Archive for February, 2015
With Eunice spending the whole day at photo school, there was plenty of time to bring the Cactus Trip Diaries up to date in front of the telly, with a first close look at Werner Rauh’s Succulent and Xerophytic plants of Madagascar book.
Madagascar is slowly creeping higher on my wish list of plants to see and photograph in nature.
Nothing else to report.
What a lot of festivities! Today is Valentine’s Day and we’re in the middle of President’s Weekend, with yesterday a federal holiday to celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday and again on Monday for George Washington’s birthday that both fall in February.
Perhaps the weekend should be renamed Car Day, as it seemed that everybody was on the road – not necessarily moving but certainly on the road.
The plant sales hall again had a very orderly queue going all round a hall, about half the size of the large hall at ELK. Were these people buying plants? Where were the salesmen, here known as vendors? Well, all items for sale have to be labelled by the vendors with their own price labels that state the price (excl. Purchase tax of course) and a barcode. The queue was heading to the 3-4 check-outs where teams of 2-3 people per till processed the purchases, one recorded the purchases, a second did any wrapping – lots of card board boxes availabl – while the third processed plastic card payments. Two more volunteers were at the front of the queue and ensured that buyers were directed once a till was ready. Very organised, but with some 500 members, there was no shortage of volunteers.
On the whole there was a nice selection of plants of all sizes, with large plants and other succulents making up the majority. There were few rarities, with Juergen Menzel as the specialist with the ‘rare’ plants (of which there are more at ELK) so not surprising that all his plants had gone by the time that the general public were allowed in. Becoming a member is difinitely worth it if you are after rare plants, so you can get in early and enjoy the snacks and drinks from the kitchen next door.
I felt a bit like a celebrity with many people I had never met wanting to talk to me, plus lots of old friends: Woody, Juergen, Steve & Phyllis Frieze, Mark Fryer, Todd (who had travelled with Eunice, Cliff & I to Kingston Peak in 2009 etc.). The images and film clips from the new camera / lens are fantastic! I’ll do a similar shoot at ELK this year.
Then on to the show, which was outside (sunny, 26 C) covered with a Gazebo, roof only, to protect plants from the sun. Some plants were on the outside edge and did get some sun so that the high contrast made photography difficult. Fantastic pots and displays and, as I could not buy plants, I (stupidly ?) bought some pots, to pot up table show plants for Portsmouth and Southampton table show and displays, just to show what they do in the US. It really makes for a much more impressive display. Good job that my hold luggage weighed in at just 12 kg. Then Chuck ( = Californian Keith Larkin) had the 2 volumes of Madagascar books by Werner Rauch at half price. Now they ARE heavy, but will come as hand luggage if need be. Tomorrow I need to go shopping for another hand luggage flight case on wheels!
By mid day there was still no sign of Pete & Rhonda, our hosts from Las Vegas who were on a 5 hour drive from home to enjoy a Valentine Day’s weekend on the coast. They arrived about 12:30, by which time I was dead tired of having been on my feet since 8, with my back causing pain as vertebrae became compressed. Visit to the doc when I get home, as this happens too frequently and interferes with my exercise regime recommended for my diabetes, cholesterol and general health.
We joined the river of steel i.e. the I-5, back to LA and arrived just after 4 (ET driving, me sleeping) where ET raced straight out again to the dog-park, while I did emails, with the BBC World News on.
Today we enjoyed our annual outing to the Anza Borrego Desert State Park, part of the Colorado Desert.
There were three of us today as Eunice had invited Ken Shaw from the Long Beach and San Gabriel Clubs to come along as well.
After Eunice had destroyed her sunglasses we set off along the I-5 towards San Diego then headed east along the I-8 to Ocotillo, past the café where a few year’s back we had an awful breakfast with freshly defrosted out-of-date orange juice. At least we were not charged for it after we complained!
There have been some major changes here since Angie and I passed by a year ago, with some 100 wind turbines now turning along the skyline. There was brand new asphalt until we had passed through the wind farm, presumably paid for by the construction company.
The usual check point by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Service was still there and quickly cleared us after seeing my Dutch passport.
I guess that we’ve travelled through Anza Borrego at least once a year since 2008, usually in February, when the field flowers are just breaking into flower, followed by the majority of cactus species some two weeks later in March.
Rather than listing each stop, I’ve filed my images under two stops – those in the lower desert are under S3245 with Ferocactus cylindraceus with its yellow flowers in full bloom with buds indicating that there is more to come.
Although we do not intentionally collect cacti, it is impossible to walk between the Feros and not pick up some cladodes of Cylindropuntia bigelovii, the Teddy Bear Cholla. Yes, they look cuddly, but stay clear as they jump on to your shoes and trouser legs. Check your clothes and boots before you get back into the car!
The next stop, S3246 was in the hills that overlook the lower desert, where in the past Echinocereus engelmannii and Opuntia basilaris delighted us with their flowers, but this time they were still in early bud. However, the Dudleya pulverulenta subspecies arizonica were in great form, growing on the rocky cuttings right alongside the road.
Since 2008, it has become a tradition to stop off at the Julian Pie Company in Santa Ysabel, right along Hwy-79 for a helping of Dutch Apple Pie with cinnamon ice cream, yum-yum! So good in fact that we decided to bring a whole pie and a pot of ice cream back home as a souvenir that won’t last too long.
I think that Ken was impressed with our laid back approach to cactus exploring. We now also have a wonderful cake shop, right on the Vallenar crossroads, if you ignore the new dual carriage way and take the old road instead.
I should mention that Ken was a champion guitar picker in the 1981 picker’s fare in Julian. I wish I had been a fly on the wall!
And so another Friday 13th passed without incident, apart from heavier than usual rush hour traffic despite the fact that today was a holiday. Tomorrow we go to the San Diego Cactus Show and Sale.
Not much to report, certainly not plant wise. Plus it seems that I took no images today to help me. So, from memory, I left Bakersfield at about 10:45 and around noon saw a Denny’s along the road – time for lunch.
I decided to drive past Nikon Services to see if my camera was repaired – it had been shown in ‘Billing’ on the on-line tracking service for two days and as the cost was shown as $0.00, it had to be ready for collection. And it was! Hooray!
And that was that.
It was a full back to school day for Eunice, so after a relaxed start to the day I set off for a leisurely drive to Bakersfield – the first part through hills, the second part through flat agriculturally developed land.
Maynard Moe of Bakersfield CSS had kindly arranged accommodation in the local Travel Lodge, within a few minutes drive of a restaurant where I would meet a number of members for a pre-meeting bite to eat, before another short drive to the hall.
With some 24 members in attendance this was probably the smallest CSS to date, but everyone was very friendly and appreciative of the talk. In the UK I once gave a presentation to six people in one of the member’s living room and that too was enjoyable!
Just as in England, there have been few questions after presentations, but this time I was asked why I had not mentioned the Tule Fog for which the area is famous. I had to admit my ignorance on the subject, but back at the hotel, Wikipedia soon provided the answers.
The three fog deserts featured in my program were all coastal deserts, around the dry tropics of Cancer and Capricorne, with a large and diverse selection of cacti and other succulent plants. The area around Bakersfield is also a desert but is inland and a good deal to the north of the tropics. Rather than coastal fog, the phenomenon here is radiation fog. I was surprised that Kernel County was indeed in a Desert, perhaps because it looks unusually green, but that is probably due to recent rains and irrigation of the agriculture that I saw either side of the 99.
I always think that a presentation is a waste of time if you don’t learn something new, I learn more as I go along, including that many attendants have been many times to South Africa and Namibia and have grown plants from this area much more than I have. Another, shorter trip to RSA is certainly on my wish list.
Maynard sent me another email with details about the local desert, with pictures of the Monvero dunes with named plants in flower that I’ll have to loo0k up to see if they classify as ‘succulent’. Thank you Maynard!
For me a relaxed, easy day, without any plant photography to report.
During the morning Eunice needed to take her rental car back which involved a thorough clean inside and out. Eunice needed to attend her photography classes in the afternoon, so an opportunity for me to catch up, in rather random fashion, with some of the holes in the Cactus Trip Diaries.
Tomorrow is another school day for Eunice and I’ll be driving at my leisure to Bakersfield for another talk.
We set off in good time to arrive early at the South Coast Botanic Garden where the C&S Society meet, but due to everyone rushing to the coast to enjoy the sun and my overly cautious driving (according to Eunice) we arrived at 13:03, still in good time to set up and shake hands with the Officers and with folk that I had met at other meetings during the week. There must have been some 80 members, who had given up a day in the sun to sit in a darkened hall and listen to a presentation called FOG, when this phenomenon is something that they are already very familiar with as they often wake up to it – as we did during the last week.
Setting up my laptop was quick and easy and the projector provided by the Society was already placed at the correct distance from the screen so it was just a matter of plugging in the VGA cable. There was a short wait so that I could take a quick look at the monthly mini show that consisted of plants in the genus Astrophytum and Euphorbias in the caput-medusae group. When I returned for President Dale La Forest’s introduction, the laptop had gone to sleep and only woke up after several attempts. Fortunately it came back to life just in time!
After the talk there was the judging of the plants. There were classes for novices, beginners, intermediate and expert growers and as at all talks to date, the exhibits were of a high standard including the attractive pots that did help me to separate plants that might otherwise have been in dead-heats. In the UK it tends to be the plant that is judged while pots are ignored, except where their size is inappropriate for the size of the plant. Particularly for new members and visitors – the very people that you would like to return on a regular basis – great plants in attractive pots with attention paid to their display are the perfect way to persuade them back. The perfect show window for the hobby.
Jim Hannah was there again, selling plants. This was the fourth time that he had seen my talk as all Societies have chosen the FOG talk from the subjects on offer. We would meet again in the week to come at the meeting of the San Gabriel CSS and I suggested that I’d bring the images while he could present the commentary. Only joking, Jim!
Eunice and I left the meeting early while the members continued with regular club business.
The South Coast CSS meet on the Palos Verdes Peninsula in LA County, a wealthy suburb right out on the Ocean shore, opposite Santa Catalina Island, where in February 2008 Eunice had introduced me to Dudleya, a genus in the Family Crassulaceae that are found all along the Californian coast, right up to (and across) the border with Oregon and south into Baja California. I planned to see these plants again, hoping that, with different cameras and lenses, I could improve on the pictures taken back in 2008. It turned out that a sunny Sunday afternoon was not the best time for this exercise with the car parks along the boulevard were full up, with more cars waiting. Eventually we found a slot to park, but a group of ten young guys hanging around made us a little concerned about leaving our car with computer laptops and, most importantly, the data stored on them. So we took some scenic pictures in front of the car before going home to pick up Eunice’s dog, Bosco for an outing to the Dogspark at Seals Beach. My visit had distracted Eunice from taking Bosco for regular visits where both dogs and humans meet for a bit of socialising – a wonderful community atmosphere, without the mess that I had anticipated, due to the conscientious tidying up of dog litter by their owners. The sun was about to set as we arrived and had gone altogether by the time we left – it had gotten so dark that we could no longer see the dogs!
We’ll return to Palos Verdes during a weekday, when there will be fewer visitors.
To end the day we went to the Naples Rib Company. It was my first experience of a car park with Valet service where a member of staff takes your car for safe parking. Bosco stayed in the car. After a great meal of Prime Rib, a proper Chilean Pisco Sour as a starter and no space left for a sweet it was back to the car park where Bosco showed that he was a good guard dog, needing Eunice to reassure him that it was OK for the valet to get into the car and pull it forward for us to get in.