Monday, May 22, 2017

Peonies For My Mom

My mom used to love peonies. In Germany they are called "Pfingstrosen", roses of Pentecost because they flower around the time of Pentecost which is in late May or June. They would appear in the gardens in colors ranging from pure white to deep red. They are stunningly beautiful flowers.

When my mom died 10 years ago I planted peonies in her memory. Now, peonies in California is a bit of a different story from growing peonies in Germany. Peonies die back in the winter, and usually they need some good frost. A decent amount of rain doesn't hurt either. Both are not necessarily always present in California.

But it can work. I had some lovely peony bushes at our old house. When we moved I didn't have any peonies for a couple of years, but bought them at Trader Joe's instead (like the ones in the photo above). However, last year I planted some peonies. Usually they take a while to bloom for the first time, up to three or four years. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised when I noticed that two of the bushes carried promising buds. And indeed, they displayed a couple beautiful flowers.

Back home in Germany I used to buy peonies at the farmers market. It was one of my simple joys to go there on a Saturday morning and come back with one of two bunches of them. And not only that - I often mixed them with delphiniums or lupines, whatever I could find at the flower booth.

I loved to arrange them in vases with French lilac or put just one or two flowers in a glass vase and used them as a center piece on the table for dinner with friends,

I remember that I had a lot of fun with that!

But peonies - and other flowers - are also used as decoration in traditional parades. During one parade in Rothenburg ob der Tauber I saw the hat of this man and loved the way it was decorated.

My peonies are almost gone - we had some very hot days, and peonies don't like heat too much. But I know that very soon I will find them at Trader Joe's, and then once again my home will be filled with them. It's as if my mom was still around.


We are having crazy days at work. The school year is almost over - two more weeks - and that means a lot of work for us in the library. Imagine more than 1600 kids returning their textbooks, about three per kid on average, and those things are heavy. Usually I'm pretty worn out when I come home, so it might take a while until I will visit you.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Scene & Story - April 2017

In March my chosen photo was of a bird, and so it is in April - taken right at the very first day of April and I already knew then that this was my favorite image.

Every summer the Hooded Orioles come to my neighborhood to raise their young. They live in a tree very close to our property. Usually they arrive some time in April, but this year they came much earlier - I had never seen them as early as the first of April. I saw this little guy - the male - sitting on the wire and since I couldn't really see what kind of bird it was I fetched my binoculars - and when I saw that it was an oriole I was so happy. He was sitting on that wire and "chatting" (they are very chatty birds), so I ran to get my PowerShot with its powerful zoom and captured this image of him. Never before had I got such a clear image of this bird. They are very shy and flutter away as soon as they see people. However, they love hummingbird nectar and grape jelly, so I started to fill up the little molds on my hummingbird feeder with the jelly. Both the male and female come by several times during the day to fuel up. Even when I don't see them I can hear their delightful chatter, and it makes my heart sing to know that they're here. They will stay until the end of August when they start their long journey to the South.

I am joining Sarah and León for Scene and Story again as I try to do every first Sunday of a month. You can find more stories here.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Glory Hole

Those of you familiar with the area around Winters, CA will probably recognize this aerial photo. Others might suspect what it is. And others still might wonder what I'm up to this time.

I'm talking about beautiful Lake Berryessa in Napa County, the Monticello Dam and the morning glory style spillway, known as the Glory Hole. I pass Lake Berryessa often on my way to or from Davis when I don't want to take the freeway but rather trundle along Highway 128 from Winters to the Napa Valley. It's a beautiful drive with not much traffic.

Here is another view from above of Glory Hole.

To the left you can see the road; you can also see that the spillway is above the lake and doesn't look like it would ever do its work - spilling over flow water beyond the dam.

This is how I had known Glory Hole over the last years when we didn't have any serious amount of rainfall.

Can you imagine that the water will ever reach the spillway?

At the top, Glory Hole is 72 feet in diameter and then narrows down to about 28 feet. It spills the water beyond Monticello Dam and that exit is well known in the skateboarding world as a full-pipe. The spillway can drain 48,400 cubic feet per second at the lake's peak level. The water spills over the lip when the lake reaches 1,602,000 acre feet.

Do you think that can ever happen?

Let's take a look, shall we?

This is how I saw Glory Hole in the middle of April this year.

After a record rainfall this past winter the lake has reached a level where the water happily flows over the lip and rumbles down the spillway - the first time in more than a decade.

Do you want a closer look?

Still closer? Do you want to see the water rushing down over the lip?

To the right you can see Monticello Dam, but the only thing everybody wants to see is Glory Hole. After all the lake doesn't always carry that much water that the spillway is in use. I for one hadn't thought that I would ever witness it. And here I am, standing by the side of the road, peeking through the fence and trying to get halfway decent photos.

It was fascinating.