Sunday, April 27, 2008

PhotoHunt: Unique/Funny Signs

April 26, 2008 Theme: Unique/Funny Signs


Restaurant "burgerMe" at Manly Beach near Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

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Green Thumb Sunday - Proustian Lilacs

Gardeners, Plant and Nature lovers can join in every Sunday,
visit As the Garden Grows for more information.

Green Thumb Sunday Blogroll

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When the lilacs begin to bloom in my San Francisco garden, their fragrance and deep purple color take me back to fond memories of my Pennsylvania grandmother and the lilacs in her garden in the 1960s and 1970s. Although lilacs came to the United States with European settlers, the lilac bush is quintessentially American. Many of the early Americans who ventured West planted lilacs and those bushes today mark the location of long gone homesteads. On a short vacation in Northwestern Michigan a few years ago, I remember walking in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (part of the National Park Service) near ruins of homesteads flanked by prolific lilacs. Apparently this holds true with respect to Canadian westward expansion.

Unfortunately, the mild winters and foggy summers of San Francisco present less than ideal growing conditions for lilacs. Undeterred, I planted a cutting from my parents' lilacs in Virginia (which in turn were grown from cuttings from my grandmother's lilacs in Pennsylvania) in my garden. While the cutting is now a very small 10-year-old bush, it has never yielded any flowers. Because an indelible genetic line connects this small specimen to my grandmother's lilacs, it is out of the question to remove it from the garden. So, it lives on in a quiet spot near the garden's other heirloom lilacs which, by comparison, are giants with the largest of three bushes towering about 25 feet. Their height and their large gnarled trunks suggest that they are some variety of the common lilac or syringa vulgaris planted by former residents 40 or 50 years ago (perhaps even longer as the house was built in 1905). They are leggy and straining towards patches of sun in an otherwise shady garden caused by a large Italian stone pine (pinus pinea) and a looming apartment building next door that likely came into existence well after the lilacs' arrival. While the experts recommend pruning leggy lilacs by one-third (both for aesthetic and non-aesthetic reasons), I have not done so out of fear that the bushes would never recover. In addition, I am loathe to destroy the bush's trunks and branches that have taken on an almost sculptural quality which is quite beautiful.

When the lilacs start blooming right by the deck and their lovely fragrance wafts through the air, it heralds the advent of spring after a rainy (and occasionally dreary) winter and reminds me of wonderful childhood spring and summer visits with my grandmother.



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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sand Bubbler Crab Art - Cape Tribulation Beach, Queensland

This will be the first of a series of posts about my trip to Australia last month. On March 15, 2008, under grey skies, I was at Cape Tribulation Beach in Queensland (in the Daintree Rainforest). The low tide made the vast expanse of the sandy beach even larger. The beach's southern area curiously was blanketed with small balls of sand and holes.

During low tide, the sand bubbler crab (scopimera inflata) tunnels up through the sand to emerge from a hole on the beach. The crab leaves the hole and gathers sand with its claws into its mouth where it extracts and consumes any organic material. The crab's mouth shapes the remaining sand into a round ball which the crab pushes out of its mouth towards its rear. Then, the crab repeats this process by moving forward and collecting fresh sand in its mouth. The crab's dining journey away from its hole is marked by a tell-tale row of sand balls. At some point, the crab returns to its hole and forays in the same manner in a new direction. Find out more here and here.

The end results are intriguing arrangements of sand balls and holes on the beach which look like abstract art or perhaps a sand ball Rorschach test. Look at the patterns and see what you think they resemble.


A moose?


A flower or a butterfly?


A turned-around palm tree?

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Beginning - Point Reyes Wildflowers

For my first post, it seemed appropriate to start with flora and fauna from the San Francisco Bay Area. Yesterday, we went to Point Reyes National Seashore and hiked the short and easy trail at Chimney Rock. The weather was perfect in the high 70's. And, although we did not see any whales off in the distance, the wildflowers were lovely.

Here is a view from the Pacific side of Chimney Rock looking down at a beach with seals (probably harbor seals, but perhaps elephant seal pups?).



The view on the other side of Chimney Rock looking towards Drake's Beach with Douglas' Iris (Iris douglasiana) in the foreground.


Cow Clover (Trifolium wormskioldii).


A yellow coastal form of the California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica).


It was a perfect day at Point Reyes and it became even more perfect with a stop for beer and oysters -- raw, barbecued and Rockefeller -- at The Marshall Store in nearby Marshall. We sat outside by the roadside looking over the water in Tomales Bay and counting our blessings that we live in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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