Sunday, June 5, 2011

Chaparral Morning...

Debbie and I slept in a bit this morning; I didn't get outside with the dogs until dawn brightened the eastern sky.  The valley was gorgeous – wisps of mist here and there, as the evening humidity hit its peak. 

The normal summer cycle out here in the high desert chaparral is for high humidity at night (often 100%) and extremely low humidity (usually under 5%) during the day.  The transitions, both at night and in the morning, are extremely fast, driven by the sun's power disappearing at night and reappearing in the morning.  One result: it's common for us to see these beautiful morning mist and fog effects.

Our yard is full of things to see, hear, and smell.  The palo verde tree in our front yard is erupting into bloom.  Wildflowers, especially monkeyflowers, are out all over the place.  Because of our winter rains, all the native plants are showing very strong new growth.  I see manzanitas with as much as 5 inches of new growth, a very large amount for them.  The mosses on the rocks are still tinged with green, leftover from the rain last week.  That won't last long, though – another few days and they'll look like black paint on the rocks. 

The pines we recently trimmed look very different than they did.  Now the lowest branches are 20 feet or more high, and there are elegant trunks in plain sight.  The biggest impact, though, is that the hillside formerly hidden behind the pine branches is now fully exposed to view – a lovely vista of Mother Nature's art, with rocks that a sculptor would envy, a half-dozen mature manzanitas shamelessly displaying their red trunks, deep green ceanothus bushes, and splashes of wildflowers here and there.  The dominant wildflowers are the pale orange monkeyflowers, in perhaps a dozen bunches covering a total of about 100 square feet.  Lovely things, they are.

And then there's the early morning smells, one of my favorite things about the chaparral.  In the morning there's usually a gentle downhill breeze, with cool, moist air drifting down to the valleys.  Many of the chaparral plants – but most especially the sages – have sharp and distinct smells.  In the main, these are pleasant and attractive smells.  They are at their absolute best on these early mornings, being carried to my nose by the wafting air, and enhanced by the high humidity.  This morning they were superb.

As usual, the three brown dogs were fully absorbed in the odiferous universe.  They never saw the covey of quail running away, about 50 feet to our west.  Nor did they see the baby rabbit hopping frantically up the hill from us.  Racer, focused on a pine cone he captured, completely ignored the smells.  He saw both the quail and the rabbit, and went on full alert very briefly – just long enough to decide that the pine cone was more fun.

Debbie's “down the hill” in Bonita today, competing with Miki and Racer in an agility meet.  Just talked with her on the phone; she saw lots of wildlife today on the drive out of our valley.  She also had news that seems more important to us now that we're soon going to drive several thousand miles: the price of gasoline at the Steele Canyon 7/11 has now dropped to below $4 a gallon ($3.99, to be precise).  It's been a while since we've seen that...

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