Rain 0.03"; 4.37" seasonal total

I was surprised by this rain, which was predicted for Santa Barbara, but not for Los Angeles. As of tonight, it's been a very light rain with only 3/100th of an inch over the course of the day.


Into the badlands

We took a brief side trip of about 1 hour to drive a scenic unpaved road through Rainbow National Park just outside Barstow, Ca.

The park looks to be serpentine soil (because of the green color), and although California has plants adapted to serpentine soils, they are probably not adapted to the heat of the Mojave as well.

The graded but unpaved road narrows to one lane in many places, but we managed it in a 2wd Toyota Rav4

Very little grows there.

There's lots of interesting strata exposed by the elements.

This last one is on the road into the monument

- Posted at great expense from my iPhone



Las Vegas, as seen from the Bellagio at beginning of a fountain show.

Ceci n'est pas une pipe

At the Ethel M cactus garden.

I would have posted more pictures, but to my chagrin, the cactii were swaddled in Christmas lights (visible wrapped around the Saguaro cactus pictured above). The cactus garden is a bit run down, with plenty of signs for people to stay on the path that seemingly get ignored to the detriment of the plants.

There are provisions for supplemental water as well. Apparently Las Vegas is too arid even for some of the cactii.

Still, I recommend a visit.

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One of the culinary temples....

...between Santa Barbara and Las Vegas.

They have a two week process to make their own applewood smoked pastrami.

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I got a flocked tree...

...after wanting one for years...

...since I'm replacing the carpet anyway. -Mom

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Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!


Rain 0.01"; 4.34" seasonal total

Cold winds and a very slight amount of rain brought official start of winter last night.


Who grows native plants in your neighborhood?

The answer can be surprising - it's not just fringe environmentalists and aged hippies. Just across the street from where I work is Los Angeles Air Force Base. The public perception of large institutions like the AF is that they are inflexible juggernauts and are the least likely to change their ways. That perception isn't consistent with their forward thinking planting scheme; so far as I can tell they now lead the area in use of California natives for landscaping.

I'm nervous about taking pictures due to perceived security breaches, so I'll just describe what I saw today. I had kept close tabs on the installation of natives earlier in the year at the end of spring / beginning of summer and I have to say that I didn't predict a high survival rate. However, they've managed to nurse many of the plants through the summer and most are really looking healthy now.

Along Douglas St outside the AFB they have planted a prostrate form of Atemesia (California sagebrush, probably 'Canyon Gray') in the front of some fairly wide beds. Behind it is Mimulus (Monkeyflower), with a shrub that I don't recognize with 100% certainty behind the Mimulus, but which looks native. A native iris cultivar is used at the Douglas street entrance. Inside the AFB I saw Manzanita, Island snapdragon (Galvezia speciosa), Coffeeberry (Rhamnus of some sort), Woolly Blue Curls (Trichostema lanatum), two salvias (one low and one that looked like clevelandii), and some others that I don't recall now or couldn't instantly identify.

There's still plenty of exotic plants on the AFB, but they've taken a huge step away from the typical manicured lawns that you see used by default at the other corporate offices around here*. If the Air Force can lead the way, perhaps others will follow.

*Actually, two companies have a large unmown grass berm around their campus perimeter which looks good year round. It's probably a commercial red fescue. However, inside the grounds of these companies it's business as usual with large tracts of impermeable hardscape, few trees, mostly exotics, and lots of lawn.


Rain 1.1"; 4.33" seasonal total

It's patchy blue skies now, the last 24H having brought us 1.1" of rain.

4.33" is above the median rainfall for nearby Los Angeles for this time of year. If you believe the correlation that I've previously shown for annual rainfall in 90250 versus LA* can be applied now, only part way through this wet season, then 4.33" locally is worth 5.89" in Los Angeles, even farther (nearly to the 4th quartile) above the median rainfall for that area.

The bottom line is that we're enjoying a nice amount of rain so far this year.

* see this blog post, which gives us
LA = 0.8154*H + 2.3651
H = 1/0.8154*(LA - 2.3651),
Where LA = Los Angeles annual rainfall and H = Hawthorne annual rainfall


0.29" of rain; 3.23" seasonal total

As of around midnight on 11 Dec, we'd had 0.29" of rain in the preceeding 24H.  Rain is continuing from another storm that has come though, and it's been heavy at times, so I expect the 12th to have substantially more.


Gardening in the dark

Not metaphorically.  Literally!  My gardener buddy at work does this too, so I guess it's more common than one might think.  I have a couple lights on the house that illuminate porches and I used them to light my work (poorly), so a lot of it was by feel.  It was cold out, but I managed to work up a light sweat digging in the dry soil.  It felt good.

Biodynamic farmers sometimes till their fields at night.  I have read that the scientific rationale behind this is that the weed seeds are photo-sensitive and will germinate at a lower rate if they don't see the direct sun while being worked about in the soil.  That may be true, but desperation drove me to the yard.

I had daytime activities this weekend, so Saturday and Sunday nights before the predicted rains came on Monday I planted Aristida purpurea (Purple Three Awn) that I had grown from seed, some Achillea millefolium (yarrow) that I moved to fill in gaps, some Sysrinchium bellum (Blue eyed grass) that was in a pot, and three Penstemom heterophyllus 'Margarita BOP'.  I feel good that they will get the benefit of all this rain.

There are many wild flower seeds that have germinated since the last rain.  They ought to take off as well.

Also planted in the vegetable garden: More onion sets.  The ones that my son planted a few weeks ago are already showing a few inches of green above ground.

Rain 1.49"; 2.94" season total; more on the way!

The first rain of my season was back in October. A second rain last night and today brought us 1.49" as measured in my backyard. Rain fell over the course of last night and today, though at times it was heavy.

More rain is forecast starting Thursday.

This is what's going to get the California native plant garden going again, so it's welcome. Based on a nascent El Nino condition, some are saying that we will have a wetter than typical late winter. BadMom writes in comments below,

El Nino is a better predictor of spring (Feb-May) rainfall. Our winter storms come from the northwest. Our spring storms come from the west & southwest--from the warm water.

If the El Nino strengthens, and the jet stream turns southerly, then the drought will be over. But parts of LA will be buried in mud.


Weekend wrapup

Headed out of town for a little r&r with Juli. Stopped at Los Olivos to taste at Andrew Murray and pick up a wime shipment then went two doors down to the Los Olivos Wine and Tasting Shop where we tasted some more. ABC Chard tasted good, Alban viognier was less than impressive (surprisingly), other wines were good, but didn't result in a purchase.

Tasted olive oil, etc at Global Gourmet, a store I hadn't visited before, just two blocks off the main drag. The owner was there and explained that she had imported 2000 olive trees from Europe, the fruits of which were used in many of her products. She rents a commercial kitchen to do the preparation of the Global Gourmet products. Good stuff.

I got friendly with some art in a sculpture garden.

Later at Latetia I tasted a number of still wines while Juli tasted their sparkling wines. I didn't like any of the still wines enough to buy - the lesser wines were not good enough and the single vineyard Pinots, while delicious, were all priced at $60 which was a bit out of my purchase comfort zone considering the competition. The sparking wines appealed more, with my girlfriend choosing the Cuvee M as her pick.

Ate dinner at Del's Pizzeria in Pismo - we used a selection criterion based on the number of cars parked nearby and I'm happy to report that it worked. This restaurant has a loyal local following and is recommended. Wines by the glass are not boring - Had a glass of Turley Juveniles - dense, ripe to the max, almost too much to process. Slept at Sycamore Mineral Springs where the cheaper rooms have piped in mineral water for hot tubbing and the expensive rooms have regular old hot tubs.

On Saturday, Juli had a massage and I had a hike up to the top of the ridge behind the mineral springs where I took the photo posted earlier then down to Avila beach and back up the canyon. We visited the outlet stores then tasted at Edna Valley (good and reliable, I'll buy them at retail), Saucelito Canyon (we went away with 2 bottles of their white Rhone blend), Kynsie (the best winemaking of the day. I left with two bottles of their Bien Nacido Pinot Noir), then finished the day with a taste of a nice sparkling wine at Baileyana. We ended the day at Big Sky restaurant in San Luis Obispo where we enjoyed a turkey burger and swordfish, some nices wine and a dessert for not a horrible amount of money.


Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance

Barbara posts about water use that she observes in Pasadena over on Weeding Wild Suburbia. In the comments is reference to the California State Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance, which is news to me.


All cities in California must adopt it or equivalent by Jan 1, 2010! That's real soon now. However, notice was only given on Oct 8, 2009, which is not a lot of time for cities to react. This mandate is the outcome of legislation passed in 2006 (Water Conservation in Landscaping Act of 2006 (Assembly Bill 1881, Laird)). Apparently the state has been slow to publish the guidelines required to implement it.

From the glossy brochure:
Existing landscapes are also subject to the Model Ordinance.
Water waste is common in landscapes that are poorly designed or not well maintained. Water waste (from runoff , overspray, low head drainage, leaks and excessive amounts of applied irrigation water in landscapes is prohibited by
Section 2, Article X of the California Constitution.

Any landscape installed prior to January 1, 2010, that is at least one acre in size may be subject to irrigation audits, irrigation surveys or water use analysis programs for evaluating irrigation system performance and adherence to the Maximum
Applied Water Allowance as de fined in the 1992 Model Ordinance with an Evapotranspiration Adjustment Factor (ETAF) of 0.8. Local agencies and water purveyors (designated by the local agency) may institute these or other programs to
increase efficiency in existing landscapes.

All new landscapes will be assigned a water budget.
The water budget approach is a provision in the statute that ensures a landscape is allowed sufficient water. There are two water budgets in the Model Ordinance; the Maximum Applied Water Allowance (MAWA) and the Estimated Total Water Use (ETWU).
The MAWA, is the water budget used for compliance and is an annual water allowance based on landscape area, local evapotranspiration and ETAF of 0.7. The ETWU is an annual water use estimation for design purposes and is based on the water needs of the plants actually chosen for a given landscape. The ETWU may not exceed the MAWA.



Happy Thanksgiving!

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Drought continues

Check this link for current conditions, but I warn you that it's probably the same as the above picture.

It seems like we ought to have had more rain at this point in the winter, but checking the long range forecast through the end of the month it looks like no rain is in sight.  My backyard rainfall from our one early storm in the second week of October is 1.45 inches so it looks like we're looking through the end of November with only that one rain on the books.  Perhaps surprisingly, even if we get no more rain for the remainder of this month, this winter's rainfall is still ahead of the 1" median cumulative historic (1944 to 2005) rainfall for nearby Los Angeles. Still, November has been unusually dry: 75% of the time we get more than 3/4" in November, so perhaps that's why it feels like a dry winter.

To the best of my knowledge, early season rainfall is not a predictor of late season rainfall, so the game is still on with Mother Nature.  Will we get an abundance of rain that gives us some breathing room to further reduce our water requirements or will we go into a fourth year of drought?  Only time will tell, but NOAA predicts that there will be a seasonal easing of drought conditions (through Feb 2010) by at least one stage of drought.  This doesn't appear to be a long range forecast for green pastures - only a safe bet that we will get some rainfall between now and then.  After that, it's probably back to the usual drought.

To Do List VI

The To Do List is dead! Long live the To Do List!

Like royalty, or Bermuda grass, the To Do list keeps coming back with another version that looks similar to the old one.  But this is a good news story.

Way back in May, To Do List V looked pretty ambitious.  Taking stock of all the things I've struck from the list for one reason of another (accomplished myself this summer, hired someone to complete, or on which I've changed my thinking) To Do List V is looking like it was a pretty successful go forward plan.

Looking forward again from where I stand right now, I need a new plan.  The new plan needs to take me to an end point where I can say, "I'm done" and mean it.  Those of you reading for my gardening comments - there's some planning in here for you at the bottom of this post.

When this is done I may have to start a new blog - "The Second One For A Friend" from the adage that I seem to have absorbed in the last couple years of home repair and garden building:

Build the first one for an enemy,
the second one for a friend,
and the third one for yourself.

Exterior House
  • Patch holes in stucco
  • Paint French doors
  • Stucco over where old kitchen door used to be
  • Paint stucco, trim
  • Borrow airless sprayer to paint eaves
  • Fix computer room window

Interior House
  • Replace screen over gable vent at front of house
  • Fix doorbell23 Nov 09
  • Install bathroom tub spigot
  • Have tub refinished
  • Remove baseboard trim
  • Paint walls
  • Replace floor - living room and hall in wood?  Rest carpet?
  • Install new baseboard trim
  • Install drop leaf countertop extension ($30 Ikea)
  • Reconfigure living / dining area - narrow drop leaf table would be good have
  • Fix trim in my bedroom
  • Fix wall behind hall cabinets
  • Ground outlet in my room
  • Paint hall light fixtures
  • Fix garage wall near sink
  • Fix common wall between garage and house for fire safety
  • Fix garage gable end framing

  • Add a sprinkler head to front garden area to improve coverage - The sprinklers aren't used often, but when they are they ought to cover the whole area.
  • Extend Aristida purpurea plantings to provide better unifying theme
  • Rejuvenate front garden meadow  - This might mean just keeping the yarrow mowed and adding supplemental water (see sprinklers above) as needed
  • Plant parking strip area with natives - This needs brief consideration for suitable plants.  Maybe more Aristida and a low sage (Salvia sonomensis? aka creeping sage or Sonoma sage) or some sedges that will take summer water since part of the parking strip will remain turf grass and need summer supplemental water.
  • Re-mulch native areas - Just maintenance and to keep it a bit more attractive
  • Do something in N side yard to make it better - brick pathway?
  • Pour custom pavers for bedroom French door exit to replace wood lain on ground
  • Overseed remaining grassy areas with a winter rye at the first signs of a real rain
  • Figure out what I did wrong with the driveway edge plantings (Lessingia filaginifolia 'Silver Carpet' (Silver Carpet aster) and Lotus grandiflorus (Large-Flowered Lotus) and not make that mistake again. 
  • Add to my potted plants - both interior and exterior

Update: I thought I had a sufficiently good idea to make a placeholder.


Apple sausage stuffing

I made some apple sausage stuffing the other day to go with an early turkey that I purchased on sale. The interesting thing about this recipe is the custard, which represents a change from my usual apple-sausage stuffing recipe. We all liked it.

The recipe, below, is from epicurious.com and I used it as guide only. Without measuring, I'd have to say that I increased the sage and bay seasonings significantly relative to the recipe. I used a crusty whole grain bread (some fresh, some stale), home made turkey stock, and was more vigilant on the fats than the recipe calls for, buttering only the pan, leaving out the added butter, and partially draining the sausage fat.

Bon Appétit | November 2002

yield: Makes 8 to 10 servings
This delicious stuffing is similar to a savory bread pudding. It's best baked alongside, rather than inside, the bird.
subscribe to Bon Appétit

* 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
* 1 pound spicy pork bulk sausage
* 1 cup diced celery
* 1 cup diced onion
* 1 cup diced peeled cored apple
* 2 garlic cloves, minced
* 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
* 2 teaspoons minced fresh sage
* 1 bay leaf

* 8 cups 1-inch cubes French bread with crusts (from 1-pound loaf)
* 1 cup whole milk
* 1 cup low-salt chicken broth
* 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, melted
* 3 large eggs, beaten to blend


Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add sausage; sauté until cooked through and brown, breaking into pieces with spoon, about 8 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer sausage to large bowl. Add celery and next 6 ingredients to drippings in skillet. Sauté over medium heat until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Add mixture to sausage. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill. Reheat to lukewarm before continuing.)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Add bread to sausage mixture. Whisk milk, broth, and butter in bowl to blend. Mix into stuffing; season stuffing with salt and pepper. Mix in eggs; transfer to prepared dish. Bake uncovered until cooked through and brown, about 50 minutes.


I purchased an iPhone the other day and I've been spending time with it instead of blogging. I'm playing with several apps that allow me to blog from the iPhone, so hopefully in the long term I will improve my blogging rate. Oh yeah, I also worked a zillion hours last week too, with appropriate 'attaboys on Monday after a good save on the weekend.

Another launch* is approaching and the silly season is upon us in more ways than one. This will be my third launch with personal involvement. Interestingly, ULA has a ULA twitter feed as well as the standard web page. I really ought to check out Twitter, but I can't muster the energy. Clearly many people think it's of value.

*Someone commented to me once when I was talking about launches that they thought I was talking about product launches. Nope.



Juli and I went to see Kouza tonight.  Kouza is Cirque du Soleil's latest. It was marvelous.

The above posted by text message.

More 11/3: I've seen two similar performances before and this was by far the best.  The first was a poor Cirque du Soleil - like performance back when the South Bay Civic Light Opera was bringing in outside acts.  A better one was Cortero, Cirque du Soliel's most recent touring act prior to Kouza.  Kouza seemed more energetic and focused than Cortero in all respects, so I think it was better for the occasional fan like me.  Physically the set was less sprawling with all the action happening on a smaller central stage.  Rather than diluting its appeal, this made the action appear more energetic.  Musically I found it more engaging too: the music was uplifting and energetic with familiar pop and world  influences that could have been sampled from current broadcasts on KCRW.  The stories in these productions are always minimal as well, but the Kouza story trod a fine line that had just enough continuity to bridge the different acrobatic acts.

Side note: Aside from the fantastic acrobatics in the production, I noticed that the food and drink prices were also quite fantastic.  I bought a large soda for $6.50.  Small sodas were $6.00.  Both came in souvenir cups which were used as an excuse for the price.  Other food prices were high too - something like two hot dogs for $24 or similar. 


Moved to Friends of The Vine where Im enjoying a Malbec
Im having a pumpkin ale at the redondo beach brewery with juli


Water everywhere, but not a drop to ...

...irrigate? ...shower? ...drink? ...ration?

I am enjoying On The Public Record blog and got motivated by some comments in a post titled "It's almost like we're all connected somehow" to go back to an issue I raised with my local water provider in early summer. This post expands on the interchange in the comments at OTPR.

Earlier this year I raised with the CPUC some basic rate fairness issues about the proposed water rationing* scheme that would be imposed upon us, noting that there was no "floor" water usage below which rationing and penalties would not be imposed. Adding insult to injury, the rationing methodology of forcing cutbacks based on historic usage penalizes those who have been conserving all along as well. See CPUC Correspondence and Water rationing upon us.

Here's where my local water district is with conservation: Right now we're in an advisory 10% cutback phase. We've also had rate and tier changes recently to encourage conservation with price signals.

Knowing that we had recently had such changes, I went looking for the impact of my letter on the rationing policy and I found Section E of my Mandatory Water Conservation and Rationing rate schedule, effective Sept 1, 2009, does indeed have a 5 hundred cubic foot (HCF) usage floor below which there is no penalty or rationing.


Perhaps it was put there after my recent response letter to the CPUC made during the public comment period in which I noted the absence of a rationing floor.

5 HCF seems pretty far afield from reasonable given that the revenue-neutral point for my urban water district with respect to recent rate changes is 18 HCF and the upper limit of Tier 1 billing (the lowest rate) is 13 HCF. I conserve aggressively and if memory serves I'm mostly under the 13 HCF Tier 1 limit, but I'm still not very close to 5 HCF.

I suspect that 5 HCF exemption is only there to placate people who pointed out its previous absence.

And there are still deficits and inconsistencies in the rationing scheme:

1) Mandatory rationing is based on average usage between 2004 and 2006, penalizing those already conserving.
2) There is no provision for low flow watering systems such as drip. All watering systems are treated as if they are flood/sprinkler irrigation.
3) There is an inconsistency in the rationing plan in section G, where flow restrictor charges are set forth: Section G is not referenced anywhere else in the document that I could find. Maybe later stages of penalties were originally designed activate installation of a flow restrictor, but they were edited out**.
4) Penalty rates are scaled from Tier 2 rates***, not from the base rate at which the rationing violation occurred. Again, this unfairly impacts those already conserving: If you already conserve enough to be at Tier 1 rates, and don't conserve additionally per requirements, then you take a greater percentage penalty hit than someone who has to conserve within the Tier 2 rate.

So, a Pyrrhic victory at best against institutional inertia. Maybe more like a Sisyphean victory.

* As noted elsewhere, the word "rationing", as applied in the field of California water doesn't mean that you can't have more, just that you'll suddenly pay a lot more (a fine plus a quantity charge) if you cross a usage threshold.

The charge for installation of a flow-restricting device shall be:
Connection Size Charges
5/8" to 1" ..... .. , . .. . ... .......... ... .. ........ $100.00
1-1/2" to 2" ... ... .. .. .. ..... ....... ...... '" ... $150.00
3" and larger ....... .. .... .. ... .. . ... ... .. .. .. $200.00

*** Allocation Penalty Charges for Stage 2 - 7
1. Usage within allocation ...... .... .... . .. . ....... .. .. . ....... ....... . .. ... $0
2. Usage over allocation up to 15% above allocation ... 1.5 x Tier 2 qty rate on ME-1-R Tariff
1.5 x qty rate on ME-1-NR Tariff
3. Usage over allocation by more than 15% ..... . .... .. ... 2 x Tier 2 qty rate on ME-1-R Tariff
2 x qty rate on ME-1-NR Tariff


Weekend garden accomplishments

I had a productive Sunday working in the garden. The sun shone! No indoor chores on my To Do distracted me from my gardening objectives, despite my best intentions to get at least a few done, and I had the help of my son without too much pre teen angst.

We cut the Matilija Poppies (Romneya coulteri) back, removed Penstemon, and replanted next to the driveway as planned. Some extra Aristida purpurea was planted to eventually fill gaps in the front yard. This grass is my current favorite. For a while I had misidentified A. purpurea, thinking it was Nassella pulchra, but I got that straightened out during a summer visit to the Payne Foundation when I noticed the plant tags didn't match up well with my idea of how things ought to be. I started a bunch of seed at that time and from now on it's A. purpurea as my go to grass.

We mowed the (evil turf) lawn and raked up magnolia leaves. They don't tend to compost well, so we throw them out in the city's green garbage. We have a push mower, so it doesn't shred the leaves like a power mover can.

We moved a Symphoricarpos mollis (Creeping Snowberry) to a more pleasing location and planted a third nearby to make a visually pleasing trio. I felt that now was the best time to transplant. We'll see if I am successful. I've decided that my natives can get a dose of B1 vitamin when I transplant them and it won't hurt them too much. Aside from general warnings that natives don't need fertilizer like exotics (referring to N-P-K type fertilizers), I don't think I've seen any discussion about using B1 to prevent transplant shock in native plants.

My son transplanted yarrow to fill in between the cracks in the side yard pavers.

In the vegetable garden we cleaned up, collected some forgotten cow beans, planted sweet pea seed and winter squash, mulched, and sowed Phacelia seed as green mulch in much of the rest of the vegetable garden. The Phacelia was highly successful last year as a flower in the front and as green mulch in the vegetable garden, though it tends to germinate late in the shady corner. Along the way I realized that my garden rows are E-W oriented, and really ought to be N-S oriented. That won't get fixed any time soon.

I repotted the bitter orange that I've grown from seed from 1 gallon to 3 gallon containers. I didn't even see any roots in the 1 gallon, so I guess I'm well ahead of the growth curve there.

Finally we planted several pots with natives. I tried composing small plant vignettes with extra Aristeda purpurea that I had grown from seed earlier this year. The A. purpurea is the tall element and around it I placed bulbs, checkerbloom, blue eyed grass, and the like. The California Bay Laurel (Umbellularia californica) was a little different.

Pictures would be worth 1000 words here, but I haven't had access to a memory card reader in a while. Maybe I'll be able to update this post later.

Other accomplishments: Saturday was a cluster f*ck while we waited hours to get turned away from the H1N1 vaccination clinic. Warren and family were ill, so we didn't get to see them. Haunted Hayride - somewhat expensive, but well executed and fun for me. Scary for little kids. Spooktacular carnival on Friday at my son's school. I bought a couple items at the silent auction to help raise money for the school. A flat tire (again with the sharp objects!). Wash, meals, etc.


Weekend garden plans

It's fall, and the California garden springs into life after the first rain. I've been chomping at the bit to work in the garden and I have a long list of tasks.

My garden tasks for this weekend include cutting back the Matilija poppy, digging out some failing Penstemon next to the driveway and replanting with recent Payne Foundation acquisitions that ought to flourish better in my garden conditions: Lessingia filaginifolia 'Silver Carpet' (Silver Carpet aster) and Lotus grandiflorus (Large-Flowered Lotus).

I ought to tidy, divide, and plant more yarrow in the bare patches in front, and adjust the sprinkler for better coverage so that come spring time it looks more lawn-like. The same goes for the actual lawn, which doesn't get much supplemental water, but has now come back to vigorous life with the first rain and at least needs the string cutter. Then there's the bare patch on the parking strip that I've been meaning to turn to natives.

There's Phacelia tenacetifolia seed that I ought to distribute in my vegetable garden for soil improvement, and some other wildflower seeds that I ought to put in my One Pot At A Time pots.

My vegetable garden needs tending, and I have a bunch of onion sets to put out. I didn't know this, but whether you get green onions or regular slicing onions depends on the depth that the sets are planted. A deeper planting yields green onions. Those are the more perishable, so perhaps I'll go that way so that I can have them fresh at hand when I need them. It's time to plant lettuce and spread compost as well.

My carefullycasually tended pots of cuttings, seed starts, and garden rescues that have made it through the summer are beginning to show new growth so I ought to do something productive with them. Two of six bitter orange trees grown from seed made it. A trumpet vine cutting (1 of 6 taking for a friend) made it. The dead looking Matilija poppy in a pot is regrowing too and I noted at the Payne Foundation that they now charge $14! for a 1 gallon Matilija poppy. I could have been rich propagating Matilija poppies!

Then I'll scratch my planting itch even more using some nice designer-esque pots that I acquired last weekend when I made my previously-promised trip to the "Pot Depot" (aka Pottery Manufacturing and Distribution, Inc).

Theodore Payne Foundation has a number of attractive potted native plants and I've managed to keep a couple of my own alive over the past year after a couple miscues in the more distant past. So my goal for Sunday is to use some attractive pots I've seen recently as inspiration for my own potted native plants while maintaining a hopeful state of mind about their continued viability.

There isn't a huge amount of information out there on best planting practices for California natives in pots. What I've found is that one key to a successful potted native plant seems to be use of a mulch (TPF always uses an attractive polished rock mulch, which I try to do as well) in order to prevent excessive soil temperatures and water loss during hot months. I use a plain Jane commercial potting soil mix (this week it's Kellogg without obvious added plant foods / fertilizers). Sometimes I mix in extra vermiculite or other lightening amendments. My pots are usually oversized compared to the cheapest home improvement store pots. Most important, I think, is that they are usually deeper, which allows the deep-growing roots of natives a better chance to sustain the plant over the hot summer months. You can't grow a large plant in a small container for very long before it's too cramped.

Watering your potted natives is the key to success, and what I've found is that less is more, but only to a certain point. Cultural practices written for the garden do not apply exactly to pots. For example, one is often advised by California gardening books to withhold summer water from Fremontodendron lest it perish. What they often neglect to say explicitly is that this advice is for established plants in the garden. Fremontodendron will perish in a pot without summer water. I know this because I've killed one this way, back when I followed a more literal interpretation of the garden book guidelines. The same is true of Matilija poppies. And wildflowers will give their best in pots only if you augment rainfall with additional water.

I have a lot of new California native plants to work with. These are my latest acquisitions:

From my earlier trip to TPF I still have Arctostaphylos 'Elizabeth McClintock' (Manzanita Elizabeth McClintock ) and Ceanothus 'Powder Blue' (Powder Blue California lilac) in 1 gallon containers as well as Sidalcea malvaeflora 'Palustre' (Checkerbloom) in 4" pots.

Additionally, last weekend I made a second trip to TPF in order to browse and purchase during the last weekend of their fall sale (15% off plant materials to the general public and 10% off seeds and bulbs). I didn't really have any purchasing goals except for bulbs (I ended up with Calochortus luteus 'Golden Orb' (Mariposa Lily) and Tritelia laxa 'Corrina' (Ithuriel's Spear). Juli caught bulb fever and ended up with Calchortus splendens 'Violet Queen' and Brodiea californica). But I ended up taking home Umbellularia californica (California Bay laurel) and Quercus chysolepis (Canyon Live or Maul Oak - a tought, shorter stature, oak) in 1 gallon pots, and a couple Fragaria chiloensis (Beach Strawberry) in 4" pots, and Heuchera 'Dainty Bells' (Coral Bells).

Can I really get all this and a workout in on Sunday?

Weekend plans

I have Saturday plans to take Juli and my son to see Warren and his wife in the AM. They have a baby that I've neglected visiting for so long that even I'm feeling guilty about it, not a usual state of affairs for me when it comes to social obligations. I'll then attempt to get my H1N1 vaccination and in the evening we'll visit the Haunted Hayride.

I need to work out on Sunday AM and then take action at home and in the garden. Home improvement tasks include fixing the shower valve, putting the wood trim on my kitchen counter, fixing the phone line so it's no longer running on the floor through the house, and repairing the doorbell.

The tasks that I'm really relishing are the garden tasks. I think I'll put those into the next Blog post, since the list is long, ambitious, and detailed.


Grammar tip of the day

From Merriam-Webster's online dictionary comes the following clarification [my emphasis]:

Effect and affect are often confused because of their similar spelling and pronunciation. The verb 2affect usually has to do with pretense "she affected a cheery disposition despite feeling down". The more common 3affect denotes having an effect or influence "the weather affected everyone's mood". The verb effect goes beyond mere influence; it refers to actual achievement of a final result "The new administration hopes to effect a peace settlement". The uncommon noun affect, which has a meaning relating to psychology, is also sometimes mistakenly used for the very common effect. In ordinary use, the noun you will want is effect "waiting for the new law to take effect" "the weather had an effect on everyone's mood".


First rain: 1.45 inches

I had just under 0.1 inches in my back yard today. So much for the predicted flood. We'll see how it goes tonight.

Update 14 Oct: 0.84 inches over night for a total of 0.94" so far, with more on the way today. That's a good rain for us. I understand N. Ca. got significantly more, but I'm glad that we started slowly because of the recent fire-denuded hillsides.

Update 14 Oct PM: 0.51 inch more during the day for a total of 1.45 inches. This was the perfect first storm for us: not too much, not too little, not too fast.

Looking back over the years that I've tracked rainfall in my backyard, we see that I've been reporting rainfall totals proportionate to the official rainfall tally for the City of Los Angeles. My rainfall totals actually have a much better correlation to the official rainfall than I had originally expected. I attribute the ~2.3" offset to better monitoring of heavy dews and light rain in Los Angeles, but it seems like that's a lot of dew!


At last! V. carpesioides

The weather is a bit crisper, I've made sure my heater is working, and Trader Joes is selling spiced apple cider. These are all the signs of fall, so we can start thinking about native gardening again.

One of the hallmarks of recent falls for me has been the fall sale at the Theodore Payne Foundation which starts today. At the sale they offer 15% off for members. However, they are open Thursday with their regular prices (members still get 10% discount) but with the best selection that they will have all year long and no crowds, so it behooves you to go early and pay slightly more for hard to find items.

A quick trip to the Theodore Payne Foundation the other day netted me TWO Venegasia carpesioides (Canyon Sunflower) in 1 gallon containers. They had about 10 set out for sale, but 30 are listed on the plant inventory for this week, so I may have only just managed to scoop up 1/15th of the southern California output for this year. I was told that the seeds were wild harvested locally, so this is really the species and not V. carpesioides "Estrella".

For those that have been following along, V. carpesioides is a sunflower that doesn't need sun and for which I have been searching for what seems like forever. I credit Chuck b. over at My back 40 (feet) for bringing it to my attention. Alas, my quest for Wyethia ovata continues.

I also picked up some relative rarities along with some garden staples to quickly spruce my yard up.

Lessingia filaginifolia 'Silver Carpet' (Silver Carpet aster) a ground cover that ought to work well for me along the driveway.

Lotus grandiflorus (Large-Flowered Lotus)

Based on my success with Wooly Blue Curls and a forgotten name manzanita in pots, I think I'll put these in pots for a year or so:

Arctostaphylos 'Elizabeth McClintock'

Ceanothus 'Powder Blue'

Sidalcea malvaeflora 'Palustre' (Checkerbloom) in 4" pots. I struggled to find this previously, lasat year eventually latching onto a few in 1 gallon pots. This time at the more favorable 4" price I scooped up three.

I have so many plants for pots that I think I need to go to the Pot Depot.


Payne Foundation wiki

The Theodore Payne Foundation has upgraded their native plants section to a wiki. (Click on Native Plants from their home page or click here.)

I also got a nice email alerting me that Venegasia carpesioides is available. I emailed back asking if they ever had Wyethia ovata. I've been looking for both of these for a long time.


The grass is greener on the other side?

An article in the LA Times talks about turf scientists' quest for non-thirsty green lawns.

In a parched experimental plot at the edge of UC Riverside, several dozen mounds of grass poke out of the powdery soil.

These plants have the soft, narrow leaf blades and dark-green hue that would make them a welcome addition to any American lawn. Most important, they lack the feature that threatens to doom today's turf -- an unsustainable thirst for water.

With mandatory watering restrictions turning grass brown from California to Florida to Massachusetts, a small but dedicated cadre of turf scientists is on a mission to engineer a drought-proof superlawn.

They are acutely aware of the technical challenges. Millions of years of evolution have failed to devise a turf that thrives in dry, hot summers and cool, damp winters, and trying to one-up Mother Nature certainly is an exercise in horticultural hubris.

read more at the LA Times.

Of course University of California already has a low water turf grass named UC Verde. When I last looked at it, it seemed more targeted at the Southwest, than Coastal California, but a Google search last night showed that there are many more prominent providers of it now than 1+ years ago. It is a variety of Buffalo Grass, native to North America, but not to California. Shirley Bovshow, S. California "garden personality" has a test plot of UC Verde and several blog posts about it:

UC Verde Lawn Test in Los Angeles: Part 1

UC Verde Lawn Test in Los Angeles: Part 2

UC Verde Lawn Test in Los Angeles: Part 3

UC Verde Lawn Test in Los Angeles: Part 4

More from the LA Times article:
Most Californians plant tall fescue varieties, such as Marathon, in their yards. They are the most water-efficient of the cool-season grasses, but that still leaves plenty of room for improvement.

Simply switching to warm-season varieties would reduce water needs by 20%, Baird said. However, these species go dormant in the winter, and even during their active months they never reach the deep green hues of their cool-season cousins.

"We could go a long ways in terms of our drought if more people used those grasses," he said. "But the color issue is the major limiting factor."

I suppose they could always plant it on the other side of the street.

TR Trading Company

Here's a place I learned about today that carries used furniture. I am told that it's higher end stuff that's cleared out of hotels and offices.

The web site appears to have mostly office furniture, but I saw some really nice chairs and a small better-built coffee table that came from there. Of course they have book shelves, and it might be nice to replace my particle board book shelves with something nicer.

TR Trading Company


House Doctor

(with reference to fall planting season below...)

Not that home improvement issues have gone away. Some day when I have a nanosecond of time I'll blog in detail about my travails this summer on the home improvement front. It's liveable, but I'm cooking with a single plate, spoon, fork, and jackknife (somehow the chefs knives are not locatable :( ).

The good news is that Kevin is back on the job. Hurray!

Electrical has stalled this last week, but I did make forward progress in the bathroom with an actual working lavatory sink.

I also made contact with a guy by the name of Pjlevo "Phlee" Hudshon who has the House Doctor business. He's a licensed contractor who lives locally and does home repair. I had him over to talk about flooring, but it turns out that his flyer says that he does Tile, Baths, Drywall, Flooring, Kitchens, Electrical, Patios & Decks, Termite repairs, room additions, and Fence replacement. 310-433-9076.

Phlee thought that his labor charges would be about $1000 to install a floating floor on the approximately 400 square feet that I want to redo. The floor itself he thought could range from $2 to $5 per square foot when purchased at discount. If I go the replacement route I need a floating floor with foam underlayment.

Phlee recommended that I look at Old Masters (Rodeo and Arlington), a flooring outlet warehouse near the 110 fwy at 190th and Vermont, Lumber Liquidators, Moldings Unlimited at near Vermont and Lomita for moldings, Habitat for Humanity for glass tile on the back splash, HD Contractors Supply on Airdrome and Main near Habitat. He also recommended Los Vegas if I were to replace the kitchen cabinet doors.

Fall California native plant sales

With fall upon us, my mind is turning away from home improvements and back to gardening. My membership at the Payne Foundation is all paid and I'm ready to go plant shopping. Throwing fuel on the fire, Connie Vadheim just emailed that following list of plant sales. I'm delirious with anticipation.

Fall Native Plant Sales – 2009

South Bay Chapter – CA Native Plant Society

Sat. 10/3/09 - 9:00-4:00 p.m.
South Coast Botanic Garden
26300 Crenshaw Blvd. , Palos Verdes Penninsula


LA/Santa Monica Chapter – CA Native Plant Society

Sat & Sun 10/3 & 4, - 10am-4pm
Sepulveda Garden Center, Encino
16633 Magnolia Blvd
(east of Hayvenhurst on north side of street)


Theodore Payne Foundation
Sat. & Sun. Oct. 9th &10th (members only) and 16th & 17th, 2009 – 8:30-4:30 10459 Tuxford Street, Sun Valley, CA 91352

Fullerton Arboretum Native Plant Sale

Sat. & Sun 10/10 & 10/11/09 - 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
1900 Associated Road, Fullerton, CA 92831


UC Riverside Botanic Garden Fall Sale

Saturday, October 17, 2009 from 12 to 5 pm
Sunday, October 18, 2009 from 9 am to 3 pm
On UCR Campus


El Dorado Nature Center

Saturday, October 24 9:30 am – 2 pm
7550 E. Spring St., Long Beach CA 90815

For more information call (562) 570-1745; http://www.longbeach.gov/naturecenter/family_n_special_events.asp

Fall Native Plant Sales – 2009 – cont.

Orange Co. Chapter – CA Native Plant Society

Sat. 10/24/09 – 9:00-4:00
Tree of Life Nursery
33201 Ortega Hwy, San Juan Capestrano


Madrona Marsh Nature Center/Project SOUND

Sat. 11/7/09 - noon to 1:30
Small sale featuring most South Bay native plants

Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden

Sat, 11/ 7/09 - 11am – 4pm, ; Sun, November 8, 9am – 2pm
1500 N. College Avenue, Claremont, CA 91711


San Gabriel Mountains Chapter – CA Native Plant Society

Sat. 11/24/09 – 9:00-2:00 p.m.
Eaton Canyon Nature Center, 1750 Altadena Drive, Pasadena, CA



Blogs I'm reading

I've been enjoying On the public record blog. It reads like an op-ed in the local paper, but larded with links to actual facts and figures. Topics seem to revolve around water public policy and natural resources stewardship with occasional jabs thrown mostly at the right, so if that floats your boat you might want to browse it.


Gottlieb garden

An LA Times article by Emily Green, The Dry Garden: A visit with Susan Gottlieb and a landscape that sings with color, scent and birds led me to the Gotleib garden web site. Susan Gottlieb is on the Payne Foundation native garden tour, but I have not been to see her garden in person.

CSA in North Redondo Beach

See BadMom's complete blog post about it here.

She writes in part, I've started the Madison School CSA blog for all things related to the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program. Visit there to learn the latest news about the program. Beginning September 24, Tanaka Farms will deliver every Thursday to Neighborhood Grinds.

I participated in the CSA last year and over the summer and had some great produce in my fridge as a result.


You say Zauschneria I say Epilobium

There's a nice article on California fuschias over at the SF Chronicle.

It seems more botanical than most general interest newspaper articles.

California fuchsias are not true fuchsias, although they are also members of the evening primrose family. The name Zauschneria (named after a Professor Zauschner of Prague) is used in older books for a handful of California species with trumpet-shaped red flowers and green to furry gray foliage.

The Munz and Keck book "California Flora," published in 1959, recognized Z. cana from the Central and Southern California coasts, septentrionale from Humboldt and Mendocino counties, garrettii from the Mojave Desert and californica from much of the rest of the state.

Then in 1976, Peter Raven, renowned conservation advocate and evening primrose specialist, proposed combining Zauschneria with the fireweeds and willow-herbs in the larger genus Epilobium. Although the plants don't look much alike, Raven found similarities in their hairy seed coats and other features.

Botanists have generally accepted the change, although some are still cranky about it. Despite that snarl of consonants in the middle of "zauschneria," we were used to it.

Somewhere along the way, californica and garrettii merged into cana, and the species' genders changed to conform with the new genus. That leaves Epilobium canum and E. septentrionale as the last California fuchsias standing.

Read the whole thing at link.


Huntington Beach native plants

I was previously unaware of the Shipley Nature Center. A friend referred me to it today on email.

Shipley Nature Center is an 18-acre natural area located in Huntington Beach, California. Situated within Huntington Central Park, the nature center is not only a sanctuary for the local wildlife, but it is also a haven for the residents and visitors of Orange County.

Our hours of operation are Monday-Saturday from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM. We invite you to visit us and experience the beauty of nature.



Our forgotten landscape: California prairie

Here's an interesting take on California's grasslands, which appear to not be quite so grassy as the name would lead you to believe. Since I live one block from a street named "Prairie" and have seen historic photos of the nearby prairie, this has particular interest to me.

This is copied in its entirety from the Daily Democrat. The author refers us to www.tuleyome.org for additional information, so I'll be browsing around there looking for some more interesting articles.

Our forgotten landscape: California prairie
Created: 09/06/2009 02:30:42 AM PDT

John Muir, California's greatest naturalist, taught America and the world to love and preserve nature rather than use it up. Muir arrived in San Francisco in the spring of 1868 and walked south through the Coast Range.

At Pacheco Pass he descended to the then unplowed Central Valley. He found "one ... bed of [flowers], so marvelously rich that, in walking... 400 miles, your foot would press a hundred flowers at every step. "Here it is not as in our great western prairie, flowers sprinkled in grass, but grass in the flowers."

Muir was the first to well describe the pristine Great Valley's flowers but from early Spanish explorers to G. C. Merrifield in 1851 to the great California botanist Willis Lynn Jepson in 1925 others have told of once vast flower prairies in California's valleys. Many such accounts are compiled in Professor Richard Minnich's recent UC Press book California's Fading Wildflowers.

Muir often elegantly described the rapid loss of California's unique flower prairies, but they are far from all gone. Each spring the valley much as Muir saw it is present at Yolo County's Glide Tule Ranch as well as many other places.

Why then do many call places like the Tule Ranch "grasslands" when those seeing them first report few if any native grasses? Therein lies a tale.

Taxonomic botany straightforwardly describes (in Latin) new plants wherever they're found, but more theoretical plant ecology started in eastern colleges and then moved west to
California. But the east is not like California. Its forests stretch continuously from Florida to Quebec except where people cleared them. Farther west in the drier Great Plains grassland is similarly nearly continuous from Mexico to Saskatchewan. But in California it's just a few steps from dark redwood forests to open prairies and Napa County has greater vegetational diversity than most eastern states.

There's a simple reason for this difference. In the east it rains when it's warm and plants grow fast, but in California it doesn't. Rain here falls when it's too cold to grow so it's stored until temperatures rise. Consequently soil where it's stored determines vegetation much more in California than in the east.

Water and air deeply penetrate sandy and rocky soils where plants with deep roots like shrubs and trees can reach them. Clay soils, in contrast, favor the shallower roots of herbs because they keep water near surfaces and exclude air.

Since water carries clay farther than sand and rocks, California valleys usually have more clay and thus prairie vegetation, but places streams carry sand and gravel into valleys like along Yolo County's Buckeye Creek have trees even where water is scarce.

Eastern plant ecologists used to continuous vegetation in absence of disturbance expected it also in California. Minnesota's W. S. Cooper thought this was chaparral and claimed it once covered the Central Valley. More influential was Frederick Clements of Nebraska's theory it was covered with a bunchgrass now called purple needlegrass. Clements made and believed grand theories.

In 1997 Jason Hamilton showed Clements' bunchgrass theory came from expectations about California derived from his Nebraska experience. Evidence for it was minimal and came from atypical valley places like Jepson Prairie, where moist sea breezes bring many coastal plants inland, and Fresno, where Kings Canyon glacial outwash carried much sand to the valley floor.

Clements and followers like L. Burcham and H. Heady popularized a legend that the Great Valley was a bunchgrass sea wiped out by grazing and drought in the 1860's and replaced by non-native annual grasses.

The legend's ultimate popularization came with calling the valley "grassland" in Munz & Keck's A California Flora, the source for plant identification from 1959 to 1993 before the new Jepson Manual replaced it.

Why not the legend? It's false for one thing. Muir, Merrifield and others in early California vouch for that. Secondly, so-called "native grass restoration," planting coast and foothill needlegrass in valleys where it's not native, wastes much time and money.

Cattle ranches mostly well use and protect prairies, but when sold for development planners almost universally call their vegetation "non-native grassland," which ignores native wildflowers (forbs) and privileges weeds. Consequently California Prairie, the name Burcham used clear back in 1957, was the only major California plant community systematically excluded from general plan conservation elements until recently.

Since calling prairie "non-native grassland" made it defenseless by emphasizing its weeds rather than its native forbs, it became the ideal place for planners to direct sprawl. It is as if riparian areas were called "Giant reed-saltcedar thickets." To protect something it must be named. That name is California Prairie.

-- Dr. Glen Holstein is a member of the Board of Directors of Tuleyome, as well as the Chapter Botanist for the Sacramento Valley Chapter of the California Native Plant Society. Prior Tuleyome Tales are available at www.tuleyome.org



From the Public Eye blog comes a link to an interesting blog featuring local fauna: http://www.cougarmagic.com/

For the prurient-minded, "Cougarmagic has nothing whatsoever to do with dressing like a skank, having big hair, a fake tan, and trying to pick up 20 year old men in bars."


It's the soil

One raised bed was the site of my experimental Phacelia tenacetifolia cover crop / layered mulching trial. The other raised bed is much sandier and has had mulch added and dug in with no cover crop. The cover crop area is naturally much more clay-like. Water has been on the same soaker hose, though the sandier soil gets the far end of the hose and the clay soil gets the near end, if there's a difference. But look at the difference in productivity! These pumpkins were planted at around the same time with seeds from the same package.

Clay soil with cover crop wins by a huge margin!

House update III

Here's a photo-journal of my kitchen odyssey to date

Juli and Martha helped me pick colors last week. I'm not trying to make any particularly bold statements here.

Bathroom walls: MS162 Waning Moon semi-gloss

Bathroom Trim: MS043 Gray Harewood semi-gloss

Master BR walls: MS312 Diving Board eggshell (a pale blue)

Master BR trim: MS064 Chamois Cloth

Kitchen Trim and Cabinets: MS197 Cocoon semi-gloss (the nice sage green that I wanted from the get go instead of the after dinner mint green I have now)

Kitchen walls: MS138 White Calla semi-gloss. I still need one more gallon of this in a eggshell or more matte finish for use in the adjoining room.

I also purchased a sink, tile for the bathroom floor from Cal Tile in Torrance along with matched grout for the tub/shower and a sanded natural color grout for the bath floor.

Alex will be done with the bathroom and give it a final seal on Saturday.

Kevin may have primer on the walls by Saturday, so the dusty part of the job will wrap up soon.


House update III

Things are moving along at the house. I've been taking photos regularly in order to show the transformation. However, my computer access is limited since the whole house is sheeted in plastic. Kevin's doing things that I would never imagine doing and getting them done quickly.

I selected a sheet flooring for the kitchen and asked Lowes to send an estimator over. That will happen early next week. There's some help Lowes can give me with procuring the flooring without the regular 21 day lead time. At this point they could be in to install late next week or early the following week.

I need
baseboard and molding
a sink (I'll go with a ss sink with integral deck mount faucet)
counter top (inexpensive but perfectly serviceable laminate for $100)
flooring for bathroom (tile?)

Alex the tile guy is ready to go on Monday.

Oh, and I'm working 65 hours this week at my regular job and my car is in the shop until next week to the tune of ~$1600. Life isn't slow.


House update II

Kevin was on the job about 7:45 this am

I have a sheet flooring selection from Lowes and will get them to install. Something like $2.50 for the sheet and $1.67 to install per square foot.

Rough electrical will complete after Kevin has framed in some of the new parts. He says Wednesday.

Alex the tile guy gave me a great price of $900 for the tub / shower. I may want to put in floor tile as well, but my preferred floor tile is rough. I'm concerned about trapping dirt in the tiles. Check Cal Tile Center, 5108 W. 190th Street Torrance, CA 90503 Tel. 310-698-4586 Fax. 310-698-4587 for better selection.

Recent pending home sale of a 3+2 bath house + 2 car detached garage a couple blocks away is not encouraging: $328k. It was advertised as needing TLC, however. Still the second bath ought to be good for a lot of extra $$ that I'm not seeing in the $328k price.

New color on cabinets will be a cream color.

Laminate countertop for $100 from Lowes. I can screw up several times installing it myself for the minimum cost of the install. Will ask Kevin to do it.

Drop in sinks w/o faucet holes not available at Lowes off the shelf. It may be more cost effective to re-route the plumbing to standard undersink style given the special order cost of some of the sinks. Plus will do away with need to run special dish washer water line. Need decision soon on this.

Need to pick wall / ceiling color for bath and kitch.


Beautiful Long Beach Landscapes

An article at the LA Times home blog shows how the City of Long Beach is addressing water use concerns - with free landscape makeovers to much drier gardens. link and link

There's a BLBL demonstration garden, some example projects, and other helpful links.

House update

Plumbing is done. PeterClarkePlumbing.com completed this job on time and on budget. I did not put in water lines for a dish washer. I think I will do that, but leave them dry so that there's room for expansion later. For hard to find plumbing parts, I have to recommend Reback's Plumbing N' Things, 14617 S. Western Ave, Gardena, CA, 90248. 310-324-4877. Peter referred me to Reback's. If you ever want to know where the good stores are, ask someone in the trade.

Rough electrical is done. Gene from local firm 1-Stop Electrical is doing this work. Gene is timely, reliable, and honest.

Monday the real demolition starts - both kitchen and bath. Kevin Janek will do the heavy lifting. Kevin and I seem to have a good rapport.

Today I met with Alex the tile guy and he gave me a good price estimate for retiling the bathroom. He can start after Wednesday.
Alex Hernandez
MGC Granite
562.480.3673 (cell)

I've purchased a basic tile from Home Depot and some fancier trim band tiles. I hope that together it's the right choice - not too fancy and not too basic. Alex will put in an integral niche and shelf for soaps, etc.

In the past week I've purchased a new medicine cabinet, bathroom vent fan, and wall mount range vent, all online. Most of my purchases for stuff like that have been online, and it's been a good experience so far.

Still to do:

find trim that I like

find sheet flooring for bathroom

find adhesive tile or sheet flooring for kitchen

Pick countertop for kitchen. HD says 1-2 weeks after they measure they can deliver a laminate countertop that I can drop a sink into. It's more expensive that I thought, however.

Pick paint colors for all over


Surfrider Foundation’s Ocean Friendly Gardens (OFG) Program

Surfrider Foundation’s Ocean Friendly Gardens (OFG) Program
“Be a part of the solution, not the pollution”

1. The concept - Ocean Friendly Gardens (OFG) & parkways utilize CPR© for the garden to prevent wet & dry-weather runoff:

• Conservation of (a) water, (b) fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides (water pollutants), (c) energy (moving water around the state is the #1 user of electricity), (d) and gas-powered machinery (air pollutants) through use of native & and climate adapted plants.
• Permeability increased, utilizing materials for a driveway, walkway and patio that allow water to percolate into the soil.
• Retention devices like rain gardens, rain barrels and rain chains as well as bio-swales, creek beds and dry wells.

2. Attend a free public workshop:
You’ll learn essential info from landscape pros, receive free tools, get info on incentive programs and make good use of Surfrider’s OFG blog with do-it-yourself steps: www.oceanfriendlygardens.org! When you make changes to your landscape, we will post your before-and-after pictures.

Hawthorne Workshop
Hawthorne Library Meeting Room, 12700 Grevillea Ave., Hawthorne, CA
Sat., Oct. 17, 1pm-4pm, Refreshments Served
Registration starts a ½ hour ahead of time. Space is limited.
Register today: 310-371-7222, ext. 200 or www.sbesc.com (“workshops”)

Note: OFG workshops are offered to residents in the following cities (though Surfrider members and volunteers who don’t live there won’t be turned away): Carson, Culver City, El Segundo, Gardena, Hawthorne, Hermosa Beach, Inglewood, Lawndale, Lomita, Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Palos Verdes Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, Redondo Beach, Rolling Hills, Rolling Hills Estates, West Hollywood, Torrance, and several unincorporated communities in LA County (Topanga, Baldwin Hills, Athens.)

3. Garden Assistance Program (GAP) – volunteer!
The GAP is a hands-on program, applying what you learn in the OFG workshop to people’s landscapes. We ask those we help to work with us to help others. See the blog for more details. Volunteer with a Surfrider Chapter OFG GAP by contacting OFG Program Coordinator Paul Herzog: pherzog@surfrider.org, 310-439-2500.

4. Tool donations
We’re looking for shovels, picks, rakes, spades, hand tools and more. We’ll pick them up from you.


Car cast

From my brother via email.

If you like NPR's car talk and Adam Carolla (formerly of Love Line, The Man Show, 97.1 FM talk, etc) you may like CarCast- Adam's relatively new podcast about cars, etc. Listened to the episode with Jay Leno and found it pretty interesting. More testosterone than NPR with Adam's brand of humor...
Good times!



The great Lair mushroom hunt

When I was at Lair of the Bear, I went mushrooming with Amy BeberVanzo. Here's a nice photo of her posing by road marker 5N67 - the farthest afield that we roamed (near 8000' elevation).

A year or two ago she found Porcini mushrooms just off a nearby access road. We didn't have luck finding any Porcini, or delectable mushrooms of any kind. The best we found was "edible but inconsequential" (Orange Peel mushroom) and "thought to be edible" (puffballs). We did have a great time walking and exploring and I came back with these amazing pictures. Thanks, Amy!

This is a marmot. We were somewhere around 7500' elevation.

There were a couple of this golden hued mushroom that glowed like a leprechaun's pot of gold.

I found a few of these slime molds too. They have a very short life span. VERY slimy!

Orange Peel mushroom.

Termites were swarming a fallen log and a dead tree


The insides of the puffballs go from looking like a soft, ripe cheese to looking like this as they get progressively riper.

Do you know what this is?

Here it is again. Now do you know?

Yes, I know it's not a mushroom. Later I'll have to post about all the flowers that I couldn't identify without help.


Viola Park

For the next house...

Henrybuilt is pleased to announce that Viola Park is open for business!

Thank you for your interest in Viola Park and for joining our e-mail list. Viola Park is open for business and is currently taking and producing orders.

Viola Park is an innovative new company, owned and operated by the Henrybuilt Corporation, offering well designed kitchen systems at an accessible price. Created as a collection of interchangeable components, Viola Park can be configured to meet a wide range of architectural styles.

The company will be launching a new website shortly that will offer online planning tools, including a decision matrix, to help customers create a Viola Park design uniquely suited to their home. Stay tuned!

Price lists and additional information are available upon request. We welcome your feedback and ideas.

We get letters

Dear Dr. XXX

Thank you for writing to express your support for the "Clean Water Restoration Act." I appreciate hearing your thoughts about this legislation and welcome the opportunity to respond.

As you know, Senator Russell D. Feingold (D-WI) introduced the "Clean Water Restoration Act" (S. 787), which would restore the scope of waters and activities subject to federal regulation under the Clean Water Act that existed prior to the Supreme Court's decisions Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Rapanos v. United States. On June 18, 2009, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works approved the bill after incorporating a compromise authored by Senators Max Baucus (D-MT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to meet the goal of restoring the environmental safeguards while maintaining protections for farmers, ranchers and wastewater systems under the Clean Water Act. Please know that I will keep your support in mind should S. 787 come before the Senate for a vote.

As a supporter of the Clean Water Act and of strong protections for our nation's remaining wetlands and waterways, I am committed to working to ensure that our water resources are preserved and protected for future generations. I believe that we must carefully consider whether any legislation to address the scope of federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act will work as intended. I will keep your thoughts in mind should the amended version of S.787 as reported by the Environment and Public Works Committee comes before the full Senate for a vote.

Again, thank you for writing. If you have additional comments or questions, please contact my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 224-3841. Best regards.

Sincerely yours, Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

Further information about my position on issues of concern to California and the Nation are available at my website http://feinstein.senate.gov/public/. You can also receive electronic e-mail updates by subscribing to my e-mail list at http://feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=ENewsletterSignup.Signup.


Electrical redo I

I've contacted Gene from 1-Stop (he did my electrical service entry and breaker box is 2006) for a bid on new circuits for the kitchen and bath. Might as well get them done when the access is good.


Bathroom redo II

See also Bathroom redo.

The Bathroom redo project wasn't just about the bathroom, since I planned to replumb the entire house in PEX and change my water heater as well. It's just that the most visible change would be in the bath.

However, I also wanted to go tankless with my water heater for two reasons: 1. My existing tank water heater was at the end of its service life and 2. I could recapture scarce interior space in my home by moving the new tankless heater up into the attic.

My new water heater is a Takagi T-K Jr tankless water heater. It was a bit more difficult to procure this heater than buying a Bosch from Lowes or a Rheem(?) from Home Depot. Nonetheless, I made the effort based on professional plumbers' inputs that extolled the virtues of Takagi over Bosch and Rheem, a refrain I heard over and over again - often enough to believe it. While the day to day benefits remain to be determined, from a do it yourself perspective it's exactly the opposite: Bosch has it over Takagi. Here's why:

1. For Bosch the required 3" double insulated stainless steel vent tubing is conveniently available at Lowes, the same place I'd purchase the heater. The 4" Cat 3 stainless vent tubing for the Takagi required a trip to a full service plumbing supply store - a marvelous place indeed, but not incredibly convenient.

2. The Bosch uses water flow to spark its ignition. Takagi requires a hard wired electrical connection (though for temporary testing purposees changed it to a plug).

3. Clearance issues. I discovered to my chagrin that the combustible materials clearance on the Takagi 4" vent pipe is and additional 4" from the pipe. It is only 1 inch for the Bosch double wall 3" vent pipe. This required that I widen and reinstall the roof vent from the old heater instead of just re-using it.

These issues combined made the Takagi more difficult to install from a do it yourself perspective than I think the Bosch would have been.


Bathroom redo

After a day of labor yesterday, my bathroom looked like this today. This week I expect to have a return to basic functionality. I don't have a plan with a schedule for finalizing the finish work.


New driveway III

See also my prior blog posts, New driveway and New driveway II.

In the AM.

By 4PM. There's small gravel in the permeable interstitial spaces between pavers. This guy is brushing it into place. A sealer goes on next. Miguel Cisneros sure did a good job.

The pathway is defined with a different paver orientation. Too subtle?

6 P.M. B.C. is taking the first stroll on the path.

Some late night visitors in the backyard. Mom and two babies. They also tried the driveway later on their way to the sewer drain.