In summers years back when my parents had a large vegetable garden in the San Joaquin Vally, we would reap the benefits of their hard work in the blistering 100 degrees heat and have the sweetest most flavorful tomatoes I've ever tasted. Every tomatoe since then has not measured up - except for the dry farmed tomatoes that are now in season at the farmers markets and specialty grocery stores.
A special combination of soil, waterfall, and temperature produce small intensely flavored tomatoes that remind me of my parents' tomatoes. Being farmed without irrigation results in a smaller tomatoe, but the taste is wonderful.
Calistoga in February: I usually think of palm trees having long slender trunks with their fan-like leaves waving softly in an ocean breeze. These palm trees, however, are short and stumpy -- almost cartoon like. The shaved trunks heighten the cartoon feeling. Walking down the gravel driveway feeling and listening to the crunch crunch of our footsteps, our view punctuated by palm trees standing at attention is memorable.
I was sitting on a bench in Golden Gate Parks Botanical Garden where the squirrels are so tame this one came right up and touched my camera. Cute little critters.
The trees in the Tuileries Garden near the Louvre in Paris are trimmed yearly to a maximum height of 2.2 meters and the overall shape is gently trimmed to emphasize the axis of the gardens leading to the I. M. Pei pyramid. Here the lower branches are all trimmed to a uniform height to form a ceiling canopy of tree branches. The effect is being in a huge outdoor room looking out between columns of tree trunks to the space beyond.
Palais du Royal, Paris
The French, however, don't stop thee and aren't afraid to really make those trees stand at attention as shown here at the Palais du Royal, also near the Louvre.
In this smaller and more formal space an alley of trees stand rigidly at attention with identical buzz cuts.
Marie Antoinette's Garden at Versailles
Yet the ultimate expression of this idea can be seen at Marie (let-them-eat-cake) Antoinette's playground at Versailles just outside Paris.
Here the trees are buzz cut just as at the Palais du Royal, but they are also given a little flip at the top for added flair. Fun, but mon amie, you must have grounds to do this.
At first glance, you might think this was taken at a winery in the California wine country. The setting seems bucolic, but the photo was actually taken in the middle of San Francisco at the outdoor cafe of the DeYoung Museum in Golden Gate Park. The new museum design by the Swiss architectural firm of Herzog and De Meuron is a dramatic change from its previous stogy incarnation. Its dimpled copper sheathing has weathered now and the museum seems to have settled-in.
On nice days, the outdoor cafe seating is popular and the dramatic overhang frames the sky and space nicely. On rainy days you can even park in the underground garage and enter the museum directly without getting wet.
The Highline Park in New York's Chelsea district is an example of how the liability of a crumbling relic from a by-gone era, has been transformed into something exciting. It's a buzz as a "must see" among visitors, especially design and landscape aficionados.
The "park" uses an old elevated railroad line that has been long abandoned and weed infested. As they say, the most sustainable design is one that re-uses what is existing and this is exactly what they did. Look at the narrow gaps of the paving at the left. Some still contain the steel rails of the old railroad. On the Highline you can stroll 3 floors above the street level through the west side of the city near the Hudson River -- a little removed from the hustle and bustle below. There are elevators so the park is accessible for wheelchair visitors.
Leaf on the ground at the San Francisco Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park. Gorgeous color!
Growing up in the San Joaquin Valley, I never heard of dry farmed tomatoes. With 100+ degree weather for days on end, growing vegetables and other crops was only possible with irrigation. Dry farmed tomatoes wouldn't be possible with this intense heat. The tomatoes my parents grew were sweet, big and flavorful because of the intense heat and proper watering. Too much water and the tomatoes' flavor would be diluted and the tomatoes could also split.
Dry farmed tomatoes are perfect for the Bay Area's cooler marine climate. Dry farming means there is no irrigation after the tomatoes are transplanted and this forces the roots to extend deep into the soil to search for water. Tomatoes farmed with this technique are small but the flavor is intense. 2011 has been a cool year for Northern California and tomato afficionados have been lamenting the effect of this year's weather. I sometimes check the Two Dog Farm's website to see when the tomatoes will be harvested. I just checked and as of August 16, 2011, they still are not ready for market. Usually they will show up near the end of July. The ones at Bi-Rite Market I bought last week were only ok. Anything good is worth waiting for!
A boy watches the wedding
August 14, 2011 Berkeley Rose Garden: While visiting the Berkeley Rose Garden on a sunny afternoon, men in suits and women in fine clothes gathered one by one at the base of the garden. The strains of Pachelbel Canon in D Major glided over the roses and the bride and her escort aided by a cane proceeded slowly and gingerly down the rose covered walkway and steep steps to the waiting friends and family below. I don't know anyone in the bridal party, but for a few moments, we were witness to this simple and beautiful ceremony. It was a chance and happy encounter. Pachelbel's canon is a popular and beautiful choice for wedding processionals. Friends and relatives of ours may remember a string quartet playing this same canon at a wedding in December 1985. . .
I went to pick up my lunch and walked by this fountain as I have many times. Installed underneath stairs without any place to stop and contemplate the fountain, people walk quickly by without giving it a second glance. Once the decision was made to place it, I guess they felt the need to enclose the fountain to protect it from vandalism. So there it sits in splendid isolation.
The net effect is not a little sense of calm and repose, but of sadness. Good idea, wrong place.
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