Repelling an Invasion of Bull Thistle

A little neighborly outreach can go a long ways, especially when the neighbors are forest and river.

It was hard to get me to care about invasive species. After all, up until recently, having a yard in western US suburbia meant importing just about everything – sod, plants, trees, and flowers – and keeping it irrigated to survive in a climate that didn’t really have enough water for that kind of thing. With everyone deliberately bringing in outsiders it seemed pointless to me to go into the neighboring hills to try to weed out invasive species of plants along the hiking trails.

Fast forward to having my own little plot of mountain land which came with very natural (read very sparse) landscaping. Me, and most of my neighbors, are foregoing grass in favor of plants that belong in this habitat and take less water to sustain.

A nice US Forest Service Ranger at one of the town events gave me her booklet on invasive species and asked me to be sure my yard only had native plants so that I wasn’t spreading invasives into nearby Tahoe National Forest and the Truckee River Watershed. I agree, thinking it’d be easy with a natural yard.

Wouldn’t you know, I came back from three weeks in Alaska to find my little postage stamp of land covered in weeds!

Bull_Thistle_over_French_Drain

Most of my weeds turned out to be invasives called Bull Thistle ( or Cirsium Vulagare. Now I probably would have figured out for myself that I don’t want this bad boy in my yard:

Big_Bull_Thistle

What I didn’t know was how to get rid of them without spreading the seeds to my yard and my neighbors – both householders and the National Forest. The Forest Service requests us to Bag and Bake the bull thistle. That procedure entails pulling up all the weeds, getting their flowers and seed pods double-bagged, soaked with soapy water, and left to rot in the sunshine for several weeks. Here’s my bags ready to bake:

invasive_weeds_bagged_to_bake

A few weeks later, on a weed walk sponsored by the Weed Warriors of the Truckee River Watershed Council I was introduced to one of the most noxious invasives of all in our area, the Spotted Knapweed. What makes it so harmful is that it actually puts out a herbicide that kills the plants around it. Spotted knapweed of course is immune to its own secretions and can produce thousands of seeds to take over an area.

Worst of all, something about spotted knapweed looked familiar. Sure enough, what I thought was a friendly flowering weed in my front yard had the tell-tale dark dots on its bracts.

spotted_knapweed_10430_JustinCreekRd
(Photo credit: Andy Seigel)

Like a good citizen I’ve reported the spotted knapweed to the county. If they are able to spray it, fine. If not, I will be looking for professional help for this one.

Rabies Shots!

Rabies Vaccine for Humans
Maybe this is why rabies vaccine for humans gets a bad name: the nurse comes and dumps an armload of needles on the tray. Sorry for the blurring photo but i think my hands were shaking.

It turns out to be not as bad as the urban legend. Seven shots yes, but not long needles in the stomach. It seems they want to inject into muscle tissue and, I’m sad to report, there is little of that in my abdomen area. So two sticks in each thigh, one in each arm, and one more in the butt for good measure. I have 3 more follow-up visits and it’s done!

This whole thing came about because this little guy zoomed into my RV up at a campground in Tahoe.
Rabid Bat
I didn’t know it at first. I thought the silent dark glider that went in the open window was a moth. Other people said it was a bird. I left the windows open a good time, didn’t see anything when i looked around, and forgot about it.
Next day the poor sick bat was lamely trying to get out the “kitchen window”. I left quietly, shutting the camper door behind me. Left my phone inside though. D’oh!

Many thanks to the animal control office who caught the bat and brought it in for testing. Unfortunately, it came back positive for rabies.

Since we both spent the night in the bat cave, the health department recommended vaccine for me. Here is the bat cave above the cab:
bat cave
And my rented “batmobile”:
RV
Before the health department caught up to me, I had researched the bat as my Native American totem. Various web pages said the bat was viewed as a source of intuition and a symbol of rebirth.

In a shamanic culture, my brush with the bat might be regarded as good fortune and an opportunity to see more of the world beyond this one. So what if it ended in madness and death. We all die anyway.

Being of this culture, and not at all ready to step through the doorway to the next world, I took the shots and (I hope) shut down the possibility of any altered bat states.

Right now, I’m just hoping my superpower will be immunity to rabies.

Repentant Elton John Delivers

Had a delightful treat of an Elton John concert while in Las Vegas to present at the MoneyShow. He and his band rocked!Elton John in concert

Elton’s fingers still fly with an amazing reach to play his signature chords and get down with a little rock and roll boogie woogie piano.
Elton John on piano

Got an extra half-hour with Elton John engaging the audience between every song and often stepping out from behind the piano to chat us up. Evidently the show two days before was cut short when Elton John threw a tantrum and left the stage after 35 minutes. Now he seemed eager to make it up.
Elton John Engages Audience

As you can see, the chameleon piano morphs its skin to match the nifty visuals on the background screen.
Elton John's Chameleon Piano

With three percussionists, the band made itself felt. When they reached a crescendo, my clothes would literally vibrate.
Elton John concert crescendo

Good vibes indeed!

San Antonio Valley Ranch

I just like the feel of gravel under my feet.
Gravel Under My Feet
In this case, the gravel is at San Antonio Valley Ranch.

This Nature Conservancy property is on the way to becoming an ecological preserve. It is home to a herd of elk — no photos sorry. But elk! Just over the hill to the east of silicon valley!

Here is the fun and scenic route we took that day. The hybrid was so quiet, we surprised a bobcat on the road. No photos of that either. She ran the other way in an instant.

Back at the ranch, the newly planted trees are fenced to protect the new kids on the block from browsing animals.

If you appreciate the Nature Conservancy’s work, or just want to do a Good Thing, please visit my personal fund-raising page and consider a donation.

View of Google from the Weeds

On a recent hike around Shoreline, caught a view of Google HQ from the weeds:

View Of Google from the WeedsOf course the Google-plex has its share of parking lots, but maybe more interesting is the alternate transportation.  Over the hill lounge the shuttle buses, waiting to take the Googlers home.

google bus playgroundFurther down the bay are the NASA blimp hangers, in process of restoration by Google execs in exchange for parking spots for their personal jets.

blimp hangers