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 beasts...plus 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!!!!