Monday, August 7, 2023

The July Garden


Sheila's Delight - one of the three roses I grow

The summer months of July and August are not big months in the garden. The "show" happens in May and June whereas July and August can even look a little tired. Many plants are past their blooming prime and others are not quite there yet. But still, there is a lot going on and beauty could be found everywhere.

I always love looking from the fence toward our house - look at those shadows on the walkway! The Japanese Maple is doing really well this year. When I bought it, it was tiny and lived in a pot for many years. Finally, 12 years ago I planted it in this big tub after I had removed the bottom of it, so the roots can actually grow into the ground. The tree really took off after that. In July I also cut down the rhododendron that was next to it, and now the little tree can show off all its glory.

Hello Goodbye - the poppies were on their very last leg - usually they don't make it into July - and the California fuchsia (Epilobium 'Bowman's Hybrid') started blooming toward the end of the month. These flowers are exceptionally drought tolerant and display a spectacular color when in full bloom.

Last year my Drumstick Allium (Allium sphaerocephalon) didn't do much and left me underwhelmed, but this year was a completely different story. It bloomed for weeks and weeks and only toward the end of the month showed some signs of tiredness. 

I often have deer strolling through my front garden, leaving little presents. They also determine what I can and can't plant. Often they obviously don't get the message that they're not supposed to eat certain plants (these rascals even nibbled on my young olive tree).

The lavender was still going strong which surprised me since usually they're done by July. Not this year, when everything was at least two weeks late because of the colder than usual and extremely wet winter.

Some of the Echinacea was doing better than usual, some were a bit blah - they just do whatever they want and I'm fine with it as long as they don't die on me (which some of them did). Unfortunately, plants that do well in everybody else's garden do poorly in mine. The worst is milkweed - I never get it to grow. Last year I planted native milkweed that is supposed to do very well in California - but not in my garden. I tried so many times without any success or just tiny, tired plants, so now I've decided to just let it go and not try again. 

On the other hand, my Vitex agnus castus is outperforming itself this year. This variety is called "Sensational" and it sure lives up to its name. This is a wonderful small tree, drought tolerant and thrives on neglect. The deer don't like it either. I have three more of these, all at different stages of growth, and one white one. Behind it (in the left photo) you can see the "puffs" of the Smoketree.

Verbena bonariensis is a favorite of mine and also of the bees - doesn't need much summer water and creates a beautiful accent throughout the garden. It mingles with the blue bog sage (Salvia uliginosa) which despite its name is very drought tolerant.

Another favorite little tree is our native form of Elderberry (Sambucus mexicana) which has a beautiful vase shape and gives shade to its surroundings. I don't pick the berries, but leave them for the birds or let neighbors pick them.

My goal is to have more of those trees (Elderberry, Agnus, Western Redbud) in my garden since they cool down the area and are just good for the environment. By now I'm getting more and more of those "woodland" parts in the garden. I was able to plant native Western Sword Fern (Polystichum munitum) as well as Pacific Bleeding heart (Dicentra formosa, which goes dormant in the summer) and so far they have been doing well. I also love to see grasses like this Oriental Fountain grass (Pennisetum orientale) gently sway in the wind.

My tomatoes have been doing very well and I already harvested a good amount. This is "Sungold", a very sweet and delicious cherry tomato. I usually eat it right from the bush, but I also put it into salads. The native grape "Roger's Red" (Vitis californica) has developed into nice little grapes and I suspect veraison will happen pretty soon. That is always very exciting for me (don't ask me why).

In my eyes a California dry garden is not complete with one or two varieties of native Buckwheat. This is such an easy plant - after it got established in the ground you can forget it. It's not fuzzy about the soil, it doesn't want additional water, but it's happy if the flowers are cut back sometime in late autumn. It's popular with pollinators and I often see butterflies sitting on the tiny flowers. Red buckwheat (Eriogonum grande rubescens) on the left and St. Catherine's Lace (Eriogonum giganteum) on the right.

The tour through my July garden is coming to its end - I think we need something to drink. That's also required in order to join Bleubeard and Elizabeth's T Tuesday where we all get drunk ... uh, show our drinks. Weißbier (also called Hefeweizen) is the perfect beer for summer. We were very happy to discover this Bavarian one at Costco, even though we would have prefered glass bottles. I guess we can't have everything. Anyway - Prost! Cheers! Santé! Sláinte! Salud! L'chaim! Ganbei!

I will take a break from blogging for a few weeks. I'm not quite sure when I will be back, but I expect to be here again sometime in September. I wish all of you sunny and happy summer days (or the arrival of spring if you're on the "other" side) and see you in the fall.

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Dirt Trails by the Lake


This morning I went to the lake again. Most of you know how much I love walking at the lake and that I usually avoid the paved path as much as possible and prefer the dirt trails. About ten days ago I inhured my left leg while riding my bike; at the same time the sciatica (that I have had since I was a teenager) became more painful on my right side so that walking actually did hurt and I felt limited in my outdoor activities (I still walked but it wasn't quite that enjoyable).

Today was the first day that everything felt much better and of course I was off to the lake with the intention to hit the dirt trails again. I started out on the Fisherman's Trail which is an easy trail.

However, pretty soon I left it and ventured into rougher terrain - my prefered choice. After a couple minutes I spotted this California Quail (Callipepla californica) sitting on a tree stump. To my suprise he didn't fly away when I stopped and started to take pictures of him. Usually they're quite skittish and disappear in the bushes.

Next I discovered two deer relaxing away from the trail. Can you see them? They're not easy to spot. Look for those ears!

I was glad to see this sign:

For several years the park has "hired" sheep and goats for their vegetation management. Especially the goats are highly effective, they eat practically almost everything to the ground. I love this kind of natural wildfire prevention. Unfortunately there will be new rules that will probably make it more difficult for the businesses who offer this kind of environmentally friendly solutions. I quite don't understand why these new rules will be enforced, they make absolutely no sense to me and will only result in less "sheep and goat" businesses and higher prices. As far as I understand, these rules concern the shepherds (payment, benefits etc) which is a step in the right direction, but unfortunately the way it is done will not bring the desired results. In my opinion (that no one wants to hear anyway) we need more of these businesses and they should be financially supported (what about if all the big corporations would start paying their taxes? Then there would be money for these small businesses that actually do something good for our planet). But I digress...

I loved this tree with its big hole in front of the huge water tanks (our emergency water).

Purple and Yellow Star-thistles lined my way (Centaurea calcitrapa and Centaurea solstitialis) as well as old tree stumps.

And then I discovered a new trail! I couldn't believe it - I thought that after more than 20 years I know every trail by and near the lake, but I was obviously mistaken. New adventures are awaiting!

This is perfect terrain for rattlesnakes, so I better be cautious and look where I step (sturdy footwear is essential here). Instead of rattlesnakes (who were probably asleep under these rocks) I saw a Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) "cleaning up" his plate which looked like a squirrel. He (or she?) also didn't mind me much which surprised me as well. I'm very fond of Turkey Vultures.

Another animal that didn't took off right away - a California Ground Squirrel (Otospermophilus beecheyi). I can watch these little guys for hours.

I love this landscape so much - it is engraved in my heart and soul. It might look bare and very dry, even a bit hostile, but it is full of life. Our planet is so incredibly beautiful - and we have done such a lousy job taking care of it. 

Yesterday was the first supermoon in August - yes, there are two supermoons this month, it will be a super blue moon on August 30 (or a blue supermoon, take your pick). Yesterday's moon was a sturgeon supermoon. Did you see it? We had a rather cloudy sky thanks to the coastal fog a.k.a. marine layer. It made a dramatic photo.

What about dinner for Rain's Thursday Art and Dinner Date? A few weeks ago I found a recipe for sheet-pan chicken with zucchini and basil. It was easy and turned out very delicious. It was such a lovely evening that we had dinner in the garden. Of course, it was accompanied by a glass of cool rosé

Monday, July 31, 2023

Picnic in the Vineyards


Last Friday the Geek and I met with our friends P and B for a lovely picnic in the vineyards. We had thought about that for quite some time and finally we could settle on a date that worked for all of us. We chose to go to Navarro Vineyards in the beautiful Anderson Valley.

Navarro Vineyards is a family owned small winery that has been making wine since 1974. Most of their wines is not available in stores, but can be  purchased directly in their tasting room or through their website. We have been drinking their wines for several years now and we have yet to find a wine of theirs that we don't like. The winery is located in Anderson Valley in Mendocino County, away from the crowded Wine Country hype in Sonoma and Napa Counties. This results in no tasting fee, more affordable wines and less crowds, so reservations are not required. There is ample space to sit and sip some wine or have a decent picnic with a bottle or two of their wine that can be purchased in the tasting room.

We had our picnic right at the edge of the vineyards under the wisteria cover.

Our table was covered with a lot of tasty food that the four of us had brought from home.

I had baked a whole wheat bread, which was delicious with red pepper aioli and smoked ham.

You can see that we had a wonderful time!

Let's see what kind of drinks we can find for Bleubeard and Elizabeth's T Tuesday: a bottle of Rosé of Grenache, a bottle of Pinot Gris, several re-usable bottles of water and grapefruit juice and a glass bottle of Gerolsteiner sparkling water (I simply refuse to buy sparkling water in plastic bottles which leaves only German and French sparkling water). The food we had included meatballs, smoked salmon, several cheeses, bread, red pepper aioli, tuna bowl, chocolate and vanilla pudding, blueberries, peaches and tomatoes from my garden. It was a feast!

Navarro not only has vineyards, but also beautiful gardens with mainly drought-tolerant or native plants. I found some inspiration for my garden. Roses right next to a vineyard is something you see often here.

We stayed in the vineyards for three and a half hours. We decided to drive back along the coast, via Highway 1 - THE ONE, as my husband would say. It certainly is THE ONE for us - one of the most beautiful roads that hugs the California Coast in an often spectacular way.

We stopped at Point Arena Lighthouse, at 115 ft (35 m) the tallest lighthouse on the west coast of the US. It is also the closest location in the lower 48 to Hawai'i at a distance of about 2,350 miles (3780 km) (you always wanted to know that, right?). The first Point Arena Lighthouse was constructed in 1870, but was damaged in the Great Earthquake of April 18, 1906. The current lighthouse that is built to withstand earthquakes began operation on September 15, 1908. It features a 1st Order Fresnel Lens (built in France) that is made up of 258 hand-ground glass prisms. These prisms are all focused toward three sets of double bulls eyes which gave the lighthouse its unique light "signature" of two flashes every six seconds (that was before the installation of an automated aircraft-type beacon on the tower balcony in June 1977). This is probably more information than you ever wanted...

This is a very windy, often cold location, but oh! so beautiful. I never get tired of it, and I have been here many times in the past 22 years. The geology is interesting and just like at Salt Point, I wish I knew more about it. The Coast Buckwheat (Eriogonum latifolium), a California native, is found in abundance here.

This is also close to where the infamous San Andreas Fault (the bad boy of 1906) dips into the ocean.

I leave you with a last picture of the lighthouse and the interesting fence that was built just a few years ago. Before that, there was a white picket fence. For this fence, older growth mica schist hand split flagstone material from the Mojave desert was used. From a distance it looks like wood, but as you apporach it looks more like a thick jagged stone wall.

May a light shine throughout your week.

Thursday, July 27, 2023

The Rocking Horse


When Kaefer turned one year old, we gave her a rocking horse for her birthday. A couple weeks before, the Geek and I went to Rottenburg, a small city about 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) away from Tübingen. We knew that there was an excellent shop that sold wooden toys and we wanted a solid, wooden rocking horse for our daughter. These toys aren't cheap, of course, but they are handmade and of superb quality. The horse was also heavy, and we (i.e. the Geek) had to carry it quite a way back to our car. (Most German cities and towns have pedestrian zones and you can't park your car in front of the store. We walk.) It was so worth it!

As soon as Kaefer could climb that horse, she was on it - and sometimes she did quite the daring "stunts", as you can see in the picture above. She was a fearless, daring little girl (she still is) who pretty often almost made my heart stop.

In the next picture you can see the other toy she loved - a Bobby Car. A Bobby Car is THE classic toy car for small children in Germany, produced by the company BIG in Fürth and Burghaslach in Germany. It is made of very strong plastic that is indestructible (these Bobby Cars keep forever) and can even carry an adult. Kaefer got the classic red one with a trailer. Here she transports the sheep the Geek and I had bought at Stonehenge in England while we were dating (because a sheep is exactly what one buys at an ancient site like Stonehenge, right?). The rocking horse and the Bobby Car made a good team.

My two sweeties riding into the sunset together - this is a very favorite photo of mine.

12 years later, a teenager by then, she still sits on that rocking horse. Today, it lives in our bedroom - I don't think we will ever get rid of it.

I'm sharing these sweet faces with Nicole's Friday Face Off.