Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Other Grand Canyon ~ Waimea

4 million years ago, as the volcano that formed the island of Kauai was still erupting, part of the island collapsed and formed Waimea Canyon. Over the years, the sides have been eroded by the ebb and flow of the Waimea River, fed steadily by water from Mount Waialeale, one of the wettest spots on Earth. Ten miles long and 3,000 feet deep, the canyon floor is far removed from the tourism hustle and bustle of the Hawaiian coast.

Located on the west side of Kauai, the sound of the river rushing and the wind predominate. There are waterfalls and pools, some small gravelly beaches along the river, and colorful canyon walls that seem to rise forever. Day hiking is most common, and overnight camping not recommended for the faint of heart. That rustling you hear in the bushes nearby is likely to be a wild boar!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Home From The Sea

That's the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, the newest and largest in the whole fleet, making its ways into its home port of San Diego on November 25th after a six month deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Collectively known as Carrier Strike Group 7, the guided missile destroyers USS Decatur and USS Gridley, guided missile frigate USS Thach, guided missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville and the USS Ronald Reagan, with a total of 5,500 crew aboard, returned home just in time for the holidays.

Aviators from the ships flew 1,150 sorties in support of coalition troops in Afghanistan, providing security on the ground and at sea. They unexpectedly diverted to the Philippines last summer in the aftermath of Typhoon Fengshen, rendering humanitarian aid and airlifting a total of 260 tons of fresh water, rice and medical supplies nonstop over eight days.

Thanks to the US Navy for the photograph, taken by Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class David Brandenburg.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thomas & The Trees

Thomas the cat stops by for a visit almost every day. He's intrigued with all the new sights and smells as the Christmas decorations come out of the boxes. He takes an occasional swat at a low hanging pine cone, but for the most part is just happy to be where the action is and observe the goings-on as we decorate.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Day

Living in one's hometown means lots of family at the holidays. There'll be four generations of us gathered together. We all live within a couple miles of each other, so although we see each other throughout the year, it's good to get together and mark the milestones, keep the traditions going and express our thanks for what we have.

The Thanksgiving postcard above is by Raphael Tuck. He started printing cards in 1866 in London and soon found favor with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. His three sons joined him in the business in 1871, the year they printed their first Christmas card. They had great success and eventually produced postcards, scrapbooks, die cut cards, greeting cards and puzzles in London, Paris and New York. Raphael Tuck & Sons continued printing into the 20th century. They put the picture postcard on the map, so to speak.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sharing With Those Who Serve

Sending a package overseas to our troops couldn't be easier. The post office has a special flat rate box that ships to Iraq, Afghanistan, or any place in the world where Americans are serving to protect our freedoms here at home. The package ships for a mere $12.95. If you don't have friends or family overseas, there are many websites you can access to chose a recipient. "Any Soldier" is a good one. Things we take for granted at home are a major treat for our sons and daughters stationed abroad. Beef jerky, new socks, chewing tobacco, hand sanitizer, lip balm, Cup-o-Noodles, music CDs, magazines - they're easy to please!

There's not much news lately from Iraq - the media must have lost interest when things started going so well. But we've still got tens of thousand of dedicated Americans there and elsewhere, so far from their homes and loved ones. If you can, please consider filling a box and mailing it off in the next few days, in time for Christmas. It may be the best gift you give.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

WPA Poster ~ Wildlife

Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal created the Works Progress Administration to offer jobs to the millions of unemployed. This Art Deco poster was created by artist John Wagner, at the behest of the Department of the Interior, for the National Park Service. It was part of the New York City Federal Art Project, made between 1936-1940.

Monday, November 24, 2008

San Diego's Santa Fe Depot

San Diego's first train depot was built in 1887. Dark red with deep green trim, the building only stood for 30 years before the powers that be decided it needed to be replaced with something that better matched the architecture chosen for the upcoming Panama-California Exposition.

As part of the grand opening of the new Mission Revival passenger depot on March 7, 1915, the original tower at Bay & Broadway was pulled over by a cable attached to two locomotives. This effort is shown in the second photograph above.

The picture below is a vintage postcard that shows the building that replaced the original. The majority of it still stands.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Traditional Christmas Advent Calendars

We love Christmas. We make ornaments all year, both for our own collections and to sell. We used to start decorating the day after Thanksgiving, but as our collections have grown, we start earlier every year, to get things just so.

If you need traditional Christmas advent calendars, you've come to the right place. You can click here on 32 Degrees North for the best advent calendar selection this side of Europe. They stock at least 30 varieties of highly detailed and finely glittered traditional calendars from Germany.

Opening the little windows one by one in anticipation of Christmas Day has been delighting children since the calendars first appeared in the mid 1800s. They've been a part of Christmas tradition in our family across generations.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Mouths To Feed

Tree swallows breed in North America and then migrate south to the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America for the winter. These bug and fruit eaters make their nests of multiple layers of twigs and grasses, with a top layer of other birds' feathers.

We've gotten in the habit of collecting the lint from our dryer in brown lunch bags. One the bag is full, we scatter the lint in the field next door for the birds to collect for their nests. They swoop down and tear it apart with their beaks to find just the right consistency.

Thanks to local nature photographer Chris Mayne for the pictures of the tree swallow family.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Salty Ribbons

A rolling wave left a winding ribbon of neon green seaweed draped artfully across an exposed reef.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Native Plants Of California ~ #24 In A Series

Pteridium, known commonly as bracken, is a type of fern that has been so successful at adapting itself to a variety of climates it grows on every continent except Antarctica. The plant sends up large fronds from underground rootstock. The largest fronds can grow to be 8 feet tall, but more commonly they grow to be 2-6 feet tall. An herbaeceous perennial, this fern is deciduous in the winter.

Although the plant is carcinogenic to many animals, the unfurled fronds are eaten in a number of cultures. The unfurled fronds are called fiddleheads and can be eaten raw, cooked or dried in the sun, pickled or salted. American Indians cooked the rhizomes and peeled and ate them, or pounded them into flour.

You may want to hesitate before introducing this California native into your home garden, as it can be incredibly invasive, easily sending shoots up two feet away from the main plant. It is not easily contained.

The photograph shows tightly curled bracken fiddleheads.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Western Butterfly

The Western Swallowtail butterfly is found from British Columbia to northern Baja and all the way east to North Dakota. Often mistaken for monarchs, they're actually yellow with black stripes, not orange like the monarchs. They have distictive orange and blue spots near their tails and are one of the largest butterflies.

They frequent rural woodlands and suburban gardens, but prefer moist canyons. As caterpillars, they are especially partial to California sycamores, cottonwoods, alders and willows, all deciduous trees that grow in riparian habitats. They will alight at the edge of streams to sip water. You can attract these beauties to your garden by planting salvia, penstemon, zinnias and thistles.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Dust Bowl

The Dust Bowl refers to the years 1930-1936, when severe drought and decades of soil mismanagement resulted in the largest population migration in United States history. Lack of crop rotation and deep plowing caused the loss of native grasses, top soil and extreme erosion. When winds storms were added to the mix, it meant disaster for the Plains States. As moisture was depleted from the soil, it turned to dust and high winds carried it east and into the Atlantic Ocean. Dirt fell like snow in Chicago and one winter in New England, red snow fell. 100,000,000 acres of Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, New Mexico and Kansas were affected, and by 1940, 2.5 million people had migrated away from their homes, with 200,000 heading to California. Coinciding with the Great Depression, the two have become synonymous in many people's minds.

The picture above shows a dust storm in Texas. The picture below shows a father and his two sons in April, 1936 in Cimarron County, Oklahoma, with what is left of their farm and home.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Favorite Fabrics From Far & Near

This piece of blue floral silk was purchased locally in the 1990s when a fabric store went out of business. They were down to their last days, selling Vogue patterns for 10 cents each. When our town had a population of 5,000, there were 3 fabric stores locally, and at least one in each neighboring town. Even the Ben Franklin's and the Five and Dimes sold fabrics, as did the department stores. Now 60,000 people live locally and the last fabric store is barely hanging on. A sign of the times, it seems.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Local Feathered Friends

Being on the Pacific Flyway, the two freshwater lagoons that border our town attract thousands of birds all year long. But this time of year, as the seasons change from warm to colder, the Batiquitos and San Elijo lagoons are a favorite stopping off point where birds can grab a bite to eat and catch up on their sleep.

Some birds find it so accommodating, they decide not to migrate after all. Pictured are American White pelicans, swooping low over the San Elijo Lagoon. They're found on all continents except Antarctica and live both on the coasts and inland. They're a large bird, 50" to 70" long and weigh about 15 lbs. They have special fibers in their chests that allow them to glide for miles without flapping their wings.

Unlike the brown pelican, the American White doesn't dive for food. It feeds as it swims and usually consumes around 4 pounds of fish a day. The females lay 2-3 eggs in the ground and take turns with the males keeping them warm.

These pelican are protected by a 1918 evironmental law, as their numbers are depleted by coyotes, ravens and seagulls.

Thanks to neighbor Chris Mayne, a southern California wildlife photographer for sharing his beautiful photograph.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Waiting Room

The above photograph was made by Jack Delano for the Farm Services Administration's Office of War Information. The attack on Pearl Harbor had occured just 13 months prior and the worst of the war was yet to come, with our victorious outcome far from determinded.

The scene is the waiting room of Union Station in Chicago in January, 1943, through which tens of thousands of soldiers passed on their way overseas. We have no way of knowing if the photographer sought to illustrate hope, but the way he captured the light shining into the darkness is stunning.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Great Way To Start The Day

We're still having shorts and flip flop weather in November. It was unseasonably warm again this morning, with temperatures in the high 70s and clear, blue skies. My favorite neighbors stopped by on their bicycles and invited me along for a ride. There's one steep hill to the east, then lots of flat streets running north and south - only a few cars and people out walking dogs, so we had the streets pretty much to ourselves. It's fun to go slow and look at peoples' yards and what they've got planted.

Check out that bicycle on the left. The rider modified a small gas engine and attached it to the bike. He's got it rigged somehow so he can either pedal it like a regular bike or use the engine, which has a clutch and gears. He worked on it all summer, adjusting, disassembling the motor and rebuilding it from scratch. The little gas tank is made out of an old chrome polish can. Ingenious!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Of A Feather, Dancing Together

The two birds pictured are grebes, photographed locally at Lake Hodges, near Rancho Santa Fe, by Southern California wildlife photographer Chris Mayne.

Grebes are foot propelled diving birds, common in our local fresh waters. Their feet are placed so far back on their bodies that after running just a short distance, they fall over, and generally respond to danger by diving, not flying. They assemble their floating nests from plant material, which they hide amongst reeds along the shoreline and their young are able to swim from birth. They eat their own feathers when grooming and feed them to their young. Grebes have the ability to use their feathers to adjust their buoyancy and often swim with just their necks and heads above water.

For years, grebes were believed to be closely related to the loon, another foot propelled diver, but advances in DNA analysis have proven that grebes are most closely related to flamingos.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Changing Colors

Now that the sun is setting so much further south and days are getting shorter, the sky seems to change color at sunset a lot faster. We have an almost unobstructed view to the west, and the neighbor's king palms, stands of giant bamboo and eucalyptus trees make beautiful silhouettes against the evening sky. Last night was no exception.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Honoring Their Service

World War I ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. President Woodrow Wilson, the following year, proclaimed November 11th as Armistice Day, to honor the sacrifices of those who served and fought in all branches of the military in the first World War. In 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower expanded the national and state holiday to honor all American veterans of all wars.

Yesterday was the 233rd anniversary of the United States Marine Corps, founded in Tun's Tavern in Philadelphia in 1775. The Marine's Hymn, copied below is the oldest official United States military song. Dating from the 19th century, Montezuma refers the the Battle of Chapultepec during the Mexican-American War and Tripoli refers to the First Barbary War, fought off the coast of Africa. The music was taken from a French opera that debuted in Paris in 1859. In 1942, the words "in the air" were added to acknowledge the additon of air power. The words are:

From the halls of Montezuma,
To the shores of Tripoli;
We fight our country's battles
In the air, on land, and sea;
First to fight for right and freedom
And to keep our honor clean;
We are proud to claim the title
Of United States Marine.

Our flag's unfurled to every breeze
From the dawn to setting sun;
We have fought in every clime and place
Where we could take a gun;
In the snow of far-off northern lands
And in sunny tropic scenes;
You will find us always on the job
The United States Marines.

Here's health to you and to our Corps
Which we are proud to serve;
In many a strife we've fought for life
And have never lost our nerve;
If the Army and the Navy
Ever look on Heaven's scenes;
They will find the streets are guarded
By United States Marines.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Favorite Fabrics From Far & Near

This charming printed fabric is from the 1920s or 1930s, a nice piece of cotton almost 90 years old. It caught my eye back in the 1980s and has been folded away ever since in the wooden chest where favorite fabrics wait for just the right pattern.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

1970s Sunset At Swamis

This photo was taken from the cliff above Boneyard's, just north of Swamis, back in October 1972, with a point-and-click Kodak. Since then, countless pictures have been taken, and with way more sophisticated cameras, but this particular sunset picture is still my favorite, especially with the ocean drenched in gold.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Art Of Adolfo Hohenstein

Adolfo Hohenstein (1854-1928) was a Russian artist who settled in Milan, Italy in 1879, by way of Vienna, where he studied art, and India, where he designed interiors for local royalty. He became a successful set and costume designer at La Scala and caught the eye of publisher Giulio Ricordi of Casa Ricordi, for whom he worked for 15 years. While with Ricordi, he created covers for music scores, posters, postcards and playbills for La Scala's most revered productions. He also did commercial work including tourism promotion and advertisement for other publishers.

The illustration above of ladies blowing bubbles was made by Hohenstein in 1899, an advertisement for a soap company, printed in Bologna by E. Chappius.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The View From Beyond This World

The Himalaya Mountains stretch across approximately 1490 miles, vary from 200 to 250 miles wide and include many of the tallest mountains in the world. The photograph above was taken by an astronaut from the International Space Station. It is looking south-southeast at the Tibetan Plateau and clearly shows four of the world's 14 tallest mountains. Visible are Mount Everest (tallest), Makalu, Lhotse, and Cho Oyu. Mount Everest is 29,035 feet tall and Makalu is 27, 765 feet. It's easy to see why Nepal is called the Rooftop Of The World. The annotations on the picture were made by the folks at NASA. The red line is the South Col Route, most frequently used by climbers as they ascend Mt. Everest.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The California Condor

The California Condor has made a comeback, thanks to the United States' largest species conservation effort of all time. The California Condor is among the rarest bird species in the world, with only 332 birds known to exist, and of that number only 152 survive in the wild. They live in the Grand Canyon, along the coastal mountains of southern California, and into northern Baja.

First described by English naturalist George Shaw in 1797, the California Condor is a black vulture with the largest wingspan of any bird. It is also the heaviest. It has a bald head and neck that are capable of changing colors, depending on the mood of the bird. This is thought to be a means of communiation with other condors. The strength and size of their wings allows them to flap their wings a single time to glide for miles.

The photograph above was taken at the San Diego Wild Animal Park by Chuck Szmurlo. The photograph below shows a condor chick being fed by a condor puppet.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

WPA Poster ~ National Parks

This beautiful poster of big horn sheep was created by artist J. Hirt between 1936-1939, as part of the New York City Art Project for the Great Depression era Works Progress Administration. The WPA was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's largest program. The posters were part of an advertising campaign by the National Park Service, under the auspices of the Department of the Interior.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Oahu's Floral Fete Circa 1909

In 1866, the Sacramento Union newspaper dispatched a relatively unknown journalist to write a travelogue designed to introduce the American public to the Sandwich Islands, also known as Hawaii. Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, published recollections of his 1866 Hawaiian visit in his book "Roughing It", which described his 1861-1867 tour of the Wild West. He described a horseback ride to the Mauoa Valley above Honolulu thus, "Impressed by the profound silence and repose that rested over the beautiful landscape, and being, as usual, in the rear, I gave voice to my thoughts. I said:
"What a picture is here slumbering in the solemn glory of the moon! How strong the rugged outlines of the dead volcano stand out against the clear sky! What a snowy fringe marks the bursting of the surf over the long, curved reef! How calmly the dim city sleeps yonder in the plain! How soft the shadows lie upon the stately mountains that border the dream-haunted Mauoa Valley! What a grand pyramid of billowy clouds towers above the storied Pari!"

The photograph above, from the Library of Congress collection, shows the Princess of Mauoa in her flower bedecked car turned into a float for the parade in Honolulu's Floral Fete in 1909.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A Buttery Rose

On a warm autumn afternoon, a busy bee finds a fragrant, buttery rose, brimming with nectar and pollen.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Great Wall Of China

China's Great Wall was built over centuries as protection against invading armies from the North. Construction of the 4,000 mile long fortification was begun in the 6th century BC and didn't end until the 16th century. It was continuously being rebuilt and maintained, at a cost, it is estimated of 2-3 million lives. In the beginning, the primary materials were stone, earth and wood, then bricks were found to be more lasting. To communicate along the line, signal towers were built on high points. These also doubled as barracks for the hundreds of thousands of men who stood guard. At one time it was guarded by a million men.

Large parts of the Wall have deteriorated from erosion, vandalism and the removal of stones and bricks by local people for constructing their own homes. An enduring myth is that the Wall can be seen from outer space with the naked eye. Not so. The wall is 30 feet at its widest point and is the same color as the countryside. It is visible from space with binoculars, but only under the most auspicious circumstances.

The sepia toned photograph was taken of the Great Wall in 1907, by Herbert Ponting, who was the most outstanding photographer during the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. The photograph below was made of him in 1910, when he was chief photographer of Scott's epic Antarctic expedition on the Terra Nova.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Documenting The Russian Empire In 1910

The above color photograph was taken in 1910 by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii, before the advent of color photography. He had a technique of rapidly shooting a series of monochromatic pictures through different colored lenses and then projecting these through a properly colored light. He traveled the countryside from 1909-1915, as he sought to document the Russian Empire.

The caption to the picture, from the Library of Congress reads thus: " View of the Nilova Monastery. The Monastery of St. Nil on Stolobnyi Island in Lake Seliger in Tver Province, northwest of Moscow, illustrates the fate of church institutions during the course of Russian history. St. Nil (d. 1554) established a small monastic settlement on the island around 1528. In the early 1600s his disciples built what was to become one of the largest, wealthiest, monasteries in the Russian Empire. The monastery was closed by the Soviet regime in 1927, and the structure was used for various secular purposes, including a concentration camp and orphanage. In 1990 the property was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church and is now a functioning monastic community once again."