Saturday, March 21, 2009

What's blooming in Lincoln Hills

My World Tuesday

This is what is blooming in my garden but I know you didn't come to see what you can see in your own or your neighbor's garden. (click on photos to enlarge and read plant names)

Here are some of the flowers I have seen lately on my walks. I've read that before Europeans came to California the central valley and foothills were ablaze with color in the spring. Agriculture and urbanization have wiped out most of the natural habitat in the valley while over grazing and exotic species have caused a dramatic decline of the native plants in the foothills.

With high hopes and camera in hand I went forth on the paths in our open areas to see what I could see. Not as much as I might hope but perhaps a little more than I had expected.
These poppies are, I think, called frying pan poppies. They do not have the red disc at the base that our perennial California poppies have but they might be the annual form. There are so many varieties of wildflowers that I often can't find in my guides the one I am seeing in the field.
Popcorn flower is found in many areas both in Lincoln and throughout California.
This little flower, butter 'n' eggs is found in drainage areas and by the edge of the paths where water collects.

I saw one example of shooting star in Lincoln Hills. They too like moist areas.
I neglected to get a picture of the common fiddle neck. They are indeed common and can be found in many areas around California.
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Friday, March 20, 2009

Solar Power

Last summer we had solar cells installed on our roof. People asked if it was worth it financially but we felt that wasn't the point. Our concern was would it save more energy than was used in the manufacture and would the manufacture cause an unacceptable amount of pollution. There are always trade offs. After searching the web, the little information we could find convinced us that it would be worth while. As things turned out, given the current economic situation, it seems like as good an investment as any. At least it keeps paying dividends.

We have had experience with solar power. Our summer home is off the grid. That is quite a bit different than the situation in our urban home. Here we are hooked in directly to the power company. When we are not generating we get power from them. On cloudy days we generate only a fraction of what we need. On long sunny days we roll back the meter, sending the excess power to others. Since we are away much of the summer when our generation is high and people are running their air conditioning, we think we will generate more than we use. That should be the case until we are too old to handle the 9600 foot elevation of our summer home.

At the cabin the situation is a bit different. Since we are off the grid we store power in batteries to use at night or when we have a period of cloudy weather. The batteries can be a source of pollution but they last a long time and are recycled. We always try to be careful about our energy use but at the cabin we are extra careful. If I do a load of wash then we don't vacuum that day.

After four months of using more power than we generate we have started to roll back the meter again. Only on cloudy days has the meter gone up.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sky Watch Friday

In search of a sunset I spotted this blue heron on his way home after a hard days work. There is a heron rookery tree nearby. So far I haven't gotten close enough for pictures of the rookery but someday, maybe?
I didn't get my sunset that night but in the morning I spotted the sunrise from my window, jumped out of bed and grabbed my camera.
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Monday, March 16, 2009


Since this is my first "MyWorld" post I thought I would start close to home. Home is in an active adult community in Lincoln, California, a suburb of Sacramento. Along with the usual golf courses we are fortunate to have quite a bit of open space wetlands.
Recently the Home Owner's Association brought in sheep and goats to control the vegetation in these open spaces. We are hoping that in addition to reducing fire hazard they will restore some of the native vegetation by eating the exotics but perhaps they will just eat the natives.The wetlands encourage a great deal of bird life. Unfortunately for the photographer the HOA threatens large fines for anyone straying off the pathways. That is good for habitat but frustrating for anyone trying to get a good shot of wetland inhabitants.

I was pleased to find these black necked stilts, I hadn't seen any in quite a while.

The wood ducks are quite challenging. They come to the pond just before sundown and hide in the shadows. It is hard to get a crisp shot from the distance in low light.

This turkey vulture wasn't shy at all. I didn't like the way he was eying me. I was pretty sure I wasn't carrion, yet!

Saturday, March 14, 2009


In twilight's last glow
The long eared rabit watches
Then just naked oaks

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sky Watch Friday

Good sky photos have been hard to come by of late. The storm clouds are gone and haze is returning to the Sacramento valley. We can still see from the Sierra foothills across the valley to the coast range but the blue sky is gone.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Evening in Lincoln Hills

I went out just before sunset to see if there were any good pictures. I couldn't find good places to frame a shot but it was the magic time, just the same. I flushed these geese, not a great pic, low light and not much time but I like it.

I heard a lot of interesting sounds. There were some ducks in the pond making a strange call I hadn't heard before. I snapped a few shots, not good enough to post but good enough to allow me to identify them when I got home. Wood ducks. I'll have to go back and keep trying until I get a good shot. They are beautiful birds but I haven't seen them there earlier in the day when the photography would be better. Maybe they just come out in the evening.
The owls were hooting but I didn't spot them and the frogs were croaking. The ring neck pheasant was calling his salute to the setting sun like a cock crowing at day break. There was no one there to hear but me.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Sky Watch Friday

After a week of stormy weather the clouds are breaking up with a few spectacular thunderheads as the storms leave. We hope that the rainbow doesn't promise the end of storms for the year. California is still in a drought and we can use a couple more storms.

The clouds were all show. No thunder & lightning and no more rain.

The elusive bittern

The bittern is a hard bird to spot. He hides in the reeds and is well camouflaged. We drove to the far side of our Sun City for our usual three mile walk. These ponds are a good place to see birds that do not frequent areas closer to our home. We had walked a little ways when I decided to go back to the car for a different lens. As Jules was waiting for my return he spotted some movement in the reeds nearby, a bittern. He was well hidden and the shot is not great but I'm happy for what I can get.

I also spotted a pied-billed grebe

and a common moorhen. The moorhen has a very colorful bill and a raucous call.
This moorhen is floating like a duck but in areas with lily pads they are often seen walking on the pads.

Conservation and the laundry

My kids gave me a "kill a watt" for Christmas. This is a neat little gadget that you plug into an outlet and then plug into it an appliance to see how much power it consumes.
I used it on my washer and gas dryer. The washer used .26 kwh to wash a load and the gad dryer used .33 kwh.
My Homeowners association does not permit the drying of laundry outside so I am now drying it in the unused guest room. The space is limited so I occasionally have to wash an extra load, doing slightly smaller loads and using the water saver feature so as not to waste water.
Air drying saves not only gas but a surprising amount of electricity. It all so gives me a little extra exercise.