Tag Archives: Willow Glen

Micro Farm Update

Katy Dickinson micro farm San Jose CA June 2020

My Willow Glen micro farm is thriving. I usually grow cactus, and herbs like fennel, rosemary, and sage. Since we are mostly staying home because of the Covid-19 pandemic, I am taking the opportunity to grow vegetables. I started this project in April by converting a section of our little orchard. The first fruits of my farming efforts are cherry tomatoes and delicata squash. Both indicate their readiness by a color change. The tomatoes shift from green to yellow to red. The delicata squash start white and develop green lines as they mature.  The tallest plants are sunflowers, which are currently competing with the apple tree for head room. I am expecting beans, peas, corn, and watermelon over time.

Katy Dickinson delicata squash San Jose CA June 2020
Katy Dickinson delicata squash San Jose CA June 2020
Katy Dickinson cherry tomatoes San Jose CA June 2020
Katy Dickinson cherry tomatoes San Jose CA June 2020

Katy Dickinson cactus blooms San Jose CA June 2020
Katy Dickinson fennel San Jose CA June 2020

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Images Copyright 2020 by Katy Dickinson.

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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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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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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.

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Images Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson (with one from Jessica Dickinson Goodman).

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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.
77. Backyard Railroad Caboose The Great 408, 26 March 2018

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.

Great 408 Homepage with WP668 Caboose, March 2018

Page updated 27 March 2020 – added images and links.

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Photos Copyright 2008-2017 by Katy Dickinson.

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Extra Gear? Gifts for Sierra Leone

Gifts for Sierra Leone trip June-July 2017

My daughter Jessica and I will be visiting Families Without Borders in Sierra Leone next week with Terri Khonsari. If you have any extra laptops or smart phones we can bring – no matter how old or dead – the students will be delighted with your donation. Please contact me soon!

I have visited the inspiring and fascinating continent of Africa at least once a year since 2010. With TechWomen Delegations, I have been to Morocco and Tunisia in North Africa, plus participating in Delegations to Rwanda, Zimbabwe, and South Africa below the Sahara. With People to People, John and I visited Ethiopia. My only actual vacation in Africa was to Egypt in 2010 – a much longer trip than planned since our family was stranded there by the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano.  This will be my first trip to West Africa.

I bring gifts on each trip for our generous hosts and for new friends and colleagues. For my first TechWomen Delegations, I had custom pencils made but more recently, I have brought San Francisco keychains and geeky pens and toys given away at events like the Grace Hopper Conference.  For this trip, I bought keychains, the Willow Glen Wells Fargo Bank branch gave me a big bag of red pens, and I am also bringing packages of stickers for the children.

However, the best present for the students in Sierra Leone would be empowerment and greater connection to the wider world.  Your outdated computer gear can help them.  I hope to hear from you!

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Image Copyright 2017 by Katy Dickinson

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Filed under Home & Family, Hopper - Anita Borg Institute, Mentoring & Other Business, News & Reviews

Easter Egg Hunt 2017

Thoko Miya and WP668 - Easter, April 2017 IMG_9858

Catching up on my postings… Easter was on Sunday 16 April in 2017 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 – one of the clues was on Twitter! Jessica, Matthew, Paul, and John all helped – as did our house guest Thoko Miya from South Africa. John cooked Maqluba (chicken and rice “upside down” from Jordan) which was much appreciated!

Jessica and Matthew and Paul - Easter, April 2017 IMG_9855

John and Larissa Shapiro and Maqluba - Easter, April 2017 IMG_9926

Paul and kids - Easter, April 2017 IMG_9933

Gold egg found - Easter, April 2017 IMG_9911

Silver Egg

    • I am a beautiful-bold building block,
    • a 1-to-2 ton ballerina queen.
    • My reach spreads from Iskanderia to
    • where Toko lives (though there are fewer of
    • my ances-sisters bellowing than lived
    • there free when Ibn Batuta roved from
    • the Cape to Cairo and Mongol Guangzhou,
    • from shadowed Fez to wet-and-wild Mosul.)
    • I’m sunning myself in the shade of yolks
    • that hold their albumen inside their skins,
    • that parents feed their dogs for YouTube lulz,
    • and babies cry-smile when first they taste them.
    • So far I’ve led you on a lumbering chase
    • Msr, AsSeen, Arak — where is my place?

(the Silver Egg was hidden in the dirt, under a concrete hippo, under a lemon tree)

Gold Egg

    • Six unkind clues will guide
    • you briskly to my haunt,
    • in shadow where I hide.
    • Get hopping – it’s a jaunt!
    • You’ll climb among downed-trees
    • and wander through spike-leaves…
    • Hop quickly so Ethan won’t flaunt!

(the Gold Egg was on top of the light bulb, inside the glass cover of the overhead light fixture, on the porch)

Gold Egg – Clue 1

    • I’m surrounded by pot apparatus
    • But it’s not a medicinal grow.
    • You’ll not have to climb up to the attics
    • or wander wader-deep in the snow.
    • You’ll just have to walk
    • to a gate that unlocks
    • and find out where Paul’s clay does go.

Gold Egg – Clue 2

    • The next clue is online
    • you’ll practically titter
    • when you see the next poem
    • is posted on Twitter.

Gold Egg – Clue 3 – from Twitter

    • Upon a bright flower
    • You’ll find my small bower.
    • Not on a rosethorn,
    • or leaf-ling of corn
    • – under cactus and dragon I glower.

Gold Egg – Clue 4

    • Under Princess’s butt I was warming
    • My contents I hope you’ll find charming
    • But because she’s a cat
    • And upon me she sat
    • My message by now will be warming.

Gold Egg – Clue 5

    • You’ve lined up and squarely stood still
    • You’ve caught-on and gotten your fill
    • and now hear’s the treat:
    • an Easter-hunt feat
    • You’ll find me outside grey-bird’s sill.

Egg hunt - Easter, April 2017 IMG_9903

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Images Copyright 2017 by Katy Dickinson

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