The lupines are awesome.
And the poppies.
Out my office window I look straight across the Valley at Rancho Chupinos and Rancho Sin Frenos. There is a long fence line that runs up the hills from the Valley floor. Lupines on the right at Sin Frenos......poppies on the left at Chupinos. Like a knife cut.....gold on one side, rich blue on the other. Go figure. Different cows?
I am trying to ignore what I learned in my Sustainable Grasslands Class: fields of lupines or poppies are indicative of a seriously compromised pasture. It turns out the native grasses do a much better job of competing with lupines than the invasive European grasses.....and you don't get acres of gorgeous blue and gold. Sorry, Cal. Sorry, UCLA. Wait, wait.....I know: Cal isn't Blue..... it's Azure or some such.....
So.....just like the ocean. Whaddaya like: Fuzzy sea otters and kelp.....or abalones.
Puppy and I have been walking at least twice a day. Spring fever has hit German Wirehair Pointer Land.....and the dog is nuts. Well, he still has his nuts....which is no doubt the real problem.
We have been watching the wildflowers come out now for two months. As you no doubt have observed....there is a bumper crop. Big Sur is going off. In the Valley, on the cold side of the hill we have so much miner's lettuce that we could sell it by the pound.....by the box.....by the pallet. I used it for centerpieces at a crazy fancy dinner party last weekend: long stemmed miner's lettuce.
Last Sunday we counted 22 blooming different flowers on our little two mile hike (five miles for puppy). I can prove that Xabi runs five miles because I broke down and bought a Garmin Astro Dog Tracking System. Xabi now looks like Astro of the Jetsons, complete with antenna. As much as I appreciate hearing through the blog from Joyce Bock and asazl that Xabi is running along Carmel Valley Road.....I want to be the first to know.
The Garmin is nice....but I am a tech geek. Not enough of a tech geek to actually know what I am doing....but it is somehow comforting to be able to put a numerical label on our ramblings: 4.85 miles, covering 12 acres in area, climbing and descending through 600 feet, etc.
The Garmin is for mach hunters. You can mark on the map you generate as you walk where various landmarks are: Truck; Covey (number observed and number taken), etc.
I mark wildflowers. Fuckin' hippy.
Our first wildflower this year was Hounds Tongue (Cynoglossum grande). It has big, floppy leaves that apparently the Indians thought looked like dog tongue. (Give the dog some water, Chief!) The Indians ground up the roots to use as a dressing on burns and scalds, and took it internally for stomach ache....and venereal disease. Good luck with that one, Chief.
I really like old Hounds Tongue....it gets more and more dramatic as the season progresses. And it is a forget-me-not on top of everything else. Gotta love that, right?
It turns out that you have to be careful around cattle people and grassland people when you talk about Hound's Tongue. It turns out that there is an evil cousin....an invader named cynoglossum officianalis (that looks nothing like my guy) that destroys pastures and trails, and is toxic to animals. It slowly destroys their livers after a single dose.....but it takes six months of agony. There is even an emergency number to call if you spot any.
I had a cousin like that.
Yesterday morning I finally dragged Amanda along on the morning dog hike. We counted 28 wildflowers blooming.....without even counting the soon-to-bloom yarrow and the evil pasture-eating star thistle.
The bottom of the easy-going road hike ends in a meadow that is routinely breathtaking.....winter, fall, spring, summer.....morning, noon and night. It is owned by some people from Marin who never come down. They tried to sell ten acres of meadow, oaks and wildflowers for $150,000 ten years ago and got discouraged and bummed at Carmel Valley life.
Yeah well, what a crappy meadow anyway. Who wants to buy a crappy meadow like this? (Well, it is a crappy cellphone foto.... of XabiAstro in soft grass with Shooting Stars).
Oh, and the view sucks, too. Go back to Marin!
My crappy cellphone foto doesn't grab the gorgeous distant Gaelic green of the hills above Sin Frenos off in the distance....
In our count of 28, we added two more flowers to the list because we figured out that one of the "cute little white pokey up" (we are very technical botanists) flowers was actually two completely different species. We are so spoiled with the plethora of blooms on the mountain that we actually never have to even bend over.....or even slow down....to see all this different crazy variety.
Like Speed Dating.
So.....I took the new white flower home and did research.
Meet Bitter Cress.....a flower new to me that is busy all over our mountain. And all over everywhere in California.
Photo by Tony Morosco at CalPhotos. Thanks, Tony!
Bitter Cress is a crucifer....like mustard and the cabbages and broccoli, etc. Supposedly the whole cruz part of the name is because the four flowers form a cross. Less charitable people say the cross thing comes from the chemical formula involving sulphur......as in broccoli farts.
Bitter Cress is only bitter if you are a lame ass. It is great....with a wonderful peppery, horseradish pungeance.
The Native Brothers were down with Bitter Cress, aka Toothwort. Check it out:
"Toothwort is a North American evergreen plant that grows best in deep, moist woodland areas. It has thick dark green stem leaves that are notched, and are divided into three broad leaflets. The roots are tender with long rhizomes that grow close to the top of the ground. Native American tribes made a type of mace powder from the root of this herb and blew it into the eyes of the enemy to disable them. They used the dried herb as snuff to cause hallucinations during rituals. Toothwort is said to have sedative, digestive, analgesic, and tonic properties.
Not to mention:
The fresh or dried root of Toothwort works great on toothache pain. A tea made from the root is used in treating colds and congestion, and as a gargle for sore throats. Toothwort tea can also be used to soothe and calm nerves and is a mild natural relaxant. The fresh juice can aid in digestion. The crushed root of Toothwort can be used externally as a plaster for aches, pains, and rheumatism. The fresh roots of this herb are edible and are hot and peppery to taste. It has even been used as a substitute for horseradish.
Wow! My new friend is the bomb.....and it is all over the woods this year.
I have been using the dew that stays in the miners lettuce cups all day as an impromtu drinking bottle.....now I have a salad with vision and a toothache cure!
Not to mention something for our shotgun-wielding schizophrenic mime at The Store......
Coming soon to a salad near you.....and maybe the Cachagua-style Taser to boot.
"Poof! In yo' eyes, mothafucka!