Archive for the ‘Flowers’ Category

Happy in sunny San Diego

Friday, August 8th, 2014

Our Airstream Safari trailer is happy as a clam after getting the salt deposits washed off upon returning to home base after basking on the bluffs of South Carlsbad State Beach for 5 days.  The big, annual wash and wax job will take place next month before we begin our fall camping schedule.

DSC_0335 Salt deposits washed off

We have been happily enjoying viewing free, over-the-air high definition TV over the summer and celebrating our independence from pay TV with the help of our Mohu Leaf 50 indoor antenna, saving us $75/month.

Last week, we were happy to discover the first flower bud on one of our pitahaya cactus plants, Hylocereus undatus, that we planted three years ago.  This is also known as Dragon Fruit and we are happy that it grows well in San Diego.

DSC_0001 Our first pitahaya flower bud

We obtained our plants and sample fruit of the Pitahaya Roja* (seen below) from Ong Nursery.

Last night our pitahaya bloomed under a full moon. Pitahaya flowers in Southern California bloom for one night only.

DSC_0054 1st Pitahaya bloom

Pitahaya pistil with writhing tentacles happily rises above 800 stamens.**

DSC_0052 Pistil rises above stamens

I climbed a stepladder under the full moon and applied a small brush to cross-pollinate two flowers.  The deed was completed by happy bees in the early morning.

DSC_0087 Bees pollinating pitahaya

We now await the fruits of our labors.

DSC_0021 Ripe pitahaya fruit

Eating Dragon Fruit* is a happy, refreshing and healthy experience.

Another happy experience occurred early this summer when we gathered with friends for a Victorian picnic in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.

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(Photo credit: Travel writer, Charlie Jung)

Seen on the table is ham and cheese stromboli (made by Larry), along with German coleslaw, fresh fruit, lemonade, lemon curd, pickles, empanadas, hard boiled eggs, and sliced cheese.

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(Above photo credit: Travel writer, Charlie Jung)

HPIM2905 Bill & Larry, happy in Old Town

And of course, we had a Happy time in Old Town San Diego!*

And continue to be Happy in America’s Finest City!*

* This is a link to a YouTube video.

** Pitahaya: A Promising New Fruit Crop for Southern California, Paul H. Thomson, 2002

Mountain knight stars, part two

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

The first part of this multifaceted story delineated our sally into the cool mountains while a storm was brewing back home where the San Diego Opera was fighting for its life, even as some were trying to bury it while its heart was still beating.  It was expected to begin closing down after the last performance of Don Quixote* on April 13, but now has a reprieve until May 19 while ways are explored to save the San Diego Opera.

I continued reading Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote,* seeing parallelisms, and appreciating the main character, the romantic dreamer who often faced crossroads and chose adventure over shelter.

DSC_0048 At the crossroads

We continued our Airstream Safari adventure into the mountains by hiking along the park roads and trails that permit dogs on a leash.  We had been disappointed with the scarce wildflowers seen in the Anza-Borrego Desert this spring due to the ongoing California historic drought.  Most of the late winter/early spring rain that moved through our county was intercepted by our local mountains, which resulted in some spectacular displays of flowers here, such as St. John’s wort, Hypericum perforatum, known by herbalists as a remedy for a variety of ills.

DSC_0039 Saint John's wort

Seen below is the Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis, next to a wood fence where I had photographed jumping mule deer last fall.

DSC_0042 Red Bud

After hiking, we returned to our campsite, which was surrounded by blooming Palmer Lilac, Ceanothus palmeri.

DSC_0092 Palmer Lilac

Larry prepared langostino/pork bean curd skin rolls for dinner that were cut up, steamed, and lifted out in a stainless steel bowl by a Chinese steamer plate holder.

DSC_0109 Bean curd skin rolls

This was served with a delicious salad and dipping sauces (sriracha, hoisin, and sweet chili).

DSC_0114 Dinner table setting

We savored this and other dinners while watching beautiful sunsets and the many birds of this wooded park, such as the Western Bluebird (below) and enjoyed their songs and calls, such as those of the Spotted Towhee* and the Dusky-capped Flycatcher.*

DSC_0128_4 Western Bluebird

Each night after dinner, the mountain air quickly cooled as the stars began to shine* and my mind began to wander and dream of adventures and of the great stories and operas such as Jules Massenet’s Don Quichotte (Don Quixote).*

DSC_0082 Mountain stars

In the final act, La mort de Don Quichotte (Massenet)*, Don Quixote dies of a broken heart.  Hopefully Don Quixote will not be San Diego Opera’s swan song, but will mark the crossroads where San Diego Opera resurrected itself.  San Diego Opera makes music worth seeing and supporting!

*This is a YouTube video.

Drought and feasting in the desert

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

March began with Pacific storms bringing high winds and much needed rain to San Diego (and rainbows to Tucson), but not enough to relieve the historic drought in California as our Airstream Safari settled in to bask in the Anza-Borrego sun.  California’s water supply is dependent on the snowpack, which is only 24% of average.  Late Sunday afternoon, we arrived at Agua Caliente County Park and saw a sign saying, “Due to loss of power, the pool is closed”.  We learned that the campground was without electrical power all weekend due to high winds in the mountains that brought down utility poles and lines.  New utility poles were helicoptered in and power was restored to the park Sunday afternoon.

DSC_0001 Windswept sky over dry desert

Scant rainfall has diminished the display of green leaves and spring wildflowers normally seen here at this time of year.  I photographed the meager display of Brittlebush flowers in back of our Safari, while our Corgi, Mac, kept an eye on me from inside the trailer.

DSC_0037 Agua Caliente campsite 2014

Recent sprinkles here enabled ocotillo to produce crimson flowers even though their stems had minimal foliage.  This is in sharp contrast with the blankets of spring wildflowers that we saw in Anza-Borrego 6 years ago.

DSC_0035 Crimson ocotillo flowers, few leaves

In the lower part of the campground that receives more water runoff, I spotted a Beavertail cactus with showy flowers.

DSC_0083 Beavertail cactus flowers

We enjoy incorporating themes into every camping trip as a fun way to celebrate a variety of seasonal events through feasting and setting up of festive displays. On Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, we celebrated by cooking blueberry pancakes on our Volcano Collapsible Stove.*

DSC_0010 Cooking blueberry pancakes

Larry dusted the pancakes with powdered sugar.  (The lush oleander seen in the background is slated for removal because it is considered non-native and poisonous, even though in California and Texas it is naturalized as a median strip planting.  We will miss the privacy and shade that this plant provides.)

DSC_0014 Larry dusting pancakes

Shrove Tuesday, also known as Pancake Day,* is associated with the Mardi Gras custom of eating richer, fatty foods just before the beginning of Lent.

DSC_0020 Fat Tuesday pancakes

This scrumptious pancake dish was so good, I could eat it with a fork in each hand! Topped with maple syrup, butter, and bacon, these pancakes were the perfect way to celebrate Mardi Gras,* while taking in the beauty of the Anza-Borrego Desert and sky!*

DSC_0030 Scrumptious pancake dish

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Cooking up in the desert

Sunday, February 16th, 2014

Georgia was having an ice storm, a foot of snow was accumulating in the Northeast, and others were making their way to Alumaflamingo through unexpectedly freezing temperatures while our Airstream Safari was settling in under balmy desert skies and a waxing moon.

DSC_0203 Safari in candle & moonlight

Despite the currently worst drought in California since 1977,* creosote bushes near our Agua Caliente campsite managed to put on a display of their bright yellow flowers.

DSC_0276 Creosote bush blooms

Bert and Janie drove down from their campsite at Pegleg for a day of feasting and conversation.

DSC_0265 Bill & Larry, Janie & Bert

Larry fired up our 18″ wok and stir-fried shrimp, pork, choy sum, baby Shanghai bok choy, celery, and onion with oyster sauce, which was tossed with shirataki noodles,* utilizing extra long handled wok shovels.

DSC_0260"Just look like you're cooking"

DSC_0263 Stir-fried shrimp & pork

Janie is seen smiling in the photo above because I had just commented that Bert’s crouching to get his shot reminded me of Francis Ford Coppola’s acting cameo in Apocalypse Now,* when he said, “Don’t look at the camera…just go by like you’re fighting,” which prompted me to say, “Make like you’re cooking!”

DSC_0200-2 Helicopter practice

Military helicopters also spiced up the day by making practice fly-bys and nighttime landings in the dark.

Temperatures were also cooking up in the desert as the week progressed, requiring us to turn on the air conditioner on most days, but by 4 pm the sun sank below the nearby mountain ridge and we enjoyed dinners at the picnic table while taking in the desert landscape and sky at dusk.

DSC_0241 Desert dusk

We raised our glasses and toasted to our 43rd anniversary of being together as a beautiful full moon rose above the nearby ocotillo on the eve of Valentine’s Day.

DSC_0282 Desert full moon & ocotillo

As darkness fell, moonlight lit up the desert and our imagination of far away, exotic and romantic places.*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

 

Ocean safari fiesta, part one

Sunday, May 12th, 2013

We secured the feral side of our San Diego backyard and towed our Airstream Safari to our favorite campsite on the bluffs of South Carlsbad State Beach on Cinco de Mayo* for five days of sun, surf, sea breezes, soaring birds, feasting and celebrating San Diego on the ocean side.

DSC_0053 South Carlsbad sand & surf

Sea breezes blew up and over the bluff fifty feet above the beach where our Safari rested just a few feet from the edge.

DSC_0095 Our beachside campsite

The sea breeze has sculptured the thick hedges on each side of us, which provide wonderful privacy, enhanced with Larry’s sunscreen that he began making last year.  Homegrown Bird of Paradise flowers on our table gently moved in the breeze, as if looking at the pelicans gliding by.  We have seen as many as 35 pelicans soaring* by single file in long lines or in V-formation.*

DSC_0018 Soaring pelicans

Cinco de Mayo* is observed in the United States as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride.  We invited our dear friend Beverly to join us for a lunch fiesta featuring Mexican cuisine, starting with a strawberry margarita.*

DSC_0069 Beverly & Larry chatting

Larry prepared Camarones de Gobernador in a pot on our Volcano Stove, which contained camarones* (Larry used large shrimp), red peppers, poblano peppers, onions, garlic and rice wine.

DSC_0079 Camarones de gobernador

This mixture was then placed into grilled corn tortillas and became delicious tacos.  Here is another variation of Tacos de Camarón Gobernador.*

DSC_0081 Lunch with Beverly

The festive day was capped off by sipping on margaritas in glasses rimmed with Tajín seasoning.  “The margarita is the number one consumed cocktail in the United States,” says Greg Cohen in “Cinco de Mayo Is Hot“.*

DSC_0027 Margarita cheers - Larry

Many now consider Cinco de Mayo as the kickoff of the summer season*… and I’ll drink to that!

DSC_0033 Margarita cheers - Bill

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Desert views and illuminations

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

Our celebrations of life continued last week as we took our Airstream Safari and Airstream Life, Spring 2013 issue, and our dogs, Mac and Tasha, out to Agua Caliente County Park in the Anza-Borrego Desert for five days of camping under a glorious sun while celebrating my birthday and the imminent arrival of St. Pat’s Day and Spring!  This issue of Airstream Life features an article, “Airstreaming With Pets”, which lists considerations when traveling and camping with pets.

DSC_0006 Airstream Life Spring 2013

(The kissing Corgis salt and pepper shakers were given to us by our dear friend Beverly.)

Our dogs have always joined us over the past six years of camping trips with the Airstream and I have posted the article, “Traveling and Pet Safety“.  The Corgis always travel in a crate strapped on the folded down back seat of the F-250, and wear a Nite Dawg LED illuminated dog collar with a flashing feature by Nite Ize for safety and visibility at night around the campsite and while taking nighttime walks.

DSC_0042 Illuminated dog collars

Our campsite was illuminated each day by a bright sun and Larry’s sun screen sheet and toucan decorative banners provided shade, privacy and a festive display.

DSC_0010 Alternative site

The softer seascape images on the back of the sun screen gently undulate in the breeze providing shade and privacy.

DSC_0033 View from door

I again hiked the 2.5 mile loop of the Moonlight Canyon Trail, where I photographed bighorn sheep last November, but no sheep were visible and the spring flower display was meager due to scant rainfall this winter.  But I did find Chuparosa, Justicia californica, in bloom near the saddle of the trail.

DSC_0049 Chuparosa

Although the spring wildflowers were lacking, the desert presented an abundant display of subtle colors and textures of rocks and plants such as the ocotillo, agave, and cholla, which I appreciated as I climbed up the Desert Overlook Trail and enjoyed the vista views.

DSC_0056 Desert Overlook Trail

The trail climaxes on a ridge with a wonderful view of the whole park.

DSC_0068 Agua Caliente County Park

Agua Caliente Regional Park* of San Diego County is a 910-acre park next to the Tierra Blanca Mountains and features pools and a therapeutic indoor spa, trails, and spectacular views.  This park, along with many others across the country, is undergoing major changes, and I will shed light on some of these changes in my next post.

In the meantime, Round up your mates for a GUINNESS on St. Patrick’s Day.*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Bert Gildart’s art

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

He’s got it down to a science, and it comes out as iconic art.  Former back-country ranger in Glacier National Park, writer/outdoor photographer/Airstreamer Bert Gildart has been providing spectacular photos and enriching stories for Airstream Life ever since it’s first issue in 2004, right up to his current article in the Fall 2012 issue, “Dark Skies – Deep in the Heart of America with Your Airstream”.

Last December I got a chance to observe Bert’s science and artistry up close as we hiked Moonlight Canyon Trail at Agua Caliente County Park in Southern California and came upon Bighorn Sheep and glorious California Fuchsia.  I got another chance last month when Bert and Janie joined us for 5 days of camping here.  Bert and I decided to go on a slow, early morning hike to avoid the midday heat while looking for interesting subjects.  Janie had already found one on the other side of the road across from their trailer, a Desert Shaggy Mane Mushroom, Podaxis pistillaris, pushing its fruiting body up after the previous week’s rain.  When it dries out, it will release its spores.

On the Moonlight Canyon Trail Bert and I came across clusters of Monarch butterflies feasting on the nectar of the yellow flowers of the Honey Mesquite shrub.

According to Wikipedia, “The monarch is the only butterfly that migrates both north and south as the birds do on a regular basis.”  (Note: the Monarch can be distinguished from the co-mimic Viceroy butterfly by the lack of a black line running across the veins of the hind wing.)

“Suddenly, we saw butterflies and then, a few steps further, we found the most lavish growth of California Fuchsia I have ever seen…”, writes Bert in his weblog article, “Limiting Factors Check A Population’s Expansion…“, which includes his beautiful and colorful close-up images.

Bert’s artistry and “science”, such as his camera, settings, and use of strobes, are detailed in my article, “Photographic artistry of Bert Gildart“.  Bert now has a new and lighter tripod, a Gitzo Series 2 Carbon Fiber 6X Explorer with 3-section legs, and he says he carries it everywhere.  Bert selected a BH-30 LR Ballhead with lever-release clamp for his tripod.  He says, “… it’s expensive, but I use it all the time for fine adjustments, and at this stage of my life I said what the heck.”  (A similar set up is demonstrated here.)

Bert tells me that he will be presenting a two-part seminar on photography at Alumafiesta in Tucson, Arizona, in February.  The first part will be an hour long slide presentation on where photography has taken him around the world (such as Egypt) and will cover lighting, composition, and modern techniques that are available to people using Photoshop and Lightroom.  The presentation will conclude with how Bert assembles an article for Native Peoples Magazine.  The next day, Bert plans to lead a photographic field trip, utilizing the techniques that were discussed the day before.

Through his photos and stories, Bert has captured the beauty of nature and native peoples, even as they are being threatened on many fronts.  Bert Gildart’s art underscores the importance of recommitting to the preservation of our national parks and icons, such as the spectacular Glacier National Park!

Desert flowers and devils

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

Just before departing on our last desert trip this spring, a late winter storm was bringing wind, rain and snow to our local mountains and much needed moisture to the desert.  I wore long johns during our first night at Agua Caliente County Park, but by mid-afternoon the following day we had the air conditioner running as outside temperatures soared into the 90’s and continued to do so throughout the week.  I got on the park’s Moonlight Canyon Trail early before temperatures peaked and was pleased to find Desert Agave and ocotillo in bloom.

According to Wikipedia, Desert Agave, Agave deserti, also known as Mescal and Century Plant, was used by desert dwelling Indians to make cloth, bowstrings, and rope.  It also provided author Marshal South and his family with materials for fuel, food and clothing in the 1930’s and 1940’s.

Ocotillo (below), Fouquieria splendens, had bright crimson flowers, but its stems did not have a robust display of green leaves due to the below average spring rainfall.  Marshal South also used the ocotillo for fuel.

Upon return from my hike, I enjoyed a shower and one of Larry’s delicious sandwiches with chips and beer.  I then settled in under the patio awning for an afternoon of reading while enjoying a light breeze… and then I heard the devil coming… it seemed to come out of nowhere… but I’ve felt and heard its breath before at this site.  I immediately leapt out of my chair and held onto the front awning rafter arm as a dust devil sent the nearby table setting and hanging paper lantern up and over our trailer. It was over in 10 seconds.  “Well, I better put the awning in for the day,” I thought, and then noticed that it did not go in as easily as before because the rear rafter arm bar on was now bent!  Together, we got the awning back in and secured.

According to Wikipedia, “Dust devils form when hot air near the surface rises quickly through a small pocket of cooler, low-pressure air above it.”  Certain conditions increased the likelihood of dust devil formation on that day, including clear skies, light wind, cool atmospheric temperatures, hot near surface air, and the flat desert terrain that stretched out to the east of our trailer.  It seems our favorite site here is located in dust devil alley! (See this BBC video clip on YouTube, “Dust Devil Blows Away Campsite.”)

Upon return home, I called Awnings By Zip Dee to order a replacement for the bent arm and they asked me for the model and year of my trailer and then guided me to their Parts List on their web site and asked me to click on the PDF, “Contour Hardware Installed 1989 to Present Parts,” where I identified the needed Part #5, Satin Rafter Arm Bar.  Several days later, I noticed the Rafter Arm Tube had a bow in it, so I also ordered Part #6, Satin Rafter Arm Tube Assembly.  They also encouraged me to see one of their excellent Instructional Videos, “Straightening a Bent Arm on a Zip Dee Awning.”  The parts arrived one week later, as promised.

Before installing the new parts, I lubricated them as shown in their Instructional Video, “How To Lubricate a Zip Dee Awning.”  As it turned out, the bow in the Rafter Arm Tube disappeared when it was removed from the bent arm bar, so now I have a spare part for the next encounter with a dust devil… or Mariah.

Springtime Safari cheer

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

A fortnight before the vernal equinox we made way to return to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, with hopes of seeing the beginnings of the spring wildflower season that in some years has been spectacular.  We arrived at Borrego Palm Canyon Campground just as the sun began dipping behind the nearby San Ysidro Mountains and shortly before a full moon began to rise in the early evening sky.

A nearby Creosote Bush was just beginning to show some tiny yellow flowers as we nestled our Airstream Safari near cholla cacti and set up camp.

We now have a new addition for our galley, a 10″ round bamboo cutting board that fits nicely on the round aluminum platter that rests in a woven tray that sits on the white plastic cutting board/cover over our Lobster Sink.  The bamboo cutting board was bought at an Asian market in San Diego.

Our 23′ Safari has plenty of countertop space for us, especially when our 12″x18″ maple cutting board/counter extension (that we added) is raised and the Lobster Sink and stove are covered.

As I walked out into the nearby desert, I noticed a dry landscape and a meager wildflower display due to lower than usual rainfall in the San Diego area since January. And when it does rain in San Diego, much of it is blocked from reaching our desert by our local mountains.

I did see sparse crimson flower buds on the tips of the shriveled, brown ocotillo stems seen above and yellow flowers of the barrel cactus seen below.

Writer/photographer/Airstreamer Bert Gildart brought festive cheer with him when he arrived at our campsite on his bike.

Bert and his wife, Janie, have been enjoying their winter stay in the Anza-Borrego Desert since December, and we have enjoyed linking up with them on our monthly trips here this winter.  We have fond memories of sharing happy activities such as hiking, feasting, and pursuing bighorn sheep, along with photography, chatting, and sharing stories, books, information, and good times, including the pursuit of dragons!

We had one more wonderful visit and brought lunch for Bert and Janie just after they pulled up stakes from Pegleg and moved their Airstream to The Springs at Borrego RV Resort, before they departed for the 4CU St. Patrick’s Day Rally.

So we also raise our glasses high in a cheerful toast to Bert and Janie… and to hiking, bicycling, and spring!

Photographic artistry of Bert Gildart

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

Bert Gildart’s beautiful photography and stories have graced most issues of Airstream Life magazine ever since his first article, “Montana’s Crow Country – Airstreaming Through Native American History,” appeared in the Summer 2004 issue.  Bert and his wife Janie love to hike, so I had fun taking them on their first hike on the stunning Moonlight Canyon Trail in Agua Caliente County Park in the Anza-Borrego Desert in Southern California when they visited us in December.  Our morning hike was spectacular, especially when we came upon five Bighorn Sheep grazing on a nearby ridge.

Bert was so thrilled by the morning hike he asked to go out again after lunch for another chance encounter with the sheep and this time, take with him his tripod and strobes for a close-up photo shoot of blooming California Fuchsia.  I’ve accompanied Bert before on photography hikes, such as up Ghost Mountain on a previous New Year’s Day, and it is always a treat to see this professional photographer do his artistic work.  He brought along his bag of tricks, including lenses and strobes, and his heavy-duty tripod.

We returned to the California Fuchsia that we had seen earlier in the day and I took a picture of it (seen below) as Bert set up his equipment.

First Bert attached a 105mm macro lens to his Nikon D7000 camera and adjusted the tripod’s legs to accommodate the steeply angled rocky trail edge and focused on the flowers.

For Bert’s magic and artistry, he set the camera’s shutter speed to 250th of a second (which makes the flowers look motionless, even in a breeze) and set the aperture at f/32 for maximum depth of field.   Bert used two hand-held strobes, which he explained overwhelm ambient light and produce the black background.  See his stunning image of this flower in his blog posting, “Surviving In a Land Where Everything Either Sticks, Stings or Bites.”

We then returned to the ridge where we had seen Bighorn Sheep earlier in the day, but none were within sight.  As we gazed upward, we both slowly turned, smiling at each other with the same thought.  Maybe the sheep were just on the other side of the ridge.  Yes, we thought, and scrambled up the loose granite side of the ridge like young boys on a treasure hunt.  We got to the top and Bert went on to a higher ridge nearby, but did not see sheep.  I motioned for him to come over and see Hedgehog Cactus that had been eaten earlier that morning by the Bighorn Sheep.

In his book Bighorn Sheep: Mountain Monarchs, Bert writes, “Sheep can digest many forms of food, and their teeth form the foundation for this tolerance… The lower incisors and single canine are intended for nipping while the molars serve to grind… Sheep have a four-chambered stomach… the first [chamber] is unusually large, creating a super fermentation vat” (Page 53).  See Bert’s close-up photo of this same cactus here, taken from his vantage point seen below.  (The cactus is in the shade to the left of the Brittlebush.)

We could have enjoyed lingering on that ridge longer, but the sun began to set, and Janie and Larry were waiting for us back in camp.  We returned with warm memories of this glorious day, which continue to sustain us as we look forward to that next hike, adventure and photo shoot in this wonderful world as we greet the New Year and the return of the sun.

About the Author

BILL, along with partner, Larry, were first-time RV'ers when they purchased their custom-ordered 23' 2007 Airstream Safari SE. Bill (a retired RN) and Larry (a retired pediatric Occupational Therapist) enjoy bringing history alive in the area of San Diego, CA.