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Archive for July, 2012

One of our favourite things to do in the summer is to head over to a local ‘u-pick’ and load up with berries to freeze for the winter.  Usually we do our beloved Live Earth Farm’s strawberry u-pick, but we had to miss it this year due to a clashing engagement.  I’ve tried Webb Ranch Farm but have not been that impressed: no strawberries and an admission fee just to pick on top of the price you pay for the actual fruit just seems wrong to me.  So this year we drove out to Swanton Berry Farm near Santa Cruz to try our luck there.

Swanton is a no frills, low-key, traditional kind of place and lots of fun.  You just turn up, collect a box, and head right out to the fields where the berries are plentiful.  Payment is on an honor system — you weigh your own fruit and just leave the correct change on the counter — so make sure to bring cash.  In fact, bring extra cash, as there is little chance you’ll walk out of their farm shop without also buying some of the farm’s jam, pies, and crumbles.

Mmmm. So many to choose from.

The berries were good, though not as good as Live Earth Farm’s (but then no berry I have ever tasted compares to Live Earth Farm’s strawberries) but it was really nice to pick fruit with a sea view.  And the kids loved it. I think we’ll be back up there for blackberry season in a few weeks.

For more information on opening times, find the farm website here. I guess prices may vary over the season, but I thought the $2.50 a pound they were asking for organic strawberries this weekend was quite reasonable.

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This week we spent a glorious, sunny afternoon on Venice Beach at Half Moon Bay. Usually I let my kids play in the run-off streams on the beach there. I know there is a chance of the water being contaminated, but I’ve always considered it a very low risk. There are now signs at the beach, however, warning about high levels of contaminants in this run-off so we decided just to play in the surf for a change.  I have to say that the warning has made me a little more cautious. A spot of internet research makes me think the risk is probably still small, but worth thinking about. If you’re heading to a local beach that usually has a ‘run-off’ creek or lagoon and you want more information about whether it’s safe to let your kids play in the water, you might want to check out this website which provides beach/creek specific information about current water quality

The Puppy Dog musing on creation and his place in it

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Not too much. It’s a quiet weekend after this week’s celebrations. There is one fun-looking guided hike at Big Basin. Other than that, I suggest it’s a good weekend for the beach or berry picking.

Saturday 7th July

At Big Basin Redwoods State Park there’s a Family Discovery Walk at 1:00 pm. Join docent Norm Beeson for a fun-filled family walk and investigate the mysteries and wonders of Big Basin’s redwood forest. It’s an easy, one-mile roundtrip walk that lasts about 1.5 hours.  Meet at Park Headquarters.

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Sure, it’s a bit of a drive from Palo Alto, but if your kids love water play, science and airplanes it’s well worth the effort. Last week we spent a happy morning wandering between the two parks.  We started with a walk around the ‘windy hill’ at Seal Point (do bring sweaters even if the sun is out in Palo Alto when you leave).

Cloudy bay views

The boys loved examining the local wildlife–there were bugs a-plenty, jack-rabbits, butterflies, ducks, and herons–and were fascinated by the beautiful, musical wind sculptures along the path.

They spin. They chime.

But best of all was the air traffic control feed.  At one stop in the park, just below the main set of stairs down from the summit to the bike path, you’ll find a display that lets you listen in to the communications between San Francisco airport and the passing planes.  There is lots of information provided too on the code words the pilots and controllers are using. My boys thought this was awesome.

Playing at being pilots

Then we strolled down to Ryder Park.  This is a lovely little play area with lots of interesting climbing features and some fun fountains (but note that the water is only switched on from 11am-4pm during the summer months).  I had heard that the park gets very busy, but when we were there around noon on a weekday morning there were very few other families around.

Fountains. Always a crowd-pleaser.

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