Felton League

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When I started posting my weekly gardening articles here, along with a few other odds and ends, I reserved the right to occasionally post articles or information that is not directly related to horticulture. I do not do it often, but I will do it now, in order to briefly explain another blog that I started today.
Felton League
It will feature articles and insight about the distinguished small group of displaced or socially marginalized people and their friends in Felton in California. In other words, it will be about our homeless Community.
In about 2013, at a time when the homeless were more openly persecuted and assaulted, and evenly violently attacked, Felton League began as an informational forum on Facebook. We had been discouraged by the portrayal of the homeless in other so-called ‘community’ groups. Disparaging pictures, often contrived, were shared openly for the amusement of haters. This is common on the pages of our local law enforcement agencies.
Well, that seemed like a good idea. We started sharing pictures of those taking pictures of us, and describing how they stalked us for the sake of taking such pictures. They did not like that, and accused us of stalking, harassment, and all sorts of nonsense. They were also much more careful about how they stalked us.
In fact, the stalking subsided so much shortly after the establishment of Felton League, that the page was almost deleted. Instead, it remained as a Community forum for topics that were of interest to our segment of the Community. It was designed to appeal to less than one percent of the populace, most of whom do not use Facebook, but gained quite a following. There were nearly a hundred followers, but less than a dozen homeless.
That seemed rather odd, especially since a local hate groups that specializes in the derision of the homeless, and claiming to represent ‘everyone’ in town, had only about three dozen followers when an associate checked in on them about a month ago. It became obvious that others beyond our Community appreciate the insight.
It is now time to expand Felton League. I hope that this blog makes it more available to a broader audience. I will not post daily. Nor will I discuss certain local events and news that are not directly related to our distinguished small group. As unpleasant as homelessness is, I hope that readers find Felton League to be insightful and perhaps, in some ways, encouraging.
The three men in the pictures above and below are three old friends and members of our Community who have passed away since the establishment of Felton League, and are three of the reasons why I continue to write.

Felton League can be found at feltonleague.com

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Horridculture – Fake Environmentalism

P90515Fake environmentalism is a HUGE topic, so for now, will be limited to fake environmentalism as justification for the eviction of homeless encampments.
The yellow triangle in the picture above was the site of the Hero’s Camp, which was more commonly known as Ross Camp, and located behind Ross Dress For Less in Gateway Plaza in Santa Cruz. It is gone now. This satellite image was taken by Google Maps prior to the development of the Camp. I did not get pictures of the camp while inhabited, but you have likely seen enough other camps in the news to imagine what it looked like.
It really was as big as it looks, and really did exhibit all the problems that you hear about in the news, although not to such an exaggerated degree. Not everyone there used syringes to inject illicit narcotics. Not everyone there was an alcoholic. Not everyone was violent, from somewhere else, or a criminal. This is not about such issues anyway. It is about how the two hundred or so unhoused people who lived here affected the environment.
Was there trash? Of course there was. Was it more than what two hundred people who live in homes generate? No. Houseless people do not generate as much trash as the housed, simply because they lack resources to purchase the commodities from which so much trash is generated. The houseless certainly do not waste as much as the housed. Their trash just happens to be more visible for outsiders who do not know any better to see.
Furthermore, what is so typically described and perceived as trash is actually the belongings of those who live in such camps. Without closets, cabinets or furniture, our belongings would look about the same, except much more voluminous. When we take just some of the belongings that we don’t want or need and put them out in front of our homes, it is a garage sale, and likely amounts to much more than individual homeless people own.
The satellite image from Google Maps below shows the neighborhood where my grandparents lived in Felton, less than seven miles north of where the picture above was taken. Their old home is right in the middle of the picture. There were not so many other homes there when they arrived, just as World War II was ending. They lived a relatively modest lifestyle, on a small suburban parcel. They were not concerned about the environment.
Why should they have been? Even now, the people who live in homes here can generate as much trash as they want to, and no one will complain about it. They can fill their homes with their belongings, and put them neatly away in closets, cabinets and drawers. There are alcoholics in this neighborhood, as well as a few who are addicted to illicit narcotics. Some are criminals. Some are violent. Few are native. Again, this is off the main topic.
None of that is visible in this satellite image anyway. What it shows instead is how the lifestyles of those who live in homes are more detrimental to the environment than the lifestyles of those who lack homes. This picture is the same scale as the picture above, so you can see that only a few homes would fit into an area comparable to that in which about two hundred unhoused people lived. Only a few people live in each of these few homes.
What that means is that two hundred people like those who lived at the Hero’s Camp live dispersed over a much larger area, on land from which trees and vegetation needed to be removed. They all live in homes that are made of wood derived from trees that grew in forests. These homes are furnished with synthetic plaster, carpet, paint, glass, vinyl, metals and all sorts of materials that needed to be quarried, processed or manufactured.
It doesn’t end there. These homes consume energy for heating, lighting and whatever else that gas and electricity are used for. Cars driven by those who live in homes are also constructed from raw materials, and then need fuel to function. Water is consumed as if it were not a very limited resource. Much of it gets mixed with soaps and detergents before going back into the environment. Chlorine volatilizes from chlorinated swimming pools.
Then there are the landscapes and gardens, the parts of domestic lifestyles that we actually believe to be beneficial to the environment. They contain exotic (non-native) plants that compete with native species, and interfere with natural ecological processes. Irrigation of the landscapes stimulates redwoods and accelerated decay of oaks. Soil amendments, fertilizers and some of the pesticides change the chemistry of the soil and ground water.
Just compare these two pictures. As bad as the mess at Hero’s Camp was, the two hundred people who lived there were less detrimental to the environment and the local ecosystem than those who live in just a few of the homes visible in the picture below. Those who claim to be concerned about the environment should be more concerned about the ecologically detrimental lifestyles of those who live in homes than those who lack homes.P90515+

Metallic Roses

P90203‘Sterling Silver’ and ‘Stainless Steel’ are two hybrid tea roses that were quite popular decades ago. ‘Copper’ and ‘Aluminum’ are not. However, I did happen to write a bit about the aluminum roses in the picture above on the Facebook page of Felton League on January 28, and included a link to an older article that featured a picture of copper roses. They are not at all relevant to horticulture, but are interesting nonetheless.

Felton League is an informational forum for the distinguished small group of displaced or socially outcast people and their friends in Felton, California. That is how it is described on Facebook. Those who are more directly familiar with us know us as a community group that not only advocates for the local homeless, but also provides compelling insight into homeless culture, and confronts the trend of animosity and hostility for anyone perceived to be homeless.

This is the post on Felton League from January 28:

Some of us participate in the River Cleanups here and elsewhere in Santa Cruz County. Some regularly collect trash for disposal throughout the year. One takes trash collection a step further by creating these metallic roses from some of the collected debris. They were featured in this article about garden art that was published in local newspapers between San Francisco and Beverly Hills in the summer of 2017; https://tonytomeo.com/2018/07/12/be-tactful-with-garden-art/ . (Not all of the articles used this illustration. The link is for the article as it was posted last July, about a year after it was published.) The copper roses of the original article were made from copper pipe. The newer silvery roses are made from flashing found in the San Lorenzo River. The thorny stems are made from scraps of fencing material that resembles a fine gauge of hog wire, that was found closer to Zayante Creek. The leaves are wired on with random bits of copper wire. These roses are often sold to tourists and local merchants to finance the banquets hosted by ‘Let’s Have Soup’ in Felton Covered Bridge Park.

Horridculture – Slurry

p90130This is likely the worst illustration that I have ever used. It is sort of what it looks like; a mud puddle. What I mean by ‘sort of’ is that this is no ordinary mud. It is a now solidified slurry that was rinsed from a concrete delivery truck. Yes, solidified, right there next to an embankment covered with carpet roses. The curb near the top of the picture is where the embankment starts. The small pile of debris to the upper left is some of what I was pruning from the roses. There was another solidified puddle of slurry just a few yards away. They were just dumped there as if no one would notice.

What makes this even more infuriating is that there is a sign on the main gate into the site, as well as a few others throughout the site, explaining to everyone coming and going that they must wash mud or other crud from their vehicles before leaving the site, so that they leave nothing on the roadway outside. This refers mainly to mud on the tires, but really includes anything that makes a mess. There are washing stations within the site for those who must wash their tires before leaving. There is also a site for slurry such as this, that can not be rinsed into culverts that drain into the adjacent creeks. The management of the project did everything necessary to prevent this sort of thing from happening. Yet, here it is.

A smaller but more destructive puddle of slurry was dumped into my downtown planter box by tile setters working in an adjacent shop. https://tonytomeo.com/2017/11/04/my-tiny-downtown-garden/ That mess needed to be broken apart and removed, but could not be separated from the perennials that is flowed around before solidifying. All of the canna foliage, some nasturtiums and some of the aloes were destroyed.

The insensitivity is ridiculous. I could not imagine leaving debris from pruning roses where the new concrete was installed, as if no one would notice. Yet, such disregard for landscaped areas is quite common. That is why trees that are to be salvaged on a construction site need to be fenced. Even with fencing, they are very often damaged or ruined by those operating machinery. Wouldn’t that be comparable to an arborist cutting a tree down in the most efficient manner, even if it fell onto an adjacent house?

Litter

p90112kThose of us who work in public landscapes find litter in the strangest of places. It gets everywhere. It is not necessarily put everywhere. It just has a sneaky way of getting everywhere. My nature, litter blows about and gets washed into creeks and rivers that flow out to the bays and oceans.
Of course, there is much more litter in public spaces with the most traffic, such as city parks, than there is out in remote places where fewer people go, such as hiking trails in state parks. People are not necessarily slobs, and most put their trash into the appropriate receptacles. There just happens to be more litter where people are because that is where most of the trash that becomes litter happens to originate. Most litter that accumulates on the sides of roadways was blown there from the open beds of pickups. Not much is discarded out there intentionally.
One of the projects where I work is designing trash receptacles that wildlife can not get into. Racoons, which some of us know as ‘trash pandas’, are notorious for distributing large volumes of trash into the forest. Squirrels tend to be a bit more selective in taking mostly biodegradable bits of discarded fruit, and by unwrapping their finds before taking them away. Crows are actually worse than squirrels because they will take larger bits of trash merely because they find it to be amusing. Once out of the receptacles designed to contain it, trash gets blown about by the wind. In fact, wind alone can blow trash out of some types of trash receptacles, such as those fancy cylindrical steel mesh receptacles that suspend trash bags within, like those that are so common downtown in many cities. Litter is naturally an unnatural consequence of modern civilized society.

Horridculture – Vandals

P80926It wasn’t even two days. The article about the ‘Illegal Planting’ of the Memorial Tree in Felton Covered Bridge Park posted at noon on Saturday, and then on Sunday night or early Monday morning, the Memorial Tree was vandalized. Fortunately, it is nothing serious. A small bag of trash was impaled onto the binding stake that is there to keep the trunk straight, which pushed the top of the small tree aside. It needed to be bound to a new stake anyway.
(I do not often condone the use of binding stakes, but this particular tree contends with considerable abuse that causes structural distortion. The article from noon last Saturday is https://tonytomeo.com/2018/09/22/illegally-planting/ .)
Was it done by the haters who snivel about the Memorial Tree just being there? Probably not. The timing is suspicious. The technique is consistent with their style. However, they have been behaving for quite a while, and have not yet posted pictures of the vandalism to blame those they dislike, as they typically do. They are predictably vain in regard to gloating about such ‘community’ activism, particularly if they can also blame their victims for any incidental damages. ( https://tonytomeo.com/2017/12/09/hate-destroys/ )
As annoying as it is, this particular vandalism was most likely executed by someone who just did not put much thought into how bothersome it would be. It might have been done because of the lack of receptacles in which to deposit trash. Perhaps the bag of trash was impaled onto the stake so that it would be easier to retrieve and dispose of when the trash receptacles were returned to the site. The option of dropping it onto the ground might have been been perceived to be more like littering.
Perhaps I am being too optimistic and too generous with excuses.

Horridculture – Needle Mania!

P80919Throughout my career as a horticulturist, I have worked in more public landscapes than most. Some of these landscapes were in some of the most notorious neighborhoods of the San Francisco Bay Area and the Monterey Bay Area. Yes, I have found some rather strange items strewn about, including a few that necessitated telephone calls to local law enforcement. Yet, I have never once found a single used syringe.

Syringes are more commonly known as ‘needles’ by those who fear them. We are sometimes warned about them, particularly in areas where the sorts of people whom we are supposed to fear might have left them strewn about, whether or not these fearsome people actually use syringes. If found, such syringes are dangerous because they are used to inject illicit narcotics, and are consequently contaminated with the blood of those who use them. Such blood is always assumed to be infected with any variety of the communicable diseases that afflict all fearsome people, and is assumed to stay infectious for all eternity.

When I consider some of the situations that I have worked in, I believe that I am fortunate to have never found a syringe. On rare occasion, I have been presented with pouches and ‘sharps’ containment boxes containing syringes so that I can dispose of them properly. I actually expect to find a few at a site that I will be inspecting this next week or so, which will be a new experience for me. Caution is justified.

I know that syringes are out there, and that they are dangerous. So are rattlesnakes. I have seen and killed many rattlesnakes. They used to be quite common at the farm, and are still somewhat common at home. I know people who have been bitten by rattlesnakes, even though we all know to be careful out in regions where we expect them to be. Signs warning those who might not be familiar with rattlesnakes are posted in county and state parks inhabited by rattlesnakes. People are bitten by rattlesnakes much more commonly than people are accidentally pricked by used syringes. Accidental ‘needle pricks’ are actually extremely rare. For those unfortunate enough to experience such an injury, infection with any one of the communicable diseases that we all fear is very rare. Contrary to popular belief, infectious blood does not stay infections forever.

Needle Mania is really the most infectious affliction associated with used syringes. In a nearby Community, several people are so obsessed with discarded syringes that they have developed a ‘needle watch’ online, in order to monitor the number of syringes found, and the locations of where they were found. Some like to post pictures of the syringes that they find, sort of like trophies. Some people have found several syringes; which is quite commendable for those who live and work mostly inside. (I spent my entire career outside, but have never found a single syringe.) The numbers of syringes found is disturbing. So are the many pictures of syringes laying out in public spaces.

A few pictures are perplexing as well. One locally found syringe was pictured laying out neatly on a serpentinite outcropping. Another that was found in spring on the bank of the San Lorenzo River was laying on top of fallen autumn leaves of quaking aspen, Populus tremuloides. Neither serpentinite nor quaking aspen are endemic to this region.

A syringe was recently found in my neighborhood! As unfortunate and disturbing as this news was, it is not completely unexpected. Syringes can be discarded anywhere, and are probably likely to be discarded on isolated rural roads.

The neighbor who found the syringe believes that it is a problem that is serious enough to justify posting pictures of it all over the neighborhood! These pictures include a description of where the syringe was found, and instructions of what to do to curtail suspicious activity. They are everywhere! They were originally just stapled to trees, utility poles, mail boxes, fences, barns . . . and anything that a staple would stick into. Now that they have been out in the weather for a while, some are blowing about in the roadway and collecting in ditches. When they were first posted, a few were within view from every point on the road. More posters were added to replace those that blew away. These posters are now a prominent feature of our Community landscape.

I do not doubt that the discarded syringe is a problem for the Community. However, the pictures of it posted so prominently and abundantly throughout the neighborhood landscape are unsightly, trashy and unbecoming of such a safe and idyllic neighborhood.P80919K

Kenny

 

 

If you watch Southpark, you shouldn’t.
If you do anyway, you shouldn’t admit to it.
If you happen to know someone who watches Southpark, you might have heard indirectly about Kenny. He dies in every episode. Actually, he typically dies a few times in each episode, and typically does so violently. Experts claim that there are two episodes of Southpark in which Kenny does not die, but proof is all too conveniently scarce.
There is also an opossum named Kenny. Like Kenny of Southpark, Kenny the opossum dies in every episode.
Apparently, Kenny startled someone who was working too intently in the garden to notice his approach on top of a fence directly behind where this unnamed someone was working. This unnamed someone grabbed a stick and clobbered Kenny right across the backside. Although the blow was not terribly aggressive, and not intended to be harmful, Kenny surprisingly died violently in a fit of hissing, gnashing and flailing. After falling to the ground, he smelled as if he had been dead for quite a while.
The surprised unnamed assailant went to find a box to put Kenny’s remains into for a proper ‘burial’, but upon returning to the scene of the incident, could not find Kenny.
Others briefly observed Kenny frolicking about in the same garden later, but when the unnamed assailant came within view, Kenny again died in a violent fit of hissing, gnashing and flailing, accompanied by the aroma of well aged death. Again, the unnamed assailant was unable to locate Kenny’s remains after retuning with a box in which to put them.
After a few more similarly violent deaths, it became apparent that Kenny was merely playing possum, likely in response to being clobbered with a stick by the startled unnamed assailant during their primary encounter!

I apologize for the length of the video. My attempts to trim it compromised the quality of the imaging. The important part of the video is between ten and thirty seconds. This is not the real Kenny anyway, but merely a random opossum who happened to be frolicking in the garden.
I also apologize for posting this at noon rather than at midnight when I typically schedule my articles for the day. For midnight, I posted a short excerpt from an old article from the gardening column instead.

Horridculture – DEATH

P80815KIt is quite natural. Death, I mean. Every living thing does it at one time or another. Even the oldest bristlecone pines that live for thousands of years eventually do it. The Monterey pine in this picture did it quite efficiently. The three crows perched on top make it look extra dead. You know, not merely dead, but very dead. If this tree were in my own garden, I would be totally saddened by its death, but there is nothing that I could do about it.
The smaller dark objects suspended in the now dead limbs are pine cones. Monterey pine starts to produce pine cones at a young age, and of course, produces more with age and increasing size. As mature trees begin to deteriorate, they produce even more cones as they concentrate their resources into seed production for the next generation. This elderly tree knew that death was imminent. After all, death is natural.
Compared to other trees that are native to the neighborhood, such as valley oaks that live for centuries, and coastal redwoods that live for thousands of years, Monterey pines are ‘short-lived’. They live only a century or so, and may not live half that long in urban situations, particularly in more arid climates. They are endemic to the Monterey Peninsula, where they live within an ecosystem that, prior to urban development, naturally burned at least every century or so, before they got to be too old. In fact, their natural life cycle was directly relevant to how combustible the forests were, and how efficiently fires spread through them; but that is another topic.
The main concern here is that death is natural. The tree in this picture died a natural death. It can not be blamed on global warming, climate change, big industry, the President that we all seem to hate even though enough of us voted for him to become president, or my old car that, after almost half a century, is still not a hybrid. We can complain about death all we want, but we can never stop it.

Tent City

P80224KIn the autumn of 1989, small and temporary tent cities appeared in parks and other public spaces around the San Francisco Bay Area and the Monterey Bay Area, where many homes had been damaged or destroyed by the Loma Prieta Earthquake. They were necessary at the time, but were not intended to be permanent features of the landscapes. For a while, they were unpleasant reminders that some people could not go home until their homes were repaired or rebuilt.

In more recent history, ridiculously expensive real estate and rents have increased homelessness in the same regions. Even gainfully employed people are homeless because they can neither purchase nor rent a home, either because of expense or because of a lack of availability. Those who live in homes complain about the unsightliness and other problems associated with the homeless living in homeless encampments and small tent cities.

We get it. Tents are bad.

So then, what is this small tent city on one of the main roadways in town?

Good planning and bad planning.

First the good. Each of the shop spaces in the contemporary retail building behind this tent city needs its own water meter and valve manifold. Each of these meters and manifolds must be easily accessible. Because they are accessible, they are also exposed, so they need to be insulated so that they do not freeze during the very rare occasion (in our mild climate) that the weather gets cold enough to do so. This explains why the water meters are next to the sidewalks, and the upright valve manifolds behind them are covered with these billowed tents.

The bad? Good landscape design should have been considered with the location of these meters and manifolds. A water main line should have been routed so that this whole complex could have been constructed within a utility closet or shed, or even a small utility yard that could have been fenced in a less prominent location. If constructed inside a utility closet or shed, the insulating tents would not be necessary. Now that it is too late for that sort of planning, there is not even enough clearance from the sidewalk for hedging or low fencing to obscure the meters and manifolds without obstructing access. It really would not have taken much of a landscape modification to obscure the view of all this infrastructure, if only more space had been made available where it is needed.

Sadly, landscape design was not a priority on this building. Although the water meters and manifolds are completely exposed, shrubbery obscures window and more appealing features of the buildings, such as ornamental stonework. The view from inside many windows is of the unsightly backsides of pointlessly shorn shrubbery. Trees were crowded and planted directly in front of signs, even though there is plenty of frontage without signs where trees could have been planted. It is amazing what some landscape designers get away with.