Sunday, December 29, 2019

N-Scale Train Thermography (7-14 micron infrared bolometry)

After Christmas the track is laid out and power applied. Viola! Then the questions begin: is it running too hot? Why won't it levitate? Can I leave it plugged in but off?

In the old days, experience would guide my answers.

Today, we can collect quantitative data. I have a thermographic camera that plugs into my phone which allows real time quantitative thermal imaging.

The train engine is the colored blob left of my son. The wall transformer is in the image center. Both are about 12 degrees above background.

Neither is as warm as a person...

The trains can run!

Above is a closeup of the N-Scale engine after about an hour of intermittent use - it has hot spots, nothing hotter than is safe however.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Chicken One-sided Noodle Soup for Boxing Day

Mobius Noodles!

Our family has a tradition of making Chicken Noodle Soup from scratch, starting with raw chicken and making our own broth and noodles. The basic recipe is very simple:

Noodles (see below)
1 Carrot
1 Roasting Chicken
3 Stalks Celery
1 Medium Yellow Onion
Canola or Walnut Oil
Chicken Noodle Soup Spices (Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute will do in a pinch)
Black Pepper


Separate the chicken meat from the bones, skin, and other less edible portions. Put them into a large pot and cover with a few inches of water. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Cook for at least an hour, generally we let it run overnight.

Turn off heat and allow to cool to handling temperature. Do nothing else just yet to this pot, instead start making the noodles.


In a large steel mixing bowl mix 3 cups of all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and two tablespoons of Walnut Oil (or oil of your preference). Carefully crack three eggs into a container and confirm there are no shell fragments in the eggs. Pour the eggs into the flour-salt-oil mix and begin stirring with a strong spatula. Eventually you will have a mixture of crumbly bits with too much flour. At this point start adding water about a tablespoon or less at a time - resume stirring until all the fine bits are collected but a proper dough has not yet formed. Now stop adding water! Collect all the crumbly bits and mash them into a dough ball. If the ball does not hold together, consider adding a small amount of water and trying again. Start to knead and fold the dough ball, flattening it then folding it in half on itself, then flattening it again. Do at least 20 cycles, the more the better. The dough should not be sticky at all.

Let the dough rest for 30 minutes. Flatten it into a sheet about an inch thick. Cut the dough into thin ribbons, about 1/8" thick. These can be rolled thinner with a rolling pin or a pasta machine. In a pinch, we've used washed wine bottles as rolling pins. If the dough sticks to things, dust the dough thoroughly with flour before rolling. Shake as much of the flour as is easily possible to remove from the dough before putting it into the soup, or pre-boil them in water, strain out, and put the cooked noodles into the soup.

Once flattened and rolled to the desired thickness, the noodles can be cut into whatever shapes you desire. My son made a bunch of "Christmas Noodles", mostly versions of various Bird's Nest Cup Fungi, and I took a few entire strips and did half a twist then joined the ends to construct a Mobius Strip - hence the noodle with only one side.

These need cooked in boiling water for about five minutes, though we tend to drop them directly into the soup once it has begun to boil, at least if we didn't need to flour the noodles to prevent sticking.


In a Second large pot (large enough for the entire batch of soup) add enough oil to just cover the bottom thinly. Dice the onion finely, and place the onion into the pot. At high heat, carmelize the onion. Remove from heat. 

Place a strainer over the large pot containing the onion and pour the broth through the strainer until the pot is sufficiently full for the soup. If in doubt, add more broth. Return the onion-broth pot to the stove and heat to a boil. This is the soup pot.

Chop the chicken meat into 1/8" (3mm) thick slices and add to the soup. Add the noodles in small groups, being careful to separate them from each other before adding to the soup, once the soup has begun to boil.

Cut the carrot into thin slices and dice. Repeat with Celery. Add to the boiling soup. Season to taste. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Cthulhu Fruit! Happy Yule!

Ever want to grow food to apease an Eldritch Horror? Now you can feed the Old Ones in your life.

Actually, meet Amorphophallus konjac, a tuber that grows in tropical rainforests and is cultivated. As food, it is known as Konjac.

They are dormant in the Winter and must be kept dry until growth resumes in Spring.

This one is just about a pound. They get up to ten pounds, at which point they flower.... which is a 5 foot tall black calla-lily sort of thing. It is fly pollinated, so probably not florist material...

To celebrate  the longest night of the year,  we thought of Konjac (we also are repotting ours...).

Happy Yule!

Saturday, November 30, 2019

The Flaming Clock of Downtown Los Angeles

We were in Downtown Los Angeles recently when a sculpture at the intersection of Figueroa and Wilshire suddenly and unexpectedly burst into flames! Thirty seconds later, it was out. Turns out this is a normal if erratic event, the sculpture is named "Prime Matter" by the late Eric Orr. When it feels inclined, the sculpture bursts into flame for about 30 seconds at the top of each hour. Standing at the base of it and looking up gets odd looks from passers-by, at least right until it catches fire... which happens a bit more than 60 seconds into this video we captured.

If you happen to be in Downtown and near the corner of Figueroa and Wilshire, it can be worth a short side trip. Our family enjoys it!

Friday, November 29, 2019

Mojave Desert Snow!

The Antelope Valley is high Mojave Desert. Since it is a desert, it can be easy to have the cold weather and the precipitation happen on different days. This year they happened the same day, Thanksgiving!

Ever been to the California Poppy Preserve in spring when the wildflowers are going full tilt? This is what the Poppy Preserve looked like yesterday afternoon, under about four inches of fresh snow!

And of course, when it snows, play with snow!

Drive carefully and enjoy the rare (at least for low-altitude parts of California) White Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Last Apple of the Season and Fall Bounty

Last season we had Apples into January, yet this year the crop is smaller and ripened earlier. This Braeburn is our last home-grown apple of this season, and it was as perfect - it was tart and sweet and crisp.

At the same time we picked the last two Yellow Newton Pippin apples. They were as sweet as the one in January, crisp and juicy without being hard - a delightful finale to a short but wonderful harvest.

As the apples pass into memory, other crops begin. The Medlars are ripening and their harvest will begin in a week or so. The acorns are in full swing, and the Madrone berries are well started. Even our frost-smitten garden patch still produced a few very late sunflower seeds!

This is a drought (PG&E cut power several times during very hot, dry weather - so much for the irrigation) blighted and late seeded (early August) "Mammoth" sunflower (they are normally over a foot in diameter), yet it managed to produce its thin shelled and very tasty seeds all the same.

The Oaks are in full swing of acorn production as well. We have excellent crops of Tanoak, Canyon Oak, and Blue Oak, though acorns are not as large as last year on average. Valley Oak is producing, but we are late and the critters seem to like those acorns best...

These are Blue Oak acorns, one of our favorites for culinary use. A cool Fall afternoon is a great time to hunt these gems among the leaves, and it resharpens the hunter-gatherer mind and eye in preparation for the coming Mushroom season! It is also a lot of fun. Sometimes you stumble across genuine surprises, such as Phacelia minor in full bloom in the middle of November! (This species normally flowers in February and March through June).


Monday, November 4, 2019

The Saffron Harvest Begins!

The orange tip of the stigma - the female part of the flower - is just pushing out of the tip of the opening bud of this Saffron flower. To harvest the spice, you pick the flowers and take them apart, drying just the orange-golden stigmas like tiny threads.

We have a few patches of these we planted over the past 20 years. They are autumn flowering members of the genus Crocus, with flowers pushing through the dry ground before even the leaves emerge. This type of flowering, with the flower arising before the leaves, is called hysteranthous flowering.

Saffron is native to the Middle East and parts of Greece, though it was planted widely around the Mediterranean. Even in the United Kingdom the Romans grew it, leaving place names like Saffron Walden behind.

Saffron needs a hot, dry summer and a cool, wet fall through spring. It pulls itself deeper into the ground each year, so needs protection from gophers and squirrels and other rodents that dig.

Over the years, I've grown enough Saffron to make a few rice dishes with my own saffron. It takes a lot of land to grow an ounce of the dry herb!

Our son has planted his bed of saffron now, with high hopes and last year harvested his own first saffron!

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Stagmomantis - The Native Preying Mantises of Southern California

Fall is for Preying Mantises! More succinctly, early Fall is the easiest time to see adult Stagmomantis species in the wild in California. They have finished their growth and the adults are reasonably abundant.

There are several species of Stagmomantis in California. I suspect this one of being a male Stagmomantis californica, though it objected to my attempts to get a closer photo... It was encountered in the Verdugo Mountains near La Crescenta within the San Fernando Valley.

To find Mantids, look for places with lots of smaller bugs. These are ambush predators - they stand still and wait for their prey to walk within striking distance of their amazing spiked front limbs. Good choices are lights at night, flowering and fruiting bushes that are attracting small insects, and anywhere they blend in. While tall grasses often harbor them, such places also have ticks - best to stay in the open and watch carefully.

Other Stagmomantis species I believe are in California include these:

Stagmomantis limbata

Stagmomantis carolina

Stagmomantis californica

Stagmomantis gracilipes

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Seeing The Pacific Garbage Patch

Recently I had a flight between Honolulu and Oakland. On that path, about 45 minutes out of Honolulu, I happened to look out my window because I recalled the Pacific Gyre was roughly in this area. I did not know it would be visible from jetliner altitudes, yet it was. What surprised me further was that it is not a "patch", it is like a skein of yarn pulled this way and that. There are eskers and windrows and fans and tangles of yellow-green lines on the surface of the water. It is awesome, sad, and fascinating. Look to the right of the sun glare in the photo below.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Mountain Shadows being cast into Deep Space

If you find somewhere where the Earth is very smooth, and drop a mountain onto that spot, something amazing happens. At sunrise and sunset, the mountain does something more normally assigned as a task for clouds: casting shadows not just through the air to project onto the ground, rather casting shadows through the air and on out, into deep space.

The giant dark stripes in the sky are the shadows of three mountains, in fact the largest mountain on the Earth is one of them: Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea, and Haleakala.

The unusual aspect is that these mountains rise out of a very smooth ocean with often very clear air. These shadows are going *up* and will not be cast on the ground, at least not at the time of this photo. These mountains are east of where I was to take this picture. The sun has not risen where I am. These shadows are diverging and actually rising up away from the dark side of our world. This is because their bases are still in darkness, before sunrise, while their tops nearly three miles above project into air that is illuminated by the sun.

The shadows are not cast onto the Earth. They actually continue all the way through the atmosphere and out, into deep space.

Almost twenty years ago I watched the first dawn of the Third Millenium from atop one of these, watching my shadow join the shadow of the larger mountain and together cast into deep space. That was twenty years ago. My shadow has passed many stars since then.

On January 1st, the sun is in Sagittarius, roughly near the position 18h 44m  -23° 03'. The point opposite that in the sky is where the shadow went: 6h 44m +23 03'. That point lies within the constellation Gemini. The major stars of the constellation range from 33.8 to more than 1763 light-years away. While my shadow has not reached any of the major stars, it has passed the distance of several of the lesser stars. Gliese 251 is about the closest star in the constellation at about 18.22 light-years distance. Some minuscule portion of the light blocked by our world from our star I personally blocked that morning. If there are entities out there looking for transiting exoplanets orbiting stars along the ecliptic, we would be visible as one of their detectable exoplanets. One morning almost 20 years ago, I helped a tiny, tiny bit.

Monday, September 23, 2019

The Fruits of Summer

Picking wild grapes! California has two species of native grapes, including this Vitis girdiana we planted in our yard several years ago. The birds somehow missed these grapes, so we picked many today.

These grapes taste like Concord grapes to me, but better with an edible seed in the center. After carefully picking the bunches, my son had to inspect each bunch and taste test the ripe grapes... more will ripen in a few days....

Sunday, August 25, 2019

The Junior Monkeywrench Gang vs. PG&E

PG&E continues to do what I can most generously describe as 'hamfisted' and 'counterproductive' things to create the appearance of improving our safety.

The problem is this: the path to systemic safety comes from a system level approach.

There are many different types of forest in California. Any forest with a closed canopy keeps ground-level growth to a minimum simply by keeping the ground a low light environment. Further, Douglas Fir and Redwood trees are natural precipitrons - they electrostatically collect fog droplets and build droplets large enough to make rain. This keeps the duff moist and much slower to burn. Our biggest fires have been in Chaparral and open Woodlands with significant ground level brush. Comparatively few large fires have been in low-brush closed canopy forest.

PG&E continues to open closed canopy forests, including adjacent to and in our yard. We are opposed to these efforts to actively increase ground-level brush growth.

My son understands some of this. Today I found him trying to remove markings on trees in our yard slated for unwise removal.

At 6 years of age, he couldn't even read The Monkeywrench Gang, nor have I read it to him. Yet I am proud of him getting up and taking action on his own initiative against something he feels is fundamentally wrong.

He now holds vigil eating an apple he grew on our land defending his Fig Tree should the crews happen by this afternoon. He has never even heard of Julia Butterfly Hill, yet I feel they would find common ground.

Lilikoi and Apples!

Today we ate the first of our apples from the 2019 season. Anna is supposed to be even earlier than Gravenstein, though since Gravenstein did not set apples this year and this is the first time in 16 years that Anna has fruited for us, we can neither confirm nor deny the statement.

Anna turns out to be a soft-ish tart apple of good flavor and mild fragrance. Yellow-green and just soft enough to be tender when quartered, the seeds had not fully darkened on these apples when we cut them up and devoured them today.

We also found our Lilikoi vine is climbing into a small redwood in our yard, and set fruit! These will likely ripen between Halloween and Thanksgiving. This may not be remarkable to most folks, we just do not reliably fruit every year this far north.

BD's blog: "Lilikoi are a very beautiful color when ripe. The beautiful color is purple. Our lilikoi vine is grabbing onto and climbing our Redwood tree. I can't wait for our Lilikoi and other Apples to ripen - then we can make a stand.

Anna apples are green when ripe and we want to make juice out of them but we just ate them. Bye!"  "

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Mariposa Lilies of Summer?

California has wild Tulips?! Sort of - the genus Calochortus is actually more closely related to Fritillaria than to the Eurasian genus Tulipa, though they definitely look something alike.

The famed Butterfly Lilies of California and Western North America are generally flowers of Spring, with a few stragglers making it into late June or early July. Even in August, however, a few of the latest blooming species can be found - you just have to like getting to altitude!

Calochortus invenustus, the entirely incorrectly named "not-lovely" Mariposa, is in flower right now at altitudes above 7000' in the Tehachapi, San Gabriel, and other local high mountains. On Sunday while driving to Los Angeles I stopped in some of the high country near the Grapevine and was delighted to find substantial numbers of these pale treasures flowering among the low bushes and rocky areas.

These grow reasonably easily from seed and flower often in their third Spring when planted early in the Fall. They require a well aerated and well drained soil, kept dry (not baked in the sun if in pots!) over the Summer, then watered again starting in early October (or at least that is how I grow them). I'll post something more detailed later, however if you want instructions now, several excellent guides to growing these gems from seed exist: the Pacific Bulb Society has one of the best here.

Monday, August 12, 2019

PG&E Facilitating Spread of Fire-prone Invasive Species by Opening Closed Canopy Forests

Ever try to do the right thing and have it all go horribly wrong?

PG&E is in the midst of some bizarre and ill-advised efforts to make communities safer from "Utility Caused Wildfire". While this is a goal I think virtually everyone can support, it comes down to asking "what are they doing to accomplish this lofty goal?". That is where the trouble starts.

The Paradise fire was caused when "a live wire broke free of a tower that was a quarter-century past what PG&E considers its “useful life.”" (from the New York Times). While PG&E claims to be changing to a stronger safety footing, even California Governor Newsom states "They have simply been caught red-handed over and over again, lying, manipulating or misleading the public,” summing the situation up simply as “They cannot be trusted.” (also from the New York Times).

Now I get to see this behavior up close and personal, as they attempt to mow a corridor through a closed-canopy second growth Redwood and Oak forest bordering my property.

The trick to fire safety in a Redwood Forest is one of ground clearance - keep no limbs for the lower 50' or so of the trunk, and fire simply cannot climb into the canopy. However, those trunks will only stay free of growth if they are in the shade, such as happens once the canopy of the forest closes. Remove the canopy, and those trunks become green with new growth and young branches. This then becomes not just a ladder fire path to the canopy, but a ladder fire path immediately adjacent to the PG&E power lines.

To engineer anything, you need to understand the system as a system. Forest is not a one-size-fits-all sort of affair. Chaparral and Savannah type woodlands are very different from closed canopy forests with little ground-level growth or light. How the forest and other vegetation will respond matters and needs considered in any plan to manage risks.

The forest is more than the trees.

In our case, a flammable and highly invasive grass is moving into the area called Slender False Brome. The local Open Space District is actively trying to limit the spread and in fact eradicate this species as it poses several risks, including fire.

Here is a photo of the species growing along one of our neighborhood roads where a natural tree fall created an opening in the canopy. The grasses with the nodding seed heads are the problem ones.

Standing on the same spot, looking the other direction, the view is completely devoid of this noxious species because the closed canopy prevents sufficient light from reaching the ground to support growth of the grass.

Opening power line corridors to the sky is inconsistent with California Public Utilities Commission guidelines (which recommend a small radial distance be cleared from the lines, not clearing to the sky).

There is an adage about "the road to ... being lined with good intentions". Certainly this approach to closed canopy forests is going to line the area under the powerlines with easily ignited grasses that are tinder dry in late summer and fall, when fire risks are highest. It might even look like the road to ... should a line fall into such perfect kindling.

The kindling aspect aside of Slender False Brome, creating paths for rapid and deep spread in the largest forest lands in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties seems unwise at best, and seriously negligent at least in my eyes.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Defending our Fig Trees from Rodents

This is BD's (our son's) fig tree. It doubles as a train, spaceship (such as the Roton), and factory.

Living in a Redwood Forest and practicing what we call "permacultural forest infill farming" has some strong benefits (leaving the Redwoods and Douglas Fir trees increases our effective rainfall by about 50% since they actively convert fog to fog drip), yet has a few downsides (all the critters are still here...).

Our son recently discovered rodents harvesting twigs, leaves, and the all-important figs from our fig tree - his fig tree and favorite climbing tree - which was a declaration of war as far as he was concerned.

This is a transcript of his dictated Call-To-Arms Blog Entry (very lightly edited)

"OK, stop talking. Hey everyone um I just wanted to tell you we're having problems with our fig tree, because rodents are climbing up our fig tree and stealing our branches and figs. I was just wondering could you help us do this because we need help we need all of my friends help to a make the fig tree be better so um would you like to come to our house today to help us fix our fig tree. When you're done you can so and we can like have a little party at our for tree so please help us fix our fig tree. Thank you."

The culprits seem to be chipmunks, since they are also attacking other plants and we've caught them in the act... Look just above center right in the photo below.

Tanglefoot seems to prevent more damage, so we have cut back branches that touch the ground and applied to about 24" of the lower trunk. Other species could be involved, such as Grey Tree Squirrels and Dusky Footed Woodrats. We've caught all three eating plants in the seedling troughs.

Madrone Bark Harvest is Underway

If you are the sorts of folks that enjoy Madrone Bark Tea, the season is now underway to collect freshly fallen bark curls!

Saturday, August 10, 2019

The Bagging of the Trilliums

Trilliums inhabit deep and moist woodlands across the North American Temperate Zone. Some, since they are not known as great map readers, seem to have even wandered into Eastern Asia.

In California we have several species of these Lily relatives. The flower in Spring, and produce seeds in Summer in berries. Most of them have seeds dispersed by ants, though that gets harder to demonstrate if the berries actually ripen - they simply fall off at that point!

To collect actually ripe seeds of Trillium ovatum such as shown above on our land, the seed filled berry needs captured in a mesh bag before it actually ripens.

This last weekend was our weekend for bagging the berries on this species in our yard. The other local species was collected a week or two ago: Trillium chloropetalum. Our son is a fierce defender of these little plants and actively helps seek them out and protect them. Here he is heading back up our hill after helping with bagging of the Trillium berries!

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Anna - The Apple Actually Fruits!

Anna is among the first of the apple trees we planted in our orchard - back in 2003. Every year it is the first to flower, covering itself with blooms. Until this year, that was all the more we got - it never previously set fruit. In case it never happens again, I thought I'd commemorate the event!

This is an early season apple, ripening ahead of all our other varieties. I look forward to trying one!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Goumi Berries!

Elaeagnus multiflora grown at LittleGrove Farm! 

It is Goumi Season! This seems to run right around the end of June and be over by the middle of July for us in the Santa Cruz Mountains. These normally are exceptionally abundant on the bushes, however, that is before my son had a "snack".

This is hard to find in any markets, so we grow them ourselves. The berries are soft, sweet and with a nice flavor when ripe, yet pucker-y if you get them before they are soft and fully ripe. There is a single seed in the center. The seeds are soft enough to eat and have the same basic flavor as the rest of the berry.

My son says "They are tasty when they are ripe and sour when they are not ripe".

Monday, July 8, 2019

Ahuna Mons on Ceres in scale model made by Botta's Pocket Gophers

Now you don't need to go to Ceres to see Ahuna Mons... or at least a scale model.

This is a mound of dry, unconsolidated soil pushed out and up through a circular hole entrance. The artist is a Botta's Pocket Gopher living in the Blue Oak Savannah of the central Sierra Nevada foothills.

What I find interesting about it is that structures at radically different scales on disparate worlds can be made by similar processes, even in a back yard.

While there are better analogs at closer scales (Inyo Domes for example) this is essentially the same process, admittedly at a lower temperature.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Math Photo Challenge, Week 1 - Flowers and leaves of the genus Paris #mathphoto19 #five

After a morning of foggy forest math games, the Math Photo Challenge came to mind immediately when I found this jewel in the office garden:

Unknown Paris sp.

Can you believe those spindly yellow bits are flower petals?! The Wikipedia entry on Paris polyphylla does a nice job of talking about this type of plant anatomy.

As I showed Rob my attempts at taking a photo, he told me there was a surprise hiding in that garden. Another Paris, this time with light pipes on the leaves that make it shimmer and reflect light like my beloved Southern African Nerine flowers. 

Zoom the photo below to see glints of blue. Best picture I could take, folks

The Heronswood Nursery was a purveyor of rare and exotic plants grown from wild seed. In the early 2000s, Rob received this unknown Paris sp. and the Paris luquanensis shown above.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Math Photo Challenge: Week 1 of Ag, Botanical, Geological participation

We love math and we love the natural world. What better way to celebrate both than through participation in this year's Math Photo Challenge?

#MathPhoto19 #five

This is our entry for Week 1: Five. It's a Desert Five Spot (Jepson), photographed near our land in Joshua Tree National Park.

I simply admire them for their beauty, delicacy, improbable environment, vigor, and design.

My son wants to know, "Why does it have curved lines on [the petals]?"

Asked this question, my husband tells us these striations are nectar guides for pollinators.  I immediately want to return with a black (ultraviolet) light. Assuming they remain open at night...

Alas, these beauties were photographed on 20190325.

Looking forward to posting more in this challenge! (challenge website)

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Opinionated Shrubs - Beware!

Yesterday my son and I were hiking in 3 or 4 year post-burn Chapparal just south-west of the intersection of the Garlock and San Andreas Faults.

We had rehearsed what to do if we encountered a rattlesnake: stop then back away.

Then we found one and got to put that into practice.

It is electrifying to have an ordinary bush begin buzzing loudly - there are no giant Cicadas here - leading to poorly considered actions. That is why we practiced and rehearsed snake encounter procedures BEFORE actually encountering one.

In this case, it paid off! We came within a few feet before it made its presence known, at which point we moved away briskly as planned. End result: snake is unharmed, we are unharmed.

Rattlesnakes are often just under the drip line of bushes. This allows them to bask and avoid predation by hawks. The downside of this is you can get quite close before the snake is aware of you or you are aware of the snake. Practicing calm and stop-back away helps in moments like this.

I have not identified the species yet. This video was taken from outside of strike range (the snake never tried to strike), through the Adenostoma fasciculatum bush that had concealed the snake.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Masked Bandit - Merriam's Chipmunk

They are cute. They are fluffy. These nefarious critters dig up and eat my seedlings! OK, so no one is perfect...

I bought a wildlife camera to identify the creature that was helping his or her self to my seedlings. Turns out it is a Merriam's Chipmunk, Tamias merriami. Now that I know the identity of the masked seedling bandit, I still need to figure out how to convince the critter to gnaw on other esculents.

Just as I was ruminating on what to do (I am going to try replaying a chipmunk warning call to him), I find that he has a sidekick!

This larger creature is a Western Grey Squirrel, Sciurus griseus. I don't have any photos of this one up to mischief (I have the Chipmunk actually eating the plants), though it is an arboreal species (lives in trees). There must be some reason it is not just on the ground, but more, sitting on my planting troughs. I am suspicious.

My son would be happy to have either as a pet, he wants me to catch them (nope!) instead of just encourage them to feast somewhere else. At least I intend to attempt discouraging their noshing... if my massive success with the deer is any indication, I should be adjusting to nibbled seedlings...