The old master painter…

I’ve heard folks from the Silicon valley talk about how green it gets here when it rains. In a lot of ways I’ve nodded and listened but didn’t have the same mental image they had.

There’s a song Phil Harris sang about “the old master painter of the faraway hills.” It’s a wonderful metaphor for the loving new testament watchmaker ideal of God and how he painted “the daffodills” and such.

The palette for this area is rather different that what I had thought of as “green.” First off, there are less ranges in the colors of green and it has been colored in a far wider stroke. Out here the trees are interspersed and there seems to be lots of rolling grassland up on the hills. In the summer it is dry I’ve been told and in the winter the rains bring out the “green.”

The landscape here reminds me a lot of the mediterranian in form. It is a rolling terrain with arid grassland. But here it has more trees. But the trees are odd. They all seem a dusty or dark green in hue. There are redwoods and dry conifers, and then there are eucalyptus and palm trees about. All of their greens have a healthy mix of tan that I imagine a dry temperate climate instills. Even the more familiar hardwoods seem to edge into the scrub oaks at best, reminding me much of the dry central north carolina pine stands or the wind-torn seaside brambles of the atlantic.

I think the “green” everyone talks about is the shock of thick, fresh grass that grows in all those rolling fields after a good rain. What is usually a pale yellow-green becomes fresh young-grass green all over. It looks like someone came out and sprayed the entire surface of the mountain in a green that one would expect on the cover of lawn and garden magazine.

So now I understand. At least, a little better I think. I know it’s not spring yet, and it’s only a shaggy bit of winter I’ve watched, but it’s fun to watch none the less.

When I think “green” though, I don’t think about this. I tend to picture a different valley entirely: the Shenandoah area. Everywhere here is landscaped and it seemed a bit alien to me at first. But the simple matter is if you don’t landscape things here, nothing grows. In the Shen. valley if you don’t mow your lawn weekly eventually the grass, vines, weeds, brambles, kudzu, crabgrass, small pines, large pines, lightwoods and heavy woods all move in and then eat your family in the night when they have formed a thicket strong enough to muffle your screams.

In the spring that takes aproximately 2.5 weeks. People might think I am exaggerating here, but I’m not. Some vines, such at Kudzu, grow faster when you’re not looking at them in an effort to sneak up and strangle you. Not every redneck has a car in overgrown weeds on their front lawn out of choice. Sometimes you couldn’t mow for a week and you have to use what you have to beat back the approach of green-leafy fresh-flowery death.

I think I also now understand a friend of mine (JTV) from Arizona who was charmed by the little national park I took him to in the area. If I had grown up in this area, or a desert area, the place probably seemed positively exploding with life. Which it is.

Previously I had confused “green” to mean “chock full of potentially deadly levels of plantlife that might even obscure bears.” Out here it literally looks like someone painted the hills green. It’s nifty.

I wonder if out here, the national forests are so full of bees in the spring there is a background hum?

I wonder if anyone told calicougar not to get too close to the kudzu or honeysuckle during the spring.

Either way it’s nifty to see the “green” out here.

10 Responses to “The old master painter…”

  1. bees….

    I hope that you and a couple of other transplants get to go out to the Central Coast….but, bees are not quite that common….we do wish that they would be in the almond business—cross pollination is important! (they usually import and release the bees).

    Enjoy the late winter NorCal style.


  2. wingywoof says:

    Awhile back I was thinking of creating an alt named ‘Kudzu’. LOL grow.

  3. the_gneech says:

    That’s one reason I’m reluctant to transplant out to California — even when it’s in full bloom, it always seems very barren to my Virginia sensibilities.


  4. athelind says:

    Um… this IS the green season, Gneech. Spring just has kinda leftover-green from the rainy season.

    Fun fact: like Kudzu, back East, most of the annual grasses that turn brown in the summer are invasive species, largely from Europe. Native California chaparral grasses are hardy, drought-tolerant perennials — and they share those same dark green/dusky green/DUSTY green hues of the Coast Live Oaks, the Mesquite, and the Sage.

    Ecologists and most conventional landscapers define “weed” in almost exactly the opposite manner. By our perspective, those neatly-manicured lawns and lovely ornamentals are the weeds, especially when they escape their suburban confines and scatter to the hills.

    I agree with Mammallamadevil: take the opportunity to head down the Central Coast this spring. It’s not free of agriculture or invasive ornamentals by any means, but the areas around Moss Landing, Monterey, and Big Sur have large, mostly-intact swaths of California Maritime Chaparral.

    If you can get to the desert in the early spring, we may have had enough rain this year to have a good wildflower season — when the climate is cooperative, the native flowers just EXPLODE with color.

  5. palabrajot says:

    It’s a cute idea. I wish you’d thought of it first, so I wouldn’t have to associate it with the lameass comic strip of the same name. ^.^

  6. krin_o_o_ says:

    Down here in NC, the kudzu doesn’t care if you see it growing or not.

    It’s attitude is more:

    “You using that backyard?
    Don’t get up.
    I’ll make myself at home.”

    And last I heard… they strung up some poor designer for planting Ornimental Bamboo.

    I think the Bamboo is still willing 3 to 2 against the Dept of Ag mowers.

    – Krin

  7. krin_o_o_ says:

    “winning 3 to 2″… someday, I’ll learn to type.

  8. diodraco says:

    the “green” you speak of really reminds me of the same thing, my father who lived out in la for a few years, would return to a shock, the sheer…magnitude of verdure.

    we come from MA which, in it’s warm seasons, is bloody holy shit green! everybit as you say….thankfully, kudzu keeps it’s filthy tendrils quite a bit further south from us, we have enough invasive species to deal with.

    when i came out here, my thoughts were much the same. a silvery green, not the true green, the trees seemed scraggly, and sparse. there wasn’t as much variety. or combat for that little patch of dirt, and light.

    and you’re quite right, most all of the things that grow in the mediterranian…rosemary, cypress, laurel…that are famed in the italian region… are here too. they love the warmth, mild winter, sandy soil… it’s very much the same.

    I quite like it, honestly.

    though I do miss the greenery

  9. calicougar says:

    I haven’t seen any Kudzu in my area yet…plenty of honeysuckle though. I have been meaning to take a saw to the woody, hairy trunks of the fruiting Poison Oak Ivy though.

  10. Phil says:

    Yay! Yard work can be really rewarding where you are. All kinds of nifty stuff can grow.

    Re: Poison Ivy. It’s evil. Dunno if you’ve messed with this stuff before, but I used to have to mow a lawn with a bunch of it on the edges. If you’re one of the lucky few it doesn’t bother, congrats! Otherwise:

    * Wear gloves and lots of outer clothing if you must handle or be near it.

    * Wash with a good pine-tar or similar grade soap after handling as soon as possible. (Berts Bees has an poison ivy soap that’s effective.)

    * Get rid of the clothing when done. Or keep it for only this purpose. The oils in poison ivy will transfer between clothing when washed, so do not wash it with other clothing. If you’re particularly suceptible for it, run an empty wash load after washing poison ivy clothing.

    * Never, ever, burn poison ivy. The vapors contain the irritant oil and will cause the rash to enter your lungs. It’s a potential death hazard even at a moderate distance.

    * Even dry poison ivy leaves can still have the irritant oil in them. Same thing for clothing you’ve washed after handling the stuff.

    Poor is really succeptible to it. I had to be really careful when doing the yard work. Nothing makes you feel worse than making someone miserable by accident.

    Kudzu you most often see by the side of the higways or such down in North Carolina. If you see an area where some large-leaf vine has just absolutely take over everything, including covering up and over 20 and 30 foot trees, that’s Kudzu.

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