Saturday, November 24, 2012

Sierra Madre's Who-Ville Festival and Small Business Saturday

Are you Black Friday'ed out?   Tired of fighting your way into the big box to pay big bucks for big plastic things shipped in from overseas?   Well, here's a small town antidote to your weariness.

Today, Sierra Madre is presenting its Who Ville Festival.  It runs from 1 PM to 8 at night and all the information is here.   

The festival, like "downtown" Sierra Madre, is the antithesis of the Best Buy/Target/Walmart experience.  One is small town; the other Big Box.   One is lots of small stores. The other lots of long aisles.   One is picturesque and homey.  The other ....   Well, I could go on, but you get where I'm coming from.

I've posted before about one of those small Sierra Madre locally owned efforts -- Mother Moo Creamery.  
The Moo, as we call it around here, opened a year ago and is now a fixture at 17 Kersting Court.   They are local folks, who hire local folks and who get their ingredients locally.   And, they turn out gourmet products on par with anything you'll find in town or out of town.

Special for today, the Moo will be hosting other locals upstarts who make top quality products.   Marcia will be there with HomeBody Botanicals.  In addition to her great lotions and salves, she'll have some extra special stuff for the holidays.   One is Elderberry Syrup made with elderberries that our family wildcrafted in the local foothills.   Another product I really like is her Fire Cider, which we take in the winter to ward off colds.  Like everything she makes, the Fire Cider is made from locally or organically sourced ingredients and is carefully packaged. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Black Friday at East Pasadena's Best Buy

This week I've watched the line outside Best Buy grow.  It started Monday with a few guys who set up camp outside the front doors.  The line has grown each day.  Here's a picture taken at 7 PM tonight (Thanksgiving night).  The line now stretches from the Best Buy doors (which are on the other side of Ross) south all the way to Foothill Blvd.

They are in line to get a shot at  buying the Doorbusters.   This year, the Doorbuster to top all others is a 40 inch Toshiba flat screen TV for $180.  That's an advertised savings of $240.

We talked to a guy toward the front of the line.  He's after the Toshiba flatscreen for re-sale.   Of course, there are other items he wants too.      

Doors open at midnight.   There's still time to get in line. 


It is fun to watch people set up camp in front of Best Buy and to see the line grow.  But, I have no desire to get in that line.

What looks better to me is Sierra Madre's WhoVille set for Saturday from 1 PM to 8 PM.     .  

Happy Thanksgiving

Wishing you a happy Thanksgiving with a photo of a wild turkey I took north of Sacramento and a 2009 post that's an oldie but goodie:

Some interesting turkey facts on this Thanksgiving Day.

Turkeys are the biggest game birds in North America. Wild turkeys have dark feathers to help them blend in with their surroundings. They eat seeds, berries, acorns and small insects. At night, they evade predators by sleeping on tree branches.

Wild turkeys populate many areas of the country. Seems wild turkeys were also native to the Los Angeles basin. Don't know if any wild turkeys remain here. But, there are wild turkeys in northern California. The flock above was photographed in the Sierra foothills.

None other than Benjamin Franklin championed the turkey for the nation's Great Seal. Dismissing the bald eagle as a scavenger of bad moral temperament. Franklin preferred the turkey because, "though a little vain and silly" it is a "Bird of Courage." I think Franklin more loathed eagles than exalted turkeys. He also made a case for putting a rattlesnake on the Great Seal.

Ever wondered how the turkey got named? The Story of How the Unofficial Bird of the United States Got Named After a Middle Eastern Country is an entertaining piece on the MIT website that explores the question. And yes, our word "turkey" was named after the country Turkey.

The turkey on your table this afternoon is a distant cousin to the birds that fed the Pilgrims or which roam wild in the foothills. The National Turkey Federation website describes modern turkey production. Domesticated birds have been bred to maximize breast and thigh meat, can't fly, and have white feathers which don't leave pigment spots when the bird is plucked. The NTF reports that per capita consumption of turkeys in 2009 is estimated to reach 17 pounds.  That's a lot of turkey.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Forecast: Hot

The forecast for today, October 1, is very hot -- 105 with a real feel of 109.  Pretty much the same for tomorrow.   PSN's award winning columnist and Temple City blogger, Steve Scauzillo, has a good piece on our spate of oppressive weather including some observations from JPL scientist Bill Patzert.  Experts say we're in for a hot and humid October.  But looking ahead, I see Accuweather's calling for cool temps next week and even rain for next Monday.  We'll see.

Anyway, the photo was taken a couple of weeks ago when we had the whole weather works going -- heat, thunder, lightening and rain.  Today, no clouds.  Just hot and humid.   Crazy weather for Southern Cal.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

1961 Cadillac at TJ's

Forty grand will get you this 1961 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz convertible, parked and on sale today at the Trader Joe's parking lot.   There's an information sheet on the side window that says the this '61 was one of only 1,450 made and was designed as a "toned down" version of the more ostentatious Cadillacs of the late 1950's.  No mention of the Elvis plate -- maybe the King owned one.  In 1961 this car would cost you $6,477, which equates to about a $50,000 car today.  

 I'm not normally big on cars.  But, this is history.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

County Official Points Gun at Compost Guru?

Earlier this year I posted about my meeting with local legend, Tim Dundon.   I recounted my visit to his home in northwest Altadena, which is more or less a monument to compost.   Chickens and geese run loose at Tim's place and have for more than three decades.  That's Tim pictured above dumping a a load of compost in our yard.  

The Pasadena Star News has posted an excellent video interview with Tim.   The piece was filmed by Walt Mancini at Tim's home, which Tim refers to as the "Wormisphere."   The video captures Tim as an entertaining and eccentric lyricist and compost guru.  It also touches on Tim's most recent encounter with The County.  As Tim describes it on the video, The County's actions are absolutely shocking.

Now, if you want to get real technical about things, conditions at the Wormisphere might violate one or two County rules.   And, apparently a new neighbor called with a complaint.   So,it is not surprising to me that The County would send someone to check out the Wormisphere.  

But, I'm shocked to hear that The County sent officials to Tim's place with weapons drawn.  Yeah, that is what is reported in the video and in a companion PSN story.   In the video, Tim reports and demonstrates that a gun was pointed at him.       

And, earlier this week, the PSN ran a story by James Figueroa reporting that, according to Tim, Los Angeles County officials came onto his property,  "held a gun to his face" and threatened to kill his dog.  In a creepy parallel, the story also quoted a County building official urging Tim to cooperate with The County and stating, "We're pretty good about working with the public." 

What am I missing here?   How on earth does a complaint about loose chickens and plants lead to The County entering Tim's property with guns drawn?

You can call Tim visionary or eccentric, but he's hardly dangerous.   The County's actions are outrageous, scary, and need to be immediately redressed.     

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Bear Attack Kills Two Chickens

Early Tuesday morning I took one step outside and saw this.  Sometime during the night, the side of our chicken house had been ripped off. 

Right away I knew it was bears.   A mother bear and two cubs have been in the area for weeks now.  Sunday night they were in a yard up our street and attracted the attention of the police, animal control and a helicopter.   On Monday morning, which is our trash pick up, they upended our trash cans and those of many up and down the street.    

As I put on my shoes, I was stunned, mad and sad all at the same time.  I knew we had lost chickens and I knew the bears had gotten them.   I walked to the hen house and saw a mass of feathers inside.   And the nesting boxes I made had been broken apart.   It was not hard to envision what had happened.    

I counted five chickens.   All were intact and looked fine.   Two of our flock were missing.   

I walked the yard and quickly found the remains of our two hens.    One hen, dubbed Speedy by our daughter, had been eaten no more than 20 feet from our back door.   The other hen, a pretty buff and white feathered chicken, had been taken to the front of the yard.   Very little was left of either bird.

I also saw plenty of other bear evidence -- two piles of bear poop, a broken fence and punctured volleyball.  

Though we live in the City of Pasadena, we're no strangers to wildlife.  I've devoted more space on this blog to wildlife than anything else for the simple reason that I'm amazed by it.   It is fascinating to see a hawk, coyote or bear in real life. 

Until now, I've thought we coexisted reasonably well with the wildlife.  But, the bears present an unusual challenge.  They're just so big and strong.   Coyotes can be fenced out. But, bears -- they go where they want and do what they want, including breaking through fences and ripping the siding off a chicken coop.        

I have to admit they're wearing on me.   I can deal with the trash barrels.    I don't like it, but I can fix a fence or two.   But, I hate losing our chickens. 


As I post this, I'm not sure what we're going to do.  We hear from others that bears are still in the neighborhood.   As things stand, we have no way to stop them from breaking into the coop again.   And, if we left our remaining chickens in the coop, the bears would certainly return for more.   So, while we figure things out, we've temporarily  relocated our chickens to another home.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Bee in cardoons

 Our cardoon plant took off this year and is now about eight feet tall.  It is related to the artichoke, and grows dramatic purple flowers on top of a spiky globe.   The bees love them.  Supposedly, cardoon stalks and flowers are popular food items in the Mediterranean.     We tried the stalks and found them stringy.  Maybe we harvested too late in the year.  

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day 2012

As I've done for past Memorial Days, today's photo is of the base of the Gold Star Mothers flagpole at Victory Park which was built in remembrance of those who died in service to their county in WWII.   Today, one who remembers adorned the plaque with flowers and a United States flag.

Roses aligned in a "V" remind us that, in 1952,  the City of Pasadena dedicated all of Victory Park as “a living memorial to those who fell in World War II."

A couple of years ago, Ann Erdman did a fine piece on  the founding of Victory Park.  She tells the park's story from the end of the war to the 1952 park dedication.    Eleanor Boyd, national president of the American Gold Star Mothers, and Pasadena's Mayor, Alson Abernathy, presided over the opening festivities.


Today is a day to honor those who died in service to our country.  It is a day to remember.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Morning Bear

We were having breakfast this morning, sitting at the table right next to the screen door.   I had my back to the door and was enjoying some morning eggs and coffee, when our daughter says, "there's a bear."    My first thought was that she was kidding.  Her voice was a little too calm.  So, I took another bite of eggs.

My second thought was that it was strange for her to kid about a bear.  Why kid about that?  So, I turned around and looked outside.  There, on the other side of the screen door, not more than ten feet from us, was a young bear.

He roamed over to our chickens, which sent the birds scurrying inside their pen.   The bear sniffed around the chicken wire, pushed on it a bit, thankfully not hard enough to push it over.  Then he moved on.

The bear climbed our apricot tree.  It is not a very good shot, but I got a picture of him in the middle of the tree looking back at me.   There's not much fruit left on the tree. Most all of our apricots are eaten by kids doing exactly what the bear was doing -- climbing around the tree looking for ripe apricots.

After about ten minutes we watched the bear move on.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Signs -- Geese Crossing

About this time of year, geese have a habit of hanging around Pasadena High School.   In past years, we've seen geese resting on the median grass in front of PHS and have even seen goslings tottering up Washington Blvd. on the east side of PHS.   Last year, I did a post with photos titled The Geese of Pasadena High and this year, it looks like the geese are back again.    So much so, that someone has posted this geese crossing sign on the Sierra Madre Blvd. median in front of the school.  So, watch out for geese when you're near PHS.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Encounter with a Legend

I drove carefully down his street and pulled up beside the curb.   I turned the engine off and took in the scene. It was noisy like a barnyard.   A rooster crowed.  Chickens clucked and scurried around my car.   I watched two hens scamper across the street.  They darted into a yard where a big red rooster held forth -- posted menacingly atop a fence.   The rooster crowed some more.   An overcast sky darkened.  

I had ventured over the edge.  The northern edge that is.   I was in Altadena.


"Dad, is that where we're going?"    Thinking there would be some educational or historical value to our visit, I had brought my teenage son along to share the experience.    He pointed across the street to the house with big red out in front.   The rooster crowed some more. 

"No," I said.  "He lives somewhere back here."   Both of us were relieved. 

We walked down the street toward a jungle of trees and shrubs.   The sound of birds grew louder as we approached the mass of green.   I saw a gray haired man on the sidewalk and called out, "Hi, are you Tim?"   The man shook his head and said, "No, but I can take you to him."

 The man led us down the sidewalk to the front of the jungle.    "He lives in here" the man said pointing toward the wall of green.  I looked to where the man pointed, but saw no house; only plants and birds.  Then, with his hands, the man parted two low lying branches and stepped over a short wall into the jungle. 

We followed.   Once in the jungle the light dimmed as we walked over a narrow spongy path.   Plants brushed our shoulders and trees angled overhead.  There were more chickens and more ducks and more noise.  Then geese and turkeys ran to join us, honking and gobbling.  Suddenly our narrow path became uncomfortably crowded.  We pushed forward.

At last we turned a corner into a small clearing.   A patch of sun broke through the jungle.   We had reached the house.  But, we were now closed in.   The porch was in front of us and the jungle to the back and sides.   The geese and turkeys had followed and were a in a phalanx behind us, honking and gobbling in indignant tones and blocking our exit.

"Not many people make it this far," said the man matter-of-factly.   And I do believe he was telling the truth.   


You have to be extra ordinary, highly unusual, to become famous.  I think that goes double when you're talking about Los Angeles and especially Atladena.   The extraordinary seem drawn to these places -- like flies to light.   It takes a lot to stand out here.

But, Tim Dundon does stand out and has for a long time.  His list of monikers tell you he's no ordinary guy.  He's the Sodfather, the Guru of Doodoo, the Compost Crusader, Zeke the Sheik the Compost Freak.  Tim's got a message and he's made his point.

Tim spreads the Gospel of Compost.  He'll wax eloquently and even poetically about the wonders of compost -- how decaying foliage can be used to give life.   And he walks his talk.    His own jungle is a testament to the growing prowess of his methods.  So is the compost pile he keeps at his home.   Known as Zeke's Heap, the pile at one point reached 40 feet high and 200 feet wide.

An Altadena flag was designed bearing Tim's likeness and that of his pile. 

Many stories have been written about Tim and his work.  Daniel Chamberlain has a good one here and LA Weekly did a good piece back in 2004.   Video of Tim is plentiful too, with good stuff on YouTube here and here.   .


So, there we were, our guide, my son, me and seemingly dozens of birds, all standing at Tim's door.  After some wait, we finally met Tim.   A big guy, he appeared a bit stooped over with age.  Tim's gray beard flowed down past his chest and his long gray hair was gathered behind him in a pony tail.

Considering we had arrived unannounced, Tim was as gentlemanly as could be. He spontaneously talked about the wonder of compost.  I told him we were getting our vegetable garden ready.  Tim said his magic mulch would work miracles in the garden and talked about the importance of mulching to protect the soil.  

I asked if he had compost available and he readily obliged.  He pulled an old business card and a pen out of his pocket.   On the corner of the card, he wrote my address and phone number.  He said there were others ahead of me, but that he would he would call when he was ready.    I thanked him for the visit and for the compost to come.  

Tim said that he would deliver a load of "craptonite" to our  house in about three weeks.

And, he did.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Drama in a Meadow off New York Drive

It is always fun to see deer - especially when you live in the city.   I saw these deer this afternoon at the edge of the meadow across from the old Earthlink building on New York Drive.  

There were four deer.  Two large deer and a couple of younger, smaller deer.    . 

Then I spotted another animal moving over the hillside above the meadow. . I couldn't get a great look at it.  But, it was definitely a cat. Looked like a bobcat or small mountain lion.   I saw the cat move along a stretch of chain link fence and then crouch down.     About fifty feet and a line of chain link separated the cat from the deer. 

I watched the drama play out from the street.   Would the cat go after the deer?

Then I moved in for a closer look.  Camera in hand, I very stealthily stepped over a string of wire and crept into the meadow.   With one eye I watched the animals.  With my other eye,  I tried to navigate the meadow without stepping on anything crunchy.

I made my way well into the meadow.   I still had a bead on the deer.   The cat lurked behind the deer. A hawk soared above.   Just a few more steps and I would pause for what was going to be a great picture.

Then, quail happened. 

I've seen quail in the meadow before.  They scurry around from bush to bush.  Fun to watch. Hard to follow.  Impossible (for me) to photograph.

I had taken one step too many.   A bevy of quail scattered across the ground in front of me.   I watched the birds dart through the brush.  Then, I looked up.  The deer were walking away.   I looked in vain for the cat.  It was gone.

The drama was done.  Show over.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Mulch Mountain

Though The Windstorm was two months ago, the vestiges of the storm are still with us.    Fallen trees and limbs are still being ground up into mulch.   One of the grinding operations has been on Sierra Madre Blvd., just east of PHS.   The mulch mountain there is big -- probably 30 feet tall.   

Another mulch mountain is at the Sierra Madre Villa Debris Basin just west of Hastings Ranch.  The photo just doesn't do justice to the size of the mulch mountain there.   This one too is about 20-30 feet high.

At one point, I read where the mulch was available for use.  But, recently I heard just the opposite -- that the mulch is being trucked away to a landfill.   Anyone know what's really happening with this stuff?   .


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2012 Rose Parade Awards

As we usually do, we walked yesterday morning  to Sierra Madre Blvd. to take in the parade.  It was hot and sunny-- shorts and t-shirt weather - and fun.   Parade highlights included some great bands, two floats built with California Grown flowers and the pooper scoopers.   From the 90-odd parade entries, I've selected the most extraordinary and notable efforts for this year's coveted East of Allen Rose Parade Awards.  Without further adieu:


This award goes to the California Grown float with the best use of flowers grown within 200 miles of Pasadena.   The Cal Poly float, as usual, was one of  the best in the parade.   The float qualified as California Grown because 85% of the flowers used were grown in California.   Even closer to home, many of the flowers on the float are grown by students on the Cal Poly campus 
Always funny, always unique and California Grown to boot.

California Clock Co.makes the famous Kit Cat Clocks.   The company's clocks are California- made all the way and they wouldn't go for imported flowers on their float.  Though rookie entrants, they broke with Rose Parade convention and used all California grown flowers on their float.   The picture does not do justice to  this effort which was exceptionally colorful and featured skateboarders and great music.

 As a group, the pooper scoopers were extraordinary this year.  I'm not sure if these folks are tournament volunteers, professional clowns or what, but this year several of the scoopers put on a show.  This gentleman amazed the crowd with his act of balancing a broom on his chin and then paused for photos.  Now let's put this feat into perspective -- the broom he's balancing over his face just swept up fresh horse poop over the five mile parade route.   To me, this is the kind of stuff that makes for a fun time.  Great act and a.real parade highlight.     


Like the badger.

 These folks were active -- much more active than the Ducks' cheerleaders.   After five miles on the parade route they were still doing stunts.   Great group.


 Can't beat Midwest bands.   These guys were active, engaged the crowd and were fun to watch.   Band members broke up on the street to play, danced around, then some actually went into the crowd.  A great show.


The RFD TV float was led by 100 golden palominos and paid tribute to Roy Rogers, King of the Cowboys.   Saw Trigger, Bullet and Nellie Bell on the float too.  Happy trails to you....

Best living celebrity had to be Hall of Fame announcer Dick Enberg.  He rode in the parade with other greats and carried a sign with his trademark "Oh My" exclamation.  


 The alma mater deserves an award. I'm biased, but  LMU is an extraordinary college and they put together a pretty good float too.  The float celebrates the school's 100th year.  This is the first time Loyola has participated with a parade entry since 1936. 


 Longest float ever, heaviest float ever and surfing dogs.   This was the one everyone waited to see.  Only one problem -- it was hard to see the show standing on the ground.  I heard this was great on TV, but was kind of a disappointment from where I stood.


 Actually La Canada and Sierra Madre both had fun floats.   The award could have gone either way.  But, I like the guy on top of the Sierra Madre float.   Amid budget crises and decline in the local economy, fewer and fewer cities are paying to build floats for the parade.  Kudos to Sierra Madre, La Canada, Alhambra, South Pas and Glendale for hanging in there.   I don't remember an Arcadia float, but otherwise all of Pasadena's neighbors entered floats.   I like the show of the regional pride, but seems strange to me they would build their floats with imported flowers.

Monday, January 2, 2012

News Flash from the 2012 Rose Parade: Two Floats will Use California Grown Flowers

The Cal Poly float is one of only two floats in this year's Rose Parade to qualify as California Grown, meaning 85% of the flowers on the float are grown in California.
  The other 41 Rose Parade floats are mainly decorated with imported flowers.

 The Rose Parade goes back 1890 and was started by the prestigious Valley Hunt Club.  The notion was to showcase Pasadena and all its charms to easterners in hopes of enticing them to move West.   "The abundance of fresh flowers, even in the midst of winter" was part of the enticement.   As eminent club member Charles Holder said, "In New York, people are buried in snow," announced Professor Charles F. Holder at a Club meeting. "Here our flowers are blooming and our oranges are about to bear. Let's hold a festival to tell the world about our paradise."

Now, more than 120 years years after the Rose Parade began, southern California flowers still bloom in January and orange trees are loaded with fruit.  But today the Rose Parade floats carry flowers shipped in from South America.  Holder's notion of showing off our paradise has faded to oblivion.  As yesterday's LA Times pointed out, the floral paradise showcased on today's Rose Parade floats is imported.


Though news to me, this importing flowers business has been accepted for decades.

In a Star-News piece from last year, longtime float builder Jim Hynd observed, "When I first started in this industry in the '70s, 90 percent of our flowers came from within 200 miles of us.... That's totally the absolute opposite now. Most everything we get comes in from South America or other parts of the world."

Turns out that most flowers used on floats are flown from South America to Miami and then trucked 4,000 miles across country in refrigerated trailers.   Parade floats use "an estimated 20 million flowers transported from around the world in aircraft and trucks:orchids from Asia; dried everlasts from Africa; roses from Colombia and other South American countries; and tulips from Holland."

Imports are so much the standard that the official Rose Bowl rose  now hails from South America.  Last year, the Tournament of Roses and Rose Bowl named Passion Growers, a Miami-based importer of flowers grown in Columbia and Ecuador, as their official flower.    As the Times reported, the news infuriated California flower growers.


As strange as it seems, it is big news when a Rose Parade float actually uses locally grown flowers   Yesterday, the LA Times reported that floats from Cal Poly University and the California Clock Company.are using mainly California grown flowers with California Clock shooting for 100% California flowers..  The Tournament of Roses says California Clock is "the only entry to attempt that feat in many decades."   

The Cal Poly floats are always one of my favorites and I understand that the schools' floats have always used flowers grown at the SLO and Pomona campuses.  

The California Clock Company is a parade newcomer and recoiled at the notion of  buying imported flowers for its float.  The company is from Fountain Valley and is best known for its Kit Cat Clocks and its CEO, Woody Young, has distinguished himself as a star of this parade.  As related in the LA Times, "As the leader of a California company, Young said, he wanted to support locally grown ingredients.“All of the parts of our clocks are made in the U.S.,” he said. “We resisted the idea of going offshore for even part of our manufacturing, so it is just fitting that we should have California fresh-cut flowers and greens on our first Rose Parade entry.”


I am a big parade fan.  No other city the size of Pasadena has anything like it.   And, I respect the Tournament folks -- they're a civic minded lot who devote a lot of volunteer time to make this thing happen. 

But, personally, I was stunned to learn the flowers on Rose Parade floats are imported.  To me, importing the flowers gives the Rose Parade a contrived, soulless quality.   Despite all its problems, I still have pride in California and still think of the state as a place where everything grows. 

I am disappointed that parade and bowl leaders don't stand up for California growers and buy local and I am disappointed for California growers who have to compete against overseas' operations that play by different rules.    I'm saddened to learn that yet another California industry has withered in the name of "save money, live better."   

What ever happened to California pride?   Well, it is alive and well down in Fountain Valley.  Maybe it takes a quirky clock maker from the OC to restore some of the parade's local luster.   I hope Woody Young's local pride spreads and I will certainly be watching his Kit Cat Clock float this morning.