Sun Setting On Our Field, by Rainer

Metamorphosis by Carl Sandburg

When water turns ice does it remember
one time it was water?
When ice turns back into water does it
remember it was ice?


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Phenologically and metamorphically speaking...

We're back here at the blog. Happy spring everybody!

The ants are back, too, with green plants growing all over their nest. They are adapting to the change very well.

So much sunshine here and flowers everywhere!

We're busy in the yard with several projects.

There is a research group guiding citizen scientists to record phenological observations:
Phenology: key seasonal changes in plants and animals from year to year—such as flowering, emergence of insects and migration of birds—especially their timing and relationship with weather and climate. We didn't know what the word meant before this project.

We're observing the minute changes to three plant species: common lilac, Himalayan blackberry and California poppy. In our region we're having another warm, dry spring. Are the plant cycles coming on earlier? It sorta feels like it. We'll see as we get the hard data. Here is the common lilac with a breaking leaf bud, from Jan. 31, 2014:

Same plant on March 11, 2014:

Rainer's frog project continues. He's collected a few egg sacs from abundant habitats in McKinleyville and Arcata. 

Seems like the tadpoles emerging in this pond will be salamanders. A new species introduced to this wild back yard!

And the main frog city, functioning well, and loud:

Nice shot, Rainer! This is a great view of the back yard looking east from the top of an alder tree that is close to the house. So much space still could be cultivated. Growing more food is a big goal this summer.

Frida has a great little bed on the side of the house, in a very sunny spot. We separated the overgrown strawberries, reconditioned the soil with our bunny fertilizer and rich compost, and replanted many strawberries, plus added chives in between.

We've planted a lot more willows along all the fence lines, all from cuttings from older willows, which were cuttings from friend's gardens, or harvested by us from along the banks of the Mad River.

We planted the willow close to these baby redwoods, hoping a little shade would relieve the stark conditions for the moisture-loving redwoods. They are really stunted, but at least they are surviving.

Raspberries are growing well and need an occasional clipping to maintain a row to walk through. Thanks for the help, Rainer.

Redwood burl Rainer's got growing on the deck are so interesting. They sprout multiple new trees from the smallest little chunk of burl.

The coyote bush rocked out in January! So many flowers bloomed in January.

Twenty more feet for these eciums to be full-grown.

What is this huge specimen? We couldn't figure it out exactly with our books. We need better books.


We added a blog to the list of resources: Down on the Garm: Adventures in the Dirt, written by our neighbor Colin. He's making a sustainable garden/farm in his yard, doing a more precise job than we are, and he lives down the street! We couldn't be more excited to learn from someone who is as meticulous and conscientious as Colin.

What fun to babysit our neighbor's chickens recently! They just started laying again as the light changes.

Frida was so inspired she sewed a little chicken coop, a hen and a rooster for the one-year-old boy named Leo who lives there.

 So long for now, family and friends! See you next time for an update on the wildness, the art, the science and the ants!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Eye Witness News From Our Wild Backyard

A red hot poker to say 'hello', the Fibonacci way!

We all have a hunch the field in our back yard is the one Rumi is talking about.
Friends and family, this blog is a moment in the field.
So, all of us in our summer rhythms, here are many backyard fascinations we keep returning to. Like the wood ant nest:

See them?  They bite.  They send out warriors far away from the main perimeter.  If you go way over in the corner of the yard where they've had this nest for years, wear shoes and keep watching for their defenders to march up your leg and start biting.  They have their territory and we have ours, so there is mostly no trouble.

Also happening in our backyard:

Frida deserves credit for persistence at holding the untamed bunnies.  They are so calm and accepting of human touch now, thanks to Frida's continued efforts. 

Gorgeous portraits, no? A COLOR copy of the photo below hangs, FRAMED, in our house.  That's how much these bunnies are loved.

Check out the tiny pumpkin spider babies! Here they cling to the bunny's gate in June.  By September they'll be menacing us with their two-inch bodies and gigantic, orb-style webs! Rainer's only 13th birthday wish was a new bugzooka, so he could safely relocate spiders away from our backyard play spaces. When you plant a garden for the wildlife there is a constant negotiation between wild and civilized.

Whatever these caterpillars will become, they are always a teeming mass at this stage, and always on the river willow trees.  Sort of a pest when they are near raspberry bushes, but creepy fun, too.

Redwood burls can't help it, they just grow new trees if they stay moist. Our fascination with redwoods is so strong, we named our homeschool the Sequoiadendron Homeschool Academy, inspired by the biggest life on the planet.

 More tadpoles, that's the way now each spring.  Nice aquarium set up again, Rainer!
This sequence shows the tadpoles first in egg sacs, then stuck to the wall of the aquarium, then as huge swimming tadpoles, and finally one of last year's survivors--a LOUD little guy who lives in one of the aquariums right outside Rainer's window.
Photos by Rainer


As pond manager, Rainer made sure we had some goldfish to eat the mosquito larvae.

We must acknowledge the berry! This summer has been all berry, all the time. Planted in new beds for next year's picking: tayberry. Can't wait!
Also added to our list of plants: cleome, dianthus, lobelia, nasturtium and echinacea. We're going for color this year.

Hey, there are Frida, Nina, and Sarah napping in the fresh-cut grass!  Those three little gals are always together, in the garden and everywhere Frida goes.

That's Nina and Sarah enjoying a hike to the Vernal Falls at Yosemite National Park in May, from the safety of their pouch. We do occasionally leave our nest to see other wild places, and Frida knew her dolls would enjoy things best tucked in.  She designed and sewed the pouch herself.

 Nina , Sarah and Frida celebrating the 4th of July on the Arcata Plaza, with pretend balloon dog who has a real collar.  At this point, does it matter what is real and imaginary anymore?
Below, they enjoy a warm summer afternoon row boat ride in a friend's wild backyard frog pond.  

Frida set down her dolls to get serious about fishing with dads on a father's day boat trip in Trinidad Harbor. She caught her first fish--no picture.  But Rainer's we got.


Rainer also wants to share a new addition to his frozen specimen collection.  This is a small lizard's tail, found one morning in the garden.  Now he'll have it forever!  It lives next to his frozen goldfish, which are totally different from his mummified goldfish.

Below, pictures of his wild and crazy robot friend, Robie.  After Robie plugs himself in, he lights up!  He also waves his mechanical arm around, dumps a load of marbles from his backside, and plays a loud country music station to annoy everybody.  And the noise from the blender motor is so loud!  He also eavesdrops on the household, or lectures you, endlessly droning on about politics, through use of an old baby monitor.  He's one of those robots!

One of Robie's favorite quotes, by Groucho Marx: "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies."

As you can imagine, we all enjoy Robie's company, most of the time.

Happy Summer Family and Friends!  Hug your robots!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

Honeysuckle. . .mmmmmmmmm, smells good.
Mary Oliver asked the title question in her poem "The Summer Day".
"Smell honeysuckle flowers," I would tell her.

Another year in the garden!  Let's check out the habitat.
We planted many more trees.
Rainer usually manages our forestry projects.
Several new books about redwoods are now listed on the side of the blog thanks to Rainer.
The one below is a living Christmas tree and also a memorial to baby Matilda, our niece and cousin who was born and died this year.

Planting 14 redwoods along the back fence with dad.

This avocado tree was planted from the seed 12 years ago, when Rainer was born.

Another book we listed along the side of this blog is Keepers of Life: Discovering Plants Through Native American Stories and Earth Activities for Children.  That book has been a guide through the plant families for our science club.  The backyard has become more of a botanical research lab, and the mushrooms in the picture below, found by the raspberries under a birch tree, are fascinating in new ways.  

In the bag below is a mycelium for shiitakes or blue oyster mushrooms.  We're growing both in the garage.  So easy!  You just spray them with water and shelter them in a plastic bag to keep in the moisture.  Fungi Perfecti and Paul Stamets are new discoveries we're delighted by.  We're grateful to our friend Esther for getting us started. We also bought a bag of Blue Oyster plugs, which are sawdust and spore bits that you stick into a log and let nature take it's course.  Yeehaw! We love it. Mushrooms are hopeful.  Several new resources regarding fungi and plant studies are now listed on the side.

Turns out many other people in this area study nature, too!  The Telenocher Marine Lab offers great opportunities for studying algae, the plant-like life form.  And checking out your finger under the microscope is also fun.
Here in the yard, Rainer made a LOT of signs this past year. A comic garden inspired by Bloom County and other greats!
 Tonio is our landlord.

Frida had a vision of the garden in this picture.  With just a little help, she did it! Strawberries, lettuces, marigolds, pumpkins.

All from our garden, all by herself.

  In the picture below she is selling her special recipe raspberry mint lemon balm honey tea to another satisfied customer.

So, we might as well start a farm and sell all the products in this picture.  Sounds like a great plan, Frida!


The hang-n-read! One of her favorite spots to read in the garden, spider-free.

A little poem she wrote and illustrated:


Rainer set up a few new, very inviting frog ponds.  Materials: cardboard boxes, small boards as ramps for tadpoles, an old exercise ball and air mattress as liners, stones, duckweed.  As many frogs as possible is the motto here.

New bunnies!

Names: Sherbert and Hodge Podge.


Spring of 2012: another round of guerrilla gardening.  Here Alexandra, Frida and Rainer used the compost, clay, soil and amaranth seeds to make balls for future beauty-bombing missions.


A mouse was stuck in Rainer's digging hole.  This milk carton trap didn't work, but a board placed as a ramp helped the critter get out.


Remember the ring of fire during the solar eclipse on May 20, 2012? That was great.


Imagine the little worlds of life that go on.  You might not notice unless you turn over the next leaf! Sights like this make you more careful.

Here's to a fertile growing season and lots of wild encounters in the coming year!  
Happy New Year!
With love from Zak, Kris, Rainer and Frida