Monday, April 30, 2007

I bought myself peonies

From XAIPE, written by e e cummings in 1950, poem number 10:

or who and who)

The distance is
more much than all
of timely space
(was and be will)
from beautiful

obvious to

Mere but one small
most of a rose
will be goes was)
can travel this

or i and you

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Stebbins Cold Canyon

This past week (4/26) I went with my CA Floristics class to Stebbins Cold Canyon to look at the riparian vegetation along Putah Creek. It was incredibly hot (ironic) and I was in the throes of my horrible cold so the hike took a lot out of me. But we saw some awesome wildflowers!

Castilleja sp., Scrophulariaceae, soon to be Orobanchaceae

Chick Lupine, Lupinus microcarpus, Fabaceae

Stebbins is one of many Reserves owned by UC Davis for research and conservation purposes, and it is open to the public for hiking and other recreation. It was really gorgeous and we didn't even make it a full mile in two hours because we kept stopping to talk about and identify the plants!

I went on a plant collection trip for the same class today and I took many many pictures. A post will appear about it, as soon as I sort through the pictures.

Mather Field Vernal Pools

Butter-and-eggs (Triphysaria eriantha, Scrophulariaceae)

In the next few months you may see a theme popping up here at E.r.r.a.n.t. This is because I'm taking two classes this quarter on California vegetation, and there are a total of seven field trips scheduled! Most of them are one day trips, but there are two three-day trips as well. So I will be blogging a lot about California vegetation and California plants. I'll be posting about all of the field trips because I'm finally getting to see the state that I live in and I want to share it with you. And of course there's no better way for me to see it than through plants.

Miniature lupine (Lupinus bicolor, Fabaceae) and Frying pan poppy (Eschscholzia lobbii, Papaveraceae)

A few weeks ago (4/12) I went to Mather Field with my CA Floristics class to see the vernal pool vegetation. Vernal pools are formed on a hard pan soil that catches water during the winter rainy season and forms seasonal pools (vernal = springtime). Then the water slowly drains during the spring and the pool is bone dry and cracked during the summer dry season. The plants that live in vernal pools have to be able to exist in both flood and drought conditions, and have to deal with increasing salt concentration as the water evaporates and leaves salts behind. Different wildflowers grow in rings around the pool, according to each one's adaptations to the conditions. Very cool.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Mendocino - Days 2 and 3

Day 2 - Beach fore-dune and second terrace mixed coastal forest

On day two it began to rain as soon as we finished breakfast. Once we got to our first destination it was pouring, and it continued to pour for the rest of the day. My pictures from this day are a bit more scattered because I didn't want to destroy my camera. But we were troupers, we spent about an hour and a half out on the beach talking about the plants and their adaptations to the harsh coastal habitat.

I found out on this trip that my trusty leather hiking boots have reached the end of the road. The leather cracked around the toe area and proceeded to develop into a large hole. My previously water-proof boots were no longer water-proof and I found this out quite early in the day, unfortunately.

For morale reasons we skipped some of the things we were supposed to do on day two, and our next stop took us to the second terrace coastal forest. The Northern California coast is very cool because it has been sculpted by wave action and tectonic uplift over thousands of years into a series of stair steps. So the beach front/coastal scrub is the zero terrace and the grassland is on the 1st terrace. Above that it becomes different types of coastal forest with the pygmy forest usually on the 3rd, 4th, or 5th terrace.

All the rainjackets were so cheerful on this dreary grey day that I had to take a picture.

At night we had a huge pasta dinner and I laid all my clothes and my shoes in front of the fire. It took almost a full five hours for everything to dry out, but thank goodness it finally did or else day three would have been very unpleasant.

We had the privilege of hearing a talk by Taylor Lockwood, a renowned mushroom hunter. He's a friend of my professor, so he came and gave a slide show and talked to us about his latest mushroom hunting expeditions to Thailand, New Zealand, Michigan, and California, among other locations. His pictures were gorgeous and it was fun to learn a little about fungi. The following picture is courtesy of his website.

The next day we were spotting mushrooms everywhere we went (not that we could identify them); it's funny how a little education makes you see the world differently. In this case it was literal, we didn't see the mushrooms before the talk and we did afterwards!
I also learned how to play dominoes during the trip.

Day 3 - Pygmy forest and old growth redwood forest

So, I know that everyone is looking forward to the pictures of the pygmy forest, but I have something to admit. I forgot to bring my battery charger and my camera's batteries died as soon as we got there. I know, I was as pissed as you are. Perhaps when people share their pictures with me I will post some of them. This is the only crappy picture I have of the pygmy forest and it's really just the entrance to it, you can't even see the little trees.

But the good news is that the sun was out all day. Unfortunately the rain and cold the day before was enough to give me a nasty head cold that I have been struggling with all week. But it's nothing that a picture of glowing ferns won't fix.

Just so you're not completely disappointed, I found these photos online of pygmy forest and old growth redwood. I'll put the websites underneath so I don't get in trouble for copyright infringement or whatever.

Photo by Dr. Sharon Johnson

Our last stop of the day was Montgomery Woods State Reserve, an old growth coast redwood forest (meaning that it has never been logged). You have to hike about a mile to get to the heart of the forest, but once you do it's incredible. The only other redwoods I've seen were the giant redwoods in Mariposa Grove in Yosemite (a different species), and there were a few hundred other people enjoying them when I was there. This was totally different and if anyone has a chance to visit this area of the world, I would put this forest pretty high up on your list of things to see.

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Photo by David Baselt

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Mendocino - Day 1

I am home from the Mendocino coast, and it was Amazing with a capital A. I had a great time tramping through the woods/beach/forest with other plant geeks, including some who are very well known in their field. There are four professors for the course and their names are synonymous with CA vegetation out here, so the best part of the trip was picking their brains. There are lots of quality people in the class too, so I got no work done, though I brought all my books. There are lots of pictures, so I will try to edit myself as best I can.

Day 1: Mixed evergreen forest and the Mendocino Woodlands Campground

On the first day we all piled into six large white vans and drove up the coast. We made a stop on the way to look at an example of mixed evergreen forest.

Our professor told us that he usually stops at this one piece of property on the way up that has an absentee landlord and last year the landlord showed up and kicked them off the property! So I'm not sure of the legality of the stop we went to, but we did have to climb through some barbed wire to get there, which cracked me up.

We camped in the Mendocino Woodlands Campground which is actually a national historic landmark because it was built by the WPA and the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s and the original log and stone cabins have been well preserved (M and I saw some stone walls in the Wissahickon Valley Park that were also built by the WPA and CCC).

The campground is in a bottomlands second growth redwood forest, which basically means that it is wet and very shady. And once you're wet, you stay wet.

The campground is used as a summer camp and for private use, etc, so it has a centrally located mess hall with big fire places. On the first night we had an amazing dinner of salmon and hung out, getting to know each other and playing games.

Days 2 and 3 to come soon.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Chinatown, SF

I'm going on a three day camping field trip for my CA Plant Communities class this weekend, but I thought I'd share some cool photos from last weekend quickly before I leave. A friend from Philly was visiting her brother in SF and I met them for a fabulous Sunday outing to China town. We had a great time and I've decided that Sundays are the absolute best days to visit the city. No traffic, less people, but everything is still open. It's great.

We wandered around the supermarkets a lot and found artichokes (regular sized) for 3/$1! We couldn't believe our luck and immediately bought them and had two each for a pre-dinner snack. Mmmm, indulgent.

It's always fascinating to see all the dried seafood just hanging out in huge tupperwares. We saw a lot of shark fins which was particularly upsetting after reading the April issue of National Geographic all about the demise of the world's fisheries and the lack of sustainability of most modern fishing practices. Sharks are often caught for their fins and then thrown back into the ocean to bleed to death or be eaten alive. Shudder.

Check out the prices on these dried scallops (and the shark fins above)! They're just hanging out in the open for anyone to steal. I wonder what it would feel like to swipe a pocket full of hundred dollar scallops.

We had lunch at this amazing vegetarian restaurant called Lucky Creation. Apparently it's one of the only veggie restaurants in Chinatown, which is odd. But we had the best fake lemon chicken I have ever eaten. And look at the little carrot stars and flowers in the curry stir fry! Ack!

Well, I'm off to the Mendocino coast to see some redwoods and evergreen forests and the Mendocino pygmy forest. Maybe I'm a huge plant nerd, but I've been wanting to see a pygmy forest for a while now (they have them in the Pine Barrens in NJ and I've never been, I didn't even know about them until recently). So be prepared for many pictures of hundred year old trees that come up to my chin. Yessssss.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Bread and Veggies (and a puppy)

In light of the Virginia Tech killings, I feel superfluous posting about anything right now. But until I can think of anything else to do, my life must go on (which means that I should probably stop obsessively listening to news coverage on the radio).

Here is the latest CSA box:

A lot of it went into a huge free-for-all soup that I froze and have been enjoying for a few weeks now. I've discovered that this is the best way to use the contents of the box, mostly because I've run out of other ways to use the leeks and carrots. I can only make leek omelets so many times before feeling sick to my stomach. The soup calms the taste of the leeks and they add a lot to the flavor when mixed with a lot of other veggies.

The asparagus was sauteed in butter and eaten with buckwheat, which I cooked the crap out of by mistake. A lesson for the future; 2 parts water to 1 part buckwheat is too much water. I also made some recycled grain bread with my sourdough starter!

You can see the left-over rice sticking out of the dough. I used mostly wheat flour and some white and oat, along with the sourdough starter and the brown rice.

Unfortunately, I have no patience and I didn't let the loaves rise enough before cooking them. I've also realized that I need to use more flour because my hands are always sticky and covered with dough after I knead the bread. I'm pretty sure that is not what is supposed to happen at that stage in the bread-making.

I should also score the loaves on top because they busted out the side when they baked. Whoops. Whatever, it was a learning experience. I used a massive serrated knife to cut the slices and I swear I was sore the next day. They were like little bricks (this is how I know I need to let them rise longer).

But the bread is quite tasty with some butter and jelly (okay, a LOT of butter and jelly). I'm also dipping it in my soup. Mmmmm, homemade makes me happy.

I feel I have been lax in my puppy picture duties, so here are a few cute ones of Marshall. He's getting to look like a big boy now, but he still has that baby chub around the feet, so cute. He really likes the tennis balls that my mom sent home with me. He has the typical dog response when you throw two of them, "Which one do I chew? This one? That one? Can I chew both and the same time?"

And finally (sorry for the loooong post), I bought a bunch of line and some clothes pins at the hardware store so I can put up a clothesline in the backyard! Just one more way to save energy (especially in my house where it takes the dryer two hours to dry your clothes. No more of that for me). Karen just posted some very pretty pics from her own clothesline and I will probably copy her during the next laundry day. For now though I've had to make do with the curtain hangers as a make shift underwear line. I like the effect.