Posts Categorized: nature + environment

The Kitchen Side Garden – August Update

Wildflowers in Ms. Jen's Garden

The California Wildflower Seed Mix that I planted in the Kitchen/Driveway Side Garden back in May is finally flowering. July had the first poppies, now in August we are getting white with crimson flowers, blue-violet flowers, black and purple – vertitable profusion of Calif. natives. Yeah!


On the World’s Tallest Basil note: Vivian Hernandez told me last Thursday night, after seeing the picture of my basil, that her’s was taller. When I have planted basil in pots in the past, I have never had them grow taller than 12″. To hear that Vivian has basil in excess of 30″ and mine is now at least 34″ this week, I guess that planting one’s basil in the ground with good amended soil and lots of sun makes all the difference.

The World’s Tallest Basil


Ok, maybe it really isn’t the world’s tallest basil, but the tallest one in my kitchen herb garden is at 29 inches tall. Just over two feet, dwarfing the usually out of control sorrel, thyme and lavender.
Time to have a pesto party.

First Poppy Pops

First Calif. Poppy of July

The California Wild Flower seeds that I planted in my driveway side yard garden have spent two months growing into a large thatch of unruly greenery, of which I despaired of ever seeing one of the many CA poppies actually flower. I was afraid that I planted the seed mix too late in the spring and with all of the hot weather, it would be a no go for the poppies.
I left for church, late as usual, and there were no little orange/yellow blooms. But when I returned, one brave poppy soul had popped into a bloom. Yeah!

Crop Circle in Orange, CA

Most amusing the brave little orange flower decided to bloom right next to my official “Crop Circle“. The “crop circle” started as a small 6 inch oval of flower greenery laying down on Wed. or Thurs. morning. I thought I needed to water with the heat and all. I watered several times over the last few days, and the “circle” just got bigger.
Is it California Wild Seed fairies or a mini-UFO??? Or just a neighborhood cat trying to reclaim its former outdoor litterbox? Or has the lawn and elm tree fungi decided to claim the side yard as well? Inquiring minds want to know…

More on DDT: The Fertility of Women and Men is Effected

More from the LA Times on Legacy of DDT:

Women who were exposed while still in the womb to the pesticide DDT are more likely to experience delays in getting pregnant, according to a study of California mothers and daughters published today in an international medical journal.

The report by the Public Health Institute in Berkeley is the first scientific evidence that DDT that collects in women’s bodies can affect their female offspring many years later, when they reach adulthood and attempt to reproduce.

The findings support a controversial theory that pesticides and other environmental contaminants that mimic sex hormones are altering human fertility and health.

At the end of the LA Times articles:

Another study recently reported that men exposed to pesticides have as much as a 30-fold reduction in sperm quality.

From the Global Programme for Action website, reporting on the effects to human male fertility:

In a study in India, a group of men who worked with DDT was found to have decreased fertility, and a significant increase in still births, neonatal deaths and congenital defects among their children. Israeli men with unexplained fertility problem were also found to have high blood levels if DDT.

More links on this subject:
BBC: Health Pesticides ‘reduce male fertility’
The Lancet Journal

The Bald Eagles are Back!

Today the LA Times and KPCC both reported that Bald Eagles are officially back in Southern California for the first time since the 1930s. What they mean is that there are two nine week old eaglets living in a nest near Lake Hemet.
The LA Times article states:

If the 9-week-old eaglets survive, federal and state wildlife officials say, they will have begun repopulating the southern end of their historical nesting range before bald eagles were all but wiped out in California by coastal development and the manufacture and use of the pesticide DDT.

The farthest south that successful nests have been found in California since recovery efforts began is in central Santa Barbara County, said Ron Jurek, who coordinates bald eagle recovery tracking statewide for the Department of Fish and Game.

The LA Times article was front page in the California section and had two large pictures. When I saw the first picture and the headline, my heart jumped. After reading the whole thing, my frist thought was “Thank God, we have finally done something right.”
This is the first nestlings that have made it past the egg stage in SoCal since the 1930s. DDT in the environment weakened eggs to the point of no live hatchings, and development encroached on the coastline and lakes of the area. Bald eagles have in the last few years returned to Big Bear Lake in the winter time, but go north to breed. Until now.
Many of you know that I am a big bird fan and feel very frustrated by the continual unstoppable development of SoCal. When nature and common sense prevails over rich developers making more money, I feel encouraged. The DDT that destroyed the eggs of eagles, pelicans, and many other birds certainly effected the whole of the ecosystem and not just the birds. There is still a huge plume of DDT off the coast of Palos Verdes and South Santa Monica Bay.
I have seen 2 bald eagles in the wild in my life. First one was in the summer of 1990, when my dad and I were putting around the shoreline of Catalina Island, near White’s Landing, and we had the pleasure of watching a bald eagle fish in a kelp bed no more than 50 feet from our little boat. The second time was last summer as my mom and I were driving around June Lake (in the Sierra Nevada mtns.) and a bald eagle was soaring above the lake and road. Truly amazing.

Surprise at the Birdfeeder!

The best view of the backyard birdfeeder is from the bathroom window, and the best way to watch without scaring the birds off. Imagine my surprise this morning to see a large black, orange, yellow and white bird at the feeder. I snuck out of the bathroom quietly to grab my digital camera, and came back stealthly. Here are the resulting photos:

May 15, 2003 Black Headed Grosbeak

The house finch of the left of both pictures is the average bird that comes to the feeder. Occasionally, a house sparrow will show up. And frequently, black phoebe or warbler will show up to watch the spectacle of infighting for perch space, but they will go about their insect eating ways.

May 15, 2003 Black Headed Grosbeak

My housemate Lauren told me that she recently saw a bright yellow bird at the feeder (goldfinch?), but today is my very first time of seeing a Grosbeak at the feeder. After consulting my bird guides, I determined that this fellow is a Black Headed Grosbeak.
Thank you, sir, for showing up and making my morning much brighter.