Door photographs for the Weekly WordPress Photo Challenge

While not particularly pretty, I like this door to California’s first brick house because the structure still exist — still standing, and I like the contrast of the fading white paint and the red-orange hued bricks.  It is located in downtown Monterey, and part of the State Park buildings in “oldtown”Door at First Brick House California 1

You will find many interesting doors and doorways in the historic, downtown Monterey area.  Here are a few…

Door related details are also fun to photograph…

A few door photographs in the little town of Moss Landing, California (the red doors to the Old Post Office, door to a railroad car, parked at the Haute Enchilada restaurant and art gallery, and an antique store, with details in the following gballery).

And broken down or missing doors, at the barracks of the old Fort Ord military base in the Monterey bay…  These buildings will soon be demolished to make way for new housing developments and shopping / office / university buildings.

A favorite door related photo are the banners above the entrance to the Moss Landing Marine Laboratory.

Entrance to Moss Landing Marine Laboratory

A great reminder for all of us, to take time each day for the things we love to do… whatever doorway we enter or leave from.

Note: You can see more photos from the open house post at the Moss Landing Marine Laboratory here, including  their “internet famous” blob fish.


Posted for the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge theme “Door”

NPR Report on Salinas Valley “Bag Salad” Waste

Americans throw out a lot of perfectly good food — about $1,600 for a typical family per year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

On a local level, many of us have heard of grocery stores throwing out food because it is nearing the “sell by” date… but we don’t often hear about the waste generated by food manufacturers.

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Salinas Valley, California Farm Fields

Monterey County is the top producer of salad greens in the U.S. The bag salad was invented here, and many people now opt to buy these plastic bag salad mixes instead of a head of lettuce.  It’s convenient, and perfect for our busy lifestyles.

It is understandable that farms can produce a surplus of food, and that sometimes, the excess bagged salad greens nearing the “sell by” date (if they cannot or do not donate to local food banks) must be sent to the municipal dump.

And just how much goes to the dump is the focus of National Public Radio’s (NPR) Allison Aubrey’s report on the Salinas Valley and the bags of salad greens that do end up in the dump.

I’ve included this NPR report on food waste to my earlier post on Iceberg lettuce and posting here.

NPR Image Report on Food Waste

Photo by Allison Aubrey via NPR’s Food News Program “The Salt”

You can listen to the audio of the report below.

Note:  If the audio does not play, you can link to the text version of Allison Aubrey’s report on food waste and the “Landfill of Lettuce” here (What happens to salad past its prime).

I am surprised to learn how much garbage we are adding to our waste stream through this industry.

P1220136In light of the technology we have these days, it is disturbing that we have this much waste.  Even more disturbing is the precious water wasted to grow food that is not eaten (especially that we are in our 4th year of drought), the addition of more garbage (that should be composted) to our landfills, and subsequent (and unnecessary) release of more methane gas to our atmosphere.

Hopefully, this industry is creating systems that minimizes this food waste.  Reports like this one certainly help to highlight these problems.

Have you heard of similar food waste stories, whether through local grocery stores or food manufacturers near where you live?  Do you know what they are doing about it or have suggestions?

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Field of greens, Monterey County, California

Food Waste Investigation CartoonRelated:

My muse: The ocean and two little men

This week, the WordPress Photo Challenge theme is “Muse”.

Sometimes, these photo challenges (like on refraction) are indeed, a challenge.  But this is an easier one for me and I bet it will be for many bloggers who join in this weekly photo challenge.

There are definitely certain themes to my photographs that I can identify as inspiration: the ocean and my two grandsons.

So for this week, my entry is a collage of ocean and beach related photos of the two little men, many of which have been woven into articles posted on my blog, or for past WordPress Photo Challenges.

Frisbee and no frost here

Silhouette photo of our grandsons enjoying the late afternoon warm weather at the beach with their Frisbee, for post on California Drought last year.

The little men taking turns to bury the other in the sand, and posted for the photo challenge “Thankful”

These photos were taken in Pacifica, near San Francisco 3 year 1/2 years ago, and some posted for the Photo Challenge theme “Blue”.

I posted hotos for this series for the theme “An unusual POV”

Telescopes outside the Monterey Bay Aquarium, near their tide pool…

Photos of a driftwood shelter used for the theme “Angular”

Most of all… I always treasure photos by the ocean and nearing sunset, even if all I have for the moment is my smart phone camera.

With the ocean nearby, and a nice collection of photos with two little men I adore ♥  it will probably be a while until I come across a photo challenge as fun and easy as this one.  Whatever the theme, the challenges are always a great opportunity to learn more about photography.

For more about this week’s theme, and to see host Brie Anne Demkiw’s amazing photos (and the WordPress blogging community submissions), click here.

Roy G. Biv – A post for this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge are photos with colors in a rainbow.  From Michelle W:

“Roy G. Biv” is an acronym made of the first letters of the seven colors of the rainbow, to help you remember: Red. Orange. Yellow. Green. Blue. Indigo. Violet.

We are to share a photo gallery with one image for each color…

Or… “share an image that contains all the colors of the rainbow (or an actual rainbow)”.

I don’t have a good photo of an actual rainbow yet, but I do have one of my grandson, Gabriel, wearing something that has all the colors of the rainbow, and preparing to do artwork, where most likely, he will use all the colors of the rainbow.

Rainbow Art

And so, my entry is a take on both!  Happy Friday! :)

Should you buy those seashells sold by the seashore? On beach walks, seahorses and collecting sea shells

Kelp on beachesI love seashells.  I am a collector of little shells and interesting objects I find while walking on the beach.

While some beaches are known for their variety of seashells and for beach combing (like those in Florida, Hawaii and Gulf states), at the beaches here in  Monterey Bay, you will likely run into seaweed or giant kelp that have lost their tether and left their undersea home, rather than shells.  It is not a beach you visit to collect seashells.

Kelp on the beach web

My grandson, Gabriel, having fun with kelp that washed up on the beach.

But…you will see sand dollars, broken clam or mussel shells (perhaps remnants from many sea otter lunches), a lot of driftwood, and depending on the beach, pretty little stones, or smooth glass pieces.

Lining up sand dollars with barnacles web

The boys lining up their find of sand dollars… At this beach walk, each of the sand dollars they found (oddly) had barnacles growing on top.

The few shells that do end up on the beach are usually clean, because the animal that lived inside was already eaten by other creatures, shore birds and beach scavengers…or have rotted away before the tide and waves pushed them onto the beach.

My grandsons have picked up my little beach object collecting habit, and we have come back from beach walks with bits of shells, a pretty rock or tiny driftwood.

I started to put  their treasures in glass jars, not because they are colorful or striking like those found at other beaches, but because they liked it and picked it up, and it was a little treasure to them.

Beach combing shells

Some of the little shells and rocks my grandsons collected are in this glass jar.

Although Monterey Bay beaches are not known for pretty seashells, tourist stores — especially those at the Fisherman’s Wharf — do sell colorful sea shells from different parts of the world.

Just as people enjoy eating seafood when visiting seaside towns, people also like buying shells and related products as souvenirs.  I’m sure stores that sell seashells and dried up starfish and other marine animals can be be found in just about any seaside community that caters to tourists.

seashell-store-california

A few years ago, during the off-season for tourists, I stopped by a store off of Highway 1 that sold shells and seashell products.

Their sign indicated “Sea Shells from Around the World”… but really, the majority of the shells are from a certain part of the world, and that is the Philippines.  In fact, when I went inside to browse, about 90% of the shells were marked as being from the Philippines.

Why is this?  First, the Philippines has a rich and diverse ocean life (cited as “the center of the center” of biodiversity by researchers at the California Academy of Sciences) with an amazing array of seashells — many of which are prized by collectors.

Second, the Philippines is a poor country…so those in the shell trade could easily exploit locals with low pay to collect these shells for export to tourist shops.

Sea shell shop off season

Sea shell shop Monterey Bay “Off-season”

Growing up in the Philippines, I was accustomed to seeing seashell products fashioned into jewelry, necklaces and decorative items, or dried marine animals like starfish, seahorses glued onto frames and home decor items.

Because they were so common, I always thought that these seashells and marine animals were picked up by beach combing… as in, the creatures are already dead and washed ashore.

After a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seahorse Exhibit, I learned otherwise.  From my blog post about the exhibit…

This is not the case, and much of these animals are collected ALIVE and dried to make these souvenirs.

I am saddened at how uninformed I was  about this practice! Family and friends, please do not buy these souvenirs.

With everything else happening to our oceans, we all have to do our part to stop this. And please spread the word about protecting these fragile and fascinating creatures.  In the process, we also protect and  preserve their homes —and our home. More here

This poster from the Aquarium says it best…

Seahorse 1 rd

In support of World Oceans Day and as part of a series for the Earth-Friendly Chroniclers blogging challenge, I am again posting this information.

If I made this incorrect assumption about the shells and dried starfish or seahorses sold at tourist shops, then there are probably others who do not know this information.  More from a shell article in Wikipedia:

…the majority of seashells which are offered for sale commercially have been collected alive (often in bulk) and then killed and cleaned, specifically for the commercial trade.  This type of large-scale exploitation can sometimes have a strong negative impact on local ecosystems, and sometimes can significantly reduce the distribution of rare species.

I am also re-posting this video from the California Academy of Sciences, on the dramatic decline of seahorses all over the world.  Excerpt from my post about seahorses:

…The huge economic boom in China means even more trouble for seahorse populations, as seahorses are highly sought after for use in traditional Chinese medicines.

US Customs at the San Francisco airport recently confiscated a shipment of at least 1,000 seahorses, and the US Fish and Wildlife turned over the dried seahorses to the California Academy of Sciences to help determine their source.  See full post here… including a link about the sea dragons (and seahorses) supply chain and market.

Have you heard of, or used products with dried seahorses?

I can’t help but think that we are doing the same thing to our ocean and its resources, as we did with our forests.  Are we going to look back 25 years from now and find out we unknowingly wiped out certain species of marine life because of unsustainable fishing… and what seems like an innocuous shell collecting hobby?

Can we stop and first find out how these shells are harvested?  If it is done sustainably, or if these creatures are collected beach comb style, then we can happily collect to our heart’s content.  But if not, then we need to find ways to educate the public so we can make responsible choices about the shells we buy.  I don’t want my grandchildren to ask why our generation let the same thing happen to our oceans, as we did to our forests in the Philippines.

Are you  a seashell collector?  If you buy seashells from seaside tourist shops, should the shops let consumers know if the shells were collected from the shore, or sustainably harvested?

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To participate in the Earth-Friendly Chroniclers’ blogging challenges hosted by Jane from Just Another Nature Enthusiast or to see other submissions for the theme “Healthy Oceans – Healthy Planet” click here.

Philippines – A Marine Biodiversity Hotspot (Post for Earth-Friendly Chroniclers’ #11)

When my daughter was little, one of her favorite places to visit was the California Academy of Sciences, located within San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.  We spent a lot time looking at exhibits there, from the dramatic dioramas in the African Hall to working in a show at the Morrison Planetarium.

Of all the permanent and temporary exhibits at the Academy, the place where we spent the most time was the Steinhart Aquarium.  It was a fascinating place for kids and adults, and when we had family visiting, it was often a place we took them during their stays with us.

The California Academy of Sciences looks much different today than it did when we lived in San Francisco and the Bay Area, and the Steinhart Aquarium now feature a Philippine Coral Reef Exhibit.

Philippine Coral Reef at SteinhartThe 212,000 gallon exhibit includes the largest display of living coral in the world — all from the Philippines, a country that has the most diverse reef ecosystem in the world.

I’ve always wondered what the connection was between the Steinhart Aquarium and the Philippines, and recently learned that researchers from the Academy have worked in and around the Philippine archipelago (of over 7,000 islands) for over 100 years.

Last year, a team of scientists from the Academy explored new sites and depths in an area of the Philippines off the coast of the main island of Luzon, near Batangas.

Map of Philippines highlighting Batangas

This area  — near Isla Verde — is called the “Coral Triangle” and reportedly has over 1/2 of the world’s species of coral.

Isla VerdeFrom the Academy’s website…

Within the Coral Triangle is an area known as the Verde Island Passage—waters teeming with such an abundance of life that Academy scientists suspect it may be “the center of the center” of biodiversity.

Our 2014 expedition sought to document the astounding life in the Verde Island Passage by collecting and identifying species not yet described (and in many cases never before seen) and creating a base of knowledge that will help to protect this area going forward.

And what Academy researchers found in this “Coral Triangle Area” last year was amazing.  On June 8th, 2015 — and to celebrate World Ocean Day — they made this announcement:

100 new marine speciesHere are photos of some of the new marine species found during the expedition…

Philippine new nudibranch

 

Multi colored Philippine tunicates

Nudibranch Philippines

These new marine species are stunning, and how incredible to learn that there are still undiscovered species living in our oceans!

And who knows… perhaps one of these newly discovered creatures will help us produce a cure for cancer or hold keys and answers to the mysteries of life on our planet.

So the challenge is…. how can areas like this “Coral Triangle” be protected, knowing what we do about the severe threats to marine life and the health of oceans surrounding the Philippine islands due to pollution, over-development of coastal areas, poverty, overpopulation, climate change and unsustainable fishing practices?

From the Academy website:

To combat these dangers, the Academy developed a practice of rapidly translating data collected in the field into effective marine conservation actions.

By working with Filipino and international governments, organizations, and communities, we’ve been able to create real-world change.

Real world change means that as new discoveries are made, scientists take the data and work in collaboration with Philippine government officials and decision makers so that in turn, policy makers can take immediate actions to help protect these areas.

I realize solving the problems that harm our oceans are complex, and will require global cooperation and focus — especially as it relates to pollution and poverty.  But it seems to me, the method directed by Academy scientists may be a good model if immediate steps are indeed taken to preserve natural resources.

It is easy to be cynical (I know I am at times!) but I do think this approach, and increasing awareness about marine life is a positive step towards helping us — and the next generation of human beings — to be better stewards of our oceans and our natural resources.

Maybe the next time someone is tempted to leave trash or plastic bottles on the beach, they will remember these amazing creatures and the harm that it will cause…and do the right thing.  Ideally, the new generation will place as much focus on conservation issues as is placed today on celebrity news / political gossip.  Yes, I’m hopeful!

This video from the Academy tells how the 7,107 islands in the Philippines came to be…and the urgency in studying its marine biodiversity hotspots.

Have you heard of these new discoveries?

Are you hopeful, as I am, that scientists, conservation groups and a willing government / policy makers (and we, the public) can reverse the decline of our ocean’s health… or do you think it is too late?

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This post is part of a series in support of the Earth-Friendly Chroniclers blogging challenge hosted by Jane from Just Another Nature Enthusiast.  To take part in this blogging event and to see other submissions for the theme “Healthy Oceans – Healthy Planet” click here.

Previous Earth-Friendly Chroniclers articles posted on LolaKo.com are here.

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surfrider_ad_sushi_lowresFINAL

Related:

10 Ways to Rise Above Plastics

Article about the plastic bag ban in California (California is the first U.S. State to ban single use plastic bags)

Link to California Academy of Sciences

Weird blue oniony thingy… or Vellela Vellelas Part 2

My blog’s search engine terms usually have the same types of queries.  Everyday, there is something about tilapia origins, on the Magic Sarap ban (a popular seasoning mix in the Philippines) or about cooking the popular Filipino dessert, Leche Flan with coconut milk.

Today, I noticed a string of new words:

“weird blue oniony thingy that the tide washes up on the beach”

I wondered what on earth brought them to my blog…so I did an image search of the words on Google, and sure enough, among the images are of my grandson Jun’s feet — near a Vellela Vellela that washed ashore.

Vellela jellie like creatures washed up on California beaches wb

I never thought to describe these as “oniony thingy” when I posted about these creatures last summer.

But just a few days ago, I went for a walk on the beach and saw remnants of what looked like the top or sail part of Vellelas.

There were hundreds of them on the beach…and I suppose you could describe them as being like onions.

The certainly looked like Vellelas…but what happened to the rest of the creature…the bottom blue-purple part?

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Further up on the beach, I did see a complete one…and could then confirm they were Vellela Vellelas.

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So now I wondered if shore birds ate the bottom part, or if they just decompose in this manner while at sea, the top part breaking away from the bottom…

Anyway, I am posting these photos too, in case there are people looking to identify weird blue oniony thingys that the tide washes up on the beach or even just “oniony looking thingys” on the beach.

And if you want to know what they are, there is a post and great video here, to tell you all about these interesting, jellyfish-like creatures that live on the surface of the water, and related to Portuguese man o’ wars.

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Photo of Sagewort (Artemisia pycnocephala) — a common sand dune plant found on beaches here on the California Central Coast. Click on photo to see more beach plant photos on the post about the invasive Ice Plant.

Since Vellela Vellelas are found on most of the world’s oceans, have you seen these creatures washed up on the beaches near where you live?

Visiting Monterey, California Off-Season

Monterey Transit CenterThough tourist visit Monterey throughout the year, there is a distinct tourist season, and visiting off-season (between November and April) has its rewards.

If you like to visit historic buildings and heritage gardens, springtime is a great time to visit Monterey, and to learn about the beginnings of California’s statehood.

In addition to being the first capital of California (under both Spain and Mexico), Monterey’s other “firsts” include:

  • California’s first theater
  • California’s first brick house
  • California’s first public building and library
  • California’s first publicly funded school
  • and California’s first printing press and newspaper

The photos for this post were taken during the off-season months of March / April this year, and as you will see, there are not very many visitors…yet.

The gardens are fresh with new growth, and with many benches around town, it is easy to stop, sit and take in the beauty of the area.

Oldtown Monterey Gardens

A springtime visit will reward you with gardens fresh with new growth, and a variety of flowers emerging and expressing new life, and the beauty of the season…

A popular destination in Monterey is Fisherman’s Wharf, and off-season or springtime visits mean there is plenty of room to take a leisurely stroll, stop and watch seals (or people watch), and when you are ready to eat, wharf restaurants will have plenty of seating.

Monterey Fishermans Wharf back 2

The average temperature in Monterey is 57 degrees and oddly (like San Francisco) the summer is often foggy and cold.

We moved to the Monterey Bay area during the middle of summer 9 years ago, and had the heater on pretty much all summer long!  We felt very wimpy for doing so, but it really is cold during summer.  Thankfully, we are now accustomed to the weather and do not need heaters until winter.

In addition to spring, the fall is also a great time to visit, and for me, the best weather, with many clear and sunny days.

Climate Information Monterey

Chart of Monterey Climate via Wikipedia commons

For more Monterey related post and photographs on LolaKo.com, click here.

This post is my entry for this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge theme “Off-Season”, hosted by Krista:

This week, we challenge you to show us what off-season means to you. It could be the shuttered ice-cream stand in the Southern Hemisphere where winter is drawing near. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere it might your snowmobile peeking out from beneath its tarp, or your Christmas decorations arranged neatly in the attic. Feel free to interpret this theme loosely — consider objects at rest and unmoved, places that are stagnant or abandoned.

See other entries for this theme from the WordPress blogging community here.

Banig mat patterns plus a vivid parrot

The theme for this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is vivid.

The bright colors and striking patterns of Philippine banig (traditional sleeping mats) came to mind.  Natural plant fibers are used for these handwoven mats, and the photos below are examples of a type made from a grass called “tikog”

Here are 3 pattern examples…

Banig Pattern 1 web

Banig Pattern web

Banig Pattern 2 web

Tikog grass grows near rice fields.  It is a thin grass, so as you can imagine, it takes a lot of work to create a sleeping mat big enough for two adults.

It also takes a lot of planning and an artistic spirit to create the beautiful geometric patterns of banigs for sale at markets in the Philippines.

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Two years ago, I accompanied my grandsons Jun and Gabriel to a summer camp field trip to the San Francisco Zoo.

Both my grandsons like to take photographs, and Jun captured this photo of a parrot in the tropical bird house.  He was 8, and took many photographs while we were there.  This is one of my favorites of his photos for the zoo trip.

Parrot tropical room SF Zoo

San Francisco Giants team at the White House today

Today, our beloved San Francisco Giants baseball team was honored at the White House by President Obama, for their 2014 World Series win.

Video of the event below…


For more, there is a fun article and photos (also funny) at McCovey Chronicles

It is amazing that the SF Giants now have three World Series titles, all won in the last 5 years!

Bay Area sports fans are in lucky, as today is also the first day of the 2015 National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals championship games, with the Oakland-based Golden Gate Warriors against LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers. So…Go Giants….and Go Warriors!

New Americans: Top 5 country of birth for new U.S. citizens

American Flag Immigration imageAs an immigrant to the U.S., I am always interested in immigration topics, especially as it relates to Filipinos.

If you have ever wondered about the country of birth of new American citizens, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) publishes this data through the Office of Immigration Statistics.

The Top 5 Country of Birth for New Americans (for fiscal year 2011 to 2013):

  1. Mexico (99.385)
  2. India (49,897)
  3. Philippines (43,489)
  4. Dominican Republic (39.590)
  5. China (35,387)

And here is the chart of the Top 20 Country of Birth for New Americans:

Note: Filipinos dropped to #3 after India, from the #2 spot after Mexico in the data compiled for the previous report.

New Americans 2013 by Country of Birth

With Mexico being a neighboring country, it is no surprise that most new Americans were born in Mexico.

But what about the other countries?  Does this country of birth data surprise you?  For example, that India is #2 and that Iran (a country we often hear about in terms of U.S. foreign affairs) is in the Top 20 countries?

The chart below lists the top states where new Americans resided, at the time they became naturalized.

New Americans by state of residence

The number of new Americans residing in these 10 states represent 75% of those who naturalized. The data pretty much matches the states with the most population, and so there were no surprises for me on this chart.  How about you?

Do you know what it takes to become a U.S. citizen?  From the Department of Homeland Security:

An applicant for naturalization must fulfill certain requirements set forth in the INA concerning age, lawful admission and residence in the United States. These general naturalization provisions specify that a foreign national must be at least 18 years of age; be a U.S. lawful permanent resident (LPR); and have resided in the country continuously for at least five years. Additional requirements include the ability to speak, read, and write the English language; knowledge of the U.S. government and history; and good moral character.

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Up until the 1970s, most people who become American citizens were born in European countries.

It shifted from Europe to Asia because of increased legal immigration from Asian countries, and the arrival of refugees from countries like Vietnam in the 1970s. Since 1976, countries in the Asian region has led as the origin of birth for new American citizens.

Purple flowers for Cee’s Photo Challenge — and they are invasive in this part of California

I’ve seen this plant with beautiful, spiky purple flowers growing around Monterey Bay for many years.  I took photos a few months ago when they were in full bloom.

P1180902

The flower photo above is from a shrub growing in the wild, near the Salinas river, where the river merges with the Pacific Ocean.  I spotted it while taking photographs for a post about my watershed.

I’ve always found these flowers attractive — and also photographed some in bloom at the entrance of Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey.

Monterey Fishermans Wharf yellows and pink 1

I read on one of the blogs I follow that Cee’s Fun Photo Challenge theme this week was purple, and remembered these flowers.  I have wanted to take part for a while, and thought the flowers were perfect to post for the theme.

Not knowing the name, I did an image search and learned that they are called Pride of Maidera (Echium candicans).  It is a perennial shrub native to the island of Maidera in Portugal, much loved by bees and butterflies for its nectar.  It is drought tolerant, and a popular ornamental plant in coastal California.

Great to know!  Except… it is also an invasive plant species, and now being removed in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park National Recreation Area so that the native habitat can be restored.  Sigh :(

And so… I’m also linking this post to Just Another Nature Enthusiast’s challenge — Earth-Friendly Chroniclers #9 — focused on invasive plants.

Here is another beautiful purple flower from a plant that I know is not native to California.  Right  now, it is growing all over our landscape, from fields, to the side of the roads and embankments.

Do you know what it is?

Wild Radish flowers purple

The flowers are from a wild radish.  Most wild radish have white flowers, but sometimes, they also have purple flowers.

From the CalFlora website:

Wild Radish California

I pulled out one of the plants and sure enough, I get that it is a wild radish… It is tiny, but the root smells like, and looks like a radish.  A miniature of the “daikon” types I see at Asian stores.

Wild Radish  roots

Wild Radish notes

Some more purple flowers for the theme… and I’m pretty certain these are not invasive here in my little part of the world.

My favorite purple flower shot thus far are the wisteria at the Pacific House Memory Garden, posted for the changing season photo challenge.

Memory Garden Wisteria

Click on the photo for more garden images, taken at the historic Monterey downtown area.

And lastly, a non-flower related (but these young girls are pretty as flowers!) photo of Baile Folklorico dance group members, performing for a community celebration on the occasion of Cesar Chavez Day.

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Click on the photo to see more dance photos, for the commemorative holiday that celebrates the legacy of civil rights and labor movement activist Cesar Chavez (promoting community service).

Earthquake memories and living on the San Andreas Fault

If you live in California — or even if you don’t — you probably think about earthquakes every now and then, and most likely have heard of the San Andreas Fault.

San_Andreas_Fault Image via NASA and Public Domain

The San Andreas Fault – Image via NASA (Public Domain)

From what I understand, this fault is a boundary where two parts of the earth’s crust (the Pacific plate – under the Pacific Ocean and the North American plate) meet.

The San Andreas Fault stretches for 810 miles (1300 km) across California, from the Salton Sea in the south all the way to Humboldt County, 200 miles north of San Francisco. It is the most studied boundary plate on our planet for the following reasons:

  •  it is on land, and therefore easier to study than tectonic plates that meet in the ocean
  • the fault is in close proximity to educational institutions and organizations dedicated to earthquake research

There are cities and communities that sit directly on the San Andreas Fault, and we lived in one of these communities while stationed at a base in the Mojave Desert in Southern California.

Late in the summer of 1981, Jeff and I drove from our military base in the high desert to the San Gabriel mountains.  He wanted to show me the little town where he and his friend, Bill, skied during the winter.  The town we visited is called Wrightwod, and about 40 miles (64 km) away from the base, at 6,000 feet (1809 m) elevation.

At the time, there were just over 2,000 people living there, though in the winter, there were many more as it was a popular ski resort area about 75 (124 km) miles from Los Angeles, in San Bernardino County.

Vintage photo 1981 Wrightwood California

Vintage photo! Wrightwood, California, Fall of 1981. This area is covered in snow in the winter, and the bare ski trails of the Mountain High Ski Resort can be seen on this photo.

While in Wrightwood, we went to a pub, where the bartender overheard us talking about how beautiful it was there.  He told us about a little cabin for rent just down the street.  On a lark, we decided to visit the cabin, and met the owners (who lived in the house next door).

It was partly furnished, had 1 bedroom, a fireplace, a loft space, and knotted pine walls.  It faced California’s State Highway 2, and behind the cabin was a hill.

Wrightwood cabin

The little cabin home we rented in Wrightwood, California.

Wrightwood cabin front

Front of the cabin, facing California Highway 2

We rented it on the spot, not even thinking about the drive we had to make back and forth from the base (about 45 minutes to 1 hour each way).

Shortly after our move, we met a fellow service member living there, and a civilian who also worked at the base, meaning we were able to join in a carpool.

Wrightwood hill behind cabin

Cabin roof after the first major storm, winter 1981. We were trapped as it took a while for the highways to be cleared.

Later on, I learned that the town sat on the San Andreas Fault from a newspaper article a co-worker showed me.  Wow…. a fault…oh, what is a fault?  Earthquakes… really?

Philippine Casiguran Earthquake

When I was little and we lived in Manila, a big earthquake hit the Philippines.  I remember my mother rushing us outside (that is what you were told to do back then), and the distraught neighbors around us talking about fires and something about the Ruby Tower.

With a bit of research, I found out that the Philippine earthquake happened in 1968 and was called the “Casiguran earthquake”.

Since it happened at night, I most likely was asleep when it hit.  More about this earthquake from a Wikipedia article:

The city of Manila was the hardest hit with 268 people killed and 261 more injured.

Many structures that suffered severe damage were built near the mouth of the Pasig River on huge alluvial deposits.

A number of buildings were damaged beyond repair while others only suffered cosmetic damage.

Two hundred and sixty people died during the collapse of the six-story Ruby Tower, located in the district of Binondo. The entire building, save for a portion of the first and second floors at its northern end, was destroyed. Allegations of poor design and construction, as well as use of low-quality building materials, arose. (More here)

Besides the earthquake in Manila, I had not experienced any other major earthquakes, and none while living in California at that point, so I didn’t really think much more about it.

California 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake

Years later, we moved to the San Francisco Bay area, and lived here when the Loma Prieta earthquake hit Northern California.  The Loma Preita is in a segment of the San Andreas Fault.

San Francisco Skyline 2012 web

The beautiful San Francisco skyline as seen from Treasure Island at sunset (2012) Photo LolaKo.com

The Loma Prieta earthquake is memorable because it happened during a World Series baseball championship, and was broadcast live on national television.

Due to the World Series, casualties were amazingly low (63 deaths and 3,757 injured).  Instead of being in the rush hour traffic heading home, many people left work early to watch the game, and traffic was lighter than normal.

While casualties were low compared to other earthquakes of the same magnitude, the Loma Prieta earthquake remains one of the most expensive natural disaster in the history of the United States.

View of San Francisco Bay at TI Web

To the left of this photo is the Oakland – San Francisco “Bay Bridge”. Photo LolaKo.com

My younger sister was working in a San Francisco high-rise office building at the time of the earthquake.

It took us 5 hours to reach her by phone, when she finally made her way home…and we were relieved to find out she was safe and unhurt.

We lived in the East Bay, and I was in the car on the way to pick up my older sister when the earthquake happened.  I suddenly lost the radio signal, and felt the car making unusual movements — movements that I could not control with my steering wheel.

A few minutes later, I arrived at my older sister’s workplace.  She was already outside of the office building where she worked, and felt the earth quake beneath her feet, and saw the building she was just in, move and slightly sway.  She opened the car door and got in…we both couldn’t believe that a strong earthquake had just occurred.

Bay_Bridge_collapse photo USGS

The collapsed upper portion of the Bay Bridge. Photo by USGS via public domain

We rushed to pick up my daughter from her after-school care. She was outside at the playground during the earthquake, and she (and her teachers) told us they distinctly remembered that the birds stopped chirping right before and after the shaking.

We tuned into the news as soon as we got home — and were glued to the television set for hours.

It was a mistake, because the constant image of fires in the Marina District of San Francisco, and the collapse of a portion of the Bay Bridge made my daughter anxious about crossing the bridge, for many years after the earthquake!

San Andreas Fault North / South

Another well-known earthquake in California was the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, which destroyed 80% of San Francisco and killed 3,000 people.  The 1906 earthquake is also connected to the north part of the San Andreas Fault.

In terms of the death toll, the 1906 earthquake is the worst natural disaster in California’s history.

Wrightwood related at Geoscience WorldThe part of the fault where Wrightwood is located is in the south part the San Andreas Fault.

If you want to read more about Wrightwood as it relates to the San Andreas Fault, past earthquakes and predictions for future earthquakes, visit this GeoScience World article.

There have been many earthquakes in this part of the fault, and they note “These observations and elapsed times that are significantly longer than mean recurrence intervals at Wrightwood and sites to the southeast suggest that at least the southermost 200 km of the San Andreas fault is near failure.

San Andreas – The Movie

You may hear even more about the San Andreas Fault this summer.

An earthquake disaster movie with Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) is now playing in movie theaters, and it is called (what else?) San Andreas.

Here is the preview…

Nothing like seeing the place where you live (and that you love) destroyed and in total chaos…with millions of people in peril.

But at least it is just a movie, and perhaps it will make us think about our emergency preparedness, and supporting strict building codes and improvements that incorporate new technology to save lives in the event of “the big one”.

If the “big one” hits, will California fall into the Pacific Ocean?

Los Angeles from above web

Greater Los Angeles area – photo posted for article The Los Angeles Spread. Photo LolaKo.com

The San Andreas movie trailer shows the ground splitting, complete destruction of buildings in downtown Los Angeles, and a tsunami in the process of finishing off the city of San Francisco.

The tsunami scenario is certainly real… and of all the natural disasters in the world’s history (i.e., volcanoes erupting, heatwaves, floods, typhoons, cyclones) earthquakes by far have killed more people than any other.

But the myth that you may have heard of — that California could somehow fall into the sea — when the big one hits, well, it is just that, a MYTH.

From the Earthquake Mythology page of the California Department of Conservation:

The San Andreas Fault System is the dividing line between two tectonic plates. The Pacific Plate is moving in a northwesterly direction relative to the North American plate. The movement is horizontal, so while Los Angeles is moving toward San Francisco, California won’t sink. However, earthquakes can cause landslides, slightly changing the shape of the coastline.

To further allay immediate concerns about a complete change in the California landscape should the big one occur on the San Andreas Fault (SAF), here is a clip from SanAndreasFault.org: on how long it would take for California to look different from how we see it today:

California San Andreas Fault 28 million years old

I don’t know about you, but for me…that’s good to know!

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Do you live in an earthquake prone area?

It seems to me that the entire state of California is earthquake prone, but it has not stopped people from living here.  There are now 38 million people that live in California — that is 1 out of every 8 Americans.

Have you heard about the San Andreas Fault or do you have earthquakes worries where you live?  I would also like to hear about your own earthquake experience, so please do leave comment.

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Related:

  • From SanAndreasFault.org, see cities and communities in the fault zone (San Bernadino, along with Wrightwood in Southern Claifornia, and closer to home here in the Monterey Bay — Aromas, San Juan Bautista…)
  • Data from the USGS on the largest and deadliest earthquakes over the last 25 years.

Holding hands on the way to a nature park

I love this picture of my first-born grandson, Jun, holding the hands of my sisters.  It is very sweet, and I can’t believe how tiny he was, and how big he is now.  We were on the way to a nature park…

On the way with Juns hand held by great aunties

It was on my bulletin board for many years, and I’m glad I printed it, because the hard drive on the computer where I stored the original digital photo CRASHED.  I lost all the photos in the series.

So now it is scanned, and in digital format once again.  I know…back up, back up, back up, right?  I treasure my photos, and better at backing up photo files now.

The Los Angeles Spread

Whenever I had to do work in Los Angeles in my prior job,  I often elected to drive (from Northern California) instead of booking a flight and flying into LAX.

My rationale was by the time I drove to the airport, parked, shuttled, waited, flew, picked up a rental car, I am really only gaining 1 1/2 to 2 hours of travel time.  I didn’t mind the easy drive, and liked the alone time and being in my own space.

Los Angeles from above web

Downtown L.A. buildings visible from this shot…

On the way to see my sisters in the East Coast last fall, my flight had a layover in LAX and I took these photos.

The view from above gave me a good perspective of the size of the greater Los Angeles area, and an appreciation for why it was easy to feel disoriented in such a big city.

LA Spread web

Higher up, L.A.’s downtown high rises blend into the wider landscape

Population wise, L.A. is the second largest metropolitan area in the U.S., after New York.

With over 13 million people, Los Angeles has the distinction of being the most populous city in California.  The Greater Los Angeles area has over 18 million people, making it the most populous county in the United States.

Cities similar in size to Los Angeles are London, Buenos Aires, and Dhaka in Bangladesh.

Southern California coast Leaving LAX

Leaving LAX – Southern California coastline

Post for the weekly WordPress Photo Challenge theme from Michelle W,  “On the Way”:

For this week’s photo challenge, stop and photograph the metaphorical roses (or the literal tulips). Share a shot of something you saw, did, or experienced on the way: a photo not of your destination, but of an interesting thing along the way. Show us something stunning others might have missed, or find some unexpected beauty in a mundane moment. Maybe we can all start looking at the in-betweens a bit differently!

So while my destination was the East Coast, I appreciated seeing Los Angeles. this time…from above.

Pistachios and the Manny Pacquiao ad

Pistachio Almost 100% of the pistachios grown in the U.S. are grown in California, mostly in counties in the Central Valley area.

Pistachios are a high value crop, and rank #5 in California’s agricultural exports, after almonds, dairy products, wine, and walnuts.

The pistachios grown here are the type called “Kerman”, which originated in Iran. I used to shop at a Middle East market when we lived in the East Bay that sold delicious baklava types of desserts, many featuring pistachios inside, or sprinkled on top.  It must play a big role in the food of Iran and the region.

California PistachiosAfter Iran, the U.S. is the 2nd largest producer of pistachios in the world.

This chart of the top 10 world producers of pistachios is interesting because though Iran leads in production, the yields per ton/hectare are significantly higher in the U.S, and high in Turkey.

Top 10 producers of pistachios in World

Chart via Wikipedia commons

So, the industry here in California must be doing something different, if they can produce more nuts per tree, or perhaps they developed varieties with greater yields.

I used to drive past what seemed like endless pistachio orchards during trips to Southern California, when my grandchildren lived in San Diego.

Pistachio Kerman

If I did not want to take Highway 101, I would cross over on another highway in Paso Robles, to get to Highway 5, the main artery freeway to Southern California.

The crossover part of the trip going towards Lost Hills was the area where a lot of pistachios are grown.  It must thrive in this part of California.

I do wonder if the drought situation we face here will affect the orchards.  Since pistachios are native to desert areas, probably not, and hopefully they will live on past the drought years.

Pistachio trees can produce nuts after 7 years, and peak production is at around 20 years.  I’ve read that they can continue to produce nuts until 50, and even at 80 years old, but by then, the trees are too big for the nut harvesting machines.

Pistachios

Do you remember the red-dyed pistachios?  I think the first time I had pistachios, we still lived in the Philippines — and they were red.  It only took a few nuts to turn my fingers, tongue, and lips red.

It turns out that the beige shells of pistachios can have stains due to hand-harvesting, so manufacturers dyed the nuts red to hide the stain.  Who knew!

They don’t do that anymore because pistachios are now harvested by machines…so no more stain problems.  Good thing, because who knows what mystery red dye # was used.  I think I would rather have my pistachios “natural” anyway…

I’ve seen a variety of humorous pistachio commercials over the last year, through a marketing campaign by the “Wonderful” brand The most memorable for me featured Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao.

Have you seen this ad?  They may have just played in certain regions, which is why I am posting it.

As a Filipino-American, it is good to see Manny Pacquiao reach a level of success and appeal to promote and endorse products in the U.S. — even if I don’t like to watch boxing.  Here is another of his product endorsements (Hennessy) from the blog Taking a Deep Breath (and a write up about Manny’s recent fight against Mayweather).

Do you remember the red-dyed pistachios?  What is your favorite way to eat pistachios?  By itself or as a part of something else, like the baklava type desserts?   I remember getting green colored pistachio ice cream when my daughter was younger, but that ice cream flavor does not seem to be very popular these days.

Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum) is everywhere – post for Earth-friendly Chroniclers’ #10

Poison Hemlock flowers 1It is easy mistake the poison hemlock plant (Conium maculatum) with another plant called “Queen Anne’s lace” (Daucus carota – and also called wild carrot).

Poison hemlock and Queen Anne’s lace belong to the same family of plants (carrots and parsley).  So, not only are the delicate, pretty white flowers similar, the leaves are similar too!

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed seeing the beautiful white flowers of these plants in different parts of California.  I spent a lot of time on the road in my prior work — and a lot of time stuck in traffic in the Bay Area — which means, a lot of time to look out the window and see plants growing on the side the road.

I thought these flowers all came from the same plant (Queen Anne’s lace) and did not know very much about them.

Through the Earth-Friendly Chroniclers’ Challenge this month — focused on biodiversity — I now know that there are two different plants with very similar flowers that grow here in my ecoregion.

Blue Sky and trees

Challenge, #10 asked that we play a naturalist version of I “Spy!” at our ecoregion, to take a camera, and observe what we see.  I went to the greenbelt space behind where we live here in the Central Coast.

I “spied” these familiar flowers and wanted to know more, because there were many of the plants here.  Most were already flowering, with white, lacy blooms.  There were rather tall plants (taller than me) and some of the flowers came from shorter plants.

Unlike the yellow starthistle or iceplants (posted for Challenge #9), which are listed as a high priority invasive plant, the Calflora website listed the poison hemlock (Conium maculatum) as a “moderate” problem.

Poison Hemlock in CaliforniaWhile it is good to know that this plant is not (at least not yet) as problematic as the iceplant or starthistle in California, it was disturbing to learn that these plants have naturalized here and are now invasive.

Even more disturbing is to learn that all parts of these plants are toxic (flowers, seeds, leaves, canes)…and even the dead parts of the plants can remain toxic for up to 3 years.

Poison Hemlock flower details

And not mildly toxic, or an irritant, but really TOXIC, as in the plant is deadly for humans and animals.

Poison hemlock is native to Europe’s Mediterranean region.  The ancient Greeks used the plant to poison prisoners condemned to death — including the philosopher Socrates.

The Death of Socrates by Jacques-Louis David 1787

The Death of Socrates by Jacques-Louis David

Because these plants are in the same family of plants as carrots and parsley, it is understandable how people can accidentally ingest the plants.  From a May, 2015 Food Safety News article:

All parts of poison-hemlock can kill humans and animals, even when it is dried. Foragers can easily mistake it for wild carrot (Queen Anne’s Lace), parsley, parsnip, sweet cicely, anise, fennel, wild chervil, and caraway, as well as other plants in the parsley or carrot family (Apiaceae), such as the violently toxic western-water-hemlock, or watercress, which is in another family.

…“Misidentifying poison hemlock or other toxic plants can have truly tragic results,” says Alison Halpern, executive secretary of the Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board. “Learn from an expert before foraging for wild plants, and if you think you have poison hemlock on your property, contact your county weed board, conservation district, or WSU Extension office to learn how to safely get rid of it.”

While poison hemlock is considered invasive, the Quee Anne’s lace plant, though not native to California (and a plant that has also naturalized in the wild), is not considered invasive.

Queen Annes Lace CalfloraWhich means…the plants that I’ve observed growing by the side of the road and in other places in California for all these years, were likely poison hemlock and not Queen Anne’s lace.

In other parts of the U.S., it may be easier to differentiate the two based on bloom periods, but in California, the flowering periods are similar:  Poison hemlocks bloom from April to September, while the Queen Anne’s lace flowers from May to September.

Poison Hemlock Plants

Poison hemlock plants can grow up to 8 feet tall.

Last summer, my grandsons and I spent time a lot of time walking around this greenbelt area (where there are also invasive Himalayan blackberries — and poison oak).

They know to stay away from poison oaks…and I’m glad they did not try to pick any of these flowers.

Poison Hemlock flowers 6

Unless you are absolutely sure which plant is which, it is best to treat these lovely flowers as poisonous, and to be careful of handling them.

I don’t have photos of the Queen’s Anne lace plant yet, but you can view a good collection at this USDA plant database page.

Poison Hemlock flowers

If you want to learn more about how to remove this toxic plant from your area, please contact your local agency, e.g., for Monterey County, start with the Agricultural Commissioner’s office, or see this USDA State Resource page.

The King County (Washington State) website has a section on noxious weed control. Excerpt and link below…

Removing poison hemlockWhen digging or mowing large amounts of poison-hemlock, it is best to wear gloves and a mask or take frequent breaks to avoid becoming ill.  One individual had a severe reaction after pulling plants on a hot day because the toxins were absorbed into her skin…(click here for more).

Poison Hemlock Plants 2Since writing this post, I’ve noticed these plants in spots (by the roadside mostly) here in Monterey County, and I’m surprised that it is not listed on Monterey County’s weed threats.

Do poison hemlocks grow where you live?

Did you get the flower and plant confused with the Queen Anne’s lace flowers, as I did?

Broken down barracks of Fort Ord in the Monterey Bay

Starting in 1917 and up to the 1990’s, almost 1,500,000 military troops trained at Fort Ord.  It was a major army post, located here in the Monterey Bay, in California’s central coast.

Although the post closed in 1994, many of the old buildings remain.

Because I was in the military, there is a part of me that is nostalgic about these buildings…and having lived at military bases, they are familiar to me.Fort Ord off Imjin Eucalyptus side barracks

In addition to its role as a major training base for the army, Fort Ord was also a staging and deployment area for troops that fought in World War II, as well as the Vietnam war.

Word War II is known as the most violent and largest armed conflict in history, and troops who trained here were involved in battles in the Philippines — my home country — after the Japanese conquered the Philippines in 1942.

Many of the old buildings at Fort Ord have already been torn down, and eventually, these will too, to be replaced with new housing communities, office and service facilities, and new shopping centers.

Fort Ord off Imjin barracks 6a

I’ve wanted to photograph some of these old buildings before they are gone forever, and glad that I finally had a chance to do so this month.

I was in the Air Force, and our living quarters were called “dormitories”.  But in the army and other armed forces, buildings that house soldiers are called “barracks”.  Definition below:

The English word comes via French from an old Catalan word “barraca” (hut), originally referring to temporary shelters or huts for various people and animals, but today barracks, are usually permanent buildings for military accommodation.

…The main object of barracks is to separate soldiers from the civilian population and reinforce discipline, training, and esprit de corps.

Fort Ord off Imjin barracks 2

These barracks photos are much different from my previous post for The Changing Season photo challenge (the beautiful scenery at Monterey’s Fisherman’s Wharf).

Fort Ord off Imjin exit side table

Still…I think it is worth posting, and preserving these images, especially as the landscape transitions to something else.

I imagined this place once filled with many soldiers, and the bugle sounds of the morning reveille — the wake up call (short sound clip below).

Over 20 years after the post closure, the abandoned barracks stand, wounded by vandals, and awaiting their end.

Most of the buildings have broken windows…

Doors removed, stairs missing or overtaken by iceplants…

Fort Ord off Imjin no more stairs

Debris around some of the buildings…

What remains at the Imjin exit side of Fort Ord are mature eucalyptus trees, and the ever-present and invasive ice plants — planted there to contain the sand and for erosion control.

Fort Ord off Imjin Eucalyptus trees

Across the street from these barracks, a wellness center and a shopping center is in place, and beyond these new buildings are brand new housing communities.

Future of Fort Ord land 1

The Ford Ord land also houses facilities used by California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB).  With plenty of land available to construct new buildings, CSUMB is predicted to eventually be the largest in the California State University system.

Fort Ord off Imjin Exit

It’s not all going to be developed though…

Thankfully, three years ago, a large part of the Fort Ord area became a national monument, and is federally protected from further development — a great thing for the Monterey Bay area!

In addition to the interior part of the Fort Ord land, beaches in this area are also part of the national monument  / California State Park system, and land set aside for the public.

And so the Fort Ord land that started as an artillery training field almost 100 years ago, and was a major post for the military from World War I to 1994 now continues its transition, with much of the land going back to public use.

Are there military base closures where you live?  How has the government and community transformed the land after closing the military facility?

Related link: President Barack Obama Proclamation – Establishment of the Fort Ord National Monument

…The protection of the Fort Ord area will maintain its historical and cultural significance, attract tourists and recreationalists from near and far, and enhance its unique natural resources, for the enjoyment of all Americans.

Broken little hearts at Dennis the Menace Playground

There is a popular playground in Monterey’s El Estero Park called Dennis the Menace Playground — named after the comic strip character.

P1080030

The creator of Dennis the Menace, cartoonist Hank Ketchum was a local and lived in Pebble Beach, California until his death in 2001, at 81 years old.

More about this park on the graphic below from the Monterey city website…

Story of Dennis the Menace Park

Part of the park’s attraction is a real train steam engine, located at the playground entrance.

My grandchildren have always called this park the “choo choo train” park, and love to climb inside and play around the train steam engine.

We always kept a close eye on them, and when they were smaller, accompanied them up the steps and around the structure.

These days, this is what you will see if you visit the train steam engine…

Boy looking at fenced off train web

…a fenced off area, and one disappointed little kid after another staring at the train.

The city’s explanation for the closure is below…

Steam Engine train closedBoy leaving fenced off steam engine webIf they have never played inside of it, it probably does not matter, they are just curious.  But if the kids are accustomed to playing inside (like my grandchildren), then they’ll be a bit brokenhearted after learning of the closure.

Despite the train steam engine area closure, there is a lot do in the wonderful playground, so it is still definitely worth a visit.

The playground is next to a lake (and an easy walk to the beach), and there are also paddle boats if you want to spend time on the lake itself.  More information here.

The climbing structure next to the train is a good place for kids to expend energy and get exercise.

I spent many years in the insurance industry so I understand liability issues and the reason for fencing off the steam engine area…but that does not make it easier to explain when my grandchildren ask “why did they close it, Lola…why can’t we go inside… like before?”

Train Stem Engine at playground

Do you think we are overprotective of children in our modern society?

If you have children or grandchildren, would you allow them to play in this train steam engine, within the confines of a park playground?

The Iceberg in Monterey County’s field of greens

Iceberg Lettuce

Head of Iceberg lettuce growing in the field

A few months after immigrating to the U.S. with my mother and younger sister, I had my first job — and it included cutting into plenty of iceberg lettuce heads.

I was 16 years old and my job was a waitress at a chain of family style restaurants in Portland, Maine. Part of my work was to do simple food preparation, and to restock the salad bar.

The kitchen manager showed me how she wanted the Iceberg prepared… “Cut it this way, and include the core — people like to eat that” she said.

The iceberg lettuce was what you started with, the base of what you piled everything else on to, at the restaurant’s salad bar.

Because it was 1979, the salad bar consisted of potato “salad”, macaroni “salad”, 3-bean “salad” and other items like sliced beets (from the can), tomatoes, croutons, crackers, eggs and a variety of dressing.  It is nothing like what you would see today at buffet restaurant salad bars, where there are always more than one lettuce option — and at least some spinach leaves!

At 16, I didn’t give much thought to where the Icebergs (or really any vegetables) were grown.  But I’m pretty sure the Iceberg lettuce I was cutting into — especially since it was the start of winter in Maine — likely came from the Salinas Valley in Monterey County, California.

Field of Greens

I’ve lived in a few places in the U.S. (and Germany) since we left Maine many years ago, and now live in Monterey County.

Besides the beautiful coast of central California, a prominent feature of the landscape here are the farm fields.

Salinas Valley Fields web

Monterey County is an agricultural powerhouse and the only county in the United States with more than $1 Billion in annual vegetable sales.

As you can imagine, growing this much of anything means this place is enveloped in farm fields.

Field of Greens 2

There are farm fields next to schools, near shopping centers, neighborhoods, and on both sides of Highway 101 heading south of the county, if you are driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

There are also farm fields surprisingly close to the ocean, where expanses of sandy soil — some of which were once wetland areas — were turned into farm fields.

Sand Dunes across field of iceberg Lettuce

The most valuable crops grown here are lettuce leaves (for bag salads or packages of mix greens) and lettuce heads.

Lettuce grows well in sandy soil, and cool, mild weather…and yes, indeed, we have lots of sandy soil, and very mild weather here, perfect conditions to grow lettuce.

Although the potential of the land in this area as fertile farmland was discovered in the 1860’s, commercial farming did not take off until the expansion of the Southern Pacific railroad lines.

Starting in 1875, Chinese laborers who came with the railroad expansion worked to drain lakes and swamps in the valley, creating 500 acres of arable farmland in and around Salinas.

A few weeks ago, I went to the Salinas River National Wildlife Refuge (under management of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service).  To get to the refuge, you have to drive on a dirt road that ends at the refuge parking lot, facing the Pacific Ocean.

Both sides of the dirt road have farm fields.  Since I’m always curious about what grows in farm fields, I pulled over to take a look…

Field of iceberg Lettuce 2

The fields were filled with rows upon rows of Iceberg lettuce.  I didn’t think people still ate Icebergs, especially now that there are so many more salad greens available in the market.

When my daughter was young, I opted to buy romaine or other types of lettuce after I learned that icebergs were composed mostly of water, and had the least amount of vitamins compared to other lettuce varieties.

Truck with boxes of produce

Truck loaded with boxes of lettuce

But it turns out that Americans still love their Icebergs!

Through writing this post, I learned that of the 35 pounds of lettuce that a typical American eats per year, most of it (about 22 pounds) is the Iceberg variety.

A press release from Salinas based produce company Tanimura and Antle had these interesting Iceberg lettuce facts:

  • The Iceberg was also called “crisphead lettuce” because of its ability to stay fresher longer than leaf lettuces
  • The name “Iceberg” comes from the way the lettuce was packed and transported on ice, making the heads look like icebergs.
  • Records indicate that the first carlot shipment of Iceberg was made in 1919 and took 21 days to reach New York from California.
  •  By 1931, 20,000 railcars were shipped annually. In 1950, over 11.5 million crates of Iceberg was grown, packed and shipped in Monterey County, California
  • California produces approximately 72% of the Iceberg lettuce grown in the U.S, and the Iceberg variety accounts for 70% of the lettuce raised in California
  • Depending on the time of year Iceberg is planted, it takes anywhere from 70 to 130 days from planting to harvest.

So…although the Iceberg’s popularity is dropping, it is still more popular than the Romaine type lettuce (a favorite for those who like “Caesar” salads — like my daughter) and other salad greens.

I suppose because it is a  mild tasting lettuce (not bitter), and stays fresh longer than other varieties, it is understandable why it is still a favorite for many salad eaters.

Field of Greens 1

You never have to tell my grandson Gabriel to eat his salad — he is known in the family as the salad lover.  He is only 8, but as long as I can remember, he will usually ask for a second serving of salad, which made me think that my grandsons’ had palates from another planet.

Do you still eat Iceberg lettuce?  If not, what type of lettuce typically makes it to your lunch plate or dinner table?

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NOTE: This post is part of learning about, and understanding the soil where I live (2015 is the International Year of Soils — designated by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations) See this post from  http://justanothernatureenthusiast.org/2015/04/19/unless-earth-friendly-friday-soil/ for more information.  I’m also learning more about what remains of the wetlands in the area, as I read that 90% of the area’s wetlands were drained for commercial farming purposes.

Related: If you would rather grow than buy your lettuce, visit the University of Illinois “Watch your Garden Grow” website for tips about growing lettuce, best varieties for your region, and recipes.

Radio report at NPR on food waste and “Landfill of Lettuce” (What happens to salad past its prime)

The Australian Shepherd and his Baba Bear

Our Australian shepherd is the smartest (and craziest) dog we have ever had.

A funny thing about him is his love of toys.  We started to call his stuffed toys  “baba bear”, so if you say to him, “Go get your baba bear”…he’ll run off and fetch one, and bring it over to you.

Tuks and his baba bear 1

A few times, I’ve seen him nap with one, as captured on this photo — my entry for this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge theme of Enveloped.

Despite their name, Australian shepherds (also known as “Aussies”) were bred and developed in the Western U.S.  There are different variations in their color, and I think our guy is called a “blue merle”.  He has one blue eye, and one brown eye, which I think adds to his crazy and sweet personality.  Crazy ol’ blue eye!

He is turning 15 this year, so has slowed down a lot. Considering that dogs similar in size to Aussies live from 11 to 13 years, we are happy that ours is still here for us to love.

A little about the Aussie’s history:

The Australian Shepherd’s history is vague, as is the reason for its misleading name. It is believed by some that the breed has Basque origins in Spain and was used there by shepherds. Those shepherds might, then, have emigrated to the West Coast of the United States via Australia.  However, scientific evidence has shown that the breed has lineage from American dogs that originally came over the Bering Land Bridge. What is known is that it developed in western North America in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Iceplant Invasion: Post for the Earth-Friendly Chroniclers’ #9

Ice Plant flowerIceplants (Carpobrotus edulis) are also called “sea fig” or “hottentot fig” and the second plant I’m learning about, and featuring for the Earth-Friendly Chroniclers’ Challenge #9.

The focus for challenge #9 is biodiversity and invasive plant species…and what Jane, the host of the Earth-Friendly Chroniclers’ call the plant “bullies”.

As with the yellow starthistle (my 1st post for this challenge) which grew all over Contra Costa County, the iceplant is another plant I mistakenly thought as native to this part of the central coast of California.

Ice Plant by Fort Ord Dunes 1

Photo taken just a few weeks ago at Fort Ord Dunes National Monument area. Don’t let the pretty pink flowers fool you, these plants are very aggressive, and crowds out native sand dune plants.

Why did I think it was native?  Well, because these plants are plentiful all along the coast, especially around the Fort Ord Dunes area (photo above).

Articles about the beautiful coastal Monterey County town of Pacific Grove feature images of iceplants in full bloom —- including on the official city website.  The Perkins Park area of Pacific Grove is noted for its “magic carpet” of iceplants.

City of Pacifc Grove Website

Main page of the Pacific Grove official website. The mass of pink flowers are all iceplants.

Among the first scenic coastal photos we took when we moved here, featured ice plants in the background.

The photo below is my grandson, Jun-Jun, at a popular beach side / highway stop near Seaside, California.  He is surrounded by…you guessed it, ICEPLANTS.

Jun surrounded by iceplants

And at a paved road area at the Fort Ord Dunes (part of the Monterey Bay Coastal Bike Path) here is Jun riding his bike with his grandfather, where you can see iceplants growing on both sides of the road.  To the left of the photo is traffic from California State Highway 1.

Jun and Jeff riding bikes at Fort Ord Dunes

The photo below of my younger grandson, Gabriel, zooming away (actually, slowly foot pedaling away) on his toy cycle shows more of the red-hued leaves of the iceplant in the background, facing the Pacific Ocean.  Yes, way more iceplants.Gabriel at Fort Ord Dunes area

Iceplants are found on many beaches here in the Monterey Bay.  The greenery you see on the sand dunes below at Fort Ord Dunes are indeed…more ice plants!

Fort Ord Dunes beach and iceplants

Iceplants are so common in this area that it is easy to assume that they have always been here.

Non-native plants have been brought to California since the first contact with Europeans.  A little about the big problem of the loss of grasslands, and native coastal plants from ElkhornSlough.org:

Approximately 99% of California native grasslands have been lost over the last 200 years, making them one of the most critically endangered ecosystems in the U.S.

Loss of coastal scrub in some parts of California has also been severe. Within the Elkhorn Slough watershed, coastal scrub assemblages often face threats from infestation by tall exotic weeds, such as poison hemlock, fennel, and jubata grass.

Because most of California has a mild Mediterranean climate, it is easy to see how plants from other parts of the world, especially with similar weather, can naturalize here.

Iceplants creep across Moss Landing State Beach

Iceplants growing across the Moss Landing State Beach area, farm fields across the river water.

Typically, these plant invaders have no natural enemies, or wildlife that eat the plants, so it is easy for them to become plant bullies.

Photos above of iceplants spilling past fence areas at the Moss Landing State Beach pathway.

Apparently, iceplants are really good at crowding out native plants…the photo below is a good example:Ice plant circling the native plant

The plant in the middle of the photo is a beach Sagewort (Artemisia pycnocephala), which is the most common California native plant found around sand dunes.  You can see that this one is being encircled by the aggressive iceplant, which will eventually choke out the sagewort.  Iceplants are very good at spreading!

While iceplants in their native South Africa are great for the wildlife there (where turtles, snakes, antelopes, lizards and other animals eat the plant’s leaves, flowers and seeds) it does not provide food or shelter to native California coastal wildlife.

Ice Plant Bagaud French Mediterrennean

Photo of iceplant covering landscape on the French Mediterranean island, Bagaud island, in the Port-Cros National Park. Photo by Vincent via Wikipedia and public domain

In parts of the Mediterranean coast where the iceplant naturalized, the plant also helps other invasive species to thrive.  I found this part about invasive mutualism of interest from a Wikipedia article:

On the Mediterranean coast, Carpobrotus has spread out rapidly and now parts of the coastline are completely covered by this invasive species. Moreover, another invasive species, the black rat, has been shown to enhance the spreading of the ice plant through its feces. As the ice plant represents a food resource for the rat, both benefit from each other (invasive mutualism).

Invasive Plants in the Western United States

Here is more about invasive plants from the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in California:

Estimates indicate that invasive plants are spreading at about 4,600 acres per day on federal lands alone in the Western United States.

Weeds have invaded approximately 17 million acres of public rangelands in the West – more than quadrupling their range from 1985-1995. In northern California, yellow starthistle increased from 1 million acres in 1981 to 10 million acres today.

While the yellow starthistle were introduced by accident, the iceplants were planted in this area on purpose.

Ice plants at Moss Landing Harbor

Ice plants at Moss Landing Harbor (in the water are two Southern Sea Otters)  Click on the photo if you would like to see more photos and learn about sea otters that live in the Monterey Bay area.

Concerns about soil erosion, and the belief decades ago that iceplants would help to stabilize soil and sand dune areas led to mass plantings, especially in military bases, like at Fort Ord.

In the 1970s, drought issues and the need to use drought tolerant vegetation along California highways led CalTrans — the California Department of Transportation, who manage over 50,000 miles (80,467 km) of the state’s highways and freeways — to plant iceplants on some freeway embankments and dividers.

Except…the folks who promoted the use of iceplants to stabilize soil did not have the information we now have, or the awareness about biodiversity issues, and the extent (and ability) of these plants to crowd out native plants.

On the use of iceplants as a soil stabilizer, from a Wikipedia article:

Despite its use as a soil stabilizer, it actually exacerbates and speeds up coastal erosion. It holds great masses of water in its leaves, and its roots are very shallow. In the rainy season, the added weight on unstable sandstone slopes and dunes increases the chances of slope collapse and landslides.

Oh no! So now what?

A lot of work will need to be done to remove iceplant infestations, and to re-plant native plants and restore dune habitat areas with California coastal plants.

The photo below from Moss Landing State Beach, where dune restoration projects are in place, gives an idea of what the sand dunes around these parts are supposed to look like…

Dune Restoration

Removing iceplants will give native plants a chance to recover, like the yellow sand verbenas (Abronia-latifolia)…

Abronia latifolia yellow sand verbena

and the Monterey spineflower (Chorizanthe pungens).

Monterey spineflower Chorizanthe pungens via Wikipedia commons

So that eventually, the dunes here will look more like the photos below, instead of iceplant intensive, like what we are used to seeing…

Monterey Bay Sand Dune Plants

Coastal cities and public agencies, as well as non-profit organizations are putting forth dune restoration projects, working sections at a time to remove highly invasive species like iceplants.

Native plants returning to dunes

There are still many iceplant patches in this area that need to be removed, but native plants are returning to dunes at the Moss Landing State Beach area.

This will take funding, a lot of work, a lot of volunteers, and educating the public about the “return of the natives”.

Native Plants Dune Vegetation

Because ice plants are succulents and have a high water content, burning is not a recommended way to eradicate these plant bullies.  They will have to be removed by pulling the plant out (thankfully, it has shallow roots), flipping them over and piling them up to compost in areas where it makes sense to compost them.  I’ve also read about cities and agencies allowing the use of a specific type of herbicide to kill the plants, under expert supervision (see the Pacific Grove city website and type in “ice plant” in the search box for more details).

I hope by posting this information and photos, you learned more about this invasive plant (as I have), and it is another step towards helping to control the spread of this plant bully in the Monterey Bay area.

To join in the Earth-Friendly Chroniclers’ Invasive Plant Challenge, click here, and be sure to visit blog posts for this event, including from South Africa / Cape Peninsula – by Nature on the Edge, from Australia – An Evolving Scientist and in Oregon, by challenge host Just Another Nature Enthusiast.

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Talk about iceplants just being part of the landscape here…we got this magazine yesterday, and I see the red hues on the iceplants make a very nice addition to the front page cover photo.  

Ice plants on cover of VIA magazine

Screen shot of digital version of Via Magazine’s Summer 2015 issue.  The spot is listed inside the magazine as from Marin County, California (in the North Bay, across the Golden Gate Bridge)

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ABOUT FORT ORD – DESIGNATED A NATIONAL MONUMENT IN 2012

If you visit the Monterey Bay area and want to go to a super clean beach without many visitors, check out the Fort Ord Dunes State Park.

In April, 2012, a large part of the Fort Ord area became a National Monument, and is federally protected from further development — a good thing for the Monterey Bay!

Before becoming a U.S. National Monument, Fort Ord land was used by the U.S. Military as a training area.  Starting in 1917 and up to the 1990’s, almost 1,500,000 troops trained at Fort Ord. In addition to its role as a major training base for the army, it was also a staging and deployment area for army troops that fought in World War II as well as the Vietnam war.

Ft Ord Barracks

Fort Ord Barracks — awaiting demolition. Despite the military base closed for over 20 years now, ice plants survive — as you can see on this photograph — and are seen all over the Fort Ord land.

The base officially closed in 1994, and many of the military structures (mostly barracks) have been demolished, and the land now houses facilities used by California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB), and other tracts of land are being developed for housing and commercial uses.

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More information:

Return of the Natives – A California State Universtiy Monterey Bay (CSUMB) community and school-based environmental education program to restore native habitat – On why they are doing this work:

The Monterey area’s natural landscape and ecosystems are under siege from an army of invasive “exotic” plant species or WEEDS.

Most have been introduced for horticultural purposes, or came as agricultural stowaways, from areas of the world that have similar climates to central California. Spreading onto disturbed soils such as road cuts, and lacking natural enemies, these non-native invaders quickly replace native plants and overrun fragile ecosystems.

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary page about Coastal Dune Community

The Importance of Native Species – Information and resource links from the Elkhorn Slough Foundation / National Estuarine Research Reserve

Coastal Training Program from Elkhorn Slough – Endangered Species Fact Sheet

About iceplants(Carpobrotus edulis) – Wikipedia article

President Barack Obama Proclamation – Establishment of the Fort Ord National Monument