Taking an ecology class at City College of San Francisco several years ago got me down on my hands and knees doing something I hadn't really done before, dig into my own urban backyard. At the time I had a sweet studio overlooking a lush backyard and in a “only in San Francisco” experience had a view of downtown from my basement apartment. For the class I needed to start and maintain a nature journal that documented the same place over the course of the semester. Lucky for me I had a wonderful yard to enjoy. I found pill bugs under leaves, discovered a pincher bug mama and babies in a lily flower, watched a hummingbird drink from the firecracker penstemon and chase others far out of “his” yard. Because I was now always paying attention to my yard I got to see scrub jays build their nest in the bamboo. At first I thought they'd be sorry when the winds came but then I saw that they had tucked their nest in the area where the bamboo was most protected by the yucca tree and thus it swayed only a little compared to the more exposed bamboo. On my own porch I watched as hundreds of baby orb weaver spiders hatched and made their way into the world. This experience not only gave me first hand knowledge of the wilds that can happen right in the middle of an urban area but also got me back in touch with my own personal passion of earth science.
In early August some friends with a little urban homestead in Noe Vally asked me to “chicken sit” for a week. I took advantage of the midday sunny weather and spent a good portion of my week just like I had when I had my journal, looking for bugs, watching the hummingbirds and digging around in the plants while the girls scratched, pecked and enjoyed a thorough dust bathing.