Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin
queerbychoice

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Walking Around the Neighborhood

I tried to prepare a Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day Post, but the only flowers in the yard right now are the scarlet mallow that blooms year-round, a few golden currant flowers that are too tiny for my camera to focus on properly, a giant gumplant bud that's too tiny at the moment for my camera to focus on properly, and some ribbed fringepod buds that are so microscopic that even though my camera miraculously did focus on them properly, they still just look like tiny white dots that don't seem worth showing off. So in lieu of boring you to death with pictures of our yard, I'm going to show you some pictures from my recent walks around the neighborhood instead. I took Boston for a walk to the Yuba River on New Year's Day, and I took her for a walk in the other direction last weekend. Susan and Ganymede stayed home both times, because Susan's foot hasn't fully healed from when she broke it last spring, and I'm not comfortable trying to handle more than one dog at a time.

Now I will show you pictures from both walks.

We live in a smallish town (12,000 people). A man was shot to death here on New Year's Eve, for possibly drug-related reasons, and the triggerman wasn't caught until several days later. My walk on New Year's Day took me within a block or so of where the shooting happened. I hadn't planned to go quite so near it; I just wasn't that sure of where it was and didn't realize I was so close until I saw the name of the street. My walk also took me through a lot of other run-down streets. I was inspired to photograph just one of them, with a plywood fence patched together haphazardly in front of an apartment complex.




I soon crossed the highway. A levee runs along the opposite side of the highway, and the area beyond the levee is basically wilderness - though the wilderness is dotted with occasional mobile homes where otherwise homeless families illegally camp. A network of paths leads toward a small beach on the river. I picked a path and followed it.




The native coyote brush (Baccharis pilularis) was everywhere. The female plants were covered with white seedheads that made them prominently visible, and pretty nearly the only shrubs to be seen other than the female coyote brush plants were the male coyote brush plants. Here is one of the female plants.




And here is a closer view of the seeds on it. Coyote brush is a member of the aster family, and the appearance of its seedheads makes that obvious.




When we arrived at the beach, I let Boston off her leash so she could play in the river. She loves to chase pebbles, so I tossed pebbles into a shallow inlet and took pictures while Boston dove for the pebbles. For the most part, there was no one there but us. A man on an off-road vehicle showed up at one point, so I put Boston's leash back on, but the man immediately left, so I took Boston's leash back off again.






There was an interesting plant on the beach that I don't remember ever seeing before. I have not been able to identify it.




Eventually I took Boston back home. I took this photograph after crossing back over the highway, facing toward the highway from across an orchard.




The following weekend, I took Boston for a walk in the opposite direction. For a while, we followed the path on top of a levee (not the same levee as on New Year's Day), looking down at orchards and farmland and grazing animals.




There are untended, wilderness-like areas along the margins of the farmland - narrow margins in some areas but wider in other areas. I say "wilderness-like" because at least half the plants in these areas are non-native, garden escapees invading what would otherwise be wilderness. Pyracantha bushes are one of these non-natives, and the red berries of the non-native pyracantha bushes seem to have attracted some bright green birds that I suspect were non-native as well. They looked like large parakeets.




Berries of all kinds were abundant, and I was unable to identify most of them. These blue ones somewhat resembled native elderberries at first glance, but they weren't elderberries. I suspect they were something non-native.




I haven't been able to identify these red ones either. They were growing on thorny branches and mingling with invasive Himalayan blackberries.




It's harder to see the pale greenish berries in this next picture, but the berries and the chartreuse leaves in this picture belong to the native parasitic shrub, Pacific mistletoe. The other leaves in the picture belong to invasive Himalayan blackberries. The mistletoe is not parasitizing the blackberries; it prefers its fellow natives, so it's parasitizing a small oak tree that is hardly visible here.




Coyote bush was common in this direction also. Here you can see two young plants, a male (without seeds) and a female (covered with seeds). In the background is water in an irrigation ditch, but you can hardly see the water itself because it's so full of an invasive aquatic plant, parrotfeather watermilfoil (Myriophyllum aquaticum).




There's a sign at about this point in my walk that says "State Wildlife Area." This confuses me, because the maps on the California Department of Fish and Game website show no state wildlife area anywhere near here. But the sign looks quite old, so it seems to have been around a while. Perhaps it's just too tiny an area to be worthy of official notice on the maps? I don't know. Anyway, I spent a lot of the rest of the walk going in and out of the state wildlife area and the areas surrounding it.

Near the sign for the state wildlife area, one of the female coyote brush plants was really showing off its seed-generating powers, coating the ground all around it with a snow-like layer of seeds.




The wasp galls in the oak trees reminded me of Christmas tree ornaments.




I picked my way through a small clump of trees and shrubs that soon thinned out, giving way to open space.




The open space soon became unpleasant, due to a native weed called rough cockleburr (Xanthium strumarium). I've seen it before in the summer when the cockleburrs were green and soft, but this was the first time I noticed it after they dried. They are incredibly sharp!




And soon they were everywhere, stretching ahead of us as far as the eye could see. They're sufficiently large and prominently visible that you can generally see them and steer clear of them, so Boston and I picked a careful path and only got a couple of them on each of us rather than thousands or millions, as could easily have happened with smaller types of stickers. However, each one was painful for me to pull off of us.




The area taken over by millions of cockleburrs was a low spot below some railroad tracks. A train approached and came to a complete stop directly above us.




Boston was terrified of the train noise and pulled me straight up a steep hillside to get away from the train. This was actually very convenient for me, since there was nowhere left for us to go other than back the way we had come or straight up the hillside, and I'm not sure I would have made it up the hillside without Boston pulling me. Anyway, after she pulled me up the hillside, we walked ahead of the train and looked back at it.




The place where the train had stopped is called Binney Junction - the junction of the former Western Pacific and former Southern Pacific railroad tracks, both of which are now owned by Union Pacific. Boston and I waited and watched until the train continued on its way. 




After the train was gone, we crossed the railroad tracks and arrived at the Marysville City Cemetery. Founded in 1850, it's said to be the oldest city-owned cemetery west of the Mississippi. Sadly, it has been the victim of frequent vandalism and is kept locked at all times except by special appointment.




I had not made a special appointment, so I just walked around the edge of it and looked through the fence at it.




This is a closeup of the impressive valley oak that is on the right side of the picture above.




I basically did a U-turn at the cemetery, walking back in the same direction from which I had come, except that I was now on the opposite side of the railroad tracks. I think I was re-entering the state wildlife area. The elevated railroad tracks blocked all view of the only houses nearby, so the only signs of civilization were the gravestones on one side of me and the smashed-up ruins of an old asphalt road on the other side of me. (The railroad tracks were out of sight above me, just beyond the smashed-up asphalt.)




After the smashed-up asphalt came smashed-up concrete. What does your city do with old paving materials when it's done with them? Mine dumps it in the state wildlife area. If it is a state wildlife area, I mean. After all, the state website won't even acknowledge any connection to it.




Beyond the cemetery was a large body of water. Aerial photos of this area from Google Maps show no water here, so I think it's a rice field, temporarily flooded.




This impressive valley oak was growing on the slope above the water.




This bridge is the Highway 70 bridge over Jack Slough, which flows into the Feather River not far beyond the bridge. The water in the picture is not Jack Slough, though; it's that seasonally flooded area that may or may not be a rice field.




The asphalt path I had been walking on ended abruptly here. At the end of the path, someone had hanged a plastic doll.




A dirt path continued from there, looping back toward the cemetery. This bridge is the railroad bridge over Jack Slough, about a thousand feet upstream from the Highway 70 bridge. Boston and I could probably have crossed under the railroad tracks at this bridge, but instead we completed the loop back to the cemetery and crossed the railroad tracks there before returning home.




At home, the other pets awaited us. Here are Ganymede and Stardust on our bed.




And here is Spider with the ceramic cats on top of a bookcase. He says he might join us on a future walk, but only if there are some delicious small animals to chase.

Tags: native plants, photographs
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