LA Times article on garden redesign

Today's LA Times Home and Garden section has an interesting article on redesign of a conventional lawn+garden in Sherman Oaks.

"We wanted no obvious separation between the garden and the view," the designer says. In order to seamlessly connect the 8,000-square-foot, pie-shaped lot with vistas of live oaks, native shrubs, mature Italian cypresses, palms and eucalyptus trees, Kuhlmann suggested removing three backyard distractions: a leaky 1960s swimming pool encircled by brick and concrete, a 4-foot-high block wall that spanned the property's west perimeter and the expansive lawn. My emphasis.

The 1960's era pool gets replaced by an infinity pool, which looks great. However, I notice that it isn't fenced. Perhaps they can get away with that because their entire back yard is restricted? Clearly, it's not a house for little kids.

Not that I'm sour about it, but it seems that featured homes in the LA Times are often those of celebrities. Certainly, people in The Business (in casual conversation you can hear the capital letters) often have an artistic sensibility and oodles of disposable income. Still, I wonder how the Times selects the gardens it profiles. One thought: Garden designers are in the business of self-promotion and in the position to know the relative merits of many gardens, so perhaps the determining factor is hiring a well-connected garden designer with a yen for self-promotion.

A related article profiles the "various plants [used] to transform the Wehle-Lynch backyard" which is an interesting read if one focuses on the design guidelines (repetition, focus on foliage not flower, motion, scent, micro-climate) that underly the plant selection.


Electrical Nirvanna one step closer

Edison was finally by today after repeated calls ("Remember when you said you'd be out in 5 days? I understand. I just want a schedule. No, it's just a temporary connection right now - I need the pole to service entrance connection. Yes, the meter has been moved. Tomorrow? OK, that's great.... Can you give me a schedule? Today? That's great!.... Really, all I want is a schedule...). I'm sure they have good reasons for not ever keeping a date, but they finally delivered and I have a new attachment from pole to service entrance.

All that remains is to take out the old electrical box and repair the stucco around new box and where the old one came out.


Wooden window sash rennovation and repair

Over on Pardon Our Dust, a comment that I made about the relative merits of vinyl windows versus renovation and repair my existing wooden windows got a reply recommending _ Working Windows, Third Edition: A Guide to the Repair and Restoration of Wood Windows_ by Terry Meany, which is due out in the near future. You can pre-order from Amazon about $11. This beats the $50 cost for one of his out of print window repair manuals.

After some looking in Fine Homebuilding Magazine, I found one of their advertisers, Conservationtechnology.com, who have an array of seals that can be milled into existing woodwork. Weatherseal brochure.

Rain: 1.81" Season Total: 10.67"

Friday through Monday brought us 1.81" of rain and the beautiful snow shown in the previous blog post. The weekend's rainfall came on the heels of 2" of rain (Friday AM) and 1" of rain in the previous storm.

I've updated my graph of local rainfall from a previous post to reflect the recent rainfall.

I am more concerned than I used to be about the possibility of under-reporting rainfall. I often read my rain gauge when I get home from work in the evening. If rain stopped in the AM, then there may be a significant amount of evaporation. I'll have to make an estimate of this effect.



Mike C. sent me this photo of the LA basin taken from his deck on Saturday AM. The view is eastward across the LA basin from part way up Palos Verdes.

It was stunning while it lasted. By 13:00 the snow was visibly melting, the haze was returning, and it didn't look so stunning.


Kitchen plans using Ikea Home Planner

Way back in September of 2006, I started playing with kitchen designs and dreaming of how to take this house to the next level. Progress has been slow, as expected, but my thoughts are now turning back to kitchen design. I've read a few books on kitchen design, made a few essential changes, lived with my virtual kitchen for a while, and thought things through long and hard. I think the current best home plan calls for the following new elements:

  • Conversion of former interior hall space and linen closet into a powder room. The loss of storage is worth adding a second bathroom.
  • A second kitchen sink to improve efficiency. I need the kitchen wall space provided by the new powder room to put in the second sink.
  • I'll need an island element for best efficiency, provided in the pictures shown here by a cart.
  • I'll also want deeper counters than the standard 24". Perhaps 30"
So here's where my current thinking has led me:

Each grid line is spaced about 18" apart in the plan view.

  • Glass fronted upper shelves are on the left side both views. Solid fronted shelves are on the right upper and all lower cabinets.
  • There's no upper shelves above item 12 (dishwasher) because I can't find the right width in Ikea Planner.
  • My sis-in-law (Ikea master) tells me that I don't have the spacers right on the shelving, but for purposes of illustration I think this effort is ok.
  • Juli thinks that I ought to populate the living room with representative furniture to see if I can live with it. I think it'll be just fine, since I no longer have to devote the perimeter of the room to a walkway and I can dual purpose the kitchen table and the space it sits in. Both of those improve the efficiency with which I can use a space that will be the same size as my current living room space.
  • I plan to make my counters wider than shown here. Shown are 24" deep cabinets with the same width countertop. I'll make my own countertop that's up to 30" deep. Since the cabinets I plan to use are only 24" deep, I'll have to move them out from the wall. This might allow room for the second sink drain.

Class list for Madrona Marsh - Tuesdays 4-6PM

Classes about native flora and fauna interpretation.




Introduction to Interpretation : Lecture/ Walk at the Madrona Marsh Preserve:



T. Drake

C. Vadheim

Humans in the South Bay: Their legacy and impact on the environment



L. Gonzales

C. Vadheim

The Geology, Hydrology and Soils of the South Bay



C. Vadheim

Teaching and Learning in a Lab Setting: Madrona Water Lab



R. Carr

Plants, Flowers and Trees of the South Bay



C. Vadheim

Teaching about Insects



J. Bellemin

Insects of the South Bay and Madrona Marsh Preserve



J. Morton/T Drake

Nature for Little Tykes

Teaching to Children’s Unique Learning Styles



C. Vadheim

Historical Vegetation of the South Bay



R. Van de Hoek

Spring Break


Introduction to the Interpretation of Birds



R. Shanman/

T Drake

Kids Interacting with Nature – Interpretive Walk

Incorporating Nature into Classroom Learning



R. Arrowsmith

T. Drake

Nature Adventures for Adults: Walk/lecture



B. Tendick

C. Vadheim

Interpretive Walk: local nature preserve



Presentation of Student Interpretive Projects



Student Guides

Special Guest Lecture



Rain 1.0"; Seasonal total 6.86"

0.8" yesterday and 0.2" overnight. Seasonal total in my back yard is now 6.86", which is slightly above the 60 year median.

I probably under report rainfall since sometimes I won't check until the end of the day. Evaporation may have stolen some of my collected rain by that time. Additionally, if we get a light sprinkle, I can't usually measure it accurately and end up not reporting.

A previous post has interesting graphs of this season's rainfall total.

Edit 25 Jan: Rain continues with 2" recorded from yesterday (not included in figures given above) through this AM. Most of that was overnight - a high rate of rainfall for this area. I went on a downspout inspection tour with umbrella and headlamp around midnight and found a stream running through my side yard and out to the street, and surface water lapping up against the house. I already direct my gutters into the garden, but it was coming down too fast to soak in. This is definitely a situation I ought to address to keep the water on property but away from the house.

With just this 2" of rain additional (more is on the way) we're well into the 4th quartile of rainfall for January, but we'd have to get to about 9.75" to beat January, 2004 .


Rain 0.15"

The most recent storm brought 0.15" of rain. More is expected later in the week.


One Pot At A Time

A previous One Pot At A Time Project post.

My son and I got four sets of seeds planted today according to the One Pot At A Time Project guidelines: medium sized containers (we're using the 12" diameter blue pots that I purchased at the Pot Depot and filled per requirements with Supersoil (the basic SuperSoil, not the premium Supersoil)

We planted Coastal Tidytips (Layia platyglossa), Douglas' Meadowfoam (Limnanthes douglasii), Globe Gilia (Gilia capitata ssp. abrotanifolia), Miniature Lupine (Lupinus bicolor (ssp. microphyllus).

I had thought that these were seeds collected in the wild locally, which is important from the standpoint that we are preserving local genetic variations. However, cultivar or selection names on some of them make me uncertain of this - I would have expected the species name only (eg. Gilia capitata instead of Gilia capitata ssp. abrotanifolia) if these were wild collected seeds.

Perhaps my understanding of plant nomenclature is not correct. Will update later after reading more about binomial nomenclaure.

Here's an email I received from Connie on 1/16
Dear One Pot Gardeners:
Welcome to all the new gardeners - you're in for a great adventure! We have over 150 people participating in the program this year.
Many of you have already planted your seeds. If not, you may want to wait until the weather cools down just a bit. You can plant annual wildflower seeds up until March or even April - as long as you keep the pots watered.
Hot, windy days can be a challenge for container gardeners. Germinating seeds and young seedlings need moist soil to survive. When the rains don't come, you'll need to supply the water. Plant in pots dry out much more quickly than plants in the ground. I check my own pots every morning (and/or evening) during hot windy weather and water as needed. I've found that tiny seedlings are best watered using a spray bottle or mister nozzel on my garden hose. Be sure that you give the seedlings enough water to really dampen the soil down to about 1 inch. As soon as the seedlings become established - which can be as short as 2-3 weeks for some species - it will be much easier to keep your plants watered.
Don't hesitate to e-mail me with questions or comments. And I'd love to see some pictures of your pots/seedlings.

EDIT 22 Jan
I noticed the other day that while the handout materials had the selection / cultivar name on them, the seed packets did not. Perhaps the written materials for the seeds are generic to the commonly available selection.

Mini plant sale and native plant class at Madrona Marsh Feb. 2

on email:

Mix & Match Mini Plant Sale: We will be having a mini sale on Sat. Feb. 2nd from 12:00 to 2:00 p.m. The sale will feature small pots of native grasses & annual wildflowers. Plants will be 4 for $10.00, so bring your ten-dollar bills and mix & match these interesting and useful plants!

Our annual class that features wildflowers is one of our personal favorites. This month (Feb 7th) we'll focus on how to garden with native wildflowers and we'll feature some of our very best blue/purple wildflowers. We'll be giving a more advanced lecture - also featuring blue/purple wildflowers - at Madrona Nature Center (Sat. Feb. 2; 10:00 to noon; Tues. Feb. 5, 6:30-8:00 p.m.) and at El Dorado Nature Center in Long Beach (Sat. Feb. 2 - 2:00-4:00 p.m.). So, you've got lots of opportunities to learn about blue/purple wildflowers!


Yes, we have no Wyethia ovata

I've searched high and low in nurseries and online for Wyethia ovata (Southern Mule Ears) without luck. A call to my local (full service) nursery, South Bay Gardens, didn't turn up any leads. Email inquiries to native plant stalwarts Tree of Life Nursery, Payne Foundation, and El Nativo Growers indicates that none of them grow it. Online searches don't turn it up either, but apparently it's easily found on fast mountain bike descents.

As this article notes, Mule Ears are a good choice for wildflower gardens, since they are both hardy perennials and reliable bloomers. As well-adapted as they are to our climate, it is surprising that they are not more common in local gardens and nurseries. It seems to be intrinsic to human nature that people will buy plants from a continent away to put in their garden while ignoring beautiful plants that already thrive in their area.

But for those willing to hike or ride or even drive around in the hills and mountains in springtime, there will be patches of bright sunshine in the form of Mule Ears colonies growing on our slopes.

seed picture from Rancho Santa Ana seed program.

Yarrow as lawn

In The LA Times Home section today there is an article, "Imagine: Rain, rain, stored away" focused on retention of rainwater on residential properties. The main thrust is infiltration pits that the City of Santa Monica is helping underwrite. But other water-wise renovations are also discussed:

"...Where a traditional turf-style front lawn once stood, Jensen planted no-mow lawn, a grass that requires less water and eliminates use of an energy-hogging lawn mower. The parking strip is planted with a flowering evergreen yarrow, a good lawn substitute...."

Old news for my reader, of course. Follow the link or click on my "evil lawn" tag to see more posts lawn. Santa Barbara County actually encourages yarrow lawns.


Brick border in backyard

I very wisely decided not to pour a concrete footing* for the border in my back yard. Instead I'm using a moderately expensive plastic bender board (~$25 for 20' at Home Despot and well worth it) to make a sinuous border and forming a mowing edge with bricks that have come from around my house and a neighbor's.

For me, confidence and impatience was key to moving ahead: Building confidence required a conservative estimate let me know that enough of one type of brick to do the whole back yard border, enforcing some simple design rules to eliminate questions I had about using some granite rocks in addition to the bricks, and cost containment forcing me to use materials already at hand for free. Additionally, should I ever decide to change the border I'm not faced with a difficult concrete footing, except as mentioned in the footnote.

I've installed the first 10' or so three times, most recently today when I finally was able to convince myself that I could to press ahead and complete about 50' of border.

There's not many native plants visible in the photo. This corner of the yard has only a stressed yarrow-looking plant that may be Eriophyllum confertiflorum (Golden yarrow). Plants with the common name of yarrow have at least two genuses (genii?): Achillea and Eriophyllum. This confuses me a bit.

Not visible, but poking its head above ground is California polypody fern that I thought I killed last summer with too much water. It really wants better drained soil than I'm providing.

* Actually, I poured 15' or so of concrete footing (in perhaps 2005) before realizing it was a mistake (in 2006 or 07!). I've never claimed to be a quick learner, but it was clear soon after pouring the footing that it would be too costly and inflexible. I'll leave the footing and use it to back some bricks as if it were bender board, so it's not completely wasted effort.

More California native plant suppliers; search for Wyethia ovata

In my search for Wyethia ovata (Southern Mules Ears), I've found a few more local sources for native plants but alas no Wyethia:

SEA Lab in Redondo Beach was a verbal recommendation at last week's seminar:
"Sea Lab is located on North Harbor Drive, easily accessible by public transportation and on a highly visible corner near the Redondo Beach Harbor."

California Native Plant Link Exchange works. Some of its inventory lists are out out date. It did tell me that Wyethia might have a new name, Agnorhiza ovata, but it appears not to be in widespread use. So much for the supposed stability of the dog Latin names.

Tony Baker over at Natural Landscapes has plants grown from local seed and cuttings.

There's a Native Seed Network that looks promising.

When is a trend a trend?

I'd like to direct your attention to the whirlwind of debate over an 11 Jan post at realclimate.

The hullabaloo seems to be over use of weather trends in 7 year data sets. Long story short, seven years appears far to short to be used as an indicator global of warming or cooling. Longer is better and 15 years seems to be a good indicator of warming / cooling trends.

It's disheartening to see that a basic concept like this* is the source of such controversy in the present day. When confusion is easily sown amongst people who ought to know better, then there's clearly a backstory that I could investigate, but why should I involve myself with such a politicized crapfest?

The "basic concept" is that any global climate trend is a small delta per year and is overcome by the larger (normal, intrinsic) global weather variation. This issue has analogs in many scientific fields, but is usually easily overcome with statistics: The normal response in other scientific fields to this problem is to make many parallel or sequential observations of identical systems. Multiple observations improve the accuracy with which one can observe a trend by the square root of the number of times you make the measurement (e.g. 9 measurements means 3 times the accuracy). Climatologists can't do this for obvious reasons, so they are stuck with high uncertainty and a low data acquisition rate: the data are noisy and sparse.

New wildlife in the garden II

This morning, home with my ill son, we spied a raccoon in the back yard.
It was 8:15 or so, but he didn't seem to care that he might be late for work.

Crows jeered as he sauntered across the back yard,
down the side of the house,
turned left at the neighbors,
and was gone,
leaving only dewy footprints.

Previous new wildlife in my garden


To Do list III

Last updated
2 Sep 2008 - I'm closing this down and starting a new one here.
2 Sep 2008 - updated the past couple months of effort just for completeness.
20 July 2008 - updated French door status - installed sill and exterior light.
06 July 2008 - No longer an impediment to getting stuff done, the garage is cleaned and organized!
27 June 2008 - Brother's metal scrap taken to recycler
28 April 2008
16 April 2008 - updated accomplishments, added bedroom patio and N. side yard tasks
21 Mar 2008 - updated goals for yard
09 Mar 2008 - back yard border done, bonus chore bathtub spigot fixed.
28 Feb 2008 - another 10' of garden border constructed
23 Feb 2008 - dump run with concrete debris
19 Feb 2008 - patched around new electrical box, demoed Morea, planted Salvia apiana (ToL), received seeds by mail from T Payne.
30 Jan 2008 - Edison by to make pole to service entrance connection, finally
16 Jan 2008 - updated back border progress
15 Jan 2008 - updated yard planning and path forward
13 Jan 2008 - Copied the old list and updated the electrical status.

My loyal reader will recall that I've had To Do lists before, before and even before that. Even so, I'm designating this the third home improvement To Do list. I like to start new lists when the old ones have changed enough that I think I'd rather leave it as a record of where I was and move on with a more modern list.

This is a living document which gets updated as the situation changes, so if you happen to be the masochist that follows my home improvement progress, check back from time to time. It may have been updated.

These are rough priority order. On my old list, I instituted a priority ranking that put a greater emphasis on completing tasks 100% before moving on. I'll keep that here.

House Improvements
  • Fix broken bathroom tub spigot. This is Bonus Chore status, but it's still kind of urgent so it may make may make parts of the repipe task more urgent than indicated by list position. Feb 19, 2008. DONE 08 Mar.
  • Complete 1st phase of electrical upgrade. Finish what you start.
    • Stucco around new panelDONE 18 Feb
    • Remove old panel, repair stucco.
  • Focus on garage improvement for use as staging area for remainder of house
    • Clean and organize garage (starting 6 Aug 07 I got it ready enough for the electrical work. It's jammed with crap now that I had to get out of the rain. Progress has been backward. I need a total re-org.) Juli helped out here and it's looking great now. DONE 6 July 2008.
    • Install attic vent in garage gable end (cut stucco, frame, paper, wire, repair stucco). I've now painted the vent white. Need to cut a few framing members for inside the garage. Finish what you start.
    • Install new rear wall / rear-facing door in garage.
    • Install new garage door
    • Augment electrical install in garage with additional power outlets.
  • Complete electrical install, sill, and weather stripping at new French door. All parts at hand. Really, it's embarrassing how long this has gone unfinished. Finish what you start.
  • Pick colors and paint some areas on the house in preparation for a whole house paint job. Use Color Preview 2000 from Benjamin Moore to digitally color my house.
  • Put in more soffit vents. Maybe add a fan in the gable end of my house? Would be good to do this not on the hottest day of the year.
  • Reroute gas supply lines (to kitchen and garage) in preparation for taking my interior wall down.
  • Install French door in place of rear-facing window in my room.DONE with Warren in early Aug.
  • Replace / repair computer room window.
  • Repipe house in copper, adding hose bibs as needed. Will need to review appropriate pipe sizing - could be undersized at present. Start by repiping only the easy stuff, saving the part about cutting into the walls for when I demo the kitchen. Use dielectric unions to couple the new copper to the old galvanized.
    • Don't forget new hot and cold hose spigots.
    • Install tankless water heater in attic.

Garden / Yard Improvements

  • Recycle the scrap metal at my brother's house. DONE 27 June
  • Get the back yard border installed - new technique with bender board and bricks instead of concrete will speed job and allow changes. (15% done 8 Nov 2007, 50% done 15 Jan 2008, 80% done 28 Feb)DONE 09 Mar 2008
  • Do some planning with respect to the native plants in my front yard. Now that I've lived with them a bit, I have a better feel for them. Updated 17 Nov 2007. Planning Done.
    • Get morea (Fortnight lilies) down to chez frere. Plant Salvia apiana in its place. DONE 18 Feb
  • Find sources for Wyethia ovata (emails out to El Nativo and Tree of Life 15-Jan-08)Apparently none available - forget it.
  • Purchase Clatonia perfoliata (seeds from T. Payne), Dodecatheon Clevelandii (T. Payne)DONE Feb, Allium unifolium (T. Payne bulbs), Symphoricarpos mollis (creeping snowberry) No more native purchases needed this planting season ('07-'08)
  • Plant Artemesia in place of some Rosemary in garden hedge Done 3/24/2008
  • Start Clatonia seed ASAPDONE 4/8/2008
  • Prune Brazilian Pepper tree - started 16 Mar
  • Install patio area for future bedroom French door entry.
    • regrade back yard selectively so as not to have ponding near house
    • use brick for hard surface so as to match nearby N. side yard
  • Install brick pavers in N. side yard. Shift grading to shunt drainage water away from house.
  • Rethink entire front yard garden for fall, 2008 - My plants are too large and unfocussed and the meadow is not living up to expectations
    • Move the front yard native scheme onto the parking strip (between sidewalk and street) in a way that continues to allow car access from the curb side
      • Planning: Continue line of meadow border. Probably use festuca rubra and pavers in the center, low bushes, taller grasses, or other ground cover at the property line edge of parking strip.
  • Demolish patio behind kitchen (demo'ed brick planter 17 Nov 2007)
    • Install new patio with California native grape arbor.
    • Plan for electricity and music in the back yard.
    • Plan for hot water in the back yard. Outdoor shower? (see repipe)
  • Build concrete bench for front arbor area.
  • Recycle the concrete in my back yard. There's a local concrete recycling place on Aviation just S of El Segundo Blvd. Yard phone 310-536-9982 which takes clean (rebar & remesh cut at concrete, no bricks, etc) but it's not cheap - $82 for a small pickup load. Ouch. Dump might be cheaper. factor of 4 less cost means the winner is the dump. Dump run 23 Feb. Another probably needed later
  • Get rid of dirt from the back yard.
  • Replace driveway with pavers.
    • Incorporate design element changes: separate entry path, driveway adjacent planting, trellis over garage.

"Pot Depot" trip roundup

The "Pot Depot" (a.k.a. Pottery MFG & Distributing Inc, but since it's located near Home Depot and Office Depot the name is tempting) was a smashing success. There were thousands of glazed pots of all sizes, terra cotta, poly and metal planters, and even straw gardening hats in my size for $5.

Out in the seconds yard we found some good deals:

Five cobalt blue 12" (approx height and max diam) China pots priced at $9 each. If you've visited Lowes or Home Depot recently, you'd know that I'd pay at least $45 for one of these (though of course you wouldn't have to pick through the seconds yard). What appears to be mottling in the color are reflections. It's awaiting seeds from the "One Pot at a Time" Project.

Juli got a few of this 6" square Italianate design for $4 each. They need a hole drilled in the bottom which I think I can do with a masonry bit. Otherwise they were not really deserving of their location in the seconds yard.

We also got two glazed herb pots for $10 and a couple assorted other glazed pots.


Good, cheap, flower pots at the "pot depot"

At the seminar tonight, a couple of the attendees recommended going to the Pot Depot(?) on Hoover for inexpensive clay pots. This is the one near the school bus yard that's visible between the transition from the 91 to the 110/405 freeways.

The hot tip was to visit their yard where the seconds are on display and get a really great price, rather than just a good price with the perfect pots.

Directions: Vermont south to 182nd, turn left, pass Home Depot, go S. on Hoover.

A little Googling turns up
Pottery MFG & Distributing Inc, 18881 South Hoover Street, Gardena

map link

These guys will even custom make pottery for you. I can't believe I've never checked them out.

Hey! That's my house!

I went to a seminar tonight called "Beyond the Lawn" which was held at the Gardena Willows Wetland Preserve (formerly South Gardena Park).

The topic was, of course, California native plants used as lawn substitutes. I went hoping to make some contacts that would assist me in moving my design skills and plant knowledge to the next level.

The seminar was given by Connie Vadheim of CSU Dominguez Hills and was a real wealth of information. I left with the seminar contents rattling around in my brain and some wildflower seeds rattling around in envelopes plus quite a few handouts on plants that I ought to learn a bit more about. The coolest thing about the seminar was that judging by the turnout there's quite a bit of local interest in natives. There were maybe 12 or 15 people there, and so far as I know it was advertised only on the Willows website.

Imagine my surprise when towards the end of the seminar Connie was flipping through pictures of houses as examples of the use of natives and MY HOUSE WAS RIGHT THERE! I let out a yell, "Hey! That's my house!" People laughed, but as a result I ended up answering a couple questions and making a connection with another homeowner who has redone her garden with natives.

The seeds I left with are from the "One Pot at a Time" project. I'm supposed to grow them in pots, let them go to seed, and then either scatter the seed, distribute it to friends, or clean it and give it back to the Madrona Nature Center. I'm also supposed to document the growth of the plants. From the glee on her face and her comments, I'd bet that Connie thought up this insurgent little idea with the intent of repopulating our local natives. I'll play along happily.


Rain 0.62" this storm; 5.96" this season

EDIT 29 Jan: updated second graph to current rainfall.
EDIT 25 Jan: Replaced the second graph with an updated, and more importantly, correct, version.

It looks like the storms have cleared the area with 1.05" 0.06" and 0.62" = 1.73" total for this series of storms in my backyard. That's a good amount for my neck of the woods.

Rainfall total for my backyard this season is 5.86". Median Los Angeles rainfall is slightly above 6" at this time of year.

The graph above illustrates, statistically, what typically goes on. The solid lines bound the monthly probability of rainfall at the 25%, 50%, and 75% level for light blue, medium blue and dark blue, respectively, when read against the left vertical axis: There is a 25% chance for rainfall to be at or below the light blue line in any given month, 50% to be at or below the medium blue line, and 75% to be at or below the dark blue line.

The dashed green lines represent the cumulative total rainfall in an analogous way: 25% chance to be at or below the light green line, 50% to be at or below the medium green line, and 75% chance to be at or below the dark green line.

~Median rainfall (50% chance above or below) for our wet season is about 7.5".
~February is typically the wettest month, except in dry years. In dry years, January is typically the wettest month.
~There's wide variation in typical (50% chance) rainfall. For example, in February, half of the time rainfall is between 0.5 inches and almost 4.5 inches.

Below is rainfall measured in my backyard (90250) for the 2004-05, 2006-07, and the 2007-08 (year to date) seasons. I left off the 05-06 season because it was visually confusing, but it was also less interesting as it wasn't such an extreme as the 2004-05 (very wet) and 20o6-07 (driest year on record).

One of the predictions of global climate change is greater weather extremes. The human tendency is to immediately jump to the conclusion that we're seeing those effects in local rainfall observations (years 2004 and 2006, above). Jumping to that immediate conclusion based on this data alone would be hasty. I may take that task on in a more rigorous but still rudimentary way in a later post.


Pictures from electrical nirvanna

Here's the new panel location. Code requires 36" clearance to the fence, which I'll meet with the in-wall system. In-wall mounting also makes it a bit more aesthetic and physically less intrusive on the narrow side yard, which I use weekly to wheel my large city-mandated trash cans (two of three visible) out to the curb. The meter itself will stick out 4" or so at about head height - that can't be avoided - but the panel itself is only ~1" proud of the wall.

Here's the innovative grounding arrangement that I had Gene install inside my garage to prevent a ground-rod trip and impalement hazard and narrowing in the side yard. This is the second of two ground rods. The first is conventionally located outside the garage in an area where I don't think it will be a hazard or problem.

The unthinking person's ground installation would have been on the other side of the wall shown in the picture below, which would put it right in the middle of my narrow side yard (shown above). The flexible conduit carries and protects the 4 AWG, 7 conductor, copper grounding wire.

The house water gets grounded, but doesn't act as a ground.

A 125A, 2 phase subpanel will be mounted inside the garage which will feed the house. When time comes to upgrade the kitchen, a second subpanel can be located in the kitchen.

Rain 0.06"

We had 0.06" overnight and through the AM.

Hardly the storm that the media advertised. One more storm to go in the series of three.

Santa Barbara reports 4.7" of rain from the same storm system with agreement that the storm was over hyped.


Rain 1.05"

The first of what are supposed to be three storms blew through last night leaving only 1.05" in my backyard. There was widespread news reporting on the storm, including flooding on the streets of Hollywood (typical), flash flood warnings in burned areas (expected), and warnings to stay away from the La River (with white water rescue folk and poorly lit pictures of running water in the river). This AM, the LA Times reports little damage.

The rain started in late afternoon and came with hard winds that drove it under normally protected areas. Still, it fell at far lower rates than I was expecting, given the news hype.


Countdown to electrical nirvanna

Gene from 1-Stop Electrical is now in day 2 of the 200A upgrade. He's racing against the rain, which as of 2:00 today hasn't yet started.

I have a slightly unusual grounding arrangment: a second ground rod located located within and down through the wall of my garage. The first ground rod is located outside at the back wall of the garage, but I put a high priority on avoiding the narrow side yard for the second, where it would have caused clearance issues and been a trip hazard.

Yesterday Gene and a helper drilled down 18 inches and couldn't take it any farther. So today he called in the heavy artillery to complete the ground rod hole though my sill plate and slab edge. It took a plumber / coring expert only 10 minutes or so to finish off the hole the final ~6" of depth. We took a chance that we wouldn't hit rebar or that it wouldn't be too far to drill, and it looks like it paid off.

I have a belief that Gene will really earn his money when the inspector comes by and we try to sell off the grounding as sufficient to meet the intent of safety requirements, if not the letter. He indicated that he'd already had a conversation with the City about this and I believe that inspectors have latitude in how they enforce requirements - after all, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to require modern standards across the board for a 54 year old house. The letter of the law says that the cold water will be used as a second ground in addition to one ground rod. We'll ground the water system, but rely on the second ground rod to sell off the safety.

Progress has been rapid since then: new panel in, ground wire attached, weather head installed. Yet remaining: attach to the existing wiring. This will probably wait until after the rain, predicted to last for a week or so.


Freaking fridge II

This is a follow up to Freaking Fridge

The Sears repair guy was by promptly at 8:00 AM today and replaced the defective fan in about 15 minutes. No charge.

This is the fan that sits by the interior coils and recirculates air in the fridge. The replacement fan that I received on the 21st had a new and improved feature to increase efficiency: an internal thermostat that doesn't let it go on until it's below a certain temperature. This thermostat is in series with the temperature control thermostat. My old fan went on whenever the temperature control thermostat click on, without waiting for the freezer coils to get cold.

There's good reason to believe that it was the thermostat that failed in the new fan. The service guy replaced with an old style, without internal thermostat, fan.


New wildlife in my garden

I saw a lizard yesterday in my garden. I was moving my firewood pile and found under a log. I had thought that they were all eliminated from the neighborhood by cats, dogs, kids, lawn and pesticides, but apparently this is an example of if you build it they will come.

He was missing his tail, though I didn't see it wiggling about anywhere. Had I been able to catch him I would have moved him to the front yard where things are a bit calmer.

Maybe this makes a case for leaving the occasional pile of logs / debris laying about. Yep - that pile of concrete rubble - that's lizard habitat!

It's 2008! Did you get your government handout yet?


Because, in addition to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we are also guaranteed digital television.

Starting January 1, 2008, all U.S. households will be eligible to request up to two coupons, worth $40 each, to be used toward the purchase of up to two, digital-to-analog converter boxes. For more details on the federal regulations, including the budget information, please the DTV Converter Box Coupon Program Rules.

In a display of irony, the obfuscated challenge words ("captcha") that I had to decipher when filling out the online coupon request to prove that I wasn't a 'bot were "fine narcotic".

And they say that religion is the opiate of the masses!

According to Wikipedia, Marx was preceeded by de Sade. Here Juliette addressed King Ferdinand, and explains the consequences of his policies in de Sade's novel Juliette.

Though nature lavishes much upon your people, their circumstances are strait. But this is not the effect of their laziness; this general paralysis has its source in your policy which, from maintaining the people in dependence, shuts them out from wealth; their ills are thus rendered beyond remedy, and the political state is in a situation no less grave than the civil government, since it must seek its strength in its very weakness. Your apprehension, Ferdinand, lest someone discover the things I have been telling you leads you to exile arts and talents from your realm. You fear the powerful eye of genius, that is why you encourage ignorance. Tis opium you feed your people, so that, drugged, they do not feel their hurts, inflicted by you. And that is why where you reign no establishments are to be found giving great men to the homeland; the rewards due knowledge are unknown here, and as there is neither honor nor profit in being wise, nobody seeks after wisdom.