0.39" rain; 2.17" total rainfall

22 Dec 0.34" AM
This was a gentle evening through early morning rain- the kind that soaks in nicely.
23 Dec 0.05"
Just the remnants of the previous storm.

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0.20" rain; 1.78" season total

19 Dec 0.20" for total of 1.78" this season.

The Santa Barbara outpost also reported 0.20". Usually they have more than us.

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0.20" rain; 1.58" season total

It was cold and windy last night and we had 0.2" before I went to bed.  Clear skies this morning indicate we're all done with this storm. 


Skunks and possums, still trying to cohabitate

I re-stacked the bricks. Silly me. I thought that they had to be moved to allow ingress and egress.Time stamps are accurate in these photos.
Nope.  At least the possums can come and go as they want.

0.02" rain; 1.38" total

10 Dec 2015 0.02"

It came down heavily for an short time and then just sort of fizzled.  I went out and watered the garden.  More rain is on the way, they tell me.

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Surge tanks vs. rain barrels III - storm intensity

In order to answer questions that I have about how large a surge tank is needed to accommodate a certain number of local storms, we need to know about rainfall intensity.  Intensity tells us how much rain we get in a unit of time.

Intensity has a simple answer when considering the duration of a storm as your time interval.  If a storm lasts T hours and it drops 1" of rain, then 1"/ T is the average rate of rainfall.  However, real storms of consequence don't behave like that.  Typically they start out slowly, have a peak rate of rainfall, and then taper off.  From what I've been able to tell, there are two main ways to estimate storm intensity: Using a model hyetograph or using Intensity Duration Frequency (IDF) graphs.


Skunks and possums, living together!

And under my house, too.

The current plan is to wake up at 3AM (there's a +1:12 error in the time stamp on the photos), block the opening with a screen, and then monitor through the screen with the camera trap to see if I've trapped any inside.  If so, let them out the following night.  A one-way door would work better if I can make or buy one.

There's a crawl space vent that is broken and I've blocked it with bricks.  Little good that does.


Surge tanks vs. rain barrels II

In this post I'm trying to estimate the usefulness of a rain barrel operated as surge tank. 

The valve is open all the time when a rain barrel is used as a surge tank.

This is a bit stream-of-consciousness, and engineering-estimate-like so just skip it if that bothers you.  It could very well be wrong too.  I'm not paid in anything other than pride for this writing gig, so fact cross-checking sometimes gets short shrift.  A little Googling provided the information used herein, and I'm sure you can find similar numbers for your area if you care to.

The first question I asked was how big must a surge tank be to capture rainfall effectively in a downpour?


Surge tanks vs. rain barrels I

 I received a few electronic solicitations to get a free rain barrel from my local water district which I promptly ignored.  As I've noted before, they aren't a particularly good investment for southern California.

However, there are a couple specific exceptions to normal situations in which a rain barrel might be a good use of resources in our climate.  One of those is when it's used as a surge tank.  Surge tanks might sound complicated, but the concept of operations for a rain barrel used as a surge tank is not that different than a rain barrel used as a reservoir.


You can have good policy or you can have good customer service

I live in a community that was given a 36% water use reduction target by the state.  Since I've always been careful with my water I thought that I would get credit for good behavior.  Not so, and poor policy is to blame.  So far as I can tell, my water allocation is determined by simple-minded application of the rule: Cut water usage from the 2013 average by 36%, but don't let the allocation drop below 6 hcf per month for any household.

Of course this benefits people who wasted water historically and penalizes those who conserved.  I was one who conserved, and so my water allocation was set at the floor of 6 hcf per month.  I've added a third person to my household, am now housing a teen, and water use is consequently up. Naturally, I petitioned to have a larger allocation.  I got it: Now I have 7 hcf per month, which adds up to about 57 gallons per person per day.  We would have to be reasonably eagled-eyed conservationists to hit that number, which is possible, but what about the fairness issue?  It doesn't take a super genius to intuit that most people aren't being held to similarly low requirements.  If we're all suffering together, then solidarity, brothers and sisters!  But if you are holding me to a tougher standard then f*** off, I'll sue.

A little Googling let me determine that the average usage in my zip code in the middle of last year was 24 hcf (bill insert in 6/2014).  Applying the state-mandated 36% reduction target to the average usage is 15 hcf, more than twice my increased allocation.  This is consistent with a neighbor's report (they are newly arrived in the neighborhood) that their allocation is 14 hcf.

Finally, I received a letter containing this graphic in my mail:
In case you are curious, the entire first page, minus my address information, is shown below in a clickable image.
So I'm using about half the amount of similar homes and I'm being chastised instead of lauded?  Really, I'd like to turn on a hose into the street just to protest.  The curse words flew but after I calmed down I called California Water Service where the nicest customer service person defused me.  She placed re-application for an additional allocation increase into review by management because that's what happens when you've been give the generous upper of 1 hcf already.  Apparently the backlog of management review cases is so large that it will take us into 2016, at which point something will happen.

The something they are probably hoping for is that El Nino will bring sufficient rain that our reductions will not be extended by Governor Brown (they are scheduled to end in February).  The something that I am afraid will happen is that I'll continue to be held to a higher standard than my neighbors and I'll have to participate in a class action lawsuit to change an obviously flawed policy.


0.23"; rain; 1.36" season total

We had a storm through last week which got the cold and wet season under way.  Earlier rain in September and October totaled close to an inch (as well as trace rainfall that I didn't track) which brings us to 1.36" so far at my house.  This isn't such an auspicious start to El Nino, but February is traditionally our wettest month, so we are by no means through with winter yet.

27 Nov 0.20"
25 Nov 0.03"

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0.63" of rain; season total 9.92"

19 Jul 0.43"
20 Jul 0.20"

There's probably some more rain in the near future, but I thought I would note that over a half inch of rain fell locally.  0.38" fell in July of 2007, which is the next highest recent L.A. area rainfall total for the month.  Blame is placed on / credit is given to El Nino for the recent storm.  July of 2007 looks like it was the opposite of El Nino, La Nina, where ocean temperatures are cooler than average.

Earlier I wrote: This is a rainfall total that is exceeded in recent decades only by 1983 (1.25" fell in the L.A. area in August) and 1977 ( 2.47")!  Mean rainfall in the L.A. area in August is 0.07", but most years bring no measurable rain.  Oops.  Those are August figures.


Someone's been eating my Cercis

I was admiring the fog on my Cercis occidentalis

When I noticed some leaf damage and a critter.

Who's been eating my Cercis?

Have some more there's plenty to go around.

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Possum, raccoon, skunk, house cat

I suspect that the raccoons are to blame for the immense piles of scat that have accumulated on top of my patch of Erigeron glaucus (Seaside daisy).  I set the trap in a likely area (not the toilet area, that seemed indelicate) to see who was visiting my yard.


Palo Verde tree

This is a Palo Verde tree in Phoenix, Arizona (Parkinsonia or Cercidium species). In that area these trees are planted all over and appear to reseed frequently. This photo was taken on Memorial Day weekend in Phoenix and it was typical of the trees we saw there - just beautiful. I see them planted more and more in my part of California, but the blooms never look quite like they did in Phoenix. Maybe I just haven't seen them at the right time of year, the weather isn't quite right, or the commonly used California garden selection doesn't have the prolific blooms of the (presumably) wilder Phoenix variety. That can happen - there are three Parkinsonia species and a grower may choose to produce a hybrid or garden selection en masse from cuttings or other method that produces clonal invariants. Bloom seems delayed here by a month or more compared to Phoenix.
Though I live in Palos Verdes, the "green sticks" where my hill gets its name are not the green sticks of the Palo Verde tree branches*: Parkinsonia is is only endemic to the southeastern desert part of the state. Nonetheless, native plant enthusiasts in my area sometimes use Palo Verde as part of their gardens and it looks good - beautiful blooms and striking branch structure.

 There's a Desert Museum selection that was once popular - I think it still is.

In the late 1970's Mark Dimmitt with the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum (ASDM) began noticing Blue Palo Verdes that exhibited characteristics suggesting they were hybrids of other Palo Verde species. He collected and planted seeds from the assorted trees he had observed and began evaluating them. By 1981 he had identified a thornless seedling as clearly superior to the others collected. Careful evaluation of the genetic composition of this hybrid, named 'Desert Museum', revealed it to be a complex hybrid having genetic characteristics from Mexican, Blue and Foothill Palo Verde. Dimmitt suspects that 'Desert Museum' gets it vigorous growth, sturdy, upright branching habit and bright flowers from P. aculeate, and its small delicate leaves from the Cercidium species. Trees have tolerated temperatures of 15 degrees without damage in Tucson. The most remarkable and unique feature of this hybrid is the absence of thorns. Flowers are slightly larger than those of P. aculeata and other Cercidiums and trees have been observed to flower abundantly as early as mid-March in southern Arizona with intense, full bloom lasting into late spring and early summer. Intermittent flowering can continue into the mid to late fall. Source: http://www.aridzonetrees.com

*The green sticks in the place name Palos Verdes are thought to be the reeds that once surrounded the hill in the low lying (and navigable by canoe) marsh areas that are now parts of Lomita, Torrance, San Pedro, and other cities.


0.08" rain; seaon total 9.29"

On 9-Jun I received 0.08" of rain in my back yard for a season total of  9.29" of rain.  Once again, this is a totally normal number for Los Angeles, so if you had native plants in your garden instead of grass you wouldn't be overwhelmed with the water needs.


Rain 0.76"; 9.21" season total

We had a surprising amount of rain yesterday and overnight at my house: 0.7" and then a bit more on the following day.  This is quite late in the season for us to get this much rain - 75% of the time May has 0.25" or less rain in the LA area.  The rainfall total of 9.21" is normal for LA, which most frequently gets between 8 and 10 inches of rain per year.

If you have established native plants, they ought to do well in your garden this year with even a moderate amount of supplemental watering.  If you are establishing native plants, they will still need a bit of extra water to get through the summer.  Deep, infrequent, waterings are usually best.


Another 0.1" of rain; season total 8.45"

I predicted that we were done with rain for the year, but I was wrong. An overnight and early a.m. Storm gave us another 0.1" for a total of 8.45". This is not an unusual amount of rain for the Los Angeles area, so once again I say that this part of the state is having normal winter. If we landscaped with native plants we'd be sitting pretty in terms of keeping out yards alive.

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What can we say about Los Angeles area rainfall this winter?

I've received 8.35" of rain in my back yard this year.  Since I have a few years worth of data on rainfall in my back yard, and decades of data from the nearby Los Angeles area, I feel that I can draw a few conclusions.

1. Rain barrels still suck.  I've said this before and here's a short synopsis of why with the caveats.  This last winter we had 17 storms come through that dropped measurable precipitation.  That's 17 opportunities to catch rain water.  The typical home rain water harvesting setup involves 50 to 100 gallons of storage.  So that's perhaps 1700 gallons of rain water you could have saved and used after the storm has passed.  Go figure out how much that actually saved in money versus the cost of the installation.  I've done that already for you, and it's not worth it.  Wouldn't you like to use that water during the summer on your vegetables?  Don't bother, you can't realistically save 50 to 100 gallons for that long.

Caveats: When storage is abundant (several times the amount of rain that your roof sheds in one storm) then it might make sense.  There are under-house bladders and cisterns that seem to meet that criterion.  When storm frequency is greater then it might make sense.  When storm season is longer it might make sense. If you have occasional summer storms then it might make sense.  The climatic conditions aren't likely to change enough in California even in the face of  global climate change.  Really, don't bother with a mere barrel or two.

2. Rain water retention still makes sense.  When you are storing the rain in the ground (eliminating run off using swales, or rain gardens, or permeable hardscape, or however you do it) then it's easy to store large amounts and you don't have to fuss with infrastructure costs or maintenance other than your garden.

3. This winter was typical for Los Angeles.  Everyone's crying drought, but the native plants living locally got a normal amount of rain.  Do you think this is surprising?  The most frequent amount of rainfall that the greater Los Angeles area gets is 8-10 inches per year.  Over the past decades of rainfall data that I've analyzed, we received 8-10 inches of rain in 16 of them.  For comparison, we received 6-8 inches of rain in 8 years, and 10-12 inches of rain in 9 years.  Folks, the LA area is RIGHT ON TARGET for the rain we received this year.  It's dry here, but for our native plants THIS WAS A NORMAL YEAR.  Let's not try to make Los Angeles a subtropical paradise by importing water and concentrate instead on showcasing our California paradise.

0.1" rain; season total 8.35"

0.1" of rain fell on the night of the 7th in my back yard which brought the season total to 8.35".  Since I think that this is the last rain for the year, I'll list all the storms.

Date    Amount    Total
           (inches)    2013-14
8-Sep      0.1    0.10
31-Oct    0.37    0.47
1-Nov     0.17    0.64
13-Nov    0.05    0.69
30-Nov    0.03    0.72
3-Dec      2.47    3.19
12-Dec    0.92    4.11
16-Dec    1.01    5.12
31-Dec    0.1    5.22
11-Jan     1.51    6.73
26-Jan     0.3    7.03
30-Jan     0.04    7.07
23-Feb    0.3    7.37
28-Feb    0.09    7.46
1-Mar     0.2    7.66
2-Mar      0.59    8.25
7-Apr      0.1    8.35

I certainly don't claim to have a perfect record, but I'm pretty good about recording each storm.

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California Native Plant Week and the long game

California Native Plant Week (CNPW) is upon us, but it always seems like it's late to me.  In northern California where winter seems to hang on a bit longer, I think the timing might be more apropos, but for me in the Los Angeles area it's always seemed like the garden has hit its peak several weeks ago.

Not that CNPW isn't a good idea.  As a state-wide acknowledgement of the richness of our natural environment, it's an excellent advertising tool.  Still, pity the naive Joan Q Public who admires a native plant in bloom during CNPW then tries to plant it in the following week in mid-April.  She is near certainly doomed to failure for a multitude of reasons. 

Mostly, Joan may not fully realize the long game that one plays as a native plant gardener:

April, year 1: It's CNPW.  First lay eyes on a plant you admire.  Plant your selection in your garden  Ah, satisfaction!  You ought to be enjoying that plant soon, right?
June, year 1: Plant dies more often than not and dissatisfaction ensues.  If not, then it doesn't grow much in summer anyway so you might as well have waited until Oct-Nov.
Oct-Nov, year 1: Replant, if you are dedicated or a glutton for punishment.  If you are patient and haven't lost the inspiration since April, then plant for the first time.
April, year 2: It's CNPW, but your plant has only just settled in after a nice winter, and it's not an abundant bloomer after only 6 months in the ground.  Don't rip it out in disappointment.  Wait some more.
June, year 2: Plant has to make it through the summer.  You are careful and it does.  Hurray!
November, year 2: Plant establishes and grows due to winter rainfall.  Ahhhh.  Almost done.
April, year 3: Plant blooms.  Double Hurray!  You are done after only 3 years.

At this point the reasonably patient Joan Q Public may ask, "Why plant a Toyon when a Cotoneaster will fill in so much more quickly?"


Squirrel deterrent

But they will hop right over the screen....Oh.

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Friendship Park II

What's not to like?

Brazilian pepper, wall to wall Euphorbia terracina, and mustard forests.

Aside from that it's a nice view.

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Friendship Park

Here's an interesting sign.

With all that mustard, one wonders how they define restoration.

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From a small seed a mighty trunk may grow....

...and grow, and grow, and grow.  I'm sure it was cute when it was smaller.  As a gangly pre-teen, it's not even reached close to its final height. At least it's not planted beneath power lines. 

Don't do this.


Visit to Oak Canyon Nature Center

Oak Canyon Nature Center is surrounded by 58 acres of park in Anaheim Hills. Park grounds and trails are open sunrise to sunset, seven days a week
Oak Canyon Nature Center

The John J. Collier Interpretive Center is open Saturdays and Sundays, 10:00am-4:00pm
Parking lot gates and restrooms locked at 5:00pm
Oak Canyon Nature Center
This looked like Stachys
More of the Stachys look-alike.
A Juli.
Marah or Chaparral cucumber was all over.
This guy was on a mustard plant. Half-hearted online searching says it will grow into a white-lined Spinx Moth.
 Hyles lineata (Fabricius, 1775) WHITE-LINED SPHINX ???
BLUE DICKS! (Dichelostemma capitatum)
BLUE DICKS! (Dichelostemma capitatum)
BLUE DICKS! (Dichelostemma capitatum)
BLUE DICKS! (Dichelostemma capitatum)


Cool and science pioneerish, again!

On the LLP web site there there are 59 H. glacialis (Glacial Lady Beetle) reported but only a few with the extensa epithet, so I suspect they are somewhat rare.  Nonetheless, I found one the other day.  Googling around, I thought it was interesting that someone named Mulsant named this subspecies in 1850. 


Bloom time!

Salvia spathacea (Hummingbird Sage).  I think it's just the species.  As I noted in a previous post, gardeners will identify subspecies or selections willy-nilly.  "Powerline" is one such named selection.
Salvia spathacea (Hummingbird Sage)
Stachys ajudgoides (Hedge Nettle).  No minty smell.  No nettlely stingers.  Just a low growing green filler.
Stachys ajudgoides (Hedge Nettle)
 Ribes aureum gracillimum (Golden Currant).  I eat the currants if the birds don't get them first.

Ribes aureum gracillimum (Golden Currant)
 Cercis occidentalis (Western Redbud).  One of three in my yard.  It's the only one that has the characteristic red buds right now.  I kinda think the others won't get any this year.  My previous experience says that it takes a few years to get these blooms and the older the tree the more of them there are.  This is the first year for this tree.
 Cercis occidentalis (Western Redbud)


Eschscholzia californica maritima

The maritima subspecies of California poppy is not even really recognized by many official publications. Apparently it's had its ins and outs with the botanists. The argument goes that at some point you have to make a choice to be inclusive at higher levels of nomenclature and not open yourself up finer and finer levels of distinction within subspecies that one could spend several lifetimes untangling.

Gardeners on the other hand, can afford to have those levels of distinction.

Rain 0.59"; season total 8.25"

We had another 0.29" yesterday and then more overnight for a total of 0.59".  The overnight rain was torrential at times and woke me up at its loudest.

3/3/2015 0.59"

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0.29" rain; season total 7.66"

We had a storm come through that looked like was going to leave us with just trace rain.  Then during the day on the 1st we picked up nearly a tenth of an inch, followed overnight by another two tenths.  More rain is supposed to be on the way today.

3/1/2015    28-Feb    0.09    7.46
3/2/2015    1-Mar    0.2    7.66


LAX dune cleanup

We spent the morning working this beautiful area with degraded habitat near Los Angeles International Airport. I found some cool Great Horned Lizards - three or four depending upon whether I was double counting one of them or not.

Rain 0.3"; season total 7.37"

With 0.3" of rain in my back yard, I'm up to 7.37" of rain.

San Pedro annex has only 0.25" of rain. 


...perhaps that's why they call it frog fruit

This is Phyla nodiflora, (frog fruit, sawtooth fogfruit, turkey tangle, Lippia) but you can also find it called fogfruit (without the "r"). Perhaps the fogfruit camp never saw the green color and flipper-like growths that remind me of frog's feet.


Winter is spring

In California and other Mediterranean climates our time for most plant growth is now (winter through early spring) instead of spring through summer.  Here's some native plants doing their thing on 1/24/15.


I'm sure there's a lot of local pride...

...to have such a wonderful landmark at the corner.

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Excellence in pruning

Suggestion: Next time plant something that grows to an appropriate size.

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Garden blooms

This Lantana is really beautiful right now.  Despite it's non-native status, I like it quite a bit.  I don't think this form is widely available now - it has a thick central trunk and then spills over onto the ground.

This climbing penstemon is at home next to the Lantana

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0.04" rain; season total 7.07"

This storm seemed like so much more, but in the end it was only 0.04"

31 Jan 0.04"

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Pride of ownership

I found a neighborhood in Goleta that seems to cultivate the lovely Oxalis pes-caprae (sourgrass).

It was such an inspiring sight that I thought I'd write a little tribute.
Oxalis my love, I wish you were in front of me
I'd pluck your sour stems to chomp
and hope they had no dog pee.
Then I'd cover you under with cardboard and mulch
in a garden recovery strategy

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0.30" rain; season total 7.03"

27 Jan 2015 0.30" rain

I expected more rain given the severity of the storm as I drove through it, but I guess I was wrong.

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Bulb season

Bulb season has arrived in Southern California. It's been here a few weeks for me with my first bloom of Tritelia laxa on Jan 8:

Last year I had a practice of shaking the seeds from each bulb back into its pot. In some cases this is paying off handsomely.

One issue is knowing one from the rest.

However in many cases the blooms are distinctive and timed particularly. This is Triteleia laxa (previously Brodiaea laxa) also known as Ithuriel's spear, now with two blooms. This is always the first to bloom.

I added Fremont's Star Lily to my bulbs this year. It used to be known as Fremont's Death Camas Lily. Fun stuff.

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