Monthly Archives: October 2009

California Bird Houses

 

California Bird House Collage

The housing market is good for birds in some special neighborhoods in California.

 I love bird houses.  I don’t know how practical some of these are or whether birds actually live in them, but they certainly are cute.  After seeing these, I’m inspired to build my own.  I’m not very handy with a saw and a hammer, so maybe I’ll grow a bird house gourd. 

The green bird house hangs on the front porch of my friend Jan.    Plenty of birds nest in her yard, building their own homes.  Some of the homes are pretty flimsy, like the piles of sticks put together by the doves, she says.  Parrots roost in her fig trees.

The church birdhouse stands on the grounds of Mission San Juan Capistrano.  The rows of birdhouses sitting on the white patio beams are on a home on Catalina Island.

6 Comments

Filed under Bird-watching, Birds, Life, Travel

Ode to a McIntosh Apple

 
I love apples.  These McIntosh apples are my favorites.

I love apples, the tasty member of the rose family. These McIntosh apples are my favorites.

 I grasp your smooth curves eagerly between my trembling fingers.  Your skin is so brilliantly green, blushed with bright red.

You minx, how you tease me with your beauty, with the promise of your juicy sweetness.  Are you ripe? I hold you to my lips.  My teeth bite into your firm white flesh. I taste tartness, yet sugar melts into my mouth.  On my tongue I feel you crisp and firm, yet yielding, a dribble of juice on my lips. Piquant perfectly describes how you stimulate my taste buds.

So clearly, I remember the day we first met.  It was a warm early autumn day, a little overcast in a New York orchard. Everywhere, the leaves were brilliant, although yours, I must confess, were a little spotty. Leafy Autumn fire is not your glory.  No matter.  Your abundance overwhelmed me.  The pleasure of your flesh enraptured me.  I am yours forever. (Catherine L. Sherman)

An ancient apple tree holds a tree house in its stout limbs, which no longer bear fruit.

An ancient apple tree at Anita's old house holds a tree house in its stout limbs, which no longer bear fruit.

The McIntosh apple will always hold a place in my heart and in my fruit bin, when in season… My dear long-time friend Anita, her daughters and their friends took me apple picking in an orchard near her home in Binghamton.  Actually, the only picking we did was in the orchard store, but it was fun, anyway.  Children laughed on a small ferris wheel.  A tang of smoke hung in the cool air.  We inhaled the earthy fragrance of wet leaves as we shuffled through the rapidly growing leafy drifts.   Pumpkins were piled outside the store.  We chose some of those, too.  It was early October 1994.  I wasn’t there quite at the peak of the brilliant fall colors, but the forest was still a beautiful sight. 

Anita and her family lived in an historic white clapboard house near Binghamton, surrounded by massive sugar maples that were tapped every year to make maple syrup.  At the back of the yard, an ancient gnarled apple tree embraced a tree house.

The following October my father died.  Anita mailed me a box of McIntosh apples and some jugs of maple syrup.  She couldn’t have chosen better.

Anita and I can't seem to stay away from apple orchards.  Maybe we are really daughters of eve.  Here's a small orchard we stopped by in Tasmania.  We only stopped becasue I wanted a photograph. We were really in the area to see a waterfall and buy some cheese.

Anita and I can't seem to stay away from apple orchards. Maybe we are really daughters of eve. Here's a small orchard we stopped by in Tasmania. We stopped because I wanted a photograph. We were really in the area to see a waterfall and buy some cheese.

For more about the apple family, click here:  Stalking the Placid Apple’s Untamed Kin. This story is about the United States Department of Agriculture’s Plant Genetic Resources Unit, in upstate New York, which is home to the world’s most extensive collection of apple varieties and relatives.  Closer to my home in Kansas City, Powell Gardens showcases Missouri’s finest apple varieties in its Apple Celebration Court.

 John Keats’ “Ode to an Nightingale” inspired me to write this ode, which technically is not an ode, but does praise and glorify a subject.  “Bright Star,” a movie about Keats, was very good. See it!

A scan of my photograph of an area near Binghamton, New York, when the trees are starting to turn.

A scan of my photograph of an area near Binghamton, New York, in October 1994, when the trees are starting to turn. (In the dark ages before digital cameras...)

10 Comments

Filed under Agriculture, Food, Friendship, Gardening, History, Life, Nature, Personal, Travel

Surf’s Up

Surfer in Huntington Beach, California Postcard zazzle_postcard

This surfer rides a wave near the pier in Huntington Beach, California. On the horizon is Catalina Island. Huntington Beach (Surf City USA) is known for its long 8.5-mile (13.7 km) beach, mild climate, and excellent surfing. The waves are a unique natural effect caused by edge-diffraction of ocean swells by the island of Catalina and the waves from distant hurricanes.

I love road trips, especially when I only do twenty percent of the driving.  In mid-September, my husband and I loaded up my minivan with some of the left-behind belongings of my daughter and her boyfriend and headed west to Huntington Beach, California.  Laura and Ryan had moved there in mid-August, making the drive in their two small cars jammed to the ceiling with their stuff.

Dozens of windmills in western Kansas produce electricity. They stand in the flyway of migratory birds, such as the endangered whooping crane.

Dozens of windmills in western Kansas produce electricity. They stand in the flyway of migratory birds, such as the endangered whooping crane.

I got the idea to make this odyssey when the Spiritual Rez band stayed at our house and talked about how much they loved traveling the country.  I hadn’t made a driving trip to the West Coast in a long while.  Our home state of Kansas is very familiar, but this time I tried to look at it with new eyes instead of wishing it away until that first exciting moment when we see the Rocky Mountains rise up from the horizon.  So eager are we to make progress that sometimes we make a mountain out of a cloudbank. I love the gradual change in landscape.

Morning in Dillon, Colorado, in September 2009.

Morning in Dillon, Colorado, in September 2009.

Mid-way through Kansas we saw Monarch butterflies fluttering across Interstate 70 as they made their annual migration to Mexico for the winter.  We saw scores of tall modern windmills slowly turning their blades, some overshadowing the old-fashioned farm windmills first erected in the 1880s.

As we drove through Colorado, Utah and Nevada, I recognized sights Laura had emailed me from her camera phone.  My husband and I have driven much of this route before, but it was still awe-inspiring.  I still gaped at every ridge and butte and mountain peak and begged for my husband to stop the car at every scenic turn-out during much of the drive.  When I was behind the wheel, we did stop at everything!  I wish there were scenic turnouts along the Flint Hills in Kansas, too.  Kansas Turnpike officials, are you there (wishful thinking)?

The first night we spent in Dillon, Colorado, which is ski country. There was a brew pub conveniently located right by our hotel.  The night air was crisp.  I’ve been to this area several times during ski season, but it’s so much more beautiful when you’re not freezing to death.  I won’t be visiting during ski season again.  My skiing days are over! I wasn’t much of a skiier to begin with. I’m so slow I should have an orange triangle fastened to my back, and I hate to be cold. And I don’t like snow, either!  Already in September, it was in the mid 30s when we headed back on the road.

Interstate 70 cuts through an ancient ridge north of Capitol Reef National Park in Utah.

Interstate 70 cuts through an ancient ridge north of Capitol Reef National Park in Utah. Doesn't this formation look like an ancient reef or the spiny backbone of a massive reptile?

Horses graze in a pasture at sunset in St. George, Utah.

Horses graze in a pasture at sunset in St. George, Utah.

The second day we drove through western Colorado and through Utah, spending the night in St. George, which we visited last November.  We toured our “old” neighborhood. We knew where the Walmart was, too.  Both visits to Wal-Mart we saw a few women with french-braided hair who were wearing long pioneer-style dresses with muttonchip sleeves. If you want to read my Utah posts, type in “Utah” in my search box. There are lots of great photographs!

We hurried through Nevada, stopping in Las Vegas only to get gas, and it seemed like forever to get through the desert of California to reach Huntington Beach.  Laura had said that seemed like the longest part of the trip, maybe because you’re so close to your destination but the desert never seems to end.

I've always loved Joshua Trees.  They look like sentries.  This one is near Interstate 15 in the Mojave Desert in California.

I've always loved Joshua Trees. They look like sentries. These trees, a member of the yucca family, are near Interstate 15 in the Mojave Desert in California.

Yeah, yeah, I know I just wrote that I never tire of it, that it was gorgeous and amazing.  Some parts do drag on a bit.  I thought about all of the immigrants who had plodded through these bleak, arid western lands in the 1800s on the California trail, which starts in our green part of the country of Kansas City.   I thought of “Death Valley Days,” “Wagon Train” and “Twenty-Mule Team Borax”  — two old television shows and a commercial that I barely remember beyond the titles.  I do remember Ronald Reagan was the host of “Death Valley Days” for a while. (Yes, this might be the spot for a political joke, but I won’t go there.)

I’m not going to recite a mile by mile account of this trip (although it seems like it so far), but I’ve got to have some words to hold the photos together in this post, like eggs beaten into a  cake.

Loki can't wait to go to the dog beach.  She has to wait until she's had all of her vaccinations. (Yes, Laura and Ryan got a dog the first month. We have their cat....)

Loki can't wait to go to the dog beach. She has to wait until she's had all of her vaccinations. (Yes, Laura and Ryan got a dog the first month they were in HB. We have their cat....)

Huntington Beach is a nice city, very laid-back it seems.  The city is located 40 miles south of Los Angeles.  Houses are packed very closely together because real estate there is very expensive, even now in this economy.  There are no buildings on the 8.5 mile-long-beach, so there’s an unobstructed view of the ocean and of Catalina Island.  It’s the longest open run of beach on the West Coast. It’s celebrating its 100th anniversary as an incorporated city this year.  It was called Shell Beach, later Pacific City and finally Huntington Beach in honor of H.E. Huntington who brought the Pacific electric Railway to the area.

Two surfers head out at sunset on Huntington Beach.  You can see an oil rig in the distance.

Two surfers head out at sunset on Huntington Beach. You can see an oil rig in the distance.

Here’s what the official Huntington Beach website has to say (yes, they like themselves very much!): “The dynamic coastal City of Huntington Beach, with its sunny Mediterranean climate and idyllic setting, is home to more than 202,250 residents. Internationally known as Surf City, Huntington Beach boasts eight miles of scenic, accessible beachfront, the largest stretch of uninterrupted beachfront on the West Coast. Tourism remains a vital part of the economy, as over 11 million visitors flock to the city during the summer, on weekends and for special events.

Wetsuits drying at a motel.

Wetsuits drying at a motel.

Our parks and recreation features one of the largest recreational piers in the world, public parks, riding stables and equestrian trails, a marina, and a wildlife preserve, and an eight-mile biking, inline skating, jogging, and walking trail along the ocean. The crown jewel of the recreation system is the wide expanse of beautiful and spacious beaches, where large crowds gather to watch professional sporting events as the U.S. Open of Surfing, AVP Pro Beach Volleyball and the Surf City USA Marathon.”

A surfer rides the waves of the "dog beach" in Huntington Beach. In the background is an offshore oil rig.

A surfer rides the waves of the "dog beach" in Huntington Beach, which is also popular with surfers. In the background is an offshore oil rig.

There are also oil rigs offshore, which surprised me.   There’s oil in this town!  I’m a little late in finding this out.  The oil boom began in the 1920s. A few “grasshoppers” oil wells pump away in a beach-view lot in town, walled off next to houses that must be worth millions. When the Spanish arrived, they established the area as a cattle ranch.  Beach Boulevard, the main thoroughfare of Huntington Beach, was originally a cattle route.

Pier Plaza in Huntington Beach.

Pier Plaza in Huntington Beach.

A hummingbird visits a flower near Laura and Ryan's courtyard.

A hummingbird visits a flower near Laura and Ryan's courtyard.

Much later, I read that an encylopedia company gave away free parcels of land, with the purchase of a whole set for $126.  I don’t know how true this is, but it makes a great story.  The encyclopedia company had obtained the land cheaply.  The company should have kept the land and forgotten about the books, because oil was discovered in the area the company had given away as a bonus with the purchase of encyclopedias. Now the price of land for housing has risen so high it has pushed many of the rigs off the landscape. Links to more history about the city are at the bottom of this post. The city has dozens of pristine parks, protected nature reserves and unspoiled wetland habitats, such as Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve and the Donald D. Shipley Nature Center,

Duke Kahanamoku, the father of modern surfing, is honored with a statue near the Surfing Walk of Fame at the pier plaza in Huntington Beach, California.

Duke Kahanamoku, the father of modern surfing, is honored with a statue near the Surfing Walk of Fame at the pier plaza in Huntington Beach, California.

Huntington Beach is officially Surf City USA, a title it wrangled over with Santa Cruz, California.

Hawaii’s Duke Kahanamoku first introduced modern surfing in the United States in Santa Cruz, so you can see why that city might want to claim the title.  Kahanamoku is credited with popularizing surfing world-wide during the 1920s, after achieving Olympic swimming fame in 1912 and 1920.  The Surfing Walk of Fame is in Huntington Beach, featuring a statue of Kahanamoku.  I loved watching the surfers, seeing how they’d pop up onto a wave and ride it so gracefully.  I wasn’t tempted, though. That’s COLD water!  The International Surfing Museum is in Huntington Beach.

Links to information about surfing, Huntington Beach and Duke Kahanamoku are at the bottom of this post.  Later (probably much later), I’ll post about the Spanish Missions system, Catalina Island, South Pasadena and the Grand Canyon.

Surfers watch the waves on Newport Beach on a very foggy morning.  The surf was great, but the conditions were probably dangerous. A lifeguard pickup soon showed up and told everyone to get out of the water.  I was standing far back, but a huge wave lashed the beach, and I got splashed and covered with sticky sand.

Surfers watch the waves on Newport Beach on a very foggy morning. The surf was great, but the conditions were probably dangerous. A lifeguard pickup soon showed up and told everyone to get out of the water. I was standing far back, but a huge wave lashed the beach, and I got splashed and covered with sticky sand.

Part of the Surfing Walk of Fame in Pier Plaza in Huntington Beach, California.

Part of the Surfing Walk of Fame in Pier Plaza in Huntington Beach, California.

Wind surfers  sail along Huntington Beach at sunset.  In the distance is Catalina Island.

Kite surfers sail along Huntington Beach at sunset. In the distance is Catalina Island.

Surfers ride the waves along the "dog beach" in Huntington Beach.  This is a section of beach where dogs are allowed.

Surfers ride the waves along the "dog beach" in Huntington Beach. This is a section of beach where dogs are allowed.

Dogs enjoying the water on "dog beach" in Huntington Beach.

Dogs enjoying the water on "dog beach" in Huntington Beach.

Huntington Beach Pier at Sunset.

Huntington Beach Pier was originally built in 1904 and rebuilt most recently during the early 1990s. Stretching 1,856 feet into the Pacific Ocean, it is the longest concrete municipal pier in California and a great place to watch "million-dollar" sunsets.

A surfer leaves for the day.  His board is tethered to his ankle so he won't lose it.

A surfer leaves for the day. His board is tethered to his ankle so he won't lose it.

A woman serves a volleyball at the Huntington Beach Pier beach volleyball court.

A woman serves a volleyball at the Huntington Beach Pier beach volleyball court.

Surfing Walk of Fame.

Duke Kahanamoku.

Huntington Beach, California.

Surfing.

Huntington Beach Official Website.

International Surfing Museum.

Surf City USA.

34 Comments

Filed under Family, Friendship, Humor, Life, Photography, Sports, Travel

Dancing Words

Sandy and her daughter Hannah are both artists.  Here they are at the Plaza Art Fair in Kansas City, Missouri, in September 2009. In the background, you can see a painting of a bird's nest. Coincidentally, Sandy's workshop is called "The Feathered Nest".

Sandy and her daughter Hannah are both artists. Here they are at the Plaza Art Fair in Kansas City, Missouri, in September 2009. In the background, you can see a painting of a bird's nest. Coincidentally, Sandy's workshop is called "The Feathered Nest".

My friend Sandy is an artist. I always enjoy her take on her experiences at the art shows and fairs she visits in Kansas City.  Click here to read her post “Fall Back” on her blog “Dancing Words”. Be sure to check out the video of one of Sandy’s art classes from ART-felt Learning at the bottom of this post.

Plaza Art Fair 2009.

Plaza Art Fair 2009.

2 Comments

Filed under Art, Kansas City, Life, Personal

Teacher/Blogger at Work

Jan photographs an illustration for another one of her hilarious and informative posts about life as an elementary school teacher in Southern California. She gave us a walking tour of her favorite neighborhoods in the delightful town where she lives.  To read the post she was working on, click on this photograph.

Here is my dear friend Jan (Planetjan on my blogroll) photographing a group of stuffed creatures for an illustration for another one of her hilarious and informative posts about life as an elementary school teacher in Southern California (and other topics). She gave us a walking tour of her favorite neighborhoods in the delightful town where she lives. There'd been quite a few changes since I'd last visited. She couldn't resist an opportunity to produce material for her blog, too. (Which is what I was also doing!) To read the post she was working on, click on this photograph.

3 Comments

Filed under Education, Entertainment, Friendship, Humor, Internet, Life, Travel, Writing