Time Flies–or not!

I just realized it’s been over two years since I did a blog post….oh, I’ve got lots of reasons, but I’m sure you don’t want to hear all of them. So much has happened in those two years. It seems like forever since I was posting from Morro Bay, and it seems like yesterday.  I loved the winter we spent in  Morro Bay and hoped to return the following winter, but life got in the way. I will go back though!

It will take some time to even begin to catch up. I don’t even know where to start.  The major change is that we sold the big old Histerical House  and, with heavy heart, I left my garden. Hmmm….guess I need a new banner photo, now.

We built a small log home in the foothills of the Cascades whereas before we were on the flat floor of the Willamette Valley. Only 45 miles away, but what a change!  I documented the whole project in photos, starting before we started to clear the building pad.

I don’t have much garden to write about, but watch for some posts about building the house, difficulties trying to create a new garden under very challenging conditions, goats, chickens, my work in clay and maybe an occasional post about my new-found interest in stained glass.

For now, here’s a photo of the morels I found in the corner of my garden today.

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Spring Cravings…

Here in Morro Bay, I am amazed at the things coming into bloom and already blooming in the middle of February, knowing that at home the daffodils haven’t even begun to show their faces. But I miss my garden, I miss spring in my garden, I miss smelling the cold fresh earth as I pluck the shotweed from the ground, hoping I’m weeding early enough to not be blinded by one of its lethal missiles. Yes, I’m one of those people who actually likes weeding–nothing like a good Zen weeding session where it gets dark before you realize that not only has lunchtime passed, but your morning coffee is ice cold in the dirt-covered insulated mug nearby.

One sign of approaching spring here on the central coast is the end of the breeding season of the Northern Elephant Seal, Mirounga angustirostri at the Piedras Blancas rookery, home to about 17,000 of the once-endangered animals. In February, they are birthing and the peak of mating is now, right around Valentine’s Day. I had hoped to visit the rookery earlier this year to see the incredible sight of the males competing for a dominant position on the beach. The winners, called alpha males or beach masters, each will have a harem of females. So, although I missed that, I did get to see the adorable babies when we went there yesterday with Raedeen and Bill, friends of ours visiting from Oregon. The sun wasn’t in the best spot for photos, but I did take a few.

Beach Master

Beach Master

Looks ponderous but very fast

Looks ponderous but very fast

Big Daddy

Big Daddy

A mother and child reunion

A mother and child reunion

Full belly and naptime for baby

Full belly and nap time for baby

Our friends had never been to Hearst Castle nor had Harold, so although we were fascinated by the elephant seals and would have liked to spend more time there, we had to get going to get to the castle for our tour reservation. Hearst Castle is now a California State Park with much of the Hearst Ranch now in a conservancy with 13 miles of coastline and 82,000 acres in state hands and forever protected from development. I won’t write a lot about the castle or the Hearst family as there is so much information  readily available, but it is well worth a visit if you’re ever in the area.

The castle itself is essentially a museum housing Hearst’s extensive collection of art from around the world. At one point he owned an estimated 1/4 of the world’s art. In the late ’30s and early ’40s he sold off at least 20,000 items, still leaving a museum’s worth of objects, some dating to B.C. 

Photography is allowed in the Castle, but not flash, and due to either gloom or the glare from windows, lamps, etc. it is difficult to take good photos. I took a small number of interior photos and few of those came out well, nor did I take many exterior shots;  however there are so many good photos on-line that anyone interested in seeing more can easily find them.

This is only a small section of one of the two libraries in the castle. Even with two libraries, there wasn’t enough shelving for his books. There were 3,000 in his library/study/office shown below and over 4,000 in the other library in the photo after that. Many are rare and valuable first editions, some signed by the author.

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William Randolph Hearst’s Library/Study/Office (one of two)

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Library with extensive collection of Greek vases and other art



Library w/ priceless vases

Library w/ priceless vases



We saw very old contracts, musical scores and manuscripts on sheepskin that had been made into lampshades. Hearst had commissioned architect Julia Morgan (his architect in designing and building the house) to create lampshades, some from a medieval choir book, thought to be Spanish. I find it hard to believe that someone who appreciated fine art as he did would have done this, but this is what we were told.


Parchment Lampshade

One of many bedrooms with religious-themed paintings, tapestries, sculptures, etc.

One of many bedrooms with religious-themed paintings, tapestries, sculptures, etc.

Incredibly detailed ceiling, top of draped walls.

Incredibly detailed ceiling, top of draped walls.

Julia Morgan, the first licensed woman architect in California, worked on the project for 28 years with Hearst. She was one of the first to build earthquake-safe construction, but all the same, I wouldn’t want to be in that castle in an earthquake.

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There were three versions of the Neptune pool built, the first completed in 1924.Hearst 062 (1024x746) Hearst 067 (1024x932) Hearst 068 (892x1024)

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The indoor Roman pool (below) is incredibly beautiful with the reflections of the walls and ceilings on the water creating amazing optical illusions making it difficult to tell where one leaves off and the other starts. The pool a decorated with eight statues of Roman gods, goddesses and heroes. From ceiling to floor the walls are decorated with 1″ tiles, some brilliant with fused gold inside.

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The Dragon and the SurviveOars

Last month I saw a long, brightly painted rowboat sitting at the docks, along with a smaller, plainer one, and as it was during the Bird Festival, I thought perhaps they had brought them in so that more of the birders would have safe access to the good birding in the back bay. It looked to me like it could hold about twenty people and I thought it was a great idea since some years back, a group went out in kayaks and some inexperienced paddlers got into a very dangerous situation with several people in a life-or-death situation and those who tried to rescue them were in turn put at risk in a treacherous situation. Fortunately all were rescued without injury or loss of life, but I’m sure it was a huge concern for the organizers of the Bird Festival in future years.

At the dock...

At the dock…

Then, in the past couple of weeks I’ve seen it again, docked where the Coast Guard and Harbor Patrol have their boats and personal watercraft for rescue and other work. I noticed the name on it: Joanna’s Joy. I started wondering who is Joanna and who takes this out since I walk the waterfront nearly every day and have never seen anyone in or near it.

Joanna's Joy

Joanna’s Joy

Then, yesterday afternoon I took a very long walk, past the harbor, around where the breakwater meets Morro Rock, and onto the beach. I stayed out much later than usual and didn’t start back until almost sunset. It was getting close to dark by the time I reached the north end of the docks and a fishing boat was also approaching. I couldn’t resist walking onto the T-pier to see what they caught, and as I did, I saw a couple of people down near “Joanna’s Joy,” then a few more. I thought maybe they had been out paddling and were stowing their gear as it was late. But, within a matter of minutes, a larger group of women and a few men assembled, a bright flock with a flaming pink life vest here, a fluorescent pink baseball cap there and pale and brilliant pink headbands and jackets scattered throughout the group. As I took a closer look, I saw they were preparing to go out for a sunset paddle.

Rower's Assembling

Rowers Assembling

I called down below to a woman and asked about her group and she called back up to me that they were the Central Coast mumble mumble. After she repeated it two more times, I was embarrassed to ask a third time and so just asked if I might take a few photos for my blog.

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Ready, set...


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They back-rowed from the dock and then gracefully turned and paddled north toward the breakwater and Morro Rock.

Heading North

Heading North

I watched the fishing boat tie up and decided I better get moving toward home as it was getting dark and although the area is perfectly safe, I’m a klutz and there are many trip hazards along the way. Walking south along the waterfront, I saw Joanna’s Joy and her lively crew rowing strongly from the north to the south and was able to snap a couple more photos of them silhouetted against the darkening sky and water. I was filled with joy and admiration for these ladies and gentlemen who choose to live life on their terms.

Sunset Paddle

Sunset Paddle

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When I got home, I told Harold about them and mentioned the way the boat was painted. As I spoke, I recalled several cyber friends who have written of rowing and racing dragon boats and it occurred to me that the crew I’d seen must be dragon boat rowers.  Enter Uncle Google: a quick search on Central Coast Rowing, Central Coast Dragon boats, etc. brought me to Central Coast SurviveOars. According to their website, they are part of Team Survivor, San Luis Obispo, an organization for women who have survived all types of cancer. Team Survivor is a national organization dedicated to “foster and promote exercise opportunities for women affected by cancer” which the San Luis Obispo group does through their dragon boating team, the SurviveOars . The local group’s blog isn’t current but you can see it here. I love the concept of the parent organization and they have different types of programs in many areas so if you or someone you know is in cancer treatment or recovery and might benefit and appreciate the camaraderie and support, check out Team Survivor. All are welcome and some of the activities they enjoy include:

  • Walk/Run Groups (“Walk & Talk”)
  • Dragon Boat Racing
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Yoga
  • Cycling (Road and Mountain)
  • Golf Clinics
  • Pilates
  • Triathlon Training

I hope you are as inspired by them as I am. They refuse to let their cancer control or define them.

Countdown begins…31, 30, 29…

I love getting away from Oregon for the coldest, darkest and wettest months. In late January or early February, I get anxious about what’s happening in the garden at home, what’s blooming and what plants may be lost to freezing weather or water-logged clay soil. I start counting the days. I wonder whether the house is OK or if we’re going to arrive home to broken pipes or other problems. This year I have a new concern and something else calls me home: my kitty, Scruffy. I worked so hard to gain her trust and even though she is in the loving care of my friend and neighbor Kimmie, I miss her and worry that I will have to begin all over again in winning over this semi-feral little girl. She accepts the mister and she accepts Kimmie, but without a doubt, I am her person.



I'm napping...

I’m napping…

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I looked for some photos of the garden from last January or February, the only time I’ve been at home in Oregon at this time of year in a decade, but there are none as my father was in hospice care and I was spending as much time as possible with him. I can’t even remember what might have been blooming. Perhaps some Schizostylis, now renamed Hesperantha coccinea, a name I can sometimes remember, sometimes not; perhaps the Iris reticulata, one of my favorites so I hope I don’t miss them.
My friend Flora Gardener of Tangly Cottage Gardening recently posted some photos of them blooming on the Long Beach Peninsula in SW Washington state where she lives and gardens both for pleasure and professionally. It’s quite a bit milder there than in the Willamette Valley so perhaps they are ahead of the I. reticulata at New Leaf and I will still get the pleasure of their fleeting beauty when I return home. I planted several hundred new ones last fall, so it would be a shame to miss their blooms.

Since I can’t share my January garden with you, I want to show you some photos of August’s and Laurel’s little hillside garden which I told you about in an earlier post, Time keeps on slippin, slippin, slippin, into the future….

August and his wife Laurel are retired and came to Morro Bay from Oregon. They live in a small apartment on top of a tourist shop facing the bay, below the house on top of the hill that you see in the below photo.

Road View August's Garden

Road View August’s Garden

They’ve carved out a wonderful patio deck and garden area on the hillside. In the below photo, you see at left the door to their apartment. They even have sedum containers on the porch roof and the apartment roof.

Entrance to August's Apartment

Entrance to August’s and Laurel’s Apartment

View of  Upper Area

View of Upper Area

Close Up

Close Up (click for larger image)

Without having my own garden to photograph, I’m always in search of other interesting gardens and plants. There aren’t many gardens here due to the drought and resulting water restrictions and very small and expensive lots. Here are a few interesting plants and flowers I spotted yesterday afternoon on my walk.
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Leonotis leonurus

Leonotis leonurus

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And, a pretty I spotted in a window.

Pretty art glass seen in a window

Art Glass

And crab pots down by the bay. I’ve seen crab and fishing boats from Astoria in our little harbor. Perhaps there are some from Ilwaco as well. Some of my peninsula friends might even know the owner of these.

Crab pots being offloaded from a truck

Crab pots being offloaded from a truck

Birds and Beef

Last fall before coming to Morro Bay, I read an article in Sunset magazine with central coast BBQ restaurant reviews and discussing the famous red oak barbeque and Santa Maria-style tri-tip for which this area is known. In the article, and then in discussions with local people, “Jocko’s in Nipomo” kept coming up. On Saturday, the mister declared he hadn’t had a ribeye in forever and that he really wanted a steak, and I wanted to explore a place called Oceano Lagoon which is in the same general area. Thus a plan was hatched for an excursion.

In the late 1920’s, some land south of Pismo Beach was being developed into a huge housing subdivision. An existing fresh water lagoon was dredged deeper and enlarged to enhance the subdivision and a model home was built and many lots sold. But then came the 1929 stock market crash and the depression resulting in the project’s failure. The lagoon and surrounding land are now a county park with a campground and are part of the migratory bird habitat surrounding them. The area is especially popular with birders hoping to spot migrating spring and fall warblers and water birds so we loaded up our kayak and set out for an adventure. Perhaps we’d finally find the elusive green heron that we’ve been stalking.

On Oceano Lagoon

On Oceano Lagoon

The Chauffeur

The Chauffeur

Black-crowned Night Heron

Black-crowned Night Heron

We tried traveling in stealth mode, and we spotted some herons so well camouflaged that even paddling slowly and quietly we couldn’t see them until very close, and then they’d startle and fly. We thought we’d spotted the greens, but a closer look revealed Black-crowned night herons. Accustomed to seeing the tall great blues with their long and graceful necks, we were surprised to see how short and stocky these herons are, looking more like penguins with their thick necks.

Well disguised...

Well disguised…

Lookin' like a penguin...

Lookin’ like a penguin…

After exploring the lagoon, we loaded up the kayak and headed toward Jocko’s. We had reservations, but had heard that it can get so busy that having a reservation just means you’ll wait less. But, as we headed down Hwy 1, I spotted the most amazing turret sticking up from behind a trailer park–I cried out to the mister that I must have a photo, even if were were a few minutes late.

Amazing Spire (with live bird)

Amazing Spire (with live bird)

He kindly drove around several blocks until we were able to locate a street that led to the side of the structure. To our amazement, it was an incredible Victorian home sitting right smack in the middle of a rather shabby trailer park.

Victorian home

Victorian home

I grabbed my camera and respecting the No Trespassing sign, I took a number of photos through and over a chain link fence.2014-01-26 002 056 (547x800) 2014-01-26 002 063 (567x800) 2014-01-26 002 065 (600x800) 2014-01-26 002 066 (600x800) 2014-01-26 002 068 (800x554) 2014-01-26 002 069 (800x586) 2014-01-26 002 070 (600x800) 2014-01-26 002 071 (2) (800x484) 2014-01-26 002 073 (800x600) 2014-01-26 002 074 (800x600) 2014-01-26 002 075 (800x562) 2014-01-26 002 076 (800x600) 2014-01-26 002 077 (800x600) 2014-01-26 002 079 (600x800) 2014-01-26 002 081 (800x766)After we returned home, I did a little research and found that it’s a historic house known as the Coffee T. Rice home. It was completed in 1886 and has 20 rooms and once had a paddock, racetrack and beautiful gardens. It was built of mahogany, teak and marble with handmade Italian tile, and was framed with 2×6 studs. By 1895, Mr. Coffee T. Rice fell on hard times, his son killed in a riding accident, his fortune lost and his wife suffering from “neurasthenia” (I think, perhaps, the language of the time for nervous breakdown) and he moved out.

In 1905, it was purchased by the Temple of the People (the Halcyonites) who used it as a sanitarium until 1925. It changed hands several time and then in 1959 was sold to the 4th owner who added the trailer park.

I’m always saddened when I see one of these “Grand Old Girls” sitting unloved and deteriorating. Those who share my love of old houses know that feeling. Reluctantly, I had to tear myself away from my dreams of rescuing her so we could get to Jocko’s.

We arrived at Jocko’s before 4:00, finding a long, low, 50s looking block building, with about 40 cars parked in the dirt lot, including plenty of pick-up trucks. This sign welcomed us:

A Jocko's Welcome

A Jocko’s Welcome

After a short wait (we were a little early), we were led through the dark hall/waiting area into an also dark, low-ceilinged room to be seated. This was definitely not a white-cloth restaurant. We were seated at a formica table set with paper placemats, menus were brought, drink orders taken. Our waiter returned with a relish tray, salsa, foil-wrapped butter pats, and a basket of assorted crackers in cellophane wrappers. Clearly this place was all about the meat.

Relish tray, crackers and butte  and salsa

Relish tray, crackers and butter and salsa

Although famous for BBQ, they also had Mexican food, Italian, fish choices, etc., but for the Mister it was all about the meat. Taking in the drab and weary-looking decor and observing the other tables, it seemed that must be the case for most diners. Looking through the window, we could see the glow of the outdoor fire pit with meat piled high on racks. We were surprised on opening the menu to not find ribeye, but we were told their Spencer was the same thing, a 2″ thick ribeye steak cut from a whole prime rib roast and that they butchered and aged their meat on-site. After a glance at the huge platters of food being brought out for other diners, we decided one dinner was more than enough for both of us as the mister no longer eats like he once did (nor weighs as much). We ordered the 28 oz ribeye with an extra plate. For an additional charge, we could have ordered extra on the sides, but we decided not to having seen the size of the portions. Although the place was full, we didn’t have to wait too long for the meal to arrive, meanwhile sharing a salad big enough for us both. Being new to blogging, I forgot to take a photo of the platter when it arrived, accompanied by an enormous baked potato, a big bowl of beans, and a basket of garlic bread. We were glad we hadn’t paid the plating charge for extra sides. It was an enormous amount of food. I rarely eat beef, but the first bite of that beautifully seasoned and grilled steak knocked my socks off. I don’t remember ever having a steak that flavorful and tender. We both ate more than enough and still brought a box of leftovers home. The meal included coffee and dessert and the bill was less than $40 including taxes (yep, we’re in California now) and a generous tip for our very courteous waiter! If you’re ever on the central coast and want an excellent steak, Jocko’s is the place. If you’re looking for a romantic atmosphere for date night, skip it. It’s all about the meat.

There’s a story behind Jocko’s and that “come in and monkey around sign”, in brief, there used to be monkeys in Jocko’s bar, but I’m too tired to write about it tonight. Besides, it’s all about the meat and all I know is that there’s no better steak than one cooked Santa Maria-style over red oak wood at Jocko’s.

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Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future

I can see it’s going to take a while to get into the bloggin’ habit. I was just astonished to find that I haven’t posted here in two weeks. I’ve continued my daily walk-abouts here in Morro Bay and have been taking a lot of photos. Awhile back I took this photo of a lovely succulent.

Today I met August, who with his wife Laurel tends a fabulous sedum garden on a hillside. I told him how much I enjoy his garden when I walk by. It’s quite small (at least by Oregon standards) but full of interesting driftwood, rocks, garden art and, of course, the sedums. I must get a photo of it to share with you. I was delighted when he generously offered me a start of this plant. I don’t know whether it will be hardy in Oregon, but how could I refuse?  

Other highlights of the past couple weeks were attending the Morro Bay Bird Festival and finally launching our kayak for the first time. No kayaking photos yet, as being a newbie kayaker, was reluctant to take out the camera. I do however have a few photos from the bird festival.

Ducks in a Row

Banded Kingfisher:

Great Blue Heron:

And not a bird, but a picturesque abandoned dock at one of the birding sites:

And an adorable otter as seen from a boat birding tour

And is this sunset not gorgeous?

I hope to catch up a bit more in the next few weeks and share with you more of the sights here in Morro Bay before my winter rambles end and I return to Oregon at the end of the month and begin the new gardening year.

Pondering Blogging

I wonder how many bloggers struggled with writing their first blog post? Where do I start? Do I just jump in and write as if it was just another post in a lengthy archive of blog posts?


Morro Bay Icons

Hmmm…seems I should write some kind of explanation as to why I, an obsessive Pacific Northwest gardener, am posting photos of a small town on the central California coast. 

But then, perhaps the few folks that find their way here will be friends and family who already are familiar with the seasons of my life.

They know that for years I’ve been a snowbird, leaving Oregon during the coldest wettest months, for years in Baja, then very briefly Arizona and then 3-4 years in California in Borrego Springs, a donut hole in the Anza-Borrego State Park. Needing a change, we narrowed down possible destinations to the California coast south of Monterey and north of Los Angeles, then closed our eyes and pointed: Morro Bay.

I’ll be posting about my life here and sharing photos of this area until I return home to Oregon.