Reflections and Summaries for Field Trips of ELP

by Zhe Sun, China, ELP 2015
Written on July 14, 2015.

1. Field Trip to Urban Adamah and Rene Zazueta’s Home
On July 2nd, we visited a Jewish urban organic farm and self-sufficient gardens directed by ideas of “resource-recycled utilization”. It was the first time for me to get in touch with a farm in person, because I have lived in an urban area of big cities my whole life, even in my childhood. I rubbed the goat that day. It is friendly, never afraid of us strangers.

Image iconjason1-300x169_2.jpg Figure 1. Kihwan Kim is rubbing the goat

Image iconjason2-300x177_2.jpg Figure 2. Some plants grown in the Urban Adamah

The most impressive thing I saw that day was the anhydrously cultivated tomatoes. Water is necessary for all the living creatures on the earth, which is common sense known to all. It was rather astonishing that plants could survive without water supply!

Image iconjason3-300x169_2.jpg Figure 3. Some plants in the greenhouse

Image iconjason4-300x169_2.jpg Figure 4. Sunflower in the Urban Adamah

Image iconjason5-1024x576_2.jpg Figure 5. Panoramic of Rene Zazueta’s home

Image iconjason7-300x169_2.jpg Figure 6. Tomatoes under anhydrous cultivation

Image iconjason6-300x169_2.jpg Figure 7. Some vegetables in Rene’s home

The technique lay in the use of dead cactus stems and sawdust. The owner of the organic plant garden cut the dead cactus stems into small pieces and left them on the soil surface near the tomatoes. Dead cactus stems had plenty of water because of their strong water storage capacities when they were still alive, though they were dead when used as the water source for tomatoes. With the cactus stems turning rotten, the water stored would penetrate the soil surface and be absorbed by the tomato roots. However, that was merely an ideal model. The biggest challenge was that water would evaporate faster than be fixed by the soil, in which condition the tomatoes would be in lack of enough water. Considering the possible problem, the owner chose to use sawdust to help lead the water into the deep soil. He sprinkled the dry sawdust on the surface soil around the tomatoes, in order to make sure that sawdust could get in touch with both cactus pads and tomato stems, as well as to their roots. To conclude, the sawdust acted as capillaries which could make the water easier to permeate the rhizosphere soil.

I have to say, the tiny self-sufficient ecosystem is sure to be a miracle.


2. Field Trip to South Bay Salt Ponds Restoration
Another first experience for me was the trip to the South Bay Salt Pond on July 5th, because I have never seen any wetlands in my home country, China, in person, though there are several wetland nature reserves in China Mainland. Considering that I am studying environmental sciences, I have seen some wetland areas on the videos or textbooks, but I was still astonished at the first sight of the South Bay. It is extremely splendid, and remarkable.

Image iconjason8-1024x576_2.jpg Figure 8. Beautiful rocks at the South Bay Salt Ponds Restoration near the wetland

Walking along the gravel road, with cool and fresh wind blowing around us, we saw the ecological habitats of many pretty looking birds, including the pelicans (Latin name is Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) as the most representative one. On the observation deck, all the participants enjoyed the beautiful scenery, as well as ourselves. We used the telescope to observe the seagulls meticulously in the distance, just like what the biologists usually do. That was quite interesting and unforgettable for us.

Image iconjason9-300x169_2.jpg Figure 9. Wetland in the South Bay Salt Ponds

Image iconjason10-300x169_2.jpg Figure 10. Some waders near the wetland

Then we had a lot of fun in taking pictures of ourselves by trying different combinations of participants and poses. The California South Bay acted as a really picturesque background, so no one wanted to miss the gifts from nature.


3. Field Trip to Muir Wood National Monument
Muir Wood National Monument was a brand new experience for me. I got in touch with numerous redwoods (also named sequoias) in the national reserves and breathed a lot of quite fresh air there, which was one of my initial targets of this Berkeley trip. The sequoias were really tall, and much taller than those growing in China, and therefore seemed more dignified.

Image iconjason11-1024x683_2.jpg Figure 11. Group photo at Muir Wood National Monument

Image iconjason12-768x1024_2.jpg Figure 12. Photo under sequoia

Image iconjason13-e1443564011663_2.jpg Figure 13. Sequoia (redwood)

There are large amount of sequoias planted in my hometown Ningbo, Zhejiang Province, and we have developed as an industrial chain of sequoia materials. Here, two other differences are revealed – one is the species, another is the treatment options of sequoias. The species in China are different from those in California, maybe due to the divergences of climate. Chinese sequoias are not only shorter in height, but their trunks are of lighter color than those in America. We Chinese regard sequoias as a ready source of money, while the Americans protect them, and thus have developed several reserves for them which subsequently become good places for tourism. The Americans gain profits by conserving them while Chinese gain profits by destroying them. So the Americans are more farsighted because they are proceeding a sustainable way on the use of natural resources.
Image iconjason14-300x181_2.jpg Figure 14. Looking up at the monument

Image iconjason15-300x169_2.jpg Figure 15. Doorplate of Muir Wood National Monument


4. Field Trip to Point Reyes National Seashore
In the afternoon of July 7th, we arrived at the Point Reyes National Seashore to enjoy the peaceful seascape. The sun shined mildly that day, making the offing sparkle charmingly. Waves were not fierce at all, different from those ferocious waves on the west coast of the Pacific Ocean – my hometown on the other side of the ocean, where I was born. Bathed in the sun, we all felt relaxed. Many of us embraced the coming waves, letting them take away our tiredness and worries.

Image iconjason16-300x169_2.jpg Figure 16. Sea waves at Point Reyes National Seashore

Image iconjason17-300x169_2.jpg Figure 17. Sea waves at Point Reyes National Seashore


5. Field Trip to Salinas Valley Agricultural Area
On July 11th, we went to the Salinas Valley for a visit to the agricultural areas there. I know little about agriculture, but I was still instantly attracted by the original ecological strawberry fields.

I have been to the strawberry fields in China several times, but never have I seen such big and brightly colored strawberries cultivated there. The professor told us that the farmers living there never used any organic or inorganic pesticides in order to avoid any potential harm to human health. They only used some kinds of innocuous biological agents for deworming. Under such circumstances, we visitors can pick up and eat the ripe strawberries directly, without any worries about the harmful pesticides remaining on them. All of us participants enjoyed ourselves a lot.

Image iconjason18-300x169_2.jpg Figure 18. Vista of Salinas Valley fields

Image iconjason19-300x169_2.jpg Figure 19. Non-pesticide natural organic strawberries


6. Field Trip to Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz was another field trip to the seashore. Probably because of the sea wind, the waves there were much more powerful than those on the Point Reyes National Seashore. The most memorable thing on the Santa Cruz seashore was my witness of sea lions. In my hometown, just as I referred before, located on the east coast of China, there are no sea lions coming and going on the beach, perhaps owing to the climate differences and ocean currents. The sand was soft, making me feel like I was enjoying a massage when I was walking on it.