Happy Friday! Here are some things that I'm really happy about today.
1) Solo cup cloches: My first transplanting of broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage didn't fare so well, as many of the plants were eaten up. By slugs? By earwigs? By little woodland creatures in the night? I didn't know, but most of them were eaten to the ground. Tom made cages out of chicken wire for the ones that made it through the razing, and that has worked. But when I transplanted more brassicas in a fit of sun-drunkeness earlier this week, I knew Tom wouldn't be able to make cages for all of them late at night... after work... in the dark. So after transplanting, I just turned the plastic Solo cups upside down over each plant and voila. Makeshift cloches. This has worked great, also acting as a mini-greenhouse over each plant. So great that I'm planning to do it every time - and have found plastic cups that are made of compostable materials to use in future. Or I could just use mason jars.
2) Several interesting things are happening on our front porch. One of them is spiders. Now you know that I have a love/hate relationship with spiders - I love what they do to help us out by eating the nasties - but I also find them creepy crawly in the extreme and they give me the shivers. Lately anytime I go out on the porch at night, I notice that the eaves are positively festooned with small spiders in beautiful webs. I suspected they were orb weavers, but these are so much smaller than what I'm used to seeing in late summer/early fall that I wasn't sure. But after consulting some nature experts, I've been assured that they are indeed garden orb weavers. Likely they were hatched from eggs that overwintered on the porch, and they've decided this is as good a place as any to make a home. They'll reach full size by the end of summer, lay new eggs, and then die. And next spring we'll have the next generation, etc etc etc. I found it hard to get a good picture as they are so small and the webs are so high, so forgive my photograph. There are dozens of these ladies all over the porch. Extremely cool and extremely shivery all at the same time.
3) The other interesting thing happening on the front porch possibly has to do with a native bee. We have several wind chimes hanging out there, and as you know we've been having stormy weather, and when it's really windy those chimes keep me up at night. So I went out to take them down, and this is what I found in one of the chimes.
You see that grass sticking out? I took the chime down very carefully and laid it on a bench. Here's another shot of it.
I wrote to Dr. Gordon Frankie of the Urban Bee Lab at UC Berkeley. He replied that there is no way to know what lives in there unless I pull out the grass, which of course he didn't recommend and I would be loathe to do. He suggested I put it in a box so that I can see what happens when the creature emerges. I'm not sure I want to do that either, but if I am lucky enough to see what happens serendipitously, I will let you know. Mason bees like tubes, but they usually close the entrance with another sort of substance, so I'm mystified.
4) As part of one of my school courses, we are required to do some volunteer work with plants, in some way. There are numerous opportunities, of course, but I wanted to pick something I was particularly interested in and that would benefit my area. And I found this: The Walnut Creek Open Space Foundation's Fossil Hill Native Plant Restoration Project, in nearby Shell Ridge. I hike here often, and have wondered about the obvious signs of a project on this particular hill. Turns out the foundation is working to eradicate invasive mustard and replant with native species. This is something I can get behind! So I signed up to do my volunteer hours with this group and will begin later in February.
5) I received a letter from the Superintendent of our local high school district, where our son Adam already attends and our daughter Kate will begin attending next year. I try to keep political stuff out of this blog, because it's simply not the focus here, unless it directly effects something ecological (and on that note, have you let your senators know that you do not support Scott Pruitt for EPA?), but I am so proud of our school district that I must include a copy of the letter here. Our high school district includes four schools, one of which (our own high school, Las Lomas) has a high percentage of immigrant parents. Here's the letter:
"Dear AUHSD Community: I am writing to share that the Acalanes Union High School District Governing Board last night declared through formal resolution their unequivocal commitment to ensure our schools are safe and welcoming places for all our students, and that the District will provide equal access to a public education for all our students, regardless of students' or parents' actual or perceived national origin, ethnic group identification, religion, citizenship, or immigration status. Through a series of value statements and statements clarifying the law and student Constitutional rights, the Board reaffirmed the Acalanes Union High School District will be a welcoming and safe educational environment for ALL students and employees. The resolution was passed by the Governing Board 5-0 and was also supported by the Student Board Member. Sincerely, John Nickerson, Superintendent."
You know, just last week we got the news that Acalanes Union High School District is 5th on the list of excellent schools in California. So we are excellent AND we're safe for all students regardless of race, origin, or religion. I think this sends a very clear and positive message that the two are not exclusive. And this makes me very happy and proud that we live here.
In other news, I think we'll get a video made this weekend, though it is rainy outdoors! I plan to start tomato seeds (see, I told you I wouldn't be able to wait until March), and I'll show you our setup. Also if there is a break in the rain, we need to do the first hive check of 2017, and we'll record that, too. So see you all this weekend!