The Perks of Pulling Mustard Part 4

Wandering Through the Wash Along the Rockettes Trail…

Behind Squaw Hill there is a trail lined with rocks leading across Thousand Palms Canyon Road. One day in February I accompanied Ginny, our Preserve Manager, to post habitat signs to discourage visitors from wandering off trail. We then started lining one side of the trail with rocks, and with a broom we swept away any evidence of footprints off trail.

Since then, I continued the project of lining one side of the trail with rocks from the road to the intersection of Smoketree Trail. Mary, a docent volunteer, decided she would help me with lining the other half of the trail with rocks. Well, of course we had to christen this stretch of a desert path with a name. After brainstorming some ideas, Harlan (our local authority next to Ginny who leads hikes, repairs trails, and shares a wealth of information about the history, geology, flora, and fauna of the Preserve) came up with the name Rockettes and it stuck.

Parallel to the Rockettes Trail and further west is the off trail wash and stream.

As the San Andreas Fault system enters the Coachella Valley in Indio, it splits into 2 sections: The Banning Strand and the Mission Creek Strand. The hills that tower over the wash and stream are being pushed up as a result of being wedged between these 2 strands which eventually meet up again as they travel northwest. (Harlan)

The stream is run-off from fault water propelled by gravity. The boardwalk oasis and pond result from the underlying aquafir water hitting the Mission Creek fault strand. The water cannot pass through so it has to go up, the path of least resistance. (Harlan)


As usual these days, I am mining for invasive Sahara mustard.

And of course I am enjoying the scenery and flowers I find along the way.


A splash of Arizona Lupine

What tickles me about lupine are its unusual leaves that look like flowers themselves.

calflora.net



Checker Fiddleneck

The yellow flowers are arranged in spikes that resemble scorpion tails, unfolding as new flowers open. But don’t be fooled. The long white hairs give the plant its fuzzy-wuzzy appearance, but can be quite irritating to the touch. (Jon Mark Stewart from his book Colorado Desert Wildflowers)



Heart-Leafed Primrose

Similar  to yellow cups, the leaves are shaped like hearts, hence the name, instead of lobes.


Desert Trumpet

I love this unusual desert treasure because it has 3 distinctive segments to enjoy.

The inflated stems grow 1 to 3 feet tall. In contrast, the tiny ethereal yellow flowers are only 1/16 inch long.

The hairy rosette of leaves at the base of the plant have slightly lobed edges with long stalks and measure about 2 inches across. The swellings on the leafless stems were thought to be due to wasp larvae living inside. More recent findings, however, have put that explanation to rest. These inflated pods are the result of a buildup of carbon dioxide in the stem. (americansouthwest.net)


Brittlebush

Bright yellow flowers hover over this pale green bush as they burst open on long wooden stems. A member of the Sunflower Family, a brittlebush will shed its leaves in drought conditions to conserve water. Additionally, insulating white hairs cover the light blue-green leaves to help reduce water loss. (Jon Mark Stewart from his book Colorado Desert Wildflowers)


Indigo Bush

This purple flowered shrub is a member of the Pea Family and attracts butterflies. In the spring, it’s not uncommon to see pieces of purple petals scattered around anthills as busy ants carry them home.


Sweetbush…

A member of the Sunflower Family, bebbia juncea, is a scraggly looking aromatic desert shrub easily ignored by casual observers until the tiny yellow-orange florets pop up. The plant is a haven for butterflies and moths and an important host plant for bees. Chuckwallas are known to relish sweetbush so it’s no surprise that this shrub is also known as Chuckwalla’s Delight. (southwestdesertflora.com)

Unfortunately, I’ve never seen a chuckwalla lizard here… yet.



London Rocket

Introduced from Europe, this aggressive weed is a member of the Mustard Family, but unlike the Sahara mustard, we don’t actively pull it on the Preserve since it is not nearly as abundant or invasive.

Also called “tumble mustard”, the scientific name for this tall, slender-stemmed annual with yellow flowers is sisymbrium irio. Following the Great Fire of London in the 1600s, this plant made a comeback in such rapid abundance earning its most common name, London Rocket. (southwestdesertflora.com)

According to the database, Native American Ethnobotany from the University of Michigan, Dearborn, several uses for this herb have been identified: (naeb.brit.org)

The Cahuilla who lived on this Preserve boiled or fried the leaves and served them in salads. (Bean, Lowell John and Katherine Siva Saubel,  1972,  Temalpakh (From the Earth);  Cahuilla Indian Knowledge and Usage of Plants,  Banning, CA.  Malki Museum Press, page 140)

The Mohave roasted the young shoots and ate them as famine food. (Castetter, Edward F. and Willis H. Bell,  1951,  Yuman Indian Culture,  Albuquerque:  University of New Mexico Press,  page 201)

The Pima stored the seeds for winter to prepare a gruel by grinding the seeds and adding water. As a medicine, dried seeds were placed under sore eyes to induce tears. (Curtin, L.  S.  M.,  1949,   By the Prophet of the Earth, Santa Fe.  San Vicente Foundation,  page 84)

Check out this article by John Slattery, “Urban Foraging for London Rocket” posted February 29, 2016 on desertortoisebotanicals.com for modern day kitchen and medicinal recipes.



Broad-Leafed Gilia

A member of the Phlox Family, this desert annual stands out with its dark green leaves and pink flowers.


A bouquet of purple Notched-Leafed Phacelia and Desert Poppy…


A vibrant patch of Desert Poppy…


And my favorite cottonwood tree leading back to the boardwalk, a favorite hang out for our feathered friends.

Leave No Trace

Preserve Etiquette…

As we spend time outdoors, in the natural world and wilderness, it’s important to be aware of the effects our individual actions may have on plants, animals, other people, and entire ecosystems. By practicing the 7 principles of Leave No Trace, we can minimize our impact while still enjoying our outdoor experience. (nps.gov)

nps.gov

These principles were established in the mid 1980s by The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, LNT.org, and built on work by the US Forest Service, National Park Service, and Bureau of Land Management. (nps.gov)

  1. Plan ahead and prepare.
  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
  3. Dispose of waste properly.
  4. Leave what you find.
  5. Minimize campfire impacts.
  6. Respect wildlife.
  7. Be considerate of other visitors.

Our Preserve Manager, Ginny, knows how much I enjoy organizing, labeling, and creating signage so when she meets with our team of hosts and we discuss a need for communicating important information, I get to design a poster for Ginny’s approval.

Since we are a privately owned Nature Preserve and not a National Park, no overnight camping is allowed here. So I adapted the 7 principles to fit our environmental needs. Below is the poster I created:


Here are some examples of the “traces” various visitors have left behind this season:

Three pair of shoes left in the parking lot…

I guess they changed into hiking boots and then forgot about them. 😱


Leftover “props” from a photo op…

Here’s a good story…

A younger woman and older man walk in carrying a dress on a hangar. Now, this is not as unusual as you may think. We often have professional and amateur photo shoots on the Preserve. We prefer that the photographers or picture subjects give our Manager a heads up so we can expect them and let them know the etiquette of the Preserve, yadda yadda.

Something about this couple alerts Tom, our co-host, and me to check out what is happening. So, we take a quick walk on the Smoketree Trail and almost fall over them. The She is posing on a cooler in the middle of the trail. Her back is arched back and her legs are seductively exposed through the slit in the halter dress she obviously changed into. The He is standing off-trail on restorative habitat taking pictures. Strewn around the cooler are red and yellow flowers and green leaves. Before Tom and I can even open our mouths, she tells us not to mind them; they are just having some fun. They brought the flowers in and they will pick them all up. Dumbfounded, we just remind him to stay on the trail and leave.

Later our Manager tells us that blocking a trail is a “No-No”, I mean, can you imagine someone in a National Park sitting in the middle of a trail or someone coming on your property and making you walk around them to enter your house?

Anyway, She and He didn’t do a very good job of picking up after themselves… 🤨


A tennis ball to knock down palm fruit…

Here’s another good one from Tom.

A family is leaving the Preserve and Tom hears a loud raucous so he goes to investigate. Apparently a father just happens to have a tennis ball in his pocket.  Really? In front of his son and wife he repeatedly throws the tennis ball up into a palm tree to try and knock down the palm fruit. His attempts prove unsuccessful but for some reason he leaves the tennis ball. Tennis anyone? 😧


Orange peels that will not break down in the desert heat…

Organic litter is not okay!

We ask people not to feed the wildlife so what gives with leaving apple cores, and peels in the desert? What critters will eat it? Or will it just evaporate into thin air?

Leave No Trace has done experiments. Banana peels can take up to 2 years to decompose. In arid environments orange peels will last indefinitely. Citrus contains a natural insecticide. Even ants won’t touch orange peels. Chewing gum contains rubber, so it won’t rot.

Do we eat banana peels or orange peels? So, why would a squirrel or desert critter? An apple core is edible, but if it is not part of an animal’s daily diet, it can change the animal’s biome to the point where it can no longer digest its normal food.

Desert animals have a special difficulty. Many of these critters have no ready source of water: They get moisture from the food they eat. They cannot flush salt from their bodies, and excess salt will kill them. (hcn.org)


This busy ant actually picks up some litter in the parking lot… 🥴

It looks like a petal from some kind of flower not found in the desert, a trace someone else left behind maybe. Where is he or she taking it and why?


A swarm of bees “camps” here for several days before buzzing off…

We don’t confront them, however. 😳

According to perfectbee.com, when bees swarm, a single colony becomes two because the colony needs more space to raise brood (eggs, larvae, and pupae), and store honey and pollen.

To prepare for swarming the queen bee lays an egg in a queen cup. A queen cup is an enlarged wax cell built by worker bees in case the queen lays an egg for her heir. Bees may build one or dozens of these throughout the hive. The empty cups are sometimes torn down so the wax can be used elsewhere, or empty cups may just be left alone in anticipation of the need for swarming. (honeybeesuite.com)

honeybeesuite.com

When a queen lays an egg in a queen cup, she plans to leave and is preparing a new queen to take over for her in the existing hive.

Up until this point the old queen has been busy laying eggs (not in a queen cup) and is heavy and not in a position to fly well. To lighten up for travel, she stops laying eggs and the worker bees reduce her feedings, leaving a gap in the egg-to-adult timeline of the colony.

The swarm starts with the old queen and 50% – 60% of her offspring leaving to relocate to a new home. Tens of thousands of bees will stream out of the hive together and choose a nearby location as an intermediary place to rest because the queen is not a great flyer at this point. (perfectbee.com)

Here’s what’s crazy though… Ginny, Harlan, some docents, co-hosts and I walked through this Arrow Weed lined path of the Smoketree Trail earlier to assess rain damage. A few hours later the swarm of bees chose to set up camp here. I can only imagine what it looked liked to observe tens of thousands of bees landing here!


And this squawking raven… 🤫

These hawk-size members of the crow family, or more technically, corvids, are everywhere in Southern California, the center of a Common Raven population boom plaguing the American West. Raven populations in the Mojave Desert have increased more than 700 percent over the past 40 years. Often considered the raccoons of the bird world, ravens are opportunistic feeders willing to feast on everything from trash to other animals. Because they will feast on the eggs and young of other desert animals, raven predation has been detrimental to many desert species. (audubon.org)

During the winter months, ravens enjoy wreaking havoc through the palm trees to eat bugs among the fronds and pick off the palm fruit. Coyotes enjoy the dropped purple berries the ravens leave behind.

According to mentalfloss.com, the collective noun for ravens is an “unkindness” of ravens. Ravens aren’t exactly friendly as they will often gang up on their prey or animals. And because of the impression that they are an ominous presence, an unkindness of ravens can also be called a conspiracy.

All I can say from firsthand experience is that these magnificent black birds appear in a noisy cloud of flapping wings rustling through the air and palm trees, calling out loudly to each other as they show off their acrobatic flying skills. They are not considerate guests. They are boisterous and not only drown out the melodies of the other birds, but completely take over the canopy of palm trees on the oasis. They’re the thugs, bullies, gangstas of the bird world. But they mesmerize me!


So… a birds’ eye review of how to be a VIP Visitor of the Preserve:

  • Check our website for our hours by going to coachellavalleypreserve .org
  • Leave your dogs at home.
  • Bring water, lots of water, and drink it.
  • Stay on the designated trails and respect the areas that are off limits. We are a Wildlife/Nature Preserve, not a park or playground.
  • I don’t care if you need to smoke in the parking lot. Just please take your butts with you, okay. I am the one who picks them up… along with dirty diapers, beer cans, straws, discarded water bottles, etc.
  • Walk, enjoy, listen, look, and take pictures. Stacking rocks into cairns serves no purpose. Spelling names or messages with rocks or sticks in the sand might be meaningful to you but no one else gives a hoot… seriously. Enjoy nature and get over yourself.
  • Plants and wildlife, even anthills, have the right of way. We are the visitors and we respect and enjoy their habitats.
  • And finally, but most importantly, know that your acts of respecting the environment and other visitors do not go unnoticed. From all of us volunteers, we thank you for sharing this magically special and spiritual space with us!

The Perks of Pulling Mustard Part 3

Pushing Through the Pushawalla Washes to Pull and Pause…

On a Sahara mustard mission, the bag lady strikes again! And once again I am not disappointed with the treasures I find…


Cholla…

Silver or golden cholla is a highly variable member of the Cactus Family. The spines on the stems can be silver or golden. Flowers are usually greenish-yellow but can age to dark red. (Jon Mark Stewart from his book Colorado Desert Wildflowers)

These shrubby cacti have cylindrical stems composed of segmented joints. The stems are actually modified branches that serve several functions including water storage, photosynthesis, and flower production. (desertusa.com)

Later I spy more cholla… an open blossom this time…


Desert Tobacco

A member of the Nightshade Family (nicotiana trigonophylla), desert tobacco is related to domestic tobacco (nicotiana tabacum). The leaves are dark green, very sticky, and ill-smelling. Although extremely toxic, Native Americans often smoked this plant during religious ceremonies. (Jon Mark Stewart from his book Colorado Desert Wildflowers)


Jimson Weed

Another member of the Nightshade Family, datura meteloides is also called moonflower, a reference to the fact that the flowers usually open later in the day. (Not here in the desert, though.) Georgia O’Keeffe enjoyed painting its huge blossoms. She said, “When I think of the delicate fragrance of the flowers, I almost feel the coolness and sweetness of the evening.”

Jimson weed is also known as “sacred datura” and has been revered as one of the sacred visionary plants among almost all cultures around the world that have encountered it. Daturas have been used as poisons, medicines, and ritual intoxicants since the beginning of time. Some scholars believe Delphic oracles in Ancient Greece used datura to induce their legendary visions. The Aztecs used datura as a painkiller in initiation rituals and as a narcotic for ritual sacrifices. (fs.fed.us)

The plants produce large white trumpet flowers tinged with purple.

There are 9 to 12 known species of datura, each with its own characteristic narcotic tropane alkaloid, making datura one of the most dangerous and poisonous plants known. Jimson weed is a major cause of accidental poisonings and death by those looking to get a cheap high. (fs.fed.us)


I come across a new wildflower that resembles desert milkweed and I send pics to Ginny, the Preserve Manager, to identify it for me.

Pignut…

Hoffmannseggia glauca, also known as Indian Rushpea, Hog Potato, and “Camote de Ratón” or mouse yam, this plant is a member of the Legume Family. (southwestdesertflora.com)

[I just found out how to add an accent mark over a letter on my iPad, DUH 🙄 and I am so excited 😆!]

But the more research I do, I discover that the leaves of the hoffmanseggia glauca…

southwestdesertflora.com

and the leaves on the plant below are different… 🤔

So, maybe this is Desert Rock-Pea, a common perennial shrub found in washes and on rocky hillsides. (Yep, that’s where I found them: along the side of Bee Mesa and the wash.) A member of the Pea Family, the flowers are yellow and turn red with age. The plant is somewhat woody (not sure about that), multi-stemmed, and less than 3 feet tall. (Jon Mark Stewart from his book Colorado Desert Wildflowers)

Perfectionist as I am, I am just not sure…


Then I get even more confused. I spy another plant with similar yellow and orange flowers, but the stems and leaves look different. As always, I lean on Ginny, the Preserve Manager, and Harlan, the desert professor, for answers.

Heart-Leaved Primrose

Camissonia cardiophylla is a member of the Evening Primrose Family.

Most of the leaves are found at the base of the plant with the flower stalks rising leafless and growing to about 16 inches. (Jon Mark Stewart from his book Colorado Desert Wildflowers)

The younger flowers are yellow, but as the blossoms age, they turn red and give us a plant with 2 beautiful colors. (Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association, abdnha.org)

The seed pods remind me of mustard but are thicker.


Rock Daisy

A common wildflower on rocky slopes and in sandy washes, peristyle emoryi is a member of the Sunflower Family. The flower heads are the size of dimes with white fringed rays and a yellow center. (Jon Mark Stewart from his book Colorado Desert Wildflowers)

These tiny daisies pop up in low growing clumps of dark green, crisp white, and brilliant yellow-orange:



Desert Poppy

This common little poppy resembles the California poppy but has yellow flowers instead of orange. The flower stems grow to 1 foot and can either be leafy or naked, like the one below. (Jon Mark Stewart from his book Colorado Desert Wildflowers)


The displays of wildflowers I encounter today are pretty spectacular for this season’s scarce rainfall. And now I know why; I have reached the stream that flows under Thousand Palms Canyon Road, the literal dip in the road…

In the picture below, the palm trees in the distance surround the boardwalk and Visitor Center along the San Andreas Fault separating the Pacific tectonic plate from the North American. The hill you see is part of the Indio Hills separating the 2 strands of the San Andreas Fault: the Banning strand and the Mission Creek strand. The line of palm trees, parallel to the Indio Hills in the foreground, grow along the stream seeping up from the fault strands.

I’ve never been here before but I have driven past more times than I can count.

You can hear the water trickling as it ripples along.

The stream snakes it’s way south to Washington Street.

My trash bag is almost full of mustard weeds so I head back to the Pushawalla parking area via the road, pulling more mustard along the way.


I am hot and getting tired, until I look down at this perky patch of purple.

Notch-Leafed Phacelia

Phacelia crentulata is a member of the Waterleaf Family. The violet flowers are arranged into a tightly coiled scorpion-tail. The plant is ill-scented and the foliage is known to cause a rash similar to poison oak on some people. (Jon Mark Stewart from his book Colorado Desert Wildflowers)

I find this picture of purple poison quite pleasing to partake…


Arriving at the Pushawalla parking area, I set my bag down and decide to double check if the trail to Indian Palms is clearly marked from here. (Since the 880 acres of the Coachella Valley Preserve we live on is privately owned by the Center for Natural Land Management, CNLM, I often direct disappointed visitors to park at Pushawalla on Mondays and Tuesdays when we are closed and suggest they hike to Indian Palms.)

So I pretend I have parked here and want to hike to Indian Palms to make sure there is an appropriate trail marker. As I leave the parking area and take the rock-lined trail, I discover a pale pink flower growing on a slender green stem.

Annual Mitra

A member of the Sunflower Family, stephanomeria exigua is a common late season wildflower. Because the plant is light green and it’s branches are spread about, it’s easy to walk by without noticing it. (Jon Mark Stewart from his book Colorado Desert Wildflowers)

Indeed, during last year’s superbloom, I never noticed this delicate pink flower.


After taking pics of annual mitra, I look up and see more mustard weeds. I can always cram a few more in my garbage bag and, as I proceed to pull, I come face to face with red spiny thorns and yellow blooms.

Barrel Cactus

Bisnaga, ferocactus acanthodians, is California’s second largest cactus, (the largest is the saguaro). The stems can grow up to 9 feet and are usually solitary, but it’s not uncommon to see plants branched at the base. The flowers are produced in a ring at the top of the trunk.

A popular myth suggests that lopping off the tops of these cacti will produce life-sustaining water. This is not true, however, as lopping off the top ruins the plant for life.  Due to increased poaching, barrel cactus is now fully protected in California and Arizona and cannot be removed legally from the wild. (Jon Mark Stewart from his book Colorado Desert Wildflowers)


Have I convinced you that the perks of pulling outweigh the mission yet?

All About Oliver

A Sanfilippo Story by Grammy L…

White-out for oliver

Brian reports the total amount raised for Cure Sanfilippo Foundation… almost $23,000!!!

Together, with your overwhelming help and love for Oliver to help fight Sanfilippo , we sold 370 tickets, and through the T-shirts, the happy hour, the suite participants and other extremely generous donations we raised. . .

$22,853!!!

Simply amazing!

And so, Oliver and his entire family want to send a personal ‘THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!’ for your unbelievable support at the Columbus Blue Jackets hockey game. Park Street Tavern was packed, the seats were packed and oh my were there so, so many people wearing white shirts out there in support for him and all of the children with Sanfilippo. It was really a special night and I know everyone had fun. Jennifer and I were so touched and we were excited to talk with as many of you as we could. We couldn’t go more than 10 feet without running into one of the supporters of Oliver’s Tomorrow.

From here, look for periodic updates on our journey with Oliver. He is cooped up here at home with us for the next several weeks (as many of you can understand and relate). So far he is successfully going through the qualifications for the clinical trial which may only be a few weeks away. We are excited and anxious for the date to get here. Indeed, these are unique times for everybody. We hope you will have a chance to meet Oliver down the road and get a chance to see how strong and quick with a smile he is. We are so proud of him.

So stay safe and healthy and enjoy everyone you are around and enjoy every single day.

Love and endless thanks,

Jennifer, Brian, Oliver and Reagan

I’ve Looked At Clouds From Both Sides Now

Sometimes My Head is in the Clouds…

And I look up and start singing Joni Mitchell’s song in my head…

cbc.ca

cbc.ca


Most days the sky over the Coachella Valley is an endless sea of blue floating above the Colorado Desert.

But sometimes the wind hits the San Jacinto Mountains just right pushing the air upward. As the wind moves over the mountains, it cools down enough for condensation to develop and brushes the sky in strokes of white.

Local AccuWeather Meteorologist Jesse Ferrell explains that these clouds are called lenticular clouds and need moisture, a stable atmosphere, and strong winds perpendicular to a mountain range. “They are continually reformed over the same location by new air rising up and over a mountain, condensing and producing the clouds.”

Here’s a beautiful example of a lenticular cloud over Squaw Hill…

But not all clouds are lenticular clouds. Some are just cool clouds, like these in Moon Country…

And these hovering over the Little San Bernardino Mountains of Joshua Tree National Park…

Then there are “rows and flows of angel hair”…

“And feather canyons everywhere”…

And instead of “ice cream castles”, there is popcorn in the air…

But sometimes “clouds got in my way”…

And “they rain and snow on everyone”…


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The Perks of Pulling Mustard Part 2

Hidden Treasures Among the Weeds

Today I head out on my own, close to home, to pull Sahara mustard along the wash by Squaw Hill. I really look forward to this time alone. Yes, the staggering amount of weeds frustrates me but with every garbage bag I fill I feel fulfilled because I can see my progress and I know I am doing something good for the desert environment.

And the native plants and flowers thank me in their own way as I stumble across some showy blooms…

Beavertail Cactus…

Desert Sunflowers and Sand Verbena hanging out together

Desert Dandelions and Pincushions…

More Beavertail getting ready to burst

A patch of purple Phacelia…

Groundcherry…

Five Spot…

Rock Daisies growing on the side of Squaw Hill


Sahara mustard grows abundantly beneath creosote and other prickly shrubs and bushes resulting in bloody scratches on my arms and legs. Just when I think I’ve pulled all the weeds, I look back and find several more hiding in the center requiring  me to kneel down and just about stick my face into the thorns as I reach and pull.

But today I discover a  desert iguana watching me as if to say thank you for all my hard work. His visit makes my battles with thorny branches worthwhile!

Sam Cobb Date Farm

We Grow Good Dates!

samcobbfarms.com

We’ve seen the homemade sandwich-signs with arrows every weekend from late October through late April, since last year, on Ramon Road and Dillon Road advertising Sam Cobb Dates. Today, we finally meet Sam himself and buy some Medjool and Safari Dates.

Located in Sky Valley off Dillon Road, tucked between 22nd Avenue and Henry Road, lies a paradise of date palm trees.

We pull up to an unassuming farm stand…

samcobbfarms.com

…and meet Sam and his wife Maxine…

samcobbfarms.com

Sam’s date farms, established in 2002, are family owned with ranches in central and eastern Riverside County (Sky Valley and Blythe). They grow and sell 7 varieties of fresh dates:

  • Medjool
  • Black Gold
  • Barhi
  • Zehidi
  • Safari
  • Empress
  • Candi

You can also schedule a walking tour with Sam himself and learn firsthand how dates are grown, their sustainability in desert environments, how new varieties are developed, and even sample dates right from the tree. (samcobbfarms.com)


Sam Cobb’s story is quite interesting:

samcobbfarms.com

“I was three years old when I saw my first tractor from my parents’ porch in Fresno, CA. From that moment on, I wanted to be a farmer.” (from Profile Author, Sally Hedberg, on samcobbfarms.com)

Sally’s article continues…

He started by earning two agricultural degrees at Fresno State University in the 1980s. During this time he met and fell in love with Maxine. He only had one prerequisite for marriage. “Would she be willing to be a farmer’s wife?”

Her answer was yes, and they began farming vegetables in Fresno. But times were tough for farmers then, so when Sam was offered a job in 1989 with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, he took it.

By 1996 he moved his family to La Quinta. Through his job in Soil Conservation, Sam visited many date farms and started doing research on the process of cultivating dates.

When the opportunity came to buy 5 acres in Sky Valley, Sam and Maxine invested in their own date farm and began planting date trees. Realizing the process would take years, Maxine and Sam kept their day jobs, he with the USDA and she as a fifth grade teacher in Indio.

Sam’s education, research, years of experience, business skills, and careful long term planning made his dream possible.

As Sam walked me through the 300 trees, consisting of seven different varieties, he spoke passionately about his dates.

Here’s what I learned:

  • Date trees grow from suckers and seeds. There are female trees which must be pollinated by the male trees. Sam’s farm has a ratio of 30 females to 1 male. If a sucker is planted then he knows for sure what variety of dates will be produced. It’s like cloning. If grown from a seed, no one is sure who’s the daddy and therefore one can’t be sure what variety will be produced.
  • The dates must be covered with bags while maturing to keep away the birds.
  • Date trees take 15 years to mature but can live for more than 100 years.
  • A healthy tree never stops producing. It’s a generational crop, and Cobb hopes his kids and their kids will continue the tradition of date farming.

I sampled each one of his seven varieties, three of which have Sam’s trademark. They are Black Gold, Safari, and Candi. These aren’t available elsewhere in the world and have distinct flavors. Safari chews like a cookie and has a mild nutty taste. Candi has a caramel aspect, and Black Gold has two textures and at least three amazing flavors… caramel, chocolate, cherry, a hint of vanilla and maybe more. Sam quipped, “I don’t grow anything I don’t like.”

All Cobb’s dates are fresh and grown pesticide free.

(Sally Hedberg)


samcobbfarms.com

samcobbfarms.com

samcobbfarms.com

samcobbfarms.com

And I really love the dates from his farm!

All About Oliver

A Sanfilippo Story by Grammy L…

Captain Hugs

Jennifer Kelly, Oliver’s Mom and my daughter-in-law shared this post on Oliver’s Tomorrow

So much to be thankful for this week. Oliver’s sweet classmates at Christ Lutheran’s Children Center made him a cape for Superhero Week. It’s a daily gift knowing that he’s loved by so many wonderful people.

Here he is as Captain Hugs! “His super power is always having a hug for friends in need!”

We wrapped up the week with “Parent’s Night Out” at Jeffrey Mansion and raised $1,130 for Cure Sanfilippo Foundation! My love and appreciation to:

  • Kris Olson Tann
  • Amy Solaro
  • Kelsey Haas
  • Michaela White
  • Janice Manheim
  • Jessica Kehn
  • Kara Braunreiter

for their incredible ability to plan, rally, and run! Thank you to all the parents who entrusted us with their sweet kiddos, neighbors who donated supplies, everyone who helped spread the word, and to all the big kid helpers!

Now, time for me to go snuggle with Captain Hugs… 😘😘

The Perks of Pulling Mustard Part 1

The Sahara mustard is an invasive plant native to the Middle East. It was introduced to Southern California sometime in the late 1920s, inadvertently hitching a ride with the palm trees imported from northern Africa when the Coachella Valley’s now thriving date industry was just beginning.

In 2005 researchers from the University of California Riverside Campus (UCR) Center for Invasive Species Research Department (CISR) and volunteers from the US Bureau of Land Management set aside a series of 1/4 acre naturalized plots. On half the plots Sahara mustard was removed by hand-weeding; the other half of the plots were left alone to measure the effect of Sahara mustard.

Results were dramatic. On control plots containing the mustard, native wildflowers germinated in numbers similar to those in the weeded plots, HOWEVER underneath the dense canopy of Sahara mustard the native wildflower plants grew taller, putting energy into height growth, and produced very few flowers or seeds. There was a 90% reduction of numbers of flowers and seed pods… 90%!

Measurements on the plots continued to determine whether the effect of weeding Sahara mustard would last more than one season. Up to 2 growing seasons after hand-weeding, without any further treatments, there were still, albeit slightly, more native wildflowers and less mustard on the plots that were weeded in 2005.

In the Coachella Valley the Sahara mustard densities can reach proportions as high as 300 plants per 11 square feet. Yikes! There is no need to do any math here. If we do not hand-weed mustard the annual native plant seed bank will become increasingly depleted and native wildflowers will become increasingly scarce as Sahara mustard becomes more dominate and takes over the landscape. (cisr.ucr.edu)

Now, hand-weeding mustard is not in our job description on the Preserve, but somebody’s gotta do it! So I start going out with the Preserve Manager, Ginny, several mornings a week to Moon Country to pull mustard.

Just between you and me, I discover that I actually enjoy pulling mustard! It’s a quiet, meditative, repetitious experience. It’s addictive. Once you spot and pull your first Sahara mustard weed you can’t stop spotting and pulling more. And even if we only make a dent in the density, it’s a good feeling lugging a filled trash bag or 2 over my shoulders and looking back over the areas cleared, knowing I am helping to preserve the Preserve.

Besides, I get to visit places that are off the beaten path. Shhh! Please stay on the trails! (Unless you want to pull mustard WITH us…)


The Ride

Sometimes I ride with Ginny in the pickup truck out to Moon Country where the wash is wide enough to navigate through. But a real treat is riding in the newly purchased Kawasaki MULE (Multi-Use Light Equipment) UTV (Utility Task Vehicle).


Spectacle Pod

Today I literally run into one of my favorite flowers while bending over to pull a mustard weed.

Spectacle pod is one of the first wildflowers to bloom on the sand dunes. The white flowers consist of 4 petals and 6 stamens characteristic of the mustard (brassicaceae) family. So, yes, spectacle pod and Sahara mustard share a family tree, but let’s just say that’s all they have in common. (Jon Mark Stewart, from his book Colorado Desert Wildflowers)

What tickles me about this plant are the round, spectacle-shaped fruits.


The pond

Since May 2019 Simone Pond has been undergoing a restoration process towards the reintroduction of the desert pupfish, cyprinodon macularius.



biologicaldiversity.org

The desert pupfish was listed as federally endangered in 1986 due to habitat loss and modification, pollution, and predation from non-native species. Establishing refugia habitats, such as Simone Pond, is part of the Federal Recovery Plan to support and recover the population.

The introduction of several non-native species, such as red swamp crayfish (procambarus clarkii) and tilapia (oreochromis aureus), ultimately led to the demise of desert pupfish in Simone Pond.

usgs.gov, courtesy of Angelica Aguilar Duran

nas.er.usgs.gov, courtesy of Howard Jelks

Both crayfish and tilapia have rapid reproductive cycles and can produce numerous offspring, which makes them difficult to remove. Furthermore, crayfish can burrow, walk on land, and persist out of water. Consequently, previous removal projects have proven unsuccessful.

As of January 2019, the Center for Natural Land Management (CNLM) estimated there were over 23,000 crayfish and 4,000 tilapia in Simone Pond!  That same month a new restoration plan was launched. Through a grant, an aquatic biologist was hired to spearhead this effort which included unique and integrative approaches to remove the invasive species: trapping, draining the pond, electrofishing, and the application of naturally-derived pesticides. (coachellavalleypreserve.org)

Ginny takes me on a private tour of the fenced off Simone Pond…

Still a breathtaking sight, even cleared of reeds and with remnants of blue-green pesticide spray on its banks…

The forest of mighty Palms…

Secret passages…

Healthy algae…

A makeshift watering hole for the wildlife…

And finally the water reflected in the pond creates this dramatic illusion with the palm skirts.


The perks of pulling mustard outweigh the bending, sweat, and lugging of cumbersome garbage bags filled with weeds and seeds!

All About Oliver

A Sanfilippo Story by Grammy L…

Rare Disease Day


My daughter-in-law, Jen, posted this message on her Facebook page Oliver’s Tomorrow:

On Rare Disease Day, here’s my favorite unicorn. I love you to the moon and back, Oliver, forever and ever.

Then she posted a sweet video that I cannot download. So, I captured as many photos as I could to share with you.


Well, I did my best capturing images on a video, but you can feel the big personality of Oliver and Reagan and Jen and Brian and how much they love each other. To view the video, go to Jennifer Kelly’s Facebook page and click on Oliver’s Tomorrow.

Oliver, you are the sunshine of my life!

Reagan, you are my moon and stars!