The pungent scent of tarweed (Hemizonia congesta) has hinted that fall is coming. The weedy aroma smells best in the early morning when the cold night air has sunken low and hugs the earth. Even though this plant is native to California, it acts like a weed growing late in the year in grassland habitats. It smells even better with a foggy cap covering the sky which keeps all things sniffy close to the ground. If you look carefully at the picture below you will see little white looking fuzz on the stems and leaves. It's really not fuzz but glands that secrete oils. That's what creates the unforgettable smell of tarweed.
When I was a kid and my horses lived at Ramos Ranch I remember the onset of the tar face season. Not scar face...tar face. My Palomino mare would come in from grazing with a blackened mussel and legs. The tar weed produces a dark resin which is exuded on the leaves and stems and all equines would be covered in a generous layer of muck on their contact points. Now, my pastures are so small that the tarweed never gets a chance to grow beyond seedlings so I don't have to scrub the horse's legs and faces clean. I remember that some horses would get so much of the resin on their faces that their eyes teared from the vapors, or so it seemed.
The colder weather that is going to arrive will be welcome and all the little creatures that have been hiding in the cracks, crevices and ground squirrel holes will be coming out of their summer hibernation seeking food. Those creatures with permeable skin like the toads and frogs spend most of the summer in their refuges underground and when the cold begins, start venturing out sniffing for rain. Sometimes at night on my travel to feed the horses on cold summer nights I will catch a glimpse of one of these lumpy strangers hopping around, chasing insects. But winter is really the time for amphibians to be active.
In preparation for the winter that is to come we spent some time working on our pond which has been long neglected. The liner was punctured by some children with sticks and special tape was procured to repair these breeches.
We were all so sad this year that there was not enough water in our natural drainage for the toads to breed. The long gelatinous ribbons with black dots were markedly missing from this rainy season.
If my pond was HOLDING water it would have been used by the amphibians but alas these rips prevented that. After pulling all the dried weeds from the exterior of the pond and cleaning out extra debris we were ready to test it.
All the kids like to document the growth of the toad tadpoles and we have monitored the progression of little black swimming jelly beans to the teeny, tiny toads. They are amazing to see when fully metamorphosed because they are just so small it is unbelievable.
So after taping up the problem areas, I filled the pond and the kids had fun with non-puncturing dippers. Everything looked good for a while then I noticed it was draining a little too fast for purely evaporation.
Therefore, unfortunately I have more work to do. There has to be another hole in there somewhere that remains undetected. Drat. Now all the dirt in the pond bottom must come out. But a fully functioning pond must be!! We want our pond back...
And by the way, last week Wyatt turned 5. I can hardly believe it. The kids just keep getting bigger all the time. You can't stop them now can you??
Wish me luck this week. I am flying off to LA for work and have to launch Super Why (Wyatt) into Kindergarten. It's a big week ahead. I hope all moms and dads out there are ready for school to begin and I wish you all good luck!!