Golden Crowned Sparrow's delight

During a lull between rainstorms, this golden crowned sparrow enjoyed its time in the bird bath. Other golden crowned sparrows attempted to take their turns in the bath, but this sparrow wasn't going to share or leave. You would think that all that rain we had for the past few days would have been enough for the birds, but they really do enjoy getting completely wet in a bath. Some wing action going on here. A pensive moment before diving under the water again.

Hooray for the rain

What a relief! The atmospheric rivers are here, bringing in all that moisture from the Pacific. Here in Northern California we've been very worried, wondering if we would get our winter rain. This is a great start. Yes, it can be wild and woolly weather at times, but oh, how that rain refreshes everything. Here is a flowerhead on our sea cliff buckwheat Eriogonum parvifolium, with some raindrops still clinging to it. Beads of raindrops on native grasses

Poppies blooming again

Some of the California poppies are blooming again. I cut the poppy plants back several times this year when the stems and foliage dried up. Now that we have had cooler weather with foggy mornings, the plants seem refreshed, with green foliage. The blossoms are so brilliant in color compared to the mostly dormant garden. The orange poppy above is growing next to a native yellow yarrow Eriophyllia confertiflorum plant. A hoverfly visiting another California poppy.

Sharing the Bath

We observed a lot of birds in the bird bath today. The bath seems to be a welcome relief for them, since we still haven't had rain for months. And it is so unusual to observe different species sharing the bath. Here is a hermit thrush on the left, who has been splashing in the water for close to ten minutes. Meanwhile, several golden crowned sparrows grew impatient, waiting for their turn. Finally, one of them simply landed at the bath to drink water and rest. Meanwhile, the hermit thrush was not to be ousted, taking its time. The hermit thrushes visit the bath throughout the day, both for drinking water and bathing.

House finches hanging out

A pair of house finches were resting in the branches of our neighbors' tree in the morning. Although house finches are said to reside here year-round, they tend to arrive in the late summer, then leave in the winter. Their native habitats are in chaparral, open woods, grassland and deserts in the Western U.S. The male is rosy red around the face and upper breast. And as you can see here, there is red on the back, too.

The first golden yarrow of the season

Among dormant plants in the garden the bright yellow of the first blossoms on the golden yarrow Eriophyllum confertiflorum are such a cheerful sight. The plant produced these lovely blossoms this week. I almost gave up on the it, after it remained dormant after blooming in the spring. This California native typically grows in the Sierra foothills, the San Francisco Bay Area to San Diego County and Baja California.

Decomposing pumpkin sprouting California poppies

When our Halloween pumpkins started to get squishy and moldy, I distributed them in pieces throughout the garden to decompose and feed the soil. And look at what's happening two weeks later. All that looks like grass are California poppy seedlings! What a pleasant surprise. I'm sure the thick morning fog we have had every day this week has helped the growing conditions, as well.

Bees and the Ivy Berries

Now that many nectar producing plants are going dormant, the English ivy seems to be the main attraction for the bees. As long as temperatures are warm enough, bees are constantly visiting the ivy berries. The English ivy in our backyard forms a fence or wall between our neighbors' yard and ours. It's a great sound barrier, too. Yes, the ivy is invasive, and I just carefully prune it to keep it from growing out of control. But the flowers and berries provide vital nectar and pollen for wildlife. Sometimes I count as many as forty bees around the flowers, mostly honey bees at this time of year. Above is a photo of a honey bee approaching an ivy flowerhead. And here is a visitor that I started

The Best Gluten-free Carrot Muffins!

After being diagnosed with a condition that affects my digestion, I've had to change some of my diet. Part of the change I had to make is to avoid baked products containing gluten. So no wheat, rye, or barley. Imagine my delight to happen upon the "Gluten-Free Baking at Home" book by Jeffrey Larsen. So far, I've tested three of the recipes, and they are all so good. There are so many great baking tips in the book. Recently I made the Carrot Muffins with Currants and Pecans recipe, but I skipped the currants and used walnuts instead. My friends declared these the best carrot muffins/cake they ever ate. Here is my version: Carrot Muffins with Walnuts -makes 12 muffins Some softened butter to g

The light at this time of year

Although I miss the longer summer days with sunlight, late autumn light is very dramatic, especially in the afternoon. Here the sun lights up the leaves of the Passiflora parritae x tarminiana‘Oaklandia’ passion flower vine growing next to one of our back gates. Tree branches frame the silhouette of a bird.

A wonderful book you must read

I'm currently reading this extraordinary memoir by award-winning journalist Meredith May, who is a fifth- generation beekeeper. A story of survival and courage, it is also a reminder of how much we humans can learn from bees.

Monarch Caterpillar Reminiscing

A month ago we still had a group of monarch caterpillars on the Narrow-leaf milkweed plants Asclepias fascicularis. I meant to cut down all of the milkweed mid-September, as per the recommendation of the Xerces Society, but a mama monarch kept visiting and laying eggs. So the milkweed remained uncut to feed this last group of the year. It's always so fascinating to observe monarch caterpillars when they munch on the tops of milkweed stems, as this caterpillar is doing. The stems seem to be especially tasty. Those back feet have such good grips. A lady bug is at work here, eating aphids off the milkweed plant. Meanwhile, to the left, a monarch egg was developing under a leaf. The monarch cate

bees in the bay breeze
 

For years I have been sharing ideas, gardening tips and recipes  with family, friends and colleagues.

And now I'd like to share them with you!

 

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