Berry berry woolly mullein

An August day at Monkey Valley

Yearly changes

Last year the wild strawberries were everywhere. I couldn’t walk without stepping on the tiny luscious bursts of red flavour. This year I didn’t see any strawberries, though their bright red creeper vines are still everywhere covering the ground. I don’t know if I just missed their ripening time—perhaps it happened while I was traveling—or if they didn’t fruit this year. I haven’t even seen the dried strawberries that would surely remain if they had already ripened and died. It’s very mysterious!

And there is a new crop this year: wild raspberries growing all around the house, clusteringWild raspberries up against the stairs, under the porch, even beside the road. Luckily I am here at the right season to enjoy these fruits. Each morning I’ve taken a yellow bowl out to gather some red globules to add to my breakfast cereal. Last year there was just one small patch at the north-east corner of the porch overlooking the creek. It is amazing how they have spread. Maybe it’s the work of the chipmunks, eating the berries and pooping out their seeds all over the place!

Woolly mullein basal rosetteThe woolly mullein, also known as lamb’s ear, goes through a two-year growth cycle. One year it grows woolly leaves in a rosette pattern on disturbed earth like the road, which was put in as a logging skid trail just a few years ago. The second year it grows upward from the basal rosette in a startling shaft that reaches as tall as five or six feet, with yellow blossoms at the top. (According to Roberta Parish, Ray Coupe, and Dennis Lloyd’s Plants of Southern Interior British Columbia, the woolly leaves make great toilet tissue—a tip for you fasters out there in the wilds.) In 2005, the mulleins lined the road likeMullein - mature sentinels. I’ve been away so much in the past year that the road hasn’t been disturbed enough to prevent plant growth this summer, and the mullein are growing tall right in the middle of the road. I tried to flatten them out with my car tires, feeling very guilty as I did so, because I was concerned that the faster who was driving in both a) wouldn’t be able to find the road and b) wouldn’t know that these amazing growths would bend over as she drove on them, and wouldn’t hurt her car. Once I got over my initial guilt at destroying one of the earth’s beautiful beings, I kind of got into knocking them down one after another. The dark and destructive side of (human) nature!

Another thing that surprised me this year is that the flies are different. For the past few years there were black flies and flies with yellow lower abdomens, both of the usual fly shape. This year the main flies I’ve seen dashing themselves against the windows trying to get outside are a different type, less solid-looking, wings bigger, browner, more transparent. Very mysterious. I have only lived here for six years, but thought I knew all about this place already. I can see how it might take a lifetime. There is so much to learn about the ways of the land and her creatures.

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