Archive for June 2013
It’s HOT, just as predicted. 100 before noon, and no telling what it will get to. Xena’s holed up in her favorite cool spot — behind the toilet. There’s no such thing as privacy around here.
I won’t be blogging much until the heat breaks, unless something really interesting happens. The swamp cooler (plus a couple of fans) is keeping the house reasonably comfortable, but I can’t help but think the heat is hard on the computer. I shut it down around noon when it’s over a hundred.
Here’s a lovely cool picture sister Sally sent me from St. Louis a few years ago . . . just looking at it helps.
It’s hot, all right.
At ten-thirty it was already 97. As usual on these extra hot days, I’m blogging early, then I’ll shut down the computer for the day. The humidity is down, so the swamp cooler is working well, but there’s only so much it can do. If anything interesting happens, it’ll just have to wait until tomorrow.
The river is way down, too.
Most of the flow is diverted to crops this time of year, so it’s not unexpected. I just hope it doesn’t affect the new growth too much. Most of it is from old, deep-rooted willows, so maybe not.
On the way back from the river, I spotted our resident roadrunner near the house.
Like the palomino in the background — one of the boarders’ horses I wouldn’t mind owning — he is handsome and I suspect he knows it.
Here’s a closer look. He raised his crest a moment earlier, but I missed it.
I’m just guessing that he is a he. Male and female roadrunners look pretty much alike.
We have coyotes too, of course, but none of them seem as interested in a roadrunner dinner as Wiley Coyote of cartoon fame. I suspect roadrunner would be pretty tough and stringy, anyway.
We have a wide range of interests and some really interesting discussions at our knitting group. A couple of weeks ago, somehow we got on the subject of the tarantula hawk.
Now a tarantula hawk is neither a tarantula nor a hawk, but a large and scary-looking wasp. I wrote about it once before. I have a vivid memory of the sight of one clearing the block when I was growing up in Taft. Someone would scream and point, and there would be a mass stampede of screaming children headed for the house.
As an adult, I figured that the legend of the tarantula hawk was probably mostly in our minds. After all, I never heard of one actually stinging anybody . . . of course it didn’t have much of a chance.
However, in these days of the Internet, it didn’t take more than a few minutes for one of the knitters to find the critter on Wikipedia. The tarantula hawk is a large black wasp with rusty-orange wings. The female hunts tarantulas, paralyzes them with her venom, and lays an egg on their abdomens. The larva then hatches and eats the tarantula alive — a process once described with relish by Calvin of “Calvin and Hobbes”. The male is relatively innocuous, and confines himself to milkweed blossoms.
A researcher called Justin Schmidt allowed himself to be Stung for Science. He describes the pain of a tarantula hawk sting as “blinding, fierce, shockingly electric”. It’s “excruciating pain that shuts down one’s ability to do anything except, perhaps, scream.” It’s the second most painful insect sting in the world. The good news is a) the wasp is relatively docile and stings only when provoked, and b) the worst of the pain “only lasts about three minutes”.
I’ll bet it’s a long three minutes.
Anyway, a few days later, friend and fellow knitter Sasha sent me this picture that her husband Andy took.
Yep, that’s a tarantula hawk, a male. It’s in a classic pose, feeding on a milkweed flower.
Andy took it up on North Chester.
That’s too darned close. True, it’s a male. Where there is a male tarantula hawk, there must be a female somewhere; and where there are tarantula hawks, there must be tarantulas.
I wonder how fast I can run screaming to the house at seventy?
Everyone knew it was going to be hot and muggy (for Bakersfield) today, so if you were going to get outside it was well to do it early. I wasn’t too early — I set out about eight — but it was just early enough.
First I met Cathy and Marion, on Cisco and EZ respectively. They were just getting in from their ride.
They were really looking good; not even overheated yet.
It’s always fun to look at the boarders’ “yards” outside their tackrooms. So many of them have made a home away from home. I think I could probably handle this horsie.
Next I visited the colt born this spring. It was hard to get a good picture of him, because either he was goggling at the camera — in which case his head looked too big —
Or he gave up on anything interesting happening, and turned away. Which made his head look too small.
Still, it was obvious that he’s growing nicely and doing fine.
Next I visited the corn patch belonging to the boarders on the east edge of the ranch. It’s coming along beautifully, and so is their giant-pumpkin patch.
Finally I admired their flowers . . .
. . . and headed for home.
For once, Xena didn’t make it into any of the pictures. She was happily chasing her stick, though. For once, we made it home with the same stick we started with. She’s figured out that if she hides it too well, I won’t find it with my inferior human nose.
I disappoint her a lot.
We looked out this morning to see a dozen people out on the island, walking along and carrying something shiny. I was curious, so I went outside to check it out.
Billy and I thought it might be Mosquito Abatement workers, and we were right. They were seeking out pockets of skeeters to . . . abate them. I asked one if I could take his picture, but it turned out I had my camera on the close-up setting, so it didn’t turn out well.
I didn’t figure out the problem until he was headed back to work.
Soon he was following his fellow workers downriver.
It actually looked like a pretty good way to spend a hot day.
In the background of these shots, you can see some of that pale growth that’s been taking over the island since the fire. We thought it might be bamboo, but Sasha tells us it’s arundo, or giant reed; and it’s pretty scary stuff. Here’s a closer look.
This is an Asian plant, imported like so many other invasive pests as an ornamental. That’s why some of it is yellow; but you can see a bit of it at the front reverting to its natural green — and even larger size.
According to Wikipedia, this stuff can grow up to four inches a day! It absorbs toxins such as arsenic, cadmium, and lead, so it can be highly toxic. Not surprisingly, nothing eats it. And it spreads like wildfire. It competes with native willows, and wins every time. To top it off, it positively loves both fire (as you can see) and flood.
It does have its uses. In Pakistan, where they have terrible problems with arsenic-laden wells, they are growing it to absorb the poisons from the soil. It’s very good at cleansing contaminated soils. It’s been proposed as a source of energy biomass, that is, to be used as fuel. And of course there’s its original use as roofing material in tropical climates.
Just the same, it’s not something we went in the riverbed. But it’s there anyway, and apparently it’s been there for quite a while disguised as bamboo. The fire just made it easy to see.
Maybe it’ll stay on the island — but I doubt it. Just what we need; Frankenweed.
Back on June 11, I posted some pictures of the regrowth in the river, planning to come back and see how things were doing in a week or two. Well, it’s two weeks later, and here are some shots of the progress.
June 11 . . .
. . . and today.
Then . . .
. . . and now.
Growth . . .
. . . and regrowth.
Everything is coming along.
The only trouble is that the river is down quite a bit. If it doesn’t dry up completely, the willows and other riparian plants will continue their epic journey to renewal. But it is a drought year . . . here’s hoping for the best.
I’ll bet everyone with a camera was out trying to get a shot of the Supermoon last night, and I was no exception.
It’s really hard to get a good moon shot without special equipment, so I went out just after sunset with no great expectations. It was a beautiful bright moon, though, and worth watching in any case. The last light on the burned trees made them glow as if it were fall.
The moon that loomed so large to the eye looked very small to the camera.
It was a beautiful cool night, and the “supermoon” graced it perfectly.