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.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


True words are not beautiful
Beautiful words are not true
Good people do not quarrel
Quarrelsome people are not good
The wise are not learned
The learned are not wise
    Tao Te Ching

1.   Yerba Buena Nursery is moving to Half Moon Bay
2.   CNPS slides and potluck supper - bring your pix and food Dec 6
3.   Rat poison killing wildlife
4.   Winter rejuvenation at Warm Water Cove Dec 15
5.   To move cleanly, needing to be nowhere else...
6.   Solar thermal energy to cook food, heat water around world
7.   Interesting study on utility of managed fire in wildland/urban interface
8.   Renegade river otter hanging out at Sutro Baths
9.   Feedback
10. Want a German passport? Start revising
11.  Book of Mormon lyrics...hooboy
12.  Warren Buffett
13.  Some wry Christmas shopping ideas

1.  Yerba Buena Nursery is MOVING to Half Moon Bay!

After more than 50 years at our Skyline location, selling California Native Plants and offering garden design and planning, our Nursery is moving to a new home in Half Moon Bay.

Beginning January 1, 2013, Yerba Buena Nursery will be in our beautiful new space on Highway 92, where we will continue to grow the finest variety and quality of California Native Plants for your garden.

Before we move, please plan to come by for a visit to the Botanical Garden on Skyline, and join us for our last Tea in the Farmhouse at Christmas. Call for reservations if you would like to have a chance to combine the visit with your Christmas Tea.

We look forward to seeing all our wonderful customers at our new location in Half Moon Bay in the New Year.

It was our privilege to steward this wonderful piece of land for many years and it is with a bittersweet parting that we make the move to a more accessible and convenient location.

We will still offer deliveries and of course, our premier Garden Consultation and Design service.  We hope to add installation possibilities as well.

The same great staff - Matt, Kathy, David, Adan and Anya will be here to serve you. Our website, email and phone will be the same.

Our last day operating on Skyline will be December 19, after which we will close for the Holidays and reopen in Half Moon Bay on Jan. 1. Check our website for more details including our new address once the site is ready to visit.


CNPS Yerba Buena Chapter
Annual Members' Slides and Potluck Supper
Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012  •  6:30 potluck 7:30 slides
Location: Recreation Room, San Francisco County Fair Building
   Join our annual year-end informal members' potluck dinner and slide show. Bring a few of your favorite digital images of native plants, gardens, etc. on a thumb drive to share plus your favorite dish or beverage, also to share.  Whether you are a photographer or an appreciator, come for an enjoyable evening of delicious food and great pictures.


3.  Eric Mills, coordinator, ACTION FOR ANIMALS

Somehow I missed this horrific article by (again) Tom Knudson, which appeared in the SACRAMENTO BEE last year.  It deserves broad circulation.  And see the enclosed scientific paper, too.  (omitted here, JS)

These lethal poisons should be banned ASAP. 

Forward to your state representatives in Sacramento, and demand legislation to ban these products. 

NOTE:  The new legislators  (some 40 of them) get sworn in on Monday, December 3.  The legislature reconvenes on January 7.

Please forward this article to other interested parties.

P.S. - And a related disaster:  Don't miss the new documentary, "Chasing Ice," now in the theatres.  Some awe-inspiring photography of the worldwide glacier melt, much of it quite beautiful.  One of the most important films ever made, in my opinion.  Hopefully, it will inspire the needed remedial action, if it's not already too late.

Potent new rat poisons killing California wildlife
Outside Palm Desert, a young bobcat dies mysteriously at a nature preserve. South of Nevada City, a farmer finds an owl dead near his decoy shed. In San Rafael, a red-shouldered hawk bleeds heavily from its mouth and nose before succumbing at an animal care center.
Each of those incidents shares a link to a widely used toxin that is turning up at dangerous levels in wildlife across California: rat poison.
Over the years, rat poison has spared state residents untold filth and disease. But a new generation of highly toxic, long-lasting poisons is killing not only rats, mice and ground squirrels, but whatever feeds on them, too.
As a result, toxins are rippling outward from warehouses to woodlands, from golf courses and housing complexes to marshes and nature sanctuaries. In California, the victims include bobcats, barn owls, red-tailed hawks, coyotes, kit foxes, kestrels and scores of other predators and scavengers.
"Rodenticides are the new DDT," said Maggie Sergio, director of advocacy at WildCare, a Bay Area wildlife rehabilitation center that has responded to dozens of poisoning cases. "It is an emergency, an environmental disaster. We are killing nature's own rodent control."
Researchers say the federal government has been slow to respond to the problem, which has been building for more than a decade. This June, after years of study, regulations take effect nationwide banning the most toxic, long-lasting rat poisons from hardware stores, big box home improvement centers and other consumer outlets.
But many feel the move does not go far enough, since the poisons can be purchased from other sources.
"We've been collecting data forever," said Stella McMillin, an environmental scientist with the pesticide investigations unit of the California Department of Fish and Game. "They took 10 years after we knew it was a problem. It was absolutely too long."
Research by McMillin and others shows that exposure to rat poison is widespread, especially in and near urban areas where pests, people and poison mix. Around Bakersfield, 79 percent of endangered San Joaquin kit foxes tested have turned up positive for rodenticide. Near Los Angeles, 90 percent of bobcats sampled had rat poison in their blood. "Basically, when we look for it, we find it," McMillin said.
The same is true all over. Seventy percent of owls sampled in western Canada had rat poison in their livers. In New York, half of 265 birds of prey tested were positive for poison. In Great Britain, one of every two barn owls tested was contaminated.
"The truth is, it's not just across the state but across the country and across the world," said Seth Riley, a wildlife ecologist with the National Park Service whose research has linked exposure to rat poison to a rare, often fatal form of mange in bobcats in Southern California.
The poison is turning up in wilder parts of California, too, alarming scientists. One such place is the central and southern Sierra Nevada, including Yosemite National Park, where it has been discovered in the livers of a rare weasel-like carnivore, the Pacific fisher.
"They are obviously getting this poison from somewhere," said Reg Barrett, professor of wildlife management at the University of California, Berkeley. "But we don't know where.
"Even if it doesn't kill animals outright, it could predispose them to predation, accidents and all kinds of things," Barrett said. "If you're running around half-gassed from poison like this, you're probably not functioning 100 percent."
Scientists worry that exposure might impair reproduction in some species – as it did with DDT – or trigger other kinds of harm. But such research is costly and often takes years to yield results.
"There is basically no budget to do any of this," said Barrett. "It's obviously a big enough problem that somebody has got to come up with the money."
Exams: Massive bleeding
All pesticides are potentially dangerous, of course, but rat poison is especially so because rats that eat it take days to sicken and die, making them ideal targets for predators.
"They become basically little poison pills," said Robert Hosea, an environmental scientist with the Fish and Game Department.
And once they die, their remains are toxic until they decompose. "Whatever eats them, gets it," Hosea said.
There is nothing subtle about the poison. It kills with gruesome brush strokes, robbing animals of their ability to clot blood, causing massive internal hemorrhaging. "What it does is turn your guts into soup. It's nasty stuff," said Barrett.
At a recent meeting, McMillin flashed a necropsy photo of a blood-soaked coyote across a screen. "It's hard to miss," she said. "You open it up and you have no doubt in your mind what happened."
Two tongue-twisting toxins turn up most often in wildlife: brodifacoum and bromadio-lone. On store shelves, they go by such names as D-Con, Havoc, Talon, Tomcat Ultra and Just One Bite.
Companies make the compounds super-lethal because many rats and mice have grown resistant to older poisons, such as warfarin. The new products are so toxic their use is forbidden in farm fields and restricted in and around homes, warehouses and other confined locations.
But these safeguards haven't prevented them from turning up in exceedingly wild locations, including the Sierra National Forest and Yosemite National Park, where 19 of 21 fishers sampled showed traces of rat poison – and one died from it.
"When I first heard about this, I thought it was a mistake," said McMillin. "Fishers live in old-growth forests. Where in the world are they getting exposed to anti-coagulants?
"The prevailing theory is it's because of marijuana farms in remote areas," she added. "In marijuana farms that are busted, there are a lot of pesticides. And obviously they are not being careful to use them legally."
The newer-generation poisons will become scarcer in June, when sales of small packets and blocks are banned. But larger bait blocks will still be available at farm stores. And licensed commercial pesticide applicators will still be able to use the stuff.
"Our hope is this will shrink the amount that is available," McMillin said. "But there is a big loophole. The homeowner who knows that the new products work a lot better can still get the products that are a problem."
Death of a bobcat kitten
Poison, of course, is not the only solution. "The biggest thing you can do to control rats and mice is, a) eliminate harborage, and b) eliminate their food supply," said Hosea. "If there is nothing for them to eat and nowhere for them to hide, they are going to be a lot more scarce."
But poison is convenient – and that's what Craig Ferrari chose when rats moved into his decoy shed outside Nevada City. Not long afterward, though, he found a dead great horned owl nearby.
"I thought to myself, I sure hope it didn't get poisoned by one of the rats," said Ferrari, a Christmas tree farmer and waterfowl enthusiast. "I'm trying to get rid of a rat, not go through the food chain."
Earlier this month, a University of California, Davis, lab tested the owl and found that it did indeed have rat poison in its liver – but not the kind Ferrari was using. McMillin, who necropsied the bird, said it likely died of starvation, not poison.
But could the rat poison have weakened it and impaired its ability to hunt? "We just don't know," she said.
Outside Palm Desert, rat poison is believed to have contributed to the death of a young bobcat at the University of California Boyd Deep Canyon Desert Research Center last year.
The facility's director, Allan Muth, awoke on June 28 to a startling sight outside his kitchen window: a half-grown bobcat kitten, lying on its side, breathing heavily near a water tray with an adult nearby.
"It was rather poignant," Muth said. "The adult would go over and occasionally paw the juvenile as if to get it to get up and move, and it wouldn't.
"Finally, the adult turned and walked away."
By early afternoon, the young bobcat was dead. Suspicious, Muth placed it in a freezer and later sent it to UC Davis.
Last week, it was examined by Andy Engilis Jr., curator of the school's Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology.
"When we do a necropsy, generally the organs are intact and there is little blood," he said. "When I opened this animal up, it was engorged with blood. The only time I've seen that is with rodents exposed to anti-coagulant (poison). It was compelling."
To Engilis, the kitten's discovery near water was also significant. "Normally, when animals are subjected to anti-coagulant poisoning, they get real thirsty. They drink and drink and drink."

GreenTrustSF hosts a winter rejuvenation at Warm Water Cove Park
Sat, Dec. 15 - 10:30am-12:30pm

Join GTSF for planting new California natives, mulching, weeding, and trash cleanup. Shovels/gloves and water dispenser provided by Port of San Francisco. Please bring your own drinking container.

 We'll have snacks to fuel you, and a couple of "door prizes" from our local businesses/supporters.

Flowers are blooming. Come out and enjoy your waterfront park!


To move
Needing to be
Nowhere else.
Wanting nothing
From any store.
To lift something
You already had
And set it down in
A new place.
Awakened eye
Seeing freshly.
What does that do to
The old blood moving through
Its channels?

~ Naomi Shihab Nye ~

(You & Yours)

(picture failed to post)

Boiling water with solar thermal energy in Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor

In remote northeastern Afghanistan, a narrow finger of territory stretching out to touch China is known as the Wakhan Corridor. It is situated above the tree line near some of the highest peaks in the Himalayas. National Geographic calls it the “roof of the world.” At the far end of the Wakhan Corridor lives a nomadic Kirghiz tribe. They raise sheep and use buffalo-like yaks for transport. Their only fuel for cooking and heating is dried animal dung, which generates acrid, unhealthy smoke that damages their lungs and eyes.  Rather than burning this dung, the Kirghiz would be far better off if they could leave it on the ground to fertilize their sparse grasslands for the next grazing season.

(picture failed to post)
Solar box cookers and fuel-efficient stoves ADES. Madagascar

JS:  This creative, sensible solution brings to mind the initiative of Solar Cookers International, based in Sacramento.  Here is what I wrote in an issue of this newsletter in 2008:

I have several criteria for my donations to charitable organizations, most of which are dedicated to environmental issues.  One organization I singled out many years ago is Solar Cookers International.  SCI promotes use of the sun for cooking and heating/sterilizing water.  For many areas of the world this is a godsend and a no-brainer, as they have plenty of sun and little fuel.  In 2002, after many years, I enclosed a note with my annual donation, asking why they are asking for private donations when this is obviously something that governments, especially the UN and the United States, would want to promote.

SCI has few staff and depends on volunteers for much of its effectiveness.  One of these volunteers responded, asking me to keep his remarks confidential, which I have.  I am not breaking any confidence in what I write here.  In essence, what he said involved politics on the part of US and UN and private businesses which stand to profit from sales to poor countries. 

The following appears on its website, including the below remarks of Arline Lederman:

*  One-third of the world's population (2.4 billion people) cooks over an open fire
*  a family using a solar cooker can save about a ton of wood annually
*  nearly 1.1. billion people (20% of the world's population) lacks access to safe drinking water
*  solar cookers can be used to pasteurize water for safe-drinking

Volunteer Spotlight: Arline J. Lederman
When I first started volunteering for SCI at the United Nations, I was shocked by the extensive input of the powerful gas and oil industries focused on defeating the use of solar cookers.  They perceive solar cooking as a threat to their well-being and spend a great deal of money and time countering solar cooking.  Many people who should know better are taken in and repeat the very words put forth in literature by the advocates of gas and oil interests.  Educating them is a serious challenge.


7.  Utility of managed fire

New research findings from Jon Keeley and others on utility of managed fire in southern California.  Interesting management implications:
Based on past data, prescribed fires in coastal southern California have no effect on reducing area burned by future fires.
Prescribed fire may have more impact with management strategies designed to reduce ignitions, or to encourage planning decisions that minimize the spread of fires into urban environments.
Regional planners seeking to reduce fire hazard risk may need to investigate other management strategies, such as ignition prevention and invasive plant management.  


8.  Golden Gate Parks Conservancy

Did You Know

A renegade river otter, dubbed “Sam” by fans, has been hanging out at Sutro Baths since October. This rare appearance of a river otter in San Francisco has been a boon for the River Otter Ecology Project, which is looking into whether Sam is related to otters in Marin County. When you visit Sutro Baths, please ensure that people—and pets—do not harass this wild animal! (Photo by Jouko van der Kruijssen)


9.  Feedback

Suzanne Coberly:
Yes, bush tits – a very cute picture, too!  I almost never see them sitting still long enough to take a good photo, so kudos to whoever captured this moment.
True, they never sit still.  Flocks of bush tits move through my oak tree every day, sometimes several times in a day.  And these LGFs (little gray fuckers) are busy, like an army of vacuum cleaners moving through the tree.  Poor hapless insects don't stand a chance.  Busy?  Whew!

On Nov 27, 2012, at 5:58 PM, Stefanie Gandolfi wrote:
Jake, I think you're thinking of Belladonna (as in "beautiful woman"), not arsenic, for a (potential) poison that dilates pupils.  Italian women in the Middle Ages used it -- until they figured out they would go blind!
Belladonna does dilate the pupils.  But my mother said arsenic, and in those days everything that came from parents' lips were true. 


10.  Want a German passport? Start revising

They are questions that would test the mettle of even the most ardent German patriot. Name three German philosophers, a poem by Goethe, a German Nobel prize winner and the doctor who discovered the cholera virus. Stuck? Then you would struggle to qualify for German citizenship.
The state of Hesse wants to introduce the values and knowledge test for all those applying for a German passport. Other sample questions are to list three German composers, including the creator of the "Ode to Joy"; name a work by Friedrich Schiller; list three mountains in middle Germany and describe the famous "motif" painted by the 19th-century German artist Caspar David Friedrich. There are also questions on the constitution. Applicants who get more than half the questions wrong will not get a passport.

"I think it's great if people know about Caspar David Friedrich. But it doesn't make them good citizens, and it doesn't do much for integration either," said Tarek al-Wazir, the leader of Hesse's Green party. 

Applicants should spare a thought for those seeking a passport in the Netherlands. This month a test became compulsory for would-be immigrants, compelling them to watch a DVD showing two men kissing and a topless woman. Those offended are not encouraged to apply.
Guardian Weekly March 06

JS:  Would you rather have questions like the above for citizenship exams, or would you rather have the following?

1. What are the colors of our flag?

2. How many stars are there in our flag?

3. What color are the stars on our flag?

4. What do the stars on the flag mean?

5. How many stripes are there in the flag?

6. What color are the stripes?

7. What do the stripes on the flag mean?

These, and similar questions that challenge the depth of your knowledge of this country were samples of the types of questions asked of citizen applicants until 1 October 2008.  Fortunately, the questions have more substance now.  However, we have a ways to go.  Perhaps we should take a tip from the Netherlands?  JS


11.  The Book of Mormon: the Musical - Hasa Diga Eebowai Lyrics


12.  Warren Buffett
(This item is several years old, and Buffett is now older.)

The world's richest man, Warren Buffett, got that way by ignoring conventional wisdom and practice and going his own way.  He is 77 and his right-hand man, Charlie Munger is 83.  At a recent stockholders meeting of Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway empire, he was asked by stockholders whether management's ages might be a concern.  Gesturing to Munger, Buffett quipped:  "With our average age of 80, we're only ageing at a rate of 1.25% per year.  That's the lowest rate of ageing in corporate America."  (From Guardian Weekly)

JS:  Kai Ryssdal interviewed Warren Buffett on Marketplace a few days ago.  He is a humble, likable man, without pretensions or exaggerated ideas about himself.  I agreed with everything he said about this country and the nature of investing.  But I am not able to share his optimism about the future.  Why?  Because he is an investor, not a biologist.  He knows nothing of what makes the world work, as David Brower and others know, eg:

"The bottom line rests on the earth."    David Brower

 “There is no business to be done on a dead planet.” David Brower

The planet may not be dying, Mr Buffett, but its natural systems are, and the companies you're invested in are a big part of the cause.  JS


Christmas shopping ideas

The Inheritance of Hairy Ear Rims
A Pictorial Book of Tongue Coating
The History and Romance of Elastic Webbing
Since the Dawn of Time
A Toddler’s Guide to the Rubber Industry
Mucus and Related Topics
Highlights in the History of Concrete
Nasal Maintenance:  Nursing Your Nose Through Troubled Times
Big and Very Big Hole Drilling

Alternatively, How To books are always popular:

Let’s Make Some Undies
Reusing Old Graves
Teach Yourself Alcoholism
Grow Your Own Hair
The Art of Faking Exhibition Poultry
Be Bold With Constipation
Constipation and Our Civilization

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