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 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, 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.

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

Head above the clouds

Despite the drought, and our meager rainfall so far this year in California, we actually did have storms earlier this year, significant enough to produce some scary looking clouds here in the Monterey Bay area (photos captured with my phone camera)…

Storm Clouds over Salinas Valley

Storm clouds over highway

Sun through the dark clouds

I don’t normally think about photographing clouds, but I do like to take sunset photos which can sometimes produce interesting cloud photos.

I did not think much about this sunset shot below because of the lack of color, but on second look, I actually like the grays and the cloud formation.

Gray Clouds Sunset

So it turns out I have more cloud pictures than I realized, and now, these photos have a “home” in my blog because of this week’s prompt by Brie Anne Demkiw with the theme Forces of Nature:

Whether it’s the towering white clouds on the beaches of Thailand, the massive waterfalls at Yosemite, or the fast-moving fog in San Francisco Bay, it seems everywhere we go, nature is putting on a show for us.

This week, share a force of nature from your corner of the world. It can be something as large as the Grand Canyon, or as small as the tiny seedling steadily breaking is way through the concrete in your driveway.

Nature does put on a show for us every single day, if only we remember to take the time to notice…

Sunset and clouds

Since this post is all about clouds, have you heard of, or used the term “head above the clouds”?

What does the term mean to you?  Is it a good thing, because you can think more clearly above it all, or bad, perhaps because you have lost contact with the ground?

Going above the clouds

From waves to a single California poppy for the WPC: Forces of Nature

My entry for this week’s Weekly WordPress Photo Challenge theme, Forces of Nature

P1190533

I took the above photograph after learning about “scale” in an earlier challenge. I think including the silhouette of the beach visitors adds to convey the vastness (and force) of the ocean, even in a small photograph.  What do you think?

Asilomar Coast  1 web

Asilomar Coast web

The WordPress Photo Challenge is truly a good way to improve photography skills, especially for an amateur and forever newbie like me, and to help with composition ideas.

I also started taking wave shots recently, and include these for the theme…

And a few weeks ago, while at a walk, I was struck by the persistence of this California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) to flower, even in a spot that looks unfavorable for growth.

Single Califiornia Poppy at railroad track Single Califiornia Poppy at railroad track 1

The poppy is the official state flower of California.  It is seen on scenic route signs and “welcome” signs along California highways.

Because this poppy is a state flower, it is illegal to collect it in the wild.  But, as you can imagine, if it can grow here along and in between the gravel filled railroad tracks, it is also easy to grow in gardens as it is drought-tolerant and self seeds.

California Poppy plant in bloom

California Poppy — plant in bloom by roadside, where nothing else is growing

When we lived in the East Bay, my daughter put out some seeds at the front of our home, and every year after that, California poppies showed up without fail during springtime.

More on the California Golden Poppy on Local Wiki, where they note “California Native Americans cherished the poppy as both a source of food and oil extracts”. and on an Arizona State University webpage  which includes information about these poppy plants and its traditional use “as a remedy for toothaches…and as tea for headaches”.

There is also an article on The Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano about how to make a poppy tincture.  Who knew!

California Poppy in front of Colton Hall Monterey

California poppies, springtime blooms in front of Colton Hall, Monterey, California

California poppies — if you are not familiar with these flowers — are really bright and pretty, and so lovely to see blooming en masse wild in a field or valley.  Note: If you want to see more California poppy photos, please visit the post with spectacular photography by Jane Lurie.

One year, my older sister, my daughter, and I drove out to Point Reyes (North Bay) for a visit during spring to see the wild poppy blooms.

If you like seeing wildflowers, Point Reyes is a must visit during springtime, as there are over 800 species that grow there. More about Point Reyes, part of the National Park Service here.and see this poster to get a sampling of the wildflowers you can see at the Point Reyes National Seashore.

When my younger sister  (who now lives on the East Coast of the U.S., but lived in California for years) saw the orange poppies for my post on The Changing Season photo challenge, it made her miss the area.

I wonder if California poppies evoke similar feelings for others…and does a little flower count as a force of nature?

Yellow Starthistle: Invasive plants and the Earth-Friendly Chroniclers’ Challenge

Sometimes, it is hard to know what plants are native to the area.  If you see it everywhere, for as long as you can remember, it must be native, right?

Field of Yellow Starthistles

Field of yellow starthistle – Photo via Invasive.org (Creative Commons) by Joseph M. DiTomaso, University of California – Davis, Bugwood.org – See more at: http://www.invasive.org/browse/detail.cfm?imgnum=5374358#sthash.rDPc2dA5.dpuf

Or maybe the weather and the soil is perfect for the type of plant, and actually it is an invasive plant — a “plant bully”, the theme for this week’s Earth-Friendly Chroniclers’ Challenge hosted by JustAnotherNatureEnthusiast.org.

Yellow Starthistle Detail

Photo – Creative Commons by Stephen Ausmus, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Bugwood.org – See more at: http://www.invasive.org

When we lived in the East Bay area (Contra Costa County, California), yellow starthistles grew by the side of the road, in between paved walkways, in open fields…and in our backyard.

The spines under its bright yellow flowers were notorious for its strength and sharpness, and often flattened my daughter’s bike tires.

These thistles were brought to North America  by accident in the 1800’s, and now grow in just about every state in our nation, and in Canada.

It is considered an invasive species in California, and as you can see from the first photo for this post, absolutely thrives in many parts of California.

From the California Invasive Plant Council:

Yellow starthistle is native to southern Europe and western Eurasia and was first collected in Oakland, California, in 1869. It was most likely introduced after 1848 as a contaminant of alfalfa seed. Introductions prior to 1899 were most likely from Chile, while introductions from 1899 to 1927 appear to be from Turkestan, Argentina, Italy, France, and Spain (Gerlach in prep., Hillman and Henry 1928).

By 1917 it had become a serious weed in the Sacramento Valley and was spreading rapidly along roads, trails, streams, ditches, overflow lands, and railroad rights-of-way (Newman 1917). In 1919 Willis Jepson observed its distribution near Vacaville and stated: “It is 1,000 times as common as ten years ago, perhaps even six years ago” (Jepson 1919).

Yellow starthistles grow and thrive all over Contra Costa County, and in particular in the Black Diamond Mine areas (part of the East Bay Regional Park District), where these photos of our dogs Jake and Sara were taken in spring and early summer.

Jakey Boy

Jake — our black lab mix and best pound dog ever!

Sara Sassafras

Sara — the smallest, and sweetest Newfoundland…

During hikes in the summer and fall, we had to check our dogs during and after in case thistle spikes lodged near their paws, or attached to their fur.

Jake and Sara Contra Costa County hike

Our dogs Jake and Sara — ahead of us in scenery typical of Eastern Contra Costa County, California. By summer, many fields (like this one) will be blanketed with yellow starthistle flowers…establishing itself in wider and wider areas…

By summer, you could see the yellow starthistle’s flowers across many of the fields and hiking trails.  It crowds out native plants…and because of its long tap root, uses water that would otherwise be used by native grasses and native plants species.

It took me several years to completely get rid of it in our backyard.  I don’t like using herbicides (or pesticides) so I manually pulled each one I found.  Because of its long tap roots, I had to get at the base of the plant (with gloves because the rest of the plant also had sharp and itch-producing properties) and do a sort of twist and pull motion to get at it, and then dispose of it in the garbage.

Garden area

After pulling out yellow starthistles from the backyard, we eventually had a decent garden and patio area. Photo of the garden area by the side of the house is of my daughter (in the middle) her friend, Jennifer at right, and our dog, Sara to the left.

With diligence, it is possible to get rid of yellow starthistles in an enclosed area, and once our garden plants and pavers were in place, I did not see anymore of it.

It’s another story in many parts of the Western United States.  Again, from the From the California Invasive Plant Council:

Yellow starthistle had spread to over a million acres of California by the late 1950s and nearly two million acres by 1965. In 1985 it was estimated to cover eight million acres in California (Maddox and Mayfield 1985) and perhaps ten to twelve million acres a decade later. It is equally problematic around Medford in southwestern Oregon and in Hells Canyon in Oregon and Idaho (Maddox et al. 1985). It also infests, to a lesser degree, areas in eastern Oregon, eastern Washington, and Idaho (Roch and Roch 1988).

Aside from small-scale manual removal, other methods to control this invasive species are listed on the California Invasive Plant Council, including mechanical methods (mowing down the plants before the flowers produce seed in the summertime).

The USDA has also approved and continues to experiment with insects that attack the plant’s flowers to minimize seed production.

Horse

Photo of horse taken at a ranch in Placer County, near the Sacramento Metropolitan area.

I’ve seen articles that indicated the yellow starthistle is poisonous to horses, but grazing by sheep, goats or cattle before seeds are formed can be an effective way to control growth if done at the right time (May and June).

Do you have an invasive plant in your area — or backyard and want to join in the WordPress challenge?  Click here for details about this challenge, and visit links for the challenge guideline.

My next post will be about another invasive plant where we now live in the Central Coast of California  —- the “ice plant”, which are seen along the coast and in the backyards of homes here in Monterey County.

WPC Motion 2: Always in motion

Kids seem to be always in motion…

Always in motion

Ball in motion

Photos from the box…scanned and now digitized :).  A favorite set of photos from when my daughter was around 8, and now she has 2 sons, one of whom is now also 8 years old!

I like that the photo captured the joy of just being a kid and running around the backyard, and the ball in motion, of course…

Post for the weekly WordPress Photo Challenge theme of Motion.

WPC: Vernal pond wildlife in motion

There is something about watching wildlife that can totally put one at ease…even if it is a quick visit to a local vernal pond to see common birds like mallard ducks or American coots…

Mallard Duck in motion 2

American Coot in motion

I recently started to take bird photographs.

Since I don’t have the right camera or lens for long distance shots, I am limited to the types of birds that are familiar with humans — the ones that don’t mind me being nearby with a camera — like the types that live at local ponds.

I like the colors of the birds and the water reflection, captured for these photographs.  The movement of birds and the rippling water conveys motion, the theme for this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge.

Mallard Duck in motion 1

These ducks came right up to me looking for food when I arrived at the pond’s edge, so obviously, they are used to people giving them food.

I did not have any food for them, and after a few minutes, they went away and most went back in the water.

More about this pond at the Locke Paddon Community Wetland Park, Marina, California posted on the WordPress Photo Challenge Challenge Blur) .

Mr and Mrs Mallard Ducks in motion

Mallard Duck in motion

Birds at Locke Paddon Vernal Pond

Do you think people should feed ducks and other wildlife that live in our parks and local ponds?  Is it allowed where you live, or should feeding ducks (or pigeons, etc.) be banned?

Interconnected: Happy Earth Day 2015!

Seventy percent of the planet Earth is covered by ocean water.

Do you think it is a coincidence that our bodies are composed of about the same percentage of water too?

For Earth Day, let’s remember how connected we all are, and that the future of our planet is in our hands.

Note:  If you are still buying bottled water, or sold on the idea that water from a plastic bottle is somehow better than what comes out ofWater 100 percent Natural Ad your tap, please see this post 100% Natural Water.

It is a reminder for us to pay attention to, and to see through marketing tricks and ads, which sometimes feel like “green ads” from big manufacturers.

We are all getting smarter about his though, and I see many positive developments since I posted this article — so hopeful!

I understand that sometimes, we have no choice but to buy bottled water, but when possible, bringing your own water to special events or as we are out and about is a habit we can practice — and one that can make a big impact on our resources and reduce trash — trash that often ends up in the ocean.

HAPPY EARTH DAY 2015!

Forest Man: A film about how one person CAN make a difference

The year 2015 is designated by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations as the International Year of Soils, with the aim to increase awareness and understanding of the importance of soil for food security and essential ecosystem functions.

I am posting this inspiring film about Jadav Payeng in support of this month’s Earth-Friendly Challenge — on the topic of SOIL — hosted by Just Another Nature Enthusiast.

In 1979, when Payeng was 16, he started to plant each and every tree of what is now 1,300 acres of a pristine tropical woodland — and singlehandedly created a forest that is larger than New York City’s Central Park.

From the website, Plaid Zebra:

Payeng first became interested in planting the forest after noticing the effects of desertification on the island’s wildlife.

According to the Water Resources Management journal, “An estimated 175 Mha [million hectares] of land in India, constituting about 53 per cent of the total geographical area (329 Mha), suffers from deleterious effects of soil erosion…”

The North-East Indian forest created by Jadav Payeng is now home to 115 elephants, 100 deer, numerous rhinos, Bengal tigers, apes, rabbits and vultures.

This inspiring documentary film is narrated by photojournalist, Jitu Kalita and made by Canadian filmmaker William Douglas McMaster. Jitu Kalita is a wildlife photographer and the person who discovered — and wrote about — the forest created by Jadav Payeng.

The next time you feel hopeless about environmental problems, or overwhelmed about the depressing news on climate change and start to think “what does it matter what I do…what difference is it going to make…I’m only one person…there is nothing I can do…” please think about what Jadav Payeng accomplished, starting with one tree.

Related: Article on the Earth Island Journal The Lone Green Warrior

Jadav Payeng photo

Jadav Payeng photo via article on Earth Island Journal

Have you heard of Jadav Payeng?  He is around the same age as I am…and it is amazing that in his lifetime thus far, he managed to create a forest that is larger than NYC’s famed Central Park.

Let me know what you think of this film, and if you can, please do join in this month’s Earth-Friendly challenge.

WPC: Early Bird – Sunrise and Philippine pandan leaf sellers

My favorite time of the day is right after sunset — the twilight (“takip-silim” in the Philippine Tagalog language, takip meaning to cover, and silim means dusk). I am definitely not a morning person.

Earlier this year, I did see some amazing sunrises.  Luckily, I was awake and aware enough to appreciate the moment and snap some photos on my phone camera, with pine trees in silhouette…

Monterey Bay Area (California) Sunrise Photos

Sunrise 1

Sunrise 4

Philippine Pandan Leaf Sellers Sunrise Photos

Though I am not a morning person, one has to wake up pretty early if you want to buy leaves at the market where Philippine pandan leaves — called “romblon” in our region — are sold.

Here are a few of my photos of pandan leaf sellers unloading their banka (outrigger) boats and bringing in bundles of leaves to sell at the weekly market.  They usually pull in from surrounding islands right before sunrise.

Early Bird Photo Challenge

Early Bird Photo Challenge 3

Early Bird Photo Challenge 2

More versions of my pandan leaf seller photos arriving for market day are posted on the Native Leaf website, here (posted for the Golden Hour photo challenge).

Romblon Leaf "Bayongs" (Market Totes Bags)

Romblon Leaf “Bayongs” (Market Totes Bags)

And if you are curious about what products can be made from the  leaves of the pandan plant, in addition to its use in Asian and Pacific islands for cooking and food flavoring, see this LolaKo.com post: Philippine Romblon (Pandanus) plant or click on the market totes – Philippine bayong photo.

To participate in this week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge (WPC) theme of “Early Bird” or to see entries for this challenge, click here.

Early Bird Challenge theme guidelines, from

Whether it’s an unforgettable sunrise, that warm glow that only comes from early morning light, or just the lack of other people walking through your shot, early birding can pay real dividends in your photographs.

This week (and especially if you’re among those who find the early bird concept cringe-worthy), I encourage you to set your alarm for the early hours, grab your first (several) cups of coffee, and challenge yourself to capture an outstanding photograph in the early morning light.

Unless…Water is a Precious Resource (an Earth-Friendly Friday Challenge) From the U.S. to the Philippines, a remembrance and how we take water for granted

I heard my niece, Stephanie, calling out for me from the bathroom of my mother’s house.  She is 15, and it is her first visit to the Philippines…

Rice Fields and Coconut Trees

Rice Fields and Coconut Trees — Verdant Philippines — drive from the pier to home. I can’t imagine not liking the color green, especially if you grew up in the Philippines.

Stephanie found the journey to the Philippines unbelievably long.  For her, it began in the U.S. state of Virginia — then to California, to first attend the wedding of my younger sister.

Several days after the wedding, we are headed from San Francisco, California to Manila — the largest city in the Philippines.

Sunset from above ground webAfter a long layover in Manila, we take another hour-long, plane ride to the island of Cebu, then head to the pier for a 2 hour “Supercat” ride — a catamaran style ferryboat service that shuttles people from one island to the next.  At the pier, we are picked up and all load into a van headed for my mother’s home.

But it is another 45 minute drive from the pier to our mother’s home…and by this time, we had been traveling for 24 hours.   While in the van, a travel weary Stephanie asked…”so what is next after the van ride?”

water buffallo kalabaw or carabao late 1800s

water buffallo (kalabaw or carabao) Photo from late 1800s.

I told her that after we arrive, we would have to ride atop a water buffalo (a “kalabao” or carabao) with our luggage, and head up to the mountains.  “The van cannot travel on those unstable roads” I tell her.

She shakes her head in disbelief…”A water bufallo???”.  I smile at her and tell her I am just joking…the van is the last leg of the trip, and soon, we would finally be at my mother’s home.

The following day, she wakes up and wants to take a shower.  It is hot, humid, and she is looking forward to a shower, especially after the long journey.  She is calling me from the bathroom because she has turned the water faucet handles and no water is coming out.

I knock on the bathroom door and ask her what she needs.”Is there a trick to the faucets?” she asked.  She opens the door, and I explain to her that there is no water pressure in the morning…and most likely, there will be no water available until the evening.  “How am I suppose to take a shower, then…and why is there a big garbage can size container of water in the shower?”

I tell her…”well Steph, that container of water is your shower”.

Tabo

A Filipino “Tabo”

I point to the “tabo” floating on top of the big container of water in front of her, and pick it up. “You see this thing Steph, it is called a tabo. You dip it in the water, then pour the water over your head and body to rinse.  Then you soap up, shampoo, then do the same with a final rinse”.

I tell her it’s a “tropical shower”, and add…”or…you can wait until this evening to take a shower, when the water pressure is back up”.   Her jaw drops…then she responds “Really?” I answer back “Yes, Steph…really.”

I giggle as I close the bathroom door and imagine the culture shock she must be experiencing.  Having grown up in the Philippines, and accustomed to preparing for water being unavailable from the tap, I find the situation amusing.  And then I think, well, all in all, it is good for her because there is so much we take for granted living in the United States.

Filipina with water jar

Photo of a young Filipina with a clay water jug, late 1800’s. My sisters and I fetched water during the early 1970s, and thankfully, the containers we had for our water were much lighter than the one from this photo…

While living in the province (“prubinsya” or away from the city) when my sisters and I were young, we experienced having to “fetch” water away from home.  A few times when the water wells dried up, we had to walk up the road to a natural spring site to get fresh water.

To this day, we all remember fondly our time in the province and once in a while still utter…”okay…mag-igib na tayo nang tubig” — translated to “let us go and fetch some water now”.  Then we laugh about it, because of how absurd it sounds, with all 3 of us now living in the states.

Can you imagine having to “fetch” water?  Picture our little tribe of kids walking on the gravel roadside with our balde (buckets), and metal containers, headed to the  natural spring source.  We fill our containers and carefully walk back — trying not to spill what we fetched.

I remember our older sister scolding us every few steps because of the water spilling out from our heavy containers.  She tells the group to be careful because we would all have to come back AGAIN if we keep letting water spill out.

We do our best, but I’m pretty sure we lost half of the water by the time we got back to our Nanay Lucing and Tatay Kerpo’s place (our Aunt and Uncle’s house).

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This post in support of Unless…Earth-Friendly Friday Challenge for World Water Day – Water is a precious resource; let us count the ways.

Although my take for this challenge is a little humorous, I do hope the post will make us appreciate how we take water for granted here in the U.S.  There are still many places around the world where clean water is hard to find — or does not even come out of a faucet.

Please check out these photos from the International Business Times for World Water Day (found via JustAnotherNatureEnthusiast.org) and you will think twice about ever wasting water again.

Water is everything to all of us on this planet. 

Without water, we cease to exist.  It’s as simple as that…

IMG_0001

Photo taken during the time of Stephanie’s visit, of a group of us swimming at a natural river “pool”. My daughter is at the front, both arms up — she was 13 then (and now I am a grandmother to her 2 boys). Behind her is my mother, and from left, my older sister, our cousin Donah, my cousin Ate Violeta, and her daughter.

This post is also dedicated to my niece, Stephanie, who celebrated her birthday this week.  Happy Birthday, Stephanie!   We are still trying to convince her to come and visit the Philippines again…

IMG

Stephanie’s Baby Photo

My mother had a water tower installed several years after Stephanie’s visit.  It is filled up every night, so that throughout the day, there is water available for cooking, washing dishes, gardening, washing clothes, or even….for taking showers.

Ready to visit again, Stephanie?

Happy Birthday

From left, my younger sister, older sister (celebrating her birthday) and her daughter —- my niece — Stephanie.

WPC2: San Francisco “Afloat” at Sunset

My second entry for this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge theme is “Afloat”.

I took this photo with my phone camera (then an HTC Evo 3D) from Treasure Island — a man-made island in the San Francisco Bay.

San Francisco night shot from Treasure Island web

It was a unique evening and sunset, with light that seemed to glow from behind the city of San Francisco, giving it a floating kind of feel.  I wish I had a camera aside from my phone camera that night, as there surely would have been some fantastic images from that evening.

Still….I’m happy I have this one, even if the image quality is lacking.

And a tip to photographer visitors to San Francisco, going across the Bay Bridge and taking the Treasure Island exit will give you some great shots of this beautiful “City by the Bay”.  You can see the Bay Bridge (lit at left on the photograph) and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge from Treasure Island.

WPC: Paddles and Spirit Afloat

This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge theme is “Afloat” — a theme that can be interpreted in a myriad of ways (as is usually the case for these challenges, and what makes it so fun to participate).

An obvious choice from my photo collection were kayaking shots.  I remembered my photograph of this group of stand-up paddlers heading out from Moss Landing in Monterey County, California…

Stand Up Paddlers web

I also had photographs of Jeff kayaking at nearby Elkhorn Slough.  One time, I asked when he thought he would get done, so that our grandchildren and I could meet him at the launch area.

web Jeff with the ever present Western Greebe 1

We spotted him from where he launched at Kirby Park…along with a grebe — a type of migrating water bird that also makes its home on the Pacific coast.

What is funny is the grebe seemed to always be near him, even as he paddled close to shore.

web Jeff and the ever present Western Greebe 1

web Jeff and the ever present Western Greebe

web Jeff and the ever present Western Greebe 2

What I like about these photos is that it captured a state of being happy…maybe feeling afloat, in the moment and free of any other distractions.

web Spirit Afloat with grandchildren 2

These photos to me reflect a literal “afloat” because of the kayak in the image, but more important is the spirit being afloat, of his joy at seeing our grandchildren after the kayak ride on the slough.

More about Elkhorn Slough on the post for the photo challenge theme “Depth” about the California King Tides Project (sea level rise).

On to Monterey’s Fishermans Wharf for this month’s Changing Season WordPress Photo Challenge

During March, I photographed buildings and gardens in the old downtown, historic part of Monterey, California.  For the April “Changing Seasons” WordPress Photo Challenge, I continued my walk from the Customs House Plaza to Fisherman’s Wharf, a popular tourist destination in Monterey.

I initially avoided going to the Fisherman’s Wharf area because it is geared to tourist, filled with stores that sell kitschy seaside type items, but it is a fun area with good restaurants and views that yield scenic photos.  The coastal trail is usually a blur of people out for walks with their pets or with families pushing strollers, and bicycle riders cruising the Pacific Trail, especially during summertime.

The colors of the buildings combined with springtime blooms created bright photographs…

My favorite among these is the bright yellows and purple blooms in front of this pink building at the wharf’s entrance.

Monterey Fishermans Wharf yellows and pink

Tourist were out and about and watching wildlife and California sea lions…(sadly, many sea lions have been found stranded at California beaches this year, which scientists suspect is due to warming ocean temperatures and their difficulties in finding food — see my post here last month, for more information).

Back to downtown old Monterey, pollarded trees that were bare and dormant last month have sprouted springtime leaves…

Spring leaves on pollarded trees

Spring leaves on trees by barn 1And wisteria vines that were spilling with beautiful purple flowers last month are now covered with fresh spring leaves…

Old Monterey entrance Whaling Station Building 1

I photographed other interesting buildings in old downtown as well…buildings with the flags — there are several of them in old downtown — house the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.

And a mark of the season, more flowers in bloom and delivery of Easter Lily plants, in preparation for Easter Sunday last week…

To see entries for this challenge hosted by Cardinal Guzman, or to participate, click here.

Happy Spring to all…or whatever season it may be in your part of the world!

Memory Garden Wisteria

Click on the photo of the Wisteria vine and fountains at left, taken at the Pacific House Garden, to view last month’s entry.

 

 

IMG00586Related post:

February Entry: The Longevity of author John Steinbeck – photos from his hometown

March Entry – Historic Monterey

Post From Hunting Whales to Celebrating Whales in Monterey Bay

WPC 2 – Blur of Baile Folklorico dresses (community performance for Cesar Chavez Day)

P1180592aA second entry for the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge theme blur from Michelle W:

This week, share a photo that’s a blur. You could keep your camera out of focus to achieve a blurry photo, or take a photo of something in motion. Or go in a different direction — capture an image of an experience that would otherwise be a blur, or of something in a state of flux.

I first saw this Baile Folklorico group perform 2 years ago for Cinco de Mayo, and again last month for a community performance the week before — and in honor of — Cesar Chavez Day (March 31st).

The day is a commemorative holiday that celebrates the legacy of civil rights and labor movement activist Cesar Chavez, and to promote community service.

P1180579a

From Wikipedia…Baile folklórico, literally “folkloric dance” in Spanish, is a collective term for traditional Latin American dances that emphasize local folk culture with ballet characteristics – pointed toes, exaggerated movements, highly choreographed.  Each region in Mexico, the Southwestern United States and Central American countries is known for a handful of locally characteristic dances.

Baile Folklorico US Southwest Style costume

Dancer costumes depend on the region represented, and mostly reflect traditional Spanish influence, but denims and western style shirts representative of the Southwest United States are also worn.

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The bright colors of the dresses, and matching ribbons braided into the hair were a treat to see…

According to the Wikipedia article, “in the folk dances of Northern Mexico, men generally wear black Pants with Galas on each side of the leg, accented with a red tie and belt and a black wide-brimmed hat”.

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There are no blurs on the photo of the two young girls below, but they were just too adorable and I am including in this post.

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Did you know that March 31st was Cesar Chavez Day?  Are there Baile Folklorico dance groups in your region of the United States (or Mexico / Central America)?

WPC: Blur of wildlife and reeds at Locke-Paddon Wetland Community Park

I was waiting for a phone call from my younger sister and decided to walk around Locke-Paddon park in Marina (Monterey County, California). Waiting…waiting…and little camera in hand, I walked near the pond’s edge to photograph birds.

Mallard Duck

Locke-Paddon is a community park and one of the area’s “vernal” (seasonal) ponds.  The water level fluctuates but never dries out completely. The city library is located in this park, and the pond area is an easy destination for bird viewing.

There are many mallard ducks and American coot (below) that live in the pond, as well as birds who visit to drink and bathe.

What I found interesting in the series of photographs were the blur of reeds and vegetation against the water — perfect for this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge theme from Michelle W:

This week, share a photo that’s a blur. You could keep your camera out of focus to achieve a blurry photo, or take a photo of something in motion. Or go in a different direction — capture an image of an experience that would otherwise be a blur, or of something in a state of flux.

Reed Blur 2

Reed Blur 5

The blur of colors could be interpreted as a painting, don’t you think?

For more information about the park, visit the Locke-Paddon page at the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District website, here.

I never did get the phone call…so I went home, only to find out my ringer was off, and I missed her calls.  I laughed and called her right back…and was happy to have interesting photos in my collection, all while “waiting”.

Unless…Earth-Friendly Friday – Pulse of the Salinas River (and about California’s severe drought)

This post continues on the WordPress weekly Earth-Friendly challenge with the theme of water.  For the first week we learned about our watersheds.  In Monterey County and the Central Coast, our watershed is the Salinas River Watershed.

Monterey Bay in context of Region 3

The second water challenge theme included taking a “Water Footprint Calculator” developed by National Geographic.

For this week, the challenge was to learn about dams that alter the flow of our river and tributaries, and the purpose of the structure (Economic? Social? Environmental?).

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The Salinas River near Highway 1, water headed towards the Pacific Ocean.

This challenge was truly…well,  a challenge!  I did not get to the other questions to consider AFTER I learned about the dams in the Salinas river because the answer to this question was not very easy to find.

What made this challenge confusing was that the Salinas River actually covers two counties.  Searching for dams in the Salinas River first yielded information about the “Salinas Dam” built in neighboring San Luis Obispo County (South of Monterey county and where the Salinas River begins).

The contract to build the “Salinas Dam” in San Luis Obispo County was signed seven months before the Pearl Harbor attack. It took 3 years to build this particular dam, for water headed to San Luis Obispo.  I include this information in my blog post because their local paper (The Tribune) had a series of blog posts called “Photos from the Vault” that revisited local history.  Imagine my surprise when I saw a connection to the Philippines (where I grew up) on one of the headlines related to the Salinas Dam, after Japanese troops took over the Philippine capital Manila  during World War II:

Salinas Dam WWII

It is a coincidence that had me sidetracked about information that was already a challenge to research.  It brought back memories of stories told by my aunts and uncles about their difficulties during the war, when they had to hide out in the jungle and head to the mountains when our area was occupied — beginning when my mother was still a toddler.

But back to Monterey County…where, (alas!) I found California State University at Monterey Bay’s “Central Coast Watershed Wiki” and this information:

The main tributaries of the Salinas River are the Nacimiento, San Antonio, Arroyo Seco, San Lorenzo, and Estrella Rivers.

Nacimiento_River_photo via wikipedia

Nacimiento_River_photo via wikipedia

The Salinas River watershed has three large dams in its upper portion: The Salinas Dam, built in the 1940’s; the Nacimiento Dam, built in the 1950’s; and the San Antonio Dam, built in the 1960’s. The Salinas Dam is managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers, and the Nacimiento and San Antonio Dams are managed by the Monterey County Water Resources Agency.

Nacimiento_River_Dam

Nacimiento River Dam photos via Monterey County Water Resources Agency

Further…

The Lower portion of the Salinas River is often referred to as the Lower Salinas River. The division of the river and its watershed in upper and lower portions is for administrative purposes only.

The Salinas River drains to both the Salinas River Lagoon and the Moss Landing Harbor in the center of the Monterey Bay.

So I will post this information for the challenge with this basic data, and will consider other questions posted for this challenge as time permits at a later time.

This information is important to learn, considering we are officially in our 4th year of drought here in California.  However, it is overwhelming and I am only beginning to understand all the organizations involved in providing water to the Central Coast Basin and their various roles (e.g., the Monterey County Water Resources Agency  and the California Department of Water Resources).

Based on the information below, sourced from government related websites…

Quality Water in Short Supply in Central Coastal Basin

…and because the area near where we live has already had seawater intrusion (I’ve posted information about this and sea level rise for the California King Tides Project) I’ll keep my blog post update for this particular challenge focused on seawater intrusion — at least for now.

Information on the California Drought

Several days ago, California’s drought conditions hit national news because our snow pack water content hit a new record low.  The annual measurement was at 5% of average, which broke the previous record of 25% of average in 1977 and 1991.

The photo below — where California governor Jerry Brown is standing at the podium — is at 6,800 feet elevation.  Normally, and for this time of the year, they would be standing on 5 feet of snow.  Instead, they are standing on grass!

California Governor Drought News

It is going to be a challenge to meet the new MANDATORY water reduction goal of reducing water use by 25%.  So, whether we like it or not, we are all going to be learning a lot more about water use, and our water sources…which makes this focus on water for the March Earth-Friendly challenges very timely.

To learn more about the latest California water content measurement (Sierra Nevada Snowpack) click here.  Excerpt:

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) found no snow whatsoever today during its manual survey for the media at 6,800 feet in the Sierra Nevada. Thiswas the first time in 75 years of early-April measurements at the Phillips snow course that no snow was found there. Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. observed thesurvey, which confirmed electronic readingsshowing the statewide snowpack with less water content today than any April 1stsince 1950.  Attending the survey with Governor Brown was DWR Director Mark Cowin, who said Californians can expect to receive almost no water from the meager snowpack as it melts in the coming weeks.
More here…

For more information on this Unless…Earth Friendly challenge, hosted by JustAnotherNatureEnthusiast.org, click here.

WPC: Fresh flowers and plants for the 1st day of Spring

Today is the first day of spring in our part of the world — my favorite season!  It is also Friday and WordPress photo challenge time.

California Poppy oldtown Monterey

Bright orange California poppies — a symbol of spring. Photo taken near Colton Hall downtown historic Monterey last week.

The theme this week is “Fresh”.  From Jen H…

In the Northern Hemisphere, spring is beginning to slowly appear, and many of us whose creativity was dampened by the cold and drear of winter days are beginning to reawaken. The freshness of spring is a powerful catalyst to get shutterbugs outdoors and get
shooting.

For this week’s photo challenge, share with us a photo that expresses something fresh

The “freshness of spring” is exactly the reason for these photos.

From oak trees sprouting new leaves…

Fresh new leaves on oak

And new sprouts on eucalyptus and pines…

Fresh grass and more…

And flowers abundantly expressing the freshness of spring…

Spring Blue Scrub Jay

I don’t have the right camera to take bird photos, but this “California” Coastal Western scrub jay didn’t seem to mind being close so I snapped these photos too.  Easy enough since the Western jays live in many suburban gardens.

Fresh plants and hearing so many birds chirping outdoors is a wonderful sign of spring.

Spring Blue Scrub Jay 1

To participate in the challenge, click here.  And I wish you a most happy spring season!

Some visitors unknowingly redirected to ads!

I just found out that some of LolaKo’s visitors may have been redirected to ads due to a widget I had on my site.  I apologize if this happened to you.  After some research I learned it was caused by “Sitemeter”, which was recommended by someone I trusted — and I’ve had it on this site since my first post in 2011.  Never had problems until now, and apparently, when Sitemeter was bought by another company.

Anyway, I deleted it, it’s gone, and if you had this problem, or it continues, please contact me.  And again, apologies if this affected you!

It turns out the redirects happened with WordPress sites, with Sitemeter installed (free or paid versions), and if you use browsers other than Firefox (?). How annoying… actually more so, it is nefarious!  Which is why I’m posting this information, as the fix was not so obvious

From the University of Pennsylvania Language Log:

Sitemeter Comment

…But as of yesterday evening, for a significant period of time, every single attempt to access a LLOG page resulted in a glimpse of the desired page followed quickly by redirection to x.vindicosuite.com, which is apparently some sort of passive DNS replicator or something. As far as I can tell, no virus or worm attack was involved, but the redirection alone is unacceptable, even if this is just another bug in sitemeter’s counting software rather than anything malicious.

It seems that a lot of other people had the same problem with sitemeter (see also here, and many other comments over the past couple of years). So I’ve removed the sitemeter code from our WordPress installation. Now I can look forward to wasting a few hours trying to get sitemeter to stop charging me for their “service”.

Sometimes you think you just have a “blog” and it infuriates me that these things happen,and then I have to research to figure out why my the clicks on Jetpack were showing “x.vindicosuite.com” links instead of the usual and typical ones I see for my blog (the countries where Filipinos work overseas, or informational links for visitors who come looking for information on Tilapia, or the Philippine Eagle photos of all things!).

Reminds of this cartoon I posted 2 months after I started my blog when I went through what I THOUGHT was a simple task to change my domain name registry.

Bizarro Cartoon 5-26-2011

Bizarro Cartoon 5-26-2011

If you are a fan of Bizarro cartoons as I am, or just want to laugh, here is the link to the blog, www.bizarrocomics.com, with the tagline “A daily blog by Dan Piraro, creator of the syndicated newspaper cartoon, Bizarro. It has cartoons, art, photos, thoughts, vids, nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc. Please enjoy responsibly”.