Tuesday, April 12, 2011

J is for Junipers

My Theme for the A to Z Challenge: Desert Canyon Living

California Junipers grow everywhere on the hillsides here in the canyon. They are hardy little conifers that look more like bushes than trees.  Their berries, which are actually small cones with one or two seeds inside, provided a food source for the Native Americans who lived here in the canyon. Now the birds, coyotes, and bears like to eat these small blue berries.

This is one of the prettier trees in our back yard.

Out on the land you sometimes see dead junipers, looking like general fire-hazards.

Or you may see unusual shapes. This one looks more like the Swedish version, called 'en,' that grows in the more forbidding landscapes in Sweden. I marvel at the tenacity of the California junipers and wonder how they can possibly survive and thrive in this dry terrain.

But survive they do. There are no berries on the tree in our front yard right now, but I took this photo a while back on a hike. I hope you can see the small, blue berries that contain the cones and seeds.

Snow lasts the longest in the shade of the junipers. When our dog, Princess, who loved the snow most of all, was alive she and I would go and look for snow for her to roll around in. It was a fun game we had and we both were so happy when we found some. It is also the only place out on the land where wild green grass grows in the spring. Why and how, I don't know, except for the wet and shade, perhaps. 

Many birds spend the night on the juniper branches and I'm sure many nest there as well. The California Quail take cover under the bushes at the slightest hint of danger. Here are two running for cover as I approach. I hope you can see them. 

Birds are not the only ones using the junipers for cover. Here a young coyote peeks out to see if the coast is clear. Many coyotes come to this tree in our front yard in the fall to eat the berries that fall to the ground. A couple of years ago, a black bear came and tore the tips of the branches off, ate the berries, and tossed the remains of the branches on my lounge chair that was placed underneath this juniper. I didn't see the bear, but it left plenty of tracks and a big mess.

The junipers have come to represent to me a certain toughness that you have to possess in order to live and thrive a desert canyon.

Thank you for all your comments on my diabetes post yesterday. I felt truly overwhelmed by everyone's kindness and the support you expressed. I'm so used to this illness by now that it is hard to imagine what life would be without it. And that makes it seem to me like it isn't a big deal to do the things I have to do. I feel bad for those who have diabetes and ignore it. That is a burden far heavier to bear, I am sure, both in the present and it certainly will be in the future.


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