From my perch high above the San Andreas Fault, I use this site to post random bits of information about my life and to experiment with WordPress so I can help others learn to use it.

mountain lion drinking at the pond

The Things We Treasure

Today’s Prompt: Tell us the story of your most-prized possession. Three years ago I followed some prompts on topics to post. Obviously I have skipped quite a few days (years).  But I have just discovered this one that never was posted. It is still as valid today as it was then.

A pond? How can a pond be a prized possession? I would have asked this question too–up until when I thought about this assignment. I realized that our pond is a prize I would not want to part with.

Many years ago, probably thirty or more, we opted for a small pond as part of a patio project after we had enlarged our small house by about 400 square feet and added the patio. The original design called for a fenced garden to keep the deer from devouring everything. It included a pond. We decreased the fenced area but wanted the pond and the patio outside of the fence. What a good idea!

In the many years we have had the pond we have had many visitors. Deer, of course, and coyotes and foxes, and bobcats. Neighbors, out for a walk on the trail beyond our house, have had their dogs take a dip in the pond. Quail come down in abundance in the spring, sometimes as a group with one or two males acting as lookouts and females shepherding a brood of a dozen or two fluff balls not bigger than and egg they hatched from. Mom and the chicks take a drink and then disappear into the chaparral where they are safe. The dads then can desert their watch and run back to have a drink too.

And the other birds–large, small, and in-between. In the spring, robins. Then wrentits, towhees, flickers, jays, mourning doves. And when the elderberries ripen, the band-tailed pigeons. Occasionally at night there are the owls, usually a pair hooting at each other in different keys in the darkness. When the blueberries are ripe, the thrashers appear. We share our blueberries with them. They usually get there just before I do as the blueberries ripen.

I do not know if snakes drink water from a pond, but occasionally we have had a snake or two. They are not interested in having me around and usually disappear if we cross paths. Generally if I encounter a snake it is a harmless (and beautiful) king snake or gopher snake. A couple of times I have seen a rattler who disappears rapidly. And once one was sleeping and I was able to capture it and release it into more hospitable territory up the fire trail.

In the early spring the tree frogs get excited and fill the night with their love songs. I know soon we can expect shimmering clusters of eggs in the pond. In a week or two there are hundreds of small tadpoles swimming through the water. Eventually they start developing legs, first at the back and then at the front. And then they disappear. These are small frogs, only about an inch long. Occasionally I will see one hopping about the garden, but I know they are there when the next spring comes and their chorus starts again.

And then there are the bees. A few years ago our closest neighbor began keeping bees. She was once a chef in a fine restaurant in Saratoga, grows a wonderful garden from which we often get great produce, and now keeps bees and makes honey. We have rosemary that her bees feast on and they frequent our pond. These are native bees and are no problem. All they want from the pond is a drink. I can stand out there with hundreds of them buzzing around, and I have never been stung.

For many years I have known we had visitors at our pond. But my suspicions have been confirmed. We were given the gift of an outside motion-detecting camera.

Twice in more than forty years I have actually seen a mountain lion, although I knew they might exist in these mountains. I first saw one on a hike up the fire trail just beyond our house quite a few years ago. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon as I crested a hill. At the base of the hill was a lion sitting in the sun. I decided to let the cougar have its time on the mountain and turned around and went home. I now do my hiking between 10 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon and leave the rest of the time to the pumas.

My other siting was late at night while driving home. A puma crossed the road in front of me just as I approached the house. I also once found one’s big track in the mud on the driveway.

So how very exciting to capture on camera a big cat from the mountain taking a drink from the pond in the middle of the night. We do not often get visits from such magnificent guests, who have a range of about 500 miles. I recently heard it estimated from the Santa Cruz Puma Project that there may be about 70 cat in the Santa Cruz Mountains from San Francisco to Gilroy, (around 2500 square miles).

Why do I value the pond? You decide.




A Tale of Two Bridges: The San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridges of 1936 and 2013A Tale of Two Bridges: The San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridges of 1936 and 2013 by Stephen D Mikesell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I got this book from the library, I did not list it here because I was not sure I would read it. But as I started reading, it became clear, I was hooked. It is not a page turner, but I found I needed to read a few more pages every night before I went to bed. Living in the Bay Area, I am well aware of this bridge and could envision the process of building and rebuilding it, even though I do not use it regularly. I am not technically aware of all the aspects discussed but gained a great appreciation for what was involved. And I could certainly relate the decisions and politics involved in the construction–especially the reconstruction since the earthquake. The book was fascinating and I will never be able to use this bridge, or any other, again with out a whole new perspective and appreciation for the wonders of the modern world.

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Mt. Umunhum

Gorgeous day. So I decided to drive to Mt. Umunhum, which has only been open to the public since last September. Mt. Umunhum is a signature site in the South Bay. For 10,000 years this mountain was treasured by native Americans. It was mined in the 1800s and became an Air Force Station in 1957 monitoring the Bay Areas during the Cold War. The signature tower is the only remanent that remains from this period. It can be seen from all over the South Bay.

In the 1990s, when I was at YSI (the Youth Science Institute) I was taken up to this site, which was not open to the public, by a County Parks Supervisor. At that time there were a number of buildings that had been abandoned by the military. She was hoping we could open a YSI site in one of them. But since it was more that a half hour drive up a winding mountains road, it did not see like a site that most people would be willing to access. It was a nice idea.

The mountain towers above the Bay Area at 3486 feet (a thousand feet above where we live at the top of another mountain). It has a 360 degree view of all the surrounding area including all of Silicon Valley, the coast and parts north and  south. And someday it may be part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail that is slowly taking place that may offer a trail that rivals the Appalachian Trail.

Even as a mountain woman, this site takes my breath away.

dandelions in flower and going to seed

What’s Wrong with Dandelions?

Am I stretching too far to see a political message here?

I spent some time today (and yesterday and other days) digging up dandelions by their roots. So why am I spending my time to get rid of an enduring yellow flower that takes absolutely no care? The rains have come and dandelions are sprouting up everywhere. I actually admire their tenacity and even think their small flowers are rather pretty. A couple have already started to bloom in this intemperate weather.

What is my problem? The airy globe of seeds they produce is not unattractive. It is blown off with a puff. It’s said that if you can blow all the seeds off with one blow, you are loved with a passionate love. If some seeds remain, your lover has reservations about the relationship. If a lot of the seeds still remain on the globe, you are not loved at all. Folklore says blowing the seeds off a dandelion carries your thoughts and dreams to your loved ones. Is there a reason for not loving these flowers for their beauty and tenacity? For not wanting strong winds to blow and sow them far and wide? Do they send us a message?

Their problem may come from the same traits that make them so durable. They will not be denied. They crop up everywhere, command space, and dig down deeply with their roots. They take over territory that does not allow other flowers to blossom and spread. Their message is strident and long-lasting. I allow them only because I cannot stop all of them. But I will continue to keep them under control lest they take over and not give the more delicate fauna a chance to temper their advance.




The Stranger in the Woods

The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True HermitThe Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fascinating true tale of a true hermit who lived totally alone and off the grid for thirty years. The author managed to connect with this intelligent man and get glimpses into what his life was like during all those year when he had absolutely no human contacts. For those of us who are not loners but understand the importance of living harmoniously within ourselves there insights here which can shed some light on our own existence and help us understand some of our own behaviors.

I think it is time for me to go walk on the trail awhile.

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New Beginnings

An immense stately Italian pine graced the entrance to the only main street through the small village of Saratoga when I first moved there forty-eight years ago. It was over a hundred years old at the time. Saratoga marked the end of the urban world that was forming as the once small towns in the valley started uniting to become a sprawling metropolis. It marked my continuing migration toward the mountains and watched over me as I found my place in those mountains.

For almost a half a century I passed that tree almost every day. At last in 2015 it became that tree’s time to return to the earth as we all must do someday. Every day after that, passing by that spot, I was aware of the hole in the air that remained.

But, just like the old tree almost two hundred years ago, a new tree had now sprung up and was waiting. It was time for a new beginning. May this newcomer prosper and watch over people like me a hundred years from now when I too have become part of the earth like the stately old pine. I will always remember that lovely old tree.

New Beginnings from CApoppy on Vimeo.