Foraging in Los Angeles!

Living Off the Los Angeles Landscape, With Pascal Baudar

The instructions said to meet beneath the 210 freeway overpass in the L.A. foothills neighborhood of Lakeview Terrace. We get out of the car, unbuckle the children, and head toward a group of 15 people huddled at the base of a cement embankment. A soft-spoken man collects the $20 fees and hands out small cups filled with a red liquid—a fermented soda made with wild blackberries, cherries, manzanita berries, tarragon berries and raw honey. After a morning of foraging, we will sample more of the wild aromatic infusions created by Pascal Baudar, all as pretty as they were refreshing.

Welcome to the “Wild Food Walk and Wild Aromatic Infusions Tasting” hosted by Urban Outdoor Skills, which aims to connect city people with the natural environment all around them.

“Most people who live in larger cities are disconnected from nature. Nature was part of my life from the beginning, it was my world,” said Bauder, who writes and teaches about wild food and self reliance. Baudar founded Urban Outdoor Skills in 2006, and leads weekly classes on foraging and wild edibles that range from three-hour plant identification walks to daylong desert explorations.  (more…)


Mount Tamalpais and the Wildflowers of Persephone

I hung a right at the Stinson Beach fire station, and the trailhead appeared. My friend Tami and I had tried to hike this trail in February, somehow missing the trailhead and hiking the Cataract Trial farther up Mount Tamalpais instead. But because no fewer than three people told me the Matt Davis Trail was their favorite, I decided to give it another shot. And now here I was.

I followed the trail into the forest.

The Persephone of myth was radiant, referred to as “Kore” or simply, “the maiden.” She was gathering flowers with Artemis and Athena—what need the huntress and wise woman of war had for flowers isn’t clear. Perhaps they simply liked them. The three of them, along with some nymphs, were gathering flowers when the earth opened up. (more…)

My pet oak.

My Pet Oak: Learning How To Properly Love My 25-Foot-Tall Canyon Live Oak

“Oak tree, spread your branches, you know what to do.”
–Morris Day, “The Oak Tree”

There’s a 25-foot-tall Canyon live oak in the front yard of the house my family now calls home. We moved here in December, and shortly afterward a friend in the neighborhood told me of some minor dramas he faced when getting his own old oak trimmed.

Because this is the first time I have been charged with caring for a protected species, I decided to dig into the Do’s and Don’ts of oak tree stewardship in Los Angeles County. And this required the assistance of the Tree People.  (more…)

Quaking and Stormy, California Reminds Us That It’s Alive

The southern part of the state is quaking and shaking, heavy rain lashes the northern coast, and snow piles up in the Sierra. Every now and then California reminds you that it’s alive, not just the plants and creatures but the rock itself, even that dry old sky that goes whole seasons without much change.

I woke at a reasonable hour, heard the rain through the open window, and it sounded so pretty that I decided to go back to sleep for a while. By the crack of noon, I was covered by a hat and my rarely used “rain shell,” headed for the beach. Great sheets of water and temporary rivers along the sidewalks made for a beautiful vision after another too-dry winter. The neighborhood ducks were out, a mating pair of mallards, delighted by all the worms and whatever else had been awoken by the rainfall.

The beach, my fine little beach of dredged sand, was perfectly empty of people, the tide at its high point and whitecaps on the bay, thanks to the storm, which had also delivered a supply of logs, boards and other driftwood. There was a dead duck, too, still feathered, its beak pointing up.  (more…)

Berkeley Farmers Market

Farmers Markets: The New Grocery Industry Trade Show

What’s the new trade show for new grocery food? Try your local farmers market. That’s where Neal Gottleib’s ice cream took off, and that’s where Whole Foods found his organic ice cream, at the Berkeley Farmers Market.

Most people think of farmers’ markets as a place to pick up healthy food from mom-and-pop-operations, but it can also be a breeding ground for entrepreneurship. In fact, grocery stores often visit them looking for new ideas, said Harv Singh, a “forager” for Whole Foods’ Northern California region. “A farmers’ market is like an incubator for food companies,” he said.

In 1980, there were about 1,800 farmers markets across the country. Now there are nearly 6,000 and they’re the agora in the full sense of the word: community meeting places, usually outdoors, a Saturday or Sunday morning ritual that fills the need once served by churches. (more…)

Greenfriar Sez ...

Nothing’s better than waking up to a downpour after a long dry winter. Get past the whining about “the commute” and even the news has a hint of joy: Northern California will get rain on and off until next Monday, “the longest stretch of wet weather yet this year.”

California Condors Released Into the Wild: Watch ‘Em Live!

We highly recommend visiting the Condor Cams right now, because four enormous California Condors were released just this morning, and they’re currently enjoying lunch. California Condors!

I remember very well when the majestic giant vulture was very nearly extinct, just 30 years ago—and when Brooke Shields did a summer internship at the San Diego Zoo next to my high school downtown, your teenaged correspondent went over and watched the movie star help feed chunks of meat to the bred-in-captivity chicks. The humans wore special “condor muppets” so the babies would … get used to horrible muppets? No, of course not! So the babies wouldn’t fall in love with Brooke Shields.

But I could see her, in her stylish safari-style uniform that looked a little better tailored than those worn by the average zoo worker. I could see she wasn’t a condor, and I could not keep from falling in love, at least for the afternoon. Condors, everybody! Follow the Ventana Wildlife Society and the Oakland Zoo for live updates on the condors’ big first day in the wild.

UPDATE: Here’s a Condor Cam montage if you missed today’s excitement: (more…)