Sow There! Don’t indulge in too many happy weeds, 3-9-2017

Sourgrass, surrounded by a lot of other happy weeds destined to be decimated by the hoe.
Sourgrass, surrounded by a lot of other happy weeds destined to be decimated by the hoe.Heather Hacking — Enterprise-Record
Sourgrass. Heather Hacking — Enterprise-Record

When I visit the river, I look up to see the “majestic” birds drifting high on circles of wind. I can spend a long moment watching a bird, remembering things that have come and gone and hoping for things that will soon begin.

You can’t help but wonder what it must feel like, to ride something you can only feel with your wings.

Page 106 of my “North American Wildlife” book shows the silhouettes of seven birds of prey. Knowing their shape helps with easy identification from the ground. The osprey stands out with a distinct bend in the wing, as if the bird has an elbow.

The outline of the vulture and the eagle are almost identical when soaring, shaped like elongated, fringed rectangles. From the ground, it would be difficult to tell the two apart, unless you noticed the eagle has a wingspan about 12 inches longer.

Both big birds eat carrion. But because the eagle is also a hunter, it is held in the same regard as polar bears, grizzlies and Siberian tigers. Vultures are viewed as bottom feeders, eyeball gougers and bad omens.

I think the real reason the vulture is reviled is because it makes a sound surprisingly similar to a flushing toilet. Listen here:


Many plants receive the same form of discrimination. If you look around right now, you’ll find the happy yellow flowers in the wood sorrel family, a form of oxalis. One particular variety is buttercup oxalis, which I learned to identify as sourgrass.

The leaves are like shamrocks and the plant reproduces wildly through bulbs deep in the soil.

If your yard is like mine, a lot of things are dead after the drought. This left room for weeds to find their way. During recent rainstorms, I’ve been yanking and tugging at cheeseweed, common groundsel, and three-cornered leek. However, a fond spot has developed in my heart for sourgrass.

The flowers are too happy and yellow to yank. I like the way they bob up and down after a visit from a bee.

Likely I’ll revisit my plant love affair once I start to see the okra-shaped seed pods, which contain up to 5,000 seeds each.

When I was a child the weed grew in the front yard of my Auntie Jeanne and Uncle Lars’ house in Benicia. My aunt showed me how the plant could be chewed, for a tart little treat. I think she also taught me not to swallow the stalk, but to spit the masticated green stuff into the bushes.

When I checked out buttercup oxalis on the University of California IPM website,, I found a discussion about how cattle can die if they eat large quantities of sourgrass. Apparently the compounds that make the plant taste sour can also cause kidney stones. It’s probably the same if humans ate only sourgrass for weeks at a time. I’m glad I know. If I’m ever on one of those survivalist shows I’ll stick to miner’s lettuce.

However, for a sweet little treat, and happy flowers, sour grass is fun to have around. Just make sure to nibble plants that aren’t in the path of your neighbor’s dog.


I finally got around to giving my friend Samantha her wedding gift. In January I had the honor of being her maid of honor at her soiree at the Sacramento Train Station museum. She chose calla lilies as her bouquet.

I tried several methods of preserving her flowers, all which resulted in mold or brown sticks. This ruined my grand plan to make a shadow box display filled with well-preserved blooms.

Luckily, I spotted calla lily bulbs at Costco.

I handed her a pot filled with dirt and asked her to put it near her front porch.

If all goes well, she’ll have a calla lily reminder of her wedding sometime this summer.

Callas in pots dislike too much nitrogen and the soil needs to be totally dry after bloom (for dormancy). Next, move the pot to a dark area for two months. The tricky part is to remember to start watering them again and move them back to the sunny location.

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