Sunday, June 23, 2019

The Pollinator Garden

Last week I went to Cornerstone Sonoma, a retail place with expensive shops and restaurants and beautiful gardens that are open to the public (and free!). Several years ago I visited the gardens with my friend Jo, but since then Cornerstone has changed ownership and consequently so has the entire marketplace.

One of the changes I was very interested in is the pollinator garden designed by Kate Frey. She is a Bay Area gardener who, together with Gretchen LeBuhn, wrote the book "The bee-friendly Garden". She lives and garden not too far away from where I live and therefore is an inspiration for my garden.

Her pollinator garden is one of the bigger (if not the biggest) gardens at Cornerstone, and when I entered this beautiful space I immediately felt right at home. I was walking around her garden, observing and nodding to myself, making mental notes about the plants that all are so familiar to me because - they are in my garden as well.

Wonderful Verbena bonariensis "Lollipop", a true bee magnet since it provides nectar to native bees. Once it's established it won't leave a garden ever again. It actually can become a bit overwhelming. It readily re-seeds and I had to pull some of them over and over again so that they don't overtake the garden. However, it is so beautiful and beneficial that it has a forever place in my flowerbeds. I love it to mingle with red poppies (gorgeous color combination) or plant some coreopsis at their base.

Agastache is another bee-friendly plant and it comes in many varieties. This one is "Tutti Frutti" (that I killed in my garden last year...), but there are also "Black Adder" and "Blue Boa" (I think you can see them in the second photo from the top) and I know that Kate also likes to plant "Rosy Giant" which I have in my backyard.

Of course there has to be Echinacea (I don't know which variety this is) - it's a favorite of mine even though it sometimes has been hard on my patience. They take time to grow to their true size, but every year when they come back they become a little fuller and bigger.

I was happy to find Gaillardia as well, I think this is "Sunrise Sunset", the one that I killed in my garden, or "Arizona Apricot". I love Gaillardia, but it seems I'm only successful with the red ones "Burgundy"...

Another yellow flower I didn't know is a good pollinator is Kniphofia "Bee's Sunset" - well, it's in the name already. I'm not really a fan of the hot poker plant, but it sure looked good in Kate's garden.

Walking through this garden to the busy humming of the bees and the dancing of the butterflies I realized happily that my own garden has turned into a true pollinator garden. I couldn't ask for more.

Friday, June 14, 2019

High School Madness

The last few weeks of the high school year are usually extremely busy and often quite chaotic. Our library is closed, but we have the back windows open (those are the windows to the textbookroom) where students can return their textbooks and English novels, pay fines for damaged or lost books and seniors get their clearance so that they can walk in the graduation ceremony.

The first day of this madness I worked on my own since my colleague had a day off, and when I came to work in the morning I was greeted by this:

A non-working computer. Yay!!!

That meant that I packed all the books I received on a cart, wheeled them to the computer on my desk in the library where I checked them in, brought them  in the workroom to clean them and finally back into the textbookroom where I could finally put them on the shelves.

 Please notice the empty shelves...

Our IT guy arrived an hour later, fixed the computer and after that everything went a bit more smoothly.

We usually put the books on carts according to section before we shelve them. It's a more efficient system since we always have to move the shelves. They look strong, but they're very sensitive, and the one thing we don't want during these weeks are broken shelves that don't move anymore. That happened to us last year when we couldn't access the math section anymore.

No matter how many books we received during the day, every evening before I left work most of them were cleared away and the carts were empty, ready for the onslaught of the next day.

The shelves filled up more and more each day.

I actually love working at the back windows because I can see what's going on. Some students were painting the ground and one day during lunch break the band played a couple songs.

The last few days of the school year were minimum days when students went home right after finals. It was lovely to have the campus to ourselves and wander along the empty buildings.

Even the crows enjoyed the quiet.

I finally had time to admire the impressive artwork of our students.

Every evening when I came home I was ready for this before dinner - I think I deserved it after the madness of each day.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

An Image and Its Story: May 2019

Since I have joined The 100 Day Project I have mainly shot pictures for my theme "100 days in my garden" throughout the month and not much else. May is also the month of high school madness due to the end of the school year and the high amount of work in the school library. Ergo - not much else was going on in regards to photography. No wonder then that my chosen photo - actually two of them that I collaged into one image - is from the garden, but also connected to work. Both were taken on the very last day of the month.

Friday was the last day of school which meant we had a steady flow of students wanting to return their books, paying overdue fines and getting clearance slips for their graduation ceremony in the evening. I opened up earlier in the morning than usual and the first time I could actually sit down for a couple of minutes was almost four hours later. When I finally got home another four hours later I was totally wiped out, my feet and hips hurt and the only thing I was able to do was lying down on the sofa and within minutes I was fast asleep. Oh, the bliss of a good nap! It was early evening by then, the Geek came home from his work and we just had a lovely quiet hour outside in the garden, sipping a glass of rosé and reading - a book I had brought home form the library that was just returned a couple days before. It was pure bliss and the perfect start in the weekend.

I have a few more days at work until my long summer break - almost eight weeks! - will begin. There is always work for the German School to be done during the summer, but it is far calmer and slower than the end (and beginning) of the high school year.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Making the Desert a Home

The desert is an interesting and fascinating but also very hostile and unforgiving environment. Living here sounds like hardship and constant fighting for survival. And yet, there are animals who call this place their home, and they not only survive, they thrive here.

What comes to mind first are all kinds of lizards and iguanas. They are made for this environment. I'm not quite sure what kinds of iguanas or lizards these are - I suspect the first and third ones are Spinytail iguanas (but I can't say for sure) and the one in the middle is a Chuckwalla.

Of course our super survivalist, the coyote, calls the desert home just like he feels at home in so many other areas. No matter what other people say and think about coyotes, I love these animals. They preferred to escape the heat of the day by sleeping in the shade.

 Do I see a smile on this face?

Another favorite of mine, misunderstood and hated by so many, is the wolf, and I was quite surprised to learn that wolves are found in the desert as well. Mexican Gray Wolf, that is - also known as lobo. It was once native to southeastern Arizona, southern New Mexico, western Texas and northern Mexico. It is now the most endangered gray wolf in North America. In a collaboration between the USA and Mexico, all remaining lobos in the wild were captured to prevent them from becoming extinct. Five wild Mexican wolves were used to start a captive breeding program from which captive-bred animals were released into recovery areas in Arizona and New Mexico to recolonize them in their former historical range. By now there are about 150 Mexican wolves living wild and about 240 in captive breeding programs.

They are stunningly beautiful animals.

Any idea who this paw belongs to?

It's a mountain lion (cougar, puma - take your pick) - yes, another one of my favorites. I was actually looking forward to seeing the cougar but she wasn't in the mood to present herself. Therefore, a picture from several years back, my all-time favorite:

Cougars, of course, are not limited to the desert. They also can be found in other environments and areas. Sometimes they venture into urban areas. Just a couple weeks ago a juvenile cougar strolled around our downtown mall in the early hours of a Monday morning. Every now and then mountain lions are also spotted in or near my neighborhood. I usually don't walk alone between dusk and dawn.

Another "desert cat" is the bobcat that - like the cougar - is also found in other areas. This one was resting in its cave and therefore the photo is mediocre at best.

There's an animal that looks like a pig - its home is the Sonora-Arizona desert, but it is also found throughout Central and South America. However, it's by no means a pig (don't ever call it a pig!) but a Collared Peccary or Javelina, as they are called here. Yes, they do look like wild pigs... but they aren't. They are very social animals and often form herds. They have scent glands under each eye and on their back; they use scent to mark herd territory and each other so that they quickly recognize Javelinas from outside their herd. They have communal spaces that they share - for example, they always poop in the same space. It's like their bathroom.

Bighorn Sheep live in the desert as well, and I can easily picture them in the rocky parts, climbing easily and watching their surroundings from their high point of advantage.

Of course opportunists make their home in the desert as well. Any place where we don't find these guys?

I can't forget the birds that live in the desert, many of which, like the Gila woodpecker, I only heard but didn't see. But I saw orioles and cactus wrens who were singing their little hearts out. Their song actually reminded me of sounds I had heard in Hawai'i. They loved to hang out in the Ocotillos.

And of course the most famous of them all, the Roadrunner:

All these photos were taken in the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum near Tucson. We have been visiting this place since 2002 and have always loved it. If you have never been and happen to be in that area, do yourself a favor and spend a few hours here. You won't regret it.