Before After Before

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I’ve been worried about this slope off and on since we moved here almost 15 years ago. Right before we bought it, it was completely stripped of all plant life.

I battled a lot of weeds, and we tried planting different types of plants here over the years. Between the steep angle–which was very hard to keep my footing on–and the wide temperature variance (as low as 10 degrees in winter and as high as 120 in summer), I’ve had a hard time keeping things alive here. The survivors look pretty random and have grown at vastly differing rates.

Hydra put in the bottom wall during two long hot weeks back in 2002.  It has held up very well!

The combination of a killing summer during which we could only irrigate twice a week rather than twice a day, and the predictions of big El Nino rains this fall spurred us to have this terracing put in last week.

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We planted some beautiful pampas grasses along the top of the slope a few years back, and they looked great, but had a very bad effect.  All the other plants around them died off because they blocked the water. When we had them taken out, they left the top of the slope beneath our neighbor’s gray block wall susceptible to erosion.

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What I aim for is a landscape that looks intentional but not manicured.  (One of the six pampas grasses is still there, kind of holding that end of the the slope together.  I plan to rework the natural rocks we have at this end, which is toward the street.  There will probably be more rocks and a few plants in this area.

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Looking toward the street.  You can see how our Aleppo pine has suffered through the drought. We are wavering between having it topped or entirely removed.  Sigh.

I was all excited, taking these After pictures.  Then I sat down to play with them and I thought, “Oh.  These are Before pictures again.”

I am going to learn a lot about California native drought tolerant plants in the coming weeks and months.  This may just be planted with mostly wildflower seeds this fall to buy some time!

Hoping this stands up to El Nino!  Wish us luck!

Mighty Fine Apple


We don’t grow a lot of apples in our yard in Southern California, so I have to show off this big beautiful Granny Smith.

I enlisted Dodger’s help to give it some scale, and then the California topo map because…boosterism, I guess.  This apple was grown between the L.A. Basin an the Mojave Desert, due west of Dodger’s right toenail.

Ulitmately, I think this photo says more about Dodger’s patience with his humans than it does about fruit or California.

A Little Santa Ynez


We aren’t really used to this much green in Southern California.  Traveled to the Santa Ynez Valley to spend the weekend with The Harmonistas and spouses, and this is what greeted us.

Nice drive up there. No traffic issues. Wow. Arrived around 11 a.m.


Entrance to the house we stayed in. It’s being rennovated right now and will be a vacation rental house. Thanks to LDub’s daughter, who works for the very interesting man who owns it, we were able to stay here for the long weekend!


We went to the Chumash Casino with Janice & Andy because we each received $50.00 in promotional cash for signing up for a membership card. None of us are gamblers, so we were just very happy to cash out any time we were ahead. I left with $23.10 and Hydra with $78 and some change.

Of course, I’d have lost $27.00 if I were playing with my own money. Which I wasn’t. And wouldn’t. Because I try to be a gracious loser in foot races and board games, I’m a lousy loser when it comes to this sort of thing. It would have stressed me out beyond any sense of fun if I had been playing with my money.

As it was, it was fun to goof around for an hour and a half or so.


This cool door knob thing was the only photo I took in Solvang this time around.  It was on a shop door.

We two couples went to the very small Hans Christian Andersen Museum in Solvang. (LDub and Weezy were to arrive later in the day.) Hydra, Kitty and I were last here in 2008, and there are a couple of pictures of the museum from then on this previous post.  It’s inside a book store. Cozy!


Later in the evening, when everyone was there, they surprised me with a vegan birthday cake!  It was so tasty!

We hung out and played a board game called Imaginiff. One of those that’s more about laughs and getting to know each other than real competition. Though Andy did win!

The Sky and the Earth



Enjoy looking at nature?

Maybe it enjoys looking back.


Taken on the long driveway up to our neighborhood from the road.  This horse is one of three corralled here, and she was upset that the other two were out for a ride.  The people who live here train horses and I’ve never heard or seen them be rough with their charges.  Thank goodness.


Um…because a puddle. On Smith Avenue, which is pretty much the main street in Acton. I suppose some day those big old trees will be gone and the meadow they stand in will be filled with something, but for now, this is how it is. (There’s a little post office, bank, real estate office, market and restaurant to the left, all lined with a wooden sidewalk.)


The view from the fire road behind the house first thing in the morning.


All our new roofs!  Yep, we’re in a great manufactured home community where most people own the lots as well as the houses and there is a lot of pride of ownership.  We chose this home for the great neighborhood and the privilege of living with great hiking and mountains around us.  Thirteen years and still happy with the decision.

Water. From the Sky!?


It’s actually raining in Southern California. As you may have heard. But that’s no reason to rashly turn off the sprinkler system!


Our road, looking toward the 14 freeway.  It floods when it rains very much. I kind of like that they just bulldoze away the gravel that washes into the road.


Another view.  As you can see, lots of the arroyo bed has washed onto the road. While I was standing here, someone rolled down his window and asked if I was in trouble. Love Acton.


Right after I took this shot, a man came out of the brush on the left. He was all excited.  He told me he’s a painter and he has painted in this arroyo many times, but he’s never seen it with water flowing in it before.


Okay, now it needs to rain enough to move all this pine tree stuff off the drive and down the street.


Noooooo!  The faux flowers and the metal rooster were blown around the corner of the garage and down the sidewalk.

[shakes fist at sky] How much of this destruction are we supposed to take?

Okay, Midwestern friends.  Sorry.

Running (Slightly) Afoul of the Law

P1030159At this point, I decided to check and see if the road did, in fact, continue.

The last thing Kitty and I did on our weekend of coastal adventure was to drive around the Palos Verdes Pennisula.  I did this with a little thrill of danger in my heart because I’ve read for years about the way the Palos Verdes Pennisula is slumping away into the sea.

It’s a piece of land that sticks out from the mainland and it’s beautiful, but it’s falling apart due to natural geologic and oceanographic processes apparently exacerbated by lawn irrigation and septic leaks.  Most of the info I found online is pretty dry, but there’s an article on Easy Reader News that, while long, is interesting.

As we drove around Portuguese Bend, we encountered a sign that said basically, Use Extreme Caution: Constant Land Movement. With more details that we couldn’t read at 35 mph.  I would love to have a shot of that sign, but the bumpy, winding road didn’t have a wide enough shoulder.

I spotted a sign referring to Abalone Cove and saw a dirt road leading through an open gate. Three tween girls walked around the bend and grinned at us as they passed the car. We saw a sign facing us that listed rules for use of the nature preserve.

But the steep road and the geologic uncertainty freaked me out.  I could just envision the Sonata toppling over a cliff just beyond our view.


Kitty got this shot of me looking down at Abalone Cove far below.  A steep gravel one-way road twisted down to the shore from where I stood, camera-less.

I’d just decided to pull the car over and invite Kitty to walk up and have a look when a big parks police truck with red lights on top pulled up behind me.

A female officer got out of the passenger side.

“I’m just trying to figure out how to get out of here at this point, ” I said.

“Was the gate open when you got here?” she asked.

“Yes. Absolutely.”


This is what we would have seen if the gate hadn’t been standing wide open.


And, um, this, which would have been helpful information.

The nice ranger advised that I could back out if I wasn’t comfortable turning around in the wide space that was bordered on one side by a rock wall and on the other by a hundred foot drop. 

Thank you, officer.


A brief glimpse of the part of Abalone Cove which can apparently be accessed by legal means.  It would be fun to go back and hike out there. Backing down that road was not much fun.

We enjoyed the views along the rest of Palos Verdes Drive, which I would recommend if you’re in the area.  Nice Sunday drive.

Then we headed back to Hydra in the high desert with the 4 pound 3 ounce fresh rhubarb pie that we picked up on our lunch stop back at Jongewaard’s Bake n Broil.  That’s a lot of fruit for $11.95!

November 3, 2013


Laguna Beachiness

DSC_3461One of the best travel companions a person could wish for!  Always up for an adventure and interested in local history, flora and fauna wherever it resides!

Crystal Cove Connection

Trying out this gallery function on the blog.

We finished the day’s touring with Crystal Cove State Park.  It’s a lovely piece of coast line and the old cottages there, whether the ones that have been rennovated and are available to rent or the ones in disrepair are fascinating.

We met up with the cousins at their place in Laguna Hills and Cuz M drove us all to the beach. We walked and explored while we waited for a table on the deck at Beachcombers–Cuz P was smart enough to stipulate that we wanted deck seating.  It was terrific to sit and watch the sun go down from our table. The food was good and they even gave us little blankets because when the sun goes down at this time of the year, it gets chilly right away.

The last stop was what we’ve dubbed the Cousins B&B.  Comfy and friendly accommodations at the home of Cuz M & Cuz P.  It even included a glass of wine before bed and breakfast with good conversation.

Cuz M took off in the morning to help with a docent lead hike in the Laguna Hills.  We’re looking forward to tagging along on one of these in the future!

Saturday, November 2, 2o13