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First walk

Thistle with a bee in McNee Ranch

Dried out tree stump in McNee Ranch

McNee Ranch in the summer

We took B on his first walk on August 20th, in the hills above Montara beach. It was his first time in the carrier, we thought he’d resist but he loved it. The hills are a lot drier than the last time we walked through here, but there were thistles and nasturtiums out. We saw a coyote on our way back down.

We took him to see the sea too. Thought about dipping his toes in the water, but the beach was too steep and the waves too high. Another time.

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“I firmly believe in stressing the *fun* in *fun*gi”

Cover of the book “All That the Rain Promises and More...”

I picked up All That the Rain Promises and More… A Hip Pocket Guide to Western Mushrooms by David Arora at Alley Cat Bookstore and Gallery a few weeks ago. It felt a little silly considering we live in maybe the most concrete neighborhood we’ve ever lived in, and since foraging isn’t allowed in most of California, but how could I not get it. Look at the absolute maniac on the cover, the title.

The rest of the book lives up to the cover. The format is great, truly pocketable. Before you even get to the title page, it starts with a super straightforward flow chart of how to identify a mushroom with gills. The back endpapers are the same, but for mushrooms without gills. The bulk of the content is densely packed information about mushrooms, of course. But peppered throughout are anecdotes, recipes, personal stories and more from the author and many other smiling fungi fans.

Honestly, it’s been nice even just as bedtime reading, as strange as that may sound. 10/10

Now I just need to get myself out to Point Reyes or Salt Point State Park. For more on ethical / legal mushroom foraging in California, I found this article useful.

Get the book used or new on Biblio

Spread from the book “All That the Rain Promises and More...”

Spread from the book “All That the Rain Promises and More...”

Spread from the book “All That the Rain Promises and More...”

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Bay trees and blackberry thorns

California Bay Laurel trees along Dipsea Trail near Stinson Beach

Note: I’ve included points about edibility because I’m interested in foraging generally, but foraging is not allowed the area I describe.

We went to Stinson Beach again recently, have got in to a good routine of leaving early enough to just barely beat the crowds and get a decent parking spot, but not so early that it’s a slog to get out of the apartment.

This time, we walked up Dipsea Trail to a lookout point with a large, lone eucalyptus tree with a tree swing. It was a little over two miles round trip with about a 500ft elevation change, nearly all uphill out and all downhill back. The first section follows a little stream from Panoramic Highway through a grove of California Bay Laurel trees which bent over the path. It was quite damp and cool even though it was getting pretty warm elsewhere, smelled amazing.

A note about California Bay Laurel: The leaves are edible, but they tend to be much stronger than the stuff you buy in shops. Proceed with caution if using for stock or something similar.

The rest of the way was more open, with terrain that reminded us a little of the moors in Yorkshire. A lot sunnier though!

Flowers we saw (native plants are linked to the Calscape website for further info):

And a few more I just have not been able to identify…

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Growing up in a DDT dumping ground

Rat beach near Torrance, California in 2010

Rat Beach in 2010

I came across the article below recently and was pretty floored.

“How the waters off Catalina became a DDT dumping ground” by Rosanna Xia for the LA Times, 25 October 2020

I grew up in Torrance till I was 5 and Palos Verdes until I was 13. I played in the ocean at Rat Beach all the time, caught tadpoles in the storm drain just next to PVBAC, went tidepooling in Abalone Cove. I had no idea about the Superfund site, this is the very first time I’ve heard of it. How on earth is that?

Lunada Bay in Southern California, 2010

Lunada bay in 2010

It looks like the Superfund site starts just south of Lunada Bay and gets worse as you pass Portuguese Bend down towards San Pedro (see map).

And now they’ve verified punctured DDT waste barrels that have been sitting on the sea floor just off Catalina, possibly since the 1980s. This could be three to four decades of leakage from up to half a million barrels.

They leaned in to examine an icicle-like anomaly growing off one of the barrels — a “toxicle,” they called it — and wondered about the gas that bubbled out when the robot snapped one off. To have gas supersaturated in and around these barrels so deep underwater, where the pressure was 90 times greater than above ground, was unsettling. They couldn’t help but feel like they were poking at a giant Coke can ready to explode.

Sea lions up and down the coast have been dying from it for decades, and still are. We eat a lot of seafood from these waters.

How can this possibly be cleaned up, and who on earth is going to pay for it? Certainly not the Montrose Chemical Corp. of California, they’ve been gone for years.

It’s just so exhausting. It feels like so many people’s jobs right this moment are simply running around slapping Bandaids left right and center, scrambling to fix what have become systemic problems caused by the poor decision making of people in the past. Lack of foresight, deliberately turning a blind eye, “we’ll deal with it later”, “it can’t possibly be that bad”. The environment, tech, policing, advertising.

So much firefighting.

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Anemones and rock slides

Photo of Agate Beach near Bolinas during the Golden Hour with clouds in the sky

A tide pool at Agate Beach with an anemone

Haven’t been feeling great recently so a lot of weekends have been pretty quiet, but we finally got out a bit this past Saturday. Went to Agate Beach near Bolinas, low tide was around 3:30pm so we had lovely light. It had rained hard earlier so we kept hearing mini rockslides from the cliffs. A little ominous.

It was hard to see much since most of the pools were a bit murky, but we did see chiton, anemones, snails, crabs, and one hefty brown starfish. There was pink coralline algae encrusting most of the rock pools. I didn’t know what it was when we were there, thought it was so prevalent that it might be invasive. But it seems native from what I’ve read since. There was also one tiny creature that squirted water a foot in to the air, still no idea what that was…

Related: One of the rental properties at Sea Ranch has some really good tips about being a good tide pool steward.

Also related: Didn’t collect anything since foraging isn’t permitted on most public land in California. I’d love to get to Salt Point at some point though since it’s allowed there. Would probably mainly look for purple laver and nori. Samphire (pickleweed) should be prevalent in April/May, so maybe that would be a good time to go. Also hopefully this pandemic will be on the wane by then with the vaccine…

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What it was like being a poll worker

Circular enamel pin for the November 3, 2020 General Election in San Francisco

Being a poll worker was great. I think a lot of that had to do with the people I was working with all day (very nice), the precinct I was in (comfortable), and how busy it was (super quiet). It was a good way to be introduced to it, all in all. And I got a shiny new pin. 🙂

We really didn’t have that many people come in to vote, likely due to the big push for Vote By Mail. The vast majority of people were coming by to drop off their ballot. The longest the line ever got was about 5 people deep in the morning, then by about 11am or so there was almost no line at all. It was pretty chilly, unusually windy out and we had to have the windows and doors open all day for ventilation, but that wasn’t too bad.

There were only two frustrating points.

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Just what I needed

A photo of the North Fork of the American River near Clark’s Hole

I haven’t been posting much recently. There’s not a lot about this year that I’d like to remember. Of course there’s a ton that must be remembered, just not much that I’ll look back on fondly.

But we went swimming in the North Fork of the American River last Friday, that’s something to smile about. The heat radiated up off the path on our walk there and back. There was a big family enjoying the sun and water, and two girls chatting, standing in the shallows and drinking from a wine bottle. They warned us about the territorial crawdad near our toes.