Sunday, March 29, 2009

Bravo Mother Nature!

Mother Nature presented me with a wonderful show today. I've probably seen the show before, but just never took notice. Unfortunately, it was a bit too fast paced to capture in photographs.

After the morning fog broke up and retreated (I'm not talking caffeine fix here, just the usual weather) and it warmed up a bit, I noticed butterflies flying by. Not flitting about, but flying by quickly and seemingly on a mission. They were going by so fast, faster than I can walk, that I couldn't figure out what kind of butterfly they were. All of them were coming down the valley, from the south and headed north. Instead of flying level like a plane, they were following the contours of the land and anything upon it. Six to ten feet above nearly anything in their path, coming straight on, rarely veering around things, going up and over and down and onward. They came on two, three, five at a time. Only an occasional one would land, but the minute I moved toward it to see what it was it would fly off. It was amazing how many there were. There had to have been hundreds that passed by during the hour that I sat and ate my lunch. Finally, one landed on flower and stayed long enough that I could get a good look. It was a Painted Lady.

I sat there in amazement watching the show, wondering where are they coming from and where are they going to? Finally, I hit the computer and learned what was going on. Painted Ladies spend the winter in the desert along the U.S.-Mexico border. They breed there and the adults emerge in February and March and promptly start migrating north. The new butterflies have a generous amount of fat stores so they can fly without stopping to feed. When their fat stores are depleted they stop to feed, breed and lay eggs. The new generations will continue the northward migration, ultimately reaching the Pacific Northwest. A similar southward migration starts in August.

Painted Ladies are also called Cosmopolitans because they have an extremely large range. They are found on every continent except for Australia and Antarctica. The migration that I've described here is for the western US population.

Good show Mother Nature! You continually amaze me.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Crimson Fava Progress Report

The Crimson Flowering Favas are growing like crazy, almost like weeds! They are at least 4 times as tall as they were when I last reported on them on February 27. They are flowering like crazy, but it seems that they are only now just starting, barely starting, to set some pods.

Sprouting amongst the favas there appeared to be some weeds and I was about to start scratching them out when I remembered that I had scattered some old (2004) seeds of Golden Cornsalad there (my notes say I did that back on February 21, no wonder I forgot). Well, now I know that those seeds are still viable. Next, I'll see if the cornsalad likes to grow in the shade of the favas. I've noticed that my previous plantings of the Golden Cornsalad seem to prefer a bit of shade, but I'm not sure if it will be too shady under the favas.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Green Garlic Potato Pancakes....

I always try to grow extra garlic so that I can pick a lot of it green. The latest dish that it went into was potato pancakes. But, I tried something new this time, I cooked them in a waffle iron. Wow, were they good! Extra crispy with lots of dents to catch the toppings.

Most potato pancake recipes call for russet potatoes. I used what I had on hand, which happened to be fingerlings. I didn't peel them, just gave them a good scrub. The texture is probably a bit lighter when made with russets, but the fingerlings worked fine. I also didn't add salt to the potato mixture before cooking it since the toppings I was using were already quite salty. I made all of them ahead of time and then reheated/crisped them in the oven just before serving.

Green Garlic Potato Pancake Waffles

2 shoots of green garlic, white and green parts, chopped
1 egg
1 tablespoon creme fraiche
1 tablespoon flour
1 pound potatoes, coarsely grated on a box grater
vegetable oil as needed
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat a regular (not Belgian) waffle iron.

Stir together the garlic, egg, creme fraiche, and flour in a medium mixing bowl. Add the grated potatoes and stir to thoroughly combine.

Brush both sides of the waffle iron with vegetable oil. Mound 1/2 cup of the potato mixture in the middle of each square, flatten slightly and then close the iron. Cook for about 12 minutes, or until very little steam is coming from the iron and the potatoes are brown and crisp.

Makes about 6 "pancakes".

I served these with some fresh goat cheese, creme fraiche, smoked trout, smoked salmon, red onion slices that had been tossed with wine vinegar, and capers.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Toro Park, Part II - Wildflowers

Here are the promised wildflower photos from my hike in Toro Park last Friday. As I said in my last post, my camera was on the wrong setting and many of the photos were too washed out to post, and many of the ones that I am posting have lost a fair amount of detail. I've tried to identify them as specifically as I can but some of them aren't so easy to pin down. There were a number of Ceanothus varieties growing and blooming on the mountain but I've not tried to identify them specifically.

Sisyrinchium bellum
Blue Eyed Grass

Pholistoma membranaceum
White Fiesta Flower

Solanum xanti
Chaparral Nightshade

Castilleja affinis
Indian Paintbrush

Saxifraga californica
California Saxifrage

Lupine, possibly Lupinus nanus

Annual Lupine

Pedicularis densiflora
Indian Warrior

Closer view of Indian Warrior


Ribes speciosum
Fuchsia-flowered Gooseberry




Zigadenus fremontii
Fremont's Death Camas

Manzanita fruit

Manzanita blossoms pillaged by insects

Helianthemum scoparium?
Broom or Peak Rush-Rose

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Hiking in Toro Park Part I

I'm still working through the photos that I took while hiking in Toro Park last Friday. In spite of having my camera on the wrong setting which resulted in a number of rather washed out photos, there are still too many for one post. Thus, I'm going to do 2 posts, one concentrating on general scenery and the other on wild flowers. Today's post is about the general scenery since I'm still identifying some of the wild flowers.

Part way up the East Ridge trail looking towards the Salinas Valley. The fog which had the entire area socked in until mid morning is now confined to the valley in the shot above.

There's a lot of Manzanita on the East Ridge Trail. This one is putting on a fair display of its red somewhat contorted branches.

A rather weathered specimen of Manzanita hanging off the side of the trail.

Higher up in the park on the Toyon Ridge Trail.

Looking towards the Monterey Peninsula. Highway 68, the main route between Salinas and Monterey can be seen. The peninsula is still shrouded by fog.

This part of the park is rather well fertilized. Fortunately, the locals don't find the wild flowers to be tasty.

This hillside sports a lovely sprinkling of Shooting Stars and Johnny Jump Ups.

Johnny Jump Ups putting on a nice show.

Near our goal, looking back down the trail. The Salinas Valley is on the other side of the peak.

We made it! Eagle Peak, elevation 1,607 feet. That was 1,400 feet of climbing.

Looking toward the Santa Lucia Range. A bit of Carmel Valley Village can be seen on one of the slopes.

Looking a little more to the west, Pinyon Peak and the top of Garland Ranch Regional Park (where I usually hike) are the next to last ridge visible.

Back in the other direction is a view of Spreckles and Salinas. The haze is the residual fog that hasn't burned off yet.

Down the Toyon Ridge Trail. The fog on the coast stayed for the entire day.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Footsteps of Spring

The first day of Spring! Whoopee!

Sanicula arcotopoides
Footsteps of Spring

My honey took the day off and we went for a hike in Toro County Park. There were wildflowers everywhere. I don't have time right now to get through all my photos so I'm posting a preview here featuring a wildflower that is found only on the west coast of the States. Sanicula arcotopoides is in the carrot family. It grows 3 to 8 inches tall and is often scattered across fields like "footsteps" thus its common name of Footsteps of Spring. I thought it appropriate for today.

The path here was littered with Footsteps of Spring

It's going to be a busy weekend so I'll post about the hike next week. Happy first day of Spring!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Slime Mold, Part II

It's baack!

While I was contentedly sleeping last night...

The Yellow Slime Mold fruited yet again!

Even bigger than the last time...

It made it's way closer to the gate...

Closer to the house...

The last visitor is looking rather less appetizing now.

This patch looks particulary inedible.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Lovely Weirdo in the Garden Path

No no, it's not some wacko stranger that wandered into the garden. It's a weirdly beautiful growth that seems to have oozed out of the wood chips overnight.

It's the fruiting body of a slime mold. A strange thing that apparently is something both fungal and animal or maybe neither.

Whatever it is, it seems to be benign and I'll just let it do its thing.

If you would like to read more about them, here's a great blog post that I found through a google search.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Spring Growth

After yesterday's Dr. Destructo post I thought it would be nice to post about the plants that I'm encouraging to grow.

Carrot seedlings and garlic grown for harvesting green.

That's my second sowing of carrots this year, I've got five varieties planted in their own rows. The variety in the photo is Atomic Red, and there's also Amarillo Yellow, Cosmic Purple, Lunar White, and Scarlet Nantes. The garlic is a mixture of varieties. I sowed the smallest cloves in a separate bed from my main planting so that I could harvest them like scallions without disturbing the garlic that will be allowed to grow to full maturity.

Pea Transplants

I've planted out 2 varieties of peas that I started in paper pots. In the foreground are Golden Snow Peas and in the rear are Magnolia Blossom Snaps. Next out will be the Green Beauty Snow Peas.

Golden Snow Pea

Magnolia Blossom Snap Pea
This variety has hyper-tendrils.

An albino Magnolia Blossom Pea Plant.

I doubt this one will do much but I planted it out to see what happens. The black blurry spots in the photo are because I took it through the bird netting that is draped over all the peas.

Baby Favas!

Persian Mint coming out of hibernation.


New shoots of variegated Lemon "Pink Lemonade"

The first California Poppy!
I LOVE that orange color.

A new pot of Pinetree Lettuce Mix.

Tuscan Arugula sprouting.

Golden Chard getting ready to bolt.

One itsy bitsy Romanesco Artichoke bud.