Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Earth

Weather: High winds early in the week, temperatures below freezing Wednesday; last rain 4/09/13; 13:38 hours of daylight today.

What’s blooming in the area: Few apples or crab apples, first lilacs, tulips.

Beyond the walls and fences: Alfilerillo, hoary cress, western stickseed, tawny and bractless cryptanthas, purple mat flower, common and native dandelions. Virginia creeper leafing. Siberian elm seedlings coming up everywhere.

In my yard: Siberian pea tree, grape hyacinth, vinca, oxalis. Spirea in bud.

Known unknowns: Pink bud.

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

Animal sightings: Small brown birds, gecko, bees, ladybugs on peach, harvester and smaller ants. Probably aphids somewhere if there are ladybugs.

Weekly update: They call the soil hereabouts sandy loam. When you ask what that means, you get that look older brothers reserve for younger when things are too obvious to explain, and too complicated.

It’s some mix of sand, silt and clay. Most likely equal parts. Maybe created during the glacial age. Sand is the ground remains of quartz. Clay the remains of rocks weathered by carbonic acid, that is carbon dioxide in water in the cold. Silt is ground feldspar and quartz that’s midway between clay and sand in size, and easily blown by the wind.

All created by the breakdown of mountains, all some kind of silicate, which I only recognize as quartz. The clay is the part that holds water, sand the part that drains.

When I walked out to the far arroyo last Sunday, a week or so after the last very high winds and before Tuesday’s, my first view was sand everywhere, collecting, burying whatever obstructed its path. When I stuck down a stick, it went 1.5" before hitting something solid. The footprints were not lying.

I suspect the drying airs have pulled so much water from the soil, the clays have taken flight, and possibly the silts. The surface is littered with tiny pieces of quartz that gleam in the light. What’s heavy is what remains.

It’s nothing new. Every dry year segregates the soils a bit. Every wet year deposits organic matter and activates the soil creating crust bacteria. More dry years than wet, and arroyos turn to sand. More wet years than, dry, the land is rebuilt.

The plants that can find water are doing well. The chamisa in the bottom is leafing at a faster rate that the bright green stems on the banks.

Its low branches trap its dead leaves which shield the moisture from the sun. It’s roots reach down far enough to reach the still good soils and water. It roots in wet seasons, like last spring, and survives the dry.

Others are struggling. The tawny cryptantha is blooming in places in the arroyo near banks where water drips or washes, where shadows hold it and wind currents are deflected. It is not blooming in its usual places on the prairie yet.

The gypsum phacelia is up near the Russian olive, but the plants are still short. There are few this year under the tree. The ones ready to bolt are growing near chamisa.

The pink buds are coming into bloom. They only grow on the upstream sides of two chamisa. I don’t know if that’s because the south sides get more water or more heat. After all, I still don’t know what they are, just where to find them.

Notes: Information on soil from Wikipedia.

1. Pink bud, species unknown, 26 April 2013.

2. Ladybugs on peach bough, 27 April 2013.

3. Far arroyo bottom, 21 April 2013.

4. Far arroyo sand, 21 April 2013. Green leaves are gypsum phacelia. Shadows are black grama grass.

5. Far arroyo bottom, 26 April 2013. Tamarix trailed by established chamisa shrubs and young plants. Tamarix is growing where it gets extra water from the gully to the right.

6. Chamisa growing along the upper bank of the far arroyo, 21 April 2013.

7. Young chamisa plants in far arroyo, 21 April 2013.

8. Tawny cryptantha dusted with arroyo sand, far arroyo, 21 April 2013.

9. Gypsum phacelia in far arroyo bottom, 21 April 2013.

10. Pink bud, 17 April 2013.

11. Far arroyo where ranch road crosses, 26 April 2013.

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