Point Pinole pier with toyon bush in foreground.
Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. The little island to the left of the bridge is Red Rock Island, the only privately owned island in the bay. It marks the meeting of San Francisco, Marin and Contra Costa counties. It’s for sale and can be yours for just $5 million (marked down from $12 million). It has no water, but plenty of manganese ore, if that’s your thing.
The small north garden has become a favorite bird habitat. The spiky foreground plants are asparagus ferns. The orange flowers are Iochroma coccinea, beloved of hummingbirds, and perching birds also favor the plant. The ground cover is probably oxalis, which I should remove before it takes over. The yellow grass is Stipa arundinacea, which is reliably attractive in our area. Against the fence on the right is Victorian Box (Pittosporum undalatum), which the birds planted.
This little guy — a White-Crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys gambelii), if I’m not mistaken — appears to think he’s tough. All the birds love the iochroma.
Actually, his alert expression is a characteristic of these birds, at least during their migratory season. Researchers — here’s one link — hope to figure how they have been able to stay alert with reduced sleep, hoping the findings might have human applications.
The white pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) are back at Lafayette Reservoir. Unfortunately, I only had my cell phone, and I’ll need to go back with a better camera. (I’ll update this post then.)
The white pelicans are large birds, with wingspans of as much as nine feet. From a distance they look like swans, until you see their beaks. They are social and, unlike the more common brown pelicans, they are surface feeders, not divers.
Where do these birds go in the summer?
I noticed at our local library a series of mysteries by Edith Maxwell featuring an organic gardener who solves crimes. Books in the series all have titles like Farmed and Dangerous, Murder Most Fowl, and Mulch Ado about Murder. In the spirit of authorial solidarity, I hearby offer Ms. Maxwell some further titles for her consideration:
Feel free to add your own contributions.
Recently I posted on my Facebook timeline a photo of gabion materials I had ordered to replace a concrete retaining wall that had failed. Some people were unfamiliar with gabions and asked to know more about this ancient construction technique.
UPDATE, Oct. 2017. The best resource for current wind patterns now seems to be sailflow. A detail of a screen capture from the site is shown above.
The USGS webpage referenced below from the original publication of this post in 2007 has been discontinued “due to lack of support and redirection of research efforts”—which seems a shame. The site now redirects to a San Jose Meteorology department page. As of today that site does not seem to be functioning. I hope that this information gets back up online soon. We could certainly use it in view of this season’s devastating fires. If anyone knows of better resources, please leave info in the comments.
Original post from Oct. 2007:
Here’s an unusual and interesting resource. The U.S. Geological Survey has a website that shows current wind conditions around the San Francisco Bay Area (they are considering a predictive model as well). There are two or three visualizations available, including the very cool flash “streaklines” (which unfotunately I can’t display here, and which might not work on some systems).
In the visualization above, the arrow size indicates exact speed (in knots, which are equal to 1.15 mph or 1.85 kph), while the color shows a certain range of speed. Speeds are at 10 meters and directions from true north. You can see that this morning there were strong winds blowing toward the Golden Gate from Marin, across midpeninsula, and at Mount Diablo.
Tarragon vinegar is a staple of French cuisine. (French chefs often combine it with mustard.) “I believe that if ever I had to practice cannibalism,” James Beard said, “I might manage if there were enough tarragon around.”
It’s easily made. I took a sprig of French tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa) from the garden and placed it in a sterilized bottle. Then I submersed it in boiling white wine vinegar. Let cool and cap. If you are using fresh French tarragon from the garden the result will be excellent — wonderful in salad dressings but also great even for things like deglazing skillets.
For best results, store in a dark place for a couple of weeks to allow the tarragon oils to infuse.
Our garden lies in what Sunset calls “one of Northern California’s finest horticultural climates.” We are located in an area of wet mild winters and dry mild summers — a Mediterranean climate zone. It’s region with unique challenges and opportunities. I love gardening here.
Approaches to gardening are strongly determined by scale. Our garden is a small family garden. Its core was formerly a swimming pool. Often we might be growing just a single plant in a container, or a handful of plants, where a larger-scale gardening operation might be planting long rows of crops. Over time we have adjusted to find the right balance for our home garden.
All this new stuff goes on top
turn it over, turn it over
wait and water down
from the dark bottom
turn it inside out
let it spread through
Sift down even
Watch it sprout.
A mind like compost.
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