It is June on Antelope Hill, and summer is supposed to be coming in. No, that's not right. Summer is supposed to be here! So far it has been cold, blowy, and rainy -- for THREE MONTHS! However, the high desert is as green as I have ever seen it, so I am enjoying the brief few weeks' flush of green before the desert resumes its usual gray and tawny mantle. Above, there is more than one way to enjoy Starbucks! Eve loves chewing up the cup once I have finished a latte.
Over fifty years ago my grandparents took me, a little girl, to this graveyard to see the graves of my grandmother's favorite brother, Douglas, who died at 22, and of grandmother's parents. I don't know by what magic these photographs have lasted on these stones for all these decades in the blistering desert heat and subzero winter cold, but they have. And on Memorial Day, Scott and I found their stones, though I had not been to this cemetery for over fifty years. Perhaps this is one reason I have always felt that this high desert was "my place." It is my family's place. They were pioneers.
The blue camas lily is just the color of my grandmother Lily's eyes -- and here on Camas Prairie is where some of my family homesteaded in the nineteenth century. I have never lived here, but have always felt drawn to this beautiful, windswept high prairie, with its sage grouse, sandhill cranes, mule deer, drifting snow, and above all the blue camas lily. Camas Prairie to this day is rather remote, sparsely settled, and virtually unknown to the sophisticated traveler. But it is one of my places, and and I will always love it.
Of course, Memorial Day is a time of flowers. I miss the lilacs I had to leave on the Old Hill, but Lacey has some at her house, and brought me this bouquet, which has wildflowers in it as well -- much appreciated!
When the county took the Old Hill from us by eminent domain, they planned to demolish the Hill for a landfill, so we took everything we possibly could, from fenceposts and rocks to everything we could dig up or catch and transplant. Antelope Hill once had bitterbrush before overgrazing and fire removed it, so we dug as many small bitterbrush from the Old Hill as we could and transplanted them here, watering them every other day throughout two summers. About half of them survived (bitterbrush is extremely difficult to transplant, like many shrubs of the high desert). Now the survivors need no supplemental water and are thriving and blooming here on Antelope Hill. They will grow to a height of four to eight feet eventually, and produce more plants. I am so thrilled! Bitterbrush is an important winter forage for mule deer and antelope, so we are also helping to restore damaged habitat for them. Bitterbrush may taste bitter, but in late May and early June, the scent of its flowers fills the air every night with a fragrance like warm honey, very intense, giving the desert a fairytale sweetness for two short weeks. This June, the perfume of bitterbrush fills every night with good memories.
Last year Scott and I pinpointed some stands of the wild lupine in our nearby foothills while it was in bloom. Unfortunately, by the time we got back to them to collect seed, most of the seed had been predated upon by insects. I managed to find SIX intact lumpine seeds, and planted them here on the Hill, where this species of lupine once grew. Yesterday I was astonished to find that a tiny lupine plant had come up! I immediately put a hardware-cloth tube around it. I will give this little fellow a bit of extra water now and then and hope he survives. And this year, we will try to get to the foothills lupine stands before the insects find the seed!
It will be lovely if we can restore a population of wild lupine to Antelope Hill!
What kind of sandwich am I making? This is a dog food sandwich! Once in a while, when I can't feed the older puppies on exact schedule for some reason, I want to give them a satisfying, stick-to-the-ribs snack. And this is it! Recipe: take two slices of robust bread, spread nice canned dog food on it, close the sandwich, cut into as many pieces as desired, and serve. I assure you, this is a very popular sandwich on the Hill.
The haunted terrarium Missy made for my birthday is thriving. I will make paper bats to hang inside for Halloween. (Sorry about the flash reflection, but on the other hand, maybe it is just demonic energy . . . )
Eve and Raven are such characters. Eve loves to get up on things and sruvey the world. Raven is an excellent (and piratical) catcher of treats tossed to puppies!
A recent day trip found us in one of our old haunts, Leslie Gulch. I suppose that anywhere else, this would be a national park, not just some canyon at the end of a dirt road branch of a dirt road branch of a dirt road. I have been going back to Leslie for over 40 years. Canyon Wrens call from the cliffs, Chukars do their chuckle-calls along the road, and at this time of year, wildflowers are everywhere: lupine, balsamroot, chokecherry, catseye, waterleaf, wild rose, and a favorite among many favorites, Indian paintbrush (below right). Leslie is a wonderful place for a picnic.
Leslie is also an excellent place to hike, where one is not forced into developed trails. I hope to go back again and again, as I have since I was in college.
Do you remember that in the fall of 2009 I brought in a pot of nasturtiums that had been outdoors? The plant had already died back, but one stubborn tendril traversed the carpet, climbed up to the windowsill, and almost four feet from the pot, pressed fragile, new green leaves to the glass in the hope that it could survive. What could I do but water it? This annual plant lived through the winter, and In the early spring of 2010, while there was still snow on the ground just outside, produced beautiful orange flowers. The nasturtium lived until last winter. Then, gradually, the plant withered and died. Recently I packed up my houseplants and their trays from this back bedroom and moved them to another room for the summer. As I brushed the dried nasturtium leaves and stems from the windowsill, I gasped as I saw what the brave nasturtium plant had left for me on the wooden sill: two perfectly formed seeds. These seeds are what hope is, my friends -- hope for the future, hope for a better world, hope that our efforts are not in vain. Something extraordinary happened on that bedroom windowsill. Such events are often overlooked, usually disregarded, but they are powerful. I will plant these hopes and care for them well.
In case you have missed the story of how we lost our beloved Old Hill to eminent domain, click the button above. Evil is alive and well in the world.
Summer is a time for puppies playing in the grass, iced tea in the shade of the front porch, flyfishing a cold stream in the early twilight, watching hummingbirds feeding from flowers, and exploring little dirt roads. We wish you a glorious summer!