Living – Places: 17

2014 (continued)

When we had our new cistern put in just a little over a year ago, the process resulted in a total upheaval of our parking area and the land beyond in front of our home (they even had to do some dynamiting). Afterwards, it looked a bit like a war zone.

We spent a lot of time that spring putting things back together. We planted native Blue Gramma grass seed on the little hill that resulted, which is doing really well this year, and Garima also placed a beautiful line of lichen rocks to separate the parking area from the area beyond.

Either the soil or gravel we used along those rocks must've been full of mullein seeds, because before long a dozen of them had popped up all along in front of the rocks. They're a biennial plant, so this is their year to grow large and flower.

We took out all the others, but we let this largest one, which is right in front on the little cistern hill grow. It shot up to 3-1/2 feet and is probably 30 inches around. The first yellow flowers started popping out today.

Huge Mullein plant starting to flower

Now, I know it's an invasive plant, but I have to admit that I have a begrudging appreciation for it: it's impressively large and has a striking appearance, is as tough as nails and grows in the least desirable places, the leaves feel amazing (like fat velvet), and it's a biennial, which is a whole additional level of magical.

And yes, we did cut the seed heads off this one shortly after I took this photo. And yes, we do walk our property every spring and pop the tap roots of any of them we find, as well as other invasive species like thistle and butter & eggs.

Speaking of our annual fight against invasive plants, we have a great hand-forged weeding fork that we use for that job that is made by Red Pig Garden Tools in, I kid you not, Boring, Oregon. This tool makes it much easier to get down at the tap root even in our rocky soil, and it's strong enough to easily pop the gnarliest ones. We have several of Red Pig's tools, actually, and they're all well-made, tough, quality tools.

Red Pig Gardening Tools weeding fork

The next dozen photos are from early morning walks along the South St. Vrain Creek, just southwest of Lyons. This is Dogbane, a relative of Milkweed.

Small pinkish white flowers against large, rich green leaves

I like the way this flower has raised itself above the surrounding, purplish-tinged grasses.

A beautiful flower of yellow petal rays

The otherworldly Milkweed flower, as uniquely beautiful as the Monarch butterflies that drink its nectar.

Five-pointed white flowers against a burgundy background

Okay, I know thistle is an invasive species, but wow!

Large ball of pinkish-lavendar tubular petals

Clusters of White Yarrow flowers.

Smallish white flowers against a deep green sea of grasses

This looks similar to Money Plant, but it's actually Field pennycress.

A flat, tan seed pod, split at the end so it looks kind of like a rounded heart, with a darker seed inside

These seed pods look a bit like miniature watermelons.

Five split-petaled white flowers with a bulbous light green seed pod with darker green striped patterns

I love the contrast of the tan seeds with the fresh green grasses.

Tall, tan wild grass seed heads agains a sea of green grasses

I'm not sure what these plants with the tiny reddish-orange flowers are, but the stand out beautifully in front of the green grasses.

Wisp-shaped plants with miniscule reddish-orange flowers, against a sea of grass

It's amazing to me how things change so much as I walk along the valley. These dusty rose grass seed heads mingle nicely with the green plants and the Salsify seed head, creating a wispy feeling in this area.

A delicate mixture of of pastel colors against sandy soil (left from the floods)

Another scene change.

Stalks of white flowers, like fox tails, surrounded by pinnately compound leaf stalks

Evening Primrose. Another morning, another new flower blooming along the South St. Vrain river. Awesome spring/early summer.

Yellow, x-shaped flowers on tall, leafy stalk

Took an early morning walk with a colleague at Walden Ponds Nature Preserve this morning. So many vibrant song birds and waterfowl! And some beautiful flowers, too. I think this is Argemone polyanthemos (wild prickly poppy).

A spiky desert plant with delicate white flowers that look like very thin crinkled fabric

Over the course of the first couple of years we lived here, we made the pathways from wood chips, mostly from trees we've thinned out as part of our fire mitigation work. And each year after the wild grasses have finished growing to full height, I use a string trimmer to open up the pathways again.

Today as I was doing this, I came across a beautiful flower right in the middle of the pathway. I showed it to Garima, who told me it is a Mariposa Lily, which grows from a bulb, so it should come back each year.

Needless to say, we have permanently nudged the pathway to go around this beautiful wildflower!

A delicate, three-petaled white flower with a yellow center on a very thin, tall stalk

A small Douglas Fir along the Finch Lake Trail.

A small pine with branches tipped with light green spring growth

Today, we headed a few miles up the Sandbeach Lake Trail on a glorious early summer morning. One of the first treats we encountered was a Wallflower in full sun, showing off what is my favorite shade of yellow, and playing host to a game of hide and seek.

Two clusters of brightly lit orangish-yellow Walllflowers (with ant and spider)

The dainty solar arrays of Fendler Groundsel.

Like a little hand with eight little yellow fingers stretching to catch the sunrays

Potentilla, another yellow flower soaking up the rays.

Five bright yellow petals

Skullcap, with delicate violet and white flowers.

The flowers are white on the inside with violet finges

Looking down on the Wild Basin valley in full early summer glory, after a spring that had more rains than we've experienced recently, so everything is still beautifully green.

A broad valley, criss-crossed with rivulets and ponds, and with a ridge beyond

Another spray of Fendler Groundsel.

Rich, two-toned yellow flowers with silvery green leaves framing them

Stonecrop, which really does seem to grow its crop of yellow flowers straight out of rock.

Small, pointeds, star-shaped yellow flowers

Waxflower bush and bee.

Small, white, star-shaped flowers with rounded points

Snowbrush, a bush with clusters of tiny white flowers and leaves that look like they'd make a decent tenon saw.

Small, delicate, white flowers and finely toothed leaves

Valley sentinel. This is the closest I've come to capturing just how steep the walls of this valley are in places. In places it feels like if you took a misstep off the narrow trail, you'd slide and tumble hundreds of feet.

A beautiful, small rock outcropping on a steep hillside overlooking the valley

Another cluster of Stonecrop growing straight out of what looks to be solid rock.

They must be capable of anchoring their roots in the thinnest layer of sandy soil that catches in the nooks and crannies of the rocks

Another favorite rock outcropping, this one towering high above us.

A large rock outcropping glimpsed through the trees

A closer view of the rock outcropping.

The rock is streaked with a beautiful rusted organe lichen

A final look back at the rock outcropping as we continue up the trail.

The rock outcropping is outlined sharply against the bright sky

The remnants of a long dead pine, an expression of life changing form.

An ancient pine lies on the forest floor, tinted a beautiful green from the lichen growing on it and melting slowly into the soil

This sign always makes me happy.

The sign for Hole-in-the-wall campground

Golden Banner near Hole-in-the-wall campground.

A beautiful stand of Golden Banner with bright yellow flowers

A favorite pausing place. The air here is so wonderfully fragrant.

A small creek tumbling down a thickly forested hillside on the path to Hole-in-the-wall campground

I've tried to photograph this boulder several times. This is my best attempt yet, but I haven't been able to begin to capture how vibrantly green it is.

A pathside boulder covered in a bright yellowish-green lichen

This was our destination today: a small, tranquil pond deep in the forest.

A small pond nestled in trees with an almost mirror-like surface

On the way back down, we passed a place where the forest was quite dense and dark, so this lone splash of sunshine brightly lighting a Heart Leaf Arnica really caught my eye.

A bright yellow flower in a lone splash of sunlight

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