Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Wildflowers and Wind

JoshuaTree just ready to burst into full flower.
Driving along !-10 through the desert East of Palm Springs
we saw many such stunning trees.
For those of you that have read the previous two posts about our March roadtrip, you are aware that almost nothing went as planned. The early return to MuRefuge continued along the vein stamped the very first day driving South on I-5. We decided to cut our trip short and return from Phoenix since the portion remaining focused on hiking and BEing out experiencing the Zuni and Hopi lands. I was adamant about not returning by the same route, so in the end we chose to drive North on Highway 395, one of our very favorite drives. 

The bright spot driving along I-10 was feasting on the glorious desert wildflowers 
blooming. We noted mostly yellow ones, and right along the sides of the highway were full flowering Desert Gold (Geraea canescens) intermingled further away from the roadside with Ocotillo (Fourquieria splendens) which had buds but not open flowers yet, Creosote bush (Larrea tridentata), and Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa) making a feast for our eyes.

Once we started driving North on 395 our prime experience was wind; wind so fierce that as we neared the dry Owens Lake bed, aka the Owens Valley, we could not see the mountains on either side of the highway. We stopped at the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitors Center, stepping out of the car and almost getting knocked over by the wind which was filled with alkaline dust. We had visualized in our planning to sit outside and enjoy our picnic lunch on one of the many picnic tables dotting the area. Instead we all ate inside the car as the wind howled about us. By the time we reach Bishop the air was a bit clearer. We checked in about the weather, watching the Reno station we had grown accustom to watching on our many month long stays in Bridgeport. Three storms over three days, dumping not inches of snow in the Sierras but rather feet, were predicted. We had no snow tires nor warm clothes and our car’s heater/air conditioning system worked only intermittently.

The air was clear as we left Bishop. As you can see from this photo we could
enjoy the beauty of the Sierra Nevada Mountains with snow in the higher elevations.
So we decided to backtrack on Highway 395 and drive Highway 14 to Highway 58 over the Tehachapi pass through the mountains into the lower end of the Central Valley on Highway 99. Again it was windy, so windy we bypassed a lovely spot for lunch (Red Rock Canyon with stunning colorful rock formations), later finding a wonderful picnic table on a family run fruit farm which they have made into a you pick, family outing sort of place. Green! After a week in the desert we were all struck by the green everywhere as far as the eye could see in the rolling hills of the Tehachapi Mountains which also boasted huge splotches of  orange, California poppies in bloom. We rejoiced to each other, “Welcome home!"

And now we have resettled into MuRefuge, connecting with our roots here and allowing the healing powers of place to seep into our BEings. As the warmth and sunshine now follow the some 12.5 inches of rain that fell in our absence, the native wildflowers planted here are blooming.

Douglas Meadowfoam (Limnanthes douglasii

Coastal Poppy (Eschscholzia californica var. californica)
with native pollinators busy at their job.
‘Yankee Point’ (Ceanothus griseus horizontalis)
As you enjoy the stunning beauty of the MuRefuge wildflower photos above, please take time to 

Friday, March 25, 2016

Cactus League Spring Training Baseball

For those of you who have read the previous post about Shasta's encounter with an Agave, you know we spent an extra night in Palm Springs. With postponing our scheduled arrival in Phoenix, I missed the first Cactus League Spring Training baseball game I had a ticket for. I was looking forward to experiencing the Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, the Spring home for the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies. Of course, Shasta’s well being took precedence over baseball. Still, when I read the Sunday Phoenix paper’s sport section and found out Zack Greinke pitched 2 innings against the A’s, I was bummed. 

Attending a couple of Cactus League Spring Training Baseball games was a treat! The first game was at the A’s recently rehabbed Hohokam Stadium in Mesa. Previously this facility was claimed by the Chicago Cubs.

Bo Mel survying his domain.
(# 22) Josh Reddick posing with a fan for a picture.
A's fans clamoring for Nerd Power!
Eric Sogard, # 28, is a popular player here at Hohokam Stadium.
Personable Ryan Madson, # 44, a new acquisition to bolster the A's bullpen.
The second game was at Sloan Park, the new outrageously extravagant Chicago Cubs Spring home. Mesa forked out a lot of money and, with over the top water features, a great deal of water for this park (this is the desert, folks).

The posted starting lineup for the game I attended.

Joe Maddon, the stellar leader of the Chicago Cubs, smiles in the
direction of the famous, to those who attend the Cubs home games,
man in the lower left of the picture who sang the national anthem.
All the while I was at enjoying Spring baseball, Dwight and Shasta enjoyed our comfortable and fabulously located digs in the Arcadia District of Phoenix.

Even though we were not able to hike out into the wildness, the wild inhabitants came to us for our viewing and enjoyment. While sitting at our dining table we were able to look out in this small back yard to view Great-tailed Grackle floating about on the cleaning hose of the swimming pool and a pair of Bendire's Thrashers building a nest in a small palm tree. And while walking about the neighborhood we saw a number of coveys of Gambel's Quail. And the first evening, upon our arrival, we saw a small coyote running along the street and into a nearby backyard.

At the silliness of all the hoopla of Cactus League Spring Training Baseball may each of you

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Spring Equinox

Today, March 19, 2016, occurs the Spring Equinox, when the day and night are briefly equal. This day, of course, "only represents a moment in time. Spring has long been returning, and we know that Summer will soon follow. The cycle of the seasons will continue in succession. There is no such thing as a true stopping in time, for all is a continuum. Nature makes its own concordances as a mere outgrowth to its movement, it is we who see structure and give names a pattern." Deng Ming-Dao, 365 TAO Daily Meditations.

Ambulating about MuRefuge I am struck by how early all the plants are blooming. The plum, apricot and peach trees have already completed their blossoming with the apple trees now in full flower. The coddling moth traps have been placed in these trees to minimize infestation of our apples.

One of the Pink Pearl apple trees adorned with her coddling moth
trap (in the red box). In the background is the already
leaved out Buckeye tree which will soon be in full
flower attracting her pollinators.
And in the vegetable garden the strawberry plants are covered with flower and even, in the picture below if you look close you can see a small green strawberry.

And soon the Wild Garden lettuce interplanted with the Tristar strawberry plants will be ready for salad making.

As some of you are still experiencing frozen ground, remember Mother Earth is awakening and soon Spring flowers will follow. For others of you, record heat is upon you already and Spring time a distant memory. Here at MuRefuge we are celebrating all the early flowering.

In celebration of Spring may we all

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Perils of Arid Gardens

This "Bliss"garden was given to me for my birthday
many years ago when Vickie began weeding here at MuRefuge.
Can you find the flower stalk just beginning to emerge on the succulent on the right?
Succulents are now the rage here in California. The interest in these plants is fueled by the years of drought. Gardeners and landscapers are looking for plants that not only survive with little or no water but thrive. Often plants from desert areas around the globe are chosen rather than choosing native plants. As many of you reading this post and/or having visited MuRefuge know, I am a big proponent of planting natives. Planting natives indigenous to an area is essential to maintaining a balanced ecology where plants, insects, birds, microbial organisms, as well as below and above ground dwelling animals all live in harmony. Globalization has disrupted this “way” and humans are experiencing the consequences.

A plant frequently used in an arid garden.
Let me share with you a recent harrowing experience. Early this month Dwight, Shasta and I embarked on what we thought would be fun filled roadtrip to a part of the county we all love.  Since we wanted to maximize our time with long time friends in both Palm Springs and Phoenix, we chose to drive the shortest and fastest route: Interstate 5 through the California Central Valley. We stopped at a roadside rest to stretch our legs and eat lunch. Shasta had a great time chasing lizards in and through plants chosen to thrive in this naturally arid climate. When we returned to the car to resume our driving, we noticed Shasta batting at her muzzle. We did nothing. The entire drive to Palm Springs, which took almost twelve hours since we had to negotiate commute traffic through the Pasadena area, Shasta did not lay down to sleep but sat upright and her eyes drooped shut. We did nothing. The first morning in Palm Springs Shasta had a bit of difficulty taking her morning treats and still we did nothing. Finally the second full day we were in Palm Springs, I paid more attention to her attempts to eat and drink, both of which were hindered. By this time I could see Shasta’s muzzle was swollen as well as her tongue and all her tissues in and around her mouth, so we took her to the same animal clinic where our friend has long taken her many cats for care.

The vet that saw Shasta could clearly see something was amiss and her thoughts went to insects that could have bitten her in a desert climate. Her weight was almost 5# less than her last weight here locally. They gave her a bolus of IV fluids and of Benadryl. The vet thought her good to leave. We decided to stay an extra night in Palm Springs. We rechecked into the Downtown Motel 6, which by the way was a great place to stay, and set about to feed Shasta. She still was unable to eat or drink. To make this a bit of a shorter story, being unable to reach the vet, I made some choices about the take home medications and decided to wait it out until morning, at which time Shasta seemed marginally improved.

Midday we set off for Phoenix and by the time we arrived at our destination there, Shasta’s muzzle swelling was much less and I could see a bump on her muzzle. I continued her medications and we encouraged her to drink. She would spend over an hour lapping at her drinking water. We frequently changed the water which was very warm and filled with thick, tenacious mucus. As you could imagine she had little energy but we encouraged her to walk a bit at the local park so she could “do her business.”
YIKES! instead of brown stool it was mucus ridden with bright red blood so off to a local veterinary hospital that took emergency clients for $95. We drew a vet just a year out of school who not only misdiagnosed her but failed to talk with us about her findings of Shasta’s physical examination or the medication she prescribed until I raised a ruckus.

Shasta, as well as Dwight and I, was glad to leave that establishment. The following evening I had a very long telephone conversation with Shasta’s regular vet back here in Sonoma County. Janet Foley of Sonoma County Mobile Veterinary Hospital, as she does so well, listened carefully to Shasta’s story. And not to beleaguer this story, her recommendations were to
1. Resume the Benadryl at 50 mg./dose every 12 hours (canines unlike humans require 50 not 25 mg. to provide the work against the histamines, and the drowsiness abates after a few doses)
2. Feed a bland diet (cooked chicken and rice, but Shasta does not tolerate grains so
sweet potatoes were substituted)
3. Probiotics three times per day
4.Quiet Digestion also three times per day

Luckily, BEing a self pres. One, I had brought the latter along and the food was easy to prepare in the kitchen of the place we were staying.

The following morning Shasta clearly showed the most improvement we had seen in the past five days since the “event.” One of the major reasons for spending time in Phoenix was to visit with a dear friend, Shannon, and her husband who live in Tempe. Shannon is a nurse also and we spent time talking about Shasta and what might have happened. Both Shannon and I have been impaled by end of an Agave leaf. Both of us had a huge adverse reaction. I remember when it happened to me I called the 24 hour Poison Control line because my entire right arm swelled up and was hot to touch. The gentleman who spoke with me assured me that the end of the Agave leaf held nonlethal, but noxious toxins which my body would eventually deal with. 

Succulents covers a wide array of plants that in general need infrequent watering. Here in Sonoma County a nursery I frequent here in Sebastopol has a roof designed especially for succulents as does the Amy’s new drive through in Rohnert Park. There is a succulent grower who sells his plants at our local Farmer's Market. Most if not all of these succulents are of the Aloe family I think. And I grow Aloe vera in the greenhouse here at MuRefuge. This is probably the best know Aloe and is medicinal in nature: “extracts of the gel from the center of the succulent leaves are included in all manner of pharmaceutical preparations for the skin, treatment of burns and for ingestion. However, some people have allergic reactions to substances in the yellow sap under the epidermis.”

When I lived in Tuscon, many of this plant grew along the Eastern
side of my house. The flowers attracted many Verdin.
Then there is the Agave family. The best know of this group of succulents is Blue Agave (Agave tequilana), native to the Mexican states of Jalisco, Colima, Nayarit and Aguascalientes and the base ingredient of tequila, a popular distilled beverage many of us enjoy.

It is with this latter group that Shasta’s muzzle had a close encounter. The tips of the Agave have noxious pathogens of the fungi and/or bacteria variety which are part and parcel of the ecology of Agave plants in an arid climate.

Notice the tips on these leaves.
OUCH if one of the points puncture your skin or Shasta's muzzle
So as we chose plants for our garden, may we consider the consequences of our choices and, of course,