Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Change in The Air

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!!

16 Comments for OSL:

xashee's corner said...

Happy Belated Birthday to Wyatt!! :) wishing you safe travels to LA!!! i am sooooooooooooooo GLAD Max's booboo is healing nicely!!!
LOVE the pond and yes, they can be work but so rewarding when going good! :) we haven't had ours up and running the past two years, maybe next year we will try again! :) Thanks soooooooooooo much for sharing!!! Have a MARVELOUS day!

Grand Pooba said...

5? Oh no, is this your baby? I got sad when Logan turned 3! Good luck with kindergarten, and I'm jealous you get to go work in LA!

Yaya said...

Happy Birthday Wyatt!

I think you can fix the pond with duct tape. Duct tape fixes everything.

blueviolet said...

What kind of work do you do? I thought you had your hands full at home with the land and animals and kids!

Olde Dame Penniwig said...

Dearie, remember I taught kinder. Don't panic, and don't let yr heart get too sore, honestly, I would tell the moms to peek in the window on the door and see for themselves that their very sad kiddo would perk up and be all smiles quickly...the moms cried more than the little ones, sometimes...just make durn sure the teacher is NICE...

Have fun in L.A. (joke)...hope yr pond gets fixed...maybe a new liner placed atop the old one?

Does the tarweed smell like creosote? I love that smell...

The Old Gray Egg said...

Tar weed? Tar face? Wow, we've got nothing like that in Northern Wisconsin. The closest thing that I have ever experienced to that came from the poll glands between the ears of my male dromedary camel, Kookamunga. When he went into rut, a pungent coffee-colored secretion would come out, and he'd rub it on everything. It looked like dark brown shoe polish on a cloth or on his rope halter. The only cure for it was castration, but our horse vet wouldn't even think about getting close enough to that bellowing bull to attempt that. Kook's stall wall was soon stained brown where he laid down at night. Hopefully it will be easier to get your pool fixed than it was to get my camel fixed.

MsSnarkyPants said...

Happy Birthday, Wyatt!

I want a pond! Like badly! We have so many rocks here though I think digging it would be an awful nightmare. I would love to watch tadpoles grow up though!

the ungourmet said...

Julia, I always look forward to you posts here! I know I've told you before but I just adore your writing!

Question. Are there any mosquito issues with your pond there or do the frogs and toads take care of all of that?

Happy Birthday to Wyatt and hope all goes well with your work and Wyatt's school! :0)

Ratty said...

Wow! It sounds like you will be very busy for awhile. Ponds, trips, and kindergarten. The combination sounds like a lot of work. I hope it's all fun.

Re said...

Belated birthday greetings to Wyatt

Pricilla said...

Happy Birthday to Wyatt! How wonderful for him to be starting a new adventure!

San-Dee said...

Happy birthday to Wyatt! I'm sure boys will be "tougher" than girls. When Sarah started preschool (where she knew everyone because it was where her older sister had gone) as I started to leave, Peggy was holding her and she starting screaming, "Mommy, don't leave me here! don't leave me here!" and that's what echoed in my head all day long......

Frogs in my formula said...

Good luck and happy birthday. Don't fret about the toads...frogs are better!

Five O'Clock Somewhere said...

Fall already???? I'm in CA but not familiar with tarweed. I'll have to see if I can ind some on my next hike.

Have a safe trip to LA (my neck of the woods)!

Life Ramblings said...

happy belated birthday to Wyatt! all the best and have a safe journey to LA.

EL said...

i hope those "non-puncturing dippers" did punture anything in the pond haha... i feel that kids can turn anything nonthreatening or dangerous, into something very hazardous in about .1 of a second! ella looks very in charge in that picture though, very determined as if she's thinking "let me do this right here, just like this!" lol - too cute! all while wyatt is posing:)

But eh - good luck on the pond project... i'm here in PA just trying to keep my lawn mowed and weeds pulled (with a minimal success rate at that!) since husband is still down with mono! UGH.

Super Why Wyatt - turning 5 and kindergarten right after.... wow... good luck! hope he loves it. i bet he will:)