Archive for February, 2010
Something a little more positive about my neighborhood, a video taken at Bridges (technically across the border in El Cerrito, rather than Richmond Annex), the newish climbing gym near our house. Instead of roped climbing, the climbing walls are for bouldering and give a longer and more-highball climb than the bouldering walls at other gyms; you have to top out on all the climbs instead of just jumping down.
Along with climbing, the focus of the gym is slacklining, which is basically tight rope walking except that it’s done on climbing webbing which flexes and is more dynamic than a tight rope, dynamic enough, evidently, to use as a trampoline. Personally, I’m terrible at it; Anita’s pretty good, though not yet at the backflip stage. Slacklining used to just be something that climbers did on their rest days, but some of the people at Bridges are more interested in it than climbing, and I think now there are starting to be competitions for it.
A recent documentary about Dean Potter, the most famous slackliner, has a lot of footage and talks a bit about the origins of slacklining. Shorter scenes of Potter slacklining can be seen with soothing musical accompaniment or with an Aussie narrator and some entertaining quotes.
Andy Lewis, the slackliner in the video showed up in Madonna’s Super Bowl halftime show.
…if we never got our computer stolen. Or something like that. It seems to be one of the realities of our neighborhood. Several of our neighbors were robbed a couple of years ago, another one last year, and I guess now it was our turn. While we were in Baja last month someone carried off the copper trellis from our front yard, and now this past week the same person or someone else has taken our computer. The joys of urban living.
It could have been worse I guess. The copper trellis was a leftover item that got installed temporarily in our garden, and we always knew it was something of a risk. I don’t even have any photos of it, actually, because I was never enthusiastic about how it was sited. Losing the computer is a much bigger drag, but we had it synched up with our office computer and backed up online, so we didn’t lose many files or photos. Three cheers for cloud computing.
We didn’t seem to have a theft problem while we were fostering pit bulls, so we’ll probably be getting another dog soon, and definitely before we get another computer. In the meantime, blogging will be less convenient, as I can only do it from our office computer now. If anyone knows of a scary-looking barker in need of a good home, let us know.
I’ve haven’t posted about the garden since we got back, but it has been doing well. Pretty damp, despite the sun this weekend. Almost every plant is happy about all the moisture, though not too many have started to bloom. Most are still in foliage mode; a number of them have a few stray flowers and others are budding up, but not too many are in full bloom. One of our manzanitas, Arctostaphylos ‘Louis Edmunds,’ is pretty much the one plant at peak bloom. It’s a good one, though, maybe my favorite manzanita.
Not a flower, but the new growth on the columbines has an almost floral look. The various shades of green in the garden look very lush after my month down in the desert.
The first of the bulbs are going.
The first of the hellebore buds opened this weekend.
The most dramatic plant right now is not actually ours. Our neighbor’s aloe, right on the property line, has been blooming since before we left for Baja. The rest of her yard is juniper and ivy, but I’m jealous of the aloe. This time of year, I always tell myself I should plant more aloes.
A list of our other blooming plants (all of them actually in our yard) is below the fold. My thanks to Carol at MayDreamsGardens for hosting bloom day. Click over to her site to see what other garden bloggers have blooming this month. (more…)
I bet no one thought DryStoneGarden would post about pedicures.
But I did get a pedicure of sorts at the hot springs in the Sierra de la Laguna national park near Santiago, a town about 50 miles north of San Jose del Cabo. The hot springs is very low-key, just a circle of rocks in a stream coming out of the hills. Hot water comes up through the sand and seeps out of the cliff in a couple of places, right before an abandoned concrete dam. The pool is not especially hot, though I would still rate it as a hot springs rather than just a warm springs, especially after we dug down into the sand to make the water warmer. But the unique part was that after we’d been in the water a little while, twenty or thirty small fish about 4-6 inches long gathered round and started nibbling at our feet.
It was a bit unnerving at first. Not so much the feeling — which is delicate and sandpapery, a little like being licked by a cat or I suppose a swarm of cats — but rather the thought that these fish were feeding off our bodies. But we got used to it. We joked that it was probably a fancy skin treatment in Asia, but of course it turns out that it is. And it definitely works; afterwards our skin was silky smooth. As a test, we let them feed on one of my knees but not the other, and we could indeed see a noticeable difference afterwards. It wasn’t a huge difference — nobody stared or pointed at my knees when I walked around in shorts — but one knee was distinctly shiny and smooth while the other was rough. I recommend it.
We explored up the gorge a ways; fun boulder-hopping. There was a double band of dark rock running along the creek for something like kilometer before the creek turned. Really beautiful. I hadn’t expected to see such striking granite in southern Baja. I was struck by the similarity between the roots of the wild figs and the veins in the rock. We basically went to the park because we happened to be passing by, but, out of all of Baja, the park is probably the place that we most want to go back to.
Here are some more plant photos I took in Baja in the desert around San Ignacio and Cerro Colorado, along the coast near Bahia Concepcion, and further south near Cabo Pulmo. My first go at taking photos in low desert, pretty fun, as my favorite things in the plant world are multitrunked trees with interesting form and bark, and Baja is pretty much an entire landscape of beautiful multitrunked specimens with interesting form and bark. Elephant trees were my favorites, but there were other stunning ones: Palo Verdes, Palo Blancos, Cardon Cactus, Organ Pipe Cactus, Adam’s Tree known in Spanish as Palo Adan (Fouquieria diguetii, the southern form of Ocotillo) and Limberbush (Jatropha cuneata), which I’d never heard of but really liked. So many good ones. I suppose some of them are technically standards or semi-standards, but practically all of the plants down there grow with the interesting form I associate with multitrunk trees.
The Cardones come in graceful or stubby forms.
We saw hillsides that had an amazing specimen every twenty or thirty feet.
Torote means ‘twisted.’
In the drier sections most of the Fouquierias were leafless, with maybe a few token blooms to keep the hummingbirds and visiting gardenbloggers happy; down south a lot of them were in full leaf with fewer flowers. Does anyone know why they’re called Palo Adan or Adam’s tree?
I remember something incredibly spiny was keeping me from backing up any more for this photo.
I’m partial to the name palo verde, but desert willow, another of its common names, seems appropriate too. Leafless they looked a lot like Japanese maples, but in full leaf they were indeed willowy.
As far as I’m concerned, they’re pretty even when they grow along the highway with trash scattered around.
We started calling the Mesquites ‘Palo Gris’, because their trunks are gray but their green twigs and foliage resembles a Palo Verde. They’re actually a pretty sweet little tree, I think, just not as showy as the Palo Verdes and Palo Blancos. I read somewhere that some miners in Baja once found a root 50 meters deep.
Palo Blanco is a perfect common name, but if Palo Verde gets desert willow for a second common name, I think Palo Blanco should also get a second name and be called desert birch. They did seem biggest and happiest at the bottoms of washes and arroyos where they could find some extra water.
Loreto has the most historic of the missions The mission, inscribed with the cool title of “Cabeza y Madre de todas las Misiones de la Alta y Baja California,” was the original headquarters for the Jesuit settlement of the Californias, and the starting point of the Camino Real, aka the California Mission Trail. Pretty much all of the early expeditions to the Californias passed through there.
The mission was founded in 1697 and the stone building was built in 1740, but it has been modified, damaged, repaired, and renovated various times.
Part of the mission is now a museum with some cool stuff like an old sugar press. This natural cross made of wild fig root was added to the museum courtyard to mark the 300 year anniversary of the mission.
There’s an eclectic mix of stone on the mission. The front facade is quarried limestone, but I counted five different kinds of stone on the entire building, plus some bricks added during some repair jobs. The mix of bricks and stone is something I’ve seen on the mainland of Mexico, and, for large buildings, the effect is much nicer than I would have expected.
More photos of the mission are below.
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