Wildflower survivors & news

Desert indian paintbrush just beginning to bloom

I spent much of the afternoon out in my dryland native meadow front yard, giving it’s annual spring clean-up and “pronghorning.” As I squatted close to the ground, clipping and hand-raking the detritus of winter to reveal  tender new green, I remembered why I love doing this physically challenging yard chore. Each bit of detritus I clear away reveals life springing up anew, a miracle to me in this record-breaking drought.

Prairie groundsel, a charming native daisy relative

Last year was simply dry; this year is so much worse that it’s not even comparable. Most of Colorado is now officially categorized as in “severe” drought. Our snow pack, the source of summer water for rivers and streams, is at one-third of normal for this time of year. Here in my valley, we’ve received less than an inch of precipitation in the four months since January first. And April is normally our wettest month. This year it’s been sunny, windy, and relentlessly dry.

Mountain ball cactus stores water in its fleshy body in special reservoir cells.

So I was surprised to find four species of wildflowers blooming in my restored native grassland yard: the desert or wholeleaf indian paintbrush and prairie groundsel above, this beautiful starry mountain ball cactus, and the Lewis flax in the photo below. (The mountain ball cactus was a birthday gift from a botanist friend, Ellen T. Bauder, who knows my passion for restoring and healing my yard, formerly a blighted industrial area, with native plants. Thank you, Ellen.)

An impossibly blue Lewis flax flower, closing up for the day

It seems I didn’t give the native plants enough credit: They’ve lived here for millennia, they’ve dealt with drought before. Of course, I’ve also been giving the yard a drink now and then. Not nearly enough though, to compensate for the snow and rain the plants would receive in a normal year. Nor is treated city water, all I have to use since my rain barrels are dry, comparable to natural precipitation, which washes nitrogen and other nutrients out of the air.

The wildflowers blooming in my yard are short, stunted by the drought. If we don’t get some precipitation soon, their blooming season will be short too. Still, that they’re managing to flower at all seems miraculous to me. A benediction of sorts in a very hard time, a time of drought on many levels. “Have faith,” these tough and beautiful spots of color in my just-barely-greening-up dryland meadow yard say to me. “Life carries on.”

It does. I should know that. Sometimes we just need a reminder….


And now the news. This week brought two exciting releases, both from projects  a long time in the finishing:

Pieces of Light, the new, updated eBook version

First, the release of the updated, eBook version of Pieces of Light, my very first book, an award-winning nature journal set in Boulder, Colorado. The eBook includes new author’s notes at the end of each chapter, and was published by Terraphilia Press (my own press, invented to release my WildLives audio CD). Many thanks to my virtual assistant, Lisa DeYoung, and editor/writer/ fiber-guru, Deborah Robson, for their expert help. Pieces is available for Kindle now, and will be out for Nook and on the iBookstore soon. (It’s only $4.99–a steal!)

Second, the pollinator video I was filmed for last summer while Richard and I were working on the interpretive garden project at Carpenter Ranch is just out through The Nature Conservancy’s new “Nature Works Everywhere” program. It’s short, free, and comes with a companion lesson plan. Pollinators—Putting Food On the Table is for anyone who gardens, enjoys flowers, or just loves to eat. It’s fun and informative—take the pollinator lunch challenge!

A honeybee heads for a Brodeia flower

On the personal front, I’m still sub-par from my 2,400-mile swing through Texas and New Mexico. But I’m recovering, and the glow from that standing ovation in response to my keynote talk hasn’t faded….

Blessings and joy to you all.