The world leans,
trees balance on the horizon.
Above the pyracantha bush,
drunken robins spin and whirl.
Hills run on,
Dizzy from the sweet scent of mustards,
of pink blossoming trees,
wind chimes ring in my head.
Light oozes out of the sky,
the breeze's breath turns warm.
I throw my arms wide open,
give myself up,
to the sun's glow.
A morning dove beats up,
The sealed lips of a yellow rose
open a little.
First published in "Days Between Dancing," a chapbook by Lara Gularte
Lara Gularte, a third generation native of San Jose, has been published in a variety of publications including Downtown Magazine, the San Jose Mercury News, the Santa Clara Review and the Monserrat Review. In February of 2002, Poet's Corner Press of Stockton published a chapbook of her earlier work called "Days Between Dancing."
Lara is currently working on a poetry manuscript about her pioneer ancestors. Part of this work is being translated into Portuguese by the University of the Azores and will soon be featured in Saber, a literary magazine in Portugal.
Lara is a graduate student in the MFA Creative Writing program at San Jose State University where she is a poetry editor for the University’s literary journal, Reed Magazine. In addition, she is editor of Convergence-journal.com, a poetry and art e-zine.
Her day job is as a Deputy Public Guardian for Santa Clara County Social Services. And, by the way, she’s a James Lick High School grad - class of ‘65.
Click here for photos of Lara and berries ready for the robins. And click here for the other Eastside Springtime photos if you haven't looked at them yet.
NNV Note: This story links to many other Web sites where you can see photos of the birds and, in some cases, listen to their songs. Use the Back button on your Web browser to return to this edition. Some of these photos may take a long time to download unless you have a broadband connection.
The February thaw is underway. The sun is out and it’s warm and it feels like spring. Winter will re-establish itself for a time, but the inevitable warming and rebirth have begun. After three chilly months, sun is again striking our cold, damp back yard, much to the delight of our captive American Kestrel and Red-tailed Hawk, sun worshipers that they are. The dawn avian chorus is revving up, in tune with lengthening days and raging hormones. It’s that wonderful betwixt and between time before the winter migrants leave and the summer migrants arrive. Our Great Horned Owls are already nesting and our other park residents are not far behind, attending to the serious business of claiming territories and attracting mates. This is the time I love to listen to our permanent resident birds tuning up for the coming season.
One of my favorite resident birds is the California Towhee. This large brown member of the sparrow family can be seen along the creek in Alum Rock Park and in the residential areas of San Jose where they are a common sight around houses and yards. The California Towhee is usually seen searching for seeds and insects on the ground and in low shrubs. Look for the “towhee shuffle” the characteristic scratching with both feet in the leaf litter as they forage for food. Their song is a series of high flat teek notes. Their cup nest is constructed in shrubs often very low to the ground. The young leave the nest early, in as little as eight days and will stay with the parents for several weeks afterward.
The California Towhee’s cousin, the striking Spotted Towhee, formerly Rufus-sided Towhee can be found on the canyon hillsides of Alum Rock Park in areas of scrub and dense thickets. Listen for the rustling of leaves in the underbrush and look for that “Towhee Shuffle.” This colorful bird is surprisingly hard to see even when singing at the top of a tree. The Spotted Towhee sports a black head, back, tail and wings with white spots on the wings. The eye is red and the flanks rufus. The song is a buzzy trill che che che zhreee. I often confuse the Spotted Towhee song with that of the Dark Eyed Junco especially early in the season while I’m tuning my own ears. Spotted Towhees place their cup nest on the ground or in low shrubs.
The Dark-eyed Junco is a smaller member of the sparrow family. This group of birds was once four different junco species. Many years ago it was decided that there were enough similarities between the species to lump them together as the Dark-eyed Junco. Our race of the Dark-eyed Junco, the Oregon Junco, can be found foraging under trees and bushes. It uses its conical shaped bill for opening seeds and berries. It is one of the earlier breeding species. They like to nest in the Vinca on the retaining wall in our back yard and have had as many as three clutches of young. Look for a dark head, neck and chest, pale bill and white belly. In flight the white outer tail feathers are very noticeable. The song is a bell-like trill similar to the Spotted Towhee but less harsh.
While looking for Towhees or Juncos you may also see and hear the tiny Common Bushtit. During the winter they form large flocks that flow from tree to tree searching for insects and other bugs amongst the leaves. In early spring they begin to pair up and look for suitable nesting sites in Oaks, Redwoods and other trees that will conceal their long pendulous nest. They have large broods, up to eight young at a time. Once the young have fledged later in the spring, lively “family units” can be seen out foraging in the trees. If you see a bird or a group of birds with a very small chubby body, long tail, small black bill and a basic gray-brown coloration, you will probably be looking at the Common Bushtit. Listen for high, clear tinkling chips and thin, scratchy skrr and tzeee notes.
Not to be outdone in the “plain plumage but very lively” category is the Oak Titmouse, formerly Plain Titmouse. This basic gray-brown bird with a beady black eye and a Mohawk crest can be seen feeding in the oaks and other trees along the Creek and North Rim trails and the more open portions of the South Rim Trail. They feed on insects and other bugs. The Oak Titmouse is a cavity nester and relies on woodpeckers to create their cavities. They will use manmade nest boxes. Their song is a series of strong whistled phrases, tjiboo tjiboo. Currently there is an active Titmouse nest in the oak in front of YSI.
In the “never seen when actively looking for it” category is the Brown Creeper. In the early spring if you still possess the higher frequencies of hearing, this cryptically marked little bird can be discovered making its way up tree trunks, woodpecker fashion, searching for insects and other bugs in the bark. A decurved bill, strong woodpecker-like tail and white throat and belly are characteristics to watch for. Their well-concealed nest sites are usually located behind loosened pieces of tree bark, occasionally in cavities. The Brown Creeper’s song is a very high, thin series of accelerating and cascading notes, seee sitsweeeda sowit-see. This unusual bird prefers mature coniferous and deciduous forest for breeding. Brown Creepers can be found along the quiet, moist areas of the Creek Trail towards the back of the park and up the South Rim Trail. I see and hear them every spring around the YSI building.
Another interesting little bird that utilizes a woodpecker type lifestyle is the White-Breasted Nuthatch. These birds are named for their habit of wedging hard food items such as seeds into a bark crevice and hammering or hacking (hatching) it with their bill to open it. They can be seen on the North Rim Trail climbing around on mature trees, often Oaks, searching for bugs and seeds. During the fall months, nuthatches will store food for use during the winter. They will often travel downward on tree trunks, flying up to the next tree after reaching the ground. Nests are placed in woodpecker holes or natural cavities where one brood of young is raised. Listen for a nasal beeerf and look for a bird with a white throat, breast and head with a dark crown and long bill. The back is gray - often with rufus under the tail.
One of the more colorful of our small residents is the Chestnut-backed Chickadee. A denizen of the humid coastal forests of the north coast, this spry little bird can be found in oak woodland and pine forests in this area where they search for woodpecker cavities to make their nests. They will also use manmade nest boxes. Look for them along the Creek Trail and North and South Rim Trails in the oak and other canopy trees. Chickadees consume a variety of food including insects, berries and seeds. They are frequent visitors to neighborhood suet dough feeders. The Chestnut-backed Chickadee has the characteristic chickadee black cap and throat with white cheeks. The back is reddish brown.
While hiking along the North Rim Trail in the spring, you may be treated to
the singing of the male
California Thrasher as he defends his territory from the
top of a shrub. This is the easiest time to view them as the rest of the year
they spend hunkered down in heavy thickets and chaparral searching for food.
This large basically-brown bird uses its long decurved bill to turn over leaves
and dig in the dirt searching for insects, seeds and berries. Its song is
similar to a Mockingbird but harsher. Males will include imitations of other
birds in their territorial songs. Their cup nests are built less than ten feet
from the ground, usually much lower in dense underbrush.
This is the time that I appreciate our permanent residents the most. Those
that were born here, will breed here, winter here and will die here, taking what
nature has to offer and making the best of it. These are birds that one can see
and enjoy every day of the year. Some are seemingly non-descript “ordinary”
birds. Some are beautiful, others elusive with elegant songs. They are all near
and dear to my heart.
“Yes Dear.” It should be the right thing to say on a honeymoon. And that’s how it all started. Springtime in Provence, lavender and sunflowers mixed with red tile roofs and gray-blue shutters make you feel like you’re living inside a classic painting. Why not build the wonderful feeling of this place back home on our hillside overlooking San Jose? “Yes Dear.”
Cypress trees punctuate the skyline. Waves of dry heat twist the view of Villars, a far away hilltop town, into an acid dream. In the shade of the tall stone wall, we study the arches, window boxes, tall narrow shuttered windows, and a cat lounging in the only dry spot beside the splashing Roman fountain.
“Let’s make a list.” It always starts that way, with a list. “What we need is lavender, terraces, stone steps, an outdoor fireplace, a fountain or three, and what do they call that tan pathway stuff?” “Gold-fines, dear.”
Fast forward to last year. “And the fountain can go over there, and what a wonderful place for a terrace over here,” she says. The realtor smiles knowingly. My list just got longer; we buy the fixer-upper house. “Never mind grumpy,” she tells the realtor. “Whatchutalkenbout, dear?”
The dirt here in Silicon Valley is expensive - and expansive. Retaining walls bulge, crack, bow, and overturn. It looked so much simpler in “the old country” where little stacked rock walls held up whole hillsides - and the villages above them. Not here. We’ve got dirt with “tude,” our dirt pushes back! When wet, our expansive soil can push 40, 60 or even 100 lbs against each square foot of wall! In the “old country,” sandy and well drained soil allows the winter water to pass through the walls without breaking them. And now we have just bought a home with a whole lot of broken, and failing retaining walls.
Call it “organic growth,” but I do my best thinking in the evening shade on the terrace, with a glass of red wine in one hand and a sketchpad in the other. Step one: erase all the prior work, it lasted 50 years, but it’s time to move on. Step two: define the infrastructure requirements. She’ll want lights, sprinklers, speakers, etc. I’ve got to get them roughed in and ready before beginning the wall. Step three: let’s give some thought to drainage. If we want “old world” results, we need a whole lot of gravel, filter fabric and drain-lines hidden behind the wall to keep the wall-wrecking trolls away.
Decided. All we need to do (and the plural is used loosely) is “we” start digging the footings for the retaining walls. As a local rule of thumb the footing is about 2/3rds of the wall height. It should extend 18” underground, and be about 12” thick concrete with steel reinforcing. Anyone who has dug in this dirt should get an award, or better yet a digging machine! Still “someone” has to excavate a hole, and move a whole lot of dirt. In this case 3’wide by 18” deep by 50’ long. Where is my old fashioned Roman slave?
Digging done. Daydreaming, I remember twilight in Provence. Poolside, the first cooling breeze after a scorching day begins to blow. Drinks are on the table. What can you bring the hostess who has everything? Margaritas! Scrabble and margaritas, the great equalizer! Usually our hostess is racking up 300+ points while we are still struggling to break three figures. Not tonight! Crickets chirrup, martins swoop, and the small baccus fountain gurgles to itself in a softly lit garden corner. Stone benches feel cool to the back, and geraniums cascade from nearby terracotta planters perfuming the night. “We can build this in our garden, can’t we?” “Yes dear.”
After a truckload of concrete, and a tangle of steel, we-have-a-footing! Bowing to expedience, a poured concrete wall seems like the best idea at the moment. “We” can always face it with stone later. We! Forming, now the challenge is to make a wall that “looks” straight. A jogged wall is usually stronger than its straight cousin, but it has the advantage of breaking up the point of view. There is nowhere for the kibitzer to look to find the ever-present flaws.
Another tangle of steel and truckload of concrete and “We” have a wall! Remember the wall-wrecking trolls? Now is the critical part of preserving the work. Gravel is carefully placed behind the wall, wrapped into a black “filter-fabric” gravel-burrito containing a perforated large drain line. The temptation to backfill with all of my “extra” dirt is almost overwhelming. Only the top foot behind the wall is filled with the local compacted “expensive-expansive” soil. A brick or stone decorative cap follows, to finish off the raw edges and “We” are done.
England; far away across a 400 year old lawn, a golden retriever fetches a ball. My wife muses “wouldn’t a lawn be wonderful?” “Yes Dear.”
--- To be continued ---
“Yes Dear” is a General Engineering Contractor specializing in retaining walls, and “Big new Basements under Little Old Homes.” Direct questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org, she’ll put them on his list.
Click here for a photo of a Mediterranean Garden and a Retaining Wall diagram.
|The Ultimate Easter or Graduation Gift|
|County Historical Commission Makes Preservation Grants by Edward Allegretti|
|Snake Season Again in Alum Rock Park from Jane Lawson|
|Special Traffic Rules for Easter Sunday at Alum Rock Park from Jane Lawson|
|Earth Day at Alum Rock Park from Jane Lawson|
Got kids clamoring for a wee fuzzy bunny for Easter? You can nip that thought in the bud with a soul-satisfying, one-of-a-kind, animal-related gift for Easter (or for those ubiquitous graduations) which allows you (or your gift recipient) “No Pooping, No Scooping, No Allergies, No Visits to the Vet!”
What is it? The Youth Science Institute offers “sponsorships” of many of their resident animals. Your kid or your friend can be the one-year sponsor of one of the nature center’s woodsy denizens for a reasonable fee. Think about it – for $25 to $100, your gift recipient can have a unique and meaningful connection with a wild animal plus a certificate which says so! Especially needing sponsorship now are YSI’s newest lodger, the tiny saw-whet owl ($100), their awesome ‘possum ($50) and their cool king snake ($25). Sponsorship funds go toward the cost of the animals’ upkeep. What a win-win gift solution, hey?
Call Curator “D.J.” Dorothy Johnson at the Nature Center at (408) 258-4322 and work out the arrangements. This is one of those rare gifts which really will be remembered forever.
The Historical Heritage Commission of Santa Clara County had its regular monthly meeting on March 18th. At that meeting the commissioners discussed the grant requests. That is, those applicants requesting part of the $511,000 available this year from the county for historical heritage preservation. It was a lively and interesting discussion. The commission has recommended that the following grants be given:
$25,000 to restore the Ainsley House roof in
$78,000 to restore the Villa Montalvo Pergola in Saratoga.
$50,000 to restore the Joice-Bernal Barn #2 in San Jose.
$15,000 to install the old windmill at Prusch Park in San Jose.
$90,000 to restore the historical buildings at Hakone Gardens in Saratoga.
$50,000 for interior restoration of the Andrew Hill house in San Jose.
$100,000 to restore historical buildings at the Saratoga Historical Park.
$40,000 to restore the trolley pit at Kelley Park in San Jose.
$63,000 to restore the Williams House and Gardens in Palo Alto.
The next regularly scheduled meeting will be on April 15th at 6:30 PM in the Board of Supervisors' chambers in the County Building on Hedding Street. The commission will resume discussion of the proposed Historical Heritage Ordinance.
Click here for the Santa Clara County Planning Office Web site for the proposed ordinance. Click here for our March article on this subject. Comments or questions can be e-mailed to Ed Allegretti at EAllegretti@rosendin.com or to the Historical Heritage Coordinator, Dana Peak, at Dana.email@example.com. Watch our Community Bulletin Board and Letters to the Editor for the latest on the HHC meetings and comments from readers.
Rattlesnakes can be found in Alum Rock Park. They are native to the area and are generally shy, avoiding heavily populated areas. Rattlesnakes are important members of the community and very beneficial, as they feed on rats, mice, ground squirrels and other destructive rodents.
Rattlesnakes are active from early April to October. They can be found where one would expect to find rabbits, gophers and ground squirrels.
Rattlesnakes have a stout body, a heart-shaped head distinctly wider than the neck, and a brown body. Most rattlesnakes have rattles, however, young rattlers or injured rattlesnakes may not have rattles.
If you see a snake in a picnic area, parking lot, or other heavily traveled area please keep everyone away and call for a Park Ranger. Rangers are trained and equipped to capture and remove snakes without harming them.
If you are on the trail, watch where you step and sit down to rest. Stay on the marked trails, and most importantly, don’t disturb or handle any snake in the park. Treat every snake as if it is a rattlesnake.
Click here for photos of rattlesnakes in this area.
The popularity of Alum Rock Park on Easter Sunday (April 11) has prompted the creation of a traffic plan for the park's roadways and neighborhood streets that will also ensure access for emergency vehicles.
Shuttle vans will operate from 10:30 AM until 7:30 PM inside the park. A police checkpoint at Penitencia Creek Road, the only vehicle entrance to the park, will allow cars inside only as long as there is room in the parking lots inside. Otherwise, only vehicles carrying people who work or live in the areas near the park will get past. Additional traffic signs will also keep motorists aware of traffic conditions.
Checkpoints will be set up inside the park during early hours when many visitors arrive. Last year, parking lots were filled by noon, according to Park Rangers, forcing visitors to walk to the picnic areas. For more information, call the Park Rangers at (408) 259-5477.
Looking for something meaningful to do on Earth Day? Alum Rock Park, in cooperation with the State Parks Foundation, along with PG&E, is hosting an Earth Day event. Come and help clear the trails, plant flowers, clean the creek and spruce up the picnic areas. The event will be held from 8 AM to noon on Saturday, April 24. For more information call the Park Rangers at (408) 259-5477.
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Area gardeners, both "Master" and casual, share their wisdom and experiences with East side gardening and related topics here.
Call the Master Gardener Hotline at (408) 299-2638 with your gardening questions or check out our website at www.mastergardeners.org/scc.html.
Citrus Sooty Leaves: Sooty leaves (mold) on your citrus tree may be traced back to aphids, scale, or white fly. You will likely see a trail of ants going up the tree to tend and protect the insects. The mold grows on the honeydew exuded by them. The first step is to control the ants. Tanglefoot is a non-toxic extremely sticky substance that keeps crawling insects off the tree. It will not work for snails. Protect the trunk first by putting a band of masking tape around it and apply the Tanglefoot on the tape. The ants kill the natural predators of aphids, scale or white fly. This should be sufficient to control the pests. Hosing off the leaves also helps the tree's appearance.
Oakworm/Oakmoth: The worms can strip the leaves on California live oaks. The adult is a tan moth with a wingspan of about an inch. It lays white eggs twice a year. The first generation of larvae hatches in November and overwinters on the oak leaves, growing and eating more as the weather warms. The larva has an olive green body with black and yellow stripes with large brown head. In late March or April, look for little green pellets (droppings) falling from the trees. Trees may suffer no real damage beyond being unsightly. See the Pest Note at www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7422.html for control information.
Powdery Mildew: This fungus produces a white powdery appearance on leaves and sometimes other plant parts. It can be found on roses, dahlias, chrysanthemums, peas, chard, and squash. Some rose varieties are so susceptible that you should think about 'root pruning' (dig it up). An effective non-toxic spray can be made with baking soda. To each gallon of water add 2.5 tablespoons of salad oil and 4 teaspoons of Arm and Hammer Baking Soda and mix well. Use a fine sprayer and apply to affected plants. This can also help prevent black spot on roses and foliar vegetable diseases. Some plants may show some sensitivity when temperatures are warm. See the Pest Note on Powdery Mildew at www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7493.html for more information.
Peach Leaf Curl: There is nothing to be done in the spring. To control it, spray Bordeaux mixture or a fungicide in mid December through February. Mark your calendars for later this year. Some people remove diseased leaves or prune infected shoots, but this has not been shown to improve control. The new leaves that are produced are generally ok, but the vigor of the tree suffers some. Pruning in fall can reduce the spore inoculum overwintering on the tree. See http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7426.html for more information.
Irrigation: If you haven't already done this, now is the time to check your irrigation system to be sure it's in full working order. If you have a drip line, open the end and turn on the water to clean out the line. Close the end of the line and check that each emitter or sprayer is working properly and isn't clogged. Check popup sprinklers for full spray and for proper placement of water. Plants grow larger during the winter and may be blocking the water from reaching the expected location. Also unneeded spraying of shrubs can cause disease problems.
When the first European settlers came to California, they were awestruck by the beauty and expanse of the local wildflowers. Judith Lowry, author of Gardening With a Wild Heart, quotes the words of an early settler, Jeff Mayfield, whose family came to the San Joaquin Valley in 1850:
"As we passed below the hills the whole plain was covered with great patches of rose, yellow, scarlet, orange, and blue. The colors did not seem to mix to any great extent. Each kind of flower liked a certain kind of soil best, and some of the patches of one color were a mile or more across ... My daddy had traveled a great deal, and it was not easy to get him excited about wild flowers or pretty scenery. But he said that he would not have believed that such a place existed if he had not seen it himself."
It is said sailors at sea could tell they had arrived in California by the color of its hills: in spring they turned every shade in the rainbow.
By the time I came to California, 130 years after Jeff Mayfield, the miles and miles of wildflowers had given way to farms, ranches, cities, and highways. Today, the California landscape survives in its original form only in a handful of places like the Carrizo Plains and the Antelope Valley.
We can’t turn the clock back, but we can bring those glorious California wildflowers back into our home gardens. They are extremely easy to cultivate. Bed preparation is a cinch, cultural requirements few, and the blooms spectacular. The one area in which they need help is protection from invasive weeds. Give them the right conditions, and they will return year after year, just as they once did in all likelihood in the very same spot.
So how can you introduce California wildflowers into your garden? There are two major approaches:
In Situ: Grow them by scattering the seeds in beds directly. To do this, prepare the bed first by thoroughly weeding it. Remove organic matter like fallen leaves or mulch. You don’t need to loosen the soil or turn it over; just scrape the soil lightly to create nooks and crannies in which the seed can settle. Broadcast seed over the bed. Lightly tamp the soil to establish good seed-to-soil contact. Water well.
For wildflowers like the California Poppy which have no known predators and whose tender tap roots do not transplant well, this approach is preferable. The best time to do this is in late fall, when the rains can do the irrigating.
Germinate and Transplant: This approach is more efficient and improves one’s chances of success if one is planting late in the season, or using plants which are often the targets of predation. Germinate the plants first in 4” pots, and tend them until their roots reach the bottom of the pot and leafy growth becomes significant. Then transplant them into the ground. The bigger the plant, the better it can withstand predation.
The only requirement is sun and moisture, both of which are provided by nature in the California winter. If it hasn’t rained in a while, you can help the plants along by overhead watering. Weekly water, either from the rains or the garden hose, will ensure strong plant growth and fabulous blooms.
If the weed seed load is high, they will germinate along with the wildflowers. It is critical to remove them as they come up so that the native wildflowers can gain a foothold. Without this help, the weeds will win.
One thing these wildflowers don’t need is fertilizer. They have evolved in California’s soil; added fertilizer only contributes to leafy growth but does nothing for their blooms. If you want them to reseed and return next year, avoid organic amendments or potting soil; they do best in normal clay soil which retains moisture better.
When selecting wildflowers for this Top 10, I used the following broad criteria:
easy to grow
high survival rate
reseed and return year after year
be locally native to San Jose and the neighboring areas
With that introduction, let’s begin the countdown. May we have a drum roll, please …
10. Seep Monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus): This moisture loving annual is perfectly suited for a wet corner of the garden, perhaps near a leaky faucet. It has bright yellow, snapdragon-like flowers that native bees love to visit. It is a profuse reseeder. With added water, it will stay green the year round. Great for containers.
9. Grand Linanthus (Linanthus grandiflorus): This plant bears beautiful, long lasting white/pink flowers in spring. It was once common in Santa Clara Valley, and it is easy to bring back because it likes clay soil and reseeds freely. Plant it in masses if you want to enjoy its subtle fragrance.
8. Blazing Star (Mentzelia lindleyi): If you’ve ever seen one of these flowers in bloom, you’ll realize how appropriately they are named. Satiny yellow petals surround a crown of a hundred stamens. This drought-loving plant tolerates water during its period of active growth only; discontinue watering once it starts flowering. Expect it to continue blooming for up to two months. Looks best in masses.
7. Elegant Clarkia (Clarkia unguiculata): In late spring, when the air is warm and the ground dry, this tall plant is covered with pink-magenta blossoms. The unusual claw-like shape of the petals give it its Latin species name. In the wild it grows to only 2’ or so, but in a garden it can get up to 6’. It likes a sunny spot, and looks best in the back of the bed, or against a wall or fence. Native bees can’t get enough of it.
6. Chinese Houses (Collinsia heterophylla): This is one of the most charming of local wildflowers, with alternating white and purple petals arranged pagoda-style, hence the common name. It prefers shade, and reseeds profusely. If you have a snail/slug problem, you will need to be vigilant in protecting the tender seedlings.
5. Meadowfoam (Limnanthes douglasii): This lovely low growing plant prefers a flat, sunny area, and thrives with moisture. Mass it in the front of the bed for a bright green groundcover all through winter and spring. When it blooms, its delicately veined white and yellow petals will completely obscure the foliage. One of my favorites.
4. Ruby Chalice Clarkia (Clarkia rubicunda): Another late blooming wildflower that lights up the California countryside with its pink blossoms which look lovely in the morning and late afternoon sun. With its mounding habit, even a few plants can cover a large area.
3. Goldfields (Lasthenia californica): This low growing wildflower covers local ridge tops with a golden carpet each spring. The flowers resemble tiny yellow daisies, and blooms last and last, for up to two months. It reseeds profusely, and if the site is undisturbed, it will return year after year.
2. Globe Gilia (Gilia capitata): This wildflower has won me over in just one season. All through spring its stems of finely divided leaves were topped with clusters of powder blue flowers. This season, the ground is covered with thriving seedlings, and the display this year promises to be even better than last year’s. Easy to care for, and combines well with other wildflowers.
1. California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica): The undisputed king of California wildflowers. Its lustrous orange-yellow petals open in the sun and close at night. Native bees go nuts over it. Snails and slugs leave it alone. Reseeds profusely. In a large garden, give it a bed of its own. In my small garden, I place it in the middle of small beds, with lower growing wildflowers like Goldfields or Meadowfoam in front. Combines well with blue flowered species Globe Gilia or Chia.
When you start growing native wildflowers in your garden, one variety of wildlife you’ll attract are the native bees (“bumble bees,” “carpenter bees”) which despite their size are gentle and harmless to humans. I find them infinitely amusing as they rush from flower to flower with a seemingly endless appetite for native nectar.
All good things must come to an end, and so do the wildflowers, which set seed and die by the onset of summer. When this happens, cut back the dry stalks, making sure to collect the seed for next year, or simply let it drop to the ground. Let the bed lie undisturbed (no mulching, no digging) until late fall, when the rains will bring it back to life. To add interest to a dormant wildflower bed, native gardeners will often imitate nature and intersperse native bunch grasses among the wildflowers. This can be the subject of another article by itself.
Although it is late in the season for planting wildflowers, you can still do it and get results. I recommend starting with 4” pots from Annie’s Annuals (www.anniesannuals.com). These are inexpensive plants with well-formed root systems and a high survival rate; under the right conditions, they can bloom within a week or two of planting. Locally, Annie’s plants are available at Payless Nursery, 2927 S. King Road (at Aborn), San Jose, phone 408-274-7815.
Gardens that are water-wise and low maintenance, aesthetically pleasing as well as attractive to birds and butterflies: growing numbers of Bay Area homeowners are incorporating native plants into their gardens, and you can see many of them firsthand on the Bay Area’s second annual tour of home gardens landscaped with California native plants. The Going Native Garden Tour will take place Sunday, April 18, 2004, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It includes several Eastside San Jose gardens plus many in the South Bay.
Last year’s tour, the first of its kind in the Bay Area, was an unprecedented success, with over 1,100 registrants and 3,800 garden visits. Once again, a variety of gardens will be open for viewing - from townhome lots to 1-acre plots, from newly planted gardens to established ones. You won’t have to go far to see one: these native gardens are located all over the Santa Clara Valley. Visit as many as you like - for pictures, for ideas, for inspiration.
What’s special about California native plants? For one, they are adapted to our soil and climate, and tend to be both hardy and easy to care for. Native plants are naturally water-wise and drought tolerant. They support a wide variety of wildlife that have co-evolved with them. And their elegant beauty is uniquely Californian.
The tour is sponsored by the Santa Clara Valley Water District, Guadalupe River Park & Gardens, Santa Clara Valley Urban Runoff Pollution Prevention Program, Mediterranean Garden Society, and Native Habitats. It is supported by the Santa Clara Valley Chapter of the California Native Plant Society.
The tour is open to all. Admission is free; registration is required at www.GoingNativeGardenTour.com by April 10. (Mail registration deadline: April 1.) For more information, email info@GoingNativeGardenTour.com, call (408) 274-6965, or write Going Native Garden Tour, c/o CNPS, 3921 E. Bayshore Rd. Room 205, Palo Alto, CA 94303.
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Dear Friends and Supporters of the Master Gardeners and the Cooperative Extension Programs,
Your help is needed to save U.C. Cooperative Extension in Santa Clara County!
The current situation is explained below with a sample letter, for your convenience, to send to the “powers that be” to help save this program.
County Budget Cut Proposal
The Santa Clara County Director of the Department of Agriculture and Resource Management (ARM) has announced that he will propose the elimination of The University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) and along with it the Master Gardener Program in Santa Clara County in an effort to meet required cuts in the county budget for 2004-2005. The Department has been asked by the County Executive's Office to present proposals to cut between $200,000 and $420,000 depending on the severity of the budget situation later this spring. ARM has many other divisions in its department, but is targeting Cooperative Extension because it is the only non-mandated division besides the Fire Marshal.
The proposals went before the County Executive's Office on March 30 with a preliminary decision on the budget to be made by the Board of Supervisors in June. UCCE County Director, Maria de la Fuente, is working to develop alternative proposals to preserve the UCCE programs. Master Gardener volunteers, along with 4-H members and volunteers, EFNEP students and farmers, plan to help by contacting County Supervisors and other county leaders.
UCCE in Santa Clara County includes:
• A Farm Advisor (there are more than 2,000 farms in the County!)
• The 4-H Youth Development Program
• The Master Gardener Program
• The Expanded Food and Nutrition Program (EFNEP) serving low-income residents
• The Natural Resources/Livestock Program
• The Small Farms Program
Cooperative Extension is a collaborative effort of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the University of California and the County of Santa Clara.
Click here for the sample letter and list of important people to write to.
For this month’s restaurant review, I decided to critique a restaurant I had never tried before. Whenever I would drive past this place I would always see patrons inside. I figured since there are always people in there, maybe it would be a good place to eat. With each of my restaurant reviews, I will give a rating based on the atmosphere of the restaurant, the quality of the food, and the service.
This month I decided to try “Las Delicias” located at 3130 Alum Rock Avenue. This café type restaurant is located on the same side of Alum Rock as Peter’s Bakery and White Rock Café. This time our dinner was a family outing, my husband, our two boys and myself.
This restaurant has a nice authentic theme. One of the walls is painted with a scenic mural. The restaurant is also bright with the color orange as its theme. They also have a juke box if you’re interested in livening up the place with your choice of Mexican music.
This restaurant offers dine-in and take-out meals. We dined in so we were able to sit at the table of our choice. We were greeted when we walked in. One of the waiters brought us some chips and salsa. The chips and salsa were very good, especially if you like it HOT!
After we looked over the menu, they came and took our order. Ed and Chris ordered burritos, Andrew ordered chicken enchiladas that came with rice and beans, and I ordered a chicken taco with a side of rice. All of our portions were very generous.
Everything was excellent. The burritos were big and fat and both were very good. If you like things spicy, just add some of their hot salsa. My taco was a soft taco with chicken, fresh cilantro, and onions with a side of lime to squeeze over the meat. If you’ve never tried this, the lime adds a nice flavor with the spices. The enchilada was very good too. I think the rice is the best Mexican rice I’ve ever had.
Las Delicias also has some drinks you can order, like a Margarita, or a Pina Colada. They also have sodas and beer. They have the old fashioned Coke bottles that you rarely see anymore, and the boys thought those were pretty cool.
All of the employees in the restaurant worked well together to insure we were taken care of. The service was excellent and friendly. I’ve even been back since our first visit.
Overall, this is a great restaurant for a good Mexican meal and the prices are very affordable. This restaurant has a good atmosphere, good food and excellent service.
Click here for photos of Las Delicias.
Abaan Abu-Shumays sends a little levity for NNV
readers in these severe times:
One day a little girl was sitting and watching her mother do the dishes at the kitchen sink. She suddenly noticed that her mother has several strands of white hair sticking out in contrast on her brunette head.
She looked at her mother and inquisitively asked, "Why are some of your hairs white, Momma?"
Her mother replied, "Well, every time that you do something wrong and make me cry or unhappy, one of my hairs turns white."
The little girl thought about this revelation for a while and then said, "Momma, how come ALL of grandma's hairs are white?"
(We had to put a filler in the paper version of the newsletter to fill a blank space at the bottom of a page - however, we realized that our on-line readers might also get a chuckle out of it.)
|How can we get a Trader Joe’s here in East San Jose?|
|What’s happening with the old little barbeque place on White Road?|
|Is Councilmember Campos soliciting ideas for the Alum Rock Feed & Fuel corner?|
|What suggestions has NNV heard for the Alum Rock Feed & Fuel corner?|
|Is it true that the sale of the Alum Rock Feed & Fuel corner has “fallen through”?|
|Is that a facelift underway at the "double store front" in the Village?|
|Why are there mucho piles of dirt lined up at the old Bill’s Pony Ranch property?|
|Does NNV get flak about the themes, topics, or opinions expressed by writers?|
|Does anyone know yet what’s going to happen with the #64 bus route?|
|Why is the Village so dirty?|
A. NNV spoke with Sue Wareham, the marketing manager in General Growth Properties’ General Manager John Petersen’s office. General Growth is the developer which is doing the huge $100 million renovation currently underway at Eastridge Mall. We asked whether Trader Joe’s wouldn’t be a terrific addition to the mall. Apparently we were not the first to ask!
Ms. Wareham sighed and said that, so far, they haven’t been able to get TJ’s to even consider our area for a new store. She said that many, many people have been clamoring for a nearby TJ’s and General Growth would love to court them. There are still thirty shop spaces which haven’t yet been “spoken for” so there’s still plenty of flexibility.
While we had her on the phone, NNV asked what the anchor stores will be in the newly-renovated mall. We didn’t get the hoped-for response. “J.C. Penney’s, Macy’s and Sears,” was the lackluster answer. “What will be in the old Emporium store?” we asked hoping for an answer like, say, Nordstrom. “The Emporium store has been torn down to make way for the new ‘Streetscape’ area of the mall.” (This will be the Eastside’s answer to Santana Row – an area where shoppers can park and walk directly into the shops without having to enter the main mall area.)
Here are a few factoids which NNV was able to glean: The new “footprint” is “set” as are the restaurants. (Your editor was so blown away by the answer to the anchor store question that she didn’t have the presence of mind to ask what the restaurants will be!) The “major spaces” are set. (See preceding paragraph.) Two-thirds of the original mall is being renovated. The finished mall will have 1.2 million square feet. Ms. Wareham thinks that See’s Chocolates will be back. This might be the only bright spot in the bleak news. Well, there is one other bright spot – General Growth is not the same as the Westfield Shoppingtown folks so we can hope, at least, that we’re not getting the same ill-conceived “architecture” that we see at the mall-formerly-known-simply-as-Valley-Fair.
If you would like to speak with Sue Wareham or John Petersen to express your views on shops you’d like to see in the unspoken-for spaces, you can call them at (408) 238-3600. It wouldn’t hurt to plead for a Trader Joe’s. Having a TJ’s at Eastridge might make up a tiny bit for the ho-hum anchor stores. Without a draw like that, NNV figures that folks in our area will simply continue to turn their backs on Eastridge, unfortunately.
You can keep up with the changes in the mall at www.eastridgecenter.com. The project should be complete in June, 2005. Click here for an artist's conception of the new Eastridge.
A. NNV spoke with Carlos Valdivia of The Lawrence Company which
is developing that property. Carlos said that the one-third acre lot is in the
process of being rezoned from residential to commercial. Up until now, only the
little restaurant was commercially zoned with the remainder being “residential.”
The City’s General Plan needs to be amended to allow the whole property to be
considered “commercial,” also. These processes appear to be well underway with
the help and guidance of Councilmember Campos and it appears that the City will
It’s too soon to know exactly what kind(s) of commercial enterprises will go in there, but we understand that there will probably be a one-story 3,600 square foot building or a two-story 6,000 square foot building. It will most likely be for “mixed-use” – i.e. retail and office space. Carlos envisions franchise businesses such as an apparel store, a restaurant, an automotive supply shop or an electronics business.
There will be a community hearing probably in April or May (NNV will put the date on our Community Bulletin Board as soon as it’s known). At that meeting, area residents will be invited to give their input as to appropriate businesses for that lot. It will be the “demand of the market” which will have the most weight in determining the franchisees. However, people who live and work nearby will be encouraged to move into office space there to lend a bit of “neighborhood pride.” The close proximity of Lick High and Pala Middle (and the Alum Rock Youth Center and upcoming new library branch) will decidedly be factors to consider.
Carlos would love to hear your thoughts. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. (And, says Sandra Escobar of the San Jose Redevelopment Agency, let Carlos know if the site continues to deteriorate before the transformation begins.)
Click here for photos of this site and other blight in the Village.
A. New Neighborhood Voice Readers,
The economic development of our business districts on Alum Rock Avenue affect
both City and County residents alike.
The Alum Rock Feed and Fuel corner in The Village has been a topic of
informal discussions at various regularly scheduled community meetings. Members
of the East Valley/680 Strong Neighborhoods Initiative Neighborhood Advisory
Committee, Lyndale Neighborhood Association, and Sierra Neighborhood Association
have expressed interest in what they would like to see at the Alum Rock Feed and
Fuel corner. I always welcome the input of community, so please feel free to
contact my office with your suggestions.
The property located at the Alum Rock Feed and Fuel corner is still on the
market for sale. Once purchase of the property has been completed and the buyer
begins working with the City to improve the property, the city will follow the
public outreach policy in order to allow neighbors the opportunity to
provide input into the design, as well as voice any concerns they may have. As
for what type of business may be allowed at the site, the property is zoned as
General Commercial and is also a
Neighborhood Business District. Please feel free to visit the links provided
to view what business may be allowed with General Commercial and Neighborhood
Business District zoning (PDF files).
As we move forward, we can look back on our cooperation on projects of mutual
interest for city and county residents, such as Alum Rock Branch Library. In the
case of the library, a City bond measure funded the building of the library, a
Memorandum of Understanding was brokered with the county for its operation, and
I secured $7 million to acquire the land. I look forward to working with the
readers of the New Neighborhood Voice in the future.
A. Restaurants (Tony Roma’s), Plant Nursery, Pet Supply Store, Book Store, Health Food Store and Trader Joe's.
A. According to real estate agent, Steve Song, this is just a rumor – and it’s not true. Not only is the property under contract (meaning there is a buyer), there’s also another qualified buyer waiting in the wings if the sale were to “fall through.” Mr. Song said that the buyer might be planning to build some sort of automotive business there which, of course, doesn’t sound exactly charming. See Councilmember Nora Campos’ letter to NNV readers on this topic above as well as the preceding FAQ.
Mr. Song also said there is no hazardous waste problem on the property. The old gas tanks were properly dug up long ago. And, if there were such an issue, it would be dealt with - with the help of the City.
Click here to see the Alum Rock Feed & Fuel corner. Use the Back button on your Web browser to return to this edition.
A. Yes, Teezers hair salon and Soung Hu (which produces a delicious bakery aroma on that side of Alum Rock Avenue) are being beautified to correspond with the new classier character of the Village. Their attractive new doors are already in place. Soon Teezers will be turning out beautiful coifs in a more attractive setting and Soung Hu will look as great as its aroma! Remember FIGs are a collaboration between the City and the property owners. Each pays a share of the expense of the facelift.
Click here for photos of the work on the new facades.
A. Well, according to Sandra Escobar of the Redevelopment Agency, when one sees piles of dirt displayed like this, it means that the soil is being “aerated” to remove any hazardous components. This is a passive (but time-consuming) method which is much simpler and less expensive than other more drastic measures like those which involve underground water pumps.
An NNV reader who was on the Pony Ranch property painting out graffiti on the dumpsters (bless his heart) said that a neighbor told him there is a drainage/water problem on the property and that CalTrans is holding up the works.
But, wait. There’s more! A late entrant, another neighbor, adds his observation that those piles of dirt were trucked in from somewhere else – perhaps to help level out the uneven lot. So, is the neighborhood aerating someone else’s hazardous stuff? Or, is it just dirt?
Looks as though we’ll just have to look at those clunky chain-link fence sections for a while longer!
Click here to look through those clunky chain-link fence sections.
A. Well………..yes. Unfortunately, one of our longtime readers actually “unsubscribed” recently because he thought that by being part of our subscriber base, he was somehow endorsing the sometimes-out-of-the-mainstream opinions which our writers espouse. We realize now that we need to emphasize our “disclaimer.” It’s been at the end of our web site since we started the newsletter. Here it is again: Opinions expressed by other writers and contributors are not necessarily shared by NNV (or its readers!).
Also, please see the Q. and A. at the beginning of this edition. We figure that, from here on out, we’d better regularly reiterate our position!
A. Well, hold your hat! (And be prepared to change your travel strategies if you use that route and especially if you live above McKee Road.) Word has it that there will be a very different route imposed on Line 64 beginning in July of this year. Picture this:
The bus will go up Alum Rock Avenue to McKee Road where it will take a left and follow McKee around the bend to Toyon where it will take a right! Then it will go along Toyon to Penitencia Creek Road where it will take a left and continue down Penitencia Creek to the Penitencia Creek Road light-rail station at Capitol Avenue.
Rhetorical question: Where does this leave Country Club area residents and Alum Rock Park-goers who regularly get on and off the bus at the Miguelito bus stop? Answer: Out in the cold (or out in the hot) traipsing up or down the hill with an odd, convoluted bus ride ahead of or behind them.
And where do they go from the light-rail station? Anyone for the Great Mall of Milpitas? No?
And what about the planned fare changes? Who cares when taking the bus is no longer an option?
Click here to read more about where you can go on the #64 Bus. Use the Back button on your Web browser to return to this edition.
A. No one wants to take responsibility for the discarded wrappers and junk which collects along the gutters - especially near Quik-Stop. PACT member Tanya Freudenberger pointed out the situation to Councilmember Campos months ago, but it appears not to be on anyone's radar screen.
Some business owners police their own sidewalks and curbs effectively and Planned Parenthood has a professional service clean its sidewalks and planters weekly. There needs to be a joint effort which includes inspiring Lick High School students not to foul their school's own neighborhood.
This will be a case where "it takes a village" to achieve change.
Click here to see some photos of the debris we're talking about.
E-mail us at JudyET@NNVESJ.org or fax to (408) 272-4040. Please limit letters to a few hundred words (shorter items are more likely to be used in the newsletter and read) and include your name and phone number in case we have questions. Contributions may be edited for content and space requirements. Want to take photos, write articles or essays? Please let us know!
E-mail JudyET@NNVESJ.org to let us know about your events of interest to our readers.
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Copyright© 2004 by Judy Thompson, 16174 Highland Drive, San Jose, CA 95127
Phone: (408) 272-7008, E-mail: JudyET@NNVESJ.org Fax: (408) 272-4040
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Opinions expressed by other writers and contributors are not necessarily shared by NNV.
Copyright© 2004 by Judy Thompson. All rights reserved. Updated 4/2/04.