Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: The Native Wilds of Spring

One Sierra Newt (Taricha torosa sierrae)
Two Sierra Newts

Three Sierra Newts

And so it begins... ah spring!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

What's a Parry Arc...Asked Nobody EVER!

Four minutes of sky November 26, 2011
A Parry Arc is a rare halo, an optical phenomenon which occasionally appears over a 22 degree halo together with an upper tangent arc.  On April 8, 1820 Sir William Edward Parry during one of his Arctic expeditions in search for the Northwest Passage made a drawing of this atmospheric phenomenon, hence the name.
Photo by Jane George, Huntsville, Alabama
Two months ago I had never heard of such a thing, but came across the photo of the month on The Cloud Appreciation Society website. They had a photo of this rather beautiful phenomenon that was shot of the Hurricane Sandy skies above Alabama.
The sky over our yard November 26, 2011
When I looked at the photo, it occurred to me that I had photographed something like it although in much less interesting skies. I had photographed it in November 2011, called it rainbows in the sky in my iPhoto album, and didn't think much of it. Last month I sent the photo to Les Cowley of Atmospheric Optics. He wrote me back and told me that I had indeed photographed a rare Parry Arc.

Here's the thing about the internet that I LOVE. Two months ago I had no idea what a Parry Arc was or even existed. I saw a photo that reminded me of something I had photographed over a year ago. A kind and generous-with-his-time physicist corresponds with me from the UK and confirms it. What would I have done even ten years ago with my never-ending desire to know everything? I really don't know. I guess we would have driven to the library, but I'm not sure I know how to search for something I'm not even sure exists. I think I could have done it with subject card catalogues, but imagine the work that would have been ahead of me starting out with a search on "rainbows in the sky."

Sunday, March 17, 2013

garden improvement

the previous owners here had a vegetable/flower garden. a twenty by twenty foot fenced square with a nice sliding gate, two raised beds, some plants in the ground, and a plastic tub with strawberry plants. there were also two raised beds outside the fence with screened sides and tops. we called it the boutique garden. it was pretty. it was way overbuilt. it was in the best spot they had for sun, which wasn't very good at all. okay for midsummer, but right up against big trees to the south.

we cleared some trees east of the house for our garden. lots more sun. i began dismantling the boutique garden last summer. the fence is gone. the two raised beds from inside the fence are now in our garden full of growing garlic and onions. here is a picture of one of those beds being delivered to its new site. sideways in the trailer.

today we moved one of the raised beds from outside the fenced boutique garden. these beds, with screened covers, won't fit in the trailer upright, i made a plywood platform for them so i don't have to cut the uprights. since the plan is for these two beds to have sunsrceen mesh on the roof so we can grow chard and broccoli and such here in the summer, i want to keep the roof structure.

here is how we moved the second bed. the first was a learning experience. not as neat.

here is my jury-rigged jack. the plan is to raise the bed enough for the 2x6 crosspiece to rest on the sawhorses.

here is the thing with the trailer under it.

ready to unload at its new location.

 both new beds in place. strawberries in the foreground. more about them later.


Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Potato Story

I first posted this eight years ago on the blog. I've never repeated a post before, but it seems so right. This is for my father, gone 21 years today.

My father died of liver cancer on March 14, 1992 (Sat, 9th of Adar II, 5752). I offer this post in his memory.

In 1993, as the first anniversary of my father's death approached I was quite inconsolable. My family was still grief-stricken; my father provided a lot of the emotional glue that held the family together. He was a very kind, gentle and sad soul who derived what joy he had from his wife and children.

I felt the need to mark that anniversary by drawing on several different traditions -- burn a yahrzeit, build an altar, place stones on a grave, make an offering of his favorite things (photographs of his loved ones, mystery novels, food). So, an elaborate blending of multi-cultural ritual was conceived, and in the center the yahrzeit burned for 24 hours to mark that awful day. Roger and I took a dozen roses to the Capitola Wharf at Monterey Bay (where my father's ashes had been scattered), and tossed a rose in one by one and recited out loud how well my father was loved and remembered.

The following day, after the yahrzeit had burned out, we disassembled the altar and put everything away. I took the food offerings and buried them in the yard. It was the beginning of a closure of sorts.
Roger and I jumped into spring that year the way we always do. Lots of flowers and vegetables to plant. I typically do the flower gardening and he does the veggies. Our yard faced Monterey Bay with one of those 180 degree views of the entire expanse. There is a narrow public footpath on the bayside of the house, where lots of friendly people walk by on their way from the cliffs down into town and back again. There were often bike-riders, families, sweethearts, people walking dogs, and late into the night revelers from the nightspots below. People always commented on our garden, and we had conversations about the flowers and vegetables nearly everyday.

That summer everything bloomed and fruited as expected, but an errant potato plant showed up in a border bed reserved for flowers. We were quite intrigued by this and tried to imagine how a potato came to be in that part of the yard. We assumed some passerby, with a bag full of groceries had inadvertently dropped it there or one of our gardening buddies was having some fun with us. Maybe it had been there all along, and conditions were now perfect for it to emerge. We could not find an acceptable explanation. How ever it came to be there, we harvested it one day, and had a wonderful breakfast of new potato home fries and poached eggs. And that was the end of that.

In winter of that year, as my father's birthday approached, the gnawing sadness returned, and I missed him fiercely. My siblings and I had decided we would honor our father on both his birthday and the anniversary of his death every year. So, on December 19th, I created the altar again: photographs, novels, his favorite foods, and a yahrzeit candle. After the 24 hours of observance had passed, I looked at all of those offerings and wondered what I would do with them. I would put the photographs back in the albums, the novels back in the bookcase, and the food offerings (carrots and potatoes) I would bury in the yard. And that's when it struck me: I had buried the potato in the flower bed. It had been from the plate of food offerings I'd made on the first anniversary of his death. I was stunned by how deeply I had buried that memory along with the potato. Not even the potato plant itself could coax to consciousness the memory of my actions.

Now, the planting has become part of the tradition. Every year in my father's memory I plant potatoes. Sometimes they are standard russets, sometimes yukon gold, or new red, or yellow fin, and once it was a lovely bunch of peruvian purples. Tomorrow, I will be planting potatoes again. PS-- The yahrzeit candle is burning. The potatoes have been planted. It is 2013, and I know all these years later that love lasts forever.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

My Iridescent Obsession

The skies have been beautiful. Big billowy clouds with shiny edges and silver linings. Light bouncing off of airy white contours and darker gray shadows. I've run outside a million times with the camera to look. Oh yes, it's beautiful alright, but it's not iridescent. I started to worry. Is the season over? Has my luck run out? Will I only see the kind of clouds that would have thrilled me a year or so ago, but not see the optical wonder of water droplets and sunlight painting the sky again? I went out Sunday afternoon just for a peek. I had seen a few rainbowy halos earlier in the day and thought I'd check one more time. This is what I found. It lasted all of five minutes.

Five minutes! I shouted "thank you" to the sky, and no I was not talking to a deity. I was talking to the clouds!

Sunday, March 03, 2013


the last time i went to the dumps i passed a flea market at the local grange. after i finished recycling and dumping i stopped in to check out the market. nothing much caught my eye til i was near the end of the line of vendors. there was a utility trailer and a large table both covered with vintage hand tools in great condition. clean, sharp edges where appropriate, wooden handles oiled, rustless. i knew there was something there for me. hammers of all sizes, screwdrivers galore, wrenches, drill bits, saws both wood and hack. well, as much as i like that stuff i am already full up on all of those things. when i got to the last display i saw my prize.
this is a jig for holding a file in the correct attitude to sharpen chain saw teeth. yes. attitude matters. i had one like this many years ago when i was more of a backwoods hippie and had two chainsaws. now i have a small electric chainsaw. with a freshly sharpened chain. the blue tape on the jig, now torn after i made adjustments, had the number ten on it. the price. which i gladly gave to the two nice geezers resting on folding chairs behind their utilitarian wares.