Saturday, December 25, 2010
Every year I marvel at the displays in Hastings Ranch. The displays themselves are fun. But, to me the most amazing thing about it is the show of neighborliness. There are 1100 homes in this neighborhood and, driving around, it looks like nearly all of them participate. Remarkable. Really, where else have you seen so many neighbors pulling together to present such a show?
They've done this since the 1950's. More than 50 years of neighbors coming together to put on Christmas displays. What a great tradition.
Upper Hastings Ranch (north of Sierra Madre Blvd.) was largely developed in the early 1950's. Modestly priced homes were offered on favorable terms and young families clamored to get in. According to longtime Ranch resident and current mayor, Kathy Gregg, the neighborhood was known as Rabbit Hill due to the number of children.
The folks of Rabbit Hill were a congenial bunch. With all the kids around, they started coordinating displays at Christmas time. Kathy says the whole thing got started with luminarias (paper bags and votive candles) lined up along parkways.
Turns out some in the neighborhood were Hollywood types and took things to the next level. Last year Pasadena Adjacent (I'm astonished at what they know over there) commented that set designers helped get the displays started. Apparently the designers' creativity combined with lots of community spirit to produce Christmas displays that were set up along the neighborhood's parkways. Wikipedia says the whole tradition was in place by 1957.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Courtesy of the California History Room
California State Library, Sacramento, California
Let's set the scene.
The year was 1878 and it was Christmas-time at the Sierra Madre Villa Hotel. Only five years earlier, noted painter William Cogswell had purchased 473 acres of wild mesa land in the vicinity of present day Eaton Canyon Golf Course. After Cogswell's purchase, the hard work began and the property was soon transformed into one of the west coast's preeminent resorts.
Cogswell's son-in-law, William Porter Rhoades, supervised the work and was the proprietor of the hotel. Rhoades was captivated by the Villa's setting in the foothills of what were locally known as the Sierra Madre or Mother Mountains. And you can imagine the magic he saw as he looked south -- green orchards and vineyards stretching out in the valleys below and ocean views in the distance. He wanted to create the most beautiful spot in southern California.
Rhoades embarked on an ambitious scope of work. He hired 75 Chinese workers, whom he housed on site in a bunk house. They cleared the land of chaparral that was reportedly so dense a rabbit couldn't pass through it. They piped water down from Davis Falls to the property, built a reservoir, installed irrigation and then planted the orchard and vineyard.
Rhoades hired a carpenter to build a house for his family, which is pictured above and is the subject of an earlier post. By 1877, the 20-room Sierra Madre Villa Hotel was completed. The hotel provided luxury accommodations for the day -- boasting running water to each room, a wide veranda and spectacular views. Rhoades kept the Chinese workers on as hotel staff and to maintain the Villa property.
Now, Rhoades and his wife, Jennie, had children including a young son named William Lauren Rhoades. The younger Rhoades grew up at the Villa and later recounted his memories in a short book titled The History of the Famous Sierra Madre Villa Hotel. In his book, the younger Rhoades describes Christmas at the Sierra Madre Villa Hotel in the late 1870's.
From The History of the Famous Sierra Madre Villa Hotel by William Lauren Rhoades:
Christmas morning was always the opening of an eventful day. I well recall of 1878. After breakfast I was taken out to the front of the house and there stood my donkey, which was given me two years before to ride and I named her after my Mother, Jennie, and there she was hitched up to a two wheeled cart made to order with a swell leather seat, the running gear was painted red and the body black, the harness was black with shining brass buckles. The guests all stood round enjoying my delight. I took Mother in at once and we drove off in style and many were the happy days I had with the children at the Villa in that turnout.
Christmas morning the coach that ran to the San Gabriel Southern Pacific Railroad Station daily for the mail and passengers, was ready to take any who might wish to go to the Episcopal Church in , as was the custom on Sundays. Then the day passed and all were in readiness for the big event in the evening with the Christmas tree.
Rhoades goes on to describe the evening festivities. The Rhoades family, Chinese workers and hotel guests all participated. To the guests' delight, the Chinese workers would enter the hotel parlor with a flourish. Dressed in fine silks, their heads were freshly shaved with their "cues" hanging down their backs and red ribbons braided into their hair. They came bearing gifts of sweet lichi nuts, ginger and dainty cakes. In turn, the workers were presented with a fattened pig for roasting. It must have been quite a show.
The evening also included traditional Christmas carols after which the tree was "stripped."
Friday, December 17, 2010
You can go to the market's Facebook for the latest information about vendors. Prolific blogger Victor Caballero has a great review of the October market here and photos of the November market here.
This market is something you really should do. You'll be supporting an emerging local economy and, even if just for a moment, disengaging from all the wasteful trappings of commerce as we typically know it.
You'll find wonderful handmade foods and products - all locally produced and all first rate. The folks who run this thing make the best goat cheese in the county and they've scouted out other top quality local vendors. The range of offerings has expanded each month, but already includes cheese, coffee, honey, breads, garden produce, eggs, plants, soaps, bbq sauce, granola, and home remedies -- all of which you can purchase directly from the person that made the product. It doesn't get any better than that.
And, when you go, please visit my wife's table. Marcia has a line of items that she's made for our family for years and is now offering through her new business, HomeBody Botanicals. It is all nontoxic and all made right here in our kitchen. So far, she offers detergent, household cleaner, salves and skin treatments. She will also have her Fire Cider, a traditional anti-cold remedy that has been infusing for weeks. It is strong stuff, but works when you've got a tickle in the back of your throat.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
Hummingbirds are interesting little birds. They feed by opening their beaks slightly to allow their long tube-like tongue to slip into the flower for nectar. I've never seen this, but hummingbirds also eat insects by nabbing small bugs in flight or picking them off of spider webs.
If you're prone to hyperventilation, you don't want to hang out with a hummingbird. At rest, they take about 250 breaths per minute. Their little heart races as fast -- up to 1,200 beats per minute in flight.
There is a lot interesting hummingbird history. Hummingbirds don't exist in the Eastern Hemisphere. So, when Europeans arrived in the Americas, they had never seen anything like these colorful little birds that could fly every which way. The Europeans were fascinated. Columbus was so impressed that he presented the Pope with a hummingbird skin.
By the 1800's hummingbird skins were popular items in Europe. According to Hummingbird World, millions of hummingbird skins were shipped from South America to Europe for use in artificial flowers, dust catchers and ornaments.
Hummingbirds were also hot fashion items. Seems barbaric today, but in the early 1900's, hummingbird feathers and sometimes whole hummingbirds were used to decorate women's hats. Fortunately wearing dead birds held fashion for only a short period of time. By 1921, both the US and England passed laws limiting the feather trade.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
I much prefer voting at Victory Park. You can't get a more appropriate polling place.
Had a double privilege today. I did my voting early today, then later traveled out to my dad's to help him cast his votes.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Oh, there was a light rain at the park as I took this shot. Ahhhhh, a cool respite from all the recent heat.
Very, very unusual weather we're having.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Lately, after nightfall, we've been hearing the hoot of an owl. Tonight we heard two owls. If you click on the video and turn the sound up you can hear the owls. In mid-video, I saw the two very large birds fly away.
The owls are likely Great Horned Owls. The Eaton Canyon bird page says Great Horned Owls are common to our area. Other owls (like the western screech owl and northern pygmy) have been seen, but only rarely.
The Great Horned Owl is a fascinating bird. As I heard tonight, male and female owls call together - each in its own pitch. They hunt at night by swooping down from a perch to snatch their prey in their strong talons. Don't even think about shaking hands with a Great Horned Owl. The crushing power of their talons is almost ten times that of a adult human hand. Like most other raptors, they have extraordinary eyesight and hearing, but a very poor sense of smell. The later quality probably explains why skunks are a regular part of their diet.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Monday, September 6, 2010
Please join us for the second round of meetings on the Eaton Wash to review the trail designs developed by our consultants. You have your choice of a meeting in or a meeting in . We got a lot of really good input from the first round of workshops and I encourage you to attend one of these final two meetings to hear about the draft designs and provide your comments.
Workshop #4: Design Review
Altadena Community Center
You can also download a flyer in English and Spanish to help us get the word out.
See you there!
Saturday, September 4, 2010
Alligator lizards are actually good swimmers. They swim with a vigorous undulating motion that resembles a snake in the water.
Once out of the water, the lizard paused before scurrying away. I like this lizard profile because it shows how long their tails are in relation to their bodies.
Two years ago one of my first posts was of a young alligator lizard. California Herps says that these lizards lay their eggs in May to July and that the eggs hatch in late summer or early fall. Judging from other alligator lizards I've found around here, this recently hatched reptile will get much bigger and will lose the orange stripe down its back.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Saturday, July 31, 2010
It was a pretty pastoral scene, the cool of early day, birds singing and a pair of doves making their family home. Occasional cooing floated down from the trees. I watched Mr. Dove as he glided down to the ground, loaded up with the biggest twig he could carry, then flew up to a roof and into the oak. The male dove gathers the twigs and the female builds the nest. You can't see it, but the doves' nest is just a few yards from the peak of the roof, hidden in the oak branches.
Doves and particularly doves with twigs in their beaks are symbols of peace and rest. It was a dove who found land and brought Noah the olive twig signifying the end of the flood. When Picasso wanted to symbolize peace, he drew a dove. And, this beautiful July morning it was easy to understand why as I watched the doves go about their business.
So, here we were, the doves and I. Peace and contentment abounded.
But, (cue Jaws theme) a predator was watching.
Doves are a favorite food of the Cooper's Hawk. The hawks soar overhead looking for food, looking for doves.
And they hide in trees, surveying the area for their next victim. Cooper's Hawks like to hunt with sudden dashes from a concealed perch and swoop in low to snare their victim.
Cooper's Hawks have incredible eyesight -- 20/2 or eight times better than excellent human vision. While we could walk right by this dove and not even notice it, the hawk would see the dove clearly from afar.
So, there I was -- watering and happy to watch the dove come and go. The dove was pecking around for twigs not more than fifteen feet away. I can't speak for the dove, but I had no idea of the danger that lurked nearby.
Then it happened. Seemingly out of nowhere, a hawk swooped down from behind me, veering around my right side about waist high. He came so close that I felt a small breeze and an instant chill. Had I lifted my arm, I would have hit the hawk.
As he swooped around in front of me, I recognized the Cooper's Hawk. I watched as the hawk flew low, aiming straight for the dove, talons down.
The harsh reality is that being a dove is high risk. Mortality is high. Six of ten adult doves die each year from predators and other causes. The risk is even higher for young doves. But, the circle of life is in high gear. Doves are prolific breeders, raising up to six broods a year, and are among the more abundant birds.
If caught by a Cooper's Hawk, a dove's fate is not pretty. The hawk's talons are strong and needle sharp. The hawk wraps its talons around its prey and then, in mid-air, kills its prey by repeatedly squeezing it.
I don't know how often a dove can evade a swooping Cooper's Hawk. But that is what happened. Fortunately for the dove, it was standing near an apricot tree and even more fortunate for him, he saw the hawk. As the hawk swooped down toward the ground and stretched out its talons, the smaller bird darted behind the apricot. By the narrowest of margins, the hawk missed and the dove got away.
With one powerful flap of its wings, the hawk rose up and over the fence. As quickly as it had appeared, the hawk was gone.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
The picture above is a "cabinet photo" of the beekeeping operation at the old Sierra Madre Villa Hotel.
My search for Sierra Madre Villa beekeeping turned up an old issue of the Western Honey Bee and an article from an old timer who reminisces about early beekeepers in Los Angeles County. He lists more than a dozen beekeepers operating in the 1870's - 80's. He writes, "Nearly all of the apiaries were at the foot of the Sierra Madre, wherever a stream or spring could be found."
So, it shouldn't surprise that the enterprising folks of the Sierra Madre Villa Hotel kept bees -- the old hotel being amply supplied with water from the nearby stream flowing from Davis Canyon.
I count more than 75 of the box towers or bee hives. From what I've read, each hive may have 20,000 to 60,000 bees, depending upon what time of year it is. If all of these hives were occupied, that's a lot of bees.
At first, I was surprised to see the beekeeper in these photos walking around among all these bees without any protection. Though I don't quite understand it, there seem to be other beekeepers who work with bees without the white spacesuit and mesh helmet as protection.
Apiary at Sierra Madre Villa
Saturday, July 17, 2010
It has really been hot. Today Accuweather has us reaching 98 with a feel like temp of 101. An Excessive Heat Warning has issued for the San Gabriel Valley due to high heat and humidity.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Average high for July 15 is 90. The record high for the day was 104 in 1930. Hot again tomorrow.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Anyone know if this is a juvenile hawk?
I haven't found it, but there is a nest somewhere in our neighborhood. Mornings and evenings we hear the hawks screeching and occasionally spot the family of hawks flying overhead. I've seen two adult hawks and at least two juveniles.
It might look like I've turned this photo on its side. But, other than cropping the photo, this is the real deal -- a young hawk flying straight up. When I took this, there were three hawks in my field of vision -- an adult hawk soaring above, another juvenile darting sideways, and this one who took the up elevator.
I posted a year ago about Cooper's Hawks and had better luck at getting a clear photo. Last year's post also has some background on this amazing bird.
Saturday, July 10, 2010
Seems like it has been unusually cool and overcast for most of July. The Fourth is generally blistering, but this year it reached only 80 degrees. The high for last Wednesday and Thursday was only 76 and yesterday reached up to 83 degrees.
So, I went to Accuweather to check on normal temps for this time of year. Turns out that historical averages for the first couple weeks of July are in the high 80's and on July 15 the average edges over to 90 degrees. So you know what's coming up, average temperatures stay at 90 to 91 for the rest of July, all of August and the first week of September. We generally have a few days where high hovers around 100.
I like the cool, but I think it's slowing things in the garden. Tomatoes are growing much slower than last year. It will get hotter here in all too short a time. The forecast for next week moves us into the 90's.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Here's the thing about Hahamongna: the place is unique. Just over the city's edge and at the mouth of the Arroyo Seco, Hahamongna is a rare spot that lies between the San Gabriel Mountains and the expansive urban flatlands. There's a stream, native plant life, animals and birds.
Nothing like it in Pasadena. Really not much like it in all of southern California.
Hahamongna should be preserved.
Soccer fields, are important. But, soccer fields do not need to be built in Hahamongna.
So, what's with the map?
We don't generally think much about the natural landscape of our cities. That's probably because we don't see much of it any more. Hills have been graded down, low spots filled up, ravines covered, buildings erected.
But, there is or was a natural terrain around us. The map shows this in detail -- the dominant San Gabriel Mountains, the smaller ranges, the valleys, and near the middle of the map, two rivers running from the mountains to the ocean. You can spot where Pasadena is -- in the upside down "u" just east of the big San Fernando Valley.
Aside from the fact that old maps are fun, the point is this: The valleys are expansive. But over the entire region, there are few places where river, valley and mountains converge. Hahamongna is one of those places. Let's preserve it.
For others participating in the Great Hahamongna Blog Day, visit these great local blogs:
Altadena Above It All
A Thinking Stomach
East of Allen
Finnegan Begin Again
LA Creek Freak
Mister Earl's Musings
My Life With Tommy
Pasadena Daily Photo
The Sky Is Big In Pasadena
Webster's Fine Stationers Web Log
West Coast Grrlie Blather
Avenue to the Sky
91105 and Beyond
Monday, July 5, 2010
This photo isn't great, but this is really what it looks like during the finale. A lot of smoke mixed in with fireworks and accompanied by a loud succession of booms.
I tried, but didn't get a picture of the fireworks that exploded into a giant happy face over the Rose Bowl. However, I did get these zeros.
Saturday, July 3, 2010
Berries. Berry season is short, but great. Two years ago we planted blackberries. For some reason I didn't think we could grow them, but they've done just fine. Had dozens and dozens of berries this year, none of which made it into the house. Something irresistible about berries off the vine -- you just got to eat them when they're picked. I'm told it takes about 4 years before the vines will supply enough berries to actually pick for preserves or pies.
Apricot. This is our first tree to fruit each year. Seems every year I forget just how good homegrown fruit is. And then I pick my first ripe apricot of the season and it all comes back. Wow. Sweet as honey. We did a good job of getting the apricots off the tree before they rotted or birds got them. Got some fruit leather out of it.
Avocado. Lots of young fruit on the tree. Will keep deep watering every other week. We have to wait a long time for the fruit to mature, but it will be well worth it.
Plum and peach. These are young trees with a whole lot of fruit. The plums are small but really sweet and about gone. I'm disappointed in the flavor of the peach, but we will likely have enough for a run at ice cream this weekend.
Citrus. Citrus around here is a mixed bag. Our established lemon has not produced for a couple of years, but is loaded this year. We have several mature trees that were "rescues" from folks who didn't want them and transplanted in our yard. They are in various states of recovery. A few younger citrus is kind of poking along. This is all kind of wait and see. Ironic because, like much of this area, our house was once part of a citrus grove.
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Thursday, June 17, 2010
My Laker allegiance goes back to when the Laker big men were named Rudy and Mel instead of Shaq or Pau. For me, the finals against the Celtics have been equal parts joy and fear. Joy of the thought of another championship. And fear of yet another loss to Boston.
Yesterday's Times captured my mood. Heisler wrote about the Lakers' '69 loss to the Celtics in game seven. Plaschke couldn't get away from "nagging twinges of doom." Me too.
I got those twinges of doom even in the first minute when Kobe drove the lane, was mugged, and no foul was called. It was clear the refs would only call the most egregious fouls and that favored the Celtics. It also promised an ugly low scoring game, which is what we got.
Kobe never got on track, made just 6 of 24 shots, and missed free throws to boot. The rest of Lakers team were the heroes -- Fisher, Gasol, Odom, Sasha. The enigmatic Ron Artest played an incredible game. And, right after the game, Artest made NBA finals history by becoming the first player to thank his psychiatrist on national TV.
Local postgame coverage on KABC Channel 7 was absolutely terrible.
Instead of reporting on the celebration inside the Laker locker room, KABC focused on the crowd outside of Staples Center and on a few stupid incidents. There was helicopter coverage of the foolishness and several reporters on the street. They trumped up as much unrest as they could, glorified the drunken fools and repeatedly interviewed the police. About the last things I wanted to see after an historic Laker win.
Monday, June 14, 2010
Recently the "toy department of human life," has offered up a lot to ponder. That's especially true for this lifelong LA sports fan. We've got the Lakers-Celtics again in the NBA finals and the NCAA's ridiculous sanctions against USC football. We've got the US tying England in soccer.
Then, in a whole different category, there's the passing of John Wooden.
I grew up a Laker, Dodger, Ram and Bruin basketball fan. Back then, UCLA basketball was just amazing to watch -- the stifling full court press, Kareem, Walton, and the rest. Ten NCAA championships in a dozen years. Nothing like it before or since. But, as dominant as UCLA was in the 60's and 70's, you always knew there was more to those teams than just basketball. There was the person and the teaching of John Wooden.
Coach John Wooden died June 4 at the age of 99. He coached his last game in 1975, yet what the man taught was so enduring and so compelling that 35 years after his retirement his death was front page news across the nation. By "the numbers," he ranks as one of the greatest coaches of all time -- regardless of sport. But, remarkably, almost all of the buzz (and there's been a lot of it) is not about basketball. The Internet is filled with story upon story of Wooden's teaching, his upright life and his devotion to his wife, Nell.
Wooden's life began in 1910 in a house with no indoor plumbing and it ended this month with his life and his teaching splashed across the World Wide Web. Through it all, he was guided by a seven part creed given him by his father, an Indiana farmer. Kind of bedrock rules for living, the creed stood the tests of time and place -- from Wooden's schoolboy days in Martinsville, IN to Westwood in the tumultuous 60's and they anchor his legacy today.
I've enjoyed the celebration of Wooden's life and reconnecting with Wooden's teaching. Now, make today your masterpiece... and be quick, but don't hurry....
Monday, May 31, 2010
Monday, May 24, 2010
But, sometimes street names are repositories of local history; markers of people or places that are important parts of a community's story. That's the case with Titley Avenue. In fact, there's a whole lot of East Pasadena history all rolled into that little soon-to-be no more street sign.
Last Fall, I ran a post about Titleyville (also commonly called "Chihuahuita"). I also ran posts on J.F.T. Titley, who built a small town of low cost cottages as a "benefactor" to the poor and called the place "Titleyville," and the drama that ensued when Mr. Titley seemingly bilked the families who bought his homes.
The renaming is part of the extension of Kinneloa Avenue under the 210 freeway, which is a positive thing. But, I didn't want the moment to go by without at least some nod to Mr. Titley and Titleyville.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
First, a little history about the park and that funny name "puddingstone."
In 1928, Puddingstone Dam was built and a reservoir was created from water from a stream that flows through San Dimas Canyon. According to the San Dimas Community News site, the dam and reservoir were named "Puddingstone" after rocks in the area that looked like raisins in pudding. In the 1950's the reservoir was stocked with fish and Los Angeles County began adding purchased water to the reservoir to keep the water at a consistent level. Somewhere along the way the park was named for Frank Bonelli, who was a county supervisor.
Back to the jamboree, which is why we were at Puddingstone. My son had a great time. I did too.
The jamboree's main event was the Plywood Regatta -- with dozens of homemade plywood and canvas kayaks. This picture was taken early Saturday morning as kayaks started arriving at Puddingstone Reservoir. A couple of scouts are already in their kayaks ready to get out on the water.
Making the kayak was a memorable experience. Fortunately our troop has some folks who know their way around a shop and helped the rest of us put these together. Basically, the kayaks are four sheets of shaped plywood held together by strips of canvas and lots of contact cement. Our kayak worked well and weathered more than a few collisions.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Saturday, April 24, 2010
I enjoy watching the squirrels in our yard. They chase each other up and down trees, jump from limb to limb and have a quirky manner about them that's just funny.
But, did you know these industrious little rodents are not native to California? From my Internet research, it looks like our squirrels are Fox Squirrels and were introduced here from the east.
Fox Squirrels liked it in southern California -- nice weather, year 'round food, lots of neighborhood trees, no natural enemies. Kind of squirrel heaven.
These squirrels seem to much a natural part of the environment in Pasadena, it is strange to think they're really an introduced species and that there was a time, not so far away, when they didn't live here at all.