More a. Californica Spotted and Wildflower Whiplash

a. Californica on the hill east of the house

I always let out a whoop of excitement when I see these remarkable a. Californica plants. They look so prehistoric to me, and the smell is heaven. The air of magic around these plants is only enhanced by its rapid “see them out of nowhere” growth. Last year, I shared that I found three communities of these plants – one near the house with seven plants, one on the tall south facing hill to the north of the house with thirteen plants, and one on a hill to the east of the house with two plants. I have been monitoring each location. The east hill has two plants. The site near the house has two plants (so far), and the north hill had two plants. In the last post, I suggested that it may still be early to see many of these plants, and I was right. The plants have been appearing about a week after my first sighting.

Signs of the Drought Apparent

Spring Creek is still running, though just slightly. As visible in the first photo above, the eddy has receded several feet – and this is without cows drinking from it in almost two weeks. My trial mini beaver dam analog did not do much. I will try harder in the future. The Swale Pond receded 10″ in just one day. Note the moist area exposed and the water line in the second photo. The big spring in line on Odom Creek is still full. The creek is running pretty good. It was dry for quite some time in the early winter despite precipitation. The soil was so thirsty that there was little standing (or moving) water until late February. Not pictured are the increasing number of dry spots visible throughout the area. I have already begun irrigating. This is a three weeks earlier than last year.

Wildflower Whiplash – they are everywhere!

Stunning hill of purple (Blue Dick flowers)

Blue Dicks, Popcorn Flower, Fiddleneck and Lupine proliferate insanely this year. The hills are washed in strokes of color – orange, purple, white, yellow. It is really stunning. You almost get whiplash swinging your head around in every direction to see the colors and flowers. The drought is partly responsible as well as the darker winter we had. The grass did not get the best timing for water and had less sunlight with which to grow. This made room for the wildflowers to sprout and not have to compete/be blocked out by the European grasses. While this is not good for the cattle business, it really is extraordinarily beautiful, amazing for pollinators and quite the olfactory experience. If I could share the smell with you through this blog, I would. Nectar is heavy in the air and the sound of all sorts of bees is an ongoing, loud undulating hum. My photos just do not convey this outlandish beauty.

Milkweeds Growing Well

Xerces and Monarch joint Venture each push that milkweed is the most needed plant to be planted for monarch habitat. I am very happy to say that I have many milkweeds emerging strong and healthfully. Most are narrowleafs. However I found one showy coming back at Site 8 and, of course, the a. Californica. I have not seen any of the woolly pods I planted come back this year. The gopher hit them hard twice last year. I was happy to see some narrowleafs come back from the wild pig attack at Site 8. They did not reemerge last year, and I thought I may have lost them completely. I have growth that I can see in four of the seven milkweeds planted there last year. Of the nine I planted in the raised bed, only three have returned from the massacre by the gopher that sneaked into the bed. It does look like the CA fuchsia is reemerging. That would be incredible if so. We still have a deer grass and a yerba santa that survived the attack.

Other Notable Updates

There is a tremendous variety of growth in and around the branch fence area. I have not seen any of the milkweed I planted from the Xerces kits emerge yet. The area is more shaded, and the showy milkweed seems to be taking longer to emerge. It seems as though another creature is making its way into the branch fence area. I’ve seen some of the fencing fallen down and soil disturbance. It isn’t a calf since they are on the south part of the ranch. I did not see any scat or tracks to be able to know. It would be useful and fun to set up a game camera. I have one, but have not gotten around to doing this. It would be interesting to see who is coming around in the night (or day when I am not looking).

At Site 2 in the arroyo, the plants are off to a good, healthy start. I did see considerable gopher activity near the site. I found the hose covered in gopher mounds in several locations along its route from the water tank to the arroyo. Getting a stainless steel hose was a specifically so gophers could not bite through it and cattle could not crush it. It will be tested now. The cattle are due to return at the end of the week.

I have been seeing white butterflies with a pale orange throughout their wings. They spook easy, and I do not have a good photo to share. I was able to get two pictures from far away, but the pixelation when blown up is terrible. I did not include them here.

It appears that the cattle pushed their way through the barbed wire to browse the deergrass. I found one of the wires shifted up and the bunch of grass trimmed low. It is possible it could be a deer. I have seen evidence of their presence toward the more forested portion of the ranch. My neighbor said he saw one too the other day. There were no deer droppings or hair on the wire – but it is a possibility.

Spring is always a time of hope. Plants are in the ground and doing well before gophers, heat, pigs or any other misfortune finds them. David and I received our first vaccine shot last Friday. We have hope too that we will be able to do more away from home and see family and friends that we have only seen on a video screen. We miss hugs and being with the people we love. Let us all cling to as much hope as possible and the joy it brings. We do not know what lies ahead, but for now, I will celebrate the possibilities of togetherness and the arrival of the monarchs.