Wednesday, November 30

Bits of Good Things

Looking back through my blog, the 5 good things list was easily one of the best things to re-read. It was good to come up with the list when the day didn't seem particularly lovely.

1. Sun!
2. A ball of yarn waiting to be used.
3. A text from my brother
4. Laughing with a co-worker across the country.
5. Flat fortune cookies.

Sunday, November 20

The end of an era

Mature trees within the city can be an enormous benefit to the atmosphere of a neighborhood. If they are well cared for and happen to be in a happy location, they can thrive and provide benefits of shade, beauty, stormwater reduction and a habitat for animals (just to name a few). However, there is always the threat of property damage when you have large trees in a city.

We have a great view from our back porch - we can see our yard, our landlady/neighbors yard, and the houses beyond. In my landlady's yard, a huge beautiful Live Oak tree was set right at the back half of her yard. Then one night I heard a crack, and half the tree came down into her yard. Luckily, it was the half that was reaching out over her yard.

She tried to just take off the part that was on the ground. If this had happened out in a field you could probably get away with it. Unfortunately - because of the way the tree became "unbalanced" the other half of the tree had to come down as well.

The landlady actually had to have someone from the city to come out to inspect the tree to make sure it had to come down. Oak trees are protected in our city, so she had to have a permit. She told me that the City arborist said her tree had included bark at the split point and it did indeed have to come down. I wish I had photos of the tree removal process, but my camera had run out of space. It was quite the interesting endeavor, with the workers swinging around on a rope with chainsaws. Whoa.

So the arborist said that the tree had included bark. What happened, is that the tree broke at its weakest point. When branches grow at a very narrow angle, bark becomes an increasingly large part of the connection between the branch and the trunk. Bark isn't an attachment structure of a tree. So as the weight increases on the branch, the small amount of actual connective tissue comes under increasing stress and inevitably gives way.

Ideally in city trees, when they are young, you prune them to try to mitigate the threat of potential property damage.

To the right is a preferable branch arrangement with the lovely 45-degree angle. On the left is an example of a narrow attachment that will most likely form with included bark. Photos from Urban Tree Foundation

So once the first part came off, the second part of the tree was more likely to come down as well. Who knows when it would have happened, but it would definitely have been way more of an issue than the first part, and including other property owners. Not pretty!

So - I know all this because I just finished a Citizen Arborist class conducted by Friends of the Urban Forest in San Francisco. It was amazing! We touched on everything from planting, to pruning, to identifying trees. I just wanted to share this perfect example that happened in the middle of the class, so I knew exactly what was going on, and why they had to take down the entire tree.

Hopefully in the next few weeks I can talk more about taking care of urban trees as I'm actually out doing it in the city! First assignment: Assessing the condition of newly planted trees.

EDIT: The after picture.

Saturday, November 19

Monterey Bay Aquarium

The Boy took me here for my birthday two weeks ago. We went the day after my actual birthday because it was Veterans Day and he had the day off! Um, so did everyone else. Still, despite the noise and the traffic, it was still a GREAT place to go.

This was a shot of part of the migrating salmon exhibit...turned out looking so surreal!

Thar she blows! There were otters out there :o)

And then the otters in the exhibit! I think combined, we spent 30-40 mins just watching these ladies. They are so amazing.


And seahorses! This one is a baby - they had a bunch in an exhibit with magnifying glass so you could see them well!

Today was a nice quiet day. Tested this caramel creams "cow tales" recipe from another blog. Didn't really work out for me...some of the caramel was overdone and some was soft enough to roll into the cow tales shape. I made 8 little ones though! The rest I broke I have to figure out what to do with it! I thought maybe I could use it to sweeten my coffee. BF decided that we just have to eat it. Slowly. Over time. :o) Though I did make caramel for the first time, so I'm glad I took that first step! I'm going to try again for xmas gifts.

Monday, August 15

Aquarium of the Bay

This was a great place....very serene and lovely. I would definitely go back more often if the tickets weren't almost 20 bucks for an "adult" like me.

Friday, August 12

Days of Nature...uh...

Okay. I totally understand the goal. To get you doing something for 30 days to make it a habit, or to really get into the feel of things. 30 straight days of nature is a perfectly lovely idea. That being said: I live in a city. Yes, I do happen to live in an area where nature is coveted and coerced to come out of every nook and cranny of window boxes and sidewalk utility strips. But I'm not going to kid myself and call sitting on the sidewalk communing with hand planted greenery "nature." I guess I could stretch it my saying "human-nature" or "human-created nature," but this is for me. And that's not what I meant.

Despite the fact that I practically live in one of the largest cities on the west coast, there is plenty to do. And there is also the fact that I have and awful, terrible, no-good memory. So when things happen that I want to remember or to relate - I'll try to put it here. Starting today, because, psh. I've been here for 4 months? I don't remember ANYTHING (that's an utter lie. It's been perfectly lovely, but I've been a grump because I'm sorta lonely. So lets just try and forget that whole bit and learn to be lonely and appreciate it, right?)

Today, instead of struggling to focus on doing work in my house, or slurping down excesses of coffee to make up for my lengthy work stays in cafes, I went to the library. Duh, right? The library near me is far too small and well used (how cool is that?!) for me to focus on work. So I went to the San Francisco one. I'm currently shaking my head in disbelief that I haven't done that before.

It's a large library - I settled on the 4th floor, 2nd being the children's library, the third being too crowded, and I hadn't gotten to the 5th or 6th levels yet. I was instantly more productive. Of course that was once I figured out that I had to be close to a hot spot to get good enough wifi for all my work connections. I was there a good 3 hours before I took a quick snack break in the cafe at the lower level. Headed back upstairs because I figured, what the heck. If can pound out more work, it's worth it. I'm there for another...oh, 2 hours before a gentleman with a laptop came wandering by with some mumbles and eventually sat down across from me at the communal work tables. I don't think much of it.

Until he REALLY starts mumbling. Like. Focusing on stuff and talking in that direction. It got to the point where it would distract me. So, like I usually do, I start saying bits and pieces of the things I'm working on to keep me focused. ...and it actually quiets him down for a bit. I stop, because he's become quiet. A short while later though, he starts up again: "Your HOLE is OPEN. That's the reason..bladity..blah...mummble do." So, I start my bit up again. Thankfully, I was pretty tired of work by this point, so I finish up and pack up to the sound of this fellow, outraged that the holes are still open. Good luck with that buddy.

I did get a library card for there though! I'm excited, they let you PICK which decoration you want on your card!

So there are my city experiences for the day. As I walked to the BART, I pulled out my headphones and was content to pretend I didn't hear the city for the rest of the way home.

Sunday, August 7

Day 2 - Redwood Regional Forest

This visit was such a renewing experience. The past few weeks have been emotionally hard on me for some reason, yet as I walked up the first path, barely out of sight from the parking lot, this is what I saw:

And yes, I got all teary. True, these redwoods are not the monsters that can be in other regions where conditions favor their growth. However, they still had that quiet majesty that I imagined Redwoods have. The eternal hum of the nearby highway near our house and the ruckus from construction a block away was hardly a memory here. I could hear voices and the happy shrieks from nearby summer day campers and yet there was that underlying stillness that you only find when you are amidst great amount of biomass to damper the background static of modern life.

So here I wandered for a good portion of an afternoon. A lot of it did happen to be aimless wondering (I had no map!) but it didn't matter. If you have no destination, then it can be incredibly relaxing.

Once I finally located a map, I decided to hike to the top of the noted Redwood Peak. It wasn't a very hard climb at all. At the top was several boulders and a United States Geological Survey (USGS) marker officially marking the highest point of the peak.

View of the peak:

USGS Marker:

I attempted to continue on a path identified as the Redwood Peak trail. However, as I discovered why my initial hike to the peak was easy - I had parked in a location that was already elevated. The Redwood Peak trail heading north away from the peak turned out to be a downhill hike to the nearby Redwood Creek. The map I had indicated that the trail to the creek was "only" bit over a half mile, so I figured I could take it without much effort.

Yeah. I think I got about halfway down the trail before realizing, I would have to come back UP that way. The trail spanned a 700 foot elevation change within that short half mile, so as I forgot to factor in, it was pretty steep. And seeing as I already used a lot of my energy by wandering aimlessly, I decided to try it again another day.

Here is a link to the map of the Redwood Regional Park. You can see the trail I took is just to the north of the area named Redwood Bowl.

Wednesday, August 3

30 Days of Nature

Since there is so much to explore here in the Bay area, that I figure I would give myself a place to start. This 30 day thing is a recent trend. is currently in the midst of 30 Days of Fun. While that does sound great, I find reading a book fun - so that wouldn't be all that interesting to get me writing about (currently reading The Baroque Cycle by Neil's a tad challenging). Instead, to get me out of the house, I'll be trying to experience some sort of nature every day for at least 30 days. Here is where I'll write about it and hopefully post pictures (though I have misplaced my camera battery charger and won't have "real" photos until I do...). Anyway.

Day 1
Marina Park. Okay, So I started off "small." It's less of a park and more of a parking lot near the Bay. It's at the very tip of a curved peninsula off to the west side of Emeryville. It appears to connect to a large running/walking/biking/non-vehicular use trail that is along the eastern side of the Bay.

Looking north on the Bay:
Also: squirrels? that live in the ground? These need some investigating:

Aww...cute little feller! Especially seeing as he didn't try to attack me! And whatdda know, they are actually called California Ground Squirrels! Man, that's awesome. I didn't even have to do any digging.

Well, there. Now there are two things that I didn't know previously existed. Tomorrow: Redwoods. Things I did know previously existed, and may have gotten emotional being in their presence. Yes, I mean presence of trees. I was not kidding about the tree hugger bit!

Monday, August 1

Experiment in California Housewifery

Frustrating: Folding a fitting sheet.
Humiliating: The number of times I had to watch youTube videos to get it right. (when one woman said "one of the most challenging things you will have to do in your life is folding a fitted sheet" I wanted to reach in there and shoulder punch her. Lady. Rock climbing is challenging, relationships are challenging. This is just stupid.)

Frustrating: The amount of laundry I do in a week.
Humiliating: The excitement I had puling out that stupid pourer thing in the laundry bottle so I could get the remaining soap out for one more load. And cleaning it so I could recycle it.

When I worked I could care less about this stuff. Now that I'm home most of the day, I have time to contemplate it and spend the extra 10 stupid minutes to figure it out.

But now I'm off to explore the Redwood Regional Park(!).

...still trying to decide if the benefits outweigh the frustrations.