and Fossils

I recall a moving company questioning whether I really wanted them to load a garbage can full of rocks into the truck for a move across country.  I said, "Yes, of course."  Since then, I have been more cautious in collecting rocks.  This last week, I was tempted again.

Richardson's Rock Ranch in central Oregon allows guests to dig for geodes past where the cattle graze.  A friend and I hoped to go find of the few small geodes, but the spring thaw had flooded the roads to the site.  Instead, the two of us wandered the aisles of the rock store and when the rain let up, walked through the piles of rocks in the front yard. (First photo above.)  Few of rocks were from Oregon.
Decidous leaf fossil found at Fossil, Oregon's digging site. 
The previous day, Adele and I had met in Fossil, Oregon and spent an idyllic couple of hours chipping away with out rock hammers looking for leaf fossils for Adele's classroom.  The dig site is located next to the town's high school football field.  For five dollars per person, one can search for two handfuls of fossils.  When we arrived, the principal of the high school was helping a family from Japan.  He found a fossil for them and then left to return to his administrative duties.  The fees collected for fossil hunting benefit the school's art program and other needs.

I tried to keep my collection to mostly artistic snapshots.  The rocks in these three photos are all tiny. The new grass and shadow of dried flower heads give them scale.

If you live anywhere within a day's drive to the Fossil area, I encourage you to take a trip there.  The  John Day Fossil Beds National Park comprises three separate parks.  Adele and I visited the Painted Hills area. 

We stayed on the designated trails, unlike some thoughtless soul with their thick-soled shoes.

Adele and I left only our fleeting shadows.

Adele Bining gets the photo credit.
Back home, I emptied my pocket of the rocks collected.  I had given Adele the ones with good leaf prints, so this was what remained.  Not enough to fill even a Coke can.  But I can't wait to return for another round of rock collecting.  Besides, the burger in Fossil was good, the Coke in an iced mug in Mitchell was perfect, and the chili in a Maupin bar was delicious.  Small towns rock.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

"Add Water." – The Light-hearted Element of Parenting

  Many years ago my husband was trying to solve a computer problem at work and arrived at a screen that said, “Add water.”  Obviously, someone had programmed a measure of levity in an otherwise frustratingly-technical endeavor.  When something seems insurmountable to me now, I sometimes think of  the advice, “Add water.”   

  The hazards of parenting are a point in case.  The New York Times published an article this week about “snowshovel” parenting.  The article and the comments described children and teenagers who were raised without facing much risk, failure, or challenges. Their parents shoveled aside all difficulties.  Examples included parents doing a child’s homework, serving only food that their child would eat (all food without sauces), and sending their kid off to college or life without the basic skills of cooking or doing laundry.  They would have served their child better by “Adding water.”

  I think of this parenting element on two levels.  One is literal.  My young daughter got to help water plants with hoses or buckets.  She had her own capped pitcher located in the refrigerator door, so as a three-year old she could get a glass of water and pour it herself.  My grandson is being raised in the same manner.  At age six he asked me to measure two cups of water yesterday and he poured them into a pan to make his noodles.  Earlier he helped shovel snow off a gravel pile and pushed a wheelbarrow through slush to fill potholes in my road.  Water is fascinating to children in all its forms and provides early opportunities to foster independence and a good work ethic.  The little boy playing in a fountain in the photo above was at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.  He experimented over and over with stopping the spiggot of water.  His attention was long and focused.  His pants were soaking wet.  He and his parents were unconcerned.  When he was done playing, they dried him with a towel and changed his pants.  Water is an excellent teaching prop.    

  The second reason to “add water” to one’s parenting skills is that of attitude, of using humor.  Parenting is difficult.  It is like playing a game of chess and trying to think ahead for hazards two or three moves in the future.  Indulge a child once and they might expect the same treatment constantly.  (But you allowed me to play video games all afternoon only yesterday.)  A child or teenager whining, dithering, or procrastinating can frustrate any parent.  The trick is sometimes to “Add water.”            

  The great chess player succeeds partly by playing often and partly by studying.  Parenting certainly gives one the frequency of practice and the initiative to find solutions.  But sometimes, you need the levity of “Add water.”  I am not thinking of the darker kinds of humor – sarcasm or put-downs.  Kids just need the gift of humor.  A light joke to allow them the grace to return to their work or do what you are asking with a better attitude.  Or you, as the adult, needs humor to prevent yourself from taking on the feelings of your child.  They get to experience the disappointment of their own mistakes and learn to make adjustments.  You can certainly commiserate, but they get the opportunity to practice self-calming and acquire the determination to begin again after feeling discouraged.

  “Add water.”  Good light-hearted parenting advice.          

Sunday, February 17, 2019

A Cartoon Winter

I grew up with comic books.  The proper position for reading them was to lay on one’s stomach head-to-head with a friend.  The storylines might have been simplistic, but they were rife with humor appreciated by children and teenagers.  We came to know the facial expressions of our favorite characters and absorbed the lessons of life through the thoughts of dogs, the adventures of ducks, the antics of teens, and the heroics of heroes. 

If any kid wished to emulate the comic book artists, there were books showing one how to draw in the style with either pencil or ink.  Although I was attracted to those how-to drawing books, I never seemed to have the patience to complete many pictures.  The detail of the tree in the photo above would have been much too trying for me.

Hence, my delight upon noticing an editing option in my newest phone for turning photos into a cartoon format. 

I’ve not found much of a humorous nature in the winter landscape.  One of my better offers is the above scene that I shall title “Winter Classroom.”  In the last many years, outdoor schools for children have started up in the most unlikely of climates.  Rainy Seattle hosts a number of them.  In my neighborhood, children would get to sit in a soft but wet seat and write in snow.  Silly, right?

The humor in this photo of an icicle and its drip is how many snapshots I took before catching the perfect drip.  My dog was by my side and kept insisting that we were done and ready to go inside.  I said to her, “This is the last batch.”  Then I would laugh and say, “One more batch.”  Laugh.  “And, one more batch.” 

I do love this new phone option.  The photos are beautiful.  This one is of the lane outside of my house.

I might just have managed to draw this last photo.  The cat of the yellow paws on the top of the print is Chives.  The humor is that not once in her nineteen years did she ever successfully catch a bird.  She is exactly like Charlie Brown – never getting the red-haired girl.