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Category Archives: Adventure

“whoa, that’s gross”

…was the thought going through my head after ingesting a truly terrible tasting plant this morning. I’ve only just started learning about wild plants and my sampling range is limited, however that was the first plant I’ve tried that was just awful. I thought it was chickweed and hastily grabbed a few tops and threw them in my mouth. That was a big mistake. I should’ve taken the time to get down low to the plant and really check it out before eating it. It may have been some form of inedible wild mint, but I’m not sure. It was a good reminder to be careful and sensible, even when I think I’ve correctly identified a particular plant. The incredibly bad astringent taste stayed in my mouth and throat for 45 minutes.

Another bummer was they mowed the big patch of land I’ve been roaming lately. Tons of nettles, mustards, and lupine are now all gone. The burned-yellow plants along the pathways also make me think someone came and sprayed pesticide in the last week or two. Not surprising, just sad. I saw a big truck rumbling down the main street the other day with a man in the back spraying down all the weeds growing in the center median. It’s probably something they do every Spring.

Might be time to find myself a more rural spot to spend time in & learn from for a few months. I’ve been bringing home wild weed seeds and throwing them out in the garden so maybe by next year at this time, I won’t have to travel too far. I’ll become what Kiva Rose calls a “weed wife” and visit with my little friends in my own backyard.

Rumex crispus?

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The fields are aflutter with weeds. Nettles are knee high, bees are spreading their business, and the full moon is giving everyone a little extra “oopmh.”

This morning I found hearty and healthy specimens of what I believe to be Rumex crispus, curly dock. Some plants had all green leaves, while others had leaves flecked with red. Rumex crispus is an edible member of the buckwheat family. The wavy leaves are often described as sour or lemon-y tasting. Dock recipes abound on foraging/wild eating websites. Hunger and Thirst has a recipe for Dock Enchiladas that looks amazing. I’m going to have to try them.

Longevity study on the Greek island of Ikaria

…and another destination to add to the “Other Places I Want to Live” list.

The Island Where People Forget to Die

Pumpkin Festival

Along with about a thousand other people, we made our way out to Cal Poly Pomona this weekend for their annual Pumpkin Festival. Silly me thought it was going to be a little ol’ community fair. I was mistaken. This festival was serious business. Their huge field was filled with pumpkins up for grabs at five dollars. The Kellogg Ranch farm store also had a ton of other squash and gourds for sale. And of course I just had to check out to Corn Maze. And then got lost. Don’t worry, I eventually found my way to freedom.

National Fossil Day/National Archaeology Day

We had a great time on Saturday at Ralph Clark Regional Park in Buena Park celebrating National Fossil Day, National Archaeology Day, and California Archaeology Month. (Whew.) Finally saw the 9 million year old giant baleen whale fossil I’d been excited about for months. And there was so much more: giant tree sloth skeletons, wooly mammoth tusks & molars, and the jaw of a megalodon shark.

From the park’s website:

“Ralph B. Clark Regional Park has a rich history of fossils. Over 10,000 years ago this site contained marshes, grassy meadows and oak woodlands, inhabited by at least 70 forms of life including the ancient mammoth, ground sloth and ring-tailed cat. Paleontologists have discovered remains of prehistoric camel, whale, bison and the largest collection of fossilized pond turtles in Southern California.

The rich fossil beds were revealed when the California Division of Highways excavated sand and gravel from the site for use in construction of the Santa Ana and Riverside Freeways from 1956 to 1973. At the time the park site was known as the Emery Borrow Pit.

The significance of the site led to public demand that it be preserved. As a result, the County of Orange acquired the property in 1974.”

The baleen whale fossil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lunch Excursion: Rancho Los Alamitos, Long Beach

It’s hard to believe that during all the years I lived in Long Beach, I never set foot inside Rancho Los Alamitos. In fact, up until last year I’d never even heard of it. The Rancho is fairly hidden, set off the street, and protected by a guard shack. But once you pass the guard shack and tumble up the hill, it’s like you’re entering a sprawling (and secret) oasis.

The Rancho is a formidable 7.5 acres, filled with an abundance of animals, plants, and insects. It has a long history: once an ancestral village of the Gabrielino-Tongva people (and still a sacred site for the tribe), it became Rancho Los Alamitos (Ranch of the Little Cottonwoods) in 1833. It was gifted to the City of Long Beach in 1968 by the Bixby family. Today the Rancho is operated by the Parks Department and is open to vistors for free Wednesday through Sunday.

A half hour lunch break was not nearly enough time to explore the entire Rancho. I was able to see  maybe a fourth of it. But even the little portion I discovered was so peaceful, so photo-worthy, that I know I’ll be coming back soon. The Rancho is home to a menagerie of animals: the biggest horse I’ve ever seen in real life (plus her colt), some chickens, ducks, rabbits, and sheep. There was even a tough-looking orange cat sunning himself on the grass.

The Rancho would be the perfect place to bring out-of-town vistors, have a picnic, or take someone on a cheap date. For an artist, there are several gardens and a myriad of plants for sketching. It’s a photographer’s dream. Also seems like a great place to bring kids exploring. Here are some of my mad-dash photos as I ran around trying to see as much as I could quickly.

She doesn’t look so big in this photo, but trust me, she was enormous!

Those feet alone!

A Walk, a Reflection on New Motherhood, and a Pizza

Before I gave birth to my baby five months ago, I knew my life was poised to change in dramatic ways, many of which could not be anticipated. I just had to wait and see what the changes would be and how they would reveal themselves. I assumed there would be a lack of sleep, changes in my marriage, and an immense amount of love. Most new parents probably go through this same experience. During pregnancy you read all the books, listen to advice from countless friends and relatives, and then wait to see how the pieces of your life rearrange themselves after this new person enters/explodes your world.

The lack of personal time has probably been the biggest adjustment for me. Being a person with perpetual projects, ongoing plans, and endless to-do lists, I was not exactly prepared for how much one little being could thwart my life off course. For example, I have been planning to plant the winter crop for the last three weekends. And just how many seeds do you think I’ve actually planted? You guessed it. Exactly zero. In order to avoid feelings of frustration or resentment, I’ve been trying to cultivate a new regard for time and accomplishment. Maybe the “right” time for planting the seeds was not, in fact, September 1st. Maybe the “right” and perfect time is actually late in the evening on September 29th, and not a moment sooner. How am I to know? Because truthfully I am not the one who moves the stars and the heavens, even though I sometimes like to think I am.

In order to carve out a bit of time and space for myself, I’ve had to get creative. While I may rarely (if ever) have an hour to devote solely to my personal projects, I can usually find ten or fifteen minutes. Lately these magical minutes have revealed themselves right before the start of my shift at work and also during my lunch break. I used to habitually arrive at work at least fifteen minutes early, secretly hoping my boss was giving me brownie points for doing so. Guess what? Neither she, nor anyone else I worked with, noticed. So instead of giving my workplace those precious (unpaid) minutes, I now utilize them for myself. Sometimes I read a book in my car. Or make a long overdue phone call to a friend. Mostly though, I take a walk.

Before having my baby, I walked for one sole purpose: to stay in shape. But recently my strides have switched to meanders. I don’t so much walk as I do wander. I’m not worried about making my body strong: I know my body is strong. It birthed a human, after all. I used to count laps at the park to track my miles. From time to time I even wore a pedometer to keep a record of how many steps I was taking. But I don’t do that anymore. It’s not about how many times around the park I can clock before work starts. It’s more about doing nothing, actually. Well, doing nothing while my feet are moving. (Although sometimes I take pictures of plants or interesting insects.) Often I make it only half way around the block before I decide I just want to sit down. So I find some grass and sit. It’s my time so I do what I want.

Today at lunch I decided to go to the park, even though I had planned to do the grocery shopping on my break. Oh well, I thought, there is still food in the pantry. There is bread in the fridge. We’ll survive another day (or two.) What I really needed was to not be inside a building. To be out in the sun. To claim a few minutes solely for myself. So I took some pictures, inspected the contents of a seed pod, found a pine cone nestled in tall grass, and foraged for some dandelion greens. If I focus my attention on the trajectory of life, there is time enough for everything. I don’t have to fight it, or worry about it. Even if I only have fifteen minutes, I can live deeply inside that fifteen minutes and experience it fully.

The lovely dandelion greens inspired me to make another pizza. I started with a triangle of garlic naan (Indian flatbread). From the garden I plucked some raindlow chard and basil. I also found a crookneck squash. In the back of the fridge was some sliced mushrooms and a ball of abandoned mozzarella. A little tomato sauce went on the naan, followed by the greens, vegetables, and cheese. I baked the pizza in the oven at 375 degress for ten minutes. A great meal to end a great day.

Dandelion greens

A Program About Unusual Buildings and Other Roadside Attractions

PBS did an homage to the weird and wonderful world of roadside attractions in their special “A Program About Unusual Buildings and Other Roadside Attractions.” Crazy shaped buildings from across the country are featured, including a hot dog shaped restaurant and a giant fish. Many wacky buildings from the beginning of the century no longer exist, but there are still some out there to be visited. I can’t think of a better reason to take a road trip than to see these wild buildings while they are still around.

A few of the buildings featured: The Wigwam Hotel, World’s Largest Ketchup Bottle, The Shoe House, and the giant fish from the National Fresh Water Fishing National Hall of Fame.

Ramakrishna Monastery, Trabuco Canyon

Nice peaceful, hidden spot in Trabuco Canyon. Spent an hour wandering the grounds and taking photos. There was an intense swarm of bees around the shrine so we weren’t able to get too close. They have a huge vegetable garden, a bookstore, and a walking trail honoring the world’s religions. The place is secluded just enough to make it special.

The Vedanta Society Ramakrishna Monastery

 

Tom Robbins Interview Collection

Dive deep into the weird, wild world of author Tom Robbins. Read each one of his novels…and then read them again. When you’ve finally exhausted his literary catalog, check out these interviews to immerse yourself even further in his rowdy repertoire. There isn’t anyone quite like him.

Reality Sandwich

Shambhala Sun

January Magazine

Amazon

Tom’s Advice to Writers

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