Sunflowers – June Through August

I have too many sunflower photos for one post so I split them up into yesterday’s post and this one.

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Do you see the flowering sunflowers in the center of the photo? If you count 10 rows to each side you’ll see (barely) that every 10th and 11th row there are flowers in bloom. The field was planted with two varieties of sunflowers, a smaller one that bloomed earlier and the larger variety. The following is from Wikipedia:

Typically, sunflowers tend to be self sterile. But for a sunflower to produce seeds, it needs pollen from a different sunflower. This is also known as cross-breeding, or in this case, cross-pollination. Occasionally, a sunflower can self-pollinate. Self-pollination produces an inbred line which, when bred with a separate inbred line, will result in a hybrid flower.”

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This is two of the shorter rows in full bloom. The taller sunflowers are also blooming. I assume that these are two varieties that (with probably a male-sterile flower on the larger plants) produce a hybrid seed. At harvest time I talked to a representative of the buyer who was out in the field and she said that this was a seed crop that was going to Europe to be planted for oil production.

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Sunflowers typically follow the sun, but when they get large the heads don’t move anymore. This was the view from my house –all the flowers facing east. If I wanted to see the pretty faces I had to walk around the field. Do you want to know more about this? Here is an article from the New York Times that explains why and how the sunflowers move to face the sun. This is an excerpt from it:

The answer was in their stems. Like those of other plants, the stems of young sunflowers grow more at night — but only on their west side, which is what allows their heads to bend eastward. During the day, the stems’ east side grows, and they bend west with the sun. Dr. Atamian collected samples of the opposite sides of stems from sunflowers periodically, and found that different genes, related to light detection and growth, appeared active on opposite sides of the stems.”

Isn’t that amazing? And isn’t it cool that there is so much to be learned about the seemingly most mundane things in our world? I’m all for promoting science to explore ideas and not just to solve a problem. But I digress…20160615-img_1868

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You saw bees on the sunflowers in the previous post.20160620-dsc_0370

Here they are at their hives. Hives were placed all around the field.20160620-dsc_0390

Here is another interesting article–this one about the bees that pollinate sunflowers. “In sunflower hybrid seed production, pollen from a male row of sunflowers must be moved by bees to a female (male-sterile) row. Growers typically use honey bees to accomplish this task. However, most honey bee workers specialize as either nectar or pollen foragers. Nectar foragers tend primarily to visit female rows, while pollen foragers visit male rows. If few bees cross between rows, growers can experience poor seed-set.” The article goes on to say that native bees  collect both pollen and nectar and by chasing the honeybees from row to row they make the whole process more efficient in terms of getting the 100% pollination. Therefore growers should encourage native bee populations.

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The photos above were all taken in June.

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By mid-July the heads were drooping and the two rows of smaller plants were cut. The sole purpose of those sunflowers was to provide half of the genetics of the hybrid seed to be harvested from the larger plants.

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The seed was ready to harvest in mid-August.

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The harvester drove through the field, cutting the plants,…dsc_2061

…sorting out the waste,…dsc_2055

…and periodically dumping the seed into a waiting truck.

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But the job isn’t over. While plants were being harvested in one part of the field the other part was being disked.

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A month later the field is still being prepped to get ready for next year’s crop–tomatoes.

Sunflowers-April through June

We have only 10 acres here, but having the field Across the Road makes it seem as though we have much more. We are careful to be good neighbors and we are grateful that we have permission to spend time exploring that property. So I feel kind of like the crops grown there are mine although I have none of the work involved.  This summer’s crop was sunflowers–one of my favorites. I have way too many photos so I’ll break this into two posts.

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April 12. You can just see the tiny plants.

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April 27

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May 2. Cultivating.

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June 11. They’re growing up. I sound like a proud parent.

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The rest of the photos in this post were taken throughout June.

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Life and Death on a Milkweed Plant

While mowing the pasture the other day I saw a fluttering monarch butterfly.

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I thought, “Cool, I’m watching this butterfly emerge from the chrysalis.” However, as I watched I realized that for some reason the butterfly had been stuck in this position and now was hopelessly damaged. I helped it out of the chrysalis but its wings were damaged and all it could do was flutter, but not fly.IMG_3460

I continued mowing.

IMG_3468There were plenty more milkweed plants that were teeming with life. That’s the Common Buckeye Butterfly and the Alfalfa Butterfly (see my last post).

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Here is what the seed pods have inside when they are ripe. (Spinning, anyone?)

IMG_3476I identified this one in Bug Guide.net  as the Small Milkweed Bug (also the Common Milkweed Bug, Lygaeus kalmii). It’s surprising how many similar looking bugs you find when you google “red and black bug in CA”.

Small milkweed bug or Common milkweed bug, Lygaeus kalmii

I had to look closely to see the identifying markings. The Guide says: “Adults suck nectar from flowers of various herbaceous plants, and also feed on milkweed seeds(?). Also reported to be scavengers and predators, especially in spring when milkweed seeds are scarce. They have been reported feeding on honey bees, monarch caterpillars and pupae, and dogbane beetles, among others.”

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Here is more life, but I’m not going to try and specifically ID this one.

And the circle continues…

Monarch caterpillar on milkweed

The other photos were from a couple of weeks ago and I just saw this monarch caterpillar a few days ago on another milkweed.

Birds and Butterflies

Last week it was impossible to go to town or walk Across the Road without running into butterflies. The orange sulphur butterfly (Colias eurytheme also known as the alfalfa butterfly and in its larval stages as the alfalfa caterpillar), I found out by googling, is widespread in North America and can be a significant alfalfa pest in high densities.

The alfalfa field just south of where I walk had been cut, the sunflowers harvested, and butterflies were doubling and tripling up on field bindweed flowers and any other weedy flowers they could find.

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I thought that I’d be able to get photos of butterflies in flight. Do you know how hard that is? Not possible, at least by me.

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But speaking of things that fly, I did get some bird photos. I don’t usually see great blue herons in the trees.

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The snowy egret is dwared by two great egrets.

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Great egret in flight.

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On my way home I spotted these cattle egrets which I photographed from the road.

 

A Sheep Adventure – Part 2

I forgot to put a couple of photos in the last post. Besides the BearFest that was going on through the summer in Grants Pass, there was also a Fifties celebration the week we were there. There was a car show that evening and here are some cars that we saw in the motel parking lot.

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I have no idea what they are but I took these photos to show my husband.

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This is not how butterflies normally look on my headlights.

We got on the road about 7:30 and drove to Selma, Oregon where Jackie’s sheep had been delivered the day before. She was picking up two English Leicesters that came from Michigan.

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Carol Ronan graciously took time to give us a tour of her beautiful farm. She raises Angora goats (above) and Gotland sheep (below). Information about her sheep and goats (and the beautiful farm which is for sale) is at this link.

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The animals have access to this 100+ year old barn that has been reinforced and given a new roof (which will probably give it another 100 years).

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I don’t remember the dogs names but this was an older one who put up with the nosy sheep.

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I took this photo because I wanted to remember this oh-so-simple feeder idea. That welded wire panel is not a fence. There are two panels attached to a 2×6 at the bottom and to posts with slightly tapered pieces of wood on the sides. Perfect for dropping in a flake of hay and feeding on both sides.

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We walked to the field with the bucks…IMG_3292

…and examined fleeces.

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Here are Jackie’s new sheep who had been housed in the trailer overnight.IMG_3299

They were easily switched to my truck and we got on the road. There are not too many photos of the part of the trip that became more of an adventure. I didn’t want to backtrack to Grant’s Pass and I-5. BORING. If you take Hwy. 199 south from Selma you can turn off onto a road that winds its way through the rugged Siskiyou Mountains to Happy Camp. It wasn’t a good idea for me to be taking photos while driving on this road that was full of switchbacks and Jackie probably would have thrown my camera out the window. We didn’t stop because we had spent a lot of time at Carol’s and had planned to make the next stop by mid-morning (weren’t going to make that) and get home in the afternoon, trying to avoid being on I-5 through Redding at the hottest part of the day.

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At Happy Camp we turned east onto Highway 96 and watched for landmarks until we got to this sign and across the road…

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…this bridge where we crossed Horse Creek and drove north along hillside edging a green valley . We were supposed to go 2 miles and find the correct street address for the farm where my ram would be. We saw a few numbers on mailboxes, passed what should have been the right place, found a place to turn around and chose a driveway that seemed to be in the right place. We drove in past barns and farm equipment but didn’t see a house, sheep, or any signs of someone looking for sheep buyers who were late. We drove out of the driveway, down the road and chose another driveway with the number that would be the neighbors to the place we were looking for.

As I drove down the steep driveway, several large dogs ran out barking. However I saw someone looking through a window and waited for him to come out. He wasn’t happy about seeing us and told us to go back up the road and take the driveway with “the lifetime gate”. “Can I drive forward and turn around down there?”, I asked. “No” was the answer. OK then. I’ll back up the steep rocky driveway that has a sharp turn onto the road and a steep drop-off to the side, while trying to see the end of my truck through the plywood sheep crate on my truck. I did that with several back and forths and only one minor mishap.

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Finally backing into the road in the wrong direction we drove down it again, passing this sing, turned around and came back. (Note: When my sons have fought fires in these mountains they have been turned away from entering access roads to the forest by surly land-owners. The firefighters are warned by their supervisors to be careful in or avoid areas where they have spotted marijuana or equipment for growing or harvesting.)

So we took the same driveway we had before with the barns and cattle equipment. Steep-Driveway-And-Big-Dogs-Guy was there to meet us, having gone from his house, across the creek, through the barns, to this upper driveway. He pointed and said “no, go back to the lifetime gate”. Lifetime gate? When we looked more closely there was a closed gate down a dirt road that branched off to the right of this main driveway. Jackie opened the gate and we drove into what looked like a little used driveway that stopped before you got to a house where I could hear children. So at least someone was home.

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I found the sheep owner who strapped her baby on her back and we walked out to the barn with other kids running beside us. We arranged bales of hay to create a step up into the truck and loaded the ram. She pointed us out a dirt road that  ends up on a different paved road which seems to be their main access and is “easier”.

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This is the field (sheep in the distance) that Kenleigh’s Legolas left behind.

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We drove east through Yreka to I-5 and headed for home. I always stop for a photo at this overview of Mt. Shasta. We stopped several times to check on the sheep. There was really nothing we could do about the heat but the truck thermometer was showing 108 (or was it 109?) through Redding. It was in the 100’s for most of the trip, but the sheep survived. I didn’t dawdle, wanting to get them out of the truck as quickly as we could.

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I put Legolas in with the young rams and a wether. They followed him around for awhile.

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There was fighting among themselves, but not with Legolas, because it was obvious that he would be the dominant ram of the bunch.

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This will be the first year that I will breed the bulk of the flock to 2-horned rams. There is Kenleigh’s Legolas (Lego for short), Meridian Catalyst, a 2-horned lilac ram, and bide a wee Buster, the younger ram with 4 horns.

A Sheep Adventure – Part 1

It took me almost a month to finish the blog posts about our road trip partly because I interspersed other stories into those posts. I’m still catching up on the things I wanted to share. One of those is  another adventure on the road, this time involving sheep.

Just after I came home from Black Sheep Gathering I found out about a ram for sale in northern California. I had just purchased a ram lamb at BSG but, after selling rams this summer, I would still have only two rams here for breeding in October  (except for whatever of my own ram lambs I might keep). The new one was small and I wasn’t sure that he’d be up for the job on October 1. The one for sale was an adult so he would definitely be ready for breeding.

I planned a day trip to the Klamath River area west of Yreka, but in the meantime my friend, Jackie, had purchased a couple of sheep that were to be delivered to Selma, Oregon that same week. We decided to combine the two sheep pick-ups, but that turned the trip into a two-day Sheep Adventure.

The drive north on I-5 gets more interesting once you leave the valley and get into the mountains.

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Mt. Shasta, at 14,179′, is in view for many miles. I had never stopped at this vista point. I made Jackie take a photo with me.

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I love this mountain and, although I have never climbed it, I spent a couple of summers working in the Klamath National Forest where it was always a presence. My husband has been at the top, but that is another story.

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There were bear tracks in the cement walkways.

It turns out that bears became the theme for the day. We planned to spent the night in Grants Pass, Oregon and pick up the sheep the next day. It just happened that Grants Pass was celebrating Bear Fest, “a hands-on touchable art event, proving that art doesn’t have to be “serious” to be great. Local artists decorated, embellished, bejeweled and painted larger than life size bears” which were on display through the summer.

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Our motel had bear themed furniture…

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…and bear art over the fireplace in the lobby.

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This bear was outside the motel. We drove downtown and parked. We took our Bearfest Map and found some of the fifty bears that were displayed around town.

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Marge and Rockabilly Bear (with Jackie photographing from another view).

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Pierre Bear the Arteest and La Petite Monique.

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Not a bear, but keeping (loosely) in the theme of our trip, it seemed that we should eat at this restaurant.

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Old Time Beartender.

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Boss Henry the Logger Bear.

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Vincent Barbera Merlot

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Carmen Bearanda

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Also seen on the streets of Grants Pass. We had skipped dessert at the restaurant…

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…but didn’t stop here…

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…because these wern’t edible!

More in the next post…

Road Trip to CO – Nevada to Home

In the last post I wrote that we drove until dark and then kept going. We didn’t have a plan about where we’d stop and Dan just kept driving. (By the way, when I say that “we” drove I mean that Dan drove and I rode. I used to offer to drive but I don’t bother anymore on our trips. Dan likes to do the driving and that’s fine with me, since I’d rather be watching the scenery and napping when I get tired.)

Eventually, somewhere in eastern Nevada, Dan got too sleepy and pulled over. We didn’t try to stretch out in the back of the truck but slept in the front. After an hour or two I got too cold and uncomfortable (and bothered by someone snoring) and switched places with Dan so I could drive. When I got too tired and pulled over we both slept awhile until he recovered enough to go on.

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The view when I woke up next.

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Have you noticed that the Open Range signs in many places have cattle that look like dairy cows? The Open Range signs in Nevada show what looks like bulls.

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Even along Highway 50 in Nevada there are Points of Interest.

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It’s hard to see in this photo but there are remnants of a stone building surrounded by cyclone fence. One of the signs at Cold Springs (between Austin and Fallon) described The Overland Stage Station: “Constructed using the volcanic lava rock found throughout the area, the Cold Springs Stage Station was built in 1861. The original Pony Express Station was built 1-1/2 miles to the east of here in 1860. When the stage station was erected the Pony Express moved its operation to this building…Life at Cold Springs was not for the timid. The 2 to 3 man station crew endured the barest, leanest forms of living. They ate, lived, and slept in this crude structure for months at a time. Floors, when dry, were dirt and when wet, they were mud. Sanitary facilities were primitive. The handmade furniture was crude and utilitarian at best. There were no luxuries, only the necessities of life: food, water, and a firearm for protection.”

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Additional signs explained the quick progression of communication and transportation milestones that occurred here between 1860 and 1927–the Pony Express in 1860, then the Overland Stage in 1861, telegraph in 1861, (dooming the Pony Express), and eventually the creation of Highway 50.

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Here is one more sign. This one is provided by Trails West whose “primary activity is installing, and maintaining, distinctive steel-rail “T” markers along the many emigrant trails leading to California and publishing guide books to enable anyone to follow these trails from beginning to end.” They have placed over 600 markers along 2000 miles of trails.

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Putting my iPhone in my pocket it took this photo.

 

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Way back in this post I mentioned a Shoe Tree. Here is another west of Cold Springs. This one is even marked in our map book and described in this internet article.

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Not to be a spoil-sport, but I’m not a big fan.  Sure, it is a curiosity and, in this case, a landmark, but I think I’d rather just admire a nice tree growing in the desert. To me it brings to mind the question is graffiti artwork or vandalism?

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Sand Mountain is a 2-mile long, 6oo’ high sand dune that is 20 miles east of Fallon and is the site of another Pony Express Station.

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Impressive house in Fallon…

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..and an auto repair shop featuring a NAVY jet out front (representing Fallon Naval Air Station).

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Seen on the highway and reminiscent of a twill pattern in weaving.

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Just past Fallon, we left Highway 50, as it headed southwest, to get on I-80 toward Reno…

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…and, eventually, home.

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California! Only about 2-1/2 hours to home.

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We drove about 2800 miles on this trip. It’s marked in pink. Our 2015 trip to Texas is in blue. Orange is to Grand Tetons and Yellowstone in 2014 and Green was to Grand Canyon and beyond in 2013. Where to next year?