Sunday, August 30, 2009

Of wildfires, rainbows, and...bugs?

Just gave Hana a bath, which is a 2-person job. She likes to shake the water off her like a salad spinner every few minutes, so Gilbert and I also got showered. But, that's ok. It's August.

Been watching the local news stations on and off all day on the huge fire (aka the 'Station Fire') that's been burning up in the San Gabriel Mountains since Wednesday. Over 35,000 acres burned, 6,000+ homes evacuated, and the fire's only 5% contained. They're also keeping close watch on JPL and Mt. Wilson, which is home not only to the observatory, but also to a ton of transmitters/communications towers. We've been wondering if the fire has burned any portion of the Arroyo Seco, a favorite hiking spot of ours when we used to live in LA County. But in the overall scheme of things, that's not important. I feel mostly for all the residents, human or otherwise, who have been displaced by this terrible conflagration.

So far this year, we've been lucky in our neck of the woods, with only a few minor fires in Temecula, some smoke wafting over the ridge from Camp Pendleton (I think they ignited some small brush fires on the base as a result of their gung ho, seemingly 24/7 testing of an accoutrement of 'top secret' armaments and munitions), and most recently, on August 28th, a 2-acre fire at Tenaja Road and Avenida Escala, which was quickly contained by our most excellent firefighters.

For all of us here in Southern California, October can be the cruellest month because of those devilish Santa Ana winds combined with the exceptionally tinder dry chaparral in our local mountains. I do NOT want to revisit those horrible fire storms of October 2007 that raged out here in Riverside County and Northern San Diego County.
For pix of some of the fire hazards we've gone through, check out:

And now, for a diversion from the dire meteorological forecast, here's a Kodak moment captured as we were leaving for work at 6:35am on August 4th. Monsoonal flows (although we never really got any measureable rain here in La Cresta) along with a good dose of morning sunshine, created this virtual kaleidescope-in-the-sky. Wonder why I don't miss LA more than I do.

As for bugs, we have plenty of them out here. However, anything that resembles a grasshopper is, IMHO, evil incarnate and MUST be destroyed, killed, smashed, obliterated, and utterly annihilated.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am neurotically, pathologically, insanely, phobically, opposed to anything that remotely emotes 'grasshopper'. Crickets (or the brown grasshoppers), as long as they are less than 1" in length, are marginally acceptable. Everything else? KABOOM!! DEAD!, RAID! Gilbert, kill that thing or else you're not getting any dinner or even allowed back in the house! BLECH!@!!!

I can't imagine why I'm so mortified by these things. Short of paying a shrink to explain it to me, I will self psychoanalyze and say that I probably transferred my childhood fear of those enormous flying cockroaches in Taiwan to the grasshoppers of Southern California. I also vaguely recall an old black & white sci-fi flick I had watched as a small child about aliens from outer space which somehow tangentially involved the discovery of enormous pods of grasshopper-like thingies. Towards the end of the movie, there was this ghastly giant Lucifer-like image that emerged, obliterating the skyline, ready to destroy the world. Thankfully, the abomination was destroyed only after a beam or crane made of iron went crashing into it (and I think with somebody actually riding on it!). As an adult, I'm sure I would have found the plotline of this movie pretty hoaky, but as a youngster, I was just too darned naive and impressionable. So, the unfortunate dye was cast, and I am now cursed with this life-long inability to differentiate between grasshopppers and the evil spectre of Satan.

Religio-neurotic implications aside, all I can say is give me a rattlesnake any day over a freakin' grasshopper!

However, there are other bugs that I absolutely love, or at least am intrigued by, including spidders and the bootiful butterflies. Here are a few I happened on, both in and out of the house.

8/12/07 Tarantula (Aphonopelmus reversum). We found this guy in the garage, and had to catch & release him back into the wilds...

7/23/09 Silver Orb Spider (Argiope argentata), webbed between the Spanish Lavenders

8/13/09 Western Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio rutulus) on Butterfly Bush

9/30/06 I think this is a Stripe-tailed Scorpion (Paruroctonis silvestrii). Gilbert almost stepped on this guy when he got out of the shower. He started screaming like a girl, and I thought he was messing with me when he said there was a scorpion in the bathroom, so I totally dismissed his cries for help. Ooops - my bad! Anyhoo, we managed to get him (the scorpion, not Gilbert) into a gladware container & then set him free in the chaparral hillside behind the house.

3/31/01 Bramble Green Hairstreak (Callophrys dumetorum)? Photographed this little cutie on a visit to the property several years before our house was built. Looks like he or she is imbibing on Popcorn Flower (Plagiobothrys or Cryptantha species?)

6/3/01 Mormon Metalmark (Apodemia mormo) on Deerweed (Lotus scoparius). Again, photographed on one of our trips to the property before our house was built.

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