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2022 June 25

Secret Walks: Campus walk

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On 2022 June 4, my sister and I went for a short walk on the UCSC campus. She drove us up, and we parked in the parking structure.  I showed her my office, then we walked down past the physics carousel and Kerr Hall to the Performing Arts area.


I was distressed to see that the Festival Glen stage has been damaged by a tree falling over, and that UCSC has done nothing to fix it yet.


Here is a closer view of the damage. I was always a bit bothered that UCSC denied Santa Cruz Shakespeare the use of the Festival Glen, claiming that they needed it for their own programs, and then did nothing with the stage—they seem to have been leaving it to rot.


We went past the music building to enjoy the from the balcony.


And we did see deer. I’ve always thought that the herd on campus were California mule deer, but the solid dark tail suggests that they are Columbian black-tailed deer instead. (The two are subspecies of the same species Odocoileus hemionus californicus and Odocoileus hemionus columbianus, and can interbreed for intermediate forms.)


We also got a nice view from the top of the hill overlooking the bike path.


We went past the Rachel Carson apartments, where my sister tried to get a photo of the flowering tree.


The sculpture at Porter (variously known as the Squiggle, the Dragon’s Rest, and the Flying IUD) was in heavy use by students taking graduation photos.


I did get one photo of my sister with the Flying IUD and no one in graduation robes (between two groups of students taking photos).


We visited the koi pond at Porter.


And we took some photos of outdoor artwork (my sister took many more than me, as I had several from previous walks).


Another very Porter mural.

This walk was a very short one—I was just showing her a few highlights of campus in a very restricted time frame. After visiting Porter, we walked up past the Redwood Grove Apartments to the car and headed home for dinner.

2022 June 23

Secret Walks: goat walk

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 13:47
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I’ve been lax in publishing my walks lately, as my sister visited for about a week, then my wife and I went up to Richmond to help our son settle into his new house.  I helped him remove a rotten pergola and put up curtain rods, while my wife cleared a lot of weeds from the small yard.  I’ve got photos from three walks that I’ve not written up yet, but I’m not going to do them in chronological order.

The “goat walk” that my wife and I took on 16 June 2022, was just the Neary Lagoon loop from Secret Walks & Staircases in Santa Cruz, by Debbie Bulger and Richard Stover, but there were goats clearing the weeds on the east side of the park, making our excuse for doing this short walk. The walk in the book is 1.3 miles, but we rotated and reversed the walk to start at the California Ave entrance to Neary Lagoon and do the floating dock first.  Even starting and ending our walk at our house only made the walk 3.1 miles—one of our shortest.


The tule reeds looked particularly fine with a clear sky behind them.


I took a couple of pictures of wood ducks in eclipse plumage, but they were a bit distant, and I’m still having some trouble with focus or motion blur at high zoom.


Another wood duck.


I have several pictures of the goats, but I won’t bother with captions for most of them—as about all I have to say is “goats!”



Here is a before-and-after picture with an electric fence dividing where the goats are eating from a patch that they have not been allowed to graze yet.


This handle, which I believe controls a check gate for managing the height of the lagoon. It does not seem to have been changed in a while, as the tule is growing up through the handle.


This tree does not look very healthy, but it makes a rather surreal picture.


The open water at Neary Lagoon shows the effectiveness of last year’s tule clearance.


This church spire can be seen in the previous photo, about ⅓ of the way from the right-hand edge. Some of the church buildings are rented to the private school my wife works for, though the school is not otherwise affiliated with the church.


The tule seeds are make a nice contrast to the green reeds.


I believe that this is cow parsley (which is edible) and not hemlock (which is poisonous), but I’m not about to taste it to find out.


The redbud pods are very colorful at this time of year. I believe that this is western redbud (Cercis occidentalis).


In the pollinator garden by the sewage treatment plant is this plant, which seems to be red-flowered buckwheat (Eriogonum grande var. rubescens).

2022 June 15

False dandelions

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 17:34
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In Lawn flowers (weeds), I tentatively identified the dandelion-like flower in my lawn as a hawkbit.  I found a document BEGINNER’S CORNER: When is a Dandelion not a Dandelion? that tries to separate the different dandelion-like flowers.  I took some more close-up pictures, so that I could try to apply the criteria.


This is the bud of the flower—the bud was not used in the article for classification, but I liked the way it looked.


Here is the flower from a low angle, showing the bracts.


Here is the leaf, showing the spines.


Another view of the leaves.


The flower dissected to show the interior.

The document starts by looking at the stem and leaves to identify true dandelions. Because these stems do not ooze latex when snapped and are hairy rather than bare, I do not have a true dandelion. The hairs on the leaves are only 2–3mm, not 10mm, so this is not Mouse-ear Hawkweed (Pilosella officinarum). The flowers are on single stems and the bracts are simple cups, with no outer set forming a “saucer”, so this is not Hawk’s-beard.

The next step suggests looking for forked hairs on the leaves, to identify hawkbits.  I was not able to see any forking, so maybe this is not a hawksbit after all!

Next they dissect the flower, looking for “papery scales between the florets” to identify cat’s-ear. I did not see any, nor were there any “cat’s ear” scales on the stalk. So probably not a cat’s-ear.

According to the article “Then it’s probably Autumn Hawkbit (this was previously Leontodon autumnalis, but has been moved to a new genus to become Scorzoneroides autumnalis). It’s generally less hairy with a few unforked hairs on the underside of the leaves, and a tapering from stem to flower base. The outer florets are reddish underneath.”

The leaves seem pretty hairy to me and the florets are not reddish underneath (though that doesn’t seem to be essential, as many photos of Scorzoneroides autumnalis on the web don’t have the reddish coloring).  I’m more worried that the buds on the photos on the web all seem to be upright, rather than drooping like the ones I have.  So I am very hesitant to call this an autumn hawkbit.

I read some more hawkbit descriptions, and found “If you have a hand-lens or very good eye-sight, most hairs on hawkbit leaves have split ends, unlike in catsear.” [] So I got out my eye loupes and went and looked again at the leaves.  Sure enough, with the 7.5× and 10× loupes, I could just make out very short forked ends to the hairs on the leaves.  Also the leaves have the narrow shape for hawkbits shown in the comparative photograph at the Massey site.

So I’m now convinced that I do indeed have hawkbits, but whether they are rough hawkbits or lesser hawkbits, I don’t know.  I don’t generally let the hawkbits go to seed (despite the picture in Lawn flowers (weeds)), so I can’t easily check whether the outer ring of fruit has the usual white threads (rough) or not (lesser).

I went out to look for seeds, but all I found were real dandelions and cat’s-ears:


Here is a true dandelion in the lawn (next to the borage).


Here is a cat’s-ear flower.


The cat’s-ear has long (about 2′) branching stems.


Here is the eponymous cat’s ear on the stem of a cat’s-ear.

So the bottom line is that I can’t just say “Oh, the yellow flowers in the lawn are hawkbits”—I have hawkbits, cat’s-ears, and true dandelions. I have to look a little closer at each one to tell which is which. (Tomorrow I mow the lawn, and I won’t be able to tell them apart until they flower again.)

2022 June 1

Lawn flowers (weeds)

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 22:00
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Because I did not have any photos for this week’s “secret walk”, I decided to photograph the flowers in my lawn before mowing.

First, I’m going to cheat a little and include two photos from 7 April 2022, when the wild onions were still flowering:


At that time the wild onion and the borage were both growing together at a corner of the patio. I took out most of the borage when the stalks started falling over, but more is starting there now.


I even had one lone California poppy, back near the compost bin. Other people still have California poppies blooming, but our lone volunteer was over early.

The rest of the photos in this post are from 29 May 2022:


The flower that I’ve been thinking of as dandelion, though it does not have the hollow stems of the dandelions I grew up with in the midwest, seems to be a hawkbit.


Here is another hawkbit, showing leaves, flower, and seeds.


I also have a few common daisies, mostly in the front yard.


This weed, which grows rather tall, seems to be bitter lettuce, which (despite its name) is not really edible, though it supposedly has some traditional medicinal uses.


California burclover is one of the few native weeds that competes with the Eurasian ones.


The tiny scarlet pimpernel flowers are cute.


This is a very small borage plant that flowered in the lawn—mostly I get huge borage plants, because I let them grow pretty much wherever they occur.


One patch of lawn has been replaced by lemon balm. One year I let the lemon balm grow into a bush, but mowing around it was too much hassle, so now I just mow it like the rest of the lawn—it seems to survive the mistreatment (and the numerous gopher tunnels underneath it).


I have quite a bit of salsify growing under the clothesline.


Also under the clothesline are bitter lettuce, fennel, and mint. The mint is an escapee from a nearby raised bed (which no longer has any mint), but I’m not sure whether it was the peppermint or the spearmint that escaped.


The nasturtiums are also escaping from the raised bed, which is gradually disintegrating after over 30 years. The nasturtiums may be responsible for the mint no longer being in the raised bed.


I still have thistles in the lawn. A few years back, when I was too lazy to do anything about the backyard jungle, some thistles grew to almost 6 feet high. I tried to take out most of the thistles earlier this year, but there are still quite a few. I won’t let them flower this year, at least making sure they get mown, and I’ll do my best to dig them up. (No herbicides!)


Although the oxalis is long past blooming, I found a few plants still under the pear tree, where it is too shady for most of the grasses and flowers that make up my lawn.


I also have cranesbill.


I found out recently that all parts of the Italian arum are poisonous, and that it can even be a contact irritant, so I’ll try to remove most of the arum this year, despite how pretty it is, especially when it turns red. I also understand that it is almost impossible to eradicate, so I’ll probably always have some in the yard.


Common nightshade is one of the more common plants back by the compost heap.


I had to include this extra borage picture, because of the bee—one of the best reasons for allowing borage to grow is that the bees love it. They seem to like it even more than they like blackberry flowers.

With all the flowers in the lawn and at least four different species of grass (not to mention other plants that did not have flowers for me to photograph), no one could accuse my lawn of being a monoculture! I do mow it to keep it from becoming too tall, but I don’t water it, nor add any chemicals.

Secret Walks: Quarry Amphitheater

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 21:16
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On Saturday 28 May 2022, my wife and I walked up to the Quarry Amphitheater to see UCSC Opera’s performance of Purcell’s semi-opera The Fairy Queen. We walked rather up than taking the bus, both to get more exercise and because SCMTD had sent out warning email that they were short-staffed over Memorial Day weekend, and some buses might not run.  We did not want to risk missing the performance. We planned to walk up Bay, take the Great Meadow bike/pedestrian path to the Music Recital Hall, have a picnic dinner there, then walk over to the amphitheater.

I did not take a camera with me, so as not to delay us, but even so we ran a bit behind our original schedule, so instead of walking all the way up the bike/pedestrian path across the Great Meadow, we cut through the Village and went up the stairs to Hagar (there is a photo of those stairs in the Seven Bridges post).  The stairs would make a good daily exercise for anyone living in the Village, as there are almost 100 steps.  I wonder whether these are the longest outdoor stairs in the city or even the county.  We got to the amphitheater before the house opened (they opened a bit late) and had our picnic dinner in the amphitheater.

The semi-opera itself was enjoyable, though I could not make out many of the words of the songs (I hadn’t expected to).  Some of the acting was good (e.g., Bottom) and some execrable (e.g., Oberon).  I can’t judge the singing, but my wife said that some of the singers were good, but some really lacked breath control.  She thought that the choir was good.

The costumes were ok, though some were really not well thought out for an outdoor evening performance—some of the fairies must have been freezing. It might have been good to use some EL wire to make the fairies robes more impressive at night—particularly Oberon’s and Titania’s. There seemed to be some technical problems with the lighting, with random red flashes that seemed to bear no relationship to anything on stage.  The sound engineering was only ok—they had trouble sometimes balancing the singers’ mics.

We had planned to take the bus back, but because the performance had started late, we got out just as the hourly bus left.  We decided to walk home, rather than waiting for another bus.  We could have shaved off quite a bit of walking by taking a loop bus to the base of campus, but the first campus bus we saw was only going to the East Remote parking lot, and we weren’t sure whether there were any loop buses.  (It turned out there were, as they passed us as we walked down Hagar.) We went past the Women’s Center and down Cardiff Path and Cardiff Lane to Iowa Drive, Archer Drive, Fridley Drive, Moore, and Laurent.

We ended up walking a total of about 5.4 miles—not a long walk, but rather slow, as my wife does not like walking fast in the dark.

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