In the beginning this blog was centered on San Francisco parks and open space issues with special emphasis on natural areas and natural history. Over time it began to range into other areas and topics. As you can see, it is eclectic, as I interlace it with topics of interest to me.

I welcome feedback: just click this link to reach me.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


1.   Do-It-Yourself Native Plant Gardening, Oct 13 & 20, Campbell
2.   Rilke's Love Poems to God
3.   Native Plant Sale & Open House, Joaquin Miller State Park Sunday 16 Oct
4.   Feedback - mostly tweetbacks from our Wood Thrush
5.   Breakthrough in CleanPowerSF Program
6.   The Religion Virus; Why We Believe in God
7.   e e cummings, born 14 October 1894
8.   Notes & Queries: Why aren't the best brains running the country?/why do people wear wristwatches?

Misunderstandings and neglect occasion more mischief in the world than even malice and wickedness. -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, poet, dramatist, novelist, and philosopher (1749-1832)


If you have a typical suburban home with a lawn, and have been thinking about replacing it with native plants, but want to do it yourself without hiring designers and contractors, you may find the following classes of interest.

By popular demand, the California Native Plant Society is presenting a special two-part series of talks on do-it-yourself native plant landscaping this Thu & next, Oct 13 & 20, at the Campbell Library. The classes are free and open to all, first come first served. Bring your significant other, neighbor, or friend, and expand your knowledge and skills.

Thursday, October 13, 6:00-8:30 p.m.
Do-It-Yourself Native Plant Gardening Part 1a, a talk by Deva Luna
Campbell Library, 77 Harrison Ave., Campbell. (408) 866-1991.

The first class is called “Design-It-Yourself Native Garden.” In it, you will get a crash course in design, covering how to transition to a native garden, how to choose plants, which existing plants to keep, and how to plan for each plant’s water requirements.

Thursday, October 20, 6:00-8:30 p.m.
Do-It-Yourself Native Plant Gardening Part 2, a talk by Deva Luna
Campbell Library, 77 Harrison Ave., Campbell. (408) 866-1991.

This is the second, yet stand-alone, class following the previous week’s class and is called “Install-It-Yourself Native Garden.” It will cover the nuts and bolts of lawn removal, sheet mulching, percolation testing, transitioning to drip irrigation, plant acquisition and planting techniques.

Note: these classes comprise a survey course which covers a lot of material in a short time and are designed for the layperson -- they are not professional training. Please note the early start time of 6pm and expanded class time.

Deva Luna is a Master Gardener and has been teaching and speaking about horticulture for 14 years. She has a degree in “Plants and Art,” and she works as a sustainable landscape designer for EarthCare Landscaping in Cupertino. Her passions include California native plants,
greywater, edible landscaping, herbs and quirky yard art.


All will come again into its strength:
the fields undivided, the waters undammed,
the trees towering and the walls built low.
And in the valleys, people as strong and varied as the land.
And no churches where God
is imprisoned and lamented
like a trapped and wounded animal.
The houses welcoming all who knock
and a sense of boundless offering
in all relations, and in you and me.
No yearning for an afterlife, no looking beyond,
no belittling of death,
but only longing for what belongs to us
and serving earth, lest we remain unused.
~ Ranier Maria Rilke ~
(Rilke’s Book of Hours:Love Poems to God, translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy)


Native Plant Sale and Open House at Joaquin Miller Park Native Plant Nursery
Friends Of Sausal Creek OSC will be holding a native plant sale and open house on Sunday, October 16, 2011 at the JMNPN. Come by between 10am and 3pm to purchase native plants just in time to plant for the winter rains.
Native plant experts will be available all day to help shoppers pick appropriate plants for their specific planting areas. Bring your family, neighbors, and friends...and, if possible, a cardboard box to get your plants safely home with you.

Workshops and Live Music
§  10:00 Native Bees and Your Garden – Jennifer Smith
§  10:45 Native Plants in Gardens and Landscapes – Robyn Gregg and Mauro Rubina with The Naturals Landscaping
§  11:30 Native Plant Propagation – Karen Paulsell, Friends of Sausal Creek
§  12:00 Birds of the Watershed – Jenny Palka with Native Bird Connection
§  1:00 Urban Beekeeping – Jeri Martinez, Vice President of the Alameda County Beekeepers
§  2:00 Harlan James Bluegrass Band (Michael Thilgen and friends)
§  All Day – Face Painting for Future Gardeners
§  All Day – Live Native Spider display with Linda Erickson, The Spider Chick, available to answer all your spider questions

Directions:  The nursery is located in Joaquin Miller Park, on Sanborn Road. Take the Lincoln Blvd-Joaquin Miller exit from Hwy 13, and go up the hill on Joaquin Miller Drive; past the WoodmisterTheater, take a left on Sanborn Drive, (there are lots of signs, including one in the median that says "Native Plant Nursery"), then park in one of the lots. To reach the nursery, walk past the yellow gate for .3 miles to the FOSC Native Plant Nursery, staying to the left at the split.  There will be greeters to assist you.  We'll have shuttle vehicles to ferry plants back out to the parking lots.  Please bring a box to hold your plants.

(JS:  Now there's a new [to me] educational feature at a plant sale - live spiders.  I am becoming increasingly comfortable and interested in spiders.  Although I still have a primordial aversion or fear, it is lessening.  I spend most of my life in my sunroom, as it is almost like being outdoors.  Spiders set up shop both inside and outside, and I won't let my cleaning people destroy the webs.  The ones on the outside are often limned with fine moisture beads and create a magically beautiful effect.)


Feedback - mostly Tweetbacks
(And do listen to the actual songs on the URL sites below)

Since Feedback has been pre-empted (this word doesn't exist in my dictionary!) by a little songbird, I put this item first so it doesn't get lost:
Bert Johnson:
Hi Jake, I really liked the discussion on radiolarian chert.  This beautiful rock also frequently outcrops on both Mount Tamalpais and Mount Diablo, the mother mountains of our bay region.  Many of the outcrops of it on the summit of Mount Diablo support masses of our beautiful bitteroot, Lewisia rediviva.  When in bloom in later spring, these lewisia's greatly resemble a bunch of sea anemones growing out of the rocks with their white flowers and finger-like leaves.  It is striking to see this, this red chert and bursts of white lewisia's emerging from the rock, very much resembling an exposed tidal pool of sea anemones.  Bert Johnson
(There is a chert field trip in San Francisco this Saturday.  Information on request.  JS)

Tweetback - on this item in previous newsletter:   

“This is the only bird whose note affects me like music. It lifts and exhilarates me. It is inspiring. It changes all hours to an eternal morning.” Henry David Thoreau
(Is this a hermit thrush?)

Doug Allshouse:
The thrush pictured in your newsletter is a Wood Thrush which is a bird found primarily east of the Mississippi River. Most thrushes possess hauntingly pretty songs and Wood Thrush's is one of the best.

Peter Pyle says the bird in #1 is a Wood thrush - not a Hermit thrush.. In regards to Theroux: Wood thrush are not found in California, but are probably found at Walden Pond.

Kay Loughman:
Hi Jake, Thoreau might have been referring to Hermit Thrush.  But more likely he was praising the Wood Thrush (Hylocichia mustelina) pictured -- beloved songster of the eastern US.  In the west, we wax equally poetic over Hermit and Swainson's Thrushes.

Eddie Bartley:
Jake, Wood Thrush and the one bird that inspired me as a youngster to spend the better of an hour carefully searching it out in the woods. Super well blended in the deciduous understory, I was right over it before it flushed. Never got a good  look at it but will never forget that magical morning.
Here's a nice site with several wonderful North American thrush songs.

Ooooh how wonderful, what fun!!  Thank you Eddie, and you, Lee, for these wonderful sites.  These are perfect antidotes for times when you're under stress.

Lee Rudin:
close, the wood thrush, an eastern bird. Although, some would think the hermit or Swainson’s’ thrush would be close!

It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living. David Attenborough

Hello Jake,

The Hermit Thrush has a lovely, flute-like, haunting song but more likely the bird Thoreau was referring to is the Wood Thrush.  It's widely renowned for an incredibly beautiful song - but unfortunately in the U.S. it is only an eastern bird.


Dan Murphy:
It looks like a Wood Thrush to me Jake.  I've only seen one and that was in SF.  Those distinct spots on the white background of the breast and bell, the facial markings on the cheek below the white eye ring and that hint of rich rufus you can see on the back of the neck all indicate this is a Wood Thrush.  Of course there were other thrushes that Thoreau may have been writing of.  One way or the other, the bird pictured is a Wood Thrush.

Lynn Yamashita:
hi jake;
here's your answer from Phil Gordon (with Pat nearby).  When Phil (or Pat) explain bird things, one is replete. I can see the wood thrush and hear its wonderful song!

--- On Mon, 10/10/11, Phil and Pat Gordon wrote:
Greetings Lynn,
Phil here, with Pat close by,
This bird, in such a wonderful posture, ideally suited for a very discriminate photographer, portrays the Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina). It could easily be the bird praised for its song by Thoreau. Various observers have described its song, e.g., "as - - a series of loud flute-like phrases, each followed by a softer guttural trill" (1983, Robbins, Bruun, & Zim, BIRDS OF NORTH AMERICA) or "The beautiful main phrases are of perfectly pitched notes, often a three-note phrase on the notes of a major chord, so that they suggest, in pitch but not quality, bugle-calls (1935, Saunders, A. S.  A GUIDE TO BIRD SONGS).
It is a bird mostly found east of the Mississippi River (100th meridian). Very rarely a vagrant in California where only a about a dozen records exist; once one Wintered in Golden Gate Park from 21 December 1983 to 23 March 1984.  They breed in North America, e.g., Ontario - Quebec - Minnesota to the Gulf Coast - Texas to N. Florida. For Winter they fly nocturnally south and some may stop along the Gulf Coast of Louisiana or Texas, but most go further into Central America even as far as NW Colombia.
By the way, their Genus name comes from the Greek for "forest" "thrush,"  and the species name of Latin origin = "like a weasel," for their tawny color like a weasel.
I know you have Hermit Thrushes in your yard (we saw yours once ); has it returned again this year?  Ours hasn't shown yet, but last night I heard (and today Pat saw it), a Fox Sparrow.  The Hermit Thrushes (which closely resemble them), can't be far behind.  Last summer we heard Hermit Thrushes around Woods Lake, Alpine County, Calif., at over 8,000 feet elevation where they nest, near Hwy 88.  Fox Sparrows nest in the same kind of montane chaparral.
So, more info than you wanted, but I presumed your interest,
Happy birding,
Phil and Pat.

(JS:  As a gardener in Golden Gate Park I looked forward to winter time, for various reasons--a big reason being that it was the only time I could get some gardening done; summers were an endless round of watering and weeding.  But my fondest memories of autumn/winter were the migratory birds, among which were the hermit thrush and the varied thrush.  The latter was somewhat shy, but visible (it's 'song' was like a squeaky wheel).  While I was grubbing out a patch of, say, English ivy, I would occasionally have to straighten and rest my back.  During those inactive intervals a hermit thrush--perched in a tree, watching me--descended and gobbled a feast of springtails, a crustacean.  As long as I was motionless it would come right up to me, even perching on my boot momentarily.  Those were delightful and treasured moments.)


San Francisco, CA – Environmental, worker and social justice organizations praised the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission's decision today to prepare a detailed plan for the city's CleanPowerSF program that would result in hundreds of local workers being hired to install hundreds of megawatts of local clean energy projects over the next several years. (See a jobs estimate for the plan at:

Until last week, the PUC was considering a less ambitious plan to only purchase renewable electricity from distant providers on the open market with no firm commitment to local installations. Such a program would have done little to provide local jobs, or to build a local clean energy infrastructure.

But today, after four years of negotiations, a diverse coalition of local clean energy and green jobs organizers secured a commitment from the PUC that it will now engage detailed citywide electricity use studies and installation site mapping in order to design the local build-out of hundreds of megawatts of renewable electricity generation and efficiency measures within CleanPowerSF. The milestone was announced by both activists and City officials at the joint meeting of the PUC and the San Francisco Local Agency Formation Commission (SF LAFCo).

David de la Torre of the Laborers' Local 261 said, "Bay Area construction trade workers are suffering badly right now under very high unemployment rates. This plan sets us on a path to putting hundreds of people to work right away, on high-quality prevailing wage jobs, in a brand new industry that will create not just hundreds of jobs, but hundreds of lifetime careers."


The Religion Virus; Why We Believe in God, by Craig A. James
Why We Believe in God:  An Evolutionist Explains Religion's Incredible Hold on Humanity

The Religion Virus will take you on a fascinating tour of the peculiar history of religion, from the first animist religions to modern Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Explore the meme as a unit of "idea evolution." Discover why religion is the result of ten thousand years of "survival of the fittest" of competing ideas. Learn how meme evolution favors the most infectious ideas, the things people want to believe, with little regard to whether those ideas are true or false.

The wish to believe, even against evidence, fuels all the pseudosciences from astrology to creationism.  Isaac Asimov


                                                        Born 14 October 1894 - e e cummings

i am a little church(no great cathedral)
far from the splendor and squalor of hurrying cities
-i do not worry if briefer days grow briefest,
i am not sorry when sun and rain make april

my life is the life of the reaper and the sower;
my prayers are prayers of earth's own clumsily striving
(finding and losing and laughing and crying)children
whose any sadness or joy is my grief or my gladness

around me surges a miracle of unceasing
birth and glory and death and resurrection:
over my sleeping self float flaming symbols
of hope,and i wake to a perfect patience of mountains

i am a little church(far from the frantic
world with its rapture and anguish)at peace with nature
-i do not worry if longer nights grow longest;
i am not sorry when silence becomes singing

winter by spring,i lift my diminutive spire to
merciful Him Whose only now is forever:
standing erect in the deathless truth of His presence
(welcoming humbly His light and proudly His darkness)

~ e.e.cummings ~

Buffalo Bill's defunct     

who used to ride a watersmooth-silver stallion     

and break onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlikethat     

Jesus he was a handsome man and what i want to know is     

how do you like your blueeyed boy Mister Death


Notes & Queries, Guardian Weekly

Why aren't the best brains running the country?
Because women have to scale the glass ceiling.
Edward Black, Pauanaui, New Zealand

• Because – as in jam making – scum rises to the top.
Helen Black, Sydney, Australia

• Perhaps they are. Now there's a truly terrifying thought.
Ian Carter, Mount Eden, New Zealand

• They are. By manipulating their puppets, generally known as politicians, they run government for their own ends – usually money, power and status.
Terence Rowell, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada

• They are too smart to waste their time with politicians.
Helen Hatton, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

• Because running the City is much more lucrative.
Jim Dewar, Gosford, NSW, Australia

• The post is not vacant, it is held by another part of the body – below the waistline.
Heiner Zok, Schiffdorf, Germany

We just watch that watch
Why do so many people still wear watches?

Because they are pressed for time.
Bryan Furnass, Canberra, Australia

• Because my senses revolt from timing an egg with my mobile phone just as they do from expecting somebody could here me from halfway around the world if I spoke into my watch.
Dick Hedges, Nairobi, Kenya

• Because it's a time-honoured tradition.
Annie Hawker, Sydney, Australia

• It's irrewristible.
David Tucker, Halle, Germany

• So they won't be late because of nattering away on their smart phones.
Joan Dawson, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

• In the 1950s I was listening to radio talks by Alan Watts on Buddhism. He quoted someone to the effect that you are rich in proportion to the things you can do without. This lodged in my psyche.
In 1954, a fellow office-worker convinced me that the watch my family had given me upon entering the navy in 1945 should not be taken to just any jeweller to clean – I should take it to Shreve's. I did so, but was stunned to learn that it would take a month. "I can't do without a watch for a month", I remonstrated. Nevertheless, I acquiesced out of respect to my friend's advice.
It took me little time to realise that there were clocks nearly everywhere I went, and nearly everyone wore a wristwatch, and I seldom needed to know the time anyway. Somehow I just forgot to retrieve the watch from Shreve's. About five or six years later I received a notice from them. I had expected they would have sold it, but they hadn't.
I have never used the watch since, and it is probably somewhere in the basement. I have used that lesson with profit. I am not a paragon in this respect, and live luxuriously by world standards. By current consumer-culture standards, however, I am Spartan.
Jake Sigg, San Francisco, California, US

• In the case of the very rich, who can afford luxury watches, they enjoy being watched.
John Sang, Solothurn, Switzerland

Any answers?
What is the first thing I will see or feel when I exit this current existence?
John Benseman, Auckland, New Zealand

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