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Monday, July 28, 2014

SFO Touring Day 2, Part 1

The neigborhood garden at Portrero Hill.
Busy work week last week, but now I’m back to finish up with a final few posts about the trip Mary and I took to Northern California in May. Today my post will follow-up on the two days we spent touring around San Francisco – I wrote about the first day already, and I’ve also posted about the fine breakfast we had to start day 2, which we spent under the oversight of our most excellent tour guide, Brian. 

Brian and I were stationed in Berlin together during our Air Force days.  He also keeps a blog, and although I’ve linked to his post about the day we spent together before, I’ll go ahead and refresh our rememories here:  A read of that post will let you know that he is a skilled and experienced tour guide, and however much we paid for the experience it was well worth it, and I’ll have to recommend him again for any touristas that would care to join him.

After Dotties we got on the Streets of San Francisco for some sightseeing in earnest, and made our first stop at a fun building that doubles as an art project.  The structure was rendered unstable and unoccupiable in the 1989 earthquake, and the owner has never made the seismic upgrades that would be needed to put it back into use – at least that is our theory.  There are installations of furniture on the exterior walls, perhaps stuff that was left behind inside of it, and Brian tells us there’s always something new.  This time it was a sort of frieze of old piano parts.

From there we went to the Portrero Hill neighborhood, where there is a street that is just as crooked, but less well traveled, as Lombard Street.  We took a look around, and discovered a fantastic community garden at the top of the hill.  We spent a lot of time admiring the garden patches – and a fantastic urban view of the Mission and Castro districts.

Our next stop was over to the Mission District, by special request.  Our friend Cathy used to live in the neighborhood there, and she hosted us a few times in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, so we asked to drive through the area for old times’ sake.  We stopped at the house for a minute and then walked over to Mission Dolores Park, and we checked out the Golden Hydrant.

Surprisingly, Wikipedia doesn’t have an article about the hydrant, so I want to make a note of it here.  Apparently, the pipes connected to it didn’t break during the 1906 earthquake, and it was used to save the neighborhood and mission.  It’s worth a stop for the view across the park and to pay respects, so we did just that.

By now it was past noon, and we’d begun to feel the need for refreshment.  Brian took us down to the 21st Amendment Brewery – again, by special request – and we sat outside to enjoy a pint of Hell or High Watermelon, an occasion that I dutifully recorded in a previous blog post here:

As I am writing this, I am recalling how indulgent Brian was as a host, and there are a few more stops I need to write about.  I guess I’ll stop here for the day and pick it up here tomorrow!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Dottie's on TV

I wrote about Dottie's True Blue Cafe this morning, and as I mentioned in the post, Mary's and my visit was not the first time I'd been there.  I was in San Francisco in the summer of 2010 and met up with Brian for breakfast when Dottie's was located in the Tenderloin District.  Here's a link to Brian's post from that trip.

Now, the place has also been featured on the Food Network - also at the former location.  In that episode, they showed how the chili was made - and the dish that comes out at the end looks great...may have to get by there for lunch sometime!  Here's a little YouTube snippet:

Back to Dottie's

I reckon I still have four or five posts left to make from our vacation to the west coast back in May.  So today I'll check off one from the list - after our drive up to Mendocino and our first day back in the Bay area, we'd arranged to meet one of my Air Force friends, Brian, for breakfast and sightseeing.

Brian keeps a blog called Breakfast at Epiphany's about his exploits at unique breakfast joints in San Francisco.  On the one hand, having ready access to so many fine venues is great, but on the other, there are so many great venues so it can be hard to choose which one to go the end, I recommended that we join him at one of his favorites, and one I'd been to with him before - Dottie's True Blue Cafe.

Dottie's is famous for a couple of things - great breakfasts are the primary one, and there are menu items and daily specials on a big board.  It also was famous for its location in the Tenderloin District, although it has moved to a new location recently - still in the Tenderloin.  Finally, it's notable for the long lines outside - often people will wait for an hour or more to get in for breakfast there!

When we arrived via a short walk from the BART station, Brian was already waiting in line there.  So we had maybe 20 minutes or so to wait until we could be seated.  I was really impressed with the new location - more seats, looks like a bigger kitchen, and all that.

The line outside is still a colorful experience, too, although not quite as entertaining as it had been before.  I suppose that is going to strike some people as a good thing, and some as a bad thing.  Different strokes!

After we were seated and had started catching up, Brian gave us the orientation briefing about the menu and the board.  He's written so often about ordering the specials that we all did just that - Mary and I both chose the Sweet Potato Tart, and Brian picked the black bean cakes (I think they are a favorite).  Money shots follow:

Breakfast at Dottie's simply doesn't disappoint.  I'd go there quite frequently if I lived in San Francisco...I think I might even make excuses to have business meetings there on weekdays.  And as a matter of fact, Brian has already been back there on his rotation since we made our trip to Dottie's together!

Meanwhile, here' a link to his blog post about the day - I'll have another post about the rest of our activities together soon.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Update - Backyard Hops in Alexandria

Last year, I planted two rhizomes, one each of Goldings and Willamettes. The Goldings produced a few cones, but not many - and that was okay because it was a first year plant.  The Willamette didn't produce any cones, although it and the Goldings bine grew to well over six feet tall.

This year, I transplanted both of those bines, and I added another Goldings rhizome.  The transplanting must have been tough on the plants, however - the Goldings especially.  Even the second year plant is doing worse than it did in its first year, and there are no cones.

The Willamette, on the other hand, has produced a cone or two, but these are not well formed and they are small.  There aren't enough of them to do anything with anyway - I am only seeing a half dozen or so.

I think that I may take these out to Hawksbill Cabin and replant them somewhere so that they can be a decorative plant.  I'll restart my hopyard with some Cascade rhizomes from Dan - his are doing so well.  And although I don't have any photos, our friend Bill has a robust little hopyard going too, from Dan's rhizomes.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Dan's Hops - July Update

Dan sent along some photos of the hopyard up around the corner from Hawksbill Cabin.  Over the weekend, he started picking them, and by all accounts this is going to be a banner year.

I'm guessing that these are the Cascade bines, but he has had good luck with some of the other varieties as well, including Fuggles and Columbus.

I tried to grow Willamette hops in Alexandria because Dan's bines looked like they were doing so well.  Mine look good, but no cones - Dan said he has had problems in the past too.

I'll post an update on the plants I have tomorrow.  I'll go ahead and preview that post now - I don't have any cones! lol

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Battle of the Species: Snakes, 2014 ed.

This whole snakes and karma thing got out of hand earlier in the spring.  On our first weekend back from vacation, Mary was cleaning out the pool filter baskets and found this little corn snake in it, drowned.  They warned us that we would find critters in it from time to time, and we have, but this was our first snake.

By the way, the fact that it lay there in something of a heart shape is just random.  It's not a love snake, as somebody on Facebook guessed.

Far more significant to the karma of Hawksbill Cabin was the much larger black rat snake that was recently found.  We'd had some work done by Bill in Luray, and some of it took place around the laundry room door - scene of many past encounters with snakes (click the label "battle of the specie"s for some of them), including finding a recent shed snakeskin there.

As Bill and his colleague started doing their work one day, the snake was up in the soffit, poking its head out as they approached.  They postponed whatever they'd planned, and determined that they should watch and wait for this critter to do whatever it had in mind.

Like so many of us, the snake was fixed in its daily habits: it would sleep in the relative cool shade of the soffit for part of the day, but once the sun was warm enough to make his lair uncomfortable, he would move out onto the stone wall side of the house.  Black rat snakes are climbers, so he'd just cling there to the wall in the shade.  Once Bill and his colleague understood this cycle they moved in one morning and caught the snake unawares.

He needed to be relocated out of the house, so they kindly took care of that for us.

There are trade-offs for having the snake out of the house - we might have more mice this winter, for example, although hopefully the barncats will take care of that.  We'll see.