Monday, February 28, 2011

No snow and California bay nuts

So the forecast for this last weekend was for snow in the SF Bay Area.  They were even forecasting snow down to sea level.  I was pretty excited.  But there was no snow. I should have known better than to trust a weather forecast.

In other news, I finally roasted some California bay (laurel) nuts.  As you might have read in another post, I collected some back in November.  And I finally got around to roasting them recently.  Flavors of Home suggested roasting them in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes. It seems a little less might be better.

The first time I roasted them for a little longer and they tasted like burnt popcorn.  I tried it again and took out the nuts at different times (between 25-35 min of roasting).  Too little and they taste a little raw/bitter.  Too long and they taste too burnt, but even when cooked right they still have the taste of burnt popcorn to me. When I told this to a friend, he immediately asked, "Burnt popcorn in a good or bad way?"  Sometimes burnt popcorn is not so bad.  So I would say burnt popcorn in a good way.  I can really see eating a lot of them, but they definitely weren't bad.  I have a few more nuts, so I'm gonna try one more round and experiment a little more.

For another blog post and video on roasting them check out FeralKevin.  (Thanks for the link Katie)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Castle Rock Regional Recreation Area

So the plan today was to get up to Mt. Diablo to see the snow.  But just near the entrance on Northgate we saw a long line of cars, and a long line of cars turning around to come back the way we had come.  The thumbs down from one of the returning drivers sealed it, so we also turned around and headed to Castle Rock Regional Recreation Area (try and say that ten times fast) instead.  I had never heard of this park, but it was actually a really nice find just on the edge of Walnut Creek.

We followed the course of a creek, having to cross it several times.  That made for some interesting dances across the rocks.  Above us there were tons of beautiful rock formations.
 And there were also caves big and small scattered about.
The buckeyes were just leafing out, filling the woods with bright green light.
Lots of baby buckeyes too and the first blue dicks were popping out.
 We also saw buttercups and lots of miners' lettuce, some red-tailed hawks and a woodpecker.

And in the end we did end up seeing some snow, though from far away.  Here are some of the foothills covered with a nice dusting.  The peak itself was covered in a much thicker coat.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - February 2011

Spring has arrived here in the Bay Area thanks to several weeks in the upper 60s and there is stuff blooming all over town.  I managed to snap these pics right before the rains started up again today, though.
My own gardening is limited at the moment, but I was very excited to see some blooms on my patio.  And not just any blooms, but Ribes sanguineum, aka flowering currant, one of my favorite flowers.  It's just started to open, so soon the flowers will be dripping in longer pendants.
Also flowering is one of my 3 blueberries.  The other two are a different variety.
In the house, I just bought two orchids.
And I have some cut birds of paradise in the house that were brought over for my birthday party.  This shot just reminds me of many a rainy day in the Bay.

Thanks as always to Carol over at May Dreams Gardens for hosting Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Old Growth Redwoods and Hot Springs

 Last fall, my partner and I were looking for a day escape from the Bay Area.  Fortunately, we found a great one.  We decided to head north to check out Orr Hot Springs near Ukiah.  I insisted on also stopping at Montgomery State Reserve which protects five groves of old-growth redwoods for a short hike beforehand.

We found this to be a really easy (though fairly long) day trip from the Bay.  Orr Hot Springs is just some 14 miles outside of Ukiah, so it's actually a nice straight shot up the 101.  Those last 14 miles are anything but straight, however.  And Montgomery State Reserve is just another 3 miles past the springs.
 The hike in Montgomery starts up a decent hill, but once you flatten out you are rewarded with an incredibly beautiful stroll through several redwood groves.  Water branches out in several directions and the forest is carpeted with ferns and sorrel.  And the trees are, as expected, immensely tall.
If you've never visited an old-growth redwood forest, you're missing out.  There is something magical about the experience.  Since it's a little off the beaten track Montgomery doesn't seem to have that many visitors making it a really pleasant experience.  Here is the rootball of one of the giants.
Here are signs of a fire, started by lightning, that burned in the forest in 2008.  Otherwise the undergrowth seems to have recovered.
After the redwoods we headed to Orr Hot Springs.  The pools are for the most part small, but they were clean, and this was one of our favorite hot springs to date.  Sorry no pictures of the springs.  But check out this site for one person's perspective.