Tag Archives: Willow Glen

Four Family Clocks

We have four old family clocks, two of which work and one of which chimes. The sound of the two ticks and the chimes fills our downstairs with small comforting noises, even when everyone is silently interacting with their computing devices. The clocks keep time but not with each other. It is somewhat like how Terry Pratchett describes the clocks in his fictional city of Ankh-Morpork on the Discworld,

“Noon in Ankh-Morpork took some time, since twelve o’clock was established by consensus. Generally, the first bell to start was that one in the Teachers’ Guild, in response to the universal prayers of its members. Then the water clock on the Temple of Small Gods would trigger the big bronze gong. The black bell in the Temple of Fate struck once, unexpectedly, but by then the silver pedal-driven carillon in the Fools’ Guild would be tinkling, the gongs, bells and chimes of all the Guilds and temples would be in full swing, and it was impossible to tell them apart, except for the tongueless and magical octiron bell of Old Tom in the Unseen University clock tower, whose twelve measured silences temporarily overruled the din. And finally, several strokes behind all the others, was the bell of the Assassin’s Guild, which was always last.” (Terry Pratchett, Men at Arms, 1993).

The Junghans chiming mantle clock was a wedding present in 2000 from John’s parents. It was purchased by John’s great-grandfather Johannes Plocher in Holzhauzen, Germany. Joannes and his wife Anna gave it to their son (John’s grandfather), Karl on his wedding Adelia, in 1930. I love the art deco design on the clockworks inside the case.

I bought the Gilbert wall clock in 2008 as a birthday present for John. The clock itself is from about 1915. The Western Pacific glass is not original but is one of the reasons we like it, since we own WP668, a Western Pacific caboose. John winds up his Junghans and Gilbert clocks every week.

The two clocks which have stopped working are from my family. One is a gilt metal Rococo style clock that my father’s mother, Gladys Grace Oakes Dickinson, loved. The other is an ornate horseman clock that my mother, Eleanor Creekmore Dickinson, had since I was young. Surprisingly, even though they are from different parts of my family, both were made by the New Haven Clock Company, probably over a hundred years ago.

Web search results showing many horse-only New Haven Clocks

Update: I have been looking for more information about the New Haven Clock with the ornate warrior horseman figure. I found that a version of this clock with the exact same horse but no rider is relatively common. All of the versions I have found on the web have a top piece above the clock that is missing on ours. Sometimes the horse is on the right and sometimes on the left of the clock on the pedestal. I still have not found an exact match. My Aunt Louise Creekmore Senatore read my blog and wrote that her father (my grandfather), Robert Elmond Creekmore, was once its owner in Knoxville, Tennessee, “the Ornate Horseman clock was on my Dad’s bureau for years when I was a child. It traveled with us to Windgate (1964), stayed on his bureau, and Eleanor asked Mom for it when Dad passed away (1976).”

I found this tiny, blurry thumbnail photo on the web of a gilded variant of our clock but it is on a dead website. Still hunting for more information!

New Haven Gilt Clock, horseman figure

(None of these clocks is for sale – please do not ask.)

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Updated 20 Oct 2020

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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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