Sunday, November 28, 2010

Of Bullfrogs and Frost

After three days and nights of frost and freeze warnings, with plants draped with pillow cases and sheets or covering dining room tables, our pond frog decided to try to high-tail it outta here when it warmed up a little and started raining on Saturday.

When I was getting ready to leave for work in the morning I found him far from the pond, which he never goes far from, and about 1/2 way to the front yard on the side of the house. He was super cold and stiff sitting there on the bricks. And for the first time EVER, he was handled by a human and I got to pick him up and bring him inside to warm up.

We plopped him down in some slightly warm water and he immediately started to loosen up. We've made a little habitat for him inside, bringing him outside in it to bask in the sunlight in the morning. It's too dark to take good photos of him in his current habitat right now, but it's got a basking rock out of the water, a multi-bulb of blue water lilies from the pond and a couple small fish.

We usually don't see him much this time of year, unless it's warm enough for him to be basking. But, with the crazy weather we've been having this fall I'm pretty sure he was tired of colds and hots back and forth and was trying to leave.

Not sure how long we'll keep him in, probably some time in the next few days. But, I do know that that's the best photo we've ever gotten of him. When living outside in the pond he's quite elusive!

Update: We let him back into the pond the next day since it was a bit warmer. He was there for a few days and was last seen by our immediate next door neighbor jumping around property. We figure he might just be up for an adventure this winter, so we don't have any plans to search him out.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Dry Creek Native Garden

I had work off today, a manditory government employee furlough day, so I ran some errands and hit up the Dry Creek Native Garden. Today is one of the few days I'll have a chance since I work during the garden's open hours. It's open Thursdays-Saturdays 10:00am to 4:00pm.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Local Honey

We've been slowly working away at our honey jar for over a year and finally emptied it out. We had bought the honey at our local, small produce store which sometimes sells honey collected from beehives in our neighborhood. (FYI: Dan actually worked at Estudillo Produce one summer a couple years ago.)

Scott Terry, one of our neighborhood beekeepers, jars the honey and sells some to Estudillo Produce occasionally. He wrote an SFGate article about his beekeeping (our old jar has the same label as the one pictured) and he's also mentioned in an article about the Bay-Friendly Garden Tour.

We kept forgetting to stop by Estudillo Produce to see if there's any honey jars - they aren't always there, there's never a large stock and they can sell out quickly. So, it was great luck that one of the members of the Alameda County Beekeepers Association left some personal belongings behind after their monthly meeting at my work on Tuesday and dropped off a jar in thanks when he picked them up the next morning. A very sweet perk to working at the Rotary Nature Center alongside Lake Merritt in Oakland; as if there weren't a lot of beautiful and fun perks already!

I didn't catch the beekeeper's name and I'll have to ask him if I see him again soon. But, here's a cellphone photo of our newly gifted honey jar in the backyard this morning:

Monday, October 25, 2010

Japanese Gardens

With my new position at the Rotary Nature Center by Lake Merritt, Mondays are now my Sundays. I was thinking of going to the Garin/Dry Creek Native and Exotic Gardens in Hayward today, but in looking up more information it isn't open on Mondays. I'm hoping I'll get to see it at some point, since I've never been there, but my new work days may not let me.

So, since I'd never been to the Japanese Gardens in Hayward, Dan suggested we finally go and grab a slice from Pizza Express for lunch.

It was very quiet and peaceful to walk through. And a perfect day to visit after a very rainy weekend.

Still hoping I'll be able to visit the Native Garden, though. Maybe during a work field trip, since I need to be learning my natives flora in addition to my native fauna.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Friends of Sausal Creek Native Plant Sale

On this rainy Bay Area day, we went out to Joaquin Miller Park to shop the Native Plant Sale put on by the Friends of Sausal Creek. We love Joaquin Miller Park and love hitting up the Native Plant Sale when we remember to. We picked up a few plants two years ago from the plant sale, but completely missed it last year. So, even though it was raining, we were pretty determined to go through the natives.

We brought our puppy Jax with (since Joey, our pit, is not a fan of rain) and he played in the rain for a bit with another dog at the sale. He was wrapped up in a towel on the way home in the car and fell asleep by the fireplace when we got home.

The natives we picked up:

Yellow-eyed/Golden-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium californicum)

Image © Las Pilitas Nursery

California Huckleberry/Evergreen Huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum)

Image © King County Native Plant Guide

Scarlet Bugler (Penstemon centranthifolius)

Image © Squamatologist

California Coffeeberry (Rhamnus californica)

Image © Las Pilitas Nursery

Douglas Iris (Iris douglasiana)

Image © California Flora Nursery

Red Bush Monkeyflower (Mimulus aurantiacus puniceus)

Image © Squamatologist

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Bits that don't make a solo post, yet.

There's a few things that I'd like to post on, but don't have much to say about just yet. So, here's a list of partials from the last couple of months, some of which will get a full post... eventually.

• Completely boarded the attic in the main house, where the POs left off and cleared out a bunch crap.

One of the previous owners put plywood in a good chunk of the attic and that's the portion we've been using over the last couple of years. They didn't board over the kitchen, which has cans popping up into the attic. We raised the floor level a step, over the canned lights, and boarded it up. It's amazing how much more space we have up there. We hadn't realized that the unboarded portion of the attic was such a huge section. Photos soon, but no befores since I didn't think of it at the time.

• We went to Echo Lake, near Lake Tahoe, this summer.

I'm slacking on posting Summer in Reverse. I need to get the photos all together. Dan and I went with his mom and sister and their dogs. Beautiful weather and beautiful little lakes.

• We started a compost bin in June.

Worms, fruits and veggies and browns. It's going great so far. There were flies, but managed to eliminate that issue. We have maggots in there, but they aren't harming so we haven't tried to clear them out. There's an awesomely rich chunk of fresh soil in there and it looks amazing.

• Finally figured out where I want to plant my pomegranate tree.

It was a birthday gift two or three years ago and has been in a large planter ever since. We took out the small turtle pond in the front yard when we replaced the windows earlier this year and now have a great spot for the pomegranate.

• Re-drew the front yard landscaping, again.

It's still a mix of fruit trees and a lot of native plants. We still need to decide what natives we want where. There's a native plant sale coming up at Joaquin Miller Park on the 24th, if we're able to go. Once I find one of the cables for the camera I'll post it.

• We picked out which city-approved tree we want planted in the sidewalk planting area.

And we know the steps we need to take to finally get that concrete broken up and removed so that we actually HAVE a sidewalk planting area. We absolutely hate that we don't have many trees at our end of the block. It looks barren and gets ridiculously hot. We think the Jacaranda suits our needs. Grows fairly fast, has a round, open canopy and has nice blue flowers. It'll be a little bit of maintenance (dropped flowers, seedpods), but honestly, there are two Jacaranda at the Dunsmuir Estate, where I worked all summer, and damn those things are gorgeous looking.

• Over the summer, I ran a small day camp at the Dunsmuir-Hellman Historic Estate.

I was brought on with ~2.5 weeks before summer and there hadn't been any promotion about it between then and the beginning of the year so the numbers were ridiculously low. The camp was stationed out of the original Milk Barn and had free reign around the estate. Wild deer, turkeys, foxes, skunks, cats and more would be around all the time. It was a blast.

• I'm being placed directly underneath the City of Oakland Naturalist and will be training underneath her.

Applied for a position in my organization (City of Oakland, Parks and Recreation) - oh... almost two years ago. They finally went through with hiring from the list of candidates this summer/fall. I'm crazy excited about this. I'll be working next to the first wildlife refuge in the US. I start on Tuesday. Partial benefits, pay bump and 30 hours a week. Finally.

• Dan and I took off a week of work and went to Chicago for our five year anniversary last week.

We both had free Southwest roundtrips from visiting while he was in college in So. California for two years. Most of my family is in Chicago, and that's where I was born, so we had free lodging wherever we went. We had so much fun. There'll definitely be a post on it once we remember all the things we did and have it all written down (we're a good chunk of the way there). Dan says it's his favorite vacation ever now. We volunteered to get bumped from our flight home if they needed space, we weren't in a hurry home, and bumped we got. Free 4.5 star hotel room, free flight the next day and we each got $400 flight vouchers. Our free trip got us more free trips!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Summer in Reverse - Garin/Dry Creek Regional Park

While we didn't get a lot done around the house (a little difficult with two of us running day camps) we did go places and do things. I will hopefully remember to keep posting belated summer events and current events frequently.

The first Saturday of September, we took our dogs and went with our friend Bruce and his dogs to take a long hike up in Garin/Dry Creek Park to Jordan Pond. It ended up being a really nice three hour hike. The dogs were tiiiired afterwards. It was great! And, surprisingly, our 12-year old pitbull (Joey) recovered from the hike within an hour. We were thinking he'd be out and need pain killers for a few days. He's had a lot more energy since then, too.

We took the long way there along the creek paths, across old tiny cattle bridges. We were never sure if we went the right way to get to Jordan Pond, so when we finally got there it was like an oasis to come up on.

Jordan Pond, with the dry, golden hills surrounding it.

We started at the Whipple entrance and hiked to Jordan Pond. The next time we go without the dogs, I'd love to check out the Dry Creek Garden which looked like it had a lot of native plants to check out.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Summer in Reverse - Lake Camanche

While we didn't get a lot done around the house (a little difficult with two of us running day camps) we did go places and do things. I will hopefully remember to keep posting belated summer events and current events frequently.

Lake Camanche

We headed out to Lake Camanche over the weekend. We brought the dogs and several friends and their dogs for a relaxing weekend camping by the side of the lake.

We caught a lot of seaweed and other things. No fish.

Lots of relaxing and gorgeous views.

Hundreds of dragonflies come out all at once. Tried as I might to get one to land on my hand, they were more interested in flying around and feasting.

We picked up a 1/2 bushel of apples on the way up there. We've made two delicious batches of apple chips (plain, lemoned, cinnamon and cinnamon and sugar), so far. We're thinking some apple pies are next.