The Fifth Planting

The Unknown Heroes

After all the weeding, cardboarding, woodchipping, and planting we'd done, the project was finally stable. The foundation and cadence were set.

It was time to set flight to raise awareness.

Shambhala Music Festival in Canada asked me to stiltwalk as an owl, their mascot, so I began creating my burrowing owl stiltwalking outfit.

It was a big project and, as you can see in the upper right photo, I'd started with an even bigger design. I couldn't lift the wings for more than a moment, so I had reduce scope.

I procured a van to travel in and write upon. I continued working on my wings as I travelled north, and couldn't have been happier with my new office.

I completed my outfit by the time I made it to Canada, but, as it was a prototype, it continued to fall apart. In the mornings, I'd stitch it back together, sometimes I'd also manage to paint a new layer, and in the afternoons I'd take a few flights around the festival.

After Shambhala, I went to Burning Man with a vegan camp from Los Angeles. The glue I'd used completely melted in the desert, so I had to sew it all back together throughout the week.

Because of its size, I had to paint the wings on the ground. I didn't understand why--I thought it was pretty obvious what I was doing--but folks kept stepping on them. I was frustrated at first. I tried yelling at people who weren't watching where they were going. I tried putting up signs. I tried making a fence of solar-charged LED flowers. Nothing stopped them from stepping on my wings. Eventually I embraced it and painted in their footprints.

After finishing my outfit enough to wear it again by the Temple Burn at the end of the festival, I drove to LA.

I set up shop at the LA Brewery, which is the biggest artist colony in North America. From there I continued working on my outfit. I had to make a new body suit, as the one I wore at the festivals was much too risquΓ© for the general public.

I sprayed the Public Art Walls in Venice with a burrowing owl and stuck a sticker nearby.

I joined Good Money, an activist digital banking platform, in launching Amazon UpRising, a year long campaign to put pressure on big banks to stop funding deforestation of the rainforest, and urge consumers to pay attention to what their money is supporting.

People who cared about the same issues as me started to recognize me (see mobile screenshot in bottom right).

I also held three vegan potluck events in the LA Brewery loft I'd rented.

In the first I screened my video about Why I'm Saving the Burrowing Owls. In the second I screened the MPG Angela Farm- Burrowing Owls. In the third I screened the movie Hoot and did a stand-up comedy showcase.

I asked for donations at the third event. I raised $17... if you don't count the $97.18 I spent on food I provided for the event. ^_^'

I then went back to Burrowing Owl Billows to do the fall data collection.

While I didn't succeed in raising any money for the burrowing owls while I was in LA, my dad had gotten the word out during Google's Giving Week and had managed to raise $3,350!

I recruited a crew in LA to make the roadtrip to Burrowing Owl Billows for the Fifth Planting. I set up cameras to record our journey. We called ourselves The Unknown Heroes. We hope to eventually become The Known Heroes.

I originally recorded this footage to use to increase awareness, fundraise, and recruit volunteers, but then I realized how it could also serve as more thorough documentation as education for other Guardians joining the project. This is why these videos are long. I will do separate, shorter edits for its initial purposes.

Part I is about the journey from LA to Norcal. Part II is about the planting itself.

I made my favorite vegan dish to feed everyone who came on the trip: Tofu Salad Sandwich from It Doesn't Taste Like Chicken.

Tofu Salad Sandwich

  • 1/2 recipe Baked Tofu Bites (1 block of tofu prepared)

  • 1/2 of a granny smith apple, chopped

  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries or raisins

  • 1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise

  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard

  • 4 bagels, buns, or 8 slices of bread, toasted optionally

  1. Prepare the Baked Tofu Bites according to the directions. Add the Baked Tofu Bites along with the granny smith apple, chopped walnuts, dried cranberries, vegan mayonnaise and dijon mustard to a medium bowl. Mix well to combine.

  2. Serve by loading up a bagel (or bread of choice) with the tofu salad. Store any leftover salad in an air-tight container in the fridge.

Baked Tofu Bites

  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce

  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 2 blocks (350g each) extra-firm tofu, drained

  1. Preheat your oven to 375F (190C). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

  2. In a large bowl, mix together the nutritional yeast, olive oil, soy sauce and garlic powder. Break the block of tofu into small chunks and add them to the bowl. (No need to press the tofu first). Toss the tofu well to evenly coat in the sauce mixture.

  3. Spread the tofu evenly across the baking sheets and bake about 30 minutes, stirring halfway through, until lightly golden. Serve hot or store in an air-tight container in the fridge, or freeze to use later.

After we finished planting 160 more plants into Burrowing Owl Billows, I asked the crew to do their best impression of a burrowing owl.

The Googlers who helped us out took us to eat lunch at the Google cafe in Moffet Place!

While we'd been putting more and more plants in the ground, and the populations of bugs and people involved looked promising (See all data collected here), the populations of owls, overall in Shoreline Park, were dropping at an alarming rate.

In the Fall of 2018 there were 16 burrowing owls in Shoreline Park. In the Fall of 2019 there were only 10.

Note: The above numbers reflect only the owls at Burrowing Owl Billows, only starting Summer 2019 do the numbers reflect all the owls within the new fenced area within Shoreline Park. In other words, while there is a rise in the owls at Burrowing Owl Billows, that's only because we expanded the territory of Burrowing Owl Billows.

We needed more help fast. A LOT more help. Very fast.

We needed...


While in LA, I tried looking for Jim. I tried as a stiltwalking burrowing owl at Venice.

With the help of friends, I made additional wings, thinking maybe we needed a whole flock of owls searching for him to find him.

But the wings looked pretty cool without paint, and that's when I realized... we're in the city of ANGELS! Maybe angels could recruit Jim, but, with Christmas approaching quickly, I hadn't time to finish more than one pair of wings, so I took to the streets of LA alone.

I had help from those with social media, but, alas, Jim doesn't have an Instagram and none of my tweets have reached him. However, there's a chance he's heard of me searching for him from the grapevine...

Meanwhile, Florida is having much more success with saving the Eastern Burrowing Owl.

I keep hearing feedback that people want to "see the owls," so my next step is to submit a proposal to the City of Mountain View to get access to the photos and videos of the owls taken on city property. If my proposal is accepted, I'll be able to add photos of our owls to the new Instagram account I created to further raise awareness. Phil will also be able to video the owls at this upcoming breeding season so that we may create our own MPG Angela Farm- Burrowing Owls video, complete with voice-over narration.

Perhaps even with Jim Carrey's voice... AS ACE VENTURA?!