Plastic in my Front Garden

I planted some midsummer flowers in my San Francisco front garden on Monday. In the 15 square feet of the garden where I was planting, I found 27 small pieces of plastic, from an insect sauce cup lid clearly marked as recyclable to a tiny bit of a white electrical cable. I am not in a particularly intensely occupied part of the city, either.

We are drowning the earth in plastic. It started out as a boon to humankind, but now it is polluting our oceans and land. The micro plastic bis enter our food chain and poison us. Please find out what you can do to become a part of the solution rather than the problem. 

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For scale this pile is 8 or 9 inches across. 

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Here is a close up of a small part of the pile. 

I pick up lager trash whenever I see it, but it takes a planting day for me to look closely and see all the tiny bits of trash that have landed in my  urban front yard. 

Spring Bloom in Fall--It's a Problem

In today's SF Chronicle (January 1, 1917), I wrote about plants that bloomed last fall in San Francisco that ought not to have been blooming until spring, caused by continuing climate change.

While it's true that we typically have our warmest "summer" weather from mid-September to mid-October, this weather has been lasting longer than usual. Last fall, the warm days and mild nights lasted until near the end of November. We celebrated time spent outdoors in nice weather, but some of our garden plants reacted by blooming and leafing out as if it were spring. This is a problem for the plants, which put energy and physical matter into doing this, so that when spring really does come, they have less stored matter and food energy to do it all again. This weakens the plant, leaving it more susceptible to all kinds of setbacks.

Case in point is my apple tree, which has borne bountiful crops of delicious apples for 30 years. But recently it has been trying to bloom in fall. Then, because winters aren't quite cold enough, it blooms later than usual in the spring. And, because of the energy it used up in fall, it blooms more sparsely. Two years ago, it had practically no fruit.

Last year it did better, though not as well as it used to do. The photo below, which I sent to the Chronicle, but they didn't use in the paper, shows my tree last November, with a few last apples and last leaves till hanging on while blooms and new leaves opened all around them. Now, on January 1, all the new leaves have succumbed to cold, wasting all that effort.

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If you are growing other temperate plants in the Bay Area, such as cherries and plums (ornamental or fruiting), magnolias, lilacs, or azaleas, you may be having the same kind of problem. What's to be done to save our plants? Obviously continue to work against climate change, a movement in which California in general is doing well.  But we can also join an effort to record the changes, in which our regional data will provide extremely valuable evidence.

More data about how climate change is affecting plants in our region is especially important so that we are represented in a system that has so much more data from cold-winter regions.

There are two organizations that are seeking citizen science data. One is the National Phenology Network (, sponsor of the National Phenology Project. It studies both plant and animal species. Another, Project Budburst (, is studying only plant responses. Phenology is the study of what plants and animals do in response to seasonal changes.

Sending records to these databases is easy to do online. Log in, choose a plant, and tell them what it is doing on various dates. Children can do it at home and school classes can do it. Both web sites have curriculum information to help teachers fit the work into classes. It teaches observation, appreciation of plants, climate science, ecology, and how science is done

So as our new, and rather unnerving, year begins, please help observe and record what is going on with nature. Your reports will be powerful.

Instead of Amazon, Indiebound


Having been summarily dropped by as an affiliate, because of a new law in California that would require them to pay sales tax on sales here, I have summarily dropped them as well. I pay sales tax when I sell a book and feel that if I can do it, surely they can do it. California has ongoing revenue problems, and I think it is time for internet sellers to step up to the plate and help out. If they did, I've read estimates that the state would earn 1.2 billion dollars more than at present. And that, dear readers, would fund a lot of education, health, welfare, and infrastructure.

I had already begun a changeover from Amazon to IndieBound, and this caused me to solve the technical problems and get the links set up fast. Now when you click on the links to my books, on either this blog or my web site (, you will find yourself at This wonderful site lets you order books through local independent bookstores. (The site also includes a sort of "social networking about books" function and offers tantalizing book suggestions.) Supporting these brick and mortar stores provides local jobs and adds sales tax needed to run our state. Also, ordering the books locally saves energy used to ship them to you. Please resist the megacorps and pay to promote goals you believe in.

I am no longer associated with

I am writing this post to tell readers of my blog that I am no longer associated with In the past, if you clicked on the link to my books (shown in the right hand column), and purchased them or any other products from, I received a small "advertising fee." No more. There is a new California State Law that will require them to charge sales tax, and their response was to drop all California affiliates.

The links to probably still work fine, but I will not receive any fees if you purchase from them. I have been in the process of changing the links to, a web store created by an association of independent bookstores. I will try to finish that job ASAP. In the meantime, I suggest that if you want to purchase my books online, you do so by going to the website of

Following are excerpts from the two messages I received today from

Excerpts from he first letter:


For well over a decade, the Amazon Associates Program has worked with thousands of California residents. Unfortunately, a potential new law that may be signed by Governor Brown compels us to terminate this program for California-based participants. It specifically imposes the collection of taxes from consumers on sales by online retailers - including but not limited to those referred by California-based marketing affiliates like you - even if those retailers have no physical presence in the state.

As a result, we will terminate contracts with all California residents that are participants in the Amazon Associates Program as of the date (if any) that the California law becomes effective. We will send a follow-up notice to you confirming the termination date if the California law is enacted."

Then tonight, a message arrived that began thus:

"Unfortunately, Governor Brown has signed into law the bill that we emailed you about earlier today. As a result of this, contracts with all California residents participating in the Amazon Associates Program are terminated effective today, June 29, 2011."