Tag Archives: San Jose

Making a New Vegetable Garden

Katy Dickinson San Jose backyard April 2020

Inspired by my daughter Jessica’s gardening efforts, I am branching out. I have always been a serious gardener but mostly focused on flowering plants and cactus. Jessica’s enthusiasm for gardening edible and native California plants is infectious. We have lived in the San Jose neighborhood of Willow Glen for over twenty years – on the bank of the Guadalupe River. Chuck and Kathleen Purdy who owned our house before were great gardeners. They passed on to us many fruit and nut trees, including a small orchard.  Some of the fruit trees have died over the years, leaving space for my son Paul to store his curing logs for woodworking, and for me to create a market garden next to the prickly pear and yucca hedge.  Paul and John used some old steel beams we had for the six foot by eight foot raised border. Jessica brought over some of her seedlings and 12 bags of garden soil with fertilizer which I have dug in to create a good planting bed. Paul also took the wheels and handles off of two old wheelbarrows for small beds. (Other than the new soil, plants, and mulch, this new planting area was created with materials I already had.)

So far, I have planted:

  • Three Sisters (a gift from Jessica): corn, beans, and squash (with a sunflower) – 6 sets
  • Cherry tomatoes (“Husky Cherry Red” and “Cherry-Red”) – 3 plants
  • Marigolds for edging

I am getting ready to plant carrots, potatoes, snow peas and snap peas as well. I bought seeds from Plants of the Southwest – and added a 3-sided trellis to support the pea and bean vines. A Meyer Lemon I planted many years ago is thriving next to the apricot, apple, and white peach trees. I added a brick border for the lemon trunk and tossed in all of the stones I dug out of the planting bed for decoration. Three garden cats (only one of whom is actually ours) – Princess, Ketchup, and Charlie – help us manage the property. I am concerned that the raccoon marauders will dig everything up – I may have to add a wire cover to the planting bed like that of our neighbors.

Katy DIckinson San Jose backyard April 2020
Katy DIckinson San Jose backyard April 2020
Katy DIckinson San Jose backyard April 2020
Katy DIckinson San Jose backyard April 2020
Katy DIckinson San Jose backyard April 2020
lemon tree - Katy DIckinson San Jose backyard April 2020
Katy DIckinson San Jose backyard April 2020
Katy DIckinson San Jose backyard April 2020
Katy DIckinson San Jose backyard April 2020
Katy DIckinson San Jose backyard April 2020
Princess cat April 2020
Ketchup cat April 2020
Charlie cat April 2020

22 April 2020 – everything planted!
Katy DIckinson San Jose backyard 22 April 2020

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Images Copyright 2020 by Katy Dickinson.

Updated 26 April 2020

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Redesigned WP668 Web Site

2007 WP668 over trees by Danek Duvall

I just redesigned the WP668 caboose website. I am still reviewing and posting old photos but the basic structure is done. It is restful during the coronavirus lockdown to make progress on a project I have been wanting to work on forever. After reviewing hundreds in our online family archive, I keep discovering wonderful photos I had forgotten.  I have finished 2006 and am about half done with 2007 now. More about WP668 :

WP668 is a historic Western Pacific Railroad caboose being restored by Katy Dickinson and John Plocher, a private family in San Jose, California, USA. More information and pictures are added as WP668’s story evolves.

For a summary of the WP668 story, see Katy’s May 2017 Western Pacific Historical Convention slides: “The Story of Western Pacific Caboose 668”. WP668 is the office for Mentoring Standard. Please join the WP668 Western Pacific Caboose Facebook group. WP668 was originally built as a boxcar in 1916. In 2018, the Mayor said that WP668 was the coolest office in San Jose!

As always: Please tell me if you have pre-1960 photos of our WP668 caboose. Thanks to all who have already contributed historic caboose images – especially Don Marenzi.

Thanks to John Plocher and Jessica Dickinson Goodman for technical web support!

2006: SN1642 and WP668 cabooses, at the Golden Gate Railroad Museum in San Francisco
2006 WP668 moving from GGRM in San Francisco2006: WP668 caboose on truck
2006: WP668 on Highway 101
2006 WP668 on 4 May in San Jose2006: WP668 in storage in San Jose
2007: WP668 in the air over the trees
2007 John Paul Katy Jessica in WP668 caboose2007: family on WP668 in their San Jose backyard
2007 WIllow Glen Resident 25 May WP668 story2007: WP668 on the front page!
WP668 in 2020

Images Copyright 2006-2020 by Katy Dickinson, John Plocher, and Danek Duvall

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Willow Glen Garden Redesign, 5 Years Later

Willow Glen Garden Redesign Plan 17 June 2015Redesign Plan 17 June 2015

Five years ago, I redesigned our front garden for water conservation. Partly as a result of my recent experience with a Pacific School of Religion class project helping to plant a food garden for The Village curbside community, aka homeless encampment, in Oakland, I was inspired to replant some of my own garden in Willow Glen (San Jose, California). John Plocher and I had to reroute the watering lines. I also had to remove couch and Bermuda grass volunteers, and relocate the many big pink worms that get mixed up in the work.

My 2015 plant list included:

  • Achillea tomentosa – woolly yarrow (yellow/grey) – still thriving
  • Agapanthus inapertus (purple) – still thriving
  • Bearded iris (red and purple and yellow and white) – still thriving
  • California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica, orange) – still thriving
  • Dymondia margaretae (yellow/grey) – removed, could not take the heat
  • Helictotrichon sempervirens – Blue oat grass – removed, could not take the heat
  • Lantana (purple) – still thriving
  • Lavender (Lavandula – purple, of course) – still thriving
  • Muhlenbergia rigens – deer grass – removed, got too big
  • Narcissus – daffodils (yellow – full size) – still thriving
  • Verbena lilacina (purple) – replaced twice and finally removed, could not take the heat
  • Verbena peruviana (red) – replaced twice and finally removed, could not take the heat
  • Phormium – flax (purple/brown) – died and was replaced with a similar plant

What I have now includes more California natives, which I hope will handle San Jose’s increasingly hot summers better.* New additions are in bold:

  • Achillea Millefolium “Sonoma Coast creeping yarrow”  (California native, white)
  • Achillea Tomentosa – woolly yarrow (yellow/grey)
  • Agapanthus inapertus (purple)
  • Bearded iris (red and purple and yellow and white)
  • California Poppy (California native, Eschscholzia californica, orange and yellow)
  • Ceanothus hearstiorum “Hearst Ranch buckbrush” (California native, from San Luis Obispo County, purple)
  • Ceanothus megacarpus “Bigpod ceanothus” (California native, from the Central Coast and Channel Islands, white)
  • Echium wildpretii “Tower of Jewels” (red)
  • Lantana (purple)
  • Lavender (Lavandula – purple, of course)
  • Manzanita “Emerald Carpet” (California native, from Mendocino County, Arcostaphylos, white flowers, red fruit and bark)
  • Narcissus – daffodils – full size (yellow)
  • Narcissus “Tete Tete” – miniature daffodils (yellow)
  • Penstemon baccharifolius “Rock penstemon” (a Texas plant, but the only red bloom that day in Yamagami’s Nursery natives section)
  • Phormium – flax (pink/brown)

On 9 February, I took out three of the lantana and replaced them with low-growing manzanita, which is a California native that I hope will be less bushy and aggressive. There are still two of the lantana, much pruned back.

* “San Jose will go from having 7 days a year on average above a heat index of 90 degrees between 1971 and 2000 to 24 days a year by mid-century and 53 days by late century, at the current rate of emissions.” – Paul Rogers, “Bay Area likely to see more 100+ degree days in coming years, new study finds,” The Mercury News, 16 July 2019.

Willow Glen Front Garden, San Jose, California 10 Nov 201510 Nov 2015
Willow Glen Garden, San Jose, California 4 Feb 20204 Feb 2020
Willow Glen Front Garden, San Jose, California 10 Nov 201510 Nov 2015
Willow Glen Front Garden, San Jose, California 4 Feb 20204 Feb 2020
Willow Glen Front Garden, San Jose, California 9 Feb 20209 Feb 2020
Daffodils, San Jose, California, 29 Jan 2020Daffodils, 4 Feb 2020
Princess Cat, 29 January 2020Princess, the Garden Guardian, 2020

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Images Copyright 2015-2020 by Katy Dickinson.

9 Feb 2020 – added a photos of 3 new manzanita

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Happy 1st Anniversary, Stepping Stones!

Stepping Stones ministry, 27 Oct 2019

Happy First Anniversary, Stepping Stones!

Stepping Stone Gathering:
Supporting & Celebrating Reentry & Recovery!

Worship and Celebrate with us: Sundays, 8:15-9:15 am
at Grace Baptist Church, 484 E. San Fernando Street, San Jose.

Led by the Rev. Peggy Bryan and Jackie Fanning.

ALL WELCOME! No Exceptions. Please Spread the Word!

This is a joint ministry of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church (Saratoga) and Grace Baptist Church (San Jose).

Contact: The Rev. Dr. Liliana Da Valle, Senior Pastor of Grace, and the Rev. Peggy Bryan, Associate Rector of Saint Andrew’s.
More: Stepping Stone Gathering on Facebook.

Thanks to Crystal for her lovely song!

Letters of Congratulation

From the Right Rev. Mary Gray-Reeves, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real

Dear Friends,

Happy anniversary as a worshiping community! I am thankful for each of you and for the courage you have to make the journey of recovery in the world. Community is a powerful force indeed. We are always better together! I encourage you to continue to gather, to pray, to give thanks to God for each day and for the opportunities that grace offers you.

There are always more gifts than we can see or know, always an abundance of love and power around us that can build us up and give glory to God. May you continue to find ways to serve others as you care for yourselves for “it is in giving that we receive”. Abundance will build upon itself as we trust this truth.

May you know God’s peace in your hearts and respect and love between you. By your presence you will attract others to join you, sharing the good news and power of the grace of Jesus to heal and to strengthen us to live for the glory of God!

Bishop Mary

From the Rev. Channing Smith, Rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church

Dear Stepping Stones worship service at Grace,

Congratulations on your one-year anniversary and your remarkable success in establishing a truly Christian community where all are welcome and all can lead. Those who join you each Sunday know that they will find a place of belonging and share in a discussion of Jesus’ teachings about how to live your life. It is clear that you are a family and that extends beyond your time together on Sunday. You are there for each other in remarkable and generous

I also give thanks for The Rev. Peggy Bryan and many other lay leaders who have lived into God’s call to be a church without boundaries. Her energy, humor, creativity and commitment are clearly evident in vitality of your worship together. No doubt your have found the goodness of coming into the awareness of God’s love together and giving thanks.

I celebrate with you the blessing of this community and give God thanks for you and for the actions of God’s spirit among you. Please know that you are very much a part of our identity as a parish. In many ways, you remind all of our ministries that God is with us, and that we reflect God’s love as we welcome one another as fellow human beings on life’s journey together.

May God continue to bless you personally and as a worship service. May you always thrive! I look forward to watching you continue to do this incredible ministry of Jesus together.

God’s peace, love, and blessing,

The Rev. Channing Smith

Stepping Stones ministry, 27 Oct 2019
Stepping Stones ministry, 27 Oct 2019
Stepping Stones ministry, 27 Oct 2019

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Images Copyright 2019 by Katy Dickinson. Thanks to Mary Ann Gee for the group picture!

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Art by Grandmother and Grandson

GTU Adams Gallery, BW_Postcard_Front, August 2019

I just passed my theological Spanish translation class at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley where I am a Master of Arts student. Our Spanish class was held in a room next to the Doug Adams Gallery at the GTU. As a result of a serendipitous conversation, the gallery will include two of my mother‘s art works in the exhibit that opens next month, “Beyond Words: Art Inspired by Sacred Texts.”

My mother, Eleanor Creekmore Dickinson (1931-2017), was interested in art and religion all of her life. An early exhibit was the 1967 Old Testament figures show at the Temple Gallery, Congregation Emanu-El of San Francisco. The figures were life size, free standing, line drawings on paper inspired by Bible stories. Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden are two of the figures from the Temple show. Another famous series she created was called “Revival!” presenting fundamentalist Christian worship in the American South. “Revival!” was exhibited in a variety of locations from 1970 to 1981, has two books about it, and can be seen in part in the collections of the Oakland Museum, Library of Congress, Smithsonian Archives of American Art, and Tennessee State Museum. Eleanor Dickinson was a powerful artist, beloved Professor Emerita at California College of the Arts, feminist and art activist. She was involved in drawing the emotional expressions of people in all aspects of life, often in a religious context. My brothers Mark and Peter and I are Trustees for the Eleanor Creekmore Dickinson Charitable Art Trust, created in 2014 to provide donations of art works to charitable organizations or institutions.

I am also the Manager for my son Paul Dickinson Goodman‘s art business. Paul is a ceramicist, wood worker, and metal worker who was graduated from the San Jose State University – Spatial Art program in 2018. He is actively exhibiting his work at galleries and art sales in the San Francisco Bay Area. I am proud to have two accomplished artists in our family!

Eleanor Dickinson Adam and Eve line drawings, GTU Adams Gallery, July 2019
1974 Eleanor Dickinson Revival! exhibit

Paul D Goodman ceramic California Bowl, February 2019
Paul D Goodman 8 ceramic cups April 2019
Paul D Goodman The Elemental Altar Exhibit Oct-Nov 2018
Paul D Goodman senior exhibit at SJSU Sanders Gallery October 2018
Images Copyright 2018-2019 Katy Dickinson, Paul Dickinson Goodman, Adams Gallery GTU

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Communities of Liberation, Cuernavaca Mexico (3)

This is the third in a short series about my two week Spanish language and social justice immersion program in Cuernavaca, Mexico, with Pacific School of Religion‘s Center for LGBTQ and Gender Studies in Religion (CLGS) and CILAC Freire.

Costumbres y Tradiciones (customs and traditions) – One of our talks included the charming concept of Mexico’s own “Vitamin T” – tacos, tostadas, tamales, tortas, tlacoyos and, of course, tequila. In Dora’s kitchen, we happily ate a great deal of Vitamin T. One Dora’s oldest kitchen tools was her mother’s molcajete (mortar) and temolote (pestle) for grinding spices. We saw more modern molcajetes in the market, painted with dog and pig faces. Even when our group got up early for day trips to visit Tepotzotlán and Mexico City, Dora was always there to be sure we were well fed and cared for. On our last day, she took us on a special trip to the municipal market to buy flameware pots after we admired those she used so well.



Another part of the Costumbres y Tradiciones talk was about the Virgin of Guadalupe whose 1531 image was ubiquitous during our travels in Mexico. We learned that Guadalupe has a connection to Tonantzin, the Aztec mother goddess, and that many believe in the Virgin of Guadalupe who do not believe in Jesus Christ, or even God. I did not know until hearing this talk that there is an Arabic connection to Guadalupe: the name (probably) derives from that of a Spanish river, the name for which has Arabic roots. Since my house in San Jose, California, is on the Guadalupe River, I was very interested!



One of the lovely old churches we walked by every time we went to downtown Cuernavaca was Parroquia San José El Calvario which not only has a variety of images of the Virgin of Guadalupe inside but a special building for her statue on the street outside. In addition to the prominent outside image of Mary, inside San José El Calvario I found a saint I never heard of before, San Charbel Makhlouf – a Maronite monk of Lebanon. I found another statue of San Charbel in the Parroquia de la Asuncion, Sagrario Metropolitano, in Mexico City. In both churches, his image stood above collections of many colored satin ribbons. A Catholic friend from Michoacán told me that San Charbel is very popular and powerful and that each ribbon represents thanks for a healing. In 2013, during our visit to Lebanon, TechWomen Fellow Adla Chatila took my daughter Jessica and me to see the Cedars of Lebanon, Khalil Gibran‘s home, and the Mar Bishay Hermitage, Qozhaya. The Monastery of Qozhaya is close to where San Charbel is from. I was not expecting to see so many connections to the Middle East while in Mexico.

Parroquia San José El Calvario, Cuernavaca 2019

San Charbel Makhlouf in Parroquia San José El Calvario, Cuernavaca, and in Mexico City, 2019


Monastery of Qozhaya, 2013

Iglesia del Río de la Plata y La Colectiva Diversa – In addition to the Spanish lessons and talks, our class went on a variety of field trips, including spending an evening with an inspiring community church in Cuernavaca called Iglesia del Río de la Plata y La Colectiva Diversa, lead for over thirty years by Rev. Alfonso Leija. Rev. Alfonso generously shared his remarkable story of developing the church and small hospice to support the LGBTQ community during the early AIDs epidemic. We heard from some of the church members and briefly shared something about ourselves. I only wish the air pollution had been less intense that night so that we could have learned more.

Photos Copyright 2013-2019 by Katy Dickinson

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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.

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Photos Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson and Jessica Dickinson Goodman.

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