Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Years! A Winter Offering from the Wildlands of California

I've missed visiting Blogville during the holidays! Rounds of "Hallo's" are forth coming. But first I wanted to share some nature for the New Year.

This is a snapshot of what the hills around our country side are offering me in the "dead of winter." Admittedly, the weather in California is not that cold or miserable as some folks must endure back east and I can always find something to botanize over any time of the year.

But I digress. Here's the photo montage from the last day of 2009. I spent the afternoon walking and the "men and children" rode their dirt bikes on trails in a nearby woodland area.

So lets start the New Year off with a bang!! The only fireworks I can show are these exploding mushrooms. Seriously. Here's a huge puff ball that popped. I was disappointed I could not find an intact puff ball to exhibit before and after shots, but you get the idea... It's a rather large powdery mess! And BTW, my second favorite topic, after flowering plants, in college was MYCOLOGY. Mycology for the uninformed, is the study of mushrooms.

The earth splitting forces from the upward thrust of this gilled mushroom left pieces of dirt on the cap. (And I will spare you all the real names of these I would actually have to look them up and I am slightly lazy right now.)

Here is the same species of mushroom just later in it's development. I was experimenting with my flash and no flash with photos. The flash made the color much darker looking. Santa brought me a new wide angle, zoom lens for my camera and while not really intended for close up shots, it got the job done.

This field of miniature brown mushrooms called to me like dainty fairies singing in tune with the breeze. I could see eleven figures dancing around this colony of mushrooms wearing green tunics and brown leggings. Their cheeks shined with sparkling of dew as they frolicked.

Below are pretty, delicate, orange-cream colored mushrooms that curled up on the edge of the caps. I think they are just lovely to look at.

And one of the surprises for me were these gorgeous small sized puff balls. The tiny bumps on the skin of these mushrooms were amazing. When taking this picture the only way to capture the bumps was to get full sunlight on these guys so I had to position myself on the wet ground next to them. Actually, for most of these photos I was kneeling and "in their faces."

Here we have the first blooming vascular plant on the hillside. These members of the Mustard family are called Cardamine or "white maids" or "milk maids." When I see these I know that spring is coming. And this year it appears to be coming early.

Much of the herbaceous flora of California is dependent only upon rainfall and a new generation of plants can begin to grow before the change in daylight from short to long occurs.

Then there were oak trees. The gorgeous, naked, winter trees show all their fine branches at the top of their canopies. The thick tangled arms and long skinny fingers of the oaks show the intricate architecture that nature generates for our wonder and amazement.

And going macro again, the mosses that cling to the northern facing tree trunks always call to me for investigation. These mosses are not yet fully grown and will continue to get longer during the rainy season. Then as moisture is lost they dry to nothing once again in the summer.

The lichens on this fallen branch were stunning. The multi-colored bodies of this symbiotic organism and delicate branching are most prominent in winter. The algae and fungus that form lichens rely upon on another for survival and in the process create texture and layers to feed the eye.

Then there was some metal to capture on film too. This is the old kind of steel and and an olde-time road grader.

Up close and personal, this photo exhibits some of the lichens growing on the rusted metal of a crank or wheel of some kind or another.

More obscene tractor photos showing a gear and the threads that it once turned an eternity ago.

OK. Now that I have bored most visitors with this strange assemblage of mushrooms and annoyed folks with the vague, small sized lichens and mosses, I will provide a parting shot of the littlest of the dirt bike riders. She is insatiable in her need for speed and can be seen wearing her helmet as soon as the word "dirt bike" is uttered by an adult. She will wear it for an hour if she thinks dirt bikes are in the future.

With smashed cheeks and a mushroom for a head, Ella the Fearless rode with the men folk and had a wonderful time.

She was forced to remove her helmet later on after much tears and screaming. But we had to convince her that eating with a face mask is rather difficult. She finally relented but not by her own will. Since she will be an official 3 year old in January, I think her will is getting stronger. But then again her Dad says she is just like her Mom, and I quote, "stubborn as a mule."

Happy New Year!!!!


Miss Dot said...

What beautiful pictures! You really inspire me to learn more about plant life :) Perhaps I'll add that to this year's resolutions!

Happy New Year!!

Melodie said...

Great picts!I always enjoy nature photos!When we first moved here,before we had animals everywhere,we used to get mushrooms in fairy rings.Me and The Boy thought they were so cool!Your baby looks so cute in that big ole helmet!

blueviolet said...

I just realized when I got to the end of the post that I was leaning forward up by the monitor so as to see everything really well. Those pictures are amazing.

What camera do you use, by the way? I wish I had your talent.

Happy New Year!

Sharkbytes said...

You know you didn't bore me! I don't recall ever seeing a mushroom with the curly edges like that. I'm not very good at the mushroom ID. Never am willing to take the time while hiking to collect spore prints and all, and my two mushroom friends just look at photos and roll their eyes saying, "not enough info." This was a great post!

ga.farmwoman said...

I love to look at the different mushrooms around our farm too.
We have some of puff ball mushrooms that spew out brown dust that we called Devil's Snuff when I was young.

The pictures were great. Wishing you and your family a very Happy New Year and Happy Birthday.


Leigh said...

I love the photo of the moss with out of focus oak tree in the background

And my hubby says that my Ella and me are just alike too. Stubborn, spoiled, and sooo cute!

Pricilla said...

The photos are stunning and your posts never bore me.
I hope you had a wonderful holiday and we all wish you a very Happy New Year.

mmmmm, lichens.

Petra said...

gorgeous photos! all the best to the new year!

Olde Dame Penniwig said...

The apple does not fall far from the tree!!! Ella is stubborn because mommy's a MULE allright!!! lol

The pictures are just fantastic. I love mushrooms! We called them toadstools, too...either name is sort of strange, come to think of it...

theUngourmet said...

Well, call me a geek but I was completely fascinated. More please!

I'm hoping you'll do some more birdy videos this spring!! Please???! I loved those!

Rural Rambler said...

Happy New Year Julia. I thoroughly enjoyed these pictures. Mushrooms are cool. I really like them to be morels. Egged, floured, salt and peppered and fried! Hurry Spring! Ella looks good in her head gear! She is my kinda girl. I used to ride a bike until I crashed into the front of the garage while distracted by two builder guys :) The road grader pic is a great capture!

Sara said...

Great pictures! And your descriptions really made the post interesting. Love Ella's picture. She's a little pistol, huh? ;)

The Mind of a Mom said...

Happy New Year
I love the pic of the tree with the steps on it. Is it one of the trees in your newish background?

Yaya said...

Is that an ORANGE mushroom??

Happy New Year Julia! I'm attempting to blog a little less in the New Year, so if I'm not immediately responding to every post, don't hate me!

Karen said...

Aw! She is adorable. So funny that she didn't want to remove her helmet. LOL

It looks like you are enjoying your new camera attachment. I enjoy the fruits of your labor.

ByLightOfMoon said...

What fabulous photos, I do believe you have learned your new camera very well!

I also adore mushrooms and try to take photos also down on my knees or lower, I have even clipped the grass around to see the fairies but they always hide.( grins)

Many thanks for all the descriptions, I have no idea what most are called so thanks for the info.

I also love Rusty Crusty things and the lichen moss, heck, any moss!

I want to be in your tree house!
Many thanks for the smiles, Cyndi

Vixen said...

Wow, you're pictures really make me want a better camera. And someplace to walk that looks like that!

If being fascinated to death by mushrooms counts, you could say I study Mycology too!

Julia said...

Vickie you can definitely call your self a mycologist!! :)

Ms Snarky Pants said...

Ella is SUCH a cutie patootie!

I love those tree pictures. That is a truly lovely tree!

My favorite mushrooms are the ones that look like the mushrooms in Mario Brothers. I didn't even know they were real until I stumbled across them one day while trying to identify another one. They're so cool!

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Mel said...

I think we are kindred souls: botany and mycology were my two favorite classes/subjects in college.

Not much visible fungus around here right now, but even in the midst of Montana winter we find plants thriving (and not just conifers). And I know that mycorrhizae is busy!

Orr's said...

I love the picture of the tree house, its deathly gorgeous.

Lisa said...

Great pictures!

Grand Pooba said...

Only you could make mushrooms look pretty. When I see a patch of mushrooms in our lawn I run and hide, they scare me, I make Albert pick them out.

Seriously amazing photos! And oh my god look at those cheeks!!

life ramblings said...

great series of pics Julia.

hope 2010 will be a better year for everyone. Happy new year!

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