Monthly Archives: April 2012
In order to have flowers, you have to have seeds, and in order to have seeds, you have to pollenate the flowers, and in order to pollenate the flowers, you have to have pollenators. Ergo, we have visitors to our Friday Flower Fiesta today!
Aphids on a hibiscus bud
When I went exploring a couple of days ago, I stopped to see the historic Sweetwater River Bridge:
The Sweetwater River Bridge was built in 1929 by Pacific Iron & Steel Company of Los Angeles. As you can see by the vegetation overgrowth, it no longer used. Sadly, it is being neglected even though it is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is a three-span Parker Truss Bridge and is 22½ feet wide — basically a one-way bridge by today’s standards — and 460 feet long. It is one of three maining truss bridges in San Diego County, and the only Parker Truss Bridge.
The upper members of the bridge form an arch, which you can see in the above picture, and the steel girders form triangular patterns on the sides and top of the bridge, as well as shadows:
Although the bridge is no longer used for traffic, I saw quite a few bicyclists and pedestrians using the bridge to get to the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge:
Sadly, the bridge and the buttresses have been defaced by graffiti, as well as many of the surrounding boulders:
There were no words or other typical graffiti markings except for this:
I hope these graffiti criminals find happiness, and I hope it doesn’t include defacing nature or other public property.
Zoey the Cool Cat came to us on September 20, 2007, from the El Cajon Animal Shelter. A couple of years later, about this time of the year, she was scratching up a storm, doing so much scratching that her face was bleeding. I took her to the Vet. He examined her and simply told me to give her a bath. Hmmm. Give a cat a bath. Been there, done that. Not pleasant.
About every six months I give her a bath. She doesn’t fight or scratch, but she howls up a storm. I have to make sure all the doors and windows are closed so that my neighbors don’t call Animal Control to tell them that I’m torturing a cat here.
Early this morning before my home inspection, Zoey the Cool Cat became Zoey the Cool Wet Cat:
As with most living organisms, the easy way to get them on your side is to give them some food:
When I started my home inspection business in October 2001, one of the first things my attorneys cautioned me about was saying too much at the inspection. “Let your written words tell what you know or discovered.”
Back in 2008 I got a phone call from a very unhappy real estate agent basically telling me that I should have shut up and just done my job. Here’s the problem, though. If I just shut up and do my job, and something goes wrong down the road, something significant, everyone connected with the transaction will be sued. It’s the law of lawsuits: “Sue everyone to maximize the monetary results.” It often works because everyone will settle out of court, which is done by throwing various amounts of money at the plaintiff.
Part of my job as a home inspector is to try to create a relationship with my Clients so that if they ever need help with something, they will call ME instead of their attorney! I want the opportunity to resolve any problems, or perceived problems, BEFORE they call their attorney. The problem with creating relationships is that they are very difficult to create during the course of a 3- or 4-hour inspection.
So what caused the phone call from the agent? The house didn’t have any big-ticket problems, but she told me that my Clients had canceled the purchase based on what I said about the vegetation. The particular vegetation in question was this stuff:
It’s called dodder, and right now the hills are alive with it.
This particular species is California dodder (Cuscuta californica), also called chaparral dodder. Dodder is considered a noxious weed here. Looking like a mass of spaghetti, it is a parasitic vine. The leaves are very small scales along the stems, and the flowers and berries are also very small. It is not green because it has no need for photosynthesis since it gets all its nutrients from the host, which it will eventually smother and kill.
Local dodder names throughout the world include devil’s guts, devil’s hair, devil’s ringlet, hailweed, hairweed, hellvine, pull-down, strangleweed, and witch’s hair. That pretty much tells you what people throughout the world think of it.
The property I inspected was in central San Diego and had beautiful canyon views. However, the property and the canyon were covered with dodder. When my Client asked me if I knew what all the orange stuff was, I told him that it was dodder. I also told him that it is considered a noxious weed and is very difficult to remove because it gets a stranglehold on the host plant. I renovated a large property in Mt. Helix from 1999 to 2001 that was covered with dodder. I wound up chopping the host plants down and starting all over with the landscaping.
My Client didn’t buy the property because of the dodder. He told me that although the house had a beautiful canyon view, the dodder throughout the property AND the canyon looked bad, and since he would not be able to remove the dodder on city property in the canyon, he decided to look elsewhere for a home.
As far as I know, this is the only property I ever inspected where the purchase was canceled because of vegetation.
I love it when I can mix history, nature, and photography all in the same expedition.
Yesterday morning I went exploring in an area of San Diego County that I thought I knew well. Well, well, well…. Not so well it turns out.
I was cruising down Highway 94 when I saw a big tree off to the right. Now I’ve driven Highway 94 thousands of times in the past ten years and have never noticed this tree:
That is a Moreton Bay Fig (Ficus macrophylla). According to that white plaque at the lower right, that tree was planted in 1874 and is the oldest of its kind in California and the second largest (the largest is in Balboa Park but is only 90 years old), having a 35′ girth, a 54′ height, and a 109′ canopy spread.
The house, the McRae/Albright Ranch House, was built in 1872 by Daniel and John McRae, is a California State Historic Site. It was the premier Victorian ranch house in the Spring Valley area at the time, and the McRae Ranch was the first commercial orange and lemon grove in the area.
The property was purchased in 1910 by acclaimed architect Harrison Albright. Albright designed the famous West Baden Springs Hotel in West Baden, Indiana, which, at the time of its construction, boasted the largest free-spanning dome in the world. After Albrights moved to California, he designed many now-historic buildings in San Diego, including the Balboa Park Organ Pavilion (the largest outdoor organ in the world), the U.S. Grant Hotel in downtown San Diego, the Spreckels Theatre, the Spreckels Mansion, and the Coronado Library. All of these historic buildings will be featured in upcoming blog posts.
Here are a couple of pictures of the Ranch House and the typical tree roots of a Moreton Bay Fig:
The Moreton Bay Fig is a strangler fig, meaning that seeds sprout in the branches of the tree. Seedlings live as epiphytes while they send roots down to the ground. Those roots eventually will strangle the parent tree if left alone.
Albright was also an early proponent of reinforced concrete construction. His annex to the Homer Laughlin Building in downtown Los Angeles was that city’s first reinforced concrete building. In the following picture, you can see a rectangular pool under the tree. It is a reinforced concrete pool built by Albright.
The current owners, Ron and Janie Ogdon, bought the property in 2001, six weeks after their marriage. What a nice wedding present to themselves!
Location of the McRae/Albright Ranch House, 3754 Barbic Court, Spring Valley, California:
I’ve met a lot of poets since January 2012 when I started blogging on WordPress. This post is dedicated to them.
When I was a junior and senior at Henrietta M. King High School in Kingsville, Texas, I got interested in poetry. Even wrote some poetry that got published
in a local poetry magazine. However, I didn’t see myself becoming the next
e.e. cummings, so I moved on. I never lost my interest in poetry, though, and I’ve really enjoyed finding all these poets in the WordPress world.
Recently, while exploring Balboa Park, the nation’s largest municipal cultural park, I discovered the Poetry Bench:
You can see a tag on the end of the bench, which reads:
The Poetry Bench was built in 2006 by a group of older women volunteers using straw bales, sandbags, and cob, which is an adobe-like mixture. Candace Vanderhoff was the visionary, stating, “My vision was to create a peaceful space to bring together people with different views and politics to share poetry and stories as a way to find common ground.”
In my “Hillquest: Urban Guide to Hillcrest & Beyond” by Ann Garwood and Nancy Moors, shortly after the Poetry Bench was built, an errant sprinkler caused the straw bales to grow, turning the bench into a Chia Bench. Repairs were accomplished with the help of teens from a local homeless shelter.
#8: Buying from fellow bloggers
(my flamingos and one-eyed wood monster)
My first employment after graduating from Texas A&M University was representing Grocer’s Supply Company — their international export division — as food conferences throughout the nation. My first conference was in San Francisco, and for a country bumpkin from the small, South Texas farming and ranching community of Kingsville (pop. 23,000 — still! 47 years later), it was the most exciting thing in the world. A company was paying me to go to California — salary, rental car, hotel, airfare…. What a life!
One of the first places I visited was an arts shop at Fisherman’s Wharf. I found all sorts of interesting things made out of wood, including a desk clock, which I still have, made out of a redwood burl:
I also bought a tree stump — remember that I had just earned a Bachelor of Science in Forestry from Texas A&M, so all this neat wood stuff was really exciting to me. Here’s the tree stump:
What’s so cool about the tree stump is that it’s much more than a tree stump. Turn it around and you find secret compartments:
With billions of people being connected via the Internet, I find that I don’t have to do any traveling to find unique things any more. That, of course, is good and bad. I’d rather travel instead of sit behind the computer…………….. It is what it is.
Recently I bought two unique items from fellow bloggers that I have met just since January when I started blogging on WordPress.
The other blogger that I bought from is Akers of Toons, a husband & wife duo. He carves; she paints. I bought from them what I call my “one-eyed wood monster”:
I’m sure as I continue to make my way around the world on WordPress, I’ll find some more unique items.
SNIPPETS are short posts about anything and everything.
Each SNIPPETS will also have a picture.
After all, this is Russel Ray Photos.