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Stories and green tips related to nature, adventure, placemaking, and food systems, written by a beginning farmer/gardener and seasoned sustainability educator who loves to grow, cook, ferment, and eat local and ecologically happy food.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Week in Pictures and a Miwok Fact

Alviso Adobe Community Park "Tools from the Ancient World"


Practicing with the atlatl and spear


Earth Hour March 27, 2010 8:30pm-9:30pm


my cousin Patsy, the newest member of our family

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Miwok Fact of the Day: In traditional Miwok culture, when a village decided to have a dance, the lead elder (white people have named these people "chiefs," though the Native Americans did not refer to them by this name) of the village, would send messengers to surrounding villages to invite them. Each messenger would carry a string with a certain number of knots tied along it. The lead elder of the villages that had been invited would untie one knot each day after receiving the invitation. Once the last knot had been untied, the invited village people--men, women and children--traveled to the host village for the dance. This reminds me of an Advent calendar with the chocolates in the windows, or a modern-day online countdown timer. I'm trying this for my next party! (Powers, Stephen. Tribes of California. Berkeley: Regents of the University of California, 1976.)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

What weeds? Those are flowers and Nature's children.

I went out into the backyard this afternoon and was pleasantly surprised to see that a tulip had grown up out of a pot without my knowledge! I had tulips planted in the pot last year and this year have so far only seen green leaves, but no buds. I couldn't believe it! I can't wait until it blooms. Here some pictures from my backyard...







Click here for some information about the medicinal properties of dandelions!

Copyright 2010 Green Gal

Monday, March 22, 2010

What I learned in Economics class today...

We're learning about externalities, or costs of production that affect people who have no control over how much of a good is produced. So far this semester, we've watched a lot of environmentally-related 60 Minutes videos, which I find interesting considering it's an economics class. Economy vs. environment, for sure.

This is the video we watched in class today:


(Click here if you can't see the above video.)

Makes me wonder where my e-waste ends up...

Green Gal

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sunday news

I love reading the newspaper on Sunday mornings. I almost always find at least one article to cut out and save. This morning I came across a few:

"Ore. town is poster child for geothermal energy, toasty sidewalks during winter and all" by Jeff Barnard
- I learned what geothermal energy is and how it can be accessed. It looks like an interesting "green" energy source.

"With Cheap Food Imports, Haiti Can't Feed Itself" by Jonathan M. Katz
- Of the articles I read this morning, this was my favorite because it highlighted the issues involved with less developed countries importing cheaper food, reducing their independence and putting local farmers out of work. We learned about this issue in Human Geography recently. I'm going to send this article along to my teacher.

"High tech multitasking slows you down" by Jessica Yadegaran
- My English teacher was talking about this recently and it's made me more aware of how easy it can be to get distracted while trying to do multiple things at once. The quality of work goes down when you're spreading your thinking across multiple projects. I especially noticed this problem when working on a group essay this year. One of the students in my group was always listening to music when she wrote her sections of the essay and her writing was lacking in cohesion and grammar, in ways that were obviously due to a lack of attention. The only music that I've ever found to work when writing is non-lyrical music, but sometimes silence is really the best. When I write, I have to focus on just writing. I can't be on Facebook or chatting with someone. If someone is talking in the room, I have to ask them to be quieter so I can complete my task. I sometimes wonder if distractions are what cause my peers' writing to be lacking. They think they're bad writers, when it could be that they aren't giving it the attention required. I try to focus on one thing at a time so I can give it all my attention and do my best on it. Otherwise, I'm spreading myself too thinly and each project lacks in something.

"Calls ring out for cell phone warnings" by Tom Barnidge
- This article scared me a bit. Fortunately, I'm not one of those teenageers who's glued to the phone. I text on occasion, but I rarely "chat" on the phone for more than two minutes. My mom chats on the phone though (sometimes on our house phone, which is better), and there are so many people who do talk on the phone for long lengths of time. Many of them are teenagers, which the article says is worse because younger people's skulls are thinner. I vote they publish the level of radiation each cell phone emits as well as include a warning about the possible health risks.
"A starter program for green-minded businesses" by Elisabeth Nardi
- I thought this was a neat beginning for businesses who want to make the shift toward sustainability. Frequenting stores that are at least taking the first steps toward being green shows other stores that those are things we as consumers want to see happening. Even if the steps are small, they can lead to more sustainable steps in the future and can encourage other stores to follow.



Some other things I learned this week:

- You can use SaveWatts.com instead of Google to reduce energy used when searching the internet. The background is black instead of white, using less energy. The search is powered by Google, so you're getting the same results as you would using Google. Add the site to your Favorites Bar.

- KQED, the local NPR radio and television station for Northern California, has some awesome Earth-related radio and television programs scheduled for April, Earth Month. I read through their catalog and added them to my calendar. I can't wait! If you live in the area, check out their Earth Celebration 2010 site.

- Life premieres tonight at 8pm on Discovery Channel. It looks like it will be an amazing series with stunning footage. It's narrated by Oprah Winfrey.



Happy Sunday,
Green Gal

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I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.
-- E. E. Cummings

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Happy National Agriculture Day and First Day of Spring!

It's National Agriculture Day and the First Day of Spring! All week, I've been posting blog entries to my Environmental Club's blog with agriculture facts. Check it out here.

We owe the basis for our society's knowledge about agriculture to the first farmers of ancient civilizations who settled down and began experimenting with plant foods. See the below image of the major agricultural regions of the ancient world. Here is some more information.




For more information on the origins of agriculture, watch this video:



For every person who has ever lived there has come, at last, a spring he will never see. Glory then in the springs that are yours.
-- Pam Brown

Friday, March 19, 2010

Rocko's Modern Life R-E-C-Y-C-L-E and a '90s flashback

I used to watch Rocko's Modern Life on Nickelodeon when I was growing up. Nickelodeon used to have the BEST shows and I've had so many conversations about how the new Nick is lame compared to the Nick of our childhood. KaBlam!, Aaahh! Real Monsters, Are You Afraid of the Dark?, All That, Clarissa Expains It All, Doug, Rug Rats, The Wild Thornberries, The Secret World of Alex Mac... the list goes on. There's even a website dedicated to '90s Nickelodeon.

But here's a video with a song from Rocko's Modern Life that was a hit in my household. We used to sing this song all the time. Somehow, we got the tune a little off over the years, so when I found this video and watched it with my family, we tried to sing it the right way. I still like our version because it's easier :)

I thought it was interesting that the focus of this song is the ozone layer, which I recall being the big environmental issue growing up. In elementary school science classes, we learned about ozone depletion (we still do), but now the major focus is global warming. If this song were made today, no doubt its focus would be greenhouse gases and a heating planet.

Captain Compost Heap is nasty looking in this video. If I didn't know what compost looked like, I'd be a little grossed out at the mention of compost if this is the only visual I had of it. Hmm... Well at least the once-popular TV show spotlighted environmental issues in an episode! :)

Take a look...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Coffee and a green tip

Coffee and I have a close relationship, I'd say. This morning, I was a little rushed to get out the door because I was riding my bike and thus had to leave a little earlier than usual, and I didn't have time to make coffee. I figured it would be no big deal--I've gone without coffee in the morning before with no issues. But today, my body knew that I hadn't had my normal routine interaction with coffee and it was mad. So, in retaliation, I got a headache. I guess if I want to go without coffee, I'll have to slowly reduce my dependence on my coffee routine and begin trading in some decaf so my brain doesn't freak out when there's no caffeine.

I was also really tired today after going to bed at 11 PM, which for me is late but for my fellow classmates is early; many of them go to bed routinely at 12, some 2:00 in the morning... I have no idea how they do it. My dad and I had studied poetry and Hamlet after St. Patrick's Day dinner until 10 PM and then my sister and I had to goof off for an hour before my mom finally made us go to bed. So I really should have had my coffee.

I decided to go to Starbucks after school, figuring that because I had endured a ridiculous Stat test with a headache and sleepy brain I deserved a treat. This nice weather we've been having is perfect bike-to-school weather and I rode yesterday and today, so after school I rode my bike to Starbucks and did some homework. But wait, I didn't have my coffee mug because I hadn't brought any coffee with me to school this morning. I had a few minutes of moral struggle about whether or not it was okay that I get a drink in a disposable cup--plastic, since it's hot out and I wanted iced coffee. And then I realized that Starbucks has "for-here" or "in-house" mugs and glasses for people who aren't taking their coffee to go. Aha! Perfect! So now I give you a green tip:

Green Tip: Forgot your travel mug and staying awhile? Ask for a glass or ceramic mug.
"Real" coffee shops, ones that aren't transnational with a mythical mermaid logo, often serve your coffee in mugs or glasses on default and you have to ask for a travel cup. But places like Peet's, Starbucks and other pop culture coffee shops serve you plastic or paper cups so you can take it to go, which makes sense in our fast-paced world of commuters. Most people stop at Starbucks to pick up their coffee and then they head to work or school. Of course they should use a travel mug, but they don't, so these shops supply disposable cups.



But let's say you're going to be sitting in Starbucks for a business discussion or to read a book or to chat with a friend. Chances are, you'll get a paper/plastic disposable cup, drink the entire drink while you're there, and then throw it away as you leave the store. If you know you won't be bringing the drink with you out of the store, ask for a glass/ceramic mug and then return it when you're finished. No wasted paper or plastic! (Check out this article I just found that relates to this tip!)

I was thinking about this as I rode home: wouldn't it be grand if places like Starbucks had a sign at the register that said something like "Staying for a bit? Ask for a mug or glass instead of a to-go cup." That would be awesome! This tip also applies to those of us who sometimes forget our travel mugs and then are forced to waste resources. If you're going to be there for a bit, get a mug and rest assured that you aren't contributing to a landfill or using up energy down the road when the plastic is recycled.

Happy Almost-Friday! :-)
Green Gal

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It wasn't the Exxon Valdez captain's driving that caused the Alaskan oil spill. It was yours.
-- Greenpeace advertisement,
New York Times, 25 February 1990

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day

In Human Geography this year, we talked about ethnicity and how ethnicity is something we identify for ourselves. I had never really thought about my ethnicity, other than being white and American, so I started thinking about my heritage and which aspect of it I identify most with. I'm Norweigan, German, French, and, ah yes, Irish. I don't really celebrate anything German, Norweigan or French, but I definitely do celebrate my Irish heritage. So I decided that I consider myself American and Irish, if anyone were to ask me. I love St. Patrick's Day, especially the traditions my family has in celebrating it.

Today I decked out in my green shorts, t-shirt and shamrock earrings and told everyone I could that I'm Irish. I wish my last name was Irish, like my friends with last names like O'Leary and McGuinness. I told them that my grandparents are Daleys, which is definitely Irish. Anyway, every St. Patty's Day, my family has dinner at my grandparents house, the side from which I get my Irish blood. According to a family tree I made in fifth grade, my grandpa's family came from Ireland. My great-great-great grandparents, Bridget Dolan and Patrick Kelly, came from Fermanah and my other great-great-great grandparents, James Daley and Jane Drury, came from County Cork, Ireland. If I could visit any place in the world, I'd probably visit Ireland.

This year, however, my grandparents and my aunt and uncle are coming over to our house to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. My mom has had some corned beef cooking in the Crock-Pot since 8:00 this morning--it smells delicious! This will be my first year not eating any of the beef, considering I'm vegan. I'll be sticking with the cabbage and potatoes this year.

Some of my favorite things related to Ireland:
- potatoes (which actually originally came from South America)
- The Secret of Roan Inish
- Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley
- In the Woods by Tana French
- Irish mythology and folklore
- rich history
- the color green
- Celtic music, like Loreena McKennitt




Check out this informative video on the history of St. Patrick's Day from History.com.


Thanks for reading :)
Green Gal

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Change the World Wednesday Challenge & Summit on the Summit

Water conservation was the theme of this week's Change the World Wednesday Challenge.

"This week, when using the faucet, turn it on at a trickle instead of full blast. Simple, right?"

I generally try to do this anyway, but this week I tried to be extra conscious. Brushing my teeth, washing my hands, washing my face, washing vegetables--for all of these things I tried to turn the sink on to only a trickle. Sure, it takes a few more seconds to get enough water for whatever you're doing, but it's not enough time that it's infeasible. I noticed that the kitchen sink is the faucet that most often gets blasted. Waiting for hot water, washing vegetables and washing plates each end up wasting a lot of water because of the high-blast faucet issue. I noticed the water issue most when I was doing homework and my parents were using the sink. It was almost always at full blast. It's just a matter of reminding people, I think, until it becomes a habit. I instinctively turn the faucet all the way and then have to adjust it.

I washed some potatoes this week before putting them in the oven and realized that you can totally scrub them with the water at only a trickle. Same thing works when scrubbing dishes (which isn't necessary for newer dishwashers apparently), but I don't know about the hot water thing. I never wait for the hot water, but then again I'm not the main kitchen sink-user in my house, so I don't know. If you turned it to a trickle and waited would it get hot as quickly? Hmm...

On the subject of water, on Sunday evening I watched the premiere of the documentary Summit on the Summit about the climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro that some famous celebrities took to raise awareness about unclean drinking water in Africa. They teamed up with PUR (who will donate a week's worth of clean drinking water to a child in Africa for every PUR pitcher or faucet mount system purchased in the U.S.) to get the word out. The documentary was on MTV, which as my sister remarked, is pretty cool. MTV is a widely-watched station by young people, many of whom aren't necessarily very informed about humanitarian issues. It was neat that they played the documentary on that channel.

I heard about the event through a Google alert. Actor Emile Hirsch participated in the climb, and because I get Google alerts for the phrase "Chris McCandless," it showed up on an alert referencing Hirsch's previous acting performances. (Hirsch portrayed McCandless in Sean Penn's film Into the Wild.) I'm quite enthusiastic (AKA a tad obsessed) with Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild. I managed to write about the book and McCandless in some of my college application essays, and last year I bought my friend the book and made sure he read it despite the fun he made of me throughout the year whenever I related McCandless to anything in our English class discussions. Anyway, the climb consisted of singer Kenna (who created the Summit on the Summit concept), rapper Lupe Fiasco, actress Jessica Biel, water expert Alexandra Cousteau, actor Emile Hirsch, Kick Kennedy (granddaughter of Robert F. Kennedy), photographer Jimmy Chin, actress Isabel Lucas, photographer Michael Muller, singer/songwriter Santi White, UN humanitarian Elizabeth Gore, and others.

They posted Twitter and Facebook updates during the climb, as well as videos and pictures. The mountain is 19,340 feet high and took the group six days to climb. They created a pretty cool interactive website, too. Here's the trailer:


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Alviso Adobe Community Park & Farmers' Market Saturday

I could try and describe to you what a lovely Saturday morning I had with my mom and sister, but it probably wouldn't do. So instead, I'll post some pictures to give you an idea...

Happy Saturday!
Green Gal

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Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.
-- Henry David Thoreau

Jamie Oliver's TED Prize wish: Teach every child about food

I can't wait to watch Food Revolution once it airs! This is a long video, but definitely worth watching!



Friday, March 12, 2010

Photo Friday: Young Talent





Last Friday my school's drama department had its second annual Cabaret Night. It was such a success and there was so much talent! Some of the songs were dedicated to Evelyn, the young girl who committed suicide a few weeks ago. The songs were beautiful and honest and many people in the audience were crying. There was also a hilarious improv competition on the other end of the spectrum, on the comedy mask side of theater. My dad, sister and I performed Hamlet's "To Be or Not To Be" as a dialogue after deciding to only about half an hour before the show! Singing, monologues, Bhangra dancing, a barbershop quartet, guitar, and keyboard were among the various performances that evening. There is so much talent in my community in so many different aspects of life!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Youth in Government Day 2010 Part II

For my post about Youth in Government Day 2010 Part I, read here.

Following lunch on Tuesday, all students and the adults they were shadowing headed over to the school district offices to break into focus groups. This year's topic for the Youth Commission is "Life Balance," which can be described as how we manage to live with just the right amount of work and play, and the issues we sometimes face in trying to do so. Someone in my focus group mentioned Yin and Yang, which is a perfect way to explain it. The topics of discussion under Life Balance were Friends, Family, School and Extra-Curricular Activities. My focus group talked about School.


We started off by writing down on post-it notes our personal concerns about the four topics. Volunteers shared their ideas and then we posted the notes on different butcher paper sheets. Then we focused in on School.

My first concern was the issue of teachers assigning homework over the weekend and during breaks. I made the argument that those breaks are supposed to be time for us to relax and have time for ourselves. During the week, we are expected to focus on school, the job we have to do if we want to succeed, and homework is a part of that job (and is vital, to a certain degree). But on weekends, we need our time. During breaks, we need our time. Otherwise, there is no time for us to stop processing and just daydream. This daydreaming necessity is key--more about that later (as my English teacher often says).

One of the girls in my focus group was a junior at Horizon, a school for high school students who have children. I'd never talked with or met someone who went to Horizon and it was really interesting to hear what things she was concerned about regarding school. I had never really thought about the students at Horizon because I don't know anyone at the school, but I am glad I had a chance to hear her thoughts. She's a student just like every other student and she has homework and she's learning academic things, but on top of all that she has a child and her adult life is so much closer to her than my adult life is to me. Yeah, I'll be 18 in April, but I won't be fully on my own for another few years. In college, your parents are still supporting you and you're living in a dorm room with other students. For her, though, she has a baby that she has to take care of and she's learning things about life that most people her age haven't faced yet. Her concern was that school doesn't teach you many practical things, like how to do taxes and balance a budget, until you're a senior. Even then, you don't really learn it beyond a very basic understanding. Everyone has to deal with taxes and budgets eventually, but we never really learn how to manage that until we're faced with it outside of school. Others expressed the same concern about the practicality of some of the information we learn and how there could be more emphasis on skills that we will use outside of a school setting. It's so important that she was at Youth in Government Day because she most definitely represents a group of young people in this community. There were four or five other girls from Horizon who attended, as well. Along with Horizon there are three other high schools in Pleasanton: Amador Valley, Foothill, and Village, which is an alternative school. There were a number of students from each school, representing the four grade levels.

Mayor Hosterman sat in on our discussion and mentioned a movie called Race to Nowhere, which talks about the issue of over-scheduling and pressuring children and teens to achieve extradordinary levels of success that just aren't realistic. There's too much structure in our lives and not enough time for us to just be kids. School, soccer practice, homework, clubs, after-school drama, football practice, swim practice, music lessons, tutoring, math homework, practicing for the SAT, studying--list goes on. We rarely have time to slow down and let our mind wander. And that mind-wandering time is vital to healthy development. One girl in my group said her teacher has changed the way she teaches because of the movie. Instead of testing her students right after learning something and then having the students forget what they've just learned, her teachers has them take group tests in which they discuss the topic. She said she actually remembers what she learned now. I'm really interested in watching the movie. Here's the trailer:



My Aunt Laurie is really interested in the issue and was talking to my dad and me about it on Friday night. Here an excerpt from an email she sent to my dad:

"There is statistically significant, conclusive evidence from major health care experts and universities that the pressure is impacting well being while interfering with preparedness for college and life - the exact opposite of what kids, parents, teachers want or expect. One example: depression and suicide in upper middle class and affluent communities (like Pleasanton) is significantly higher than the national average; for girls, it is three times the national average."

Especially given the recent suicide in our community of a freshman girl at my high school, this concept is so vital for people to recognize. I see so much stress around me at school and sometimes I'm the one under stress because of my many committments which take up time I would be spending doing homework. This information makes perfect sense to me. Students fall asleep in class all the time because they stayed up late studying or doing homework. While there is a certain level of procrastination that occurs with the modern issues of Facebook and mind-melting television shows like Jersey Shore, there are students who do not procrastinate and still end up stressed because the mountain of homework we get each night is insane. And we should be able to calm down and watch half an hour of television and still be able to finish homework. If you're an adult, I'll bet you had time after homework to just hang out or explore a hobbie. For many students today, there isn't that time during the week because of the many expectations that we'll be the best in a variety of things, which is not realistic and not healthy.

Another issue is that there's such a vast quantity of homework, but often little quality in the work being done because there's not enough time to put effort into each assignment. If I were to put 100% effort into truly learning the full breadth of knowledge that each assignment I'm given has to offer, I would never finish my homework. I skim my reading pages, looking for bold words to write down. If I don't understand a math question, I often write down the problem and put a question mark, figuring I'll finish it later. Many smart students I know copy homework when it's something involving filling in the blanks or multiple choice worksheets. A lot of it is busy work that has very little value even if you were to put effort into it. A lot of the time the emphasis is not on learning and comprehension, but on test scores and letter grades. You learn the vocabulary in a quick burst of studying, take the test, and then move on, forgetting it later. People scrounge for points when they should be focusing on actually learning and enhancing their knowledge and skills. Large amounts of homework don't add to this; they hinder it. Add sports, clubs, jobs, social time to academic work and you've got some pretty stressed out teenagers who don't have time to daydream, let alone sleep soundly.

My aunt is an advisory board member for Stanford University's Challenge Success program, which aims to address some of these issues. (Check out this page of Facts on How Narrow Definitions of Success Adversely Affect our Children--pretty interesting.) My aunt also created a program called Board Room to Family Room, which "provides an intuitive approach to enhance and deepen the family experience in ways that will inspire and empower mothers, fathers, and children to live authentic lives of success, meaning, and joy at home, at work and in our communities." She does workshops for businesses, parents, and students on how to approach business leadership, parenting, school, parent-student relationships and other topics in a less competitive and more encouraging way. She's currently working on a blog for the program and even attended a Blogger workshop on ways to be succcessful at blogging. I encourage you to look at her website and at the Challenge Success website.

Throughout our focus group discussion there was a lot of criticism of things at school, but also a lot of suggestions for how to solve some of these issues. The focus group time is one of my favorite aspects of Youth in Government Day because it is a creative time for us to think about the issues we face as young people and how our city and school board might be able to help us and future students.

Following the group discussions, everyone came back together and shared out what they'd talked about. Some of the ideas were really interesting, and all of our comments will be submitted to the Youth Commission for possible implementation.

Mayor Jennifer Hosterman speaking to the group at the end of the day


Like last year, I found Youth in Government Day to be an inspiring opportunity. I'll keep in mind the different Parks & Community Services careers that I was introduced to--perhaps I'll end up in a position working for city government when I'm out of college. It is definitely something I'd be interested in learning more about and exploring. I am so fortunate to live in a town that values its youth and takes the time and effort to put on an event like this. Hopefully it offered inspiration, as well as knowledge about our city government and school district, to all the students who participated. I learned a lot throughout the day and hope my posting about it taught you some interesting things, as well.

Thanks for reading!
Green Gal

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Youth in Government Day 2010 Part I

For the second year in a row, I found myself in my city's council chambers with many peers, government employees, principals, school district employees, teachers, and others, waiting for Youth in Government Day to officially begin. A continental breakfast of bagels, muffins, juice and coffee had welcomed us in the lobby, and the room was packed with people.

Julie Duncan, Coordinator of the Career & Technical Education and Apprenticeship Program for our school district, started off the day by talking about Youth in Government Day. For about fifteen years this program has taken place to bring high school students into the everyday work life of government and school district employees. This year there was a record number of student participants and employees to be shadowed.

After introductions from the city manager and the school district superintendent, each student stood up and said their name, grade, school and their aspirations in life. There were quite a variety of aspirations, but a lot of future lawyers, nurses and people who have no idea what they want to do. I said I want to study anthropology in college, a student from my school said she wants to be a foreign diplomat, and one girl said she wants to dissect dead bodies. Like I said, lots of variety. Then the employees who were going to be shadowed said their name and position, and then we broke up into our groups.

Also for the second year, the person I was shadowing was Susan Andrade-Wax, Director of Parks & Community Services for the city. This year, however, we visited three different locations than last year, each related to different aspects of Parks & Community Services. First stop, Callippe Golf Course and Preserve.

On the drive over, Mike Fulford, the city's landscape architect, talked about the positive and negative aspects of a golf course. It preserves the land from dense development, but there's heavy chemical use in order to maintain it. It an exclusive recreation activity and costs money, but it prevents an open space from being taken away. The golf course is named after the Callippe Silverspot butterfly, which created some issues when the course was being made.

From the Callippe golf course website: "The Callippe Silverspot Butterfly is a member of the Nymphalidae, or brush-footed butterflies. The Callippe Silverspot has a wingspan of approximately 4.5 cm...The name "silverspot" refers to silvery patches of scales on the undersides of the wings. Historically this butterfly inhabited grasslands ranging over much of the northern San Francisco Bay region. The type locality, or site from which the subspecies was first recognized, is the city of San Francisco. On the San Francisco peninsula, this butterfly is now only known from San Bruno Mountain (approximately10 miles south of San Francisco). In the East Bay, it was known from Richmond in the north to the Castro Valley in Alameda County. The only remaining population of this butterfly in Alameda County occurs in an undisclosed city park....The causes of the Callippe Silverspot's decline are fairly clear. The vast majority of potential butterfly habitat lies under the cities of San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley. What open areas there are within this butterflies range are dominated by introduced plant species. Many of these areas are also grazed by cattle, mined, or subject to heavy recreational use. The Alameda County population is particularly small and vulnerable. The San Bruno Mountain population occurs on land that, although private, is largely protected from development. This area is also being managed for the conservation of several additional endangered species, including the San Bruno Elfin and the Bay Checkerspot." The land on which they built the course is a potential home for this endangered butterfly species. The ridges in the Bay Area all used to have this plant called the Johnny Jump Up plant (Viola pedunculata) that offered food for the butterfly. As the area has been developed, this plant has died off. The ridge where the golf course has been built is a place where the plant can grow, so when building the course, the city had to also purchase parcels of land nearby in order to preserve them for this plant species in case the butterfly ever flew over to the ridge and wanted to make a home.


From The Independent newspaper: "...Callippe Golf Course was developed as part of a cooperative effort to create an 18-hole golf course, hiking and equestrian trails, endangered species habitat, wetland establishment, and dedicated grazing land. The course site is a protected habitat for the federally endangered Callippe Silverspot Butterfly and the California Tiger Salamander, and the federally threatened California Red Legged Frog."

At the golf course, we met Lisa Hagopian, the Parks Maintenance Superintendent, who was pruning a tree in front of the golf building when we arrived. She talked about how she has to maintain parks and plants in the parks with both the plant's needs, the animals who utilize the plant's needs and human needs in mind in order to create a balance that is good for all. She oversees many different types of parks in our city, including the newly-acquired cemetery, which is a pioneer cemetery, meaning the grass is not watered. The rain keeps it green and when there is no rain, it turns brown. They do maintain the cemetery by picking up leaves and such and the city now has to arrange for burials at the cemetery.
Lisa Hagopian (left) speaking with Cameron, one of the students in the group


After she spoke about her background, Mark Spiller,Recreation Services Manager, spoke about his role in scheduling the use of the various parks in the city, including the tennis park, sports park and acquatic center.
Two students looking out at the view through the windows at the golf course


Our city has a lot of parks, a lot of trees and an emphasis on open space and greenery. Every person living in Pleasanton lives within half a mile of some park. We have trails and preserved open spaces on the ridge and surrounding the golf course. Grazing takes place on the preserved areas surrounding the golf course, which helps reduces the chance of fire. There is so much behind-the-scenes maintenance of the beautiful greenery in our city and I think most poeple don't realize how much planning goes into the landscaping in our town. If you pay attention to it, you realize how artistic the landscaping is. That's the job of the landscape architect, who plans where certain plants will go. He designs parks and works with a variety of different people to create natural, historic or recreational areas for people to explore.
Susan Andrade-Wax speaking with some students at the golf course




Our next stop was the Alviso Adobe Community Park, one of my favorite places in all of Pleasanton. Mike Fulford designed this one, too, which I didn't realize when I mentioned that it's my favorite place. He talked about the park, giving the history of the Adobe structure, which was built by Francisco Solano Alviso in 1844. Then, in the 1920s, the Meadowlark Dairy stood at the same site and a recreated milking barn and bunkhouse can be found at the park, replicas of the originals, recreated using old photographs. Then Andy Jorgensen, Civic Arts Manager, talked about the park from a cultural arts perspective. He had us kneel and touch the ground and then he told us a story.

Back when Stoneridge Drive was being built, something was discovered in the ground that was being developed. When the big trucks had ground through the dirt where the road was to be built, they realized that they'd come across an old burial site. It was from the Ohlone people, the Native Americans who inhabited Pleasanton for thousands of years before the Spanish came through and took over the area for the missions. Mr. Jorgensen got to see the skeletons of the Ohlone people who had been buried in what was likely a sacred site many, many years ago. One was the skeleton of a child curled up, with beads wrapped around her little head. Beside her was a couple, buried together. These people, he told us, had lived where we live now, just as the Alviso family and the Californios had lived here with other Spanish settlers who had inhabited the area, and just as the people who lived in the 1920s when the Meadowlark Dairy was located in these same foothills. The Ohlone, the Californios and the dairy farmers each had the perfect set of technology required to live as they did. We have our own set of technology, but just because we consider ours "more advanced" doesn't mean it's better than the technology of those who came before. Our iPods and cell phones would have been of no use if we were living thousands of years ago in the marshlands of Pleasanton with the Ohlone people who used mortal and pestle to grind acorns and atlatls and spears to hunt animals. Even during missionary times and in the 1920s, you needed to have more than knowledge of a computer to survive, not that that is the only knowledge we have today, but if that was all you had, you wouldn't survive. All these different people have lived on the same land as the land we now live on, and though each group had different cultures and different beliefs, the people who came before us weren't so different from us today. We're all human, after all. The ground we were kneeling on and touching was the same Earth they felt.

We walked around the park, visiting the different buildings. Mike Fulford told us that when they had first begun work at the park, he had gone up into the attic of the Alviso Adobe. It had some sort of tree shavings as insulation, which was what they used back then, and he had found a hand-made, wooden carved toy horse for a child. He showed it to us in one of the small rooms of the Adobe. A child had once lived there, it seems.
The Alviso Adobe building

The doorways in the building are quite low because Mr. Alviso was a short man. The bricks used to build the Adobe are also quite small when compared to other adobe brick buildings. "Small man, small bricks," Mr. Fulford said, quoting someone he'd spoken to about adobe bricks. The city restored the Adobe building to the time of most use, which was the 1920s, so it doesn't look as it did in the 1800s when the Alviso family first lived there. That's how buildings are often restored--to the time of most use. If the Adobe was restored to Alviso's time, there'd be no electricity and there'd be dirt floors, most likely. We also took a look at the bunkhouse, which was built with custom-made, authentic two by fours.
Materials inside the bunkhouse.


The paved pathways at the Alviso Adobe park are made of ground granite combined with tree sap. It's cheaper than many other materials used for paving and looks very natural. It also is porous enough that rainwater is absorbed and the tree roots at the park can breathe through it.

In the milking barn we learned that the cows were brought in through one door, milked in a corner, brought back toward the door and fed and then led back out. There was a silo at the site, which they did not rebuilt. The grain supplemented the grass diet of the milking cows.
Mike Fulford (left), the city's landscape architect; Susan Andrade-Wax, Director of Parks & Community Services; Mark Spiller, Recreation Services Manager


The Parks & Community Services employees told us about their job and what career they thought they wanted when they were in high school. Each told us the journey they took to reach the job they have now. In the milking barn, Kathleen Yurchak, Human Services Manager, told us about her job and her background. She grew up in Sonora and spent her summers working at the Pinecrest Lake snack shack. I told her afterwards that my best friend had grown up in Sonora and that my family visits Pinecrest every summer.

As we walked back to the van to leave, Mr. Fulford pointed out some Mexican marigolds. He had us rub our palms on the plants and smell the scent of crushed marigold--quite fragrant! The marigold flowers, I remembered, are bright yellow and were used for dying cloth during the Californio period. He also pointed out thyme and bay.

Then we drove over to the Firehouse Arts Center in downtown. On the ride over, Mr. Fulford pointed out some beautiful elm trees, which had survived the Dutch elm disease because they are isolated from any other elms. He also talked about an old locust tree that was planted a long time ago. When they redid the landscaping on Main Street about fifteen years ago, they planted locusts along the sidewalks. They're still pretty young, but eventually they will become beautifully crinkled and gnarly, just like the old locust near Gay Nineties Pizza he pointed out.
Andy Jorgensen, Civic Arts, Manager, walking toward the Firehouse Arts Center


The Firehouse Arts Center will be a performing arts theater with a gallery and classrooms. Andy Jorgensen spoke about it once we got inside the building, which isn't finished yet. It was dark and smelled of fresh paint. The elevators are merely scary, open shafts right now. There are cords and men with hard hats and unfinished walls all over the place. But it's completed enough to tell that it will be a wonderful asset for our community. The theater is very versatile and can be set up in a variety of ways, unlike our current Amador Theater which can only be viewed in a Proscenium style.

Ustairs, the classrooms can be divided into two rooms or left open. They will be places for rehearsals or classes on painting, acting or other forms of art. The building is half historic, half new. The historic aspect is the brick building that once housed the city's first fire station. The new half is painted with three colors: plum, brick red, and green. If you look at the historic firehouse, the plum and brick colors are both there. The green isn't, but it ties it all together nicely. The other side of the theater is wood paneling and that side opens to Lions Wayside Park, where Concerts in the Parks takes place in the summer. I can't wait for the Firehouse Arts Center to open in September--it will be an amazing place for the arts in Pleasanton.

The lobby at the Firehouse Arts Center


The performing arts stage from the balcony area


Unfinished classrooms being built upstairs




After the tour, Fan Ventura spoke about her administrative work for the Parks & Community Services Department. She once worked for a fire department and various other locations that have helped her in being creative when things come up with projects since she's encountered a variety of situations. Then we headed over to the Veteran's Memorial Hall for lunch, catered by Village High School. I brought my own food--tofu and rice from last night's Chinese food--because I figured the lunch wouldn't be vegan. I was correct. They had spaghetti with meatballs, cream-based pasta, caesar salad, and garlic bread. Okay, so I had some garlic bread. And some cannoli. Hey, it's a special occasion!

Mayor Jennifer Hosterman, the first woman mayor of Pleasanton, spoke about the importance of making goals and having aspirations. She gave some examples from her life about the value of doing your best to get to the place in life you want to be. Then Valerie Arkin, a school board member, spoke about Barbara Johns who is one of the first people to organize a strike before the Civil Rights Movement even began. For more information about her, click here. Ms. Arkin encouraged us to be aware of the power we have to make change in our communities.

I will finish describing Youth in Government Day later in a separate post. Thanks for reading!

Green Gal

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

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