Sunday, January 31, 2016


A few mornings ago while sitting looking South
two Anna's hummingbirds appeared to
be dancing to catch the other's attention.
AND then they mated, an events I had not
previous been witnessed. WOW "it knocked my socks off."
The native Manzanita here at MuRefuge
are in full bloom providing nectar for the year
round resident Anna's hummingbirds.

The cyclical turning of the seasons continues with Imboc, or as most of us think of this season, Spring, arriving on Monday, February 1. “The Wheel of the Year is a series of eight holidays, or sabbats, practiced in Celtic and Wiccan spirituality. The sabbats are the solstices and equinoxes plus the four holidays at cross quarters with those solar based dates. There is a sabbat every six to six and a half weeks. They mark the seasons - the journey of the earth around the sun. When you live each day attuned to these rhythms, your life is grounded in the earth and its place in the cosmos.” explains Clea Danaan in her Living Earth Devotional: 365 Green Practices for Sacred ConnectionI find recognizing and honoring this turning fosters my connection not only with the web of life here at MuRefuge but to what the Enneagram calls “higher self” where my “personality” rather falls away and boundaries disappear. 

I love this particular turning of the seasonal cycle, Imboc or Spring. Green is such a vibrant color with so many hues. And here in Northern California with a previous month of El Nino rains, GREEN is the operant word if ones looks about the landscape.  

This view of MuRefuge is looking North from the front of our house. 
In the forefront are native bunch grasses interspersed with Cinquefoil (Potentilla gracilis), 
on the right are Beach Asters (Erigeron glaucus) amidst the low growing 
'Bee's Bliss' (Salvia leucophylla x S. clevelandii); near the oak tree trunk 
in the upper middle are Deergrass (Muhlenbergia rigens) and Brandegee's Sage (Salvia brandegei).

I know many of you reading these words are still experiencing the ground blanketed with snow at best, sleet or mud at worst. Green will arrive soon! 

The days are lengthening so I spend less time sleeping. And here at MuRefuge, the asparagus is beginning to send up its delicious offerings, the fava beans planted last Fall are about 4 to 6 inches tall, 

and weeds are flourishing, giving the landscape here a very green hue, calling my attention to BEing outside and digging in the dirt. Less time sleeping in bed provides me with more time for my very favorite activity of “playing in the mud.” My paternal grandmother fostered this activity by allowing me to make mud pies on her kitchen floor when I was “a little tike.”

My earliest, clearest recollections of garden was at preschool age when our neighbors, Emma and George Oxley of Corwith, Iowa, planted asparagus. In Northern Iowa planting asparagus was a rather labor intensive event. We dug a huge hole/bed in the ground layering this with manure, straw and rich Iowa dirt. This elderly couple not only allowed me to participate but praised highly my efforts. What a satisflying gardening experience for a youngster. As I take care of our asparagus beds here at MuRefuge, I am forever grateful to Emma and George for supporting within me a sturdy foundation for growing our food.

Asparagus shoots growing in our veggie garden, in
a raised bed, of course, to protect the roots from gophers.

As we honor Imboc, aka Spring, may we each 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Sandhill Cranes and More . . . Much, Much, Much More

Earlier this week Dwight, Tanis, Shasta and I drove to Lodi: over and on levies, across bridges that rise to allow ships to navigate the Sacramento River from the Oakland Port to the Sacramento Port, along wetlands, some just recently restored and near Grizzly Island Wildlife Area where a reestablishing elk herd resides. Once settled into the Lodi Motel 6 after a brief rest, we joined 27 others for a free 90+ minute tour offered by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife at the Woodbridge Ecological Reserve

We all were there to hear about and see the Sandhill Cranes, both Lesser and Greater. Check out this Aldo Leopold link to see the multiple migration paths of various flocks of cranes. Of course, the bulk of the cranes overwinter on the Platte River in Nebraska and the population wintering in the Albuquerque Area is extremely small, on the verge of "threatened." 

We were not disappointed. These four flew in as the docent was giving her talk. Can you discern the two on the left?  I know it looks like there is only one, but there are two. Look closely and you will notice the number of legs.

Also during the talk this very large flock of Greater White-fronted Geese flew in and settled on the water as well.

The talk ended in time for movement of the group to an area where often at sunset the cranes fly in for the night. Again we were not disappointed. The show, better than anything on TV!!!, included thousands of these magnificent birds flying in from all directions in small groups, often as few as two, four, or six, and large groups with many hundreds. 

Having just viewed a stealth bomber flying over at the beginning of the Rose Parade,
I am reminded of the Sandhill Cranes as they come into land.
Perhaps these awesome birds were the inspiration for this sleek modern day invention?
The landings were amazing to watch with the members of each group settling in amongst those already sitting in the several inches of water, often not with those cranes they flew in with. The sounds were almost deafening and sounds one will remember once you have heard their distinctive voices. “A loud, resonant, wooden rattle hkkkkk or hkarrrr, variable;
a rolling bugle, typically a long, slightly descending roll, but with some variation,” according to The Sibley Guide to Birds.

On the short drive from where we gathered for the talk, we drove our individual cars allowing participants to stop along the way to view the fields covered with swans and geese; intermingled were a few cranes as well. 

Mostly Tundra Swans although upon close inspection other kinds can be identified as well.
This particular preserve is under the auspices of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and has never been farmed; rather it has been owned previously by “duck clubs.” The entire area has many levies with fields for growing corn, nonnatives grasses, wine grapes and mostly almond trees. The corn and grass fields provide food and resting areas for the cranes, geese, and swans. The vineyards and tree orchards do not, which is the reason organizations sensitive to not only the survival but thriving of other BEings are forming “trusts” to preserve these feeding grounds. In the early Fall along with the adults the 3 month old crane juveniles arrive to feed and grow into young adults before returning to their Northern nesting areas.

The following day, once Shasta had her walk albeit not as long as she would have liked, we had breakfast, packed up and checked out and drove to the Cosumnes River Preserve. Unfortunately Shasta had to stay in the car since “no pets” are allowed on any of the nature trails. There is a sweet, small visitors center filled with information about the flora and fauna of the area. Along the top of the deck railing is a wonderful depiction of the seasonal changes of both the flora and fauna with such information as when the Swainson’s Hawk leaves for its migration to Argentina.

The short Boardwalk Trail and Tanis’s spotting scope allowed all of us fabulous views of the birds gamboling about in the wetlands, both in the water and on spits of land.

Great Egret surveying the wetlands' landscape for food.
What a stunning pair of Northern Pintail ducks.
The male in his tuxedo like attire looks sleek and ever so handsome.
The female is quite lovely in her soft, brown silk like gown.
Lunchtime arrived so we traveled just a few miles to Locke, the Chinese settlement, and now part of the State Park system, finding a picnic table on which to enjoy our lunch we brought. A local stopped by to add a bit of information about the settlement, both historical and present day. The locals are against tunneling the water from the Delta down to thirsty Los Angeles . . . duh!

Notice the picnic table on the other side of the wooden white fence?
That is were we enjoyed our lunch in the warm sunshine.
All three of us noticed the clothes hung out to dry,
demonstrating that, yes, someone still lives in this village.
Then we drove in a circle since all three of us missed the sign for the appropriate turn for our return to Sonoma County. As we recognized several draw bridges and finally arrived in Rio Vista, we all had a good