a. Californica Obsession and Fencing – So Much Work…

The motherlode of a. Californica. Such a special plant!

a. Californica (a.c.) has become my absolute favorite butterfly plant. There are so many I love, but a.c. take the prize. Not only do they look like they are prehistoric, they have the most gorgeous flower and scent. In fact, several of the a.c. plants were blooming and beginning to emit their stunning scent. This is a little early as compared to last year. Things seem to be a bit off this year.

On my monitoring hike this past week, I found 14 a.c. plants on the north slope. This is one more in that community than last year. I found a third plant in the area that is closest to the house. We are getting closer to last year’s numbers, but are still significantly deficient (3 vs. 7 last year). The third community remains even at 2 this year (and 2 last year). I am finding larger plants too. This is really good because caterpillars need considerable plant material to make it to their chrysalis stage. One day, we will have the ability to transfer smell through the computer. I would love to be able to send you some of a.c.’s fragrance.

I am seeing many species of butterfly, but no monarchs yet. Today there were three white sulfur butterflies fluttering around as I watered in Site 2.

I saw a yellow butterfly today that was slightly larger than the whites. It was not like a swallowtail. It was much smaller. It moved much too quickly, and I had no hope of getting any type of photo – even a bad one. I was fortunate to be able to spend some time with a painted lady butterfly. She was much slower and stayed on the plant in front of me for quite some time. The butterfly had a little more black in the middle, but was unmistakably a painted lady.

Fencing is always a barrier to expansion into other places on the ranch. In addition to being expensive, the work is so difficult to do on my own. Fortunately, David said he would help me with the fence around Site 2. David is stronger and has more leverage with his height. It is much quicker when he is helping. I have been wanting to plant in the arroyo for some time, so this was really exciting for me.

The posts are all set up. We decided to use Wedge Loc tools to construct corners. It is not as strong as a traditional corner that is cemented in, but it can do the job for a temporary fence. I was going to use barbed wire, but decided it would be too difficult to get the tension I need on it – given the corners are not in cement. I really don’t like working with barbed wire anyway. I had some extra no climb fencing at the shed, but opted to purchase new fencing. This way, I would have enough, and it would go faster. The cows are returning to my side on Wednesday, and I need to the fence complete by then – but David ran out of energy and time.

Fortunately, my neighbor, Ric Wetzel, was able to provide some supplemental help again. He drove over in his new, fancy, super useful all electric Polaris and hauled the fencing down to Site 2. He assessed the situation, returned on Monday afternoon to help me install the field fence and worked with me until the sun was down. Thank you Ric!! It all went so much faster with a second person – but oh my – what a lot of work. That Polaris is like driving on a cloud. You cannot feel the bumps – and on a ranch, that is saying a lot.

I took down the cage from around the redbud since it would be included inside the new fence structure and repurposed the entire thing for the newly planted maple tree I placed in the hillside spring down flow area. I really wanted to get some trees in place on the north side. Ron assured me that these Big Leaf Maple trees are native to California and are drought tolerant. He said they can be found all over Southern California and growing in arroyos too. I was sold and am excited to see what they do.

The wind has been fairly steady with some gusts. When I returned to the house on Saturday, I saw this gorgeous blue egg (see photo above) just sitting on the driveway. It was amazing. Then, David found the nest, still attached to the branch it was on. We thought this was a robin’s egg and next. The were not next to each other, but near enough. The first call I made was to Melinda Barrett from the County Resource Conservation District. She sent me an article that discussed that people should leave eggs alone when they find them out of the nest. Not only are the eggs likely not viable, but if you had the extraordinary amount of time it takes to raise a bird baby, the bird could never be returned to the wild since it would not have the benefit of the bird parents educating on finding food, flying, etc. I put the egg back where I found it opting for less work and heartbreak.

Potpourri of wildflowers

The wildflowers are still blooming. They are getting less and less as the ground dries out more rapidly. There was not sufficient rain to grow the grass tall, and the existing plants are beginning to die off and leave a crunch under foot. Cattle are being culled in anticipation of a lean feed year. The water in the Swale Pond is almost gone, and the Spring Creek is down to a trickle. There are still some deeper stands of water in Odom Creek, but that will be gone soon except at the spring. Rainwater Tank 1 had a slow leak. David fixed it, but I lost an eight of the water before it could be fixed. I am nervous about what the future will bring in terms of the drought. I decided to cut back by half on the plants I will plant this spring. I want to be sure I have enough rainwater to get all of us through this dry time.

On a positive note, David and I both received our first vaccine dose. We are planning for the second dose to take us out of commission for a few days. I will water on Thursday before I get the next shot in anticipation of this. Life, and death, are all around us. I am grateful to just be present, right now, in this place, being a part of something that is beneficial, loving and breathing life into the world.

Wildflowers at sunset