Sunday, December 2, 2012

Walnut Creek and Heather Farm Park after 1.5-inch rainfall

Normally this section of Walnut Creek (uglified as a canal to prevent flooding) is placid and so shallow, you could theoretically walk alongside the water without getting your feet wet. But not today after a RAGING monsoon hit this morning. It was a wall-of-water falling for at least two hours, dumping more than an inch of rain before 9 A.M.

It cleared up by early afternoon and we took a stroll to see what we could see. Crazy-fast water from the creek, heading out to sea. And the lake in the nature habitat at Heather Farm Park rose up over the road and into the creek along the walking path. A lone worker (later joined by a small crew) was trying to unclog a drain with a single shovel. Hail, water-district personnel!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve - Oakland, California

A walk around the Sibley Volcanic loop in the Oakland Hills is a geological trip through magmatic time! Grab a map at the information kiosk in the parking lot and head out for a footnoted hike around the remains of a sheared section of a 10.5 million-years-old volcano. Oakland truly has it all.

The labyrinth at the bottom of the remains of a quarry. Mt. Diablo is visible from this bluff and in the other direction, we saw Mt. Tam in Marin. It was a very clear day.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Incredible View from the Lawrence Hall of Science Parking Lot

The San Francisco Bay Area has some incredible parking-lot views. The parking tower at UCSF on Parnassus with the entire Golden Gate Park and Pacific Ocean to its left, comes to mind. Same with the top floor of the structure above the Festival Theater in Walnut Creek, surrounded by three mountain-ridge formations plus Mt. Diablo towering over all and more often than not, shining in the sun.

But the parking-lot view adjacent to Berkeley's Lawrence Hall of Science is the most breathtaking in scope. Yesterday we pulled into a space overlooking the sweeping panorama of the San Francisco Bay where five cities were easily viewable, along with the Bay, Golden Gate and Richmond Bridges. Plus Mt. Tam and the Berkeley campanile. Why, we could see our old house from there! (Not really, but with less tree cover—no doubt we could).

It was a bit hazy in the afternoon, clearing up by sunset. My little camera cannot do it justice, but here's a captioned image of the view from our car. As always, click to enlarge.

The Lawrence Hall of Science is a fun, interactive kids' science museum. A big bunker of a bomb-shelter-like building cut into the side of the Berkeley Hills. The cafe has more breathtaking views from the hillside basement. Best time you'll ever have eating a bag of chips, I promise. The roof of the museum has gigantic whale and dna-strand climbing sculptures, but surprisingly, for such an expanse of concrete—no plant life in containers or otherwise. I guess you need to drive down the hill a quarter-of-a-mile and visit the excellent UC Botanical Garden. Hey, somebody get a grant to hire a gardening team for that rooftop.

Jackson and his friend Clarabelle had a very fun day, building stuff, testing flight patterns of modified junk in air tubes, riding a tricycle with square wheels, petting a snake, viewing a baby mastodon skeleton, and creating dams in the outdoor water and rock garden. Good stuff.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A walk in the park

That's right—I walked in the park, and here's what I saw.

Dramatic clouds

Royal Palm fronds with clouds

A big group of people playing cricket at lunchtime, cheering and having a good time.

A bark-shedding Eucalyptus that managed to survive the "thinning of the Eucalyptus grove" of last year. Hang in there, non-native, invasive, and highly combustible tree.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Back yard plants and their abstracts

I have not been out and about for a while, spending a lot of time drawing, painting and trying to write. (I like the research part of writing but at some point, I actually have to do the writing itself.) So I've been neglecting my nature world and that's not good. I went out in the back yard and took some close-ups of my potted varieties (official-sounding garden-speak) and then posed a little art challenge. Just zoom in for an abstract. Maybe I'll use these abstracts for a painting project. More research!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Guerrilla Grafters in San Francisco

Here's a link to an interesting article from the Los Angeles Times about guerrilla grafters—gardeners who are trying to turn San Francisco's ornamental fruit trees on the street into fruit-bearing trees. The original idea was to ask the city to plant fruit-bearing trees, especially in low-income neighborhoods that could use the extra fresh produce. But San Francisco won't plant fruit trees on the street, noting the mess and rodent problems that can surface,

I can vouch for this—my landlord has planted a number of fruit trees in our backyard and while I appreciate the plums, loquats and oranges (the apples and grapes never make it to ripening due to squirrels, birds and probably rats), it is messy. We also had a rat living in our drain pipe this summer, gorging itself on loquats until I took away his drainage tunnel. Still: fresh fruit is quite a treat from the yard. And sharing fruit with the neighbors is the neighborly thing to do.

The grafters promised to only plant fruit trees where households agreed to look after them. Still the city said no. So now a secretive grafting campaign has begun. Grafters make a plan, target a tree and a household, then graft on a fruit-bearing branch and wait to see if it "takes." If so: fruit tree.

Pretty ingenious. Yes, it could get messy. Cars will be bonked by the occasional apple or pear, I suppose. But most likely fruit will be picked and enjoyed by people and vermin. I have lived and worked in a few San Francisco neighborhoods where grocery stores were either nonexistent or lacking in fresh produce. Fruit trees are a good idea as long as residents can look after them. I've never quite understood the mania for cleanliness in gardening, especially when living in a temperate climate that can bring about so much edible abundance.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Beluga Whales of Mystic Aquarium

Mystical, curious, funny, smart, ghostly Belugas doing their charming thing in Mystic, Connecticut.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Crabs Are Born Free

Everyone went crabbing in Stonington, Connecticut and after we filled a bucket, the crabs were set free. One last summer activity before school starts. The first film is part of the 1-minute video project on Vimeo. Shoot a film for one minute—no camera movement; use natural sound—that's it. Minimalist cinema.

One Minute Crabbing in The Atlantic from Miss Lisa on Vimeo.

Crabs are set free!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Monarch Butterfly on a Zinnia

My mom-in-law has some great butterfly gardening areas in her yard. I tried so hard to get a shot of "wings open" but I guess when the butterflies sip nectar, they prefer their wings closed. They only seem to open them when they're getting ready to alight or take off. Perhaps if I had a super-expensive camera, or more patience. I do love that the head and thorax are spotty. I never noticed that before.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Trees of Southern Texas

My beloved Uncle Jacinto died recently and I just got back from San Antonio to attend his funeral service and visit with family. My Uncle was an extraordinary man and I'll miss him more than I can say. Here are some of the trees of Southern Texas: colorful, rugged, scented, givers of much-needed shade in the hot summer sun.

In front of the church in Helotes.

My Uncle and Aunt's back yard in the hills of southern Texas. I saw a road runner but he wouldn't stay to have his photo taken.

One of many birdhouses on their property.

This is a tough tree.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sunflowers are a gift that keep on giving

Man, the bees love these sunflowers. They're at 'em all day long. Little finches are pecking at the leaves as well, leaving them ragged and limp. I imagine the squirrels will be next once the seeds start to ripen and dry. If you want to feed the wildlife, plant some sunflowers.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Ducks and Geese at Dusk

Under a minute of feeding time and quiet contemplation at the pond. Check out the duck in the foreground—she is going to town.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Heather Farm Rose Garden

I promised myself I wouldn't be one of those photographers who takes photos of blurry flowers, but this "miniature" setting on my camera takes such pretty flower photos! It boosts the color somehow too. Even though these are all true-to-life colors, they look "glowing." The problem I have with flower photos, roses in particular, is that their "glowing" quality (which probably comes from sunlight bouncing off the petals) makes for some bad, blown-out photography with very little detail or depth. But this camera setting kind of helps fix that.

Here they are: blurry roses from the Heather Farm Park Rose Garden. I commend the volunteer gardeners who keep this patch of land so beautiful throughout the year. Flowering plants survive by attracting pollinators so pretend you're a bee or a butterfly—this must be your personal heaven.