Category Archives: Botanical Adventures

Olive Picking

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Most of what I attempt to do is process driven. Which, though very engrossing, is long and drawn out and requires many layers and levels of time. It turns me into some kind of generalist but very bad at focusing at one thing.

I like to compare it to the levels of a garden. From the microorganisms in the soil, to the mycelium that connect them, to the function and aesthetic developments of plants, to the animals that regenerate them, and the human processes that re-energize them – everything in the world seems almost inextricably connected to something else.

 I was very excited to attend the Dorn/Kauffman olive picking party for the reason of adding another layer to a process I do very often, consuming olive oil. It also allowed the family to pick a motherload of olives while simultaneously educating everyone on “how your food gets to your plate” principles.

Picking olives is fairly straight-forward. One waits for the perfect window (which is rather short), they must be unbruised, and a balance of green and black, to create a balanced olive oil. Strip a tree branch, place into a portable receptacle, and then into a larger container, laugh and talk with others while doing so and then take the olives as soon as possible to nearest location where they may be crushed. (Unfortunately, I was not able to see this step but maybe someday).

Most olive oils are not this simple and uncomplicated by modern convenience, therefore it is important to check your sources to see if you are even getting something that is pure and made of olives. This is a good source if you are interested…http://www.truthinoliveoil.com.

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La Boqueria

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En route to Portugal we stopped in Barcelona. I lived there for a year when I was 19, and I am glad I was able to appreciate the hard-partying-up-all-night lifestyle before I became a “disgusting old ghost” last month.

La Boqueria is a completely authentic sort of market, while also being insanely touristy place. It is a dreamy place of piled meats, fruits, vegetables and fish.

When I go to the supermarket, I generally find myself going from dairy/meats/cheeses on the left to grains/veggies on the right. La Boqueria cuts the crap and takes the best non-processed foods part of a supermarket and smooshes them together.

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Botanical Adventures: World’s Rare Plants

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The other day I fell into one of my internet research vortex holes. The kind I sometimes get into where I research tons of useful/useless information that is borderline educational while also being a black-hole-time-suck. This particular night it began with Selective Eating Disorder, which is a disorder in which one only eats a limited amounts of food which generally revolve around kid centered food i.e. mac and cheese, cheese pizza, and french fries.

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For some reason, in my caffeine induced mania (I had just drank Chinese tea for three hours with a friend), this seemed like the worst imaginable fate possible. The vortex pulled me into the world of people that eat only beef flavored Monster Munch potato chips (don’t ask, they are British), or others with eight year cheese pizza (only cheese pizza) obsessions, or the girl with a chicken nugget and french fries ten year stint.

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I just kept thinking, “How is this possible? How does a person live on bread alone?” (Or in most cases white carbs and cheese). One article I read said that selective eating disorder might be an adaptation of certain human beings in response to their own bodily needs. Which, is interesting because even though many are not in top health most of them live and look as anemic as any unhealthy fast food eating American. If you had told me that someone could live on beef flavored potato chips three times a day for 8 years, I would not have believed you.

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Lately, I have spent a lot of time thinking about diet. The building blocks of a complete meal – the nutrients and trace minerals and energy givers. I have also been thinking about anthropology and the diets of peoples throughout the millennia. The humans in the Northern regions that eat seal meat for months through the cold winters with only trace amount of vegetables, or the high sugar fruit based diets of other native tribes. You begin to get this picture that humans are adaptable. Nature is a resilient sneak in-between the cracks and attempt to prosper sort of entity (a little like the gigantic weeds that sprout in-between tiny cracks in Suburbia). Everyone is waiting for an opportunity and their is always gonna be something to fit the bill.
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Carnivorous plants are adapted survivors. When I was brushing up on my carnivorous plant trivia this morning I thought of Selective Eating Disorder because this is what they have done, they have adapted and used a single mindedness to survive. Most carnivorous plants grown in habitats such as bogs where soil nutrients are almost immeasurable. The soil is often waterlogged and toxic ions such as ammonium build up. Carnivorous plants have found a way to survive by having a hunger – a hunger for animals that provide nitrogen , phosphorus and potassium. Through millennia they have developed a sort of selective eating disorder, a singular obsessions with bugs.

carnivorousterrarium

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If you are traveling along the One on the California Coast. Go to Half Moon Bay. If you want to go deeper, travel along the 92 that leads you back to the Bay. On the way you will see swathes of flower farms and nurseries, my favorite one is World’s Rare Plants. You will meet the nicest set of couples who run their nursery, which is a product of fifty-six years of obsession. Their carnivorous terrariums are quaintly cute, very unique and not meant to be resisted.
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If you want to see more Carnivorous plants check out this post of California Carnivores and Sebastopol I did awhile ago.

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Into Out There

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Susan Sontag once was quoted saying, “What I really wanted was every kind of life…..”

 With those words is my most prized trait and the pain in my side. I want so much. With occasional effort I attempt to rein it in but in the end it is the engine that moves me towards new tomorrows and impractical hobbies, so I go with it. It really is bothersome to want so many things at the same time. This weekend was no exception to my never-ending love for everything, these days though I do try to harness it into all things natural and the inherent processes of the beauty and movement of it.

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 It is so familiar to see how when one makes a decision, billions of smaller compromises follow suit, agreements not made, but consequences of said decisions. Build a house, care for a cat, make a home that strangely begins to becomes part of your identity, try to create a business that attempts to synthesizes hopeful dreams. It goes on and on, one thing building upon the other. One decision is a hidden glacier of other decisions beneath it. Decision making, if one is consistent (and all the best decisions usually are) can often be the glue that binds you to space and a specific path.  Decisions are really what make a person and define them into a form.

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Conscious decisions have bound me, and since consistency is an aim, I try, but some days I just really am all wanderlust. Why can’t we just run off for a month and hike the John Muir Trail? What if we moved to Portugal for six months? Let’s just move to Alaska so Kevin can go fishing? Trans Siberian Railroad?
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Wandering is a decision that is the anti-decision, the erratic resolutions of youth.

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We went to Yosemite and around this weekend. There we met wandering travelers, Disneyland like nature scenes, we met a woman with blue hair and cancer braid that symbolized recovery, saw ruins of abandon mining towns, proud girls traveling alone across the country, middle-aged and elderly joy seekers, soaked in sulfuric water with mud with remnants of hair, and we walked.

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Walking, the march up the mountain, gave this weekend a sense of  comprehension and spoke to me of how important it will be for me to go into out there. There, meaning this space that is quiet and a little bit dangerous but really just beautiful and tiring in the best way possible.
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And then there are plants. It is amazing to see plants in the spaces they were meant to be. I see how disconnected the words are when I see that a plant is native to a certain location and then I plant it and it becomes mine in my own space, without origins. I like discovering origins. Oh, the Wild flowers! – that are really wild and surviving in the places they fit perfectly into. Consistent, dependent, and form fitting to place.

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I made a decision this weekend that I would like to walk more. It takes away the edge off of the practically sedentary lifestyle of an urban environment. That sort of expansiveness really connects you to the whole circle and picture of why and where and how decisions are made.
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In the end, what I really want is an every kind of life, surrounded by lots of plants and views.

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…and then there were ponies.

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When I left New York I am not sure what I wanted but I did have this sense that I wanted to grow something. I’ve always been obsessed with process…How? When? Where? Why?. Yet, I had never grown a thing in my life. So, stereotypically, I moved to the Bay Area and I learned. I went through all the stages of beginnings. We bought a house, I grew a garden, I craved succulents, rare and unusual plants, obscure edibles from South America, the bugs that sustain them, the mushrooms that help them grow, and we ate all our food from the garden. I was happy.

Right before India, for lack of care on our sojourn,  I pulled it all out and only the most wily and strong survived. Sage and Swiss Chard and Parsley! When we returned I realized how much of my happiness here was attached to these growing things. I haven’t planted, only a little, because we are lifting the house (high on stilts!) and I should concentrate my efforts, but I am not sure if I can contain myself. The logical process and growth and consumption has left an unknowing gaping hole and supermarkets just don’t have the same allure.

Last weekend we went on a little trip along the coast. Santa Cruz, to pick up these alien mushroom blocks that sprout when watered, refuse of a commercial process. Then up along the coast, stopping where ever we please, which is the best part of California really. Strawberries at Swanton’s Berry Farm, where there is an actual Honor Till! That is where one is expected to pay and give ones self change, wads of cash just flaunted in front of the customer. Psychologically, it works, here is an article about the mechanisms behind it…Honor Tills.

Then, we are off to Pescadero, an old Portuguese fisherman’s town. It is here where we see the ponies. Ponies pulling retired ladies along a coastal country road. This is really what I live for and we end up stopping to take photos. There is no real story here just women that waited their whole damn lives to have the right to ride to have little ponies pull them on tiny little carriages through the street. If things couldn’t get any better, after that, we realize it is baby goat time at Harley’s Goat Farm! We watch them, pet them, sample the cheese that they produce and stare at the llamas that protect them from fierce animals from afar in the outer field.

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