Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Return of the Zucchini Sex Goddess

Zucchini Girl and Baby
Here in the Bay Area, the summer fog is often still hanging around until late morning.  So the bees roll over, have an extra cup of coffee and dig into the Sunday NYTimes Magazine section to have one last stab at the crossword puzzle.

Which leaves the zucchini (and pumpkins, and gourds, and melons, and etc., for that matter) with no one to tickle their fancy. So no zucchini squash, or only weensy ones that rot at the bottom and die. Because by the time the bees are up and dressed, the flowers have already gone home in a huff. (Beware - there is also a disease called "Bottom Rot" but we are not even going there.)

Enter the Zucchini Sex Goddess!  Yup, you guessed who. Over the years, I've been called by a number of different names, and I still receive mail addressed to the "Goddess of Light," so I think I can handle this honor, too.

Zucchini Boy
With her trusty Q-tip (oops, a registered trademark of Unilever)... OK, with her trusty cotton swab, the ZSG gently collects the pollen from Zucchini Boy and carefully "swabs" the pollen onto Zucchini Girl. That makes Zucchini Baby, who is sitting right behind the female flower (averting it's eyes all the time, like Faye Dunaway in Little Big Man), now able to grow up to become part of the grilled vegetable platter. What could be easier?

What could be easier?!?  Well, for starters, the bees could just get up off their backsides and go to work on time, and... In the meanwhile, hang onto your cotton swabs, check your zucchini plant(s) - yes, I have a second, and sometimes a third plant, not because I'm that fond of zucchini, but because you never know when you just may need an extra male dance partner - and respond with pride and dignity when your neighbor asks "What exactly are you doing with that Q-tip?"

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Pass the Peas, Please

2011 Peas
Dateline: May 30th:  Last year I planted some Cascadia sugar snap peas in November and enjoyed small handfuls of peas all winter long and well into May. Well hah!  So much for thinking that you know something. This January, I started some more Cascadia peas, and have only gotten bupkis until well into May.

The taste - the same, meaning very good, very sweet, even if they sneak past and get a little large.  But perhaps not worth the bother for all six or seven of them.  Maybe in the fall I'll try again...

2012 Bupkis
Dateline: June 20th:  Well hahaha! The peas got out of the shade, the bees showed up, whatever, but the peas got really busy. As in over 7 (that's right, seven) lbs. of busy. I know this because after I pick them, I walk to the produce stand and weigh them. One time the produce stand was closed, so I went into the cheese store next door and a very helpful worker there not only weighed them, but printed out the label (.90 lbs.), just in case no one would believe me.  (She didn't laugh - I told her I had a small bet on with my Mom - and of course I shared some with her.)

A  small portion of the 2012 Crop

Gee.  I think I'll plant some more this fall.  Cascadia sugar snap peas.  They grow 3-4 ft. tall, so it's better if you stake them up.

Friday, June 15, 2012

What Could Be Better Than Free Movies?

Free movies and free popcorn!  Each Thursday night from June until August at the Temescal Street Cinema.  There's even live music to listen to while you enjoy your popcorn.

SOoooo, I know that some of you think that Montclair, Rockridge and now Temescal are their own private entities and not part of Oakland (or through some weird magical link, connected to Berkeley) but not true.  Aahh, the power of branding...

But Temescal offers something very special.  Since 2008, the neighborhood has supported a free outdoor movie series.  With free popcorn.  They even put out chairs, but I recommend bringing your own.  Then if the movie is, well, not to your taste, or you get too cold, you can quietly fold up your chair and creep away into the night.  Or stop by Scream Sorbet or Tara's Ice Cream for dessert.  Goes great with popcorn.

Over the past few years, we've seen some wonderful films and occasionally a few rather lame ones.  Oh, I mean, ones not to our taste.  Which can make the dessert option seem like it was worth the bother to wander around the neighborhood with a folding chair tucked under your arm.

One of my favorites from last year was Man on the Land (1951), a 15-minute history of agricultural progress as told by the American Petroleum Institute. Featuring fine animation and wonderfully hokey music, it has a clear message:  "progress" equals more gas-powered machinery and chemicals. Oh yeah, and somehow it's closely related to the American Way and Freedom (they were almost able to work Superman into the movie too, but he had a scheduling conflict).  Those who disagree with the plot, umm plan, are simply foolish, and left in the (pesticide) dust.  And if it weren't so deadly, deadly serious, it would be laugh-out-loud funny.

This year's season opens with The Waiting Room, a documentary by Peter Nicks of a day-in-the-life at the emergency room of Highland Hospital, Alameda County's public hospital.  The film also will be screening at various locations around the country this summer and fall. Highly recommended.

Just remember... free popcorn at Temescal on Thursdays.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Brag, Brag, Brag #2: The Graduates

Well yes, it's a bumper crop this year. And I'm not talking about the garden. I'm referring to the many graduates who are all poised to start something big, as long as they don't trip over the dirty laundry piled up on the floor...

"Outta there" from various high schools around the country are Gabriel Dufurrena, Allison Rightmire, Grant Milliken, Laura Cifuentes and Michael Kraut (along with many, many others, I'm sure).

All of these graduates are headed off to college - three to U.C.'s of one stripe or another, as well as the U. of Oregon (Go Ducks!) and other places. Evan Sirchuk is also deserting his parents for college after a gap year.

The college graduates include Miquette Elliott (U.C. Davis) and Chris Connors (Vassar College).  They both have jobs or internships (yah!) to help keep them out of trouble for a while.
Miquette with sister Kira

And this year's group features quite a few musicians, too. You can see Chris playing an arrangement of Round Midnight on solo guitar. And we were lucky enough to watch the Grant Milliken Jazz Combo perform at Yoshi's this spring. (So what 'bout you, Gabe? Too shy?)

Finally, some people may think that this last photo is an example of an amateur astronomer viewing the most recent eclipse.  But I'm convinced that really this is a proud parent, contemplating the tuition costs...

Photos courtesy of Cindy Crowner, Jennifer Milliken, Jean Rightmire and Hilda West.  Thank you all.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Sometimes They Open the Cages and Let Us Out...

And then we go to the North Coast Kinetic Art Race, which just concluded its 44th Grand Championship during Memorial Day weekend. Yup, a handcrafted, human-powered art sculpture which has to travel 40-plus miles over land, sand and water in three days.  Riiighht. You gotta float (paddle and/or pedal, really) that puppy across a portion of Humboldt Bay and then get back on the road and race, race, race. As they say "For the Glory!"  (And the ibuprofren, no doubt.)

We arrived in Eureka on Friday afternoon after a quick visit to the lovely town of Ferndale, the finish line for the race. Next morning we joined the rest of the crowd and the participants (sometimes it was hard to determine who was whom) at the race start on the town square in Arcata.
We just watched. That was plenty enough fun and glory, although I do wish that I had been a bit better dressed for the party - you know, a little face paint, or a goofy hat or at least a feather boa or two. Or six. And a big wig.

After a few laps around the square, the vehicles headed off for the sandy beach and dunes. Out there is an aptly named spot known as "Dead Man's Drop." An award is given for the best flip that many vehicles do, but aren't supposed to, perform. While we took a hike around Humboldt Bay (with a little liquid refreshment after at the Lost Coast Brewery, the racers were pedaling hard to arrive in Eureka for the night. Next morning, not-so-bright and not-even-early, the race began again at the boat launch in Eureka. Yesterday's wheeled vehicle now had to pull out oars, paddle wheels or pontoons. No sinking, no motor.  Just glory. And fun.

So if you are, or know someone who is, artistically, engineeringly and/or mechanically inclined, this may be an event for you.  Especially if you can round up some friends to help out.  These days, there are numerous kinetic races to consider, from Corvallis and Klamath Falls, to Ventura, or as far away as Baltimore.  You can always go and watch.  Just remember your wig.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Country Grass, Gritty City Grass

Blue-eyed grass
Coast Trail, Mt. Tamalpais
Yeah, I know what you're thinking.   You're thinking that this is going to be some silly comparison between the unofficial Official Flower of Humboldt County and the wares of Oaksterdam.  But you are quite mistaken.

(A while ago at work, a customer thought I was suggesting a menage a trois - I mean, really.  Here? While shopping? On a weekday afternoon? She went bright pink, I almost tried not to laugh, and then we got it straightened out.  Later I thought, "So who's got the dirty mind here?")

Now, now.  What I'm talking about is Blue-eyed grass (sisyrinchium bellum), the California native plant which can be found in bloom just about everywhere right now, if you happen to look down.   So take a hike or just wander 'round the 'hood.

Blue-eyed grass
Oakland front garden
Very easy to grow, and will re-seed in plenitude.  And if you don't want them, just pull them out.  The original plants in the front garden were purchased at the Regional Parks Botanic Garden sale in Tilden Park.  That was over twenty years ago. 
Pacific Coast Iris
El Cerrito Garden  

Many people use native plants in their gardening schemes because they're good for this and that and blah, blah, blah - you know the sermon.

In fact, a local group, Bringing Back the Natives, each spring sponsors a free tour of native plant gardens throughout the East Bay (sorry, it took place on May 5th-6th, so sign up for their mailing list for next year).  I visited a few gardens that Sunday - all were wonderful, but some, well, looked more like the natives had come back and were now running the place. Still, I'll take pretty flowers wherever I can find them, so mind where you put your feet.

Pacific Coast Iris
Mt. Tamalpais