Sunday, October 19, 2014

Big Dog Xing

During the past week, Sand Village Farm has moved to a new location in El Cerrito.  I have officially become a first time homeowner!  Somehow I just can't believe this has finally happened and is happening. For the entire week I have been moving my things over, sorting, packing, and unpacking. It's scary how much stuff one person has. Most of the things I accumulated in the last ten years were given to me. It was hard to turn down free stuff! I moved in on Saturday, October 11th. Today as I walked past by the shopping center, one of the merchants were giving away pumpkins! I carried one home with me. See, more free stuff. At least the pumpkin is compostable if I don't eat it.

Dusty, Kelsey, and I are all getting used to the new place. The backyard has a sprinkler system. I thought it was not set until this morning. It turned out that it is scheduled to water on Saturday morning. I had put Dusty on the grass earlier this morning, and he and his food got all wet!  Kelsey seems unsure of the new place. She has not barked any of the neighbors yet, which means she has not yet claim this place as her place.

One of my new neighbors is a 4th grade girl who loves animals. Her family has a black cat named Junior, who thinks he owns the block. He has visited me the very first time I came to this house during its open house. The girl was excited to learn that I have a dog and a rabbit. She came over to play with Kelsey a little and wanted to go for a walk with Kelsey and me during the week.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

El Cerrito Hillside Natural Area

Recently someone at Point Isabel handed me a flyer about El Cerrito Hillside Natural Area. I guess it's somewhat new, and it became available through donations to preserve the land. I have been wanting to check it out. This afternoon, I took some outdated electronics to the recycling center on Schmidt Lane and passed by the sign of El Cerrito Hillside Natural Area.  It was my perfect opportunity to check it out. I even had Kelsey with me!

It's definitely a change of scenery from the water front view of Point Isabel. I hiked up the hill where there were benches for people to enjoy the view. I was supposed to keep Kelsey on the leash, but she refused to walk up the hills with me holding the leash. Since there were hardly anyone else around, I let her go leash free. She then followed behind me and climbed up the hill.  Once we were on the top, we could see the bay and even Bay Bridge. It was smoggy on the other side of the bay, but if you look closely, you can see the bridge.  I really enjoyed the short hike.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Abundance of Passion Fruit

For the very first time, I have so many passion fruit that I am able to give bags away to friends, neighbors, relatives, and co-workers. I can have several passion fruit everyday for months. It's end of September, and the vines are still full of fruit, and more fruit is forming from recent bloom of flowers!

When I give them to people, the first question is always, "What is that?" with a puzzled look. Even though passion fruit juice is sold in every grocery store and Jamba Juice, few people around here have seen passion fruit in its natural form. Once I tell them, they are amazed. They want to know where I got them. When I tell them that I grow them, they are even more amazed.

Since all the fruit is coming from just one passionfruit plant, I figured it is time to propagate it.  I have promised to give baby passionfruit vines to a few friends. Today is overcast and drizzling. It is the perfect condition to make some cuttings. I found a spot in one of the vegetable beds to place my tray and stuck a bunch of cuttings in it. I think I got the original cuttings from a friend back in summer 2009 or 2010.  It took about 5 years to get a full harvest. My next challenge will be growing golden kiwi along side of passion fruit. I don't know anybody who has a golden kiwi vine, so I probably need to order my first plant online.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

My Homes Away From Home

Nomads Fat Camel (note the camel graphic in the window on the left)

People have been asking me where I stayed during my epic Middle Earth trip. In Auckland, I stayed at a placed called Nomads Fat Camel at 38 Fort Street. I picked it because the price is cheap. I booked a double room with no window (although it actually had a window) at $60 per night. I stayed there for 5 nights. The front desk staff is friendly, and every night they offer free snack size meal to guests. The problem with this place is its next door establishment called "Lipstix" Massage Parlor. I don't really think it's a massge parlor but more like a night club that opens all night. They would have the doors wide open every evening and blast music until sunrise. Will I stay there again? No.  There are a lot of hostels in the area, so there is no shortage of budget accommodations.

The Setup Accommodation is in between Subway and Wishbone

In Wellington I stayed at The Setup Accommodation, which is also a budget hotel, located at 15 Dixon Street. Downtown Wellington is very walkable. I could walk to the train station on the other side of the town in 20 minutes. I had a single ensuite room, which is a single room with private shower for $70 per night. Unlike the bare room at The Fat Camel, The Setup room has flat screen tv in each room, free WiFi, mini fridge, coffee/tea maker, and assorted tea bags/instant coffee packs in each room. I was pretty happy with the unlimited WiFi.  Will I stay here again? Yes!

Sitting area of Hotel 115

Wellington was going to be my last stop, and I picked a real hotel to stay with. Hotel 115 at 115 Worcester Street is a new hotel that opened up after the earthquake. The cost is $115 (New Zealand Dollar) per night. I guess they like to stick to the number 115.  I was immediately impressed with its decor. After I entered my room, I stepped out and took a video clip of it. I stayed there two nights then headed to Lake Tekapo. I stayed at YHA Lake Tekapo for 2 nights. The hostel is right next to the lake, so the view is fantastic, but the price was almost as much as Hotel 115. I had a double private room with shared bath, and it was $90 (NZD) per night.  The room was bare just like the one at Fat Camel. My room also happened to be right next to the men's bathroom and the kitchen, so it was noisy most of the time until quiet hours. Will I stay here again?  Probably not.

YHA Lake Tekapo

Luckily I had one more night at Hotel 115 before I headed back home. I got a different room with a different layout. It turned out that every room is a little different at Hotel 115 due to the shape of the building.  Will I stay here again?  Yes!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Rebuilding Christchurch

Side view of ChristChurch Cathedral

I had plenty of warnings from New Zealanders about the state of Christchurch before arriving its city center on Monday, July 14th. The city is covered in orange cones and construction fences. Many buildings and businesses are boarded up and clearly unoccupied. It feels more or less like a ghost town. The Cathedral used to be a gathering place for the local people, and now it's a broken empty shell. Many streets are closed off due to constructions.

Front View of ChristChurch Cathedral

Down the street from the cathedral is Canterbury Museum, which appears to be undamaged from the earthquake, is open to the public free of admission. One of its exhibitions is Quake City, which is a "multi-media attraction designed to inform, engage and educate locals and visitors to Canterbury about the seismic events that have occured since 4 September 2010." I spent most of my time in the museum looking at the videos and photographs of the damages the quakes had done to the city. Having experienced 1989 San Francisco earthquake myself, I felt very emotional looking at the photographs. It made me upset when some young children running around in the exhibition as if it was a lighthearted playground. 185 people were killed during the quake, I think the parents should either take this opportunity to educate their children or not taking them to this part of the exhibition.

Quake City Exhibition at Canterbury Museum

While I was at Lake Tekapo a couple days ago, I chatted with a older man at Tekapo Springs counter. I asked him how long he's been living in that area. He told me that he moved there a couple years ago after losing everything in Christchurch during the earthquakes. He said that he can't possible stay in Christchurch because it simply upset him too much. People who have experienced earthquakes in such multitude simply will never forget it. I still remember 1989 earthquake vividly.  I hope when I come back to Christchurch next time, it will be much different.