Posts Tagged ‘wildflowers’

The Buck Stops Here

8 August 2020

I paused my stories from the American River Parkway for a week or two to concentrate on the challenges facing us as a nation and a people.

But I have a few new images to share, so let’s take a look.

Got bucks

I am not used to seeing bucks (male deer) along the bikeway. But this summer I have seen at least three. They are a bit shy – more difficult to photograph than the does (female deer) – but they have been very noticeable, mostly feeding on or sitting under trees.

This buck has “two points” (branches on its antlers) indicating it is getting older, but per hunting websites, this is not a reliable way to judge the age of the animal. A young animal that is strong and well-fed can grow antlers with several points in its second, even first, year.

This buck has larger antlers and seems older. With the other I’ve seen whose antlers aren’t yet branched, that makes three bucks in the park that I have spotted so far this year.

I have also seen does, of course, but haven’t noticed any fawns….Three showed up 14 August! Here’s one of them:

…plus another peaking out in the background.

Gobble gobble

Turkeys show up a lot in the park. They are not particularly afraid of people, though they prefer to keep their distance. I have seen chicks this year, but they grow fast, and it quickly becomes difficult for me to tell how old these birds are.

I have never heard one of these birds make the noise that we attribute to them. They tend to be on the quiet side, but do make all sorts of sounds.

Wild flowers and wild people

During these hot summer months, I will usually only stop to photograph a flower if it is one I haven’t seen before. However, the tarweed are back out – blooming – again, which I didn’t totally expect. If you enlarge this photo, you can see the little droplets of “tar” that are exuded by this plant.

There are actually several plants blooming again at this time, but the flowers don’t generally last very long in the hot weather.

I might mention that while the blackberries are beginning to dry out, the wild grapes are beginning to ripen.

This next flower I will call a “goldenrod” although it is much more compact than what I was used to in Michigan.

Also in bloom now is a plant I almost passed by. It was difficult for me to identify, but matches best with “Brazilian vervain.” This plant is introduced from South America, and is not favored here, as it tends to get out of control. We can see, though, that is seems to be quite drought-tolerant.

It is a rather unique plant, with tiny bluish flowers in shorter spikes, and square-shaped stems that usually branch opposite. Leaves on this plant were very minimal.

And even though I have been going out on Fridays instead of Saturdays, the weekend rafting has already started.

As is obvious in this picture, these rafters don’t seem to be too concerned about getting sick, and do seem to be enjoying themselves. I would guess they may be operating on the maxim “enjoy it while you have it.” I am also guessing that they are not that much involved in the difficult situation we find ourselves in on this planet, nor think they can do much about it. My biggest difference with such an attitude is that I do think we should talk about it.

Hot Day On The River

27 June 2020

Today I sat at a picnic table with this inscription on it. It was hot, I had sweated a lot on the trail, and I didn’t really have enough water. But with the help of some grapes I bought at the store, I made it home.

I could not piece together Jessica’s story from the internet. Her husband was a Process Engineer, then around 10 years ago he went to Med School at UC Davis and became a doctor. She has a Facebook page under her maiden name “Kam” but the posts end in 2018. The profile picture looks like maybe she was undergoing chemotherapy.

I didn’t make my usual bike trip post last week; other things were on my mind. So this post includes photos from this week and last week. I continued to have difficulty with some closeups, as the camera does auto-focus for those, and it doesn’t always guess right, or there would be even more pictures in this post.

Summer advances quickly

Folsom blackberries

The huge wall of blackberries along the Folsom bike path are already in the process of ripening and drying out. I’m wondering if these plants can maintain all their fruit without more rain.

Queen Anne's Lace

I think of Queen Anne’s Lace as a late summer flower, but here was a patch in full bloom. Another umbellifer, wild fennel, is also blooming now, but the cow parsnip is already beginning to dry up.

The lavender by the parking lots has been blooming heavily. The bees really like this.

milkweed with bee on it

I also found a bee on the milkweed plant, but it ran away while I tried to photograph it. This week the milkweed is almost done flowering.

star thistles

Star thistles now dominate the open meadows. This is considered a weed here. You can see how spiny the base of the flowers is, so not easy for animals to eat.

everlasting

The everlasting flowers are now totally dry. They will probably stay this way for the rest of the season.

black walnut fruit

The black walnut trees are fruiting. The nuts are not that great for humans, but okay for some animals; the husks are very bitter. When I was young, I made a brown dye with them; they are full of tannin.

wild rose

Further down the trail, some wild roses were hanging on beneath the electric transmission lines. I’m not sure why I see them there and seldom anywhere else.

bug on grass

And speaking of hanging on, this is a true bug hugging onto a spike of tall grass. I have no idea what it was doing there.

bald eagle

Along the trail, the crows were making a big fuss. I looked up and saw this guy. We rarely see bald eagles here. Very unusual. Maybe he knew July 4th was coming up and decided to drop by.

scene on the river

And this is about what he (she?) was looking out on. I have never seen so many rafts on the river! Bikes on the trail are actually decreasing now that the weather is so hot. This is now the preferred recreation.

deer behind tree branch

The usual wild animals are still around, but keeping their distance…the local jackrabbit also made a brief appearance last week:

jackrabbit showing its ears

Someday…(maybe)…I’ll get a good shot of this guy.

turkey hen and chick

I almost passed these turkeys by, but I noticed there were young ones, so I went back.

magnolia flower

Back in town, I stopped at the Capitol Mall to photograph the magnolia flowers. This tree was full of them. They are often difficult for me to get good pictures of, as the flowers tend to be higher up in the tree, but this had some lower ones. The magnolia flower is unusual, as it produces a fruiting body resembling a pine cone, but with the seeds more exposed. Magnolia-like plants have been found in the fossil record dating back 95 million years. It is believed they are adapted to be pollinated by beetles, as the modern bee-like animals appear in the fossil record later than that. The flower structure, therefore, is considered “primitive.”

While at the Mall, I heard music in the distance. Moving towards it, I found this little Christian gathering. The music was soft and soothing, but a little hypnotic. From my point of view, at least they are trying.

Christian event at the Capitol Mall

I begin and end on a reflective note. No one wants to get sick from this new disease. But everyone has to “catch” it eventually, either naturally or from some sort of vaccination, to proof up our immune systems against it. If it is like colds and flu, then the immunity won’t be lasting, and we will have to live with it forever. Or, maybe not.

6 June, 2020

7 June 2020

Got my blown tube replaced at Mike’s Bikes this week, and back on the trail today.

Race is on people’s minds, including mine

It was a very full day. My day started attending the 3rd session of Part 2 of a symposium on the subject of “race-based data.” I had never heard this term before. This is a term used particularly in Canada. It has to do with the fact that Canadian scholarship and politics have discouraged the use of the concept of “race” as a valid way to describe anybody.

However, there is pressure – from somewhere, appears to be the medical or public health sector – to start identifying individuals racially. They claim it is needed to help deliver “better” COVID-19 treatment to minority communities.

Various groups and individuals who have been struggling to end racism in Canada have argued against the need to do this, as race is not a valid medical category. They suspect that this race label will actually be used to further racist actions or monitor their “success.” Their experience with research that incorporates a race label is that it has never resulted in policies or actions that have reduced racism in Canada or bettered the lives of most oppressed communities. They are particularly concerned because it appears this data will be used to assist public health agencies in their contact tracing efforts, which involves police cooperation. These communities don’t trust the police for reasons that should be obvious.

The discussion I heard Saturday morning was one of three live streams I attended, the other two on Thursday and Friday. They were all organized and for the most part facilitated (the action of deciding which questions get asked and who will answer them) by Llana James, a Canadian activist currently working at the University of Toronto and pursuing a doctorate there. She is also leading a project to propose a set of “protocols” for use in designing and operating research studies and data collection that involves oppressed communities. Her knowledge is wide-reaching but hard to say how deep.

She had many panelists (called “discussants”) at the three different sessions. The first session included Naomi Klein, a notable activist mostly working in America. She is Canadian by birth, but – among other things – currently works at Rutgers (New Jersey) as a teacher, though she never quite finished college herself. She is currently considered to be one of the top “public intellectuals” and is known for her involvement in the Occupy Movement and in Climate Change.

Naomi seemed uncomfortable and tongue-tied in this discussion. I don’t blame her. The Canadian intellectual frame of reference is considerably different than what’s found in the U.S., and their language is almost tortuously over-precise, in a style reminding me of the British.

But I patiently followed each discussion. Almost six hours in all. Their main point seemed to be: Adding racial identifications to sociological – or particularly medical – research data was very unlikely to do oppressed communities any good, so why cooperate with it? It sounded like just another Pied Piper game to them. And with the data ending up in the hands of corporate players or police, it was just as likely to be used for more oppression and exploitation.

Interesting.

After getting back from shopping I got back on the computer, and watched (among other things) a TEDx Talk by a guy named Anthony Peterson who is a black man from Hawaii who works in Nashville as a consultant on the subject of “race.” His conviction is that race has no set biological or genetic definition, and thus is basically just a cultural construct. Because it is connected with visible differences of appearance, it continues to attract the attention of people, and to be a part of our experience. But it is not useful as a way to categorize people for research purposes. Apparently the reason it was invented as a concept was to force people into categories for political, not scientific, purposes (that topic I found covered in another article).

All these people are desperately trying to find a solution to, a handling for, racism. Yet the word itself trips them. There are many “races” who have been oppressed, including whites. Does calling this “racism” even make sense?

Now I turn to my dictionary (which most academics refuse to quote, for some reason): It doesn’t help that “race” is a homonym – a word that has two different sets of meanings. In this sense, “race” is related to “ratio” or the idea that different people could contain different proportions of “something.” My dictionary states that earlier anthropological uses have become largely meaningless. More properly, in science, it would refer to genetic differences. But these often don’t manifest in appearance that much. In a related meaning it can refer to ancestry. It can also refer simply to a regional group, an ethnic (language and customs) group, or a nation. More broadly it can apply to any group where any similar characteristics can be discerned. And in the expression “the race” it usually means Mankind (the “human race”), although this usage has been gradually declining in literature over the last 200 years.

Racism comes from the older term “racialism.” That is basically the assertion that one group is superior to another, or that is should be “kept pure” at any cost. This is also known as the “caste system” in India (still very strong there), and the “class system” in the West (now hidden in most countries). These are usually linked to biology, not through genetics, but through the control of who one is allowed to marry; families, in other words. Families can be quite genetically diverse, while helping to maintain “social order.”

In my own look at history and the human condition, I can imagine that at one time there might have been a good reason to keep social positions controlled through family lines. This seems to be an almost natural function of the family. If a child wants to work below his family’s place, he must “break out” of the family, and risk disgracing it. If a child wants to work above the level of his family’s place, he must also break out of the family to find additional resources to help him or her become proficient at the higher level. In the U.S. this has been institutionalized in the process (or ritual) called “going to college.”

There are so many bits of missing data, large misunderstandings, and blind spots associated with this whole subject that it is very difficult to think clearly about it. My usual choice has been to think of racism as a form of crime. That it also is a useful expedient to keep a society more “orderly” complicates my argument that it’s basically criminal. But it is obvious today that arguments of “race” “class” “caste” and similar systems have been used to justify oppression up to and including genocide. Today we consider such actions to be criminal, and they have been “crimes” on this planet at least since the Laws of Moses.

The basic problem, then, from my viewpoint, is the criminal. What we call “racism” could be considered just one of many criminal practices. The purpose of the criminal is to enslave others, or to make them helpless to disobey by various other means. The criminal fights a losing battle, but fight he does, and often quite cunningly and with a degree of effectiveness. Our great failing in politics, economics and law is to not recognize the criminal for what he is, and to not handle him effectively (which does not involve punishment, regardless of how much it may be begged for, but may involve isolation from society). This is a huge and prolonged failing that has caused a lot of suffering and dismay throughout human history. It is only the beginning of solving the problem, as there are technical reasons why non-criminals tend to fall under the influence of criminals, and those must also be addressed.

Riots

Take, for example, the problem of riots. For purposes of this discussion, a “riot” could be considered to be a group meeting that began peacefully and turned violent.

There are several possible sources of criminal behavior in a riot situation. First, there are likely to be some people with criminal leanings, if not criminal intentions, in the crowd. Second, there may be similar individuals among those observing the meeting, but not part of it, such as the police. Third, there may be persons that amount to agitators that may not be present at the meeting at all, but who have spread lies about the various participants – possibly to both “sides” – at some previous time, or even in many previous times which could amount to a torrent of misinformation (such as we sometimes see vomiting out of various media sources).

This third source, in particular, can predispose the participants and onlookers to take violent actions. But also, criminals in the crowd can use the appearance or actions of the observers to incite the crowd to fight the observers, or their environment in general. And likewise, criminals among the observers can use the appearance or actions of the participants to incite the observers to fight the participants.

Without the priming influence of Third Parties (capitalized here because of its specific technical meaning in this context), the transformation of a meeting into a riot would be much less probable or possible. As has been noted, the media can serve in this role – whether that be unintentionally or on purpose (as is often argued).

Most attempts to understand riots focus on the first two elements but ignore the third. It should not be ignored. With Third Parties present and active, a meeting can turn into a riot even when the first two elements (criminals on the ground at the time of the transformation) are absent. It can turn otherwise sane people into combatants, all by itself. This is my own personal message to anyone interested in understanding and controlling destructive violence in a group.

Sacramento

As those outside the city may or may not be aware, there was some rioting that occurred in Sac. Most of it happened a week ago. Then a curfew was put in place and this seemed to handle things for the most part. The curfew has now been lifted. Understand that the days were mostly peaceful, but some nights not so much.

The violence resulted in board-ups, including this one on K street.

a boarded up Sacramento restaurant

This business was among several who wished to communicate their solidarity with the protestors.

On Saturday, more meetings were held. One very peaceful one was held in the morning while I was out grocery shopping. Another held at the Capitol was still ongoing when I returned.

protest meeting at the Capitol

As you can see, this was peaceful, and included people of all colors.

But standing by “just in case” were National Guard soldiers with their vehicles.

National Guard presence at the Capitol

Sorry this image wasn’t sharper.

This concerns me, as it signals a breakdown in communication and a desperateness on the part of government that is regrettable and could be remedied.

Meanwhile, DOCO has begun to return to “normal” as restaurants have been permitted to reopen.

DOCO on Saturday afternoon, 6 June 2020.

Those who choose to remain oblivious

I cannot totally fault anyone who would prefer to remain outside and removed from all this turmoil.

On my way back to Folsom, I saw many and numerous persons preparing their rafts for a fun trip down the river, while others had already made it into the water.

Rafters on the American River.

This image doesn’t really do justice to the numbers involved in this activity. Some of my photos from two weeks ago were more representative in that regard. But you might notice on the right, if you look carefully, geese swimming up to one of the rafts.

The animals, of course, continue to go about their business. Most of them would probably be better off if human beings disappeared from the planet entirely. On the other hand, animals don’t harbor the same degree of concern for their futures as we do, nor the means to alter their futures.

blue bird on its house

The bird with the blue back gave me another opportunity to photograph it. Though I have held on to the idea that this is a bluebird, the large white throat on this specimen does not match the images of bluebirds in the bird book I have. This may be another species that is just displaying some feather iridescence.

quail family with squirrel

Above we see a quail with several chicks pecking around at the bottom of a huge cottonwood while a squirrel looks on.

An old cottonwood is featured as “Poplar” in my story View From The Forest. Even the squirrel makes a momentary appearance. These quail, however, were about a mile further down the river than where I expected to see them. My guess is that human activity in their old neighborhood (surveyors, I think) forced them to move. I wish the image of the chicks was better. They’re cute!

Cottonwoods

In my story, Poplar looses a branch during a storm, and complains mightily of the pain and discomfort involved. I had the cottonwood lose a branch because that’s the only tree along this river that I have ever seen lose whole branches. Its wood must be a bit softer and weaker than the oaks and walnuts. And on Saturday I saw another example of this, at the table where I usually stop for water and a snack.

fallen cottonwood branch

I did not recall any winds recently that were particularly rough. But something happened to bring this branch down. The cottonwoods in this park are very big (thus, old). It could be this is a sign of their age. But in any case, the tree remains standing, with the great majority of its branches intact and fully functional.

I thought I’d end this post with a series of cottonwood photos. In this first, a tree stands alone, isolated from its brothers and sisters probably due to human actions.

lone cottonwood

It has obviously suffered some breaks, and my thought is that they prefer to live together where they can help protect each other.

In our neighborhood in Ann Arbor Michigan there was a huge cottonwood. It was left standing in front of one of the new houses that was built there.

neighborhood cottonwood summer

The original scan this was taken from was not all that great. And I believe the original photo was black-and-white, though not sure of that. I asked my image editor IrfanView to adjust the colors for me as best it could.

But this is a mighty tree, is it not? That house is, what? about 20 feet tall. So the tree is roughly 80 feet tall. This tree remained straight, strong and intact for the full time I lived there. And every summer it rained down its cotton on the neighborhood.

In the winter it looked like this:

neighborhood cottonwood winter

Winter can be quite beautiful. You have to sort of imagine it here, but can almost see that sun sparkling off the snow. If it stayed real cold, the snow would remain crystalline and sparkly. Seems kind of peaceful, doesn’t it?

I encourage your comments.

Memorial Day

23 May 2020

Memorial Day came early this year. That’s because now it officially falls on a Monday – the one closest to the end of May (that’s in May). Otherwise, we would have had to wait until June first.

Freedom

Downtown the conservatives were having a freedom rally.

Though Memorial Day is about war dead (originally, the Civil War), we have a current pressing concern about freedom. So a bunch of folks brought out their flags and came down to the Capitol to hear speeches and so forth.

I was not there long. I was listening to a Hispanic guy talk about how his people don’t want to be on the public dole, but would rather work and make a good living. He was talking about how most of his people are Christians. He was talking about how valuable freedom is to his people. This, of course, is not unique to Hispanics.

memorial day rally

In the old days, they used to call it “Liberty.” But whatever you call it, the real point is that one can use one’s freedom of will or freedom to act to enrich oneself at the expense of others or for the benefit of others. It was the “liberty” taken by the colonizer of North America that lead to the colonists desiring their own “liberty.” We know (more or less) what happened to the native Americans and to the imported Africans as we as a “free” people pursued our own sense of what “liberty” meant to us.

It sometimes must be pointed out that happiness usually arises from a good balance of freedoms and barriers. If, back then, there had been more barriers in place against the killing of native Americans or the enslavement of Africans we might be in a happier condition today.

However, governments and other institutions charged with managing people tend to err on the side of barriers. And so we have the current situation. (It should be noted that there was never any real medical consensus that the steps recommended by the CDC or the WHO were the best steps to take in this situation. It was a political choice made about 15 years ago.)

The barriers begin to fall

Nonetheless, a new consensus is arising – after three months of “shelter in place” – that it is time to start opening things back up. And so this Saturday, I saw a LOT of people rafting on the river.

rafting on the American river

And then I saw even more people rafting on the river!

even more river rafters

I also saw people sitting outside restaurants at tables eating, and even going into some restaurants. And I saw signs announcing re-openings.

However, for this pool at Sac State to be usable by people again, there’s going to be some real cleanup needed!

More flowers

a garden-quality mullein (verbascum)

The floral scene continues to alter weekly as we move closer to Summer. The above flower was on the Folsom trail I use to get to the river. It is a mullein (verbascum) – a variety I have never seen before.

everlastings

These flowers are known as everlastings. They dry very well, and are often seen in flower arrangements dyed different colors. This plant is the only one I have ever seen in the park.

wild grapes in flower

Grape flowers have basically no petals. These are wild grapes and grow as a weed throughout this area. The grapes they produce are small but sweet.

mock orange bush in flower

I have never seen this mock orange in flower. I had a similar bush outside my window in Seattle. It is very showy right now.

St. John's wort

I thought I should take a photo of a St. John’s wort. It is widely known as a medicinal plant and is also very much in bloom in the park. The plant has some unusual characteristics, such as numerous small translucent dots in the leaves, and an odd serrated edge on the flower petals. I caught a bee in this shot as a bonus.

Dry hills

Across the river in the Folsom area, is a south-facing hillside. It has already been baked brown by the hot sun. This is a very typical scene in many places in California that aren’t directly on the coast.

It could be that these hills were once more verdant. Many of these places have been grazed for quite a long time. But I suspect hills that look like this have been the norm in inland California for hundreds of years. One looks at a slope like this with Permaculture in mind, and tends to think, “Wow, could that land use some swales!” Such land is at constant risk of catching on fire, and my understanding is that the natives used to set fires on purpose to control the dry underbrush.

Signs of the Times

16 May 2020
state parks flatten curve sign

…being a collection of images of local signage, mostly recently posted….

Older Signs

I think the first time I got an idea that I should take pictures of signs was the first time I saw this one in Folsom. It’s cute, sort of witty, right?

attentions dogs!

This next one is everywhere on the bike paths. I thought I should include it because of how confusing it could be if you didn’t know the context. Some people don’t know why this should be done and/or don’t do it.

walk left, ride right

And please limit your bicycling speed to 15 MPH! If I could go that fast, I could get home in less than an hour and a half. It usually takes me close to 3 hours. I figure I ride at about 6 MPH. The “racers” maybe go 10.

bikes stay below 15 MPH!

COVID-19

“Social distancing” (whatever that is) was one of the earliest concepts introducing into the pandemic “handling.” (Sorry about the quotes, but several sources including my gut call BS on a lot of this stuff.)

social distancing (winco)

Instruction signs were also posted along the bike path, but I haven’t seen them recently. Here’s another one in town:

keep US safe

Later on, WinCo put this one up…

leave your bags in the car

…then stopped charging for plastic bags. Here we have a huge plastic conservation initiative defeated by a microscopic RNA fragment!

And worse than that, the playgrounds are closed. This breaks my heart.

closed playground

I don’t know how the kids can stand these limitations on their movement.

I know a lot of them are learning how to ride bikes.

shelter in pace virtual run

I’m not sure what a “virtual run” is, but I guess these guys have it all figured out.

Closed restaurants

restaurant open for take-out

There are lots of signs like this around town. This restaurant is a very upscale place (across from the light rail station near downtown) so the sign had to look good.

There are roughly 1,400 restaurants in and around Sacramento (California Restaurant Association figure). The street I return on (L Street) is full of them. A cluster of rather chic ones occupies the ‘teens streets area.

thank you for supporting local businesses

Heroes

Suddenly health care workers are “heroes.” Are they getting hazard pay?

Heroes work here - Sutter

This sign is at the Sutter Health center. Sutter is a not-for-profit health care company that operates numerous hospitals.

health care heroes and home for sale

Kaiser gets to toot its own horn, I guess. It is the biggest health care provider of its type in the country. The Plan is strictly non-profit, but doctors can form for-profit groups within the structure.

Though I included a “home for sale” sign, the housing market does not seem to be particularly involved with what is going on right now.

Enjoying the early summer

party at a park - with social distancing

People who want to have an outing in the park usually try to pay their respects to the current restrictions.

people rafting on the American River

Rafters? Maybe not so much.

Medicine

At this time, perhaps more than ever before, the world of medicine has intersected with the world of public life. The result has been – from my viewpoint – a disaster.

learn pharmacy ad on train

The world of medicine is attached at the hip to the world of pharmacy. This is not because drugs have been found to be the best way to treat illnesses. But they are certainly the most simple-minded way to treat illnesses. So everyone agrees. And pharmacy has become big business.

Birds and Flowers

What would my weekly post be without some bird and flower photos?

brodiaea

This flower looks a lot like the ones I identified as allium (wild onion) earlier, but this new one is brodiaea.

asters

These asters appeared “out of nowhere.” Flowers really change a plant’s character and visual impact.

bluebird feeding young

The bluebird is now busy feeding its young. I can hear them tweeting inside their box whenever more food arrives.

And the geese at Hagan Community Park have been very productive this year!

Geese with many goslings

Happy Mothers Day

13 May 2020
Happy Mothers' Day sign

I was supposed to post this on Sunday, but got busy with other things.

After I got off the train to go to Winco, one of the first things I ran across was this outdoor “celebration” of the holiday.

Jesus Culture event

This event, in which people could drive in and get a bouquet for Mom, was being put on by Jesus Culture Sacramento. It turns out that this group came out of the Bethel Church in Redding, which we were involved with when we helped with wildfire relief efforts in 2018.

Bethel Church appeals to well-educated higher-income people who want to be Christians, but in a more modern way than how this faith is offered and presented in more traditional churches. They utilize the power of prayer (and group postulates, as we might call them) and believe in playing a leadership role in society. They train their people to be professionals.

Flowers for Mom

All the rest of this post is flower pictures. I usually take both a longer shot and a closeup of most plants I photograph, and have included the longer shots here (when I took them), though the closeups are definitely the bigger eye-catchers.

pea flower

On the trail from Winco to the park, there is a little stand of pea plants. Their flowers are very showy, though these have been out long enough to start fading. I usually don’t bother to photograph them because they aren’t wild plants.

clarkias

Here is another example of plants I don’t see in the park. However, these flowers are very common in California. They are related to fireweed which is a very common wildflower in many places. They are called “clarkias.”

clarkia flowers

Blackberries are common everywhere. This particular bush is one of several that are eagerly harvested when the berries ripen. In the park these berries tend to be ignored.

blackberry flowers

These are in the Rose Family just in case the thorns and flower shape look a bit familiar. The Rose Family also includes a lot of fruit trees.

The most obvious flowers in the park are the buckeyes (California horse chestnut).

buckeye tree in ful flower

These are now in full, full bloom. The weather this year was just right for this, so now they are putting on a real show.

buckeye flower spike

New members of the aster family also keep appearing. This family is so numerous with so many similar-looking plants that it is hard to know exactly what genus some of these plants belong to.

new yellow asters

While the new asters dominate the foreground in this shot, just behind them are a bunch of monkey flowers (covered earlier) that are still blooming quite profusely and have been for some time.

yellow aster flowers

At the aquatic center they have taken pains (apparently) to bring in some native plants that would otherwise not be seen very often any more. One of these now in bloom is the tree poppy. These are huge bushes with very big white flowers.

tree poppy bush

I have been by here many many times and don’t remember seeing these before, so these flowers must not last very long.

tree poppy flowers

I hope you all had a good weekend, and wish I could share these sights with more of you in person.

Flower Show

19 April 2020

Flowers continue to dominate the American River Parkway bike trail experience.

The buckeyes are now starting to bloom.

buckeye

If you are familiar with horse chestnuts and these flowers look familiar to you, it’s because they are very closely-related plants. They are also in the same family as maple trees.

Lupine is huge in the upper part of the parkway right now. I’m not sure why the lower part (nearer Sacramento) is so different.

lupine

Behind this field of lupine are the ever-present California poppies.

The above is a zoom shot, and at first I thought the gold-colored flowers in back might be hawkweed. But that grows mostly in small patches close to the trail.

hawkweed

Not to be confused with dandelions, a close relative that grows in moister locations, like lawns.

dandelions

Vetch is in full bloom now, and is widely seen along the length of the trail.

vetch with more poppies

More poppies – just can’t get away from them! Notice how these vetch flowers whiten in their lower parts after being out for a while. This is apparently a natural variation, but may have to do with sunlight, as flowers I saw that were more shaded didn’t have this much white.

The thistles are just starting to flower. They will likely continue into the summer. Most plants in the Aster family, particularly native varieties, are quite hardy and tend to continue flowering for some time.

blue thistle

Further down the trail, cow parsnip starts to make an appearance, along with some other wild umbellifers like wild fennel (or anise).

cow parsnip

These are related to carrots, celery and parsley.

The elderberries are just beginning to flower. These are probably the “blue” variety that can be batter-fried and eaten.

elderberry

There is a “red” variety that is too toxic to eat safely.

This manroot, featured in the photos from my last trip, was climbing up on the elderberry bushes, so easy to photograph.

manroot

I will end this little flower show with a full shot of a single lupine. These are supposedly native in this area, but I’ve never seen so many growing together as I’ve seen on the upper part of this trail near Folsom.

lupine

April’s Fools

4 April 2020
people at the light rail stop Friday morning

In anticipation of more rain today (Saturday) I (again) went out to do my grocery shopping in Folsom on Friday. Just a few people needing transport hung around the light rail station – about normal for non-rush times on this line.

empty light rail car

By the time we got to Folsom, everyone else had debarked.

bridge on trail with bikers

I very seldom take shots of the general area that the bike trail goes through. This is a foot bridge across an inlet on the little lake used for boat racing by university student athletes. As you can see, there are plenty of people out on bikes.

further down the river trail

Further down the trail there are both walkers and bikers.

more people on the trail

And on this very picturesque section of the trail much closer to town, still more walkers and bikers.

More Flowers

fiddlenecks

I got a nice clear photo of the fiddlenecks.

vetch

And another of some vetch. There is a lot of this along the trail; most of it will bloom out a little later.

collinsias

And I couldn’t resist taking more pictures of the little hill full of Collinsias. These are also interspersed with Lupine.

Then down at the Aquatic Park I decided to take a closer look at the tree I’d seen last week full of big yellow flowers. I have been unable to identify this tree. Obviously it has a horticultural source, as this is the only specimen I have ever seen.

unidentified tree with big yellow flowers

California poppies continue to proliferate, particularly on sun-baked slopes.

California poppies along the river

Flowering dogwood is a familiar site in other climates this time of year, but it thrives only in gardens here in Sacramento.

flowering dogwood in town

These streets were full of these small trees, and they were full of flowers. Quite a display! This was taken by the way in the “40’s” neighborhood, streets 40 through 49. It’s a very nice part of town.

Animals in motion

A swallowtail posed patiently for me, but my camera refused to focus on its black body. The image below is cropped out of a wider shot.

swallowtail butterfly

The turkeys were chasing a hen, but I was moving a little when I snapped this, if they weren’t.

male turkeys chasing a hen

Pandemic News

The Germans got their testing started early, with almost 100,000 confirmed cases at this point, and 1,500 deaths. That would be a fatality rate of about 1.5%, but doctors there think that number will rise. According to reports I’ve seen, ordinary flu kills at about 1/10th of that rate.

My friend Patrick who was visiting Malaysia and afraid of getting stuck there managed to get on the next-to-the-last plane from Malaysia to Japan. He likes Japan and trusts that country to handle the pandemic brightly.

He recommended “Last Plane Out” as the theme song for his adventure and possibly this whole episode of history. It was written by Kevin Gilbert (a short-lived professional musician born in Sacramento in 1966) and recorded by his band Toy Matinee, getting some airplay around 1990.

Changes

16 February 2020

Springtime is a period when things change a little faster than normal. If you don’t pay attention, those changes might whiz on by unnoticed and uninspected.

Flowers

But most of us at least notice the flowers. Last week the flowering trees were just beginning to pop. This week they are all over the place.

Corporate flowering trees in Folsom last week.
Flowering tree on the bike path this week.

The slightly unusual greenery that always greets me at the beginning of my ride back to Sacramento has now been identified! It’s known as “Miners’ Lettuce” and apparently is edible when it is young like this.

Last week’s Miners’ Lettuce.
This week’s Miners’ Lettuce.

The ferns continue to develop and will probably enjoy a complete reproductive cycle before the summer heat causes them to die back.

Visitor-planted daffodils are growing better in some places than in others. Perhaps the big stand is being helped out with watering…

Daffodils last week.
Daffodils this week.

There is a unique species along the path, the “wattle” that is native to Australia. It blooms early and very brightly. It’s an acacia; there are many different varieties.

The wattle last week.
The wattle this week.

Another spring flower is oxalis. I don’t see much growing naturally in the woods, but it is in gardens everywhere, and at Pond Park there is a little hill totally covered with it.

oxalis (wood sorrell)

Animals

I haven’t spotted any pregnant deer but there might be one or two.

There are always a few egrets by the river.

Here’s another try at capturing an image of the elusive woodpeckers.

New Growth

Of all the photos I took of branches leafing out, this one of catkins (willow, probably) is the only one that came out.

catkins

Time and Change

If you inspect the situation carefully, you might realize that the only time you have actually directly experienced is present time. The past can only be experienced through memory, and the future through imagination.

The changes we make to present time are all that make it appear that time is passing. We can count the changes that appear to be cyclic (rotation of heavenly bodies, vibration of atoms) and thus “measure time.” The physical universe changes in such predictable ways that this works for us.

Yet all of existence actually only exists in this instant. This fact has been used in our spiritual work to help us understand how to gain more control over our present time, and thus, the future.

29 February update

It’s not often I get to write a post on the 29th of February!

We have basically had zero rainfall this whole month, which is a little unusual. The plants which rely heavily on surface water are suffering under these conditions.

wilting ferns

The ferns I have been following are obviously now wilting, even as their spore sacks are almost mature.

The daffodils planted by park lovers are doing better, but they are bulb plants so have a mechanism to store some reserve moisture. Even so, you can see some wilting in these flowers.

daffodils

A new flower has appeared, also a bulb plant. These are almost certainly Allium (onion family) though the flowers are a bit showy, suggesting the possibility that these are horticultural escapees.

allium - onion - new flower
allium fully open flower

The low rain levels also showed up at this holding pond next to a newer development. This is usually full this time of year.

Meanwhile, the early-leafing trees continue to green out. This is a buckeye, which I tried to photograph earlier but failed to get my focus right.

buckeye new leaves

The Miner’s Lettuce I have been following is still going strong, probably due to the shaded locations and thicker soils it seems to prefer. I tried a little bite this time and it is very palatable.

The fruit trees continue to flower. The earliest ones were very showy, but now many more have appeared. I was interested in how many of them appeared in the understory of the wooded area along the trail. These reminded me of the flowering dogwood I used to see in Michigan forests in the spring. These trees get sunlight until the canopy leafs out, though in this particular forest the summer canopy is less dense than it can get in a Midwestern deciduous forest. I don’t think fruit trees are the normal thing in mature forests, so these could be escapees from cultivation.

fruit trees flowering in a riparian forest near a population center

7 March update

Some rain finally came today. I didn’t believe it would be much when I got the news on my weather app, so I didn’t take my umbrella, but went without my bike.

The rain wasn’t hard, but it was persistent. I got wet enough that I decided to go into Goodwill and get an umbrella. Or, maybe, an umbrellita. It was a kid’s umbrella, but I thought it was kinda cool. Dory from Finding Nemo.

Dory from Finding Nemo

First of February

2 February 2020

In California, February often marks a warming period before the rains of March hit. In a place like Sacramento, where the winters are mild, you may even spot an occasional fruit tree blooming in February.

After missing my usual bike trip last week so I could have time to volunteer at the Pig Bowl (Police versus Firefighters charity event), I again cycled the 18 or so miles down the American River from Folsom to downtown Sac this Saturday.

Pig Bowl

signing the pledge

At the Pig Bowl we push living drug-free during the little pregame “Kids Safety Fair” for people who come early.

Various law enforcement and first responder groups have booths and encourage young people to think about joining up. Even the FBI was there. I caught this moment where the California Highway Patrol’s “Chipper” is posing with a girl. It’s possible they know each other.

Chipper and friends

Last year the Star Wars people (Rebel Legion Endor Base, a “Star Wars costuming group”) entered right through the booths area, but this year they came in some other way. I did see them exit, though.

Rebel Legion Endor Base

Spring begins on the American River

With the assistance of wet weather, new growth for this year’s regrowth of all the various perennial plants has started. Some young leaves look good enough to eat, and possibly are.

new growth

I revisited the ferns, but they seem only a little more mature than they did the last time.

fern fronds

Fishermen were back out in the salmon spawning grounds. It’s possible fishing is not allowed during spawning season, but the regulations I found were too complex for me to know for sure. Note the heron in the distance, also fishing or looking for frogs.

fishermen below the dam

Next I went by a place where I’d seen a young buck before. “Wonder if he’ll show up today…” Sure enough he did. He was wary of me, but when I knelt down he came up and crossed the bike path.

Somebody has planted a few garden flowers along the path. My closeup lens didn’t work perfectly, but this little daffodil protected by a circle of rocks really caught my eye.

narcissus variety