Friday, April 30, 2010

Doo Dah is coming.

Each year, the phenomenon known as the Pasadena Doo Dah Parade hits town in a flurry of zany, good-spirited madness and ribaldry. This year's parade steps off on May Day, this Saturday!

Past Doo Dah queens, myself included, have been invited to ride in the parade with the classic Corvette cavalcade. Looking forward to that, along with the new parade route that will prance down the streets of East Pasadena. A parade that needs to be seen in order to be believed...

The parade will be streaming live on Saturday, May 1st beginning around 11:00am Pacific time at: http://doodahlive.com/

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Pinball and butterflies...


Arachnids, insects, isopods, local urban fauna... featured subjects of one of my favorite LA artists Paul Pitsker. His current exhibit, up until 25 May, combines two of my choice obsessions--bugs and pinball. Ding-ding, full tilt...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

You want some Madeira with that?


One thing I love about this time of year is the Echium that are in full bloom. On the hill where I live, there's a patch that raises its head every Spring, begging for attention. These purple darlings, commonly known as Pride of Madeira will probably be bright like this for another few days. They generally do well in poor, dry soils and attract the company of bees, butterflies, and birds.

Naturally, for me there comes a bit of nostalgia knowing that they won't last for long, and that I'll just have to save some patience to see them again next year. To that, I raise a toast to the other good thing from Madeira.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The smell of the ranch...


There was a party on the Westside. In the alley, I spied a gentleman pruning some overgrown ivy on a fence. Against this fence, I also spied a lovely planting of iceburg roses with nopales. Here's an interesting thing about Los Angeles-- you can find the traditional north meets south plantings buttressed up against one another, maintaining a peaceful coexistence.

This gentleman, Juan, mentioned that he'd rather have planted yellow roses but couldn't find them when the iceburgs went in the ground. His face took on another life as he described the smell of yellow roses, a humming pollination aroma from his childhood on a Guadalajara ranch.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Under a pepper tree...

Ernest E. Debs-Montecito Hills Park is one of my favorite haunts. My dog is often treated to a morning hike, wandering the myriad of trails, sniffing along the pond's edge, and taking in the views of the downtown skyline. He decided that he'd had enough and lay down under this particular pepper tree. I'm reminded of Cleo, and have high expectations that she will be able to outweep this one.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Needy roommates...

A stay at Chateau Acorn wouldn't be complete without animal companionship. Throughout my brief residency, I was regularly entertained by the antics of housecats Booj and Lulu.

Booj, aka"the one eye says it all," made his nightly rounds. First came the insistences to be allowed outside for a hunting spree; then came the bedraggled onslaught of meowing at 3am, after carefully leaving his kill on the front doorstep.

Then there's Lulu, the well-intentioned, yet not quite as sharp sister cat. One afternoon, she was spooked by the neighbor's Alsatian and found herself stuck in a pine tree--which required rescue. After this episode, Lulu has become more of a homebody, particularly pleased to tuck herself under the duvet covers in the daytime, and on top of one's legs at night, all purrs.


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Many rivers to cross ...


Le Pont Julien is an old Roman bridge, fashioned from huge limestone blocks, built on the foundations of a 3rd century BC structure. The Roman army used the path on their travels from Turin to Narbonne on the Via Domitia.









(Mistress Margot and Mssr Acorn share a moment)


Amazingly, this bridge was in use until about five years ago. Imagine the rumblings of the stones as eighteen wheelers kissed their worn surfaces...




Friday, April 9, 2010

Bullfrogs and crickets tear down the night...

At Chateau Acorn when I go to bed at night, this is what I hear outside my bedroom window-- only, imagine it ten times louder...


video

Thursday, April 8, 2010

To lavender or lavandin ...

The long driveway leading up to Chateau Acorn suffered some damage last month from an overzealous 18-wheeler that delivered the furniture. Mistress Margot and I declared the site in desperate need of something of the lavender variety--a commodity of which Provence has no shortage ...

A quick visit to The Lavender Museum provided us with a wealth of information about the history, cultivar, and agricultural importance of lavender to Provence. There's a special something about fine lavender, particular to Provence, and only grown in altitudes above 800 meters. The single stemmed flowers, grown from seeds, have been used for medicinal purposes and give a delicate fragrance that was sought out by perfume manufacturers over the years.

Then there's lavandin, which grows between an altitude of 0 to 800 meters all over the world. The plant has branches and grows in large round clumps. It's sterile and is reproduced through cuttings. Many of us confuse lavandin with fine lavender-- however, the smell of lavandin is stronger and cannot be used for medicinal purposes. So there, all you lavender enthusiasts. The museum has an impressive collection of stills used in lavender oil distillation too.

When we spied heather at Appy, it was a done deal. We organized a simple alternate planting of lavender and heather flanking the drive...















A nice place to rest.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Spuds and such...

Moving right along... we constructed the potager, a raised bed amidst a field of clay. And we amended the soil a few times over.


Planting seeds we did -- we're eager to see what takes...

-carrots
-beets
-rocket
-eggplant
-spring onions
-zucchini
-bell peppers


For some height and added interest, we made a trellis around which will twine sweet peas in hues of pink, blue and purple. And for good measure, we happened upon some marigold plants to stand sentinel, and ward off slugs and any other unwanted garden riff-raff from the bed corners...









Potatoes grow well here, and we found a separate area on the property for a potato patch.


After preparing the spuds, and leaving them to sit for a few days, we were ready to go ...








... and so was El Burro, who was dusted off, and brought out for tilling! Behind the potatoes, we made a few more trellises for sweet peas that will add a nice contrast to the back of the studio.


I predict dishes of patate raclette will be served at Chateau Acorn's kitchen in the future.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Ruisseau

The babbling brook speaks for itself...

video

Monday, April 5, 2010

Phyto Phagus.

With so much acreage on Chateau Acorn's property, we recognized the imperative to use the land sustainably.

The composting project was another undertaking that required architectural sign-off and necessary approvals from Mssr. Acorn, who was instrumental in the saws and tool department...











The design took shape over a few days time, in between rain showers...










And Phyto Phagus (the plant eater) was born, thanks to the fastidiousness and attention of a Greek...













Let the composting begin.

... gently down the stream -- merrily, merrily, merrily ...

So we had a veritable marshland in the front meadow. One evening, after discussion over...










...it was agreed that we divert the water to an outlying municipal ditch. The excavation, placement, and arrangement of this ruisseau (streambead) has been an intense focus of our efforts this last week.

After identifying the grade of the land, the digging in the muck began...












We placed some rocks and planted assorted grasses strategically along the stream's edge. We plan to add some water-loving flowers alongside within the coming months, once things progress. We also lined the entire ruisseau with stones found on the property...












It rained on and off during the project, which proved serendipitous. We are quite pleased with the burble and chatter of the stream.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Cleo, weep for us.

Upon entry to the grounds of Chateau Acorn, one is greeted by the marshlands...










We decided to make the area more accessible by creating a streambed to divert water from flooding the meadow. (More on this project in coming posts.)

In the meantime, our first attack on this swampland was to plant a weeping willow which would be amenable to the site and have a predisposition to wet. Mssr. Acorn and I digging and planting...










As with many things at Chateau Acorn, there is a penchant towards anthropomorphism. We look forward to many long years ahead of weeping and sighing boughs...













Her name is Cleo.

Good omen...

<----Double rainbow...








Saturday, April 3, 2010

Introducing Maggie, the hyacinth...


From henceforth, this lovely little purple hyacinth will be called Maggie, in honor of the winner of our contest. As promised, the flower will remain in the swathe of the front yard of Chateau Acorn in good company with the many iris and newly planted Tuscan garden. Thanks to all who participated!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Tuscan gardenlike...

Our adventures in Appy rendered the materials for a Tuscan garden. Our cypress tree, Grazia, took the most care for preparing. Before, Grazia, and the lavender and santolina ...














With a little coaxing, and many stones lighter...








After, came the horseshoe and shadow...

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Appy, Part Deux...

We went to Appy, the amazing nursery nearby...







We were so eager to get planting that we were able to convince the pepinier (nurseryman) to help us pack everything into the car:

- one 15 ft tall weeping willow tree
- one 8 ft tall cypress tree
- two santolina bushes
- ten assorted grasses
- twelve lavender plants

Oh yes, we did.






The trunk full of greens...

Kitchen gardening ...

Among the smaller projects on the grounds of Chateau Acorn is the kitchen herb garden. We renovated a patch nearer to the kitchen for a small herb garden that includes rosemary, coriander, parsley, thyme, chives, marjoram, and sage. Some plants we started from seed and others we happened upon on remote corners of the property.

Two resident felines, Lulu and Booj, may have been tempted with a fresh patch of earth so easily accessible. So, we placed chicken wire down on those patches to discourage them from visiting the area.

Before...









After... (and cat-proofed)