The Assignment? “Explain the Delta”

Posted on | March 17, 2015 | No Comments

When KCET came to me with a project funded by the Rose Foundation to "explain the Delta" to Southern Californian's, the easiest explanation was, "You're drinking it." The first in a multi-part new series for KCET shows how California set out to spread water from places that had it to places that didn't. This 1930 map from the California State Water Plan shows how engineers were eyeing Delta water for the San Joaquin Valley in the run-up to the construction of the federal aqueduct system known as the Central Valley Project.

When KCET came to me with a project funded by the Rose Foundation to “explain the Delta” to Southern Californians, the easiest response was, “You’re drinking it.” The first in a multi-part new series for KCET shows how the Delta became ground zero for a plan by California and the federal Bureau of Reclamation to spread water from places that had it to places that didn’t. Click on this 1930 map from the California State Water Plan to be taken to Part One of the KCET Bay Delta Project.

Bob, Ted, Leavenworth and Bavaria

Posted on | February 25, 2015 | 1 Comment

bobtedmountiansIn 1960 Bob Rodgers and Ted Price opened a Bavarian-themed cafe in the depressed logging town of Leavenworth in central Washington. A decade later, residents were dancing around maypoles. Prompted by Rodgers and Price, Leavenworth became an Alpine-style resort so popular that it received an “All America City” award and was featured in Look magazine. Yesterday Rodgers’ niece, Arlene Collins, phoned to say that Price died on February 19th in Vancouver, Washington. Her uncle had died “just about exactly a year earlier.” So, if heaven exists, it’s a safe guess that it’s about to be redecorated. Here’s to the men who once wrote me a tongue-in-cheek note that began, “Thank you for outing us on the front page of the Los Angeles Times.” And here is the 2003 LAT piece that prompted the note from the World War II veterans who braved American lumberjack country and decided that a good new look would be lederhosen. Photo: Rodgers and Price/

Proposition 1 analyzed for voters

Posted on | October 23, 2014 | No Comments

Screen grab PacInst reportCalifornians, whether you love, hate, or have heretofore been unaware of Proposition 1, a measure on the pending November 4 ballot that would raise $7.12 billion in public money for water projects, here is the best-considered and most impartial breakdown that you are likely to find. Everyone who reads the Pacific Institute’s Prop 1 summary or report itself is likely to have at least one takeaway line.

Mine is: “water conservation and efficiency efforts would be allocated a mere 1%.”

Fourth year in the garden

Posted on | October 17, 2014 | No Comments

Helianthus annuus. Photo: Emily Green

Helianthus annuus flowers. Bees, finches and squirrels will keep visiting even cut flowers — if you leave them outside — for nectar and seed heads.

When I remarked to a neighbor that a group from the Los Angeles County Arboretum was coming this week to tour my garden the response was: “Why?”

Bragging never ends well.

That said, it’s as good a time as any to link to this photo essay of the fourth year in the garden.


Starve the lawn, not the tree

Posted on | October 1, 2014 | 3 Comments

Tree Failure Report. Source: University of California

Photos: University of California Tree Failure Report Program

It’s encouraging to see residents of greater Los Angeles cutting back on lawn irrigation and/or switching to less thirsty ground-covers. But there has been an unintended consequence. Civic-minded homeowners have been under-watering — or not watering — their trees. While deciduous trees register the stress palpably enough that many homeowners are alerted to the need to irrigate, most evergreens can’t wilt. Rather, their leaves furl and their needles droop. Formerly turgid and healthy limbs become brittle and vulnerable to boring insects and the diseases that the bugs too often carry. Stress a big tree enough and it becomes prone to what monitors of our urban canopies call “tree failure” (an interesting term for an outcome that is almost never the tree’s fault, but that of those managing it). A treeless Los Angeles would be a harsh, hot and bleak place. To prevent that from happening the Urban Forest Council has issued this brochure. Click here for more about common causes of tree failure, and here, here and here for an excellent three-part guide to planting trees from horticulturist and Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden fellow Barbara Eisenstein.

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