Thursday, March 31, 2011

How to Brine Olives

Following is a little discussion of my Olive Experience of 2010-2011 using olives harvested from the Manzanillo olive tree in our front yard.


Olives ripened at different times on the same tree. In addition, the size of the individual olive seemed to vary; some olives were obviously starting to ripen even though they were much smaller than the average. I waited until I had a mixture of ripe (darker) and unripe (green) olives, then harvested them all within a period of two days.

I’m now thinking, however, that olives should be picked over a period of weeks, as they show signs of ripening (becoming darker and blacker). This is because it seemed that the greener olives took forever to cure using the home brining method.


There are a number of methodologies to be found via Google. I used four tablespoons of pickling salt to one quart of water. (Actually, I needed two quarts of water to cover the olives, so, eight tablespoons of salt.) After slicing through each olive on one side (to hasten the brining procedure) I placed the olives in a large glass jar, poured the salt mixture in, then floated a plastic Ziploc with some water inside it on top of the jar. The jar was then placed on a shelf in the garage. Every weekend I’d bring the jar into the kitchen, pour out the mixture, rinse the olives off, then pour in a new brine.

I started the procedure on November 7th. After a matter of some weeks it became evident that the riper olives were losing their bitterness much faster than the greener ones. I separated those olives out on January 2nd and placed them in the marinade (recipe below).

They were good! We served them to a large gathering at our house in January to much acclaim.

Meanwhile, I continued the brining procedure with the non-ripe olives. At one point I gave each olive a second cut with a paring knife, hoping to introduce more of the brine into the interior of the olive. In spite of persistent bitterness by the end of February I decided to marinate them as well. A few weeks in the marinade seems to have served to take the edge off the bitterness as well as introducing more flavor. And, they're crunchy!

So in the end the whole process took much longer than I had initially thought it would.

Not weeks. Months.


1/4 C Kosher salt
1 qt water
1/2 cups white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic
Olive oil (to float on top)

Three earlier posts: Olives, Olives #1, Olives #2

Photo: Olives (Last Batch)─Marin County, 2011

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Marin Plants

Top: Sidelit winter lavender stalks in our front yard.

Bottom: Japanese Magnolia seen at College of Marin.

Both photos taken with a Canon G12.

Photos: Lavender─Marin County, 2011; Japanese Magnolia─Marin County, 2011

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Looking for Cows on Mount Burdell

The Marin County Open Space District has been letting cows graze on the slopes of Mt. Burdell; they recently needed a cow-search effort since there was supposed to be only a certain number of cows for each allotted segment of the area. 

So it was that Mike and Hali (in her official Open Space vest) found themselves tramping around the trails of Mt. Burdell looking for cows.

Very nice day, warm with high wispy clouds. The Cow Search team finally discovered the cows, hidden in the shade of a grove of trees. They had also been discovered by an official Open Space ranger. Alas: the cows were not in the Correct Spot, so a big discussion ensued as to whether or not we should try and wrangle them to the proper area. In the end, discretion ruled and the movement of the cows was left up to an actual rancher later in the day.

Photos: Oak & Sky─Marin County, 2011; Oaks─Marin County, 2011; Cow Discussion─Marin County, 2011

Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday Tule Elk Blogging

Elk seen on the way to Pierce Point Ranch in Point Reyes. Fairly large animals: these photos were taken from the safety of my car.

More info here.

Photos: Elk─Point Reyes, 2011; Elk─Point Reyes, 2011

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Nandina Leaves

Hopefully we all remember the exquisite Christmas nandina.

And the first rain nandina in 2008.

Photos: Nandina Leaves 1─Marin County, 2011; Nandina Leaves 2─Marin County, 2011

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Rose, Shadows

Mini-blind shadows.

Photo: Rose, Shadows─Marin County, 2011

Friday, March 25, 2011

Using The iPhone As A Camera

The iPhone 4 has a 5-megapixel camera as part of the whole wonderful package. I've been experimenting with it, so . . . here are some theories, in no particular order.

─Basic quality of the files (jpgs, of course) is actually OK. Don't know how much of that is due to the camera's internal software . . . I've noticed that there's very little barrel distortion (most likely being corrected internally.) And, of course there'll be substantial sharpening taking place. Lower light scenes do have significant noise.

─I've decided that photos taken with it should be converted to black and white. At first, this was just a wholly arbitrary decision, but I've found that, as with the Canon G-series cameras, noisy images look better in black and white.

─Zoom: this is digital zoom. Again, a software thing─the camera doesn't have optical zoom. Better not to zoom, if possible. Crop in post-production.

─Ergonomics: There are no stinkin’ ergonomics. You're holding a small rectangular slab. Recommendation: horizontal (landscape) mode is going to be much more stable than vertical (portrait) mode. Use a two-handed grip. There's no shutter button, so: while holding the camera steady reach over with your index finger (or maybe your thumb) and touch the camera icon, thus taking the picture. (You can do this with either hand.)

Photo: iPhone 4, Camera Mode─Marin County, 2011

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Snow at Laurel Dell

The hikers kept moving onwards, even though the hour was getting late. Luckily for Mike, Margaret's bright new Patagonia fuchsia parka was an ever-visible beacon. As they neared the top, strange patches of a white substance started to appear by the trailside. Mike's theory: the patches were merely industrial pollution, nothing to see here, move along.

Margaret's theory: snow. Yikes! She was right! Snow! On the slopes of Mt. Tam!

And once they arrived at the level ground of Laurel Dell the snow was omnipresent. Margaret borrowed Mike's iPhone to snap an earlier-constructed snowman. Then, the dash through the dimming light and the rain back to the trailhead.

Photos: Snowman, Laurel Dell─Marin County, 2011; Fuchsia Parka─Marin County, 2011

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Cataract Trail

A very heightened sensory experience: the noise of the falls, the rainforest's damp smell and the constant pattering of rain.  The hike features long sections of ascending railroad ties stacked one after another, rising ever upwards. The steepness of the trail reminded Mike at times of the long winding path to Cirith Ungol in Lord of the Rings. But this was much nicer.

Photo: Waterfall, Cataract Trail─Marin County, 2011

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Alpine Lake

Earlier that Saturday Mike had taken a photo of Mt. Tamalpais decorated with snow. Then, later in the day, Margaret, his sister-in-law, phoned to ask if he was up for a hike. Let's see: cold, overcast and raining . . . hmm, yeah, sure!

Mike stipulated that Margaret would drive to the trailhead, and so it came to be that─as she piloted her powerful Camry, navigating the curves of the Bolinas-Fairfax road, the aroma of her mint tea filling the car─the hills and ridges surrounding Mt. Tamalpais came into view, veiled in fog as in a Japanese sumi-e painting.

At the Cataract Falls trailhead at Alpine Lake little concentric circles formed by falling raindrops were clearly visible on the water.

Photo: Alpine Lake, Rain─Marin County, 2011

Monday, March 21, 2011

Monday Dog Blogging

Looking left.

Looking right.

Photos: Dog Looking Left─Marin County, 2011; Dog Looking Right─Marin County, 2011

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Gil Mar

In the rain. Other Gil Mar photos here.

Photo: Gil Mar─Marin County, 2011

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Across the street from Whole Foods in San Rafael.

Mike rappelled down a granite cliff in Joshua Tree National Monument.


Photo: Rappelling─Marin County, 2011

Friday, March 18, 2011

Mannequins & Trees

. . . and, self-portrait. In the Nordstroms' "Lady Like" window.

Photo: Mannequins, Trees, Self-Portrait─Marin County, 2011

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Monolith Action Figure?

Very like, indeed.

Photo: iPhone─Marin County, 2011

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mt. Tamalpais from Loma Alta

Early morning shadows . . .

Photo: Mt. Tamalpais from Loma Alta─Marin County, 2011

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Loma Alta

The summit of Loma Alta in Marin is broad and grassy, with Mt. Tamalpais dominating the view to the south. Here and there one finds serpentenite outcroppings and trail junctions. It took about 45 minutes to get to the top from the parking area at the top of the White Hill grade. (But some delays due to pix.)

Photos: Rock & Fence, Loma AltaMarin County, 2011; Trail Junction, Loma Alta─Marin County, 2011

Monday, March 14, 2011

Monday Avocet Blogging

Taken with the "kit" telephoto lens that came with my original D90 purchase.

But, as I've explained, I now use just one lens.

Photo: Avocets─Marin County, 2009

Sunday, March 13, 2011

False Hellebores

Taken in a boggy area in Calaveras Big Trees State Park, I think. Another color negative photo, this time with a black and white conversion.

Photo: False Hellebores─Sierra Nevada, 2004

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Pink Tulip

. . . against the wall.

Photo: Pink Tulip─Marin County, 2011

Friday, March 11, 2011

Monterey Afternoon #3: Caution

On a late winter's weekday afternoon, overlooking Monterey Bay as the shadows started to lengthen.

For an early morning shot, see this earlier photo.

Photo: Caution Sign─Monterey County, 2011

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Taken when I was just starting to use color negative film. By 1997 it was evident that color photography was going to become a doable thing

Photo: Sunflower─Marin County, 1997

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Storm, Mt. Tamalpais (photo)

. . . worked better in black and white.

Photo: Storm, Mt. Tamalpais─Marin County, 2010

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Monday, March 7, 2011

Monday Egret Blogging

. . . Mt. Tamalpais in the background.

Photo: Egret, Mt. Tamalpais─Marin County, 2010

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Railroad Yard

In 2004 Mike used BART to travel between San Francisco and Oakland, frequently passing by a very cool railroad yard. This photo was taken one day when the train made an unauthorized stop, fortunately pausing right above the trains.

Photo: Railroad Yard─Oakland, 2004

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Tulips, Rippled Glass

The flower theme.

Photo: Tulips, Rippled Glass─Marin County, 2011

Friday, March 4, 2011

Mirror, Self-Portrait

Taken with the IPhone iphone epiphonE iPhone.

Photo: Mirror, Self-PortraitMarin County, 2011

Thursday, March 3, 2011

. . . from the archives #64: Petroglyphs─Owens Valley, 1979

Taken with the Mamiya RB67: a very bulky camera that took 120 roll film. I never did quite get the hang of it─ there was a long learning curve trying to adapt to the waist-level viewfinder. Also, although it could be handheld, it was more of a tripod-only camera. After our house was burgled in 1980 I switched to an honest tripod-only 4x5 view camera. (And replaced the Nikon F with an Olympus OM-1.) It’s interesting that I almost prefer the negatives that I took on this trip with the Nikon (in spite of the smaller negatives' lower quality) over the Mamiya’s. But, as I’ve said, handheld compositions seem to work better for me. 

This photo was one of those selected to accompany Robinson Jeffers’ poem Shine, Perishing Republic in the limited edition portfolio of the same name.

Photo: Petroglyphs─Owens Valley, 1979

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Chalfant Canyon No. 2

"While still an undergraduate, this interest [in archeology] led Joe to participate in the UC Davis field school directed by Richard Hughes in the Goose Lake Basin during the summer of 1979 and, earlier that year, to undertake a study of the Chalfant Canyon petroglyphs north of Bishop. This latter effort, which remains the only systematic analysis of these images, resulted in a paper subsequently published in Meighan’s edited volume Messages from the Past: Studies in California Rock Art."

─ Kathleen Hull, W. Joseph Mundy, Jr. (19522010), California Archeology, Vol 2, No 2


As sunset lingered on the snow-capped White Mountains we threw down our sleeping bags and ensolite pads on the sandy desert floor and slept at the site overnight. Late at night we were awakened to an extremely odd sound . . . running water! What? Stumbling around we saw the source: a fast-running channel of water sparkling in the beams cast by our flashlights. Obviously some irrigation mechanism upstream had triggered the water release. Getting up in the morning, the stream still running, we were thankful that we hadn’t chosen that particular dry stream bed for our sleeping bags! 


Photos: Sunset, White MountainsOwens Valley, 1979; Desert CreekOwens Valley, 1979

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Chalfant Canyon No. 1

Eric Ritter, in a 1983 review in the Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology, reasons that “Even well-studied rock art sites, through reexamination and rethinking, can yield significant information. Such is the case with W. Joseph Mundy Jr.’s ‘An Analysis of the Chalfant Canyon Rock Art Site, Mono County, California.’. . . an important point in the author’s discussion is the dismissal of the hunting magic hypothesis owing to the absence of game portrayals, game trails, etc. . . . Overall the author’s site analysis is thorough and sensible.”


In 1979 I accompanied my brother Joe north from Los Angeles to the rock art site he was engaged in researching, bringing along my Nikon-F 35mm and Mamiya RB67 medium-format cameras. I’m not sure if I knew at the time that the area was called “Chalfant Canyon.” Traveling north from Bishop on highway 6, it seemed then just a series of cliffs located down a nondescript road. Idly viewing the cliffs, the rock art gradually came into focus: abstract and figurative motifs in a variety of configurations.

I'm thinking that we probably discussed the "hunting magic hypothesis" and such, but I don't remember exactly. While Joe was busy taking notes and measurements I puttered about with my cameras admiring the rock art and the spaciousness of the overall desert scene.

Photos: Rock ArtOwens Valley, 1979; Joe, Chalfant CanyonOwens Valley, 1979