The Quail Hollow
And the crane
As we all watched
Deer carcass lies on
We Alum Rocked the Vote
Alum Rock Park turkeys
Some work needs
There’s a small temple hidden in the rolling hills above Crothers Road. It doesn’t call out to passersby – nor does it mean to. It is home to the Northern California followers of Zoroastrianism, a religion which arose in Persia many centuries before Christ. Persia became Muslim in the 7th century and most Parsees, as they are called, dispersed to the west coast of India. As Indian Parsees have moved about the world, they have brought their small, unique monotheistic faith with them. Similarly, those followers of Zoroaster who did not leave ancient Persia continued to secretly follow his teachings. Persian Iranian Zoroastrians also take this faith to wherever they move in the world. They do not proselytize - in fact, temple membership is limited to people who have always embraced Zoroastrianism and their extended families.
According to a BBC presentation on the origins of Christmas lore, the Three Wise Men were most probably Zoroasterians seeking to follow “The Star of Bethlehem” to find the long-promised Messiah. The chief motto of the Zoroastrians is “Good thoughts, good words, good deeds.”
Click here for photos of the temple and here for Abaan Abu-Shumays’ 2002 story about Zoroastrianism and the temple.
Christmas Day has always held three advantages for me: the opportunity to enjoy visiting with family, a special day to recall the birth of Christ, and (no doubt unlike many folks, especially younger ones) another morning to sleep in!
One Christmas morning, in the East foothills, my slumber was disturbed very early in the morning, just after dawn. In my sleep I heard somebody in the distance calling on this clear and cool Christmas in 1977 (when I was 15 years old). As I slowly awoke, the voice became clearer. This far-off voice was saying, “Come to me, I’ve returned, I’m here to save you, I’m Jesus.” Certainly this was an interesting message to be hearing on Christmas morning! After confirming with my parents that I wasn’t imagining the voice, I decided to quickly dress and pursue it.
After briefly standing in my garden on Poppy Lane, I could tell the voice was coming from the hill above our house, near where the Rauh’s Vista Vineyards is currently located. I walked up Poppy Lane and climbed partly up the hillside (there is a new house now built on this spot) above the current home of Donald Scott and across from the former Patton house.
Yes, on top of the hill was a man that one might picture as looking like Jesus, with old clothing and long hair. He was loudly yelling, to anyone below who would listen, that he indeed was Christ and he was calling us to join him for the Second Coming. Despite being a believer, I didn’t truly think this person was Jesus Himself, but most likely a deranged man who wandered through the neighborhood around Enchanto Vista to find an appropriately lofty pulpit to proclaim his message. Mrs. Donald Scott, who was listening from a bedroom window, no doubt felt the same - given the look on her face.
We continued to watch this man for some minutes before the police finally arrived and forcibly escorted him away. That was the last I heard of this “apparition” at the future Vista Vineyards. I wonder if any other neighbors remember this Christmas experience?
On Christmas mornings I still recall this strange incident. For me, at least, it is comforting to know that one day Jesus actually will return.
Christmas Eve Prayer
Backward, turn backward,
O, Time in your flight.
Bring back in memory,
Those dear ones tonight.
Give us the joy again,
Make our hearts light,
Knowing they love us,
Though gone from our sight.
Written by Florence Palmer of Lenora, Kansas in the 1960's
Carol Schultz says her mother told her that when Florence Palmer wrote this she was in a rest home, in her nineties, and almost blind, but she still had the joy of the season in her heart.
|Holiday Shop in an Exotic Port – Right Here in East San Jose!|
|Grande Dame Alum Rock Park Receives New Bridgework|
|Downtown MLK Library Whets Appetites for Alum Rock Branch to Come|
|On the Avenue (Alum Rock Avenue): Ossified animal carcass? Oh, really?|
|On the Road (McKee Road): Voters flood Foothill Prez on November 2nd|
|Turkeys Trot on Highland Drive - Appropriate timing for Thanksgiving|
|Mayor Makes a Gonzalidated Effort to Visit Alum Rock Village Businesses|
|Celebrations Honor the Founding of San José by Greg Smestad|
Quaint stalls with row upon row of polished, gleaming, exotic fruit. Clementinas, nopales, guavas, and quince. Big bananas, small bananas, persimmons, plantain. Smiling bronze faces, happy eyes, soft voices. Faraway echoes of swooping, swooning mariachis.
Weekend in Mazatlan? Or Cancun? Or Guadalajara? Nope! Try San Jose, Alta California, at the produce pavilion of the San Jose Flea Market on Berryessa Road.
Want to buy someone a hat? You’ll find felt derbies, fedoras, cloches, sombreros, and ten-gallons. Or would you rather choose a tam, a beanie, a baseball cap or a gaucho-style straw model? There are party dresses, maternity tops and baby clothes. There are shoes, boots and slippers to fit every foot as well as sweat shirts, dress shirts, polo shirts, t-shirts, undershirts, and sport shirts. And, yes, there are button-up-to-the-neck pajamas as well as the flimsiest, filmiest negligees.
Jewelry? Have they got jewelry? Vendor after vendor sells splendid-looking silver creations in every configuration imaginable.
There are rugs large and small, classic and jazzy. There is furniture - antique, moderne, new and used. Need a roasting pan for your holiday turkey? Or a wok? They gottem.
Want a snack while you shop? How about churros or caramel corn? Want a meal?
You can find the world’s very best burritos. Or you can adventurously opt for
the Chinese offerings. There are aguas frescas and, of course, Corona, Corona
and Corona (that’s beer, not typewriters; but you may find typewriters if you
look long enough – you’ll find virtually everything legal if you look long
For a negligible parking fee ($5) you can spend a day shopping for unusual bargains right here in East San Jose. Think how much you’d spend getting yourself to the rustic market square in a foreign city and think about the awkwardness of getting your gifts through security and all the way home.
The San Jose Flea Market easily passes the “charm” test. If you want to, you can even ride the bus and forego the parking fee. Or, you can walk over as your editor and her husband did once – it’s six miles each way from Highland Drive! From your house, it may not be so far, but of course if your arms are going to be laden with toys, tangerines and telephones you may just prefer to tootle over en su carro.
Click here for photos of the Flea Market and its November 12-13 Crafters’ Faire.
On its way to the site, Alum Rock Park’s new prefabricated bridge spanning Penitencia Creek at Quail Hollow was nigh impossible to maneuver through the narrows of Penitencia Creek Road. It arrived with a crane which had to grab it and upend it several times in order to pass it through the slim slot where the old railroad trestles crowd the road. The crane is owned by the Bigge Crane Company (yes, it’s appropriately pronounced “biggy” and its cranes are big). The crane operators blithely got that hulking span into place with piece-o-cake ease on a Monday morning early last month.
The new bridge bears no resemblance to the old one which it replaced. The original “bridge” wasn’t much more than a concrete slab with large corrugated pipes underneath. It was often under water and offered no one safe creek passage during high water flow times. NNV doubts that anyone will feel even a tiny pang of nostalgia for the old model. Definitely a case of “good riddance!”
Construction of the abutments for the new bridge began late in August. They had to be built before the installation of the ready-made bridge. They hold the span well above the surface of the creek which necessitated building asphalt-covered ramps from either end of the bridge to the trail on its south side and to the parking lot on the other side. Several rock weirs were part of the project. They help maintain deep pools in which spawning fish can rest during their journeys upstream. The weirs may also have the effect of slowing the flow of the creek sufficiently that the erosion of the toe of the landslide (just upstream from the bridge) may be reduced. The project was accomplished ahead of schedule which made everyone very happy. Park Manager Mike McClintock says that all that’s left to worry about is the revegetation along the disturbed portion of the creek - which must be done to tight specifications in order to protect the ecological integrity of the area.
Click here for photos of the bridge installation.
At long last, NNV made it downtown to the “new” Martin Luther King Jr. Main Library. Along with two other Eastsiders, Nella Henninger and Christine Miller, your editor took a guided tour under the excellent tutelage of Eleanor Weber Dickman, the Director of Development for the San Jose Public Library Foundation. Eleanor led us through all eight floors focusing primarily on the artwork collection which is often subtle, sometimes whimsical, but uniformly inspired. We all had to chuckle (no, make that “giggle”) at some of the outright goofiness that artist Mel Chin playfully employed. Some installations made us reel at the insights evoked when we looked very carefully. We were genuinely intrigued and humbled by the scholarly nature of many of the pieces.
This is what “public art” can be when it brings together the ideas and intelligences of a variety of people. Mel Chin tapped other artists and scholars in a collaboration to create uniquely integrated artwork. He consulted with the community and invited their participation for the inspiration of the concepts. During a four year period, hundreds of people took part in the design and fabrication of the project. The excellence simply shines throughout.
The library facilities are superb, as well. A great deal of thought went into making patrons comfortable; there is a niche to suit everyone’s taste. Like to sit by the window in direct light? There are many seats with a view. Like to cocoon yourself in a cozy chair in a muted corner? No problem. Like to lunch, or stretch out or even nap? They’re all allowed. And, remember this library is a “town and gown” collaboration between SJSU and the City’s library system, which means there is a preponderance of university students using the building. We tour-ists, all well past our college years, managed to connect (at least in our imaginations) with those students and shed a few decades while we were there.
The visit gave us great hopes for our own neighborhood library branch. Though tiny by comparison, the Alum Rock branch, which will open next summer, will reflect the same high level of technical development. We too will have fine public art which will subtly beautify the spaces.
Click here to read about the exhibits at the Martin Luther King Jr. Main Library and see some of Mel Chin's public art and Edmonia Lewis' sculptures. Click here for some photos of the art work which is being created for our branch.
The poor dead doe lay by the side of Alum Rock Avenue bloated and stiff-legged. Cars slowed on their way up and down the hill to look at the large beast and wonder how she found her way to Decker Way so far from her home in the hills. Small children sobbed at the thought of little Bambi alone and terrified without his mother. More practical people contacted NNV and asked why that carcass was being allowed to decompose – for weeks - right at the edge of the street.
But wait! Bambi and his mom are alive and well – eating the pansies on Highland Drive. All of Bambi’s cousins, aunts and uncles are munching their way through thousands of dollars worth of landscaping in the East Highlands.
So, if that wasn’t Jane Doe lying near the gutter so pathetically, then who the heck was it? Well! If you had looked (and smelled) closely, you would have discovered a non-smelly batch of sand bags deposited at the corner to barricade a street drain. Nothing more – nothing less.
But, damn! – it was such a great story!
Click here to see the “carcass.” And, click here to see the new, plump, tidy sandbags at work protecting the Pac-Man bite on the closed portion of Crothers Road from further erosion this rainy season. Our thanks to Alum Rock Park Supervisor Mike McClintock and the Park Rangers for taking care of this each year.
Did we Alum Rock the Vote, or what? Man-oh-man, did our neighborhood ever turn out in droves to vote on a smorgasbord of candidates and measures! The office staff at Foothill Presbyterian Church (where a large number of NNV readers cast their votes) said they had never seen the line of voters extending past their building and out into the parking lot. Your editor waited until about 2:30 in the afternoon to vote during what she supposed would be the doldrums of the day – only to join a line of perhaps fifty people with the same idea. And, many of those people said they had come by earlier in the day to find the parking lot full and the queue depressingly long and decided to return later. If you voted absentee, you missed the excitement of the day. It was honest-to-goodness exhilarating. Of course some of that exhilaration turned to mud the next day for some folks, but no one can deny that we were out in force exercising our right of suffrage.
Click here for a McKee Road Election Day photo. (NNV would have photographed the mile-long queue, but feared interference by the election “police.”)
Eighteen wild turkeys paraded along Highland Drive just before Thanksgiving. They softly clucked and gobbled as they continually regrouped – morphing over and over again into whatever suitable pattern their little birdbrains ascertained to be proper for turkeys.
The flock calls Alum Rock Park home, but they definitely have “been around the block.” They frequently can be seen strutting along Crothers Road near the town homes of Country Club Heights, bobbing their homely heads as they go. Neighbors say they will eat just about anything and they rival deer as to how destructive they can be to garden landscapes.
These turkeys would not be good on your table. Although they’re rather tall and impressive, they’re not bred for good-eating and you’d find them flat-chested, tough-legged and strong-flavored compared with the modern hybrids which we eat.
Click here for a photo of Tom, Thom and Tommy with their Chicks.
On a bright, brisk Tuesday morning toward the end of November, the businesspeople of Alum Rock Village found the Mayor of San Jose walking up to their doorways, smiling, with his hand outstretched for a friendly shake. “How’s business?” asked the mayor. “It’s better; it’s good!” they all responded. Councilmember Nora Campos had a friendly word at each encounter and their staff members smoothed the way as newspaper photographers and TV cameramen jostled into position for the best photos.
The tour began when about twenty people congregated inside and outside Rafiki’s Coffee Hut at eleven o’clock. Seeing the coffee shop for the first time, the Mayor was properly impressed with the classy décor, friendly counterpeople and aromatic ambiance. He said he’d be back sometime for a coffee treat. “Just remember to make mine de-caf – no one wants a jittery mayor!”
The large group surged from shop to shop as each proprietor came to the door. The mayor recognized several old friends among the shopowners; at some shops he cemented new friendly relations. He visited outside Ducommon’s Sporting Goods shop and the Youth Science Institute’s Thrift Shop. Rogelio Ruiz and his cousin, Carlos Murillo, were on the sidewalk outside what will become “La Bodega,” their exciting new business which will open as a deli-produce-patio-restaurant in 2005. There is now a floor plan of the new business posted on the window of the battered old pink building which is in line for a handsome new façade. Nora Campos shared that $1.3 million has been spent on façade improvements in The Village over recent years.
Aides and staffers waved down traffic long enough for the horde to cross Alum Rock Avenue over to Mario’s Barber shop. “Village-Institution” and informal Village Mayor, Mario Badillo stopped mid-haircut to greet the luminaries and to thank the City for the recent improvements to the façade of the shop. The mayor recognized Bill Sullivan, the man in the barber chair, as an old colleague from early political days.
On they went, sticking their heads in doors including Ram Realty, Las Delicias, Enigma Salon, Thai White Rock Café and Peter’s Bakery. The Mayor spent an especially long time inhaling the sweet fragrance at Peter’s and counseled his staff not to let him loose in the shop.
From the corner in front of Kattengell’s Karate Studio, the Mayor greeted Rich Desmond who represented the new, under-construction Alum Rock Library branch across White Road and then the crowd turned north and crossed back over the Avenue to the patio area in front of Rafiki’s for more enthusiastic conversation about the area. “Fifty-four thousand vehicles pass this intersection every day,” Nora Campos said. “This is one of the City’s major crossroads.” All agreed that The Village is fast becoming a destination place with more drawing cards to come.
Click here for photos of “The Gonzalidated Tour.”
On Sunday evening, November 21, a humble celebration at Ed Allegretti’s house gathered together descendants of the city’s founders, as well as those who would honor its roots. Two hundred and twenty seven years ago, near what is today’s airport, a gathering of about the same number of people started the European settlement of the area.
The Pueblo of San José de Guadalupe was founded on November 29, 1777. The settlers, with their families, set out from the Presidio of San Francisco on the seventh day of November, 1777, accompanied to the site by the lieutenant, Josef Joaquin Moraga. In the spring of 1776, Juan Bautista de Anza, Padre Pedro Font, Moraga, and a small group of soldiers had explored the area north of Monterey on their way to choose the sites for the Mission and Presidio in San Francisco. Moraga returned with settlers in June, 1776 to found the San Francisco Presidio, and again in November 1777 to found the Pueblo of San José.
Arriving in San Jose, he gave them possession in the name of his Majesty King Carlos III of Spain, marking out for them the plaza for the houses and distributing the house-lots among them. He measured off for each one a piece of land for planting a fanega (7 acres for 1.6 bushels) of corn, and for beans and other vegetables. They immediately set to work to build the houses of palisades covered with clay, with flat roofs, and when these were finished each began to clear and plough his piece of ground for the planting of corn and beans.
They also proceeded to build a dam to take the water from the Guadalupe River. It is thus that San José began at the sites formerly occupied by native Ohlone peoples (for example the Tamien village). The rest of the city’s rich history is best left to the numerous good books on the subject, or discussed over a glass of wine, as was done at Ed’s.
The gathering at Ed Allegretti’s house included his parents, John and Shirley Allegretti as well as Bill Herochik, Esq., and Paul Bernal. In addition to being a Superior Court judge, Paul is also the official city historian for San José. He gave a brief prayer in honor of the event that started the feast and the “Fandango.” The author (Greg Bernal Mendoza Smestad) attended with his wife Leticia and they brought the youngest attendee, their 5-month-old daughter Maya, who enjoyed the many children that were present.
Other Californio descendants included East Hills resident John Leyba, Los Californianos president Boyd de Larios, and Dr. Leonard Espinosa. Dr. Espinosa is also on the board of Los Californianos and is a professor emeritus of San Jose State University. The list of other guests included: Sir David McKinney, past president of the California Pioneers of Santa Clara County and past Chairman of the Historical Heritage Commission of Santa Clara County and past chairman of the Sunnyvale Historical Landmarks Commissions, Mrs. Ellen Garboske, a member of the Historical Heritage Commission of Santa Clara County and the board of the Preservation Action Council, Mrs. Patricia Curia, board member and past president of the Preservation Action Council, William Clark, historian for E Clampus Vitas, Mountain Charlie Chapter, Santa Clara County, and Leonard McKay, past president and current board member of the California Pioneers, and proprietor of Memorabilia of San José.
The Uncertain Future
Numerous requests and inquiries to San Jose city officials were made, for example by descendant Lorraine Frain, and it was learned that no official city-organized event would take place this year. It was therefore a privilege and a joy to share the potluck dinner at Ed’s and discuss history amongst so many distinguished guests.
San José did have a Founder's Day Celebration for about five years in a row. They were during Susan Hammer's and Ron Gonzales' tenure. Each year there were speeches. The Consulates of Spain and Mexico were always in attendance. Sometimes it featured dancers representing several cultures, as well as musicians, but usually it did not. One year, it was at the Peralta Adobe, and another year it was in the street between the Peralta and Fallon homes. One year it was next to the Fairmont Hotel, inside the circle of palms, and another year they had all the ex-mayors meet at a wine and cheese celebration inside the Fallon House.
None of the events were well-publicized, and none had big budgets. There was always a need for a bigger celebration. It is therefore unclear what kind of San Jose Founder’s Day event will take place next year.
Another Founders Day event was planned at the new bookstore “El Primer Pueblo Libreria” hosted by owner John A. Ramos. It was held Monday November 29 at 4 pm at 410 East Santa Clara Street in San José. It is here that more can be learned about the events of November 29, 1777 and how they led to the city we know today. For information, call (408) 295-3527.
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A seemingly-forever presence at the Youth Science Institute’s Alum Rock Park Nature Center, D.J. Johnson paused long enough from her birding, writing and curating to be interviewed for NNV. Readers will recognize D.J. as the writer of many excellent NNV articles on the birds of the Alum Rock Park area. The interview was conducted via e-mail.
NNV: We’ve known you for nearly fifteen years, but you’ll need to remind us where you were born, what high school and college you attended – and your college major.
I was born in San Diego, California. My family - Mom, Dad, sister and I - moved to Palo Alto in 1957 where my Dad found work as an architect. My second sister and brother were born there. I attended Cubberly High School and graduated in 1970. I began my college years at Foothill College in Los Altos as a geology major and graduated from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado with a BS in Biology with an option in Natural History in 1975.
NNV: When did you know you wanted to spend your life working with animals? Where did you work before YSI?
My present career really found me. I’ve always been an outdoors, animal-oriented person. I started volunteering at Wildlife Rescue, Inc. in Palo Alto in 1976 thinking this would be a great start to an interesting career. The work was challenging and at times a bit of an adventure. My first patient was a Starling and I have to say, Starlings are a very sturdy species and a wonderful bird to learn with. (Yes really!) I released my first three Starlings and soon found myself on the Jay, Raptor, Water Bird and Deer Team, as well as the after hours On Call team that assisted the public with wildlife emergencies when the center was closed. I also did stints as Day Captain at the center and assisted with volunteer orientation and specialty classes and was center manager just before coming to YSI. I was even on the Board of Directors for a term! Wildlife rehab was definitely a way of life. My most fond memories include raising fawns in the back yard of our Palo Alto house, releasing a Northern Fulmar (a seabird that looks very much like a gull) near the Cliff House in San Francisco and the true camaraderie of my rehab buddies. Many of them still figure heavily in my life. It was and is a very close-knit community.
NNV: When did you come to YSI? What was your first job there?
I came to YSI in 1981 to run the Wildlife Rehab program and maintain the educational animal collection. What more could anyone ask for, a park for an office and many wonderful Wildlife Ambassadors and patients to care for. Truly a dream job. By 1990 the rehab program had grown and we were admitting almost a thousand patients a year. The sheer numbers of patients severely tested the limits of YSI’s finances and our available facilities. It was decided to disband the program and concentrate on educational programming in 1991.
NNV: How has your job evolved over the last 23 years with YSI? Do you have a favorite age group of children to teach? What are your enthusiasms about your work?
I now have an assistant to help with the care of our ed animals. I still train teachers, recruit volunteers, run the Alum Rock Junior Curator and Animal Sponsorship programs and assist with running the center. More of my time is involved with teaching. I don’t have a favorite age group at this time. The kindergartners are so affectionate and spontaneous. I get a lot of hugs from these guys. I love it when kids ask lots of questions. I’d much rather try to answer questions than just talk, especially on nature walks. That tells me they are really into what’s going on around them. The other activity that I find really rewarding is preparing educational aids out of “dead stuff.” A portion of our freezer is always full of “specimens” just waiting to become wonderful educational tools! It’s amazing what a skull or other body part can tell you about its previous owner. Wings, feet and pelts are also great educational aids. I hate to see a good specimen go to waste!
NNV: What are your plans for the future? Where would you like to travel?
I would like to retire some day. Some of my friends already have. I have always wanted to explore the U.S. - I haven’t spent much time in the Southeast or the plains states. I want to see Short and Long Grass prairies in the spring when the birds are breeding. I was in Juneau and Sitka, Alaska in January, many years ago to learn to work with Eagles. I would like to get back there in the spring or summer as well. I can’t see myself doing anything really different even in retirement. I was destined to have a natural history, animal, non-profit, related life I think.
NNV: Was (or is) your interest primarily in birds? Was there a particular inspiration which motivated you? What’s the big draw for you?
I have been a birder on and off for 30 years or more. I had a teacher at Foothill that inspired my interest in birds. He was very enthusiastic and used to take our Natural History class on field trips around campus and elsewhere and would always point out the birds. I became hooked on trying to ID the common ones and wanting to see new species. Through birding I have met the neatest people and have been to some really great places. Naturally, if I start exploring the U.S., it would be via all the great birding hot spots in the country. It’s hard to have one favorite bird. I love raptors of course. I guess my sentimental favorite is the Red-tailed Hawk because I’ve had personal experience with them and they can be found all over the U.S. They are like an old friend when I see them. I have many favorite songbirds. One of them is the California Towhee for many of the same reasons as the Red-tail. They are pretty common. I’ve seen them in thickets at gas stations while traveling. Another friend.
NNV: You once told me that you liked pigeons. Tell our readers something positive about the much-maligned “flying rats.”
Yes, I still have a fondness for Rock Pigeons (the new name for the Rock Dove). I raised racing homers in Middle School. They are very beautiful, powerful, agile fliers. Pigeons will give the fastest Peregrine Falcon a run for its money.
NNV: Have you always enjoyed writing? Do you write for other publications?
I haven’t done a lot of writing on a consistent basis until NNV. I used to do a quarterly column for the YSI newsletter called the Curator's Corner in the old rehab days. My most challenging assignment has been for New Neighborhood Voice. My first article took a very long time to write. I started over three times before I was happy with it. Submitting it was a pretty unsettling experience, (what will they think!). Now that I have a few articles under my belt I’m more relaxed about the process and it’s fun! I had a Rehab paper on Black-necked Stilts (a common resident shorebird at the Baylands) published in the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council Journal that was peer reviewed and edited, also a paper on gulls, “Living with Larus” (the generic name for our common local gulls), that was distributed in an info packet for a water bird conference years ago. That is my complete writer’s history aside from a creative writing course in eighth grade and the usual college courses.
NNV: Do you have a favorite reference resource for your articles?
My favorite written avian resources include “Lives Of North American Birds” by Kenn Kaufman, “The Sibley Guide To Bird Life and Behavior” by David Sibley and “The Birder’s Handbook” by Ehrlick, Dobkin and Wheye. Favorite field guides include The National Geographic “Field Guide To North American Birds” and The Sibley field guides. My greatest resource is of course, Alum Rock Park and the wonderful birders I’ve met here.
NNV: What would you like our readers to know about you, YSI, or Alum Rock Park which would not have been answered by the previous questions?
I’m realizing that I’ve spent nearly half my life with the Youth Science Institute and Alum Rock Park and the wonderful people associated with both. I’ve seen the many faces and moods of Alum Rock Park. I’ve watched YSI evolve through the years enjoying the prosperous times and enduring through the tough ones, always surviving in the end. I consider myself a pretty lucky soul to be along for the ride.
Click here for photos of D.J. and YSI.
Area gardeners, both "Master" and casual, share their wisdom and experiences with Eastside gardening and related topics here.
Call the Master Gardener Hotline at (408) 282-3105 (our new telephone number) with your gardening questions or check out our website at www.mastergardeners.org/scc.html.
The Santa Clara Valley Chapter of the California Rare Fruit Growers (CRFG) will have its 2005 Scion Exchange on January 15, 2005. If you are interested in learning how to graft fruit trees or want to obtain new varieties to graft onto your existing trees, this is the place to be. The doors open to members at 10:00 am and to everyone else at 11:00 am. The doors close at 5:00 pm. For $10.00 you can become a member that day and get in early so you have best selection.
The 2005 scion exchange location is Emma Prusch Farm Park at 647 South King Road near Story Road in San Jose. Follow the signs from the main parking lot to the exchange. A nominal entrance fee of $5.00 allows you to gather all the fruit wood you could ever want and includes workshops on how to graft. Booklets will be available for a nominal charge on variety descriptions for many of the fruits offered. The CRFG has meetings on the first Saturday of even numbered months throughout the year at Prusch Farm Park at 1:00 pm. Speakers, plant raffles and exchanges occur at these meetings. More details on the local chapter of the organization can be found at http://www.crfg.org/chapters/santa_clara/index.html
Frosts kill tender plants so protection is a good idea on those cold winter nights. Place stakes around tender plants and cover with clear plastic or fabric such as a sheet or old drapery. Don't let the plastic touch the foliage. Wrap larger plants with strings of small Christmas tree lights and cover with a sheet. Turn the lights on at night. If plants are potted, then move them to a sheltered area such as a porch, under the eaves on the south side of the house or even under a tree. Be sure to uncover them during the day. Moving them indoors to a cool room would be good if possible. Don't prune frost damage on a plant until new growth starts in spring. The dead material helps protect the plant from further damage. One additional step would be to take cuttings of favorite tender plants to grow in a protected area just in case we have a hard frost that does kill the plant.
Now that you have tips on how to save your plants from frosts, the prediction for this winter's weather (through February at least) is for an El Niño winter. This means that SF Bay Area temperatures will average higher than normal by one to two degrees and rainfall is expected to average slightly more than normal. Over the past few years, we have come to expect unusual winter weather and we also know that predictions aren't infallible. Plants can become stressed with periods of too much moisture followed by periods of too little moisture. If there has been no rain for a week or two, check your soil using a shovel to make sure that it is evenly moist down six inches. If the soil has dried out, then apply additional irrigation to prevent stress for plant roots. This is especially critical for newly installed plantings.
Bare Root Planting:
Bare root roses, berries and trees will be available shortly in the nurseries. The bare roots of these plants need to soak from an hour to overnight (large plants) in a bucket of water before planting. Trim the roots of broken, dead or spongy bits and carefully pull the roots apart. Dig a hole that is fairly shallow and wide. You want to spread the roots out sideways and have the crown of the plant several inches above the soil level. This is necessary as the tree or shrub will 'settle down' over time. Water the plant well but wait to fertilize until you see new shoots growing. Be sure to water regularly if the rains are sparse. An inexpensive water meter from the nursery is very handy to check soil moisture. Staking may not be necessary. More details on bare root trees can be found at http://cekern.ucdavis.edu/Master_Gardener/Planting_Shade_Trees.htm.
Some people regard pruning roses as an art whereas others just wade in and clip away. In reality, pruning roses is a relatively simple process that isn't difficult to learn. Because different types of roses get pruned in different ways, lessons can help you tackle the project with confidence. Free lessons are available at the San Jose Heritage Rose Garden located within Guadalupe River Park and Gardens. Sessions start on January 8 and go through mid-February. They are held on Saturday and Wednesday from 9 am to noon. More information can be found at http://www.heritageroses.us/PruningLessons.htm.
When we were house hunting 16 years ago, gardening was the furthest thing from our minds. Square footage, number of bathrooms, and quality of carpet were the things we were looking at. The house we bought, a typical San Jose tract home on a 6,000 sq. ft. lot., had a south-facing front yard and partly shady back yard, both of which seemed large enough at the time.
Three years into our newfound interest in gardening, we find we have run out of garden space. We have over 100 species of native plants in the garden, and every bed is planted to capacity. Well, almost.
Sandwiched between the driveway and the neighbor’s yard is a bed that is paved over with aggregate concrete. It has four 18” square cutouts in which the previous owner grew rose standards. After we moved in, the roses suffered because we couldn’t maintain the watering, fertilizing, spraying, and pruning schedule. And with every winter storm, they leaned a little more.
So we replaced them with potato vines, which thrived in the hot, sunny exposure. Bought as standards, these vigorous plants needed monthly pruning to maintain their lollipop shape. We let them go, and within a year, we had a tall, naturalistic hedge covered nearly all year with purple flowers. Even then, its vigor was such it needed to be pruned several times a year.
Last year, we took out the overgrown potato plants in favor of smaller natives like silver bush lupine, vine hill manzanita, and buckeye. They did fine during winter and spring, but as summer set in, one by one, they died. The combined heat of the sun and the aggregate in summer proved to be too much for the young plants. I came to the conclusion that the aggregate had to go.
Gone it has, I am happy to say. Pepi’s Concrete tore it up, and hauled it away and exposed a lovely 6’x22’ bed. About 10 small pieces of aggregate remain as part of a flagstone path.
After a week of discussions, Ashok and I came up with an appropriate planting plan. This south-facing bed gets full, unbroken sun for eight hours a day. In the late afternoon, the neighbor’s 8’ tall evergreens provide some shade. The soil is pure, dark Santa Clara valley clay. At this time of year, it is easy to work with. There is a slight slope but this is not fast draining soil.
The plan consists of California natives, many of them local to our area. We’ve avoided straight lines or equal spacing of plants. Irregular, asymmetric positioning creates the naturalistic look we wanted for this bed. The color coding of each plant shows the foliage color and/or the flower color.
With this bed, I have realized a long held dream: to grow a California Buckeye (Aesculus californica). It is a signature tree of California, and it will be the focal point in this bed. In spring, it will be covered with lime green palmate leaves and topped with candles of fragrant white flowers, attractive to humans and butterflies alike. In early summer, the tree will drop its leaves, and its silver-gray bark and sculpturesque form will contrast nicely with the neighbor’s evergreens. We are growing it from seed collected at Barbara Springer’s ranch up the hill from where we live. What could be more local?
Not far from the buckeye is a Bush Poppy (Dendromecon rigida). In spring it is covered with yellow poppies framed by narrow, gray-blue leaves. This is a shrub of the chaparral, so we loosened the soil around it with sand so it would drain better.
Next we placed two Wavyleaf Ceanothuses (Ceanothus foliosus medius) on either side. This small shrub, to 3’x3’, sports dark blue blossoms in early spring. We have been happy with its unfussy nature, and its ability to remain green during the driest months of summer. Also a local native.
Having put in the “bones”, we were ready to flesh out the rest of the bed: smaller forbs, annuals and perennials, to add color and contrast.
Two plants have done particularly well in our garden and they look good together. Neither has noticeable flowers: their appeal lies in the color and texture of their leaves and the contrast when placed next to each other.
The first is Beach Sagewort (Artemisia pycnocephala ‘David’s Choice’), a lovely, 1’x2’ mound of silver gray finely divided leaves. Although it is from the coast, it has done very well in my San Jose garden. It looks neat, isn’t thirsty, but will accept a drink when given.
Alternating with this gray beauty is the bright green Foothill Sedge (Carex tumulicola), a grass-like plant, 6”x 2’. Although it does better in shade, it grows in sun as well. Its blades radiate from the center outwards, making for a neat green mound all year long.
The remainder of the space is filled with alternating patches of pink and gold.
Checkerbloom (Sidalcea malvaeflora) is a perennial with lovely pink flowers in spring. It should look good next to the blue-flowered ceanothus, or the gray leaved sagewort. We will plant this from 4” pots.
Goldfields (Lasthenia glabrata) will form a carpet of green turning to golden yellow with a thousand little daisies. This is also a prolific reseeder, so all we need to do is plant seed the first year.
In the back of the bed, we’ve planted Elegant Clarkia (Clarkia unguiculata). They grow to 4’ tall, and in late spring create a lovely pink “wall” of color. These wildflowers have done very well in my side yard, where they return year after year with no assistance.
Under the normal precipitation cycle, these plants will “disappear” after spring: the checkerbloom will drop leaves and go dormant, and the goldfields and clarkia will set seed and die. With additional water, they may last longer, but will eventually fade. For the remainder of the season, the focus will return to the sagewort, sedge, and larger shrubs.
We hoped to complete the planting over the Thanksgiving weekend. During the weeks it does not rain, it will be important to water the bed. When planting wildflowers, one cannot use mulch, and therefore must be vigilant in controlling weeds. Once these plants are established, in a few years, they themselves will crowd out the weeds.
Many of these plants are available at my neighborhood nursery, Payless Nursery, 2927 S. King Road (at Aborn), San Jose, (408) 274-7815. If you are shopping for natives, ask for Wanda Olsen. She is extremely knowledgeable about plants of all kinds, native and otherwise. I recently learned that she can special order any plants that aren’t in stock. Happy gardening!
Click here for Arvind's illustration for this article.
NNV Note: Arvind Kumar has a native plant home garden in Evergreen, and has been planting natives at Lake Cunningham for the last two years. You can reach him at email@example.com.
Bracey Tiede, NNV’s Master Gardener Extraordinaire, sent us a link to a detailed November 13th S.F. Chronicle article on gardening with deer. It includes a list of deer-resistant plants which includes Agapanthus (Lily of the Nile) which we found with nibbled leaves and no blossoms here on Highland Drive this summer. However, as we know, different deer in different years in different spheres, eat differently. You can perhaps experiment with writer Sandra Gorry’s plant list, but never make any bets on what deer will find attractive (and tasty)!
Click here for the article and here for our Deer, Fire and/or Drought Resistant Plants page.
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After reading the suggestion in the November edition of NNV to contact Councilmember Nora Campos about the pigeon dropping situation on the sidewalk along the edge of the under-construction Alum Rock library branch, reader Patricia Accorinti did just that – and then she shared the exchange with NNV.
Patricia wrote a nice thank-you note to Nora Campos expressing her appreciation for the Councilmember’s support for building the new library. Next, she brought to Nora’s attention the problem with pigeons in the area of the new library. “Hundreds of pigeons roost on the wires above the intersection of Alum Rock and White Road. It would be a terrible shame to have people tracking pigeon ‘poop’ into the new library. It’s a health hazard (pigeons are known to be carriers of West Nile Virus) as well as being particularly disgusting. Elimination of the power lines will keep the pigeons from leaving their deposits. I hope you will look into doing something about the potential problem.”
Blair Miner, District Five Policy Analyst in Nora’s office, responded to Patricia as follows:
“Good afternoon. I received your complaint about the pigeons that congregate on the wires above Alum Rock Avenue near the Alum Rock Branch Library currently under construction. The Councilmember agrees that the pigeons are a problem in this area and we concur with the need to address this issue before the opening of the new Library.
Please know that I will be looking in to possible solutions to this matter. While eliminating the power lines may be one answer, we will also be looking in to less costly solutions that prove just as effective. I have asked Rich Desmond from the Library to do some research into this matter and I will most certainly keep you apprised of the solutions that we come up with. Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention and please do not hesitate to call if you have any further questions or concerns. Thank you.”
Two hours later, Patricia heard from Richard Desmond, Director of Branch Library Development, San Jose Public Library:
“Ms. Accorinti, Thank you for your recent email regarding the impact of pigeons on the new Alum Rock branch library. We are well aware of the problem and are no fans of the pigeons. As you correctly point out in your email, the best solution for this area is the elimination of the power lines. PG&E has tentative plans to underground the lines on White Road sometime in 2006. Encouraging local residents and businesses to keep trash covered can also help. In addition, some residents enjoy feeding pigeons and this encourages the pigeons to stay. Eliminating comfortable perches and food sources are the most common ways to deter pigeons. Please let me know if I can provide any further information.”
Patricia has heard nothing further on the topic as of Thanksgiving Eve. Do you think the City is giving proper priority to this undergrounding project? If the entire Country Club Plaza block (at McKee and Toyon) could enjoy an enormous, comprehensive undergrounding project this summer, wouldn’t you think that something as important as community health and protection of a brand new library facility would warrant more attention than “less costly solutions” which include “keep(ing) trash covered”?
NNV Note: NNV encourages readers to follow Patricia’s great example of making the wishes (and will) of the community known to our elected officials. Those pigeons will sit there and slime up the new sidewalk until 2006 without a persistent effort to make undergrounding of wires a top priority. YOU can also give Nora a nudge by contacting her by e-mail at District5@sanjoseca.gov or call (408) 277-5157. Remind her that pigeons may be carriers of the West Nile Virus even though they aren't seen dying from it like Crows and Jays. Click here for a reference.
On a lighter note: Did you hear that Lick and Pala students who must walk the stinky gauntlet may adopt the anthem “Bird---- Keeps Fallin’ on My Head”?
|Did NNV notice the Welcome to Alum Rock mural?|
|Why were the little sycamore trees on Alum Rock Avenue allowed to die this summer?|
|Is there any chance that Our City Forest would ever come out and plant trees again?|
|Is there a water source which they could use to keep the new trees alive?|
|Why didn’t Our City Forest water the trees themselves if they knew they were dying?|
|Don’t you know that ‘NRA’ can stand for the National Recovery Administration?|
|Who's going to fix the tiles falling off the front of Las Delicias Mexican restaurant?|
|What’s happening at the abandoned, disheveled old barbeque place on White Road?|
|And, what about the Alum Rock Feed and Fuel corner?|
A. NNV took a drive through that neighborhood the other day and found a rather confusing bunch of banners which ought to identify the neighborhoods along Alum Rock Avenue. Banners beginning one block west of the 101 (on Santa Clara Street) say “Little Portugal” and continue on the other side of the freeway until about King Road where they suddenly start saying “Alum Rock.” This signage lasts until about the 680 freeway. East of the 680, there are no banners.
Somewhere in the area with the Alum Rock banners should be the community known as Mayfair, but it seems to have disappeared into thin air. According to historian, Carol Schultz, who wrote for the Mayfair Times, Mayfair runs from King Road out to Jackson Avenue.
When Alum Rock Avenue was first constructed in the 1870’s (in the footprint of an old, existing road which took people “out to the country”), it was an extension of Santa Clara Street beginning at what is now 17th St. – about where San Jose Medical Center is today. Clyde Arbuckle’s History of San Jose mentions Santa Clara Street becoming Alum Rock Avenue at Coyote Creek. But, an 1876 Thompson-West map in the frontispiece of author Pat Loomis’ Signposts books shows “Santa Clara Avenue” changing its name to Alum Rock Avenue at what looks to be about today’s Capitol Avenue. So, it appears that the Alum Rock Avenue name once-upon-a-time may have covered the part of town called “East San Jose” (which was actually west of the 101 which didn’t exist then). Therefore, if your editor interprets history properly, it may be correct to place “Alum Rock” as far west as 17th Street “downtown.” If we settle on the accuracy of the 1876 map, we can conclude that Alum Rock Avenue started around Capitol Avenue in which case the mural at 101 and Alum Rock Avenue is wrong, wrong, wrong and should be reinstalled on the side of the building at the corner of Alum Rock and Capitol Avenue which now says “Taxes La Hispana”!
Incidentally, there has been some discussion of hanging banners from the light poles in Alum Rock Village identifying it as “The Village” or possibly “Alum Rock Village” but that hasn’t happened yet – probably due to lack of funds. Would anyone like to organize such a project?
A. The handsome young trees were provided by Our City Forest with the understanding that a man who lived in our community would water them – or that he would find other community members to water them if he himself could not. The man signed an agreement to be the steward of those trees. NNV spoke with Christian Bonner of OCF and learned that the trees died of “drought stress” after the “tree steward bailed in a big way”! It seems the man must have thought he had lined up enough fellow tree enthusiasts to make the project successful, but he must never have truly gotten a firm commitment from anyone.
Our City Forest became aware that the trees were being neglected and repeatedly tried to get in touch with the tree steward (who will remain nameless). Most unfortunately, the man did not return OCF’s messages (or NNV’s for that matter) until it was too late for the trees. When he did get in touch with OCF, it was only to say something to the effect of, “Bye y’all, I’m moving out of the country!”
A. Christian Bonner says that they will never again take a chance with the commitment of just a single individual like they did with the “good-bye guy” mentioned above. OCF would be ever so happy to send their members out to help a group of our community members plant new trees, but, first it must be demonstrated that there is sufficient interest and commitment from enough people to sustain the new trees. Everyone would need to sign the watering agreement.
A. Christian says that OCF knows of arrangements made with other schools to tap into their irrigation systems using some simple connectors. He doesn’t think that “wayward steward” went to the trouble of lining up a water source at Lick - or willing helpers. These young trees each need about ten gallons of water per week.
A. OCF’s mission is “to cultivate a greener, healthier metropolis and a sense of community by involving Silicon Valley residents in the understanding, planting, care and appreciation of the urban forest.” OCF does not make arrangements to take over for failed stewards who have broken their commitment. NNV likens the situation to raising kids – if you do your children’s homework for them, they learn nothing except that someone else will be accountable for their responsibilities. Notice that OCF’s mission statement does not include providing watering services for the community. They provide trees.
Want to start the project on Alum Rock Avenue over again? Call Our City Forest at (408) 99-TREES. Or click here for their Web site.
A. Oops! This particular NRA logo stood for the National Recovery Administration and demonstrated that the newspaper, the San Jose Evening News, embraced a program (an offshoot of the National Industrial Recovery Act) which empowered President Franklin Roosevelt in his “New Deal” (according to NNV’s old Funk and Wagnalls New Encyclopedia*) to “formulate a program in which private industry would voluntarily cooperate with the Federal government in the establishment of industrial codes providing for the shortening of hours of labor, the setting of minimum wages, and the mitigation of the intense price competition that had resulted from the shrinkage of the market” during the Great Depression beginning in 1929. “Codes were set up for about 98% of American industry resulting in substantial gains in industrial production” as well as a significant curtailment of unemployment.
The NIRA and the NRA were short-lived, however, because of their adverse effect on competition, a major component of the free-enterprise system. The law was invalidated in May 1935 and the NRA was soon liquidated – probably not long after June 28, 1935 when the “Blonde Girl” story appeared. Our “standard” forty-hour, five-day workweek is a survivor of the Act.
* Yes, occasionally someone at NNV actually picks up an actual bound, paper volume to research an item, but you can click here to read about the NRA on-line. Click here to see the San Jose Evening News with the NRA logo.
A. Yes, they are. And, yes. NNV phoned good ole Sandra Escobar the Redevelopment Agency’s guru-ess of all things relating to Alum Rock Village. Sandra says that they are aware of the missing tiles and are replacing them tout de suite even though it is not specifically their job. The City wants the Village to look good – almost as much as we residents do! Click here for a photo.
A. Apparently the previous developer’s plans didn’t jell and so we’ve had to look at that eyesore for another year. However, help is on the way! NNV spoke with Anthony Caruso, the man who really is going to develop the property. Anthony says that he is the “developer, owner and contractor” of a 9,000 square foot “retail center” which he’s going to build there. He says that the businesses will be appropriate for the high school and middle school students who frequent the area. He is negotiating with “high end” national chains, he says, and may include a “juice place.” Anthony and his family live in Campbell, but he’s quite familiar with Alum Rock Park because his Sicilian immigrant parents took him to visit the zoo there many years ago. He really loves our part of town and hopes to do more development here. Barring the unforeseen, work will start on the project early in 2005.
A. Something will happen sometime soon, says Steve Song, the real estate agent who is handling the sale of the property. Steve, who by-the-way lives in our neighborhood, says that he is helping buyers through the maze of negotiations necessary to build a 20,000 square foot retail building there. There are still some environmental hurdles to overcome which isn’t too surprising considering that the front of the lot has been home to an automotive business and/or gas station for many years. Steve says that he pictures some national franchisees – “maybe something like California Pizza Kitchen, for example.” He says the property has been in escrow for several months.
NNV reiterated the neighbors’ expectations of a project which will complement the character of the rest of the Village. Councilmember Nora Campos has promised that area residents will definitely have a say as to what sort of businesses may be established there. It probably wouldn’t hurt if you want to give her some input as to the type of shops/stores you’d like to see there – and what you wouldn’t like to see.
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! And don't miss our new Letters page on Deer, Fire and/or Drought Resistant Plants if you'd like to share information with our readers.
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
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Copyright© 2004 by Judy Thompson. All rights reserved. Updated 12/24/04.