Canyon, California

Land of perfect weather for working, abundant roadside fruit, homemade-hillbilly dwellings and woodworking genius, and steroid-requiring poison oak.

Since starting this job, I wanted to work in Canyon. It’s always been a mystery to me. The town is marked only by a post office and a community school along a long, windy road that follows the San Leandro Creek through redwood groves. Miles away from urban Oakland to the west, and suburban Moraga to the east, Canyon is like neither.

The town has seen many incarnations throughout the years. The redwoods are on their third growth because of the logging history in the unincorporated community. The Sacramento Northern Railway ran straight through the canyon, on what is now a oak-lined walking path. Since the 60’s, the hills of Canyon have been rewritten over and over, playing host to different communes, artist communities, and now, a diverse group of hippies, Berkeley ex-pats, young outdoorsy folk, and a cloistered convent, called Carmel. I met a handful of interesting people in the past two weeks while working there.

Just a quick note on working there: The terrain is thick and unforgiving. Steep paths rather than roads connect addresses; some rustic and forgotten for many years. To mark a tree for trimming, I generally had to push my way through thick blackberry, poison oak, and scotch broom. It was messy. But, I was rewarded with sweet native blackberries, plums, apples from forgotten orchards, and some of the ripest figs I’ve tasted.

Found along a quiet trail along a stream: Torn up clothing, basket of produce, dead chicken and mouse, baseball bat and tomatoes. Canyon mystery.

Found along a quiet trail along a stream: Torn up clothing, basket of produce, dead chicken and mouse, baseball bat and tomatoes. Canyon mystery.

The nicest harem. Instead of sniffing me hand to meet me, they gently touch all over my face with their face. They all had people names.

The nicest harem. Instead of sniffing me hand to meet me, they gently touch all over my face with their face. They all had people names.

The Lake Merritt Bee Hotel

Taken two months ago. As of today, about 75% is filled with material.

The Lake Merritt Bee Hotel

Taken two months ago. As of today, about 75% is filled with material.

I haven’t posted in a bit. Work has been challenging the past few weeks, and I haven’t had much to explore. Mostly attack dogs, customers calling me “not a nice person”, and a possible stress fracture in my foot.


All that aside, I took a couple days off my feet then went to my other job. I work a few Saturdays a month at the Gardens at Lake Merritt. The most wonderful thing I hear when I work there is people walking through, saying, “I’ve lived here 30 years, and I didn’t know this place existed!”. It really is a little diamond in the middle of the city. Right on the shore of (newly renovated!) Lake Merritt is a little 7-acre botanical garden. It’s made up of eleven different specialty gardens. I focus on the Pollinator Garden, mostly. My supervisor has put a lot of stress on maintaining this area, and over the past year we’ve added two new pollinator beds to the garden.


Right now, everything is blooming. You can stand in one place for 2 minutes and see a dozen species of butterfly, bee, and hummingbird within a couple yards. We’ve built a “bee hotel” which is a habitat for the 1,600 species of native bees that don’t have a home in an urban environment, without standing dead trees or logs in which they lay their eggs. The bee hotel was based off a photograph of one in a french botanical garden. We didn’t know if it would work here, but, as of today, it looks like about a quarter of the holes are filled with bee eggs. Really neat.

New home for the middle-aged

New home for the middle-aged

Days like this make me remember why I love to live in Northern California.


Went up to Muir Beach on Saturday with my friend, Catherine, and her daughter, Sophia. Lots of traffic, a little hard to park, but nowhere near as crowded as Stinson on a rare warm coastal day. I had never been there, but it reminded me of Sand Beach in Maine, where I used to go as a kid. Cove setting, with hiking trails up the hills on either side, and plenty of big rocks for the kids to climb. I can’t say it was warm. While it was 95 degrees inland, it was about 65 on the beach, with the ocean breeze constantly flowing over.

Next, we drove up Mt. Tam to the Tourist Club, a spot I’ve been waiting to try for a while. We parked in a little gravel parking lot on a small private road. The walk down to the house was about a 1/4 mile, curvy, and straight down. You can also hike up to the house. Well worth it. The Tourist Club is a lodge for the San Francisco chapter of the International Friends of Nature. The club is for outdoor enthusiasts. Most chapters are in German-speaking countries, but we have three here in California. On select weekends (one a month, plus festivals) they open up the club to the public. German beer flows on tap and people are camped out all over the deck on beach towels enjoying the view of Muir Woods and Mt. Tam. Sommerfest is happening in July, so if you like leiderhosen and Hoegarden, get up there for their next guest weekend (July 6 & 7) to buy tickets. (Cash only)


The day was complete with a dozen oysters and fish n’ chips. Give this girl seafood, beer, and a secret location and I’ll be happy forever.

I’m raising Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars. They will be released in the Gardens at Lake Merritt when the emerge from crysalis, but for now, they are alternating between munching on the host plant and resting. Charlie and McGee are protective, and they watch over the container. 


I’m hoping for a male and female, so we can continue raising these butterflies at the lake. We’ll see. For now, I am unexpectedly obsessed with watching these yucky little guys move around and eat.

Sure, the scenery is beautiful, but who can even see it with a herd of baby goats in the foreground? When I approached this fence for the first time they all ran (actually RAN) over to say hello. They have so many voices.

This property is fun to inspect. The owner has ducks, yaks, pet bulls (PET!), mini horses (L’il S), and lots of dogs and gots. She refers to all the animals as people, like, “oh them, they’re the husband and wife,” or, as a car was approaching a lazy group of elderly goats, “you people better move, the Mercedes is coming.”

Specimen.

Specimen.