Monday, October 31, 2011

Vote for the 2011 Estate Walnut Label

English walnuts still in their green husk.
Every year, we harvest English walnuts from the two trees behind the barn.  I give many of the walnuts away under the label of Happy Snake Ranch Walnuts.  Somehow, that tradition just got started and you to get vote on this year's label.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Predators, Poaching and Suicide

This is about the dark side of living in the country.  When humans touch land, sometimes bad things happen and this summer three bad things happened at the Dipper Ranch:  predators, poaching and suicide.  I feel partially responsible for one of them.  I'm talking about these bad things together to learn their lessons and then send them away.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Look What the Fog Dropped In

Prescribed burn in Big Basin State Park brings smoke and colorful sunsets.
Yesterday, thick fog came rolling through the coastside passes at 5 pm and suddenly it was an early dusk.  We were disappointed because we were hoping to shoot a second night of brilliant sunset colors.  This week the park staff is conducting a prescribed burn in the understory of Big Basin State Park.  Although the smoke temporarily degrades the crisp fall air, it provides beneficial ecological changes to the park's redwood forest and makes for fantastic sunsets.  The western horizon the night before was an hour-long show of many shades of orange, pink, red and purple.

Monday, October 10, 2011

One Part Rain, One Part Sun

Southern alligator lizard (Elgaria multicarinata) sunning next to filaree seedlings.
Last week we got the first rain of the season on the central California coast, almost one inch of precipitation over three days.  I was in the Sierras, so I saw it as snow.  Upon my return to the Dipper Ranch, Sunday morning was bright and cool, so I took a walk to see how the rains changed the coastal hills.

As with last year, filaree seedlings were the first to pop up after 3 dry months.  The tunnels and dens of the underground must have been cold and wet because I saw quite a few reptiles basking in the open.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Animals Anticipating Autumn

This time of year, there are small changes every few days.  Walking around the Dipper Ranch is like a wildland version of the I-Spy game.    Here are a few snapshots of the critters easing into the autumnal season.
Over a period of a few days, hundreds of swallows gather on the powerlines along Alpine Road.  Then that group sets off on its next stage of migration, and another group starts collecting.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tatting Caterpillars

A lacy doily made out of petals of a cudweed
I have crafty caterpillars in my farmyard.  My five sisters inherited our grandma's skill in the fabric arts, so I notice these things.  My grandma used to decorate her fancy sitting room with doilies, so I was surprised to find doilies on the cudweed bush behind the Dipper Ranch barn.

Spilling out of the old pig pen, the bank on which the mysterious farmyard doilies appeared used to be a weedy jungle, a common problem around farm buildings where the soil gets enriched by animal waste.  The pigs are long gone and the pen is falling down, but every year I spend a few sweaty days there pulling out manure-robust mustard and thistle plants.