Plants, Stone, California Landscapes


Archive for November, 2011

3 Years Young

Today marks the third birthday of this blog. Posting slowed a little at times, but I still managed over fifty posts in the last year, a little more than one per week. When I started the blog, I wanted to post about stonework, plants (especially California natives), gardens, Bay Area and California landscapes, and sustainability, with random other things occasionally thrown into the mix. That’s still pretty much true. I’m not as good as I was about reading and commenting on other blogs, but I do still follow and appreciate a whole lot of them. Thanks to everyone who follows and who comments on this one.

Occupy Oakland with Gardens

At an Occupy Oakland rally on Saturday, I saw a group of people setting up an edible garden on the former lawn in front of city hall. For those who haven’t been following the saga of Occupy Oakland, it’s a former lawn because it was covered by a tent camp for several weeks and then the city drove over it with machines when they demolished the camp. Now it’s just a field of mud. The city was running the sprinklers during the rally — despite all the recent rain and the large patches of standing water — finding it convenient to keep this contested space as muddy and un-occupiable as possible. I’m not sure how long this little guerrilla garden will be tolerated by the city, but it’s a nice gesture. More likely to survive are the plantings of edibles, possibly done by the same people, in several of the planters edging the lawn.

After reading James’ post at Lost in the Landscape and surfing around the internet, I realized what will soon happen to the garden:

Barker Dam

My last post on Joshua Tree is from Barker Dam, aka Big Horn Dam. The park is a desert, but it received more rainfall a hundred years ago and homesteaders tried raising cattle there. A couple of ranchers in the area made a seasonal reservoir, first a rancher named Barker in the early 1900’s, then William Keys fifty years later. Personally, I thought it was a little weird to see this empty reservoir and rather jury-rigged dam in the middle of the desert. Keys was the kind of guy who would kill someone in a dispute and then make a stone marker to commemorate/brag about it afterwards, and some of that character (or lack thereof) shows in the design and craftsmanship of the dam. But the birds seem to like it and the visuals are interesting and it’s a stone structure on the national register of historic places, so here it is.

The reservoir was done in a couple of phases; the bottom nine feet are faced with rock and the upper six feet of concrete were added by Keys in 1950. He made a sign in a smear of concrete to commemorate/brag about this too.

The concrete had rock dumped in between the forms to save money. You can actually make a pretty nice wall this way if you place the rock a little more carefully and scrub more concrete off the faces off after you take away the forms.

Behind the dam there’s an interesting pattern of bathtub rings. Apparently the reservoir still fills to the top, flooding twenty acres during the wettest time of year.

There’s a second, lower dam below the main one, full of cattails living off the seepage.

And a cattle trough below the second dam. All in all, a funky little area.

Ryan Mountain

‘Perspective — that is the reward for hiking to the top of Ryan Mountain.’ (J. Tree signage)

In Joshua Tree there’s a peak named Ryan Mountain. I might have resisted the bait, but then at the trailhead I found a sign proclaiming that ‘The…hike up Ryan Mtn. is a reaffirmation of life. The pulse accelerates, the senses become more acute, and one may renew the acquaintance of lungs and muscles previously taken for granted.’ (Robert B. Cates, Joshua Tree National Park: A Visitor’s Guide 1995) So what’s a blogger named Ryan to do? I of course want my blog to be reaffirming. So, photos from the hike are below.


Occupy Joshua Tree

Occupy Joshua Tree

Anita and I spent most of last week at Joshua Tree. It’s one of my favorite places and very photogenic. These are some of the photos I took.

Years ago when I first saw Joshua trees, I thought they were just about the goofiest things growing on the planet. After working with plants for a number of years and seeing a lot more succulents, I don’t find them nearly as strange. Still somewhat Dr. Seuss-y, but not nearly as much.

The showiest color in the park was in the red seedheads of a buckwheat. The foliage was quite red too. Really striking against the dried grass or stone.

Some of the spots in the park look like the work of a talented gardener with a loose, naturalistic style. This path, (click to see it larger), looked like it had been deliberately edged with red and yellow foliage.

The Sulfur Buckwheats were still in bloom. They were doing the same thing — blooming from the cracks in the boulders — when I was in the Buttermilks around this same time last year.

There is one species of manzanita in the park, A. glauca. I saw a few nice healthy ones, but the most beautiful was a deceased one. I don’t think I’ve ever had that opinion about a plant before.

And the desert can make a dead car look beautiful too. A great, great place.

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