Tuesday, March 03, 2015

On The Road Again

We started another 700 mile (1126 km) journey south on Sunday to see my mom. She hasn't been feeling well, and we really wanted to be with her to see how we could help. We always stop halfway at Roger's family beach house to spend the night. It's a grand trip, and Sunday's drive was probably the best we have ever taken. That's because there was NO TRAFFIC (except for the drive through the city of San Francisco, which involved hitting every traffic light red). But there was NO TRAFFIC getting into or out of the bay area, which is such an amazing thing that it needs to be repeated just for the awesome statement that it is!

One of the best upsides of having to stop at every traffic light in the city, is that we got to see something that is somewhat of a rare occurrence in the city. It was a stunningly clear day, and at one of the lights we looked west down the road and could see the Pacific Ocean. And, all the way out on the horizon, 30 miles away we could see the Farallon Islands. The first time I have ever seen them. It made stopping at the lights a truly wonderful event.

We also noticed while crossing the Golden Gate Bridge a huge cloud that looked a lot like an Incus formation south east of the city, reaching high above the city skyline. It's too difficult to photograph anything while driving over the bridge, and by the time we crossed it, the skyline was no longer in view, but the cloud still was. We saw this cloud for the 70 miles we drove south to Santa Cruz.

We saw it over the San Francisco airport.

We saw it over the radio-telescope at Stanford University. The telescope has a 150 foot diameter.

But we were utterly surprised to see it when we arrived at the beach house, which faces southeast.  It stretched out across the horizon.

We saw this formation all the way into the sunset. And then just before dark it flashed lightning from deep inside. It was quite a sight.

I told Roger, "This cloud followed us here. Can we keep it?" I'm not sure if it really was an Incus, but it was beautiful.

My mom has asked to postpone the trip a few days until she feels stronger to have us come and stay. So, we wait here on the bay for her call.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

End of February Photos

Just some of the photos that didn't make it into a blog post this month. Farewell to February.
American Avocet

The fog coming in

Marsh Wren

Sunrise looking east

Sunrise looking west

Red-shouldered hawk
Moon, Venus, and Mars
Yellow-rumped Warbler

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

First Faraway, Then Close-up

It had been many years since Roger and I saw a White-tailed Kite. They are such memorable little raptors. We were so surprised to see one again, and we got to see them three days in a row. On the first sighting, I did not have the camera. The bird was hovering and hunting so close to where we were walking, it would have made an incredible shot--trust me on that! The second time it was far, far off in the distance in its standard hunting position.
It was really much too far for a good shot, but I wasn't going to let that stop me. The Cornell Birding website describes the White-tailed Kite hunting behavior this way:
While hunting, the White-tailed Kite characteristically hovers up to 80 feet off the ground and then drops straight down onto prey items. This ability to hold a stationary position in midair without flapping is accomplished by facing into the wind, and is so characteristic of these birds that it has come to be called kiting.
The next day, we got a much better and closer view of another White-tailed Kite while it preened and looked around from the top of a tree.
The White-tailed Kite has a very interesting range. I made a copy of the Cornell website range map to post here.
While it does say that it is a year-round bird here, it also says that, "Although some populations fluctuate regularly in size, it is unknown whether the White-tailed Kite is migratory, nomadic, or both." Isn't that wildly interesting?

So, yes, we were really happy to see this bird again. Such a fascinating and beautiful little raptor. I added the above photo, just for one more look. Hello beautiful!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Sheep In Our Bones

After my osteoporosis diagnosis, Roger and I began an online search of the best ways to maintain and grow new bone mass. All of the pharmaceutical interventions sounded horrible to us, so we knew I wouldn't go in that direction. We both had our Vitamin D levels checked and were not surprised to learn that we were low. I had a doctor's appointment on Friday to discuss the bone density and lab test results. She suggested that we increase our Vitamin D3 intake to 3000 units a day. For many years I had only been taking 400 units and had been thinking I was adding to that with sunlight. Hah. Not happening at this latitude in winter.

So we went to the co-op to get our D3 supplements and came home with the co-op brand. I looked at the back of the label because I'm always curious about everything and saw this: Vitamin D3 (as cholecalciferol from wool oil) 2000 IU. WHAT? What do they mean wool oil? Where does Vitamin D3 actually come from, I wondered? I began googling around and had my mind blown and my consciousness raised and thought I should share it here.

The only naturally occurring Vitamin D3 in food is found in fatty fish, and the most is found in cod liver oil. So, unless your Vitamin D3 label specifically says fish oil, it probably says cholecalciferol, which means it is from lanolin made from sheep wool. The process is rather bizarre:

Lanolin is derived from wool-bearing animals like sheep. To get vitamin D from lanolin, supplement manufacturers first purify it and crystallize it, then put it through a chemical process that produces a substance called 7-dehydrocholesterol. The 7-dehydrocholesterol is then liquefied in an organic solvent and exposed to ultraviolet radiation. These chemical changes turn 7-dehydrocholesterol into a substance called vitamin D-3. Next, supplement manufacturers further purify and crystallize this vitamin and add it to their products.

I had never heard of such a thing, but it's completely true. We are not opposed to deriving our Vitamin D3 from fish, but thought if we could get it from another source that didn't require an animal dying, that would be better. So, sheep wool seems fine because the sheep lives another day after its wool has been sheared. Still, the whole process seems more like science fiction than science.
Photo borrowed from the internet
Sure would be nice and simple to just derive all the Vitamin D3 our bodies need from the sun. I read that the body stops producing Vitamin D3 from sunlight when it reaches the appropriate level. Aren't bodies the coolest thing ever?

(Many thanks to fellow blogger and raiser of beautiful sheep and lambs Rain at Rainy Day Thoughts for letting me use her beautiful photos.)

Monday, February 16, 2015

A Panorama of Geological History

When Roger and I went for a walk on Monday we noticed this sign on a part of the Hammond Trail we hadn't been on before.
I'll write here what the sign says in the lower left:
A Geologic Staircase--with Marine-Deposited Carpeting

Looking north towards Trinidad, you can see a sequence of abandoned marine terraces, or wave-cut platforms, rising inland from the sea in a roughly staircase formation.

Waves pound against the exposed shoreline cutting a vertical face over time. Wave action then planes smooth the sea floor at the base of the cliff, forming the flat surfaces of the next terrace ‘step.’ Marine sediments are deposited on the flat surfaces. These terraces rise up as the Gorda Plate thrusts under the North American Plate. They then become the vegetated, inhabited landscape you see today.

I wanted you to see what it's like to look to north from this point and see what this sign is talking about. I have been inspired by Mark P of CaniConfidimus to try to piece together a panorama, and this task was perfect. I haven't tried to do a panorama in years. This photo is three separate shots, showing Trinidad Head and Strawberry Rock, the abandoned seastack.

Trinidad Head is an erosion-resistant block of gabbro (similar to basalt in composition) in the Franciscan Complex bedrock— an assemblage of diverse rocks embedded in a soft matrix of sheared shale and serpentinite.

Strawberry rock, visible in the distance, is an abandoned, erosion-resistant seastack (composed of greenstone rock, a metamorphosed basalt), that rose with the surrounding land during periods of tectonic uplift. You can see present-day seastacks scattered along the coastline.

You have to click on the panorama and look to the right from Trinidad Head to see Strawberry Rock, and along the way notice those marine terraces. I've added the above close-up, in case you miss the rock. I think the interesting thing to consider when looking at a beautiful ocean landscape like this is the nearly unfathomable number of years it took to create this scene. And there, in a little rise is a formation so easily missed, a seastack:  a geological landform consisting of a steep and often vertical column or columns of rock in the sea near a coast, formed by erosion. Stacks are formed over time by wind and water, processes of coastal geomorphology.

There's nothing quite like getting my weight-bearing exercise while walking along this stunning expanse of ocean, and learning something new all at the same time. Yes!

UPDATED on Wednesday, February 18

I wondered if it might be possible to hike to Strawberry Rock, so I googled around and found this incredibly interesting site. The seastack is located in a 2nd growth redwood forest. This link will take you to a website that shows the efforts by locals to save that forest. More beautiful naked people laying their bodies down for the earth.