Glean Queens of San Diego need your help!

Got extra fruit. Got time. Help fight hunger and have a load of fun, too!
Got extra fruit? Got time? Help fight hunger and have a load of fun, too!

Do you love to be out in the San Diego sunshine, among friendly people and fragrant fruit trees? Do you hate to see delicious, nutritious fruit just lying there on the ground, beginning to rot? Do you, perhaps, own fruit trees in your backyard and struggle to give the abundant harvest away? Would you like to help some hungry people?

If you’re looking for a fun opportunity to volunteer and make a positive change in the lives of San Diegans, read on! Some fantastic ladies whom I met at EarthFair need your help! They’re the Glean Queens!

These three ladies are making the world a better place. Join them!
These three ladies are making the world a better place. Join them!

The Glean Queens have undertaken a very important project. It’s called CropSwap. The perfectly named CropSwap (part of their organization ProduceGood) solves a huge problem. The problem of tragically wasted food–locally grown fruit, to be exact.

Sunny Southern California is thick with citrus and other fruit trees. Many residents have them on their property. Many of the established trees provide more fruit than a family can possibly use. Why should the excess become useless garbage?

Help save nutritious oranges, lemons, limes, avocados, tangerines...you name it!
Help save valuable, nutritious oranges, lemons, limes, avocados, tangerines…you name it!

According to the USDA, a whopping 40% of crops go to waste. And here’s another shocking statistic: 20% of San Diegans have difficulty getting enough food to eat.

CropSwap coordinates fruit tree owners and volunteer pickers, and arranges the collection of excess fruit that would otherwise be wasted. The fruit is then delivered to San Diego food banks. An excellent (and common sense) idea!

So all you fruit tree owners and future volunteer pickers in and around San Diego! Click here to visit the ProduceGood website and learn how you can personally help, in a very tangible and rewarding way, to fight hunger!

You can easily make a positive difference in San Diego!
You can easily make a positive difference in San Diego!

Spread the word!

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The large Moreton Bay Fig tree in Balboa Park.

This is one of the largest trees you're likely to ever see.
This is one of the most amazing trees you’re likely to ever see.

Have you visited Balboa Park? Perhaps you’ve seen an incredibly enormous tree standing between the San Diego Natural History Museum and Spanish Village. It’s impossible to miss! That’s the over 100 year old Moreton Bay Fig!

Sign in Balboa Park describes Ficus macrophylla, the Moreton Bay Fig.
Sign in Balboa Park describes Ficus macrophylla, the Moreton Bay Fig.

Ficus macrophylla

“Moreton Bay Fig”

Native to East Australia

This tree was planted prior to the 1915 Panama-California International Exposition and was the focus of a Formal Garden located at this site. Because of its large size, it is listed as a co-champion with the Santa Barbara Fig in the California Dept. of Forestry Registry of Big Trees.

Age: over 100 years (now)

Height: 80 feet

Trunk Girth: 42 feet

Canopy width: 145 feet

Trunk and roots of a tree once climbed by kids, but now fenced off for its protection.
Trunk and roots of a tree once climbed by kids, but now fenced off for its protection.
Huge Moreton Bay Fig tree and the San Diego Natural History Museum.
Huge Moreton Bay Fig tree and the San Diego Natural History Museum.
A big tree is a rare and valuable part of the ecosystem.
A big tree is a rare and valuable part of the ecosystem.

The Value of a Big Tree

Trees contribute to our environment by producing oxygen; reducing temperature, carbon-dioxide and stormwater runoff; improving property value and providing wildlife habitat.

Scientists have developed a value formula to determine the cost benefit of trees. The Center for Urban Forest Research states that trees over 50 feet tall contribute about $65.00/year back to the environment. Smaller trees contribute $18-36.00/year. There are about 20,000 trees in Balboa Park which contribute a value of one million dollars per year back to our environment.

Beyond dollars, Big Trees like the Moreton Bay Fig enhance the park, provide a sense of history to our community and a legacy for our children.

Someone gazes at the hundred year old leafy giant in Balboa Park.
Someone gazes at the hundred year old leafy giant in Balboa Park.

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Walk under cool bridges on Maple Canyon Trail.

View of the Quince Street Trestle from a spot on Fourth Avenue.
View of the Quince Street Trestle from a spot on Fourth Avenue.

Many nature hikes can be enjoyed in Balboa Park. But there’s another beautiful, quiet hike through date palms and eucalyptus trees and bright spring flowers that anyone can enjoy just a few blocks north of downtown San Diego.

The Maple Canyon Trail stretches from a trailhead near Quince Street and Third Avenue on Bankers Hill to a second trailhead at Maple Street and Dove Street in Middletown. It often seems that the only people who use the trail are dog walkers and joggers who live nearby. Those who haven’t hiked this easy trail are missing out on a unique experience. The Maple Canyon Trail passes under two cool historic bridges!

The Quince Street Trestle is a visually interesting wooden footbridge that was built in 1905. Back then streetcars ran up Fourth Avenue, and the trestle allowed pedestrians to cross the steep canyon from the west. A quarter century ago the bridge, weakened by termites and rot, was closed and almost demolished. Local residents took up the cause of saving the bridge, which was finally declared a historic site.

The Maple Canyon Trail also passes beneath the impressive First Avenue Bridge. The arched steel bridge was built in 1931 and was originally known as the Peoples Bridge. Its astonishing height above the trail is a reminder of San Diego’s unique geology. Southern California’s coastal region is crisscrossed in many places by deep, narrow canyons, which often serve as undeveloped habitat for native species of plant and animal life.

Small cabinet at end of footbridge contains books that people can freely borrow!
Small cabinet at end of footbridge contains books that people can freely borrow!
Walking across the very cool historic trestle on Bankers Hill.
Walking across the very cool historic trestle on Bankers Hill.
Looking down from the trestle at dogs and walker passing through the canyon below.
Looking down from trestle at dogs and walker passing through the canyon below.
This super cool condo is located near the Third Avenue trailhead.
This super cool condo is located near the Third Avenue trailhead.
Maple Canyon Open Space sign near trailhead on Bankers Hill.
Maple Canyon Open Space sign near trailhead on Bankers Hill.
Looking up at the wooden footbridge from the quiet footpath on a sunny day.
Looking up at the wooden footbridge from the quiet footpath on a sunny day.
Wooden beams compose the high trestle.
Wood beams compose the high trestle.
Grass and spring flowers line the Maple Canyon Trail.
Grass and spring flowers line the Maple Canyon Trail.
Some interesting houses can be seen up on the hillsides.
Some interesting houses can be seen up on the hillsides.
Here comes the First Avenue Bridge beyond a eucalyptus tree.
Here comes the First Avenue Bridge beyond a eucalyptus tree.
This elegant old steel bridge has very limited traffic.
This elegant old steel bridge has very limited motor traffic.

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Cherry blossoms at Japanese Friendship Garden.

Beautiful cherry blossoms have opened at the Japanese Friendship Garden!
Beautiful cherry blossoms have opened at the Japanese Friendship Garden!

Because a big storm is on its way into Southern California, I got my weekend walk in this morning. I didn’t want to venture too far and get caught in the rain, so I decided to head up to Balboa Park to check out the cherry blossoms at the Japanese Friendship Garden!

Next weekend is the big, super popular Cherry Blossom Festival. I don’t like crowds generally, so my small adventure today was just perfect! Relatively few people were visiting the quiet Friendship Garden. I guess other folks, like me, were worried about getting caught in a chilly shower. Turns out most of my walk was in sunshine!

Not long ago the Japanese Friendship Garden occupied just a small narrow spot in Balboa Park, and visitors could see and enjoy everything with a very short visit. No longer! The spectacular expansion into the canyon and additional coming expansions promise to make this a truly world-class garden.

In addition to traditional Japanese garden features and the cherry blossoms, one can walk among many beautiful trees and down shady hillsides of flowers, which include azaleas, camellias and hydrangeas. Anyone with an interest in gardening must go see this incredible place!

A shout out to the friendly folks at the garden!

View of the Japanese Friendship Garden expansion in Balboa Park canyon.
View of the Japanese Friendship Garden expansion in Balboa Park canyon.

The above pic was taken from a viewing deck between the House of Hospitality and the Tea Pavilion. We’ll be heading down there in a bit!

Sign near entrance explains history of the garden. In 1915 a Japanese tea house was built at another location in Balboa Park for the Panama-California Exposition.
Sign near entrance explains history of the garden. In 1915 a Japanese tea house was built at another location in Balboa Park for the Panama-California Exposition.
Today's Japanese Tea Pavilion is next to the Friendship Garden and offers many choices of tea and great food.
Today’s Japanese Tea Pavilion is next to the Friendship Garden and offers many choices of tea and great food.

If you’ve ever been to the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, you’ve surely seen the Japanese Tea Pavilion right next door. Next time you enjoy a concert, grab a bite here!

People enter Japanese Friendship Garden. The San-Kei-En entrance stone, gift from San Diego's sister city Yokohama, translates Three Scene Garden--Water, Pastoral and Mountain.
People enter Japanese Friendship Garden. The San-Kei-En entrance stone, gift from San Diego’s sister city Yokohama, translates Three Scene Garden–Water, Pastoral and Mountain.
Water gently drips from hollow bamboo, inviting meditation.
Water gently drips from hollow bamboo, inviting meditation.
Visitors check out thought-provoking historical and cultural displays in the Exhibit House.
Visitors check out thought-provoking historical and cultural displays in the Exhibit Hall.

The Exhibit Hall includes a room with benches that look out a big window at the Dry Stone Garden. The gravel is raked into simple patterns for meditation. I didn’t want to disturb people, so no photos of that.

Oribe-doro lantern. Exhibit House with views of Karesansui (Dry Stone Garden) in background.
Oribe-doro lantern. Exhibit Hall with views of Karesansui (Dry Stone Garden) in background.
The amazing Koi Pond is a favorite spot to relax and feel alive.
The amazing Koi Pond is a favorite spot to relax and feel alive.
The koi are colorful and curious. They seemed interested in my camera!
The koi are colorful and curious. They seemed interested in my camera!
People stroll slowly along a tranquil path in one of San Diego's most beautiful gardens.
People stroll along a tranquil path in one of San Diego’s most beautiful gardens.
Stepping stones lead toward the Activity Room, where various Japan-related clubs meet.
Stepping stones lead toward the Activity Room, where various Japan-related clubs meet.
Looking down at a path that leads into canyon. New construction is a large pavilion that will open later this year.
Looking down at a path that leads into canyon. New construction is a large pavilion that will open later this year.
A special Bonsai Exhibit area.
A special Bonsai Exhibit area.
Perfectly pruned bonsai includes a bright red bougainvillea!
Perfectly pruned bonsai includes a bright red bougainvillea!
That bright tree in the distance is a pink trumpet tree.
That bright tree in the distance is a pink trumpet tree.
Light of Friendship.
Light of Friendship.
Walking down a path through a scene of carefully maintained beauty.
Walking down a path through a scene of carefully maintained beauty.
The Charles C. Dail Memorial Gate leads into the canyon, where the Japanese Cherry trees await. That's another pink trumpet tree!
The Charles C. Dail Memorial Gate leads into the canyon, where the Japanese Cherry trees await. That’s another pink trumpet tree!
Former San Diego mayor Charles Dail created the Sister City Association with Yokohama.
Former San Diego mayor Charles Dail created the Sister City Association with Yokohama.
Visitors head down a fairly easy hiking trail to see the cherry blossoms and other flowers.
Visitors head down an easy hiking trail to see cherry blossoms and other flowers.
Another look at the large canyon pavilion buildings, which will be finished soon.
Another look at the large canyon pavilion buildings, which will be finished soon.
Here are some cherry blossoms! Many are blooming, even though it isn't spring quite yet!
Here are some cherry blossoms! Many are blooming, even though it isn’t spring quite yet!
A sparkling man-made river runs through the canyon bottom, surrounded by a gorgeous landscape.
A sparkling man-made river runs through the canyon bottom, surrounded by a gorgeous landscape.
A waterfall and gurgling, bubbling water put me in a thoughtful mood.
A waterfall and gurgling, bubbling water put me in a thoughtful mood.
A patient gardener tends to one of the many shrubs and plants in the garden.
A steady-handed expert gardener tends to one of the many shrubs and plants in the garden.  I envy him!
Delicate pink cherry blossoms hover over lush green grass.
Delicate pink cherry blossoms hover over lush green grass.
Gauzy pink blooms seem so new and promising.
Gauzy pink blooms seem so new and promising.
One last photo of the new pavilion under construction. Looks inviting!
One last photo of the new pavilion under construction. Looks inviting!
There are about 160 ornamental cherry trees in this grove. I think I'll be going here more often!
There are about 160 ornamental cherry trees in this grove. I think I’ll be going here more often!
The Japanese Friendship Garden in San Diego's Balboa Park is a place of beauty.
The Japanese Friendship Garden in San Diego’s Balboa Park is a place of beauty.

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Microburst destroys trees along San Diego River.

Large trees by San Diego River snapped by sudden violent microburst winds.
Large trees by San Diego River snapped by sudden violent microburst winds.

Late yesterday, a few minutes after five o’clock, a violent microburst tore through Mission Valley, several miles north of downtown San Diego. Similar microbursts occurred elsewhere around the city and county, bringing thunder and lightning, torrential downpours and extremely violent winds. San Diegans saw on the news how many small airplanes parked at Montgomery Field in Kearny Mesa (a few miles farther north) were thrown through the air and overturned like mere toys.

I was fortunate. I left the place where I work in Mission Valley half an hour early. Many of my coworkers weren’t so fortunate. One, walking to the Hazard Center trolley station, took shelter in a grocery store while the wind, sounding like an oncoming tornado, knocked over sturdy steel shopping cart corrals in the parking lot with ease. He reported the fury of the storm only lasted a few minutes.

Early this morning I walked along the pathway that follows the north side of the San Diego River. For better than a mile, from Qualcomm Way west well past Mission Center Road, I photographed the aftermath of the terrifying microburst. The amount of damage to the river’s lush canopy of trees was indescribable. Hundreds of trees, large and small, were torn to pieces or uprooted by the brief microbust.

These pics aren’t so cool, but they are interesting…

Popular pathway through Mission Valley is covered with miles of fallen trees.
Popular pathway through Mission Valley is covered with miles of fallen trees.
Walking along the river required fancy footwork the morning after the freak storm.
Walking along the river required fancy footwork the morning after the freak storm.
One of many trees torn to pieces next to residential buildings.
One of many trees torn to pieces next to residential buildings.
The late summer microburst came on a very hot, humid San Diego day.
The late summer microburst came on a very hot, humid San Diego day.
San Diego River seen behind devastated trees near walking path.
San Diego River seen behind devastated trees near walking path.
This hurricane-like rainstorm ended so quickly no severe flooding occurred.
This hurricane-like rainstorm ended so quickly no severe flooding occurred.

This sign talks about the history of flooding in Mission Valley, and how nature occasionally flushes out accumulated debris and keeps the river healthy. Because the storm was so brief, nature didn’t create much flooding yesterday–but it certainly created quite a bit of debris!

Many trees around the developed parts of Mission Valley were also uprooted!
Many trees around the developed parts of Mission Valley were also uprooted!

Tree trimming businesses and city workers converged in full force on Mission Valley today! Many truckloads of branches were hauled off from all over!

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Trees removed from Jungle Trail Canyon.

Canyon in Balboa Park to be site of San Diego Zoo employee parking structure.
Canyon in Balboa Park to be site of San Diego Zoo employee parking structure.

When I recently went on a special tour at the San Diego Museum of Art, my new docent friend expressed concern about an upcoming construction project. We were standing at a window that overlooks Old Globe Way, a short, winding access road that follows the edge of Jungle Trail Canyon directly behind the museum. The road starts behind the San Diego Junior Theatre, passes the rear of the Botanical Building, and finally leads to the back of the Old Globe Theatre. We gazed out the window at many colorful hummingbird feeders dangling from a nearby tree, at trees by the road that were marked with green paint, then beyond the narrow canyon to the back of the famous San Diego Zoo. The small canyon, I learned, was to be converted to parking!

After doing a bit of research for news on the internet, I learned the canyon would be the location of a six level parking garage for zoo employees. The idea is to free up a large amount of space from the zoo’s main parking lot on Park Boulevard. Employees arriving by car usually start their shifts in the early morning, and depart at different times, so traffic problems in the park would be kept to a minimum.  The new structure has been in the planning stage for a long time.

Yesterday my journey through Balboa Park included a stroll down Old Globe Way. I saw that the work had already been started. Fortunately, those green markings on larger trees indicated they were to be saved.

A tree at canyon's edge is mercifully saved.
A tree at canyon’s edge is mercifully saved.
Canyon between Old Globe, art museum and zoo has been mostly unused.
Canyon between Old Globe, art museum and zoo has been mostly unused.
San Diego Zoo amphitheater where squawking birds and other animals perform.
San Diego Zoo amphitheater where exotic birds and other animals perform.
Trees cut down, making way for new road to a long-planned parking area.
Trees cut down, making way for new road to a long-planned parking area.
Hummingbird feeders in a tree directly behind the San Diego Museum of Art.
Hummingbird feeders in a tree directly behind the San Diego Museum of Art.

Here’s one of several identical signs that appeared nearby in November…

Sign posted in Balboa Park explains the Old Globe Way Renovation.
Sign posted in Balboa Park explains the Old Globe Way Renovation.

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