Posts Tagged ‘nature’

Christmas Eve

24 December 2016

winter scene bird in bush
Nature wears the snow well.
The trees seem happy to be shrouded in it.

snow-covered fruit tree

Tree still full of fruit wears the new snow.


The birds fly above it…
birds in flight - winter
…and otherwise seem willing to deal with it.
birds share a tree
While the mammals sleep beneath it.
rabbit run in snow

Rabbit run leads under a boulder.


Nature has to deal with it, or die. And – as part of Nature – so do we. We, however, don’t wear it so well.
looking up Larry Street

The view up my street.


As with other obstacles, we push it out of our way, do our best to get rid of it, or get around it.

We created Nature

After all, we are more than just a part of Nature. We (or beings very much like us) created Nature. Though most of us have forgotten how or why we are now stuck in our own creation, winter is a perfect example of how we do our best to assert our lost and former greatness.

I went out today to take some photos near my building, and deliberately tried to keep man-made items out of my shots, so that they would appear to be totally natural settings. The weeds look pretty with their snowy coverings, but they are dead. That wouldn’t do for us. We’re not about to spend a season hibernating just because it’s a bit chilly.

snow shrouded scene

A field shrouded in snow.

winter - weed wearing some snow

winter - tree over a creek

winter - frosty cow parsnip

Our creation is beautiful, isn’t it?

But, I keep hearing about how fragile it is. We could lose all this, and then what? Are we prepared to create it all over again somewhere else? We could do that, though most of us don’t think we could. For most of us, this biosphere is scarce in this universe, and thus precious. And so we count our blessings on the eve before the day we celebrate as the birthday of a great spiritual teacher of the West. And though there have been many great spiritual teachers, this one gets singled out as our special one. Perhaps he really stands for all of them. Back when Christianity was getting started, most people touched by it didn’t even know what had come before it. They weren’t aware of the benefits they derived from the teachings of the one called “the Buddha” roughly 500 years earlier. Jesus was aware, or so I am told.

Yes, our memories seem so poor! And the lessons we can’t remember we are doomed to repeat. But let us take a few hours out of our somewhat hectic lives to celebrate the lives of all our great teachers, to give thanks for the lengthening of the days, and to ponder what we should do next; how we want all this to turn out. That question is now before us.

Teasel Time

23 July 2013

This article includes quotes from my favorite wildflower book, Michigan Wildflowers by Helen V. Smith with illustrations by Ruth Powell Brede, first published in 1961.

It’s “teasel time” on the Palouse; the teasels are blooming!

teasel-at-roadside

Teasels growing in a gravelly area.

Teasel is in the Valerian Family. Valerian was a Roman emperor, notorious for being forced by others to persecute the Christians. The “valerian” herb is considered a rather potent medicine. Teasels are not native to the Americas.

teasel-in-field

“Teasel is a troublesome weed, but one species, Dipsacus fullonum L. (originally named by Linnaeus), was formerly grown commercially because the ripe inflorescences (flower heads) were used by textile mills for raising the nap on cloth.”

teasel-heads
These flower heads are quite noticeable when blooming, particularly up close.

teasel-head
The flowers are very small, but numerous, and bloom in rings around the head, which gives an unusual and distinct appearance.

teasel-head
teasel-head
This of course is also the time when many other summer flowers bloom. I photographed a few notable examples in a nearby field. Next we see a teasel growing alongside a Mullein plant. Also known as “Flannel Plant,” its leaves are unusually fuzzy.

teasel-and-mullein
Mullein is in the Figwort family. This family also includes Foxglove.
It is plentiful here, but it is one of many weeds introduced from Europe. In this area its flower heads are commonly attacked by insects. I know from other sources that its leaves and flowers have been used for centuries for their medicinal properties. One fascinating aspect of studying wildflowers is to find out how many were used for medicine in past times.

st-johns-wort

St. John’s-wort is showy when it first blooms because of all the flowers. When not blooming it is rarely noticed, but grows practically everywhere. Its small leaves are peculiar in that they are speckled with numerous translucent dots. The common species (Hypericum perforatum L.) was introduced from Europe. It was known there as an herbal medicine and the plant does indeed produce at least two biochemically active compounds.

star-thistle
I have yet to positively identify these striking blue-flowering plants, though they seem to be very similar to the Star-thistle.

cow-parsnip
This large Umbellifer (flowers in umbrella-shaped clusters), is probably Cow Parsnip. The family includes carrots, celery, parsley, anise, chervil, dill and fennel, as well as Poison Hemlock. Smith says of Cow Parsnip:

“The Indians used this species for medicine and food. The young stalks were roasted over hot coals. The leaf stalks were peeled and eaten raw like celery. The young roots when cooked taste like rutabaga.”

grasses
Of course the Palouse is covered with grasses. I am not a grasses expert, so can’t tell you which one these are.

grass-seed-heads
I should not ignore the fruit trees. They are growing produce that will turn ripe a bit later in the season.

unripe-apples
It is calming to walk among these growing things and see them surviving, persevering, quietly and without complaint. Is it not part of our work here to look after them?

Grand Avenue spring overview – closeups

8 June 2013

Top of Grand:

mullein and teasel

Last year’s mullein and teasel still lord over the smaller plants.


dames rocket and flax

Long-time garden escapees, Dame’s Rocket is the four-petaled flower, while Flax has five petals.


SEL Wayside Garden:
The pea family of plants is highlighted in this area (like the most-cultivated crop – lentils)…
lupine

Lupine.


broom groundcover

A carpet of bright broom stays close to the ground.


Upper Grand:
showy composite

I have not yet identified this one.


vetch

Vetch – very showy while it blooms. Another pea family plant.


cinquefoil bush

I believe this is a cinquefoil.


iris

Garden iris in a city-maintained corner mini-park.


slasify

Purple goat’s beard, also called Salsify. The roots are said to be edible.


Mayor’s Grove:
plaque

Mayor’s Grove plaque.


horse chestnut

Horse Chestnut. A very showy tree while blooming.


Lower (South) Grand:
willow fuzz

Willow fuzz looks very pretty when the sun shines through it…


wild rose bush

Wild rose bush, with dogwood in the background.


storksbill

Storksbill going to seed. A tiny spring flower related to the geranium.


Grand Avenue Greenway trail:
grand avenue greenway

Grand Avenue Greenway trail sign.


dames rocket

Dame’s Rocket abounds in this area. It is a crucifer – mustard family.

Vacant lot by the bluff

16 May 2013

The day was beautiful so I took some time to walk around the corner to the vacant lot, with my camera.

The lot, showing bluff, apartment buildings, grass, trees and flowers.
the lot
California poppies are the first to catch the eye…

poppies and alyssum

…shown sharing the field with alyssum.


Their orange flowers are unmistakeable.
poppy flowers
The small trees are cottonwoods.
cottonwood leaves
A wild daisy makes the perfect landing pad…
daisy with fly
Last year’s teasel stands tall.
teasels

They thrive in disturbed soil.


The cliff beneath the bluff is man-made.
cliff
A dandelion flower survives in the cliff’s shade.
dandelions

A view from the bluff

12 May 2013
view from the bluff

The view from where I live, looking roughly north.

I live on a bluff. Opposite are the buildings owned by the company where I work. In this photo, you can see the route I take each weekday morning on my way to work.

In the valley is a little creek. It is one of the few protected areas in this region. On the communications tower live two hawks; their domain is inhabited by rabbits, geese, ducks, a variety of other birds, snakes, and at least one coyote (I’ve seen it).

On another day I may go with my camera down there – there is a bike/exercise path that goes through – and take some photos for you.

This weekend marked the grand opening of a totally renovated Church of Scientology building in Portland. I helped a bit on its “files project,” as I did at Seattle while its building was being renovated. I would have liked to go, but the time and expense involved in getting there was more than I could confront. That does not mean the occasion was not momentous. In the grand scheme of things, our churches do very important work. I doubt it will ever be officially recognized.

So I stayed home and worked on setting up my work area. Below is what it looks like so far.

I don’t need it excessively fancy. Part of my experiment now is to re-purpose mass-manufactured electronic goods for personal use, and some of the results of that experiment are illustrated in this photo.

As I have mentioned previously, we have an amazing thrift shop in Pullman (Palouse Treasures) not far from where I live, and it has helped me to stock my work bench with power supplies, tools, and organizing bins.

Though I do miss re-PC and the huge Goodwill Outlet in Seattle, Palouse Treasures always has something interesting for the discerning shopper!

my work bench

My electronics work bench, as of this date.

Springtime begins on the Palouse

28 February 2013
Palouse sunset

Palouse sunset (18 Jan).

Introduction to the Palouse

The Palouse is a region in southwest Washington that slops into Idaho and Oregon.

It is characterized by soil dunes, apparently formed in the last Ice Age by winds blowing from the south and west. It was once covered by a rich grassland – forest habitat. It was the home of the Nez Perce tribe, and their relatives, before White Man arrived. The Nez Perce bred a spotted horse known today as the Appaloosa.

After White Man arrived, the land was mostly used for pasture until developers decided that it would be good for wheat farming. Nearly the whole region was converted to farming by the end of the 1800s. Less than 1% (by one estimate) of the original Palouse grassland habitat remains today, although there are some attempts in the towns to offer safe havens for native plants and animals. Today the region is known as the largest lentil-growing region in the United States. It exports about 80% of its crop to foreign countries, as most Americans don’t know what lentils are. The region is also known for its two land grant universities, the University of Washington (in Pullman, WA) and the University of Idaho (in Moscow, ID).

Oddly, UW developed a strong electronics engineering program. It attracted many bright engineers, such as my nephew Andy, and before him, a guy named Edmund Schweitzer III. Edmund developed an electronic product for the electric power industry that was digitally-controlled, and created a company to build it. Today, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories (SEL) employs over 4,000 people, and I am one of them.

The Coming of Spring

For the first time in many weeks, it didn’t freeze over last night on the Palouse. At least, not in Pullman.

This morning when I walked to work (about 6am) snow was falling from the sky, but it was melting on the ground. And this afternoon when I walked back home, a gentle rain was falling.

While walking though the parking lot of the SEL manufacturing building, I spotted a flock of over 100 birds fly towards me and land in two trees. They were flying like starlings, in a way that reminds one of wind-blown smoke. Their flight had a kind of grace to it; a kind of pride. I walked up to the trees where they were perched and watched them for a while. They weren’t starlings; they were cardinals. I had never seen cardinals in such a large flock. Suddenly, as if on command, they all fluttered up and off their perches, and away.

These are the sights of the Palouse. A pair of big hawks seem to live in (or near) a nearby cell phone tower, and the stream that flows down into the South Fork of the Palouse River is populated by showy magpies, an ancient gift – it is thought – from Asia.

The cardinals were probably just passing through. I have also seen geese fly over this area. But this is pretty far north for cardinals. Their movement north seems related to the increased human population in their old favorite southern habitats.