Sunday, November 04, 2012

Shades of Brown

Weather: Mornings routinely below freezing, afternoons not as warm; last rain 10/12/12; 10:38 hours of daylight today.

What’s blooming: Golden hairy asters, chrysanthemums.

What’s still green: Red hot poker, winecup mallow, moss phlox, large flowered soapwort, bouncing Bess, Dutch clover, sweet pea, snapdragon, horseweed leaves; new gypsum phacelia, alfilerillo plants.

What’s red/turning red: Bradford pear, sand cherry, spirea, rose leaves.

What’s grey or blue: California poppy, snow-in-summer, pinks, catmint leaves.

What’s yellow/turning yellow: Cottonwood, privet leaves.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, aptenia, petunias.

Animal sightings: Small brown birds, hornets, harvester and small black ants.

Weekly update: The clouds to the east at dawn have captured the sun below before turning opalescent then disappearing for the day. Farther east, they converged, then swirled, then invaded New Jersey. They were transformed into high tides on the shore and snow in the mountains.

Here the clouds just smelled of wood smoke. Last Sunday the odor was so strong, I walked out to see if flames were visible somewhere, but nothing could be seen through the haze to the west. The Forest Service has been burning underbrush in the Jeméz and air masses they call inversions have been trapping fumes.

With no rain since mid-October, there have been no frosty mornings when you see white crystals clinging to grass blades and whatever else still is generating heat. Instead, temperatures have settled on a lower plateau: below 32 in the morning, not much above 60 in the afternoons. The textbook shutdown of life system has continued uninterrupted by unexpected changes.

The tender trees like the catalpas are nearly bare. The cottonwoods have turned brown.

So too has the chamisa. At a distance the gold looks burnished. Up close, you can see the petals are gone and the brackets remain.

Nothing has been bleached yet by the greedy sun that will suck every drop of moisture by mid-winter. The bright pigments are gone, but pigments still remain in shrubs

and grasses.

The seed heads on the salt bushes have turned rust.

The few plants that were blooming a few week ago now have white seed heads.

What real green remains is found on the plants that flourish in cold. New horseweed and gypsum phacelia plants are thriving.

Usually roses continue to bloom after the first freeze, but this year there has been no last gasp. The leaves on some are turning red, the leaves on others a bit yellow, but most still are green. The only flowers that remain are the nasturtiums, imported generations ago from the Peruvian uplands. Somehow they always manage to survive longer than any native, hunkered close to the ground.

Photographs: All taken 30 October 2012.
1. Purple coneflower seed head bereft of seeds.

2. Chamisa in the far arroyo; the white are the seed heads of broom senecio.

3. Cottonwoods on the prairie, with gray-green winterfat and bronze colored saltbushes in the foreground. The Jeméz are in back, across the river.

4. Chamisa in the far arroyo.

5. Dried caryopteris flowers.

6. Grasses along the road bank leading into the far arroyo.

7. Saltbushes and winterfat on the prairie.

8. Horseweed.

9. Gypsum green phacelia with grama grass in the foreground in the bottom of the far arroyo.

10. Nasturtium.

11. Tamarix and chamisa in the far arroyo.

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