Monday, March 29, 2010

Green Waves of Grass

Well, the wind sings its own song

Moving patiently along

  • Thomas George Russell

“Santa Ana Wind”

An odd wind rose up seemingly from nowhere the other day as Holly and I were out walking along Thompson Creek. It was not a Santa Ana, nor did it seem to be ill-intentioned like the wind in the Tom Russell song. However, it did have its own tune and I marveled at the way it made the grass on the far hillside move.

I was, at first, somewhat dismayed that I had no way to capture the moment, then I realized that I had my new iPod nano in my pocket and was able to create the accompanying little video. I think it came out well considering the limitations of the technology of putting a video camera in such a tiny device. I did eliminate the audio track as the rush of the wind just turned out as a dull roar. Not a song after all.

It is fairly certain that this is a non-native grass. Introduced grasses in this area include the bromegrasses (Bromus spp.), wild oats (Avena spp.), and ryegrasses (Lolium spp.). If they were sentient, they would be ill-intentioned as introduced grasses have effectively replaced our native grasses in this disturbed area. Between the wear and tear of encroaching human activity and the big fire of October 2003 most native plants are in a struggle for existence.

There are two non-native shrubs that are plentiful along the creek. They are rock-rose (Cistus spp.) (see photo) and rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis). Most of these appear to be planted. However, their occurrence is not uncommon in the chaparral throughout California as they are Mediterranean plants that have naturalized and do quite well on their own in our environment.

I think that I have also spotted Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius) although I can not get close enough to verify it. It is another invasive species that grows so well in the Santa Monic Mountains (my home range) that I thought it was a native until I learned better. I feel that its ability to take root (pun intended) can be paralleled to the earliest human settlement of California, in the Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene, and the subsequent waves of migration. Unlike some communities, where if you are not a member of the founding families you will always be an outsider regardless of how many generations your own family has lived there, moving here practically makes you a native overnight if you want to be one. However, we do draw a line for vegetation.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


The American Heritage Dictionary defines “ramble” as to walk about casually or for pleasure; or to move about aimlessly. As a noun, it can mean a leisurely, sometimes lengthy walk.

While I prefer the first and third definitions, it was more likely the second usage that was intended in the Laugh-Out-Loud Cats cartoon that inspired my thoughts on this word. In it, Pip says - “Hobos don’t go on quests. We rambl (sic).”

That and my love of Steinbeck, specifically Travels with Charlie, gave me the idea to call this blog Rambles with Holly (also, Travels with Holly was already taken). This is supposed to be a place to talk about the trips and little adventures that I intend to take with my terrier mix. However, with my schedule now tied up between volunteering at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden and taking an English class at Pomona College it looks like we will be doing a lot more rambling than traveling for the foreseeable future.

The “ramble” is also a classic form of nature writing according to Lori Litchman in an article in The Writer’s Chronicle - Volume 42 - Number 3, December 2009. This form of writing is marked by a “perfect balance” between the natural history and the presence of the author. She cites John Burroughs and Annie Dillard as being good examples of this craft.

Well my English class has really underscored the fact that my prospects as a writer are severely limited. However, I am not going let that stop me from trying my hand at it as far as these pages are concerned. I have a dog, as a certified Nature Interpreter I have a proven faculty for natural history, and can make the time to write - so we shall see where this takes us.