Tag Archives: garden

Making a Rock Garden

My daughter Jessica and I took a break from our professional and academic responsibilities to make her a new rock garden yesterday. When we travel, she and I interview rocks large and small which might want to come home with us. This summer, Jessica and I each brought home a selection of boulders. I used mine to extend my informal rock wall which is both decorative – and keeps the dogs from racing through my flower beds.

Jessica dedicated her new boulders to a rock garden next to the driveway and then used the decorative river rocks that we took out of where the rock garden was installed to trim her street side planting bed.  For the plantings in her rock garden, Jessica selected:

  • Lithops – also called living stones
  • Aloe – descended from a single plant I gave her in college
  • Portulacaria – also called elephant bush (both green and variegated with red stems)
  • Sedum – or stonecrop
  • Echeveria – also called hens and chicks, with pink edges

After tilling the soil below, taking out larger rocks, and digging in soil amendment,  we used pieces of slate and flat stones behind the boulders to create basins of top soil for the news plantings – and to direct moisture away from the side fence.  The stones form the bones of the garden, the aloes provide form and structure, and the smaller plants and seashells add color and contrasting shapes.  We added two potted succulents in green pots for height and variety.  Jessica will extend the garden further when she adopts new boulders during future travels.

If you want to receive Katysblog posts by email, please sign up using the Sign Me Up! button (upper right).
Photos Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson and Jessica Dickinson Goodman.

Leave a comment

Filed under Home & Family

Easter Egg Hunt 2018

Easter was on Sunday 1 April in 2017 (also John’s Birthday!) and as usual we had friends, family, and neighbors over for a potluck brunch and Easter Egg Hunt in our back garden and on WP668. The Associate Easter Bunny wrote a very difficult set of riddles for the adults to find the Gold and Silver Eggs.

Gold Egg
The clue has 3 words; each quatrain is a clue for one of them.

Birds circle in their dances, bright pinions
a-spinning as they whirl; making circles
and ovals and untracable-shapes to
describe with their sleek bodies this first clue.
The second clue is the colonial name
of an Alaskan burb, whose name now means
either a place for gathering potatoes
or snowy-owl in old Iñupiat.
Third clue: what do snakes and shells and people
and varicella-pox and cats and dogs
and lizards and chameleons and rats
and nematodes and bats do in common?
Hold up one finger, tap three on your arm:
that’s quatrain one and two. A charades charm!

Solution: The Gold Egg was in a brown paper bag behind a storage shed next to a yellow wheelbarrow.

Silver Egg
Literary references may require a search engine for non-English majors

Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote
The droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote |
In the swamp in secluded recesses,
A shy and hidden bird is warbling a
song. | queer / old balloonman whistles / far and
wee and bettyandisbel come dancing |
Can curls rob can curls quote, quotable. As
presently. As exactitude. As | [Here]
keys in hand, I’ll reach the landing and / you’re
there—the one lesson I never get right. |
It has taken / seventeen years. This trip,
these characters patterned / in black ink, curves |
having been previously hardened, tempered
or sprung. Precision Steel’s inventory |

Solution: The Silver Egg was in a brown paper bag tucked into the end of a leaf spring under the WP668 caboose.

If you want to receive Katysblog posts by email, please sign up using the Sign Me Up! button (upper right).
Images Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson (with one from Jessica Dickinson Goodman).

1 Comment

Filed under Home & Family

Coolest Office in San Jose

WP668 Railroad Caboose in San Jose California

Thanks to San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo (and Ahmad Chapman, his Communications Specialist) who created the Great 408  community celebration program for San Jose which says about “77. Backyard Railroad Caboose” –

You can have your glass-walled high rises and ergonomic standing desks; Katy Dickinson has the coolest office in San Jose. That’s because it’s a 1916 Western Pacific steel framed wooden caboose in the backyard of the Willow Glen home she shares with her husband, John Plocher. The couple purchased the caboose in 2006 from the Golden Gate Railroad Museum in San Francisco after it lost its lease. It was in storage in San Jose for more than a year until it was moved to their backyard in May 2007. The couple has been restoring the caboose bit by bit for more than a decade. Be sure to check out Katy and John’s website for more photos and the history of the caboose.

The web page features the 2007 video by Sam Fineberg of WP668 moving into our backyard. WP668 is the office for my company, Mentoring Standard.

If you want to receive Katysblog posts by email, please sign up using the Sign Me Up! button (upper right).
Photos Copyright 2008-2017 by Katy Dickinson.

Leave a comment

Filed under Caboose Project and Other Trains, Mentoring & Other Business, Mentoring Standard, News & Reviews

Flower Report – Twitter’s Sunday Bouquet

May 4, 2017 Yellow and brown African Iris starting summer bloom in SiliconValley FlowerReport

Silicon Valley is known for technical and entrepreneurial leadership but our gardens are amazing too! Every Sunday on Twitter, Alyssa Harad of Austin, Texas (“Writer. Cook. Sunday FlowerReport anchor. Books, art, perfume, witchery, feminism. Author of COMING TO MY SENSES (out now, from Viking/Penguin)”) presents the Flower Report: photos of blooms tagged by her devoted Twitter fans from all over the world. Put some calm loveliness into your sabbath – to dilute the overwrought news of the week.

Here are my contributions – photos of Silicon Valley and nearby blossoms – since May 2017. Roll your cursor over the photo for a description.

May 5, 2017 Crab apple tree in deep pink bloom Reno Nevada FlowerReport

May 7, 2017 Lilac bush blooming in Carson City, behind Nevada State Railroad Museum FlowerReport

May 10, 2017 Yucca shoots up tall spires of creamy white flowers SiliconValley FlowerReport

May 11, 2017 Dark pink tea tree hedge in full bloom - Leptospermum from NewZealand - in Emerald Hills, CA FlowerReport

May 15, 2017 Violet blooms, tall stalks, grey leaves: Rock Purslane, or Calandrinia Grandiflora SiliconValley FlowerReport

May 17, 2017 Ice blue flowers on plumbago vine - covering fence to ten feet SiliconValley FlowerReport

May 20, 2017 Flowers almost open on artichokes: 2 meters tall (over six feet), on 3 Creeks Trail SiliconValley FlowerReport

May 21, 2017 Lavender spears: just opening their purple blooms on long green stems SiliconValley FlowerReport

May 22, 2017 Deep red Daylillies with yellow centers (hemerocallis) blooming BellarminePrep SiliconValley FlowerReport

May 23, 2017 Matilija poppy (romneya coulteri) - called fried egg flowers - stems grow 6 feet tall SiliconValley FlowerReport

May 28, 2017 Violet geraniums have sprawled over a corner, all from a 4

May 29, 2017 Lovely brilliantly purple Jacaranda trees (Bignoniaceae) at Tamien Caltrain station SiliconValley FlowerReport

June 1, 2017 Pink and very poisonous oleander blossoms SiliconValley FlowerReport

June 2, 2017 Red yellow and brown flax blooms on tall spires SiliconValley FlowerReport

8 June 2017 Prickly pear cactus (Opuntia) has started opening its summer-long yellow blooms - to be followed by red fruit SiliconValley FlowerReport

If you want to receive Katysblog posts by email, please sign up using the Sign Me Up! button (upper right).
Images Copyright 2017 by Katy Dickinson

1 Comment

Filed under Home & Family, News & Reviews

Guadalupe River High

Guadalupe River at Alma/Lelong - with Paul, San Jose CA 8 Jan 2017

The Guadalupe River in our San Jose backyard is supposed to rise very high tonight – according to NOAA (the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or Weather Service):

NOAA - Guadalupe River Above Almaden Expressway, 3:15 pm 10 Jan 2017

We and our Willow Glen neighbors along the river have been watching it with care. Twenty years ago, the other bank overflowed and water came up from the storm drains to wet our basements.  The Guadalupe River Flood Protection Project by the Santa Clara Valley Water District and the United States Army Corps of Engineers has been working against a repeat of that disaster.

On 9 February 2015, I posted “Guadalupe River – Happy to Be Wet” with pictures of how high and low our river can go.  I measure by the distance of the stair railing (about half way up the bank) relative to the water. Two days ago, the railing went almost entirely under – NOAA’s measurement was 7.94 feet.  Tonight, the river is predicted to rise to 9.6 feet.

Guadalupe River at Alma/Lelong, San Jose CA 8 Feb 2015
8 Feb 2015

Guadalupe River at Alma/Lelong, San Jose CA 29 Sep 2016
29 Sep 2016

Guadalupe River at Alma/Lelong, San Jose CA 8 Jan 2017
8 Jan 2017

Guadalupe River at Alma/Lelong, San Jose CA 8 Jan 2017
8 Jan 2017

If you want to receive Katysblog posts by email, please sign up using the Sign Me Up! button (upper right).

Images Copyright 2015-2017 by Katy Dickinson

Leave a comment

Filed under Home & Family, News & Reviews

Technology for the Incarcerated

Christmas 2016 Elmwood Jail

I read Dr. Arshya Vahabzadeh‘s recent article “How Technology Could Improve Mental Health in Prisons – But So Far Isn’t” (13 Dec 2016, in Fast Company) and considered other ways in which technology helps inmates.  I lead a weekly Education for Ministry seminar at Elmwood Correctional Facility (County Jail – in Milpitas, California). Here is how I see technology helping the ten men in my seminar:

  1. Because they do not have computer access, I make a standing offer to research topics that arise from our class discussions and bring the curious students more information.  Last night, I delivered printouts on Suetonius, Julius Caesar, prophecy in the Book of Daniel, the Caiaphas Ossuary, Galilee Boat, Ketef Hinnom, and Tel Dan Stele, plus a biography of Pontius Pilate. Wikipedia‘s easy access to vast fields of knowledge means in only an hour a week, I can bring the inmates a richer view into the world of the Hebrew BibleNew Testament, and Christian history.
  2. I was one of the St. Andrew’s prison ministry team who brought worship and song to Elmwood on Christmas Day. When leaving, I noticed a group of lovely deep purple irises blooming next to the back parking lot. Further on, I stopped to take a photo of two ducks on the water behind the jail. Just then, a big white egret erupted from under the bridge where I stood – as if an angel were arising from the water.  Because of easy and cheap digital photography and my color printer, I can show the inmates pictures of how nature was celebrating Christmas with them.
  3. One of my students was transferred from Elmwood jail into the state prison system.  He is highly intelligent and deeply faithful and wants to keep up his Christian studies.  Because prisons and jails will accept book deliveries directly from Amazon, I can use ecommerce to send him better books than are available in the prison library.  For Christmas, I sent him two EfM books: Transformed Lives: Making Sense of Atonement Today, and Care for Creation (a franciscan spirituality of the earth). We hope he will be transferred to a prison that offers an EfM Online course or one with an in-person class.
  4. The Elmwood class asked for song books in both English and Spanish so that they can sing hymns together.  I found Oramos Cantando – We Pray in Song. There are Spanish-only and English-only hymnals but this seems to be the only bilingual song book available. I even checked with our church’s Director of Music – who said he did not know of any.  I was able to locate eight paperback copies in good condition for less than $10/each on Amazon, delivered in a week from eight different used book sellers located all over the USA.

Oramos Cantando - We Pray in Song, 2005
Christmas 2016 Elmwood Jail

If you want to receive Katysblog posts by email, please sign up using the Sign Me Up! button (upper right).

Updated 3 January 2017
Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson

2 Comments

Filed under News & Reviews, Politics

Caboose and Cactus Arroyo

WP668 caboose and cactus arroyo, June 2016

My office replaced a swimming pool. WP668 is the 100-year-old railroad caboose in San Jose, California (“the Capital of the Silicon Valley“) where I work for Mentoring Standard.  Above is WP668 in our backyard now, and below is what the same space looked like in the year 2000.  The swimming pool was removed ten years ago – see more photos on the WP668 webpage.

family in the swimming pool in 2000

I designed the landscape setting for WP668 based on large rocks and cactuses, including a Y-shaped arroyo (or dry creek) that is small enough to be called an arroyito.  Like the bones of California, our arroyito is largely made up of granite, basalt, limestone, and quartz, with jasper, serpentine, sandstone, conglomerates, and other stones for variety.  We bought two large boulders from South Bay Materials but the other rocks were adopted as individuals.  Every time we go on vacation or a road trip, we come home with new garden rocks, so the arroyito becomes more solid and complex year-by-year.  My family complains when they have to ride home from a trip with their feet on top of the latest stones headed for the arroyito but they still help me stuff rocks into the car.

WP668 caboose and cactus arroyo, July 2016

WP668 caboose and cactus arroyo, July 2016

WP668 caboose and cactus arroyo, July 2016

WP668 caboose and cactus arroyo, July 2016

If you want to receive Katysblog posts by email, please sign up using the Sign Me Up! button (upper right).

Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson

Leave a comment

Filed under Home & Family, Mentoring Standard