Wednesday, December 26, 2012

What to Do on a Rainy Christmas Day in San Francisco

People waiting to enter Contemporary Jewish Museum on Christmas Day

My friend S and I have been talking about our tradition of hanging out on Christmas Day. She is a modern Muslim, and I am an atheist. Naturally we just hang out and do whatever on Christmas Day. I have wanted to go hike in a regional park but it's been raining cats and dogs for days in the Bay Area. At 1 a.m. on Christmas morning, we decided that we would go help out at San Francisco City Impact's Christmas Day Block Party. S has just moved to San Francisco a few months ago, so I met her at her new pad in the Mission.

By the time we arrived at City Impact's office, the event was winding down already. S and I each carried a box of hot meals to hand out around the block. This was in the Tenderloin district, an area just around the corner from downtown where all the designer shops are, but it's night and day in comparison. The Tenderloin is full of homeless people, drug addicts, alcoholics, and people who are just down on luck. It didn't take us long to hand out all the hot meals. We went back to City Impact to help clean up the facility before we headed over to our next stop, Contemporary Jewish Museum.

It was the only museum that's open on Christmas Day, and it was generously offering free admission for everyone. As soon as we got inside, we got some lunch at its cafe, which was serving Indian food for the day. These are some of the reasons I love the Bay Area. We could all go to the Jewish Museum and eat Indian food in the same building on any given day.

After lunch, we stayed in the museum reading up the history of Jewish communities in the Bay Area until the museum was closing at 4 p.m. I was in full rain gear, so I stepped outside in stride. My friend S unfortunately had to walk around in her soaking wet tennis shoes. I knew exactly how that felt and couldn't help not to tease her about the squishy wet socks. We headed over to one of the movie theaters nearby to catch a lighthearted comedy, Silver Linings Playbook, before heading back home.

Heavy rain resumed at 4 p.m.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

San Francisco Green Festival 2012

It has been more than 10 years since I attended last Green Festival. I wasn't planning on going when I saw the admission being more than $10. A few days ago, I got an email from Goldstar offering free admission to Green Festival. It was just my luck that I checked my email the minute I received the free offer, so I grabbed a weekend pass for $4.75 of "service charge." I have been a member of Goldstar for many years, and I receive discount and free offers around the Bay Area on a weekly basis. For free offers, they are limited quantities and Goldstar charges a "service fee." That was why I had to pay $4.75 for my free pass.

I was amazed at the huge turnout of participants. I don't remember this being such a huge event last time I attended it. People lined up outside all the way around the corner before 11 a.m.  Once inside, there were countless food samplings and product samples free for the taking. I got many dog food and treat samples including 4 packs of different dog food varieties from Spring Naturals.  I also got a pack of vegetarian dog food. I am curious to find out whether Kelsey will like that.

At 4 p.m., I sat down in front of Main Stage to listen to California's non-GMO leaders talking about "Beyond Proposition 37: What's Next for GMO Labeling."  Last Tuesday was election day, and to my surprise, proposition 37 didn't pass. I couldn't fathom how it didn't pass. Today I found out that heavy advertising campaign opposing 37 was on TV and radio just a couple weeks before the election day. Apparently, every commercial break during World Series was "No on Prop 37." I would have never known since I don't watch TV nor listen to the radio. It's just shocking to me that majority of Americans would rather not know what they are eating. On second thought, there are still plenty of people eating McDonald's hamburgers everyday, so I guess majority of Americans just want cheap food. 

Ford was one of the event sponsors, and many of their electric and hybrid cars were on site for test drive.  They were even giving away SustainU (100% recycled apparel made in the USA) T-shirts just for test driving the cars. I rode in Ford's 100% electric car and was quite impressed. I wonder whether electric pickup trucks will become available soon.

Around 5 p.m. I headed home with bags of samples. Perhaps next year I'll sign up as a volunteer for Green Festival.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Hummingbirds Love Mexican Bush Sage

I planted a bunch of Mexican Bush Sage when I hired Backyard Food Gardens back in November, 2010. I like these plants because they are drought tolerant and have colorful flowers in tubular shape which hummingbirds love. Even though these flowers are not edible to me, they provide a food source for the birds and bees, and I like having the birds and honeybees in my garden. Hummingbirds do indeed visit Sand Village Farm frequently. Sometimes they get trapped in the garage, sometimes they just rest on the clothes lines I put up.

Yesterday morning, I saw two hummingbirds resting on the 2 clothes lines, one on each line. One bird had a red head while the other was all green.  I wanted to take a photo, but I knew that they would just get startled and fly away, so I went outside to take photos of my passion fruit vines instead. Suddenly I heard this noise that sounded like a giant bumble bee zooming pass me.

Sure enough it was a hummingbird. It was the red head. I snapped a few pictures of it, but it was move quite rapidly and always behind some flowers. As it flew away, the green head hummed its way over, so again I tried to take a few shots. This time I had much better luck. As the tiny bird feasted on the nectar, I got many clear shots although it stayed in the shade most of the time.

Isn't it cute?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Baby Chicks Are Getting Big

I visited the 3 chicks next door on October 12th. Today I went to see them again, and they seemed to have doubled in size once more. They are starting to look like chickens although they still make the cute baby chick noise. As usual I picked one up and held her on my chest. It has so much more feather now. She's warm and fluffy.

As soon as they saw me, they just stood in place staring at me. As soon as I stepped away further, two of them started to run around in the small coop and playing with each other. They can make big noise as they jumping up and down in the wooden coop and pecking on the metal heating lamp. The owner of the chicks are planning on moving them outside into a bigger coop this weekend because they are just getting too noisy and messy in the small confinement. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

First Treasure Island Visit

Treasure Island Flea entrance

I came across a blurb on SF Gate that Treasure Island Flea is having a 2-day Halloween party and food drive. I then realized in almost 30 years living in the Bay Area, I have never really been on Treasure Island other than having to turn around due to driving carelessness. Treasure Island is right off the Bay Bridge which I have driven on thousands of times on my way to and from San Francisco. In more recent years, developers have built houses and apartments on the island. People do actually live there. I thought, this would a a perfect opportunity to check out the island. The weekend event is also dog friendly, so I can take Kelsey without lying about her being a service dog.

Large statue on the island

It turned out that it costs $3 to attend the flea market with free parking. You also have to pay a bridge toll of $5 if you are going from the East Bay. It's toll free if you are going from San Francisco. It's not bad considering it was a nice day to be hanging out on the island. You can see San Francisco and both Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge plus Marin County from Treasure Island. There were also a lot of interesting items in the flee market.  I am not into shopping, so I only bought a bag of natural dog treats for Kelsey and a small bag of baked beet chips for myself. I bought them mainly because the vendors were so friendly and kept offering me to try their items.  Kelsey of course loves any kind of treats. She was a good dog to be hanging out in front of their booth.

 gourmet food trucks

I was more interested in the food trucks than anything else they were selling at the flea market. In recent years, due to the economy, many chefs started their own gourmet food truck business instead of opening up restaurants. The over head is a lot lower to operate food business from a truck. The term "roach coach" seems to become more of a thing of the past. The cost of entrées from the gourmet food trucks aren't exactly cheap. A cupcake can cost up to $4. I had my mind set on a Belgian waffle from Golden Waffle. I had the works with fresh strawberries, chocolate syrup, and whipped cream. It was $6 and quite delicious! 

Kelsey again attracted a lot of attention with her friendliness and backpacks. People didn't seem to understand why a dog needed to carry stuff. Kelsey's got her collapsible water bowl, 2 bottles of water, and treats in her packs. With the warm weather today, Kelsey actually drank most of her water. She took every chance to cool off in the shade.  

Kelsy resting in the shade

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Robert Sibley Volcanic Preserve

Last month I went to Robert Sibley Volcanic Preserve for a hike and got a little lost while trying to take a shortcut. It ended up to be an almost 6-hour hike. Both Kelsey and I were exhausted when we finally made our way back to the car. Now more than a month has gone by, and I decided to go back and check out other trails. I picked up a few things at Berkeley Bowl and headed over to the hills around 10 a.m.

Today I went toward the opposite side of the preserve. The weather was perfect for a hike since there was very little shade on these trails. Kelsey and I entered the cattle grazing area. We did not see any cattle, only cow pies. There were huge piles of cow pies at the end of the trail on the other side of the second cattle gate. The open space was as far as the eyes could see. I didn't know how far it would go. Base on last month's experience, we just turned back at some point.

Entering the cattle gate

What I did see was a gopher snake. At first I wasn't sure whether it was alive because it was motionless. Kelsey almost stepped on it but I called her to the other side. As I got closer to the snake, it moved forward a little.

We encountered many kids on the way back. They were all very excited at seeing a dog with backpacks. One said that Kelsey was wearing "a purse".  It was a great hike under the blue sky with many friendly dogs on the trail. I think we will go back there soon.

Gopher snake

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Volunteering at Fallfest

The Ferry Building is just across the street

For second year in a row I volunteered for Meals for Wheels of San Francisco at one of its annual fundraising events, Fallfest. Over the years I have volunteered for countless non-profit organizations and for various social causes. If you love food, Fallfest has to be the best volunteer event in the area. It is "a celebration of the Bay Area’s best in food and wine. Leading restaurateurs, winemakers, mixologists, and epicurean artisans join together for an inspiring day of premier wine and food tasting, chef demonstrations, cocktail competitions, and panel discussions. It all takes place outdoors at Justin Herman Plaza, which is transformed for the day into a European-style marketplace, taking full advantage of the season’s gorgeous weather and the waterfront’s beautiful views."

My shift at the Silent Auction tent started at 2:30 until 5 p.m. I arrived at the event around 1p.m. to enjoy the food sampling as a guest. Not all volunteer organizers are as generous as Fallfest. I have volunteered for other culinary events that absolutely wouldn't allow volunteers to taste any food at the events even as the events were closing down.  In addition to tasting countless amazing samplers, I also won an one-hour docent led tour at the Marin Mammal Center by playing their Spinning the Wheel!

At the Silent Auction tent, I immediately recognized a few patrons from last year. Once again, they were generously bidding on various items that benefited Meals for Wheels. The auction ended at 3 p.m.  We quickly gathered all the auction items and lists to compile the list of bidding winners. We had 30 minutes to put all the winners' names on the charts for them to claim their items and pay. I was assigned to guard and pull out the winning gift certificates as the winners came forward. It was fun to interact with some of San Francisco's nicest people. I shall be back next fall!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Three Chicks

One of my neighbors brought home 3 chicks recently. Since they are just babies, they stay inside in a homemade cage right now. They are super cute, and they make the cutest noise. I love holding the chick in my hands against my chest. It's so soft and warm. I hope the neighbor is keeping them for eggs only. I wonder how Dusty and the chicks would react to each other. I have seen many homestead farms that keep rabbits and chickens in the same coop. They tend to get along well and keep each other company.

Dinner Time

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Marine County Excursion

Kelsey posing in Remington Dog Park

I promised Kelsey that I'd take her somewhere for a day trip during my week off from work. I have been flipping through The Dog Lover's Companion to the San Francisco Bay Area to see where would be fun to take her for a day excursion. I found out that well behaved dogs are allowed on Blue & Gold Ferry but not from Oakland and Vallejo.  My options were either Tiburon or Sausalito. I have taken the ferry from Tiburon several time in the past, so I decided to go to Sausalito. The book also highly recommends Remington Dog Park, which is just down the street from Sausalito Ferry Station.

I stopped by the park first. It's a big fenced park that allows dogs to roam freely. The ground is mostly covered with thick mulch. It's well kept with plenty of shady areas and picnic tables although food is not allowed in the park. It's a great park for dogs who like to play together and their people to socialize. Kelsey on the other hand just sniffed a few dogs and walked around, and she was done.

I didn't read this big sign carefully before getting my ticket

I drove down to Downtown Sausalito where the ferry dock is. The first parking lot adjacent to the ferry station costs $3 an hour to park. If you go down to the next further parking lot down the street, it's $2 an hour. If you go even further to parking lot 4, it's $1 an hour. All of these parking lots are on the same side of the street next to the water. Basically, the further you are willing to walk, the cheaper it gets. I circled around a couple times before figuring this out and ended up parking in lot 4. It's still just 5 minutes walking down to the ferry dock.

When I arrived the dock, I was so excited, I just purchased my round trip ticket to San Francisco through the vending machine and then I realized that I had made a mistake. I have bought a ticket for Golden Gate Ferry not Blue & Gold! I started to panic. What if they wouldn't let me take Kelsey on board? I just spent $20 on the ticket!  I walked over to the information booth to find out what the animal policy is for Golden Gate Ferry. The man in the booth looked at Kelsey and asked, "Is she a service dog?" I told him that she could be with hesitation. The man said, "Of course she is. She's wearing a backpack." And of course Kelsey was sitting next to me in the most perfect pose.  The man pointed to the deckhand who just got off from the ferry and told me to go ask her if service dogs are okay.

Well, I knew that service dogs can pretty much go anywhere and no proof is ever needed. So not only I got on board, I was the first person to go on board with my "service dog."  In fact she was wearing a backpack to serve me. Kelsey just quietly sat next to me during the entire time on the ferry. Occasionally she'd look up and perk up her ears at loud noises. Several people and kids came and petted Kelsey with admiration. Many people simply greeted Kelsey with a smile. I guess she looked like she was working hard.

We took a walk around the ferry building before getting on the ferry again to return to Sausalito. Well, I guess if I ever wanted to take Kelsey on BART, I just need to dress her in her backpack and harness.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Fall Squashes

Butternut Squash

Today was the first day of my week-long fall recess from my new full time job at a school. I wanted to do a little gardening while having the time off. I got a pleasant surprise when I looked into one of the wine barrel planters. There is a small butternut squash! I didn't even intentionally plant butternut squash. The seed must had been mixed in with the pumpkin seeds or my compost. I am pretty excited because it's something new on my farm, and I actually like butternut squash. I usually make a big pot of butternut squash soup during the winter when it's cold and rainy. I also found another squash in one of the vegetable beds. I am not sure what kind of squash it is. One of my neighbors gave me a bag of mixed pumpkin seeds, and I just randomly planted a few.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sunday in Golden Gate Park

Gold Gate Park Map

This morning I woke right before 8 am. I got up, packed up, and headed over to Golden Gate Park with Kelsey in the back seat. Do you know there is free parking in Golden Gate Park? It's limited to 4 hours during Monday through Friday. On Saturday and Sunday, it is unlimited, but you must get there early. I got to the park at 9 am, and there was plenty of parking. As I was parking, I could see one car after another pulling up and parked behind me. I was pretty sure by 9:30 it would be hard to find parking.

Banjo Stage of Bluegrass (photo taken 2011)

I can see why people love the city. Every weekend and every day there is so much going on. One can never and should never be bored in this area. Many of the weekend activities are free, and if you don't mind taking a little time to plan and pack your own food and drink, you don't need to spend any money at these events. This weekend was the annual Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. It always runs for 3 days starting from Friday to Sunday. People come from all over the Bay Area to enjoy this free music festival.  It is also SF Fleet Week. I am not sure whether that's free, but I am sure if you know where to go, you can see the air show for free by looking up the sky.

The Golden Gate Park Band

Today there were 6 stages on one side of the park for Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. On the other side, just across from De Young Museum, The Golden Gate Park Band was having their last free performance of the season. After I checked out several stages of Bluegrass Festival, I sat on one of the green benches in the shade to enjoy a different kind of music. Kelsey seemed to be pooped after hours of walking, loud music, and being surrounded by people.  She just laid down to take a nap.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Cape Gooseberries

Today I finally picked some perfectly ripe Cape gooseberries! It took them almost 2 months to be ready. The bright orange color is very Halloweenish! They definitely look like an autumn fruit. One of the reasons I fell in love with them right away besides their taste is that I always feel like opening a little present when I break the papery calyx to get to the berry. It's such a fun fruit to eat.

I have 4 Cape gooseberry plants but so far the one in the pot has most berries. Since Cape gooseberry is native to tropical Peru, Columbia and Ecuador and related to tomatoes, I figured it must like heat and lots of sun. I was able to move the potted Gooseberry around to get most sun.  In the winter I can bring it into the sun room if the temperature gets too low. I hope they all survive the winter and produce more berries next year.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

My Amazing Honey Bee Friends

I grow 5 bushes of lavender flowers all around Sand Village Farm. I love their scent and color. I know my honey bee friends love them as well,  so I want them to visit often. The sound of buzzing bees are music to my ears in the hot summer sun. They are amazing little creatures. Let me tell you just how amazing they are:

Honey bees have 6 legs, 2 compound eyes made up of thousands of tiny lenses (one on each side of the head), 3 simple eyes on the top of the head, 2 pairs of wings, a nectar pouch, and a stomach.

Honey bees have 170 odorant receptors, compared with only 62 in fruit flies and 79 in mosquitoes. Their exceptional olfactory abilities include kin recognition signals, social communication within the hive, and odor recognition for finding food. Their sense of smell was so precise that it could differentiate hundreds of different floral varieties and tell whether a flower carried pollen or nectar from meters away.

The honey bee's wings stroke incredibly fast, about 200 beats per second, thus making their famous, distinctive buzz. A honey bee can fly for up to six miles, and as fast as 15 miles per hour. The average worker bee produces about 1/12th teaspoon of honey in her lifetime. A honey bee visits 50 to 100 flowers during a collection trip.

A colony of bees consists of 20,000-60,000 honeybees and one queen. Worker honey bees are female, live for about 6 weeks and do all the work. The queen bee can live up to 5 years and is the only bee that lays eggs. She is the busiest in the summer months, when the hive needs to be at its maximum strength, and lays up to 2500 eggs per day. Click here to learn more about the Honey Bee Life Cycle. During winter, honey bees feed on the honey they collected during the warmer months. They form a tight cluster in their hive to keep the queen and themselves warm.

Check out the short youtube video I create for more photos of my honey bee friends.

Friday, August 3, 2012

We Are Now Sandvillagefarm.ORG

Sadly, the domain name I have been happily using for almost 3 years has been held hostage by Google due to one of their many changes in order to generate more revenue. Knowing Google, it's unlikely I'll even get a reply to my plea on getting my domain back. In the meantime, I am using Hopefully, in a few months I will regain the original domain name.

Monday, July 30, 2012


Months ago I planted an assortment of peppers - red, orange,  green, and yellow bell peppers plus some sweet banana peppers. For months they didn't seem to be growing at all and looked as if they were dying. I shifted my focus to the passion fruits and beans, and all of a sudden I found peppers flowers blooming and peppers growing. I love this kind of surprise! It's like discovering treasures in the soil.

Historically, my peppers never got big, and it's the same with eggplants.  Perhaps I need to add more compost to the soil. This year even my tomatoes stay small. Fortunately, I am also growing gooseberries, and they are doing extremely well with lots of flowers. Please Check back for an update on the gooseberry plants!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sorbrante Ridge Regional Preserve Hike

Yesterday I picked up a free book from a pile of garage sale leftover. It's called The Dog Lover's Companion to the San Francisco Bay Area. I flipped through the book and found Sobrante Ridge Regional Preserve as the highest rated dog park in Contra Costa County. I thought Wildcat Canyon was really great. Can Sorante actually surpass Wildcat Canyon? I had to check it out for myself.

This morning I packed up my regular hiking gear along with another jar of peachy smoothie and hit the road with Kelsey in the back. El Sorante isn't far from El Cerrito, but as I drove down San Pable Dam Road, I had the feeling of going back in time. I was hoping the weather would stay overcast since I consider that as the most ideal weather for hiking. Unfortunately, the sun came out shortly before 10 A.M. as I arrived Sobrante Ridge. I was surprised to find a completely empty parking lot and empty park.

We saw a lot of lizards as we hiked up the hill. The temperature quickly became rather hot especially both Kelsey and I have dark hair. There is also very little shade in the open preserve. After hiking for 30 minutes, we took a water break under a big tree and then turned back. Compare Wildcat to Sorbante Ridge, I like Wildcat better for its varied scenery. At Sobrante Ridge, it seemed it was the same view endlessly - dirt road with dry grass taller than I on both sides with occasional trees. I saw just one person walking with his 2 dogs, who arrived after I did. I prefer to see a few more people when I go hiking, and Kelsey likes to see more dogs, too.