Monday Morning Musings

sweet pea

Sweet Pea

I really should be in bed, but instead I’m tapping away at my keyboard. It’s 12:21 am meaning it’s officially Monday here in San Jose, California. I’ve become much more aware of the time zones since blogging. Five minutes ago I had a brief exchange with Helen who is starting her day in England. On this side of the pond, I’m about to head to bed.

Blogging allows for an intimacy I never would have imagined. Unlike Facebook which can feel superficial, bloggers open themselves up with a genuine honesty and desire to connect. The very nature of blogging is about sharing of yourself and engaging with those who stop by to read and comment. Chances are you’ll go have a look at what they’re up to, and the exchanges that follow captivate, educate, entertain and enthrall.

In a few hours, my dear friend Kelly will board a plane to Washington, D.C. I’ll be joining her and others at the end of the week. We’re kindred spirits, soul sisters, and the best of friends. She’s the friend I didn’t know I was missing till we met. Now it feels that I’ve known her for a lifetime. Improbably, we met through blogging.

When I get off the plane Friday evening, Laurie, will be there to meet me. It will be the first time we meet in person, yet it feels completely natural that she’s picking me up and that we’ll all head to her place later in the week for a few day’s stay. I met her through blogging as well.

I’m counting the days till I can wrap my arms around Pauline. She’s flying all the way from New Zealand, a long and exhausting flight. We’ve had intimate conversations via Skype and look forward to long talks and even deeper understanding in our time together. Yep. She’s a blogger.

Julia’s life is about defeating despair. Her optimistic spirit carries her through some very dark days, yet she’s opened her home and her heart to us all. We share a mutual love of books as well as the joys and sorrows of raising children whose heart beats to a different drum. We all want to be understood for who we are and to be loved unconditionally just the same.

Just five more days and I’ll be descending on D. C. Extraordinary experiences await.

 

 

The Winter That Never Was

daffodils

Daffodils growing in the curb garden

Spring is technically less than a month away, but the view outside my window is shouting, spring, spring, spring!

pink hyacinth and fuchsia freesia

‘William and Kate’ Hyacinth and fuchsia Freesia

San Jose, California is more that two-thirds of the way through the winter that never was.

Initially, I gave Winter the benefit of the doubt. Though the calendar announced the arrival of winter solstice in late December, Winter decided to take his time. As a woman in her mid-fifties, I respect that. I no longer move like a twenty year old and my memory isn’t that great either. Winter, however, forgot about January entirely. No rain and above-average temps ruled the month. Winter left us high and dry, leading us into year four of our historic drought.

Okay, so December and January came and went, but surely February would live up to its winter reputation: cold, windy and wet. We’re ready.

san jose temperatures february

Source: Accuweather

As you can see by the Accuweather chart above, virtually every day this month has been warmer than average, sometimes by as much as 12 degrees. Winter says no can do.

While the rest of the country is battered by rain, wind, sleet and snow, it seems ungrateful to complain. I enjoy beautiful weather as much as the next gardener, but it feels like cheating. It’s supposed to rain in January. February is known for cold, windy days and a good splashing isn’t unheard of either. Our forests, rivers, lakes and wildlife depend on it.  Winter left town and I miss him terribly.

Winter, won’t you please come home?

All or Nothing: Rain in San Jose

rain on the street

Over worked storm drains send rain water down the street (that’s our curb garden on the left)

San Jose received about six inches of rain last year, marking year three of our drought. A more typical rainfall averages 12 – 18 inches annually. With that in mind, you can appreciate how welcome our recent storms have been. Unfortunately, the past 24 hours brought rain in the other extreme. Here’s what Accuweather had to say:

A Flash Flood Watch and a High Wind Warning are in effect for the San Francisco – Coastal North Bay including San José. Moderate to heavy rainfall and high winds are expected with flash flooding possible across northern California.

mid day rainfall

Mid-day rainfall

The public should closely monitor weather forecasts and take precautions. Driving conditions may be very poor at times during this severe storm.

stranded car

Stranded car. Police on the scene, help on the way

Several area schools closed for the day and we were all encouraged to stay home if we could. My husband worked from home and to my relief they cancelled a business dinner in the city due to power failures and flooded streets. I’m glad he is close to home on a night like this.

A few of the storm drains on our street backed up for a few hours, but otherwise it’s been okay. The North Bay, about two hours from here, took the brunt of the storm which continues till early Friday morning. It’s been an interesting day.

Downed trees and power lines are the biggest safety risk in storms like this. I learned something new today as well. After several years of drought, large trees shrink their roots in an effort to conserve water. When heavy rains hit all at once, trees are at greater risk of falling. I never knew.

This beautiful pine tree shades our garden year round and provides shelter and exercise for the squirrels. The tree grows in our neighbor’s yard at the corner of our shared fence. An arborist thinned the tree canopy just three weeks ago. At the same time they declared the tree healthy and in sound condition. What a relief.

pine tree pruning

Neighboring Pine Tree Gets a Trim

Californian’s enjoy moderate weather year round, so this is a big deal for us. Other parts of the country experience heavy snowfall, tornadoes, hurricanes and bitter cold. We simply suffer the occasional heat wave and of late, this confounding drought.

My hope is that the rest of the Bay Area weathers the storm as well as we have, and that we can appreciate this gift of moisture for our rain-parched state.

Wherever your are, I hope you’re safe, warm and dry. Cheers to you.

It Rained!

Yes, folks, right here in San Jose, California, in the midst of a protracted drought, it rained. In September.

Real rain too, not that “did I just feel a drop?” kind of rain, but puddle-forming, windshield-wiping, garden-refreshing rain.  I lingered in bed this morning with the doors flung open and took in the mesmerizing sounds and smells. Then I got dressed and went outside.

gardener in the rain

Rain, glorious rain!

Good thing, too, since the sun was out by 10 but I enjoyed the refreshing drops while they lasted.

acer leaves

Acer leaves

deck in the rain

Cloudy skies and Salvia reflected on the deck

This is a tremendous gift to the firefighters battling the King Fire in Northern California. We are not in harm’s way, but others are. Many of  the state’s late-summer fires are the result of lightning. Sadly this one was arson. Fortunately they’ve made an arrest, but the fire has raged out of control for two weeks.

The good news today is that the fire is 43% contained, but the damage is unbelievable. 95,000 acres burned and a dozen homes lost.  Their are over 8,000 fire personnel from across the country battling the flames.

Today I celebrate rain in my little corner of the world, as well as the potential relief for crews on the fire lines and displaced residents in our parched state.

Let it rain, let it rain!

 

Here’s the latest from the Weather Channel:

Western Drought Monitor

Western drought status as of Sept. 16, 2014. Darker shading indicates progressively worse drought status. (NOAA/USDA/NDMC)

Yes, runoff triggered by soaking rain from this September storm in far northwest California will raise a tad.

However, the key to drought relief in California is not rain, but snow.

Critical to water supply in this part of the country is the buildup of winter snow pack in the mountains, whose melt water in the spring replenishes reservoirs.

Snow melt provides up to 75 percent of the West’s freshwater supply. The Sierra and, to a lesser degree, Colorado River snow melt, is crucial for California.

In short, California and the West needs a persistently wet winter, with a combination of significant rain and mountain snow to replenish groundwater and reservoir levels.

Cloudy with a Chance

chance of rain

I’m trying not to get my hopes up too high, but I’m a hopeful person by nature.  The local paper says “Chance of Rain” over the next three days.  It’s cooler today; breezy too with clouds coming and going.  It feels like rain for the first time in weeks. I’m ready!

Here are the current stats for San Jose:

  • Rainfall month to date: 0.01″
  • Normal month to date: 2.63″
  • Season to date: 1:57″
  • Normal season to date: 7.64″

According to International Business Times:

California is facing a severe water crisis, and experts fear it could get worse. Climatologists report that the 2013-2014 rainfall season is well on its way to becoming California’s driest period in more than 400 years. The country’s most populous state is entering its third year of record-low rainfall, and now scientists are raising the alarm that “megadroughts,” which haven’t been seen in hundreds of years, could be just around the corner.

By all accounts, the weather is off kilter around the globe.  We’re desperate for rain, while others have too much.  The east coast has record lows, the Canadian prairies have an early and heavy winter and New Zealand is only now seeing true summer days.

Is this the new normal?

Meanwhile, please enjoy the talented Gene Kelly, singing and dancing in the rain in one of my favorite movie scenes of all times.

Lawn Tree Traditions: Greening up the Neighborhood

mother and son

Mother and son

If you drop by this week, you’ll see Christmas trees up and down the block. Our neighborhood has an extensive and coordinated effort to display cut Christmas trees on our lawn each year. The trees go up the first week of December and come down New Year’s day. I’m the block captain for our street.

We try to make it a family affair, but now that our boys are teens, their interest wanes.  This year my older son did the heavy lifting along with his dad, dropping trees at each house while I drove the truck.  My youngest son asked if he could stay in bed!  So it goes.

the muscle

The Muscle

Our neighbor, Greg lends us his truck for deliveries.  I get to dust off my manual transmission driving skills once a year.  It keeps me in the game.

christmas tree bundles

Ready for delivery

The Bay Area is diverse.  Not all neighbors celebrate this tradition.  When I was a young, I wondered why one or two people wouldn’t want a tree in their yard.  Then I grew up and understood that the world is full of different religions and cultures and it all made sense.  We see Menorah in neighboring windows and understand others simply don’t embrace the ritual.  It’s a great time of year to pause and reflect on the richness of diversity.

We have an artificial tree indoors, and a cut tree on the lawn.  I wrote about the pros and cons of real vs fake last year.  You can read more about that here.

Do you celebrate Christmas?  Do you display a tree?  Real or fake…or both?  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments, below.

Organized at Heart

I’m posting a series of articles featuring organizing around the holidays this month on my blog Organized at Heart. If the subject interests you, please go take a peak. Today’s blog: Holiday Storage: The Case of the Shrinking House. 

Of note: Wikipedia has a wonderful and detailed article on the origins of the decorated Christmas tree.  I’m always learning something new on that site and must remember to make my annual donation accordingly.

Nature’s Garden, No Tarantulas

The good news (if you’re a tarantula) is its mating season.

Additional good news (for arachnophobics) is I didn’t spy a single one on my hike this week. You may safely continue reading without any surprises herein.

I’ve really missed my weekly hikes along the Almaden Quicksilver trail. Hiking trails feel like nature’s garden, a place to enjoy flora and fauna and if your lucky, a bit of wildlife.  I generally hike with my friend Karen and her sweet dog, Dylan. They weren’t available this week, so I decided to hoof it alone.

I bent down to take a photo of some fall leaves, when two women approached and said “is that a tarantula?”  Momentarily confused, I realized the hikers thought I was taking a picture of one of our eight-legged friends. The hikers I spoke with saw three tarantulas on the trail that morning.

Off I went in pursuit of exercise and wildlife (with four legs), careful to keep my eyes down whenever I approached a patch of shade. Years ago a tarantula crossed my path on a hike around this time of year. They’re actually slow-moving and quite docile, so other than the startle factor, I wasn’t concerned.

One of the amazing things about hiking this trail is how quickly you feel like you’re away from the city.  I can get there by car in 15 minutes. I love that.

Given the long, dry year we’ve had, things were looking pretty brown.  Even so, I loved the smell of fall in the air, the shadows in the trees and the view of downtown San Jose.

Come have a look at one of the quicksilver trails: nature’s garden, and as promised, no tarantulas.

McAbee Road Trail head

McAbee Road Trail Head

Potpourri of fallen leaves

Potpourri of fallen leaves

trail incline

The first steep incline (no spiders here)

view of silicon valley

A view of Silicon Valley and the dreaded smog we have this time of year.

parched earth

Parched earth

tree cave

‘Tree cave’

Remnants from the Quicksilver days

Remnants from the quicksilver mining days

The bottom of the hill

The bottom of the hill

camouflaged deer

A well camouflaged deer

Almaden Quicksilver County Park