Monday, September 15, 2014


Summer was too short and way too busy. I spent most of it driving. Drove from LA to NYC, and back again. Then flew back east for another family gathering. This was followed by a backpacking trip in the Hoover Wilderness. Finally home, feeling exceedingly guilty about my carbon footprint. At home I ride my bicycle to the video store instead of taking the car, but overall I am not there. The word hypocrite keeps popping into my head.

Nevertheless, I will keep moving on, trying to do what I can. In case anyone out there is unaware, we are experiencing a rather serious drought. While backpacking in the Hoover Wilderness west of Bridgeport, CA, we really saw no evidence of it. The lakes were, for the most part, nearly full, and streams were flowing.

Lane Lake near Leavitt Meadow
Lane Lake on morning we hiked out of back country.
This was in contrast to our trip last year that started at Mono Creek Trailhead near Lake Thomas A. Edison.
Dust blows from dry lake bottom of Lake Thomas A. Edison in September 2013.
Not much need for the boats. (Sept. 2013)
Furthermore, it is hard to believe that there is a serious drought when driving past farmland that is being irrigated with overhead sprinklers mid-day in very hot, windy conditions. Does 30% of that water even reach the roots of our precious food crops? Still, I believe the Governor, our city officials, and Metropolitan Water District. We are in trouble and we can ignore it if we choose, but it will be at a cost.

This Saturday I will be speaking at the 2014 Native Plant Symposium, Saving Water, Creating Beauty with California Native Plants, of the Santa Clara Valley Chapter of California Native Plant Society. I will be presenting a slideshow with pictures of native plant gardens, including the good and the bad, peak flower season and the dry, hot, sleepy days of the rest of the year. Other symposium topics include drip irrigation, designing garden meadows, soil and compost, native sages, and permaculture techniques for drought conditions.

If Santa Clara Valley is too far away for you Southern Californians, don't miss the Autumn Garden Party at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden's Grow Native Nursery at Veteran's Garden on LA's westside. Carol Bornstein, Director of the Natural History Museum's Nature Gardens and co-author of California Native Plants for the Garden and Reimagining the California Lawn "will discuss ideas on replacing your lawn with beautiful, resilient California native plants." Later, Nicholas Hummingbird will share his knowledge of traditional and medicinal uses of native plants. There will be music, hard-to-find plants, and lots of people who share your passion for California native plants.

It's dry out there! Turn your water-sucking lawn into a wild suburbia.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Milo and the chairs

Hello! Been a very long time. Not sure anyone is still out there in Wild Suburbia cyberspace. Are you there? If you are out there, I have a lot to report.

This summer my garden mostly had to fend for itself while I was driving cross-country from west to east and then back again, logging over 9,000 miles. It was a great trip. When I got home, after being gone for over a month, the garden was looking pretty good. My daughter watched it for a couple of weeks and then my husband took over. Nevertheless, I don't think they were over worked, and like I said it did okay. More on that another time.

 The big (and sad) news is that Milo, my garden buddy for many years, is no longer with us. A couple of weeks ago, at the ripe age of 16 years, 8 months, he was unable to stand when he woke up. He is missed. He has been gone for a couple of weeks and I am now ready to write about him.
Milo and the chairs
When Milo was a pup I decided to take him for a walk into town to chill out at a coffee shop. I'd seen other dogs patiently sitting with their people, enjoying the pleasant downtown scene, and I thought, why not Milo?

I got through a fairly quick cup of coffee when it seemed Milo was out of patience. The server, however, was nowhere to be found. I looked around for a place to tie Milo's leash so I could go in and pay the bill but couldn't find anything appropriate. The outdoor seating for the coffee shop was on a fairly busy corner in town. Finally I decided to tie Milo to three plastic chairs that were stacked up near the building. I knew if nothing disturbed him, he would be fine for a few minutes.

I darted inside glancing out the door to make sure Milo was okay, when a woman entering the store inquired whether that was my dog out there. I threw down a five-dollar bill and ran outside only to see Milo running at break-neck speed down the street with the three chairs bouncing close behind. An elderly man tried to stop him and nearly got taken down for his trouble. A woman pushing a stroller averted disaster by mere inches. Milo kept running with me charging after him - and I think, though I don't really remember - yelling out his name. Next thing I know he is headed for the street, between parked cars, no less. The volume of my frantic screams increased, as did my speed. I lunged and reached his leash just as he entered the lane of traffic.

We got back on the sidewalk. I was shaking. Milo was shaking. Luckily we were both young or one of us would have had a heart attack. I detached the cracked chairs and just held Milo. As we slowly walked back to the coffee shop I heard someone call my name. It was a neighbor. All I could think was, did she see that spectacular scene? I made small talk but couldn't ask. Then I replaced the chairs and sheepishly took Milo home, feeling guilty that I didn't leave money for the damage. I just couldn't manage it.

Though gentle and sweet, Milo was always a nervous dog. We never tried the coffee shop again, but for years and years he sat patiently in our yard watching me garden. He rarely needed a leash since he rarely wandered off. When he did, he always obeyed my command to come back. To this day I wonder what freaked him out at the coffee shop to make him take off like he did. I miss you buddy.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Driving east

Did you ever feel like getting in the car and just driving east? You know, leaving the errands behind and crossing the whole country? Maybe it is the extreme heat we have been experiencing. Maybe it is the pull of my family, my daughter, son, sister, brother, in-laws, nieces, nephews... they are all back east. Yes, I want to visit, but more than that, I want to experience the expansiveness of our country, as my husband and I did years ago.

And in about a month, that is just what we are going to do. But of course, there are preparations to be made. Although our kids are grown, we have a dog, two cats, and zillions of plants that rely on us. So today I started setting up the automatic irrigation for the vegetable gardens.

I have posted before (see below) on how to set up a simple low-volume or drip system on an automatic timer, so this time I'll just add a few pictures of the new driveway vegetable garden and the drip irrigation on the raised bed and driveway veg gardens.

Earlier posts on setting up automatic micro-irrigation:

Monday, May 12, 2014

Can you feel the heat?

All of a sudden it got really hot here. And more heat is predicted for tomorrow, the next day and the next day and the next day. Welcome to summer.

I got a few new, used lenses for my Nikon D7100 today. Couldn't wait to try them and they didn't disappoint. I tried to capture the dry heat digitally.


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Beats computers

Yesterday I spent most of the day inside trying, unsuccessfully, to "migrate" from a Windows image database (IMatch) to Lightroom. The reason for the move is that I migrated from Windows to Apple about six months ago. I prefer IMatch as an image database but Lightroom has really nice image editing capabilities, and IMatch is not made for the Mac. Although I have my MacBook set up so it can mimic Windows and run IMatch, it is just too time consuming to move between IMatch and Lightroom. So I spent the better part of the day trying to run scripts in IMatch that would convert the tags and labels that I assigned to many of my 80,000 images to something that could be imported and understood by Lightroom. It was tedious, and scary since I know just enough to do some serious damage (yes, I was working on copies, etc., but you know how it is... confusion leads to frustration that leads to disaster). Well the outcome was a lost day, but at least I did not lose my database.

Today I spent my time much more wisely. I weeded and watered in the South Pas Nature Park. The park is looking quite nice. If you haven't been down there recently, do take a stroll. The park is located east of the York Blvd. Bridge in South Pasadena. There is plenty of parking on Pasadena Avenue.