Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Norwegians are credited with having invented the glass fishing float in 1841. By 1910, Japanese glassblowers were melting their used sake bottles and making glass floats to supply their vast deep sea fishing fleets, who needed buoyant support for miles of nets. Hollow glass balls full of air were able to support up to 50 miles of nets strung together and set adrift. By the 1940s, glass floats had been replaced by wood and cork, both of which have since been replaced by styrofoam, plastic, or aluminum. Abandoned glass balls still float in the circular ocean currents of the northern Pacific Ocean, and a storm can dislodge an occassional float from its course. This particular basketball sized glass float, still wrapped with original knotting, was spotted from a helicopter and plucked from the Pacific by an intrepid Navy Seal.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Antigua is one of the Leeward Islands, part of the Lesser Antilles chain in the West Indies - specifically, where the Caribbean Sea meets the western Atlantic Ocean. In October, 1999, Hurricane Jose visited Antigua, and from Hawksbill Bay, its approach was clearly visible as blackening sky over Montserrat. 500 homes were destroyed and power was out for 90% of the island. These boats were photographed on the northwestern coast in the hurricane's aftermath. They were more recently painted in acrylics by my daughter, good company both in and out of hurricanes.
Monday, April 28, 2008
The light was surprisingly soft at sunset last evening, especially given it had been such a cooker all day. These stalks of snapdragons begged to be touched when the sunlight hit them just so. Soft as velvet, really.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
This is Thomas, an apricot point Siamese with an extra toe on each paw and a purr like an engine. He first made himself known here by jumping in through the living room window some three Januarys back. He's been visiting regularly ever since, often enough to have his own bowl, blanket and a planter of catnip growing outside the back door. He's a great gopher hunter and mouser and, being quite the feline bon vivant, he's grown fond of applewood smoked turkey. He comes and goes as he pleases, occassionally sleeps over, and like all good guests, leaves us looking forward to his next visit.
Yesterday was the Point Loma Garden Walk, a culmination of months of preparation by docents and vendors alike. The Tour directly benefits the Children's Hospital craniofacial unit, and the ladies who put this together work tirelessly and produce a top notch event. The plant sale was held on the uppermost part of Point Loma with a spectacular view of the San Diego skyline, Coronado Bridge, North Island, and down the Silver Strand to Mexico. Congratulations to the Dana Unit of the Childen's Hospital Auxiliary for a job well done. It was an honor to participate.
Gardening, you might see one of these a day, but another weekend of record heat has brought them out in droves. Well, maybe not droves. Four, to be exact. It took 45 minutes to get enough moisture onto the plants this morning and this fellow tried the whole time to scale a wall. He'd get 5 inches up, tumble off and try again. He and his friends would not be detered. All attempting to head up and east, and quite erratically. Remarkably, one fifth of the 1.5 million species on Earth are beetles. This is the common calosoma, known locally as a stink bug, as when perturbed, it will emit an odor likened to burning insulation.
Friday, April 25, 2008
Foxgloves don't bloom until their second year, but it's well worth the wait. They produce tall (3-6 feet) spikes with showy tubular flowers in various shades of purple through white and are marked inside with a variation of speckles. The name derives from an early Anglo-Saxon legend that foxes were given the flowers by bad fairies to put onto their toes to silence their approach when tracking prey. The plant will reseed profusely and seedlings are easily thinned and take heartily to transplanting. Hummingbirds are very fond of them and will seek them out in your garden.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
The years Garth Murphy devoted to writing this novel were time well spent. With an obvious feel for the terrain and a depth of emotion that brings his characters to life, he weaves a vivid tapestry of the collision of cultures during the western expansion. If you have an interest in California history, this meticulously researched book will take you on a journey you won't want to end.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Gardening is gratifying any time of the year, but there's something about Spring that makes it even more so. Perhaps it's all those bulbs that put on such a show. The California wildflowers want to get into the act and crowd the perennials for a spot in the border. The snapdragons tower over them all, until they give a nod to the foxgloves, who take a turn as tallest and then make way for the cannas as spring too quickly fades to summer.
Today is singer-songwriter and guitarist Roy Orbison's birthday. He was a pioneer of rock and roll with an international career that spanned four decades. His remarkable lyrical styling and rock ballads influenced the Beatles and Rolling Stones, and it was as a performer on a European Beatles' tour that a long lasting urban legend grew up around him. He'd misplaced his prescription glasses just prior to going on stage and had to grab his prescription sunglasses to get through the set. By the time he returned to the States, the dark glasses had become his trademark and many people assumed he was blind. Not so. Although he passed away suddenly in 1988, his soaring vocals and songwriting skills endure and seem remarkably fresh in the 21st century, especially his ensemble work with The Travelin' Wilburys.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Jumbo was an African bush elephant, born in 1861 in French Sudan. He arrived at the London Zoo, via Paris, in 1865, and was soon widely known and beloved throughout Britain. In 1882, when P.T. Barnum sought him for his circus, 100,000 English schoolchildren wrote to Queen Victoria, begging her to stop the sale. It was to no avail. Their precious pachyderm crossed the Atlantic, was paraded up Broadway, and melted the hearts of Americans. He stood 11.5 feet tall and the public was urged to see him while he could still fit through the tunnels on the route of the circus train. And see him they did. He was the biggest draw for "The Greatest Show On Earth".
In 1885, a runaway locomotive struck and killed Jumbo in St. Thomas, Ontario. A life size statue there commemorates the tragedy, He stood 13 feet tall at the time of his death. Some say Jumbo sacrificed himself to save his closest companion, Tom Thumb, a miniature elephant whom he flung from the tracks just before he was struck.
Jumbo's influence on our culture survives to this day. At the time, "jumbo" was not a word in the English language - his name was a combination of two Swahili words: jambo (hello) and jumbe (chief). The word "jumbo" has come to mean anything large, thanks to a big elephant, with an even bigger heart.
Monday, April 21, 2008
3:10 To Yuma explores the ancient but timeless themes of manhood, greed, loyalty and redemption. Russell Crowe is captivating as the outlaw Ben Wade and Christian Bale delivers a poignant portrayal of a scarred Civil War veteran struggling to provide for his family. An especially strong supporting cast and sweeping cinematography make this a must see for any fan of Westerns. This film has earned the prestigious "Golden Eagle", awarded by this blog for excellence in entertainment.
Plant breeders have been cultivating and trading cannas for 400 years. A native of the West Indies, this plant is more than just another pretty face. The entire plant is useful. Purple dye can be obtained from the seeds, paper made from the leaves, the rootstock yields arrowroot starch and smoke from its burning leaves is insecticidal. Although once referred to as an horticultural mongrel, more would agree with a Victorian artist who proclaimed it to be "the handsomest foliage in the border".
Sunday, April 20, 2008
It took 2,000 laborers, mostly immigrant Chinese from the San Francisco Bay area, eleven months to complete the largest all wood building in California. When the first guests were welcomed in 1888, this jewel of the Crown City set a new standard of exceptionalism and enchanment that continues to this day. Publisher Rand McNally considers "The Del" to have "more fame and historical significance than perhaps any hotel in North America."
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Last weekend the coast was unusually warm - upwards of 80 degrees. That must have triggered unseen forces in the insect world, as Sunday evening, the garden had countless huge, unfamiliar insects darting from flower to flower and hovering over them. They're White Lined Sphinx Moths, also known as hummingbird moths, who naturally range throughout the North American deserts. They have a wing span of up to 8 inches, and they not only fly in the manner of hummingbirds, but eat nectar in the same way, as well. This must have been a stopping point on their migration path, because by the next morning, they had moved on.
Friday, April 18, 2008
These were more than just massive concrete stairs. They were a gateway that drew children to the seashore, children whose lives became centered around the ocean. That first outcropping to the south is Price's Point. It eroded away some years ago and isn't even a point anymore. That doesn't matter. It's still Price's Point, named for John, one of the locals who was brave enough to surf that spot for the first time.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
The sunset tonight drenched this lily with light. Early Romans thought these blossoms resembled candles and used them to mark the passing of the Winter Solstice. They found their way from South Africa to America in the mid nineteenth century, and their robust and curvaceous blossoms became favorites of artists and gardeners alike. Bees and snails like them, as well.