Friday, 3 August 2012

California Dreamin'

Yesterday was my first full day in California.  After a very long day of travel, I slept well and seemed refreshed yesterday morning.  I had a great day and seem to have settled into the new time zone very well.

I had a quiet day yesterday sitting on the patio of our friends' home.  The backyard is fully fenced which unfortunately is too high to see the view of the mountains while sitting.  However, when you stand up, the view of the valley and distant mountains is spectacular.  There isn't a lot of grassy lawn because of the heat of the summer season burns a lot of the grass off.  The yard has a little bit of grass with lots of mulch and stones throughout the rest of the yard.  Our friends are currently renting and the yard needs some upgrades by the owner.  At one time, you can see that there were cultivated plants around the outside of the yard at the base of the fence.  The roses have just finished blooming and there are some other shrubs that I don't recognize.  There are calla lilies along the back of the house which are perennials here as the winters are not severe.  There is also "weed" called ice plant which is a succulent, water saving plant that sends out runners and takes over.  The mature plant has yellow flowers but the younger plants have pink flowers.  Currently the ice plant in our friends' backyard has only yellow flowers.

As we sat and enjoyed the warmth of the sun (it's actually been cooler than at home!), we enjoyed watching the antics of the numerous hummingbirds that frequent the area.  For such tiny birds, they make quite the racquet when disturbed.  We obviously were in their space as they zipped in to partake of the nectar in the hummingbird feeder.  There was one male ruby-throated hummingbird that was more aggressive than the others.  He would charge at the other hummingbirds and chase them away from the yard.  He would also zoom past our heads as we sat on the patio.  It was fun to watch them.  We also saw numerous hawks lazily circling through the air in the warm afternoon as they searched for food.

It was a beautiful, warm and relaxing day as we visited with our friends.  It would be easy to get sunburned because the temperature was very comfortable.  I remembered to put my sunscreen on and wear my wide-brimmed hat.  I got a little bit of colour but I wasn't burned.  My friend calls my hat a "Holly Hobby Hat".  Early in the evening, around 7 p.m., a marine layer comes in off the ocean.  This is a shelf cloud that you see coming and as it approaches, the temperature drops very quickly and it is cool.  Apparently, you can sometimes smell the ocean as the marine layer approaches and takes over the evening skies.  Last night we had a small campfire in our friend's barbecue pit to help keep us warm as a wind also comes up along with the marine layer.  The marine layer seems to burn off sometime around 10 a.m. and then the temperature climbs to a more comfortable level.  I did go for a drive with my friend to the grocery store and we passed some cornfields along the way.  I made the comment that the corn stalks were so short.  They were not even knee-high yet!  My friend commented that the hot season hasn't come yet and also that the harvesting can happen much later in the Fall here because the temperature is much more moderate throughout the year.  This corn that I saw is more likely what we would see at home at the end of May or mid June.

Our friends are located near a village that is in a valley surrounded by mountains.  As we drove to the grocery store we went across a fairly wide bridge with a dried up riverbed beneath.  My friend commented that when it rains, this river becomes a torrent of raging water.  That's hard to believe when you see it fully dried up and the ground cracking!  All the homes in the area seem to have automatic sprinkling systems that come on during the evening.  As we drove, you could see palm trees and really large yucca type plants.  The flowers have obviously just finished as you see them dried and going to seed.  Many of the homes have a Spanish look to them with curved entrances, wrought-iron gates and stucco exteriors.  Also in the valley, there are "flower farms".  My friend drove me past one that had a whole field of chrysanthemums of every imaginable colour.  These flowers are not harvested as cut flowers but are allowed to go to seed and the seeds are harvested and sold.  There was another field of yellow as far as you could see.  My friend told me that it was a field of marigolds which again are harvested for their seeds.  Obviously this valley was the bottom of a lake in some previous age because you can see the dark, silt-like soil.  There was even a small vineyard that we passed on the way to the grocery store.

I think I will try to get out walking today.  I, unfortunately, tweaked a lower back muscle which I think was the result of waiting in the airport for hours on end.  I intend to try to walk every day so that it won't seize up.  I think the plan today is to again have a quiet day and then head to a local beach community for dinner tonight.  My friend warned me that I may feel very, very tall compared to the local people who are of Mexican descent.  So far I don't feel that way.  I'm excitedly anticipating today's adventures!

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