Saturday, June 26, 2010

Treks on the Santa Rosa Plateau: San Diego Button Celery & Hoover's Downingia

Summer is finally upon us, though we've been dodging in and out of June Gloom these past couple weeks, with sunny but breezy days, and occasionally cool, even foggy evenings. But from here on out, we should have little to no chance of rain for the next four months or so.

We hiked out to the main vernal pool at the Plateau around 9:30am this morning to see what if anything was left of the water. The expanses of dry grasses along the Vernal Pool trail were stunningly golden-hued and full of textural contrasts.

6/26/10 Vernal Pool Trail.

I didn't expect to see any blooms this late in the season, but I was pleasantly surprised to see the Hoover's  Downingia still in good form at the main vernal pool. I was even more astonished by the carpets of San Diego Button Celery in and around the receding waters. At first, I had no idea what they were (looked almost like thistles, with their bristly inflorescences), but then thistles don't grow in swampy, vernal poolly areas, so I eventually confirmed their ID through Calphotos. Really the highlight of our short trek today.

6/26/10 Hoover's/Spotted Downingia (Downingia bella). Main vernal pool.

6/26/10 Those long-horned Corriente-cross cows, doing their thing along the fringes of the main vernal pool. A lovely periwinkle field of Hoover's Downingias in the forefront.

Oh, yeah... these are the really happy cows of California. MOOWAH!

6/26/10 Hoover's Downingia (Downingia bella).

So the vernal pools are now rapidly receding, after having been inundated this past winter, thanks to El Nino. 

6/26/10 Boardwalk over main vernal pool.

6/26/10 Slender Tarweed (Hemizonia fasciculata) blooming along the path to the boardwalk.

6/26/10 Slender Tarweed (Hemizonia fasciculata).

6/26/10 San Diego Button Celery (Eryngium aristulatum var. parishii). This plant is listed as rare, threatened or endangered in California and elsewhere (CNPS List 1B; 0.1: Seriously endangered in California). Main vernal pool.

6/26/10 San Diego Button Celery (Eryngium aristulatum var. parishii) along boardwalk.

6/26/10 Wine Cup Clarkia (Clarkia purpurea ssp. quadrivulnera). Vernal Pool Trail.

6/26/10 Lanceleaf Dudleya (Dudleya lanceolata). Vernal Pool Trail.

6/26/10 Lanceleaf Dudleya (Dudleya lanceolata). Vernal Pool Trail.

6/26/10 Vernal Pool Trail.

6/26/10 Acmon Blue (Plebejus acmon). Vernal Pool Trail.

6/26/10 House Wren (Troglodytes aedon). Trans Preserve Trail.

All told, in bloom today were:

California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
Slender Tarweed (Hemizonia fasciculata)
South Coast Morning Glory (Calystegia macrostegia)
Wine Cup Clarkia (Clarkia purpurea ssp. quadrivulnera)
San Diego Button Celery (Eryngium aristulatum var. parishii)
Hoover's Downingia (Downingia bella)
Lanceleaf Dudleya (Dudleya lanceolata)
Long-Beaked Filaree (Erodium botrys)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Navajo Chickens

My first encounter with a Navajo Chicken was back in 1999 when Gil and I took a trip out to Arizona to visit the Petrified Forest and Canyon de Chelly.

En route, we stopped at the Hubbell Trading Post, a National Historic Site that's the oldest still operating trading post within the Navajo Nation. It was purchased by a John Lorenzo Hubbell back in 1878, and the Hubbell family ran the place until 1967 when they sold it to the National Park Service. A cool place that emoted tons of historical old west character, and I was especially drawn by a back room that housed an amazing plethora of Navajo rugs (along with a crowd of aficionados from LA and other metro burgs). OMG. I had never been so enchanted and captivated by the beauty and simplicity of a woolly creation. BUT, my hopes were dashed when I realized that these amazing works of home-spun art were commanding prices in the thousands of dollars. The cheapest piece was $200, but it was literally the size of a place mat. I've always wondered if you could get a better deal if you went straight to the source.

11/12/99 Hubbell Trading Post, Ganado, Apache County, NE Arizona

11/12/99 Hubbell Trading Post.

So that's where the chickens come into play. On the counter in the front entry were a couple of fun wooden sculptures. A cute little sheep, covered with natural sheep wool, and a chicken, painted in subtle purple & red, with a raffia or hay tail. At $30, the chicken was a no-brainer purchase (compared to much heftier priced Navajo rugs). Since then I've been stuck on cluck and enamored of all things chicken. 

Purchased from Hubbell Trading Post 11/12/99. By Edith & Guy John, Navajos from Sweetwater, AZ.

Bought this one online, and it's signed 'L. Herb'. Maybe a Lulu Herbert creation?

Signed 'J J, 5-2000' 

Signed 'Lawrence H.'

Signed 'DT', purchased from Death Valley National Park Visitor Center. 

These Chickens are inimitable creations in the Navajo folk art tradition. Here's an apt recant of their origins from

"A discussion about Navajo folk art would be incomplete without mentioning chickens . . . those crazy chickens! The Herbert family has been largely responsible for an unimaginable menagerie of animals. The father, Woody Herbert, started carving Brahma bulls, ravens and horses in the mid-1980s. His legacy is carried on by his talented children, their husbands, wives and children. Wilford and Lulu Herbert Yazzie are probably best known for their chickens and ravens. Edith Herbert John's work is best recognized in her chickens, owls and pigs. Their brother, Leslie, has demonstrated the greatest variety, carving everything from turkeys to skunks to large coyote families.
Many more artists exist in this movement and our pleasure is watching the constant and rapid innovation in the Navajo folk art. As with other forms of Native American art, it brings great pleasure to the owner. Perhaps its best contribution is the laughter and smiles it inspires while it pushes you to look deeper into the Navajo viewpoint."

And then my poultry obsession just expanded from there. 

Ceramic chickens on my kitchen counter. From Lowe's, of all places.

A psychedelic hen from Cost Plus.

A pensive hen from Cost Plus.

An 'ironite', 'Hulga' hen I purchased from a sadly going out of biz shoppe in Murrieta.

Brass-plated roosters. A gift from Hank Alain (RIP) & his wife Lucy to my parents back when they were all still living in Taiwan. Probably dates back to the early 90s. Part of a set depicting the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac.

A homecoming gift from my mom & dad when we first moved to our new home in June of 2006.

A bootiful metallic rooster on our kitchen counter, from Armstrong Nursery in Temecula. 

Now, I want the real thing - i.e., real hens in a real chicken coop. I'm inspired by the poultry postings of Clare (Curbstone Valley Farm )/, Rosie (,  and Noelle ( ). 

Monday, June 14, 2010


Around 9:25pm tonight, as I was doing the blog thing on the computer, I heard the ceiling light fixture rattling just a tad and, simultaneously, also noticed my potted anthurium swaying without rhyme, reason, or a breeze.

Lasted probably around 30-60 seconds (i.e, about a minute). There's been a recent swarm of minor earthquakes in and around the area of Anza Borrego Desert SP (E. San Diego County). In checking the USGS website, a 5.7 magnitude earthquake did occur about 5 mile SE of Ocotillo at 9:26:58pm this evening

All of us here in California are bracing for the big one along the San Andreas Fault, and you just never know what might be a precursor. Not freaked out, but just waiting with baited breath.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

My Dog is bonkers and other astute observations

Well, Hana is bonkers, but we sort of had a clue of that back in her puppyhood when we would watch her running frenetically around the house (and back then, it was a much smaller townhouse, so not much room to maneuver around in) at 50mph for no apparent reason at all.

Maybe "bonkers" is too harsh a moniker, but, if nothing else, she is certainly hyperactively energetic. That's simply not normal for an Akita though. Her predecessor, Yuki, was the epitome of calm nobility, a trademark of the breed. Hana? Not so much...

Hana has her own toy box chock full of squeaky toys that have long since had their squeekies annihilated. At 5 1/2 years old, she's no spring chicken anymore. However, she still plays with her toys with reckless abandon, usually whilst upside down, using her two front paws to throw whatever hapless stuffed critter that's within her range up in the air so she can catch it again. Wildly entertaining.

But for a dog whose ancestors were historically used to track & hunt large game (including bears) in Northern Japan, this one is  beyond foo foo. Her worst transgression? She's done a number on our bamboo floor from her daily scoobydoobydoo-running in place-freakout fest greeting every time we come home from work. Ouch, ouch, and ouch! So a word of advice to those considering bamboo flooring - yes, it's beautiful & sustainable - but don't bother if you have kids that like to rollerblade in the house or ridiculously bonkers pets in the 70+ pounds weight division. There will be track marks galore. Can you imagine her back in the day with a samurai handler on the northern island of Honshu in the Akita prefecture? He'd be like, WTF?! (in Japanese, of course). Regardless, Hana is still our baby.

5/19/10 Hana with Bunny & Monkey. All three are quite discombobulated.

6/5/10 Hana, overseer of all, but master of none. Hmmm.....

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Don't Peacocks ever sleep?

Ok, that's not really the main subject of this post. But every time I'm at home (particularly in the evening hours when I have a few moments to spare to dabble on the computer), I notice that the neighbor's peacocks (yes, I said peacocks) have this penchant for emitting their meowy-caterwaully calls at disturbingly precise intervals throughout their 24-7 diurnal cycle. As proof positive, it's now about 1:00am and I'm still hearing the nails-across-the-chalkboard sound effects of these over-caffeinated birds outside the open window about every 15 minutes or so.

First of all, why do people even keep peacocks? Unlike poultry, ducks & geese, they really have no other useful function than to inflate the egos of their owners who want to impress their visitors with visages of avian resplendence strutting around the grounds like Paris Hilton on a go-see. Second, I really don't have much against this brocaded peafowl, other than the fact that when I'm smack dab in the middle of a transcendental meditation in the peace and quiet of our rural surroundings, I don't want to be snapped out of my reverie by the 100 decibel screech of WRAHWRAHWRAH!!!

Thank the deuces we're still far enough away from our nearest neighbor to deem this auditory anomaly in the space time continuum only mildly disturbing.

Now on to things more horticultural in nature.

Spring is fading fast and summer is gearing up as our weekend temperatures are expected to spike up into the 90s. Here's a quick repast of some blooming natives that will soon be retiring for the season:

5/8/10 Heuchera 'Canyon Duet.'

5/8/10 'Jack' Monkeyflower (Mimulus cultivar).

6/2/10 'Marian Sampson' Coyote Mint (Monardella macrantha). A selection from Mourning Cloak Ranch & Botanic Garden in Tehachapi. Quite miniature, so I have it growing in a clay pot with 'Sunset Strain' Lewisia (Lewisia cotyledon). 

5/20/10 California Brodiaea (Brodiaea californica). 

5/17/10 Fruits of Hoffmann's Nightshade (Solanum xanti var. Hoffmannii). They resemble little green tomatoes or tomatillos. HOWEVER, this nightshade is toxic, so just say no to taste testing. Native to Gaviota Pass north of Santa Barbara. 

5/17/10 Canyon Liveforever (Dudleya cymosa). Native to rocky cliffs and outcrops in the North Coast, Cascades, Sierras & Transverse ranges of California. 

6/2/10 Fort William Fairyfan (Clarkia williamsonii). Native to foothills and woodlands of the Northern and Central Sierras. 

5/27/10 Fort William Fairyfan (Clarkia williamsonii). 

5/8/10 Farnsworth's Jewelflower (Streptanthus farnsworthianus). 

5/20/10 Hedge Nettle (Stachys bullata).

5/27/10 Hyacinth Brodiaea (Tritelia hyacinthina).

5/28/10 Butterfly Mariposa Lily (Calochortus venustus).

5/27/10 Bolander's Phacelia (Phacelia bolanderi). 

5/20/10 Chinese Houses, white-flowered form (Collinsia heterophylla).