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porfavor no corten los nopales

April 9, 2008

If the Spanish is bad, you’ll have to let me off the hook– that’s what it said on the sign. The English version said “Please do not cut the catus” so I think I might need the disclaimer.

I went down the path in the other direction to see what was growing, before they come and cut it all down. The grasses are starting to dry, so I figure it won’t be too long. The cactuses are on a steep slope behind somebody’s house– the kind with the huge, teardrop-shaped leaves which I think get prickly pears later on. So I don’t know if the sign was meant to prevent wildharvesting, or just vandalism. There’s some of both going on, but more of the latter.

Specifically, I was looking for wheat. I went back yesterday to the original stand I found three years ago, and I discovered another area on the way where there was a lot of it, now tall and beautiful. I always take some too early, afraid that when I return it will have been decimated– it happens so fast! But when the stalks have a chance to grow and fill out, they really look their best. I went down to the west today looking to see if there was any more, and I didn’t find any till the very last minute, under the tree next to the street. There may be more out there; it’s just hard to see amidst all the oats and mustard and other grasses. I wish I knew the names of the other grasses– they’re all lovely. I need to take some kind of guided nature walk.

Anyway, as far as the wheat goes… until I found that area on the east path a few years ago, I hadn’t seen any around here for decades. It was still “volunteering” in the fields for awhile right after we moved here, but after a few years it disappeared; it’s not really wild, just left over from cultivation, I guess. So I’m not sure where this new wheat came from– did someone plant that original patch somehow, or does the extra rain just find the seeds that are far down in the soil after all these years. Awhile back there was a huge area of wheat off Highway 4 in Bay Point, and I don’t think that was planted either: it was solid wheat, though, so even from the freeway you could tell what it was. The oats bend and quake, and the wheat waves.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 10, 2008 5:32 PM

    I order nopales and eggs in Mexican restaurants, but haven’t harvested my cactus at home. People do vandalize it-I’ve seen it with initials carved into it. I wish I could identify all the grasses around here. I wish I remembered a little more of what I learned in field botany so many years ago.
    There’s a nearby hillside I thought I should photograph, but it’s already been mowed.

    • April 10, 2008 9:55 PM

      I think I remember seeing pieces of the cactus smashed up on the path last summer– clearly on purpose. The only grasses I know are oats and wheat and foxtails; I tried to look at a Mt. Diablo vegetation sheet I had once, but they were just line drawings and I really had trouble matching them up to the real thing. Maybe there’s a website– I’ll start looking around!
      Oh, and I read a novel called The Fifth Sacred Thing, about post-apocalyptic California, and I seem to remember they kept themselves alive on grass seeds at one point!

    • April 10, 2008 10:08 PM

      Hey, this is pretty good!
      There was also a California Native Grass Association, and the USDA–that’s all I’ve looked at so far…

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