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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Warm weather has finally arrived on the Mendonoma Coast and wildflowers are singing a happy song

The bluffs are awash in color today as wildflowers are blooming in the warm sun. Wild rhododendrons began blooming this week and the first wild azaleas are opening to the sun. Orange bush monkey-flowers are blooming in earnest in sunny spots. This native plant doesn't want summer water. It's a host plant for a butterfly that is struggling - the Checkerspot Butterfly. And darned if it doesn't have medicinal qualities too. The flowers and root have antiseptic qualities that aid in the healing of scrapes and burns.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Hoping for a Western Screech Owl to take up residence in my beautiful Owl house

Last year my neighbor Charlie discovered two juvenile Western Screech Owls in a day roost on his property. Charlie took Rick and me to the dark, secluded area where the two young Owls quietly sat. I got as close as I dared to take this admittedly poor photo. But it does show the baby Owl. So Rick and I had Goldie Pound, birdhouse maker extraordinaire, make us an Western Screech Owl birdhouse in the hopes that one might nest there. So luck! But we enjoy looking at the birdhouse on our daily walks. It's made out of the same redwood siding as our house and has a crystal hanging from the top.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Green Flash - it's not a myth!

One of the joys of living on the coast is watching the sun set "into" the ocean. If conditions are perfect, you might be rewarded with a green flash. The horizon must be clear for this phenomenon to appear. Here on the Mendonoma Coast the green flash is more like a pulse of emerald green light, as if someone was holding a flashlight just a bit above the sun as it disappears. Don't blink because it's usually over in a flash! It is particularly difficult to photograph but Frank Vaskelis captured one and has graciously allowed me to share here with you.
                     My best to you!  Jeanne Jackson, Gualala

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Horsetails date back hundreds of millions of years!

It's amazing but true. Millions of years ago Horsetails were the size of trees. Now they grow a foot or so high in and near the creek bed of Quinliven Creek and other creeks on the Mendonoma Coast. Huckleberry, our golden retriever, occasionally chomps the top off of one, to no ill effect. Equisetum is their Latin name and they too have medicinal qualities. In Native American medicine they were used to stop bleeding. They were also used for scrubbing pots. I just like looking at them in the forest!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Unusual Clouds over the Pacific Ocean several days ago

I thought this picture was lovely with the sun breaking through the clouds and fog. Usually the storm clouds chase the fog away but it seemed like they merged together for a while several days ago, swirling and billowing. Today we have blue skies and the male American  Goldfinches are adorning a fir tree like brilliant yellow oranments.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Jenner Grade - one of the reasons the Mendonoma Coast is so unpopulated

Traveling north to the Mendonoma coast means a slow ride on the Jenner Grade of Highway One with its many switchbacks. Once you reach the top, the views of the Pacific Ocean are breathtaking and it's possible to see Gray Whales on their migration north this time of year. Many people dislike this part of the drive though and it is one of the reasons why this part of the coast is so sparsely populated. If it was easy to get to, it would be overrun like Carmel, so here's to the Jenner Grade! While you are driving slowly, you have the chance to look for wildflowers and the many cascades from seasonal streams - a nice reward.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Salal - there's more to it than I knew!

Salal is blooming in sunny spots in many places on the Mendonoma Coast. It's white and pink blossoms are easy to overlook as this native wildflower grows low to the ground. To my surprise I learned that when the berries (which aren't really berries but swollen sepals) ripen, they are edible. They were a significant food source for Native peoples. And the leaves have medicinal qualities. All from this ubiquitous plant that I've been taking for granted...but no longer!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The first fawns have made an appearance on the Mendonoma Coast

It's always sweet to see the first newborn fawns of the spring. The first ones seen this week were twins. It looks to be a healthy year for our Black-tailed Deer with all the rain providing lots of grasses and other food. Drivers on Highway One need to be extra careful this time of year. When a Doe crosses the road, pause for a moment to see if a fawn or two or even three are following behind. Create a Mendondoma traffic jam - you'll be glad you waited a minute and saved the life of a beautiful creature.

Thanks to Siegfried Matull for this beautiful photo taken at Sea Ranch.

Friday, April 22, 2011

In-between spring showers, a brilliant morning on the Mendocino Coast as Gray Whales pass by

April showers bring May flowers and the Mendonoma Coast has been receiving its share of spring showers. But in-between we had a beautiful day. And Gray Whales were spotted, Moms and calves, headed north. I hope I never take for granted the sight of these great cetaceans. I'm grateful to get a glimpse of them as they pass by.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Bobcat walking a labyrinth - an amazing sight on the Gualala Ridge!

Last year Emily Nelson, with the help of many friends, built a labyrinth on her Gualala ridgetop property. She invited friends to bring a rock from their property to be a part of the labyrinth, which Rick and I did. If you build it, they will come - right? Emily recently found this beautiful Bobcat walking her labyrinth and kindly allowed me to share this photo with you.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A lesson in looking up - a Stellar Jay nest above my outdoor light

Last spring I noticed twigs in the vine below and wondered if a birds nest was being built. Days went by and a few more twigs appeared. Then I looked up and found a fully made and ocuppied Stellar Jay nest. Yes, it pays to look up once in a while! The nest has been refurbished this spring so we can expect another family of these beautiful birds.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Fairy Bells - a wildflower so shy it hides its bloom underneath its leaves

One of my favorite wildflowers has begun blooming in the forest. For years I didn't know this plant had blossoms. When I discovered the creamy blossoms hanging down from the leaves, it felt like I had found a prize in a contest Mother Nature was playing. Fairy Bells often grow near False Solomon Seals and now I am enjoying both of these lovely wildflowers in bloom.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The first Alum Root has bloomed on the forest floor - a bouquet of tiny white loveliness

It seems early but tell it to the first Alum Root, which has just bloomed on the forest floor. Its tiny white flowers caught my eye and I called out to Rick in delight. The leaves of this native wildflower look like maple leaves and they carpet many of the trails where we hike each morning. It's a member of the saxifrage family and their root has healing astringent qualities. Bazillions of blooms to follow this single wildflower in the months to come.
   My best to you from the Mendocino Coast! Jeanne Jackson, Gualala

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Redwood Tree - the Grandfather tree - a serene presence in the forest and a source of magic

A large Redwood tree named the Grandfather tree thrives in a clearing by Quinliven Creek near Gualala. It grows slowly with shade on its trunk and sun on its crown. Every day Rick and I touch this tree. I also whisper a few things that are important to me. It's important to allow magic to enter your life - this tree is one way I allow magic to enter mine.
 For perspective, you can see Rick looking up at the big tree. Huckleberry, our golden retriever, is more interested in chewing on a branch. The second photo shows you what the tree looks like if you were looking up.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Trillium blooming on the forest floor and the Red Clintonia progresses

Most of the Trilliums are done blooming but one large one is bucking the trend. It's pink/purple bloom is a balm for the senses. The rarer Red Clintonia continues to evolve. I thought you'd enjoy seeing its progress. Our native wildflowers are true gifts from Mother Nature.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A happy mushroom foragager!

A late fruiting of Black Trumpets - Horn of Plenty - mushrooms had Irma Brandt of Gualala smiling with glee. Thanks to Miriam Owen for this picture.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

And outdoor room beckons!

A gift of several used picnic tables got Rick and me to think outside the box. We decided to create an outdoor room. In the autumn when we get our hot weather this shaded table will be an oasis. We are fortunate to have a lot of large rocks on our land, which add beauty and interest. This is a mixed forest of Bishop Pines, Douglas Firs, Redwoods and Tan Oaks. Wild rhododendrons, huckleberries and manzanita grow beneath the trees, giving cover and shelter to wildlife.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Spectacular photo of Crashing Waves off the beautiful Sonoma Coast

Award winning photographer, Siegfried Matull, has graciously allowed me to share a spectacular photo he took on the bluffs of Sea Ranch. The photo was previously published in the Independent Coast Observer (the ICO). Siegfried's recently submitted it for the ICO's Destination Mendonoma photo contest for the front page. I wouldn't be surprised if he won - again!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Unusual Cloud formation - California Dreaming.

I love watching clouds travel down the coast. I took this photo from our deck. It had such an unusual formation I thought you'd enjoy seeing it. After a storm the Mendocino Coast can be breathtaking!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Huckleberry Bushes are loaded with blossoms this year, hinting of good things to come!

Despite the heavy storms of March that knocked some of the blossoms off the bushes, most Huckleberry Bushes have a profusion of blossoms. A few bushes even have tiny green huckleberries already formed up. When we first bought our property and we were walking the land with our friends, Tamarrah and Bill, Tamarrah said to me, "You know all these bushes are Huckleberries, don't you?" No, I didn't. I was thrilled! Not every year is a banner year for these wild blueberries. Last year was a great year. Now it looks like we will be celebrating two banner years in a row. Life is good!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Princess, a Ragdoll cat, occasionally joins us on our walk in the forest where a Red Clintonia is about to bloom.

One of the most spectacular wildflowers is about to bloom in the shadows of a forest of Redwoods, Douglas Firs, Tan Oaks, Madrone and Bishop Pines. It is the rare and lovely Red Clintonia. I'm hoping that this year a Deer won't eat the blossom before it's in full bloom! The leaves are a glossy green and seem to shine from within. Yesterday Princess, our adopted Ragdoll cat, decided to join us on our afternoon walk. She is quite  character and often hides in wait for Huckleberry, our Golden Retriever. But he's on to her now and gives her a wide berth as he trots by her hiding place.
       All the best! Jeanne Jackson, Gualala

Friday, April 8, 2011

Fringed Corn Lily Leaves - a rare Mendonoma plant

On a neighbor's property is a beautiful mass of rare plants - Fringed Corn Lilies. They are growing alongside year round water, as Frank and Nan's land has springs close to the surface. These large, handsome leaves don't give a clue about the flower to come in the fall. By the time it does flower, the leaves are brown and torn. I will make a point to photograph the beautiful white flower stalks later this year. This plant is endemic to the Mendocino and Sonoma Coast and considered an ESHA - environmentally sensitive habitat.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Ravens attack Osprey nest!

I am lucky, lucky, lucky to live where Ospreys choose to nest. There has been an active Osprey nest on our road every year since Rick and I have lived here, which is going on 15 years. Directly in front of our house, due west and about 1/2 mile away, a young Osprey pair have built a nest the past two years but have been unsuccessful in hatching any chicks. We hope this will be the year. They have been busy rebuilding the nest that completely blew down over the winter. Yesterday four Ravens attacked the nest and the male Osprey was magnificent, wheeling, diving and chasing the Ravens away. The female stayed on the nest and flapped her big wings when a Raven got too close. After ten minutes of battle, the Ravens flew off and peace once more reigned on the Mendocino Coast.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The beautiful Sonoma Coast - it looks like a dream come true!

Driving back up the Sonoma Coast yesterday, Rick and I stopped on a bluff so I could take these pictures. The photo of the coastline almost looks like a painting, doesn't it? We looked over the bluff and saw an inacessible beach below - lovely and serene.

I see that quite a few people from Japan are viewing this blog. I post these photos today in your honor as the world knows and cares what you have gone through recently. After all, you and I are only an ocean - the great Pacific Ocean - away.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Wild Mushrooms - thank you, Mother Nature!

Yes, it's late in the season but who can turn down more gifts in the forest? Horn of Plenty, Craterellus cornucopioides, was found fruiting in under Tan Oaks and, rather unusual, Bishop Pines. Mushroom foragers in Mendocino County and Sonoma County call these mushrooms Black Trumpets and often shout for joy when we find them. These were found by Irma Brandt and photographed by Miriam Owen, both of Gualala. Thank you, Mother Nature!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Giant Chain Fern - a treasure in the forest

Giant Chain Ferns - Woodwardia fimbriata - need moisture to grow, so it's not so suprising to find one growing next to Quinliven Creek. And what a beauty it is! It's nearly six feet high when it's not bent over from the rushing waters of the creek. Native Indians used the fiber of this fern mixed with red dye for patterns in their baskets. Rick and I admire it on our daily walks - a treasure in the forest.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Wildflowers blooming in a Redwood Forest

Wildflowers burst into bloom this week on the Mendocino and Sonoma Coasts with just a few days of warm sunny weather. On a drive down Highway One a few days ago, Rick and I saw the first Lupine in bloom. Wild Iris - Douglas Iris - caught our eyes with their brilliant splashes of blue. Bright orange Poppies, California's state flower, have joined in the party. The wildflowers in the forest are a bit more subtle but worth your attention too. The beautiful False Solomon Seal has just bloomed and the forest floor is carpeted with the yellow-faced Redwood Violets.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

An interesting creature living in our pond - a Rough-skinned Newt!

Movement in the storm-muddied pond caught my eye yesterday afternoon. This member of the Salamander family put on quite a show for my camera. I believe it's a male and he is definitely in his aquatic form. He is brown on top and a bright orange on the bottom.
The Pacific Ocean is wind-whipped today, not a good weekend for the start of the abalone season. There is nothing "pacific" about the ocean today. Stay home and be safe - calmer days are ahead.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Sunrise over The Sea Ranch

The sunrise reflected on the clouds over the Pacific Ocean this morning was beautiful. Carolyn AndrĂ© captured a lovely photo from her home at Sea Ranch and kindly gave me permission to share it here. Are sunrises and sunsets like snowflakes? Are no two exactly alike? We could spend a lifetime trying to find out.