Rain 0.4"; seaonal total 5.97"

12-30-16 0.40" measured in the am

More rain is on the way later today

Sent from my iPhone at great expense


Rain 1.65"; season total 4.67"

22 Dec 1.65"

We're above the third quartile of rain for this time of year. This is good news, since it seems to predict that the rainy season will be a wet one. The LA Times also has picked up on this water optimism as well with an article quoting Bill Patzert of JPL.

“It looks like the door is open here,” said Patzert. “This looks like in the absence of La Niña, we’re getting it from the north and the south, which is a good omen for the wet months of January, February and March.” History suggests that the La Niña phenomenon, which brings an unusually dry winter, follows a wet El Niño year. But so far, this month’s rains have been better than previous Decembers’, Patzert said. “This is more of la nada than La Niña,” he quipped. The lack of something, ironically, is what could make this winter into something that could help Southern California’s drought outlook, Patzert said. “The kind of rain we’re having this week and last week, that’s just perfect,” Patzert said. “It doesn’t come at you like a fire hose.”

Sent from my iPhone at great expense


Crappy Marquee Tree

This is a jacaranda tree. Puzzling that it's cut back to save the cable and phone lines. Usually one only sees this level of pruning for the power lines which are located much higher up. Obviously it's not the first time someone has been at this tree.



Doomed to failure

Of course I signed up, since there's no down side.  However, I think it's doomed to failure.

I received the following offer from my natural gas company:

Congratulations! You have been randomly selected to participate in our “SoCalGas Advisory – A Call to Conserve Natural Gas” Pilot Rebate Program this winter. Enroll now and you will receive periodic email notifications through March 31, 2017.    These email notifications will encourage you to conserve natural gas on designated SoCalGas Advisory days. They will include simple energy-saving tips to help you reduce your natural gas usage, such as “lower your thermostat to 68 degrees” and “wash clothes in cold water.”Stay enrolled in these email notifications until the end of the program and you can receive $2.50 for every therm you save on each SoCalGas Advisory day event. At the end of the winter, we will then add up all your savings on SoCalGas Advisory days and you will receive a rebate equal to your total therms saved multiplied by $2.50 per therm.[1]


Good luck with that

What you see is an approximate 8" gap between two cinder block walls with a Brazilian Pepper growing between them.


"clean-coast economy"

An apt phrase, but new to me.  I'm just taking note of it here since it seems to capture a lot of ideas in a simple phrase.

As seen in the LA Times in this opinion piece by Steve Lopez.

“I think California’s clean-coast economy is hanging on by a thread right now,” said Ocean Foundation senior fellow Richard Charter, who has worked for decades to protect coastal waters from offshore oil and gas drilling.

Google's Ngram viewer doesn't have enough results to graph "clean-coast economy" or its variants, suggesting that it's a newer term of art and a few directed searches for the phrase "clean-coast economy" suggest that it's a newer term.

Never underestimate the power of a well-made turn of phrase to capture the zeitgeist of the moment.


Sanctuary garden design

Originally introduced by Juli, I've met Terry Hershey before but in early November I had the opportunity to get to know him better as I participated in a workshop he gave in San Diego. You can visit Terry's web site (www.terryhershey.com) to find out more about him, but in case you are not so inclined, here's a snip from his biography. 

TERRY HERSHEY—author, humorist, inspirational speaker, dad, ordained minister, golf addict, and smitten by French wine. He divides his time between designing sanctuary gardens and sharing his practice of “pausing” and “sanctuary,” to help us do less and live more. Terry’s book, The Power of Pause, offers the permission to slow down and to be gentle with ourselves, in a world that demands More-Bigger-Faster. Most days, you can find Terry out in his garden–on Vashon Island in the Puget Sound—because he believes that there is something fundamentally spiritual about dirt under your fingernails.
The workshop focused on the idea of sanctuary -


Garden Adjectives

Juli and I argue about the garden - It's one thing that is sure to spark an argument.  We have a garden guru / counselor / designer who has agreed to coach us lightly through a design process and our first assignment was to come up with five adjectives that describe how we want to feel in a garden.

I came up with the following not_five adjectives.  Sitting with this a while in draft form on the blog has given me the chance to define and distill them as well as to link associated or somewhat duplicative ideas (for example, Wonder and Appreciation came to be linked in my list, though they started out as separate adjectives).

When I first formulated the list, I had a tendency to fall into the trap of defining how I wanted the garden to be.  I found that a way to help guide the process in the right direction was to start each item with the phrase, "I want to be/feel _____".  The parts of the list that I couldn't phrase in such a way belong in a different list.  There were two such items on this list prior to its most recent revision, but there were more earlier. 

  1. I want to be Surprised and have my Curiosity Stimulated - I want to take a turn down a path and see something that is only visible from certain vantage points.  I want to have my curiosity stimulated to find out what's behind a gap in a hedge.  I want to have whimsical add-ins to the mulch, objects hidden among shrubs, funny or interesting or meaningful garden art.  I want to find unexpected pollinators buzzing about. I want to see something that makes me take a closer look and photograph the moment.  Blooms, bugs, birds, movement, hidden features, nooks.
  2. I want to feel a Sense of Discovery - This is linked to Surprise and Curiosity.  An example might be to discover ethnobotanic uses for a plant or to learn by experience what grows best and what garden practices help.  I think this is telling me that I want to garden rather than just be in the garden.
  3. I want to feel Wonder and Appreciation - I like to see unexpectedly heavy blooms, birds dive bombing among the plants, interdependence of one plant on another, flowers blooming in cracks
  4. I want to feel Joyful
  5. I want to feel Peaceful
  6. I want to feel Sheltered - There should be spots that cradle and surround
  7. I want to feel Restful - I want to be able to pull up a chair and rest while watching the garden move gently around me: in the breeze or with wildlife or to be still in the heat of the day.
  8. I want to feel Energized - Energy of others may be contagious.  If the garden is full of wildlife (I'm definitely counting insects here) and motion and the stored energy of newly emerging growth at the right times of year then I would find that energizing.
  9. I want people, pets, and wildlife to feel Nurtured - I guess this means that I'd like them to share the feelings that I've listed above. 
A related concept I found the on the web reads more like a bill of garden rights or a manifesto.  There's a high probability that it came from Mother Nature's Backyard.  I originally copied it as a group of well-formulated ideas, but I didn't keep track of where I found it nor if had I made modifications to it. 

We deserve shade, beauty, and places that call us to spend time outdoors.

Beautiful - Trees, shrubs, flowers, diversity, seasonal interest, natural.

Purposeful - Gardens that tell a story, you write the narrative.

Functional - Save water, provide habitat, recreate microenvironments and ecosystems.

Experiential - Invite people into the garden, paths, benches, garden art, feature plants.

Restorative - Healing places. Both the land and the visitors experience a new wellness. Ecologically sound.
Designed - Hodge-podge plant combinations are not pretty, regardless of why they were planted in the first place.

Things to avoid (I don't think we will have problems avoiding these)   
A bunch of random succulents and exotic grasses.
Extensive bare earth or gravel in the name of drought tolerance. 

Juli came up with these adjectives

Overwhelmed senses - sight, smell, sound.
A place to pause/sanctuary
Excitement - wonder

Seems like there's common purpose, doesn't there?

Rain 0.8"; 1.91" total for the season

11-26 0.70"
11-27 0.10"  at 11am

This brings the total rainfall to 1.91" for the season, which is near the median rainfall at this time of year for my area of Southern California.  Our usual rainiest months are still ahead of us.

Sent from my iPhone at great expense



Plants that didn't make it

This Coffeeberry (Rhamnus of unknown species, but intended to be californica) languished on my back slope for years. This one was the success story. One or two others died off earlier.

It could be that the roots were stunted right from the pot, or it could be that they grew that way.
I often bury plant stakes in the vicinity of the plant.  Here's a couple.  I had hoped that Ericameria ericoides (Mock Heather) would be happy enough to self seed.  The two that I planted grew for a while but I think they were shaded out.
Coreopsis gigantea was a winner for a couple years, but I think the soil didn't drain well enough and it turned into a pile of mush this year.  I'll try again this year in a new location with better drainage and no summer water.

Erysimum capitatum (Western Wallflower) was one I tried as well.  It didn't self-seed, though I think it bloomed well enough.



Back slope California native garden plan

Here's a Google map of our back yard with the planting plan indicated on it with scaled circles. The plantings fill a steeply sloped hillside that flows down to the right and ends at a path that borders a property line fence.

This plan derives from one originally made by Ric Dykzeul and executed by me.  Some of the plantings were successful and others were not, for reasons that I try to capture below.  After the break is Ric's plan and my comments.


Spa equipment enclosure

Southern California Edison was doing work overhead and knocked down the side of the spa equipment enclosure.
It was just termites holding hands inside, and I didn't have the heart to take them up on their offer to pay for repairs. Original design was poor, but like a lot of things on my house I guess it got the job done for the prior owner.


0.36" rain this season

Our rainy season started off with a nice nearly 0.2" of rain that fell overnight

17-Oct 0.19"

This was then followed by unseasonably hot temperatures for a few days.

Then a nice cool-down.

23-Oct 0.03"
30-Oct 0.14"

Current conditions for the drought are captured here: http://www.californiadrought.org/drought/current-conditions/, which mostly speaks to the water year(s) just ended:

...the 2012-2015 period encompasses the driest four consecutive water years in California since 1895, with statewide precipitation at only 62.2 inches. The second driest four consecutive years was 1917-1920, with 63.1 inches of precipitation, when California had a much smaller population and far fewer acres of farmland.
The forecast for the 2017 water year is still uncertain. The weakened La Niña conditions offer the possibility of a wetter year ahead, but forecasters remain wary. It will take a long time before the end of drought finally arrives as the state needs multiple, consecutive wet winters, and ideally cooler years, to increase soil moisture and allow the mountain snowpack to accumulate....


I'm 10b, definitely 10b. ...or is that 23?

I'm talking about USDA Zone 10b.  You can find you own garden zone using the interactive map provided by the government.  There's helpful street and satellite map overlays, which I chose not to show below, but it's clear enough once you get to the web site.

Zone 10b has low temperatures in the range 35 to 40 F, so it's supposed to never get below freezing.  That seems about right.  The zone system is a bit simplistic if it's the only criterion that is applied to guide plant purchases. Apparently this is more a problem in the west than the east, since our secondary growing factor is water.

Sunset Magazine takes this and more into account and says I am in Sunset zone 23.

ZONE 23: Thermal belts of Southern California’s coastal climate 
One of the most favored areas in North America for growing subtropical plants, Zone 23 has always been Southern California’s best zone for avocados. Frosts don’t amount to much here, because 85 percent of the time, Pacific Ocean weather dominates; interior air rules only 15 percent of the time. A notorious portion of this 15 percent consists of those days when hot, dry Santa Ana winds blow. Zone 23 lacks either the summer heat or the winter cold necessary to grow pears, most apples, and most peaches. But it enjoys considerably more heat than Zone 24—enough to put the sweetness in ‘Valencia’ oranges, for example—but not enough for ‘Washington’ naval oranges, which are grown farther inland. Temperatures are mild here, but severe winters descend at times. Average lows range from 43 to 48°F (6 to 9°C), while extreme lows average from 34 to 27°F (1 to –3°C).

I'd say they pretty much got it dead to rights.


Native plant purchases

I was at the Theodore Payne Foundation recently and purchased the native plants listed below. The weekend before I purchased some plants from the Palos Verdes Land Conservancy.

1. It feels amazing to be back in the native plant swing of things. I've had a few years where I didn't do much at all, and I've felt the insistent press of the lost opportunities.


2. This blog has been an important garden record for me. I was able to answer questions such as, "What was that Ceanothus selection?" based on my blog entries and a little searching.  It's a good thing that I didn't have to rely solely upon my memory for my native plant purchases of only a few years ago.

With #2 in mind, I've placed a copy of my receipt below and list its contents below the break for ease of later search.


What to bring to the Lair of the Golden Bear

Updated from a 2009 blog entry based on feedback and review.

We've camped at Lair of the Golden Bear in week 2 for many years now.  Week 2 has occasionally started with snow on the ground and ended with 80 degree days, so the weather planning is key.  This list of things to bring is based on the official source, Bad Mom's blog, and my previous blog entry on the topic.

Newbies note: Your cabin should come equipped with a broom.  Sweep out the spiders and debris before moving in.

Bedding and linens
A warm sleeping bag, pillows, and pillowcases
Electric blanket (This turns out to be a good idea as of 2010)
Heating pad (good to warm inside of sleeping bag)
A twin sized sheet and/or pad to cover the mattress under your sleeping bag. This prevents your sleeping bag from slipping off the mattress quite so easily.
Towels: beach towels, shower towels, and washcloths

Disco Bingo or a skit might require appropriate clothing or costumes beyond your Lair clothes.  For Disco Bingo many people wear 70s era disco clothing - the wilder the better.  You are the best judge if you need this or clothing for any skit you want to perform at the Golden Review (camper talent show).

Bring casual old clothing to stand up to the Lair's dusty environment. Be prepared for warm days and cool nights. There are washing machines at the Lair. They are free as is the detergent, but I'd hate to be surprised.
shortsbathing suits (consider 2 pair for kids because this is the 24/7 uniform for certain ages and they get worn playing in the creek)
long pants - mostly for warmth in the evening
sweaters / fleece wear
jacket - it can rain, so a shell with a zip-in liner would be a good move here
hats: knit for cold nights and brimmed for day time sun protection
rain gear
sweatpants that can double as pajamas
long underwear (also for PJs)
Shoes - hiking boots or trail running shoes
In-camp shoes
flip flops
Aqua socks - for creek crawling. Better than an old pair of tennies.

Recreational and Activity items
reading materials, board games, playing cards
white t-shirts for tie-dye or t-shirt painting
fishing pole and tackle. 8-12 year olds have group fishing activities.
(die hard Lair campers will want to remember their softball mitts too)
swim goggles - chlorine in the pool is kept high
your own supply of bisqueware (they have only basic shapes).
your own garments for tie die (The General Store will have suitable items too).

For your cabin
Cabins have electrical outlets and a single switched light bulb.
Largish plastic bins for organization
alarm clock
ice chest (with a secure lid because squirrels and raccoons are hungry)
secure plastic tub for snacks
folding camp chairs
folding camp table
clamp on lights and extension cords
extension cords
Exterior lights of some sort - Distinctive lights help you find your way back to the cabin after dark. Some people had novelty Christmas lights, or even the standard twinkly sort.
plastic bags for trash (or recycle ice bags)
hammer and nails (bring the hammer at least so that you can drive in a nail that surfaced over the winter)
screw hooks (if you aren't satisfied with using a nail)

Miscellaneous vacation needs
flashlights: at least one for each family member
sunglasses: UV is more intense at altitude
laundry soap (in case there's none provided)
quarters (for laundry if it's gone back to a paid system)
clothesline and clothespins
markers for identifying your stuff or marking schedules, etc.
backpacks for everyone (makes carrying towels, etc. a lot easier)
pocket knife
cheese knife (if the pocket knife won't do)
church key (redundant if the pocket knife has one)
wine glasses (plastic)
sparkling  wine stopper (provided you plan to have or save any)
moleskin for blisters (the first aid tent is liberal with giving this out, but you might as well be prepared)

Your usual plus:
A+D ointment. It's dry and this is great for chapped skin.
insect repellent
anti-itch medicine such as hydrocortisone - mosquitos are the worst.
chapstick with sunscreen
band aids

Cooler for chilling your drinks
Snacks - Just bring enough for the car and a famished kid emergency, though juice or soft drinks might suit you better. Food is so plentiful at meal times in camp that it's really overkill to bring more. That said, there's a lot of overkill going on.  Cheese, dips, and crackers are useful to share at cocktail hour.  The water tastes delicious there, so I tend to enjoy a lot of that.

Adult libations - Wine to share at the lodge, after the kids have gone to bed or for cocktail hour get-togethers. Beer tastes better than usual at the Lair and it's handy to share.


Colorado rain barrels

Bad Mom Good Mom sent me a link to an article on rain barrel legislation in Colorado. It's a quick but balanced perspective.

Full URL below:

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0.22" rain; 7.30" rain total

7 May 2016 0.22" rain

This is a later-than-normal rain for us and in an amount that is useful.  Talking with local friends, rain appears to be highly variant around my area - some reported only a light mist.

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0.11" rain; 7.08" total

14 March 0.02 (added on the heels of the last storm, but not noted in the blog)

7-8 April 0.05"
8 day April 0.03"
9 April 0.01"

Unexpected rain this late in the season.  I was out watering in the yard, since an opportunity to add to Mother Nature's bounty is not to be lost.

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0.51" rain; season total 6.97"

11 Mar 0.51" rain.

I never saw it. The skies were clearing by the time I left work but I was told it was heavy at times.

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Cooperative Observer Network (COOP)

Bad,Mom, Good Mom dropped me a note to bring this to my attention:

Through the National Weather Service (NWS) Cooperative Observer Program (COOP), more than 10,000 volunteers take daily weather observations at National Parks, seashores, mountaintops, and farms as well as in urban and suburban areas. COOP data usually consist of daily maximum and minimum temperatures, snowfall, and 24-hour precipitation totals. These data may include additional hydrological or meteorological data such as evaporation or soil temperatures. Online data access is provided at no charge.

I'm making note of it here in case readers are interested and as a reminder to myself to dig into the available data when I have a spare moment.


Squatter and friend

0.65" rain; 5.21" total

18 Feb 2016 0.65"

February is normally our wettest month.  In terms of 30 day periods of time, Jan 18 through Feb 17th is typically our wettest 30 day period.  Not this year; we are well below the median rainfall despite the big El Nino. 

The game isn't over, however.  Remember the March Miracle of a several years ago? 


Wrong place wrong climate

Pay attention to the tall tree in the middle of this guy's lawn.

It looks like a redwood. This one Is just a youngster but it looks like it's in ill health. This tree is located in an Inland S. Ca. community. Probably not getting enough water.

If the owner is lucky it will die soon and be taken down at only modest expense. The alternative is that it gets bigger and more costly to take down (or falls down) in a decade when it finally succumbs to less than optimum growing conditions.

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Don't know or don't care

Hmmm. What's this?

Don't let your dog urinate....

Oh it's just a warning sign about their new sod and it's screwed to this poor Chinese elm. This is a warm summer inland community.

I guess they haven't heard about the drought.

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Rainwater Colander

Here's a "rainwater colander", an inline downspout rainwater diverter, a product I first stumbled across at my Home Depot while looking for a downspout extender to better direct rainwater into my garden. It snaps in to your existing gutter downspout (provided you use one that is sized for your downspout). It's "designed to filter out debris in rainwater collection barrels and systems" including surge tanks and "can connect to a garden hose to water plants directly".
The image shown is Amerimax brand, available at Orchard Supply Hardware and elsewhere for around $10 or less.  This seems to be the least expensive that's readily available.


Rain barrels in other places

I saw a rain barrel a week ago that appeared to be completely justified by local weather and usage patterns.


0.4" rain; 4.56" total

31 Jan 0.40" 4.56" total

Sunday early morning through midday rain brought 0.4" in my back yard.  A quick visit later in the day to the ocean side of the hill suggested even less rain over there based on ground dampness and lack of visible ponding.  What really wreaked havoc, however, was the high winds that blew over a number of trees.

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You keep a knocking but you can't come in.

My brother was watching the house while I was away and caught these photos of a skunk or skunks trying to get back under the house after we sealed up their point of entry.

His triumphant email read: 
Try as they might, they can't get back in. Brent and I
put the lockdown on Pepe Le Pew's house of fun. Too bad
for them. :P 


Surge tanks vs. rain barrels IV

I'm sure I left you dangling in a previous installment with the question of how rainfall intensity affects the usability of surge tanks.  I talked about rainfall intensity without actually answering the question, but we can now get to the answer that I am sure you've been waiting for.

A recent discussion on radio station KPCC asked rain barrel owners what they would do with ALL THAT WATER.  The answer was that their tanks were overflowing, they were too heavy to move, and no one knew what to do with the water.  They were talking as if they were going to hoard it for a hot summer day!  It was a gigantic Duh moment, but they were too blinded by ALL THAT WATER  - all 55 gallons of it - to take a leap to the most logical place which is to reject rain barrels and embrace surge tanks.

Meanwhile, a friend who is an actual meteorologist stopped an earlier post in this blog by to say that most 30 minute southern California rain bands could be accommodated by a surge tank.  That's really the bottom line, isn't it? If you can't flow rain water directly from your gutters to some place where it will infiltrate, then it might pay to have a surge tank type of set up. Let's see if she's right with a little garden engineering. 

It's also nice to make some estimates, since the possibility is that surge tanks needn't be gigantic 55 gallon drums and therefore might be more seemly in the garden.

This post is again mostly stream-of-consciousness garden engineering, which I am pretty sure has a limited appeal.  It may also be wrong.  Therefore you may find this analysis simple or simple-minded.

1.12" rain; 4.04" total

7 Jan 1.0"
8 Jan 0.12"

I think I had a data entry error on the 6th and entered 1.75" when I meant 0.75", so I've fixed that.

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0.75" rain; 2.92" total

This is the first of several El Nino - driven storms that are in the queue
5 Jan 2015 0.75"  (This was previously reported as 1.75", but I think that was an error.  Title and this line fixed 1/13/16.)

Historically, the median rainfall during all of January is about 1.5", additionally, the historic median cumulative rainfall at the end of January is 3.8".

We're definitely headed for the predicted high rainfall winter given that nearly the entire month still lies ahead.