June 28, 2007

Gastronome, restaurant, mirabelle, et ratatouille

May 24, 2007: Clotilde Dusoulier, blogger and author of Chocolate and Zucchini fame, gave a book talk at Cody's on 4th Street, Berkeley. I attended, purchased a copy of Chocolate and Zucchini, and waited in line for Clotilde's autograph. (I have prepared several dishes from the book.) May 29, 2007: I photographed French-inspired eateries (restaurants, bistros, boites, cafes, and rotisseries; accents are missing). Shattuck at Channing Shattuck at Bancroft (Louisiana was part of France between 1699 and 1764 and again between 1803 and 1804.) Shattuck at Addison Hearst at Shattuck Shattuck at Virginia Shattuck between Cedar and Vine Shattuck, across from The French Hotel There is also Gregoire's on Cedar; the numerous Crepes A Go Go; and a French language school, Alliance Francaise, near Ashby BART. SW Fulton at Dwight June 27, 2007: An article about seasonal produce at farmers' markets ran in the Chronicle. I was inspired to update my public/fallen fruit map. (Read more about the public fruit idea.) My first fruit map is difficult to read. Since drafting it, I have found a more legible mapping tool which I used to create a map of solar panels in Berkeley. I have not recreated the original public/fallen fruit map, but I do have a list of new locations. The trees are in the public right of way unless otherwise noted: 1 plum at the Zen center, Parker at Fulton (the pluots are ripening) (extends over sidewalk) 2 plums, Fulton at Blake 1 plum at 2230 Blake 2 plums, NE Hillegass at Parker 2 plums, NE Fulton at Derby 1 plum, with large fruit, 2810 Fulton 2 plums, SW Fulton at Dwight (extends over sidewalk) 2 lemons, 2820 Regent 1 plum (or plum-like fruit), across 3045 Deakin June 28, 2007: Finally, the movie, Ratatouille, opens in theatres on June 29. Chronicle reporter, Stacy Finz, writes that the Pixar Studio team trained at Bay Area cooking schools and with French Laundry chef, Thomas Keller. (Read more at SFGate.) Gastronome: a lover of good food Restaurant: restaurant (from restaurer = "to restore, to energize" the body) Mirabelle: a type of yellow plum Ratatouille: vegetable dish made with eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, and onions in olive oil Source: French for Le Snob, Yvette Reche

June 27, 2007

Local dog is missing

June 25, 2007

Water wise in June and year round

June is National Rivers Month. In celebration, the theme of this week's The Mini Page is rivers. In addition to a connect the dots heron drawing, the Oakland Tribune provided river terminology and information on the uses and conditions of our rivers. This post is my contribution to National Rivers Month. I illustrate some of the terminology featured in The Mini Page. Also, at a more intimate scale - the apartment or the house, the yard or the garden - EBMUD has some tips to conserve water this summer. This past winter is being described as "one of the driest" in the 84 years of the agency's operation. EBMUD Tips - Check for leaks - Inspect your sprinkler system (residential users are encourarged "to water just three days a week, never on consecutive days and always at night or early in the morning) and irrigation controller (does it need new batteries) - Consider EBMUD rebates like the Landscape Rebate Program - Plant waterwise gardens (EBMUD suggests Plants and Landscapes for Summer Dry Gardens, published by EBMUD) River Terminology Note: river systems are composed of streams, brooks, creeks, and smaller rivers (Tribune). An estuary: where a river meets the ocean Puget Sound, Seattle, WA A tributary: "a stream or river that joins a larger stream or river" (Tribune) Nine Mile Run, Pittsburgh, PA A delta: "land that builds up when eroded material such as clay and sand settles at the mouth of a river" (Tribune) San Joaquin Delta, Sacramento, CA A channel: bottom or sides of a river or stream Nine Mile Run, Pittsburgh, PA Note: the photograph shows the transition from a concrete channel to a natural channel.

June 20, 2007

Summer's day in Cleveland

Chester Commons Park I flew on a red-eye to Cleveland earlier this week. By the time I arrived at the hotel at 7 a.m., the air was already muggy. I knew the day would become more inclement. I had checked the weather forecast before leaving the Bay Area. It was my first visit to Cleveland and, courtesy of a friend, I had a short list of places I wanted to see in the downtown. I also discovered places along my walk. The first of these, the Chester Commons Park (also known as Ralph J. Perk Plaza), is across from the my hotel. The airy, continuous canopy was enticing, even if the street level design was not. However, the park was heavily used as an afternoon respite (it was empty in the morning and I did not visit it in the evening or at night). People sat, stood, laid down. People were there alone or, gathered in small and large groups. Chester Commons Park fountain (not in use) Another park that had many lunchtime users was the Eastman Reading Garden at the Cleveland Public Library. The garden began as "an unkempt city park" and was converted to a reading garden in June 1937 then dedicated as Eastman Park in September of that year. The park was closed in 1959 and reopened in 1960 as the Eastman Reading Garden (Cleveland Public Library brochure). Eastman reminds me of Paley Park, a pocket park among the skyscrapers, in New York City. Like Paley, Eastman is set amongst tall buildings, has movable chairs and tables, lovely gates, trees, and a water feature. The water feature in the garden is less dramatic than the wall of water in Paley, but it is no less beautiful and soothing. Eastman Reading Garden fountain From Eastman I walked across Rockwell to Memorial Plaza - a very monumental space - and Burnham Mall, named after the 1903 Plan by Daniel Burnham. Burnham prepared several plans for cities including San Francisco and Chicago. Burnham Mall, facing west Burnham Mall, facing east I proceeded across Burnham Plaza towards the lake front, except I could not access the lake front, at least not easily from this area of downtown. I could see the lake, the stadium, and the Great Lakes Science Center. I suppose I could have used the stadium ramp....The railroad (I like rail travel) and the highway cut off the downtown from this part of the lake. Science Center, right with windmill I did get closer to the water when I walked through the Warehouse, The Flats and Oxbow districts. There is a park along the water in The Flats with a dramatic view of new and old bridges. The Warehouse District is being reused for loft and condo living, for shops, and restaurants. The weather forecast was accurate - the day was hot and humid. Luckily there were many hotels, banks, and civic buildings along to way in which to cool off. My favorite stop, and one on my friend's list, was the arcade in the Hyatt Hotel - spectacular!

June 17, 2007

Off the road: Enmanji Temple

The Enmanji Buddhist Temple is located off Old Gravenstein Highway (Route 116) in Petaluma, CA. This summer I will be travelling to several cities, looking for places off the road and documenting examples of citizen nature making (read Plant ecology thrives in the middle of the street and Designed with ecological intent). The approach through the garden The south face of the temple A dedication marker

June 14, 2007

Counting birds and butterflies

A bench tile in Bradner Gardens Park, Mt. Baker neighborhood, Seattle The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is doing it, Nature in the City is doing it, and a Mount Diablo group is doing it: counting birds and butterflies. 45 butterfly species were recorded in this year's Mount Diablo and environs count, part of the annual North American Butterfly Association count. Entomologist and co-coordinator Rich Kelson told the Chronicle that "we are not seeing a huge decrease in diversity but we are seeing a decrease in abundance. And it's much harder to find the variety. You have to climb all over the place" (June 14, Bay Area section). Across the Bay in San Francisco County, 14 species and 314 individuals were recorded. The SF urban nature organization, Nature in the City, sent the following information to its list serve (June 12): 1) Western Tiger Swallowtail ( Papillio rutulus ) - 22 2) Anise Swallowtail ( Papillio zelicaon ) - 11 3) Pipevine Swallowtail ( Battus philenor ) - 1 4) Cabbage White ( Pieris rapae ) - 83 5) Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme ) - 6 6) Echo Blue ( Celestrina ladon echo ) - 8 7) Acmon Blue ( Plebejus acmon ) - 43 8) Field Crescent ( Phyciodes campestris ) - 35 9) Mylitta Crescent ( Phyciodes mylitta ) - 1 10) Chalcedon Checkerspot ( Euphydryas chalcedona ) - 4 11) Mourning Cloak ( Nymphalis antiopa ) - 1 12) Painted Lady ( Vanessa cardui ) - 3 13) West Coast P. Lady ( Vanessa annabella ) - 14 14) American Painted Lady ( Vanessa virginiensis ) - 1 15) Red Admiral ( Vanessa atalanta ) - 4 16) Buckeye ( Junonia coenia ) - 2 17) California Ringlet ( Coenonympha tullia californica ) - 19 18) Common Checkered Skipper ( Pyrgus communis ) - 9 19) Umber Skipper ( Poanes melane) - 32 20) Fiery Skipper ( Hylephilia phyleus ) - 4 And all over the country, people participated in the Celebrate Urban Birds data collection and celebration sponsored by the Cornell University Ornithology Lab and Urban Bird Studies program. In a San Francisco area location (finer geographical detail not provided), house finches, mallards, mourning doves, American crows, Baltimore orioles, Bullock orioles, and white tailed kite were recorded (listed in order of abundance; the first four species were seen in equal numbers). The participation in and celebration of urban (and suburban) natures is part of the antidote to "the extinction of experience" recommended by Robert Michael Pyle. Rich Kelson, one of the coordinators of the Mount Diablo count told today's Chronicle "we used to count butterflies in alfalfa fields that are now massive suburbs." So, the other element of Pyle's antidote is the conservation of areas - formal and informal - which enable our local ecologies to thrive. He writes, "But nature reserves and formal greenways are not enough to ensure connection....we all need spots near home where we can wander off a trail, lift a stone, poke about, and merely wonder: places where no interpretive signs intrude their message to rob our spontaneous response. Along with nature centers, parks, and preserves, we would do well to maintain a modicum of open space with no rule but common courtesy, no sign besides animal tracks "(2002, in City Wilds, ed. Terrell F. Dixon).

June 8, 2007

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh and other urban fictions

Source: Powell's Books During the spring and summer of 2003, in preparation for a trip to Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket, I specifically began reading place fictions before my trips. It is a pleasurable habit. (I've even written a place literature index.) I think literature, especially fiction, is a great way to learn about people and places - cities, neighborhoods, ecologies, and ways of living. I include a library link at the end of each post. Library Thing holds a catalogue of some of my books about cities and neighborhoods. I have been desperately searching for a used copy of Michael Chabon's The Mysteries of Pittsburgh. I have checked the shelves of my favorite Berkeley used book shops. If push comes to shove, the University Press Books has new copies. If I don't find it here, maybe I will find a used copy during my visit to Pittsburgh this summer. Here's my latest short stack of books, listed here in no particular order: The Richer, the Poorer, Dorothy West Brick Lane, Monica Ali River of Shadows, Rebecca Solnit Letters from Yellowstone, Diane Smith Bump City, John Krich

June 5, 2007

Landscape architects are among "the new tastemakers"

I subscribe to House & Garden magazine using my frequent flight miles. I started receiving issues this spring. My favorite feature is in the June issue; a special titled "The New Tastemakers." Four landscape architects and one architect (who makes landscapes) are among almost 30 tastemakers! The landscape tastemakers are: (1) Steven Koch (Koch Landscape Architecture) received an ASLA award for a project located along the Columbia River Gorge. The approach of Koch LA is described as a synthesis of "the natural and social science of landscape architecture with the desire to enhance and activate people's daily lives through the design of functional and interactive environments." (Read House & Garden) (2) Katie Winter, an architect by training, designed a "play area" for the Church of Immaculate Conception in the Bronx. Katie told House & Garden that "play areas should be educational spaces." (Read House & Garden) (3) Jon Piasecki (Golden Bough) combines landscape architecture and land art in order "to connect people ecologically and culturally to the land." He won the Rome Prize in 2004. (Read House & Garden) (4) Kate Orff has received the commission to design a riverfront site in Brooklyn. She describes her firm, Scape, as "a design studio committed to the ecological and social transformation of the urban landscape. We work across the disciplines of science and architecture to merge design expertise with ecological strategies, and offer a synthetic, sustainable approach to the built environment." (Read House & Garden) (5) Pamela Palmer (Artecho) runs a firm with her husband-architect. She told House & Garden that "gardens connect us with a small part of the bigger picture and show us where we fit." (Read House & Garden) ASLA DIRT ran a story about these designers on May 29.

June 4, 2007

Plant ecology thrives in the middle of the street

‘Plant ecology thrives in the middle of the street’ (from an interview with Robin Grossinger) Cayote bush On a recent overcast morning, I met landscape ecologist Robin Grossinger at the Fulton and Russell traffic circle to talk about the installation of the coastal meadow project. In his professional life, Robin develops restoration and management plans for large, regional scale natural systems. When I asked Robin if the traffic circle project had affected his environmental outlook, he replied that he was pleasantly surprised to observe successful successional processes in such an urban context – the intersection of two urban streets (albeit neighborhood streets). He described the processes that continue to occur in the traffic circle as “ecologically fascinating.” In their oft-cited study of the benefits of ecological (i.e. “sensitive natural landscapes”) restoration, Irene Miles et al. (1998) found that the greatest benefits of ecological volunteerism are self satisfactions like “meaningful action,” “fascination with nature,” participation, “a chance to be away,” positive life functioning and satisfaction. When I asked him to talk about the benefits of making this coastal meadow nature, Robin Grossinger concurred with many of Miles's findings. He said that it was “nice that people appreciate” the work he does at the site and the site itself. He enjoys working on the site with his young son who helps him to weed and to look for bees. Given its location at the center of the street and the community, the site enjoys a “high profile” and “builds community spirit.” Miles et al (1998) do not discuss the social and political motivations behind restorations in general or, behind non-sensitive landscapes restoration. In the Le Conte neighborhood, new spaces for nature can trace their beginnings to Berkeley’s “traffic wars.” The ecological motivations behind a project like the Fulton and Russell coastal meadow differ from restorations of “sensitive” ecosystems. In addition to traditional ideas of ‘revival and healing’ (Miles et al.), insertion and creation play a role in urban ecological intentions. A social motivation behind the production of urban nature might be the creation of observatory and participatory experience. Lewis (1990) writes that though “experiences gained through the intimate participation of nurturing and being responsible for plants are more intense than those gained through distanced viewing of vegetation in the larger landscape….both modes, however, produce well-being” (245). The coastal meadow project is participatory simultaneous with an observatory form of neighboring (see photo above). In terms of the political dimension, the installation of traffic circles in the Le Conte neighborhood of Berkeley is intimately linked to the community mobilization around traffic calming in the 1960s and 1970s. Oak (grown from an acorn donated by "a neighbor up the street") I assume that the Traffic Management Plan does not prescribe greening or a specific form of greening in the circles. I am intrigued by the visions residents generate for urban nature making. The general idea for the circle was to create a space that enabled the community and the landscape ‘to be able to breathe’ (attributed to a retired Tilden ranger who lives in the neighborhood). Residents pointed to the high percent of public hardscape and impervious surfaces – streets and sidewalks in the neighborhood. During meetings to discuss the greening plan, most people voiced a preference for native plants. Robin attributed this preference to the “ecological sophistication” and “ecological interest and knowledge” of Berkeley residents. Ceanothus The ecological knowledge of residents involved in the coastal meadow project did not result in a rigid adherence to more natural plant associations. Robin noted that the “coastal meadow” planted in the traffic circle is not a “true ecosystem;” rather it is a mix of oak woodland, meadow, and chaparral. This palette is possible because the site is designed and maintained to showcase the features of various regional landscapes. Despite the mixed nature of the vegetative palette, a zonal pattern is the basis for the landscape plan. The circle has been planted with clumps of vegetation for visual interest (for humans) and insect recognition. Robin said that the landscape plan strikes a “balance between natural pattern and design.” The site is featured on the Hidden Gems tour and bumblebees are regularly sited at the circle. Bee balm The presence of bumblebees at the circle underscores the idea of scalar greening. Robin noted that a patchwork of habitat circles could have “an effect on local ecology” [I was so pleased that he said local ecology], in particular for mobile species like bumblebees and butterflies (the circle at Ellsworth and Russell is a butterfly habitat). At a similar scale, Robin also noted that yards can contribute to a local habitat network. The dune strawberries he planted in his driveway are established. According to the SF Garden website, the dune (or beach) strawberry “send[s] out runners that root and then send[s] out more runners, eventually making a web of sorts, holding the sand [or soil] together and allowing other plants to establish.”

June 2, 2007

"They closed?! Oh wow!"

Eddie Bauer closed before I moved to Berkeley but the empy store windows still bear the company's name. The Gap closed last fall and is being replaced with a Walgreens. The latest chain store closure in Berkeley is the Barnes & Noble on Shattuck at Bancroft. I biked there this morning hoping to find Alafair Burke's latest detective novel (the independent shops in my neighborhood do not have her books in stock). In March, Jen of the Walking Berkeley blog, posted on the store's "imminent closure," but I must admit, I was doubtful. It seemed more likely that one of our independent booksellers would close (as Cody's on Telegraph did) than the giant chain. Anyway, I was surprised to find the store's windows covered in brown paper. I went across the street to one of my favorite local book shops, Pegasus, and purchased a different book, using my trade credit and earning frequent reader points. After completing several other errands, I returned to Barnes & Noble and took the two photographs used in this post. As I prepared to leave, I heard a couple passing by say, "They closed?! Oh wow!" After 37 years, another favorite local business, Body Time, is closing its Telegraph Avenue location later this month. The shop girl told me there were other locations (Shattuck at Berkeley Way is the closest) but the news of their closing saddened me anyway. I like to shop locally, that is, in my neighborhood. I also enjoy the diversity of shops along Telegraph Avenue. I have not been satisfied with a few of the replacement businesses on the street, but an active storefront is preferably to a (long-standing) empty one. (Right?)