Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Amazing Fred

Thirty pounds of berries are an awful lot to wash and hull,
even if I did give away about 10 pounds of them.
So I was really doing about 20 pounds,
but it took me a big chunk of the afternoon.
Thank goodness I had my Fred.
Fred is a Really Great Tool I bought from Pampered Chef.
It scoops out the hull very nicely.
(You can also use it on tomatoes.)
Ethan likes using Fred so much,
he was willing to help me for most of the chore.
After the berries were washed and hulled,
we put them on cooling racks--
so that I could lay them in the freezer,
without them clumping into a solid unusable mass.
I plan to make smoothies with them.
(Hooray for my Vitamix!)

Strawberry Pickers

So here we all are with our berries,
at the end of our morning's work.
(But the afternoon's work was yet to start!)

Strawberry Season

Caught you red-handed!
(Well, I ate some too...)

Some people prefer to hold the box
while others pick.

All the kids helped.

And here's my terrific sister-in-law,
who was willing to drive us all 45 minutes to the berry farm.
(Pick-your-own strawberries are hard to find in Utah these days.)
In an hour and a half we picked about 60 pounds.
Kathleen and I each filled a 15 pound flat,
and the kids did the other 2.
They complained a bit about the sun and the dirt and all,
but they were actually pretty helpful.
Especially Benjamin.
He loves strawberries.

Solstice Sky

I love summer sunsets in Utah.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Flowers at Zion 5: Utah Specials

Utah fleabane
(Erigeron Utahensis)--
looks like nearly every other fleabane to me,
but the nice Zion brochure was pretty clear about the species.

Then there's this one.
I *know* it's a sego lily and the state flower,
but is it Calochortus gunsonii or Calochortus nutallii?

And of course Juniperus osteosperma-
Utah juniper.
Not really a flower, but it's everywhere.

Fauna at Zion

Flora and Fauna... but sorry, no Merriweather.
However, the fauna sitings this trip were very good.
Lots of lizards, of course.
(Irrelevant aside- I always mentally hear my nephew's voice saying 'wots of wittle wizards' when I see these reptiles...)
Anyway, the lizard was hard to identify because the coloration looked like nothing in my books.
So I did some google searching (I love the internet.)
I think the lizard is a western fence lizard, or
Sceleporus occidentalis,
partly because of its keeled scales.
Did you know some animals had keeled scales
(ridges down the center of each scale)?
I didn't, before now.
So the lizards were cool.
So was the gray fox (no picture, unfortunately.)
It came around the lodge at night scrounging for scraps.
The last big animal sighting we had was the bighorn sheep,
Ovis canadensis.
This specimen was tapping its way across the slick rock of east Zion,
not far from Checkerboard Mesa.
The park website says they are kind of rare,
and please to report sightings.
So I called in. Couldn't get a live voice. Left a message.
Anyway, seeing this sheep sure made my day.
Plus we saw a stellar's jay, ravens, butterflies... it was great.

Flowers at Zion 4: Golden Columbines

I am very fond of columbines in all colors.
These golden ones grow profusely by Zion's lower Emerald Pool,
and I was fortunate enough to get terrific light and setup for the bottom picture.
I have a hard time identifying some flowers, but
Aquilegia chrysantha is an easy one to spot.

Flowers at Zion 3: The Little Yellow Flower

Little Yellow Flowers are like Little Gray Birds.
There are a lot of them,
and without my book in hand I simply cannot recall which is which.
Fortunately I remembered to take multiple views--
not just details of the blooms,
but of the leaves, and whole plant,
and scale views with my fingertip.
So, these specimens are (top to bottom):

Baileya multiradiata (desert marigold),
Chrysopsis villosa (hairy goldenaster),
Melilotus officinalis (yellow sweet clover)
-- and this stuff was everywhere--
and finally, in only one spot,
Cylindropuntia (species?- a cholla.)
I think the cholla got planted as an ornamental, on purpose,
because it was near a building structure.

Flowers at Zion 2: Penstemons

I saw at least three different kinds of penstemon,
but I only could photograph two.
The top two appear to be Penstemon utahensis,
which was on its way out of blooming in the park.
The bottom photo is Penstemon palmeri,
also called balloon flower,
and this was blooming vigorously throughout the park.
The third kind I saw was purple and on the east side
(different terrain)-
I only saw one stand of it and I was driving, and not at a place I could pull over....

Flowers at Zion: Optuntiae (Prickly Pears)

First off, the opuntiae.
I had thought I had missed the cactus blooms this year,
but apparently not--
there were still quite a few blooming at Zion in mid June.
I think that most of these are probably opuntia polyacantha.
(I confess I am not terribly good at telling subspecies apart.)
The larger bush cluster (photo 3), however,
looks more like my books' descriptions of opuntia engelmanii.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Hot Fountains

The famous 'volcano' fountain show at the Mirage
was one of my favorite things on the Strip.
Night sight-seeing was quite entertaining.
We walked about 3 miles in 95 degree heat
(even at midnight, it was still about that hot)
and the glitter was fun to see.
The Mirage is not the only fountain show,
but I liked this one the best.

Vacation Extremes

I just got back from vacation with a girlfriend.
We went to Zion National Park-
and Las Vegas.
Geographically they are not far apart.
But oh are they ever different in style!!!
I enjoyed the posh hotels and sights in Las Vegas,
but Zion was by far my favorite....

Monday, June 13, 2011

Birthday Party Part 2

After getting rained out of the canyon,
we all went back to the picnic area in our condo community
(and why didn't we think of that earlier??)
Dad cut up the watermelon,
we had presents,
the boys played ball,
and the sun shone beautifully...


As we fled the canyon storm,
this is what we saw driving back home...

Memorable Birthday

We went up the canyon for Dad's birthday-
and it poured!
We cut his cake while huddled under the trees,
ate fast,
and then packed up and headed for the cars.
(The last picture turned out awfully dark-
I think the rain fogged the flash or the sensors or something...)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Snow and Trails

Snow has damaged a lot of the trees
and left its mark on the trails.
Look at the uprooted trunks
fallen along this route to Stewart Cascades.

I expect the trail maintainers-
often volunteer students-
will be along to remove them at some point.
Meanwhile, it is possible to climb over them.

And there are snowfields, too.
Many of the upper trails are closed.
A few crazy people with skis and so on
are probably loving the basin snow,
but I just hope it melts off by August--
enough so that I can do the summit hike without spikes!

Spring comes to the Mountains

Spring has sprung in the valley,
and in fact summer is nearly there.
But spring has been slower in the mountains this year--
lots of snow and cold weather through May.
But beginning in June,
things are starting to change!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Just for Me (Memento Mori)

See that nice blank spot of grass to the left of the headstone?
That is where I expect I shall be buried,
by my grandparents.
(My parents will be nearby,
a row or two away).
I like visiting this spot,
and seeing the markers for my family around.
It gives me a happy sense of belonging.