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.