Archive | Gardening RSS feed for this section

Baby Bird Watching

Camouflaged nestling.

Camouflaged nestling.

Recently I found a baby bird in my small backyard. Our meeting reminded me of the scene from the movie “E.T the Extra-Terrestial” when Gertie got her first look at E.T. Mutual cries of surprise erupted then a tentative friendship was reached.

In our case the little bird scurried to safety and I ran inside to grab my camera and a stool so that I could wait patiently to snap some pictures. I figured that mama bird was not faraway so I chose a spot for my stool a respectful distance from the baby and waited quietly to snap some family photos.


When you are sitting still and waiting, time goes very slowly, but eventually mama returned and as you can see from the photo to the right, she first flew to the top of the fence to look down at her baby. I learned that getting a family shot was not going to be easy because the time the two spent together was brief. Initially I snapped a lot of fuzzy photos before I learned to wait, camera poised, ready to shoot.

Mother bird came and went several times as I watched and then she suddenly decided to relocate her baby. The two scurried behind some flowerpots and then mother flew up onto the fence, hopped down to the yard and then took flight. I thought she was gone but she came up behind me and gently nudged my back. I interpretted this as an acknowledgement of my presence and possibly a warning that she was watching me. I remained in my spot making minimal movement until I had taken a picture of mother and baby together.




 Even though we live in suburbia it is still possible to have encounters with wildlife. My husband and I purposely keep our backyard somewhat natural and have been visited on many occasions by nesting birds as well as birds who are just passing through. Each spring we are visited by courting Mourning Doves who  literally spend hours just sitting on our fence. Sometimes at night in the summer a racoon shows up to dig for bugs in the yard. Our main rule is, never feed the wildlife, we don’t want them to become dependent on us nor do we want to create an environment that is unsafe for us or any of our visitors.

The Library offers books on gardening to attact wildlife and the Children’s Department has a book on designing a butterfly garden (the information will be useful whether or not you’re a kid.) Ask a librarian for assistance in locating these or any other books on gardening, birds, wildlife or whatever strikes your fancy!

Share via email
Comments { 0 }



lenore finds a friend

Lenore and Brutus

Jon Katz, author of the children’s book Meet the Dogs of Bedlam Farm, has a new tale to tell.  When puppy Lenore comes to Bedlam Farm, she doesn’t quite fit in.  She only wants to socialize while all the other animals have work to do.  In Lenore Finds a Friend, Katz uses his own colorful photography to tell a story of surprising friendship.  If you’ve not yet seen the Bedlam Farm books, check them out.  For regular updates on the happenings at Bedlam Farm, visit Jon Katz’s Bedlam Farm journal.

It might be hard to get to upstate New York to see Bedlam Farm in person, but if your family wants a day on the farm there are lots of options closer to home.

Hidden Villa is located in Los Altos Hills, adjoining the Rancho San Antonio open space preserve.  Visitors can tour the organic farm and gardens or explore open wilderness on over eight miles of groomed trails.  Hidden Villa offers special events throughout the year, including sheep shearing day coming up this April 6th.

An operating family farm since 1922, Webb Ranch covers over 230 acres near Stanford University.  Riding lessons are offered through Webb Ranch stables and trail rides can be booked on Saturdays as weather permits.  Local produce in season is available at the on-site farmer’s market.

In what is now known as the city of Fremont, Robert Patterson and his family settled on 205 acres of fertile farmland and called it Ardenwood.  Visitors can go back in time to the 1850′s Patterson Ranch – a working farm complete with a restored Victorian mansion, elaborate gardens, and a horse-drawn railway.  Docents are dressed in vintage garb and a blacksmith shop is open for public demonstrations.

It’s all about the goats at Harley Farms.  Set on nine acres in the coastal town of Pescadero, this restored 1910 dairy farm is home to 200 alpine goats.  Visitors can take a tour (which includes the chance to milk a goat) or simply stroll the grounds to see goats and llamas in the pens and pasture.  No visit is complete without samples of fresh ricotta, chevre and goat milk feta from the Harley Farms cheese shop.

May through September is berry picking time at Phipps Country Store and Farm.  Kids can roam acres of Pescadero farmland while picking organic strawberries and olallieberries.  An extra treat is the post berry picking stop at the Country Store, which offers fresh jam, dried herbs, local honey, and over 75 varieties of heirloom and exotic dry beans.

Share via email
Comments { 0 }

Super Bowl or Super Brawl At Your Library

The Super Bowl is done, and like all 49ers fans, we didn’t get the outcome we wanted. So for now, let’s do like all the other teams that didn’t even make the game and talk about the commercials.

Between getting choked up by a Clydesdale and grossed out by GoDaddy, the best ad for $4 million of not-our-money was the only one that took place in a library (naturally). Oreo’s spot begins with two men arguing, quietly, over which is better: an Oreo’s creme filling inside or its chocolatey cookie outside. Soon everyone in the library gets involved, quietly, in an all-out brawl for sandwich supremacy. Eventually, fire and police crews respond, quietly, to quell the chaos. The ad is laugh-out-loud amusing, but it also perpetuates two (ok, one) stereotypes about libraries we’d like to dispel.

Stereotype #1: Quiet study is the only activity that happens in the library.

First, you should know that the library can still be a place for quiet reading and reflection. We have designated areas of the library expressly for this purpose. However, as times and the needs of our community change, so does the library. Public libraries in general are evolving from silent crypts of knowledge to vibrant, lively, and yes, at times loud, centers for exploration and collaboration. Sunnyvale Library is no exception. Last week on this blog, Becky wrote about some of the unexpected things that librarians do instead of shushing people all day. While we do and always will promote reading and study here, one of our goals at the library is to create programs that help people lead active, enriched lives, both physically and mentally. Take a look at our recent and upcoming events to see that we are working hard to offer something for you to get up, get engaged, and doing something on your own or with others. We’ve had wonderful success with our recent Fresh Start Series, as hundreds of you have come out to learn about organization, investing, EBay, and more. There are programs still to come on healthy food and estate planning in this series. Also still to come this month, you can visit the library to learn about getting out in your garden to grow blueberries, raise money for your organization, pick up the basics of computers or ebooks, or get crafty and make a valentine for your special someone. We recently got you listening to chamber music and dancing to Bollywood beats, and you still have time to tap your toes when we continue our Sunday Music Series with barbershop harmonies later this month. And of course we have some great literature programs planned as well, including our monthly book group which will kick off Silicon Valley Reads month with a discussion of The Long Walk: The Story of War and the Life That Follows by Brian Castner (who will speak here at Sunnyvale Library on Sunday, March 3 at 3 p.m.).

Stereotype #2: Oreos are great library eats.

While we can all appreciate the pick-me-up that a sweet snack provides during a long session of reading or studying, eating inside the library is problematic for several reasons. Crumbs on the floor, especially under tables and next to bookshelves where it is harder to clean, eventually attract vermin and other nasties. It’s gross and no joke. Food debris and beverage spills on books and other materials can cause permanent damage, especially if not reported immediately (usually out of embarassment). Have you ever unluckily picked up a book or DVD that had obviously been through a soda spill? Double gross. Eating, especially in a quiet area, is often disruptive to others. Very few of us are true eating ninjas, stealthy and silent. Some of us are unabashed lip-smackers, and well, we just won’t go there. Finally, take another look at the mess that can happen when Oreos and libraries mix:

So get up, and get engaged here at your library! But leave your Oreos outside or else they might disappear, because for the record, this librarian is most definitely on Team Creme.

Share via email
Comments { 3 }


Two years ago in May, I went home to Maine for a visit.  With an eye toward brightening up my parents’ yard, I bought some flowers to plant.  Thinking they might also enjoy a freshly grown tomato or two, I bought a tomato plant and put it in a pot near a window so they could easily monitor its progress.  Last year I went home about the same time.  This time my mother had gotten their old garden area (approx. 30 ft. x 36 ft.) rototilled and was ready for me.  We visited every nursery in our area and some farther away.  The revived garden began to take shape.  We planted all sorts of seedlings:  tomatoes, green beans, zucchini, cucumbers, hubbard squash, and a few other things.  At the same time my sister and brother-in-law were planting their annual vegetable garden.  We regularly compared notes.  Soon my vacation came to an end.  Then I got updates by phone all summer.  I heard when they picked the first tomato, and ate the first cucumber for lunch.  Mom helped my sister and brother-in-law make marinara sauce and put up pickles from their own harvest.

Same time this year I went home again.  The garden was once again ready to be planted.  We hit all of the same nurseries.  And again I’ve gotten updates on the progress.  They’ve just finished canning several jars of marinara sauce, making apple jelly, blackberry jam, and blueberry jam.  They’re getting ready to make pickles.  The four of them also enjoyed a zucchini parmesan from one of the giant zucchinis.  It was a banner year for both gardens!

I’ll be going home for Thanksgiving, which will be at my sister’s house.  This year, as part of the Thanksgiving feast, my sister will serve tomato sauce made from her own tomatoes, various pickles made from veggies from both gardens, and probably a pie made from a squash from our parents’ garden.  Just the other day my mother called and asked me if I would please find her a recipe for sweet gherkins.  She’d had to pick a large quantity of tiny cucumbers to save them from a predicted possible frost.  As canning is a bit of a lost art I expected I would have to look online for this.  I should’ve known  better.  For one thing, it appears that canning is making a comeback.  For another, if you’ve ever ventured over to that section you know that we have a very robust cookbook collection at the Sunnyvale Library.  In that collection there are several books about canning, preserving and pickling food.  Among those is a brand new title:  Food in Jars  by Marisa McClellan.  This is not your grandmother’s food preservation cookbook:  tomato jam, rhubarb chutney, pickled garlic scapes, and cranberry ketchup are just a few of the featured recipes.

(Mom and I are already talking about what we’ll plant next spring!)

Share via email
Comments { 0 }

What Sunset Eats for Breakfast



The New Western Garden Book: The Ultimate Gardening Guide (Sunset Western Garden Book

 One of the biggest mistakes that I’ve made as a gardener was giving away my older edition of Sunset Western Garden Book.   At the time, I naively thought that the newer edition was “better.”  Since then, I’ve gotten savvier.   Sunset editions, always “completely updated and revised,” aren’t necessarily better in all respects.  Certain cherished features may disappear to make room for the new cherished features.   But the one thing that Sunset cannot be faulted on is keeping up with the times.  If Mark Twain were alive today, he might have to eat his famous quote:  “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”

Well, Sunset does!

And they do it because between the concern of the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) with nationwide temperature lows, and the concern of the AHS (American Horticultural Society) with nationwide temperature highs, the Western gardener got lost in the shuffle.   Somewhere between the Pacific Ocean coast, the central valley, and the coastal ranges, he could be found but it took Sunset to come to the rescue!   Refining the broad strokes of the USDA and the AHS, twenty four climate zones cover states west of the Rockies,  Alaska, Hawaii, and even the bottom northwestern part of Canada.

This summer, I, like many others I’m sure, have been witnessing the extreme unrelenting heat most of our country has been experiencing.   One morning, looking at KTVU’s national weather map, most of the country ablaze in shades of red, I was startled to see the tiny sliver of our California coast in dark green contrast.   In fact, it seemed barely there when compared to the vastness of the rest of the country.    I couldn’t help but think of when I had lived in San Francisco.   Summer tourists would be in their Hawaiian shirts, totally flummoxed by the cold and damp that native San Franciscans shrug off as normal summer “June Gloom.”   Just across the Bay Bridge, Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda, and other East Bay cities and towns, at the very same moment , were experiencing  balmy warm sunshine.   Less than 20 miles north Pittsburg and Brentwood might be sweltering. while towns in the central valley, would be socked in under a thick Tule fog.   This is what Sunset eats for breakfast – the weather of microclimates!  I, for one, take pains not to color outside the lines.

This latest edition of Sunset, while it has done its usual tinkering,  has updated zoning and added sustainable gardening.   In with the new edition, hang onto your old edition, and try out Sunset’s zoning feature — before that trip to the nursery.

Share via email
Comments { 0 }