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June 29, 2011

Maria's debut


It's official. Maria the famous goose lives at the Los Angeles Zoo. And his (Maria's a boy) coming out party will be Thursday, June 30, at the Winnick Family children's area, where the goats, donkey, and piggies live. Dominic Ehrler, Council President Eric Garcetti, Councilman Tom LaBonge, and Zoo Director John Lewis will officially welcome Maria to his new digs at 1:30 p.m. Any zoo-goer can attend the ceremony as well. Honk if you love Maria!

Chicken Corner will be honking and clucking from Washington, D.C.

Photo: L.A. Times

June 23, 2011

The Plumbean Report: On the bright side of the tracks

This home, directly across from the Metrolink Tracks on Marmion Way in Highland Park, is pure Plumbean of the highest order. It's volcanic -- and literary, too, with a quote by the Nicaraguan-Los Angeleno poet/novelist Gioconda Belli.



June 22, 2011

Lake Diary: June

Tuesday at noon it was too hot to walk my dog, Chyla, in Elysian Park. So I drove with her down to Echo Park Lake, where it turned out to be cool, with breezes blowing off the dirty water and all kinds of people walking, fishing, sitting in the shade, jogging, kids swinging in the play area, and an old-boy's network of chess players gathered in the shade. It looked peaceful and permanent.

I learned later in the day, from a Parks and Rec employee, that the lake's closing for renovation isn't expected to happen until "late in the summer." I had called the number posted on an information board, for people who have questions about the Prop O project. The employee said he could not be more specific than "late summer." But he did point out that the Lotus Festival -- sans lotus -- is set for July. And work is already being done to "upgrade" the Boat House, as one construction worker put it.

The following photos are from Tuesday:

These Canada goslings are getting big.

Facing northeast, above.



A new(er) Cache mural, across the street from the park.

More fishing. The language these guys spoke sounded like Russian.

A pied-billed grebe.


June 21, 2011

Counting coots: June 2011

Chicken Corner was wondering about the bird numbers from the July 19 counting expedition at Echo Park Lake. So she emailed Judy Raskin, neighborhood activists and volunteer for the Audubon Society, to ask whether Raskin thought migration could account for the large drop in the number of species recorded last weekend (26), compared to January's count (42).

Raskin responded:

Hi, Jenny. The number of species at any time will vary. For example, the winter migrations are over, mostly, except for the occasional bird here and there. Most of the birds at the lake now either are resident or find their food and shelter within a swath that includes the lake. I'm surprised by the number of Canada geese here now, but I bet they will move on within a few weeks, maybe to the river, maybe to another lake. Most of the wild mallards are gone, as are virtually all of the American coots -- I noticed only two yesterday. On the other hand, there were loads of bushtits, a species that we didn't see much of in recent years.
The number of species also has another side to it. How good are the eyes of the watchers? Our walks last from 2-3 hours because the lake area is not large. If we were to stay here for, say, four or six hours, we'd probably see species that were invisible to us on the first go round.

For the record, Chicken Corner walked around Echo Park Lake this afternoon and her count for coots was also two (as opposed to the hundreds we see over the winter). Rock on, you stay-at-the-lake coots! At least until eviction time, when the lake is drained....

June 20, 2011

Discontent in reassignment

Photo courtesy of Kerry Madden.

Parents and some children protested in front of Echo Park's Betty Plasencia school today as LAUSD officials met to discuss the reassignment of a beloved longtime teacher, Kiffen Madden Lunsford, by the school's new principal, Julie Gonzalez. It was the second week of demonstrations that some say were fueled when dispute arbiters failed to show up for hearings. By the end of the day the school had announced Madden Lunsford would not be allowed to keep his position at Plasencia.

The Eastsider reports, here.

Where the wild things may be and how many

Photo: Ross's goose, by Martin Cox.

Echo Park Lake: Judy Raskin led a bird count Sunday morning for the Audubon Society. Twenty-six species were spotted. Make that seen. (No word yet on how many were spotted.) That's about half the number of species counted on the Christmas walk on January 2. This could be due to migration: Most of the wild ducks, for one, do not summer in Echo Park. Some of them go to a nifty resort called Canada. But, as you can see in the list below, at least one Canada goose didn't budge.

Chicken Corner is glad to see the Ross's goose on the list. He/she has been here about six years now.

And June's birds were:

Ross's goose

Canada goose


Ruddy duck

Pied-billed grebe

Double-crested cormorant

Black-crowned night heron

Red-shouldered hawk

Red-tailed hawk

American coot

Western gull

Rock Pigeon

Mourning Dove

Yellow-chevroned parakeet

White-throated swift

Allen's hummingbird


American robin

Northern mockingbird

European starling

Brewer's blackbird

Great-tailed grackle

Hooded oriole

House finch

House sparrow

Kingbird - uncertain if western or Cassin's

June 16, 2011



Clio, Omega, and Marge are the newest members of the family at Sky Farm, the Lincoln Heights home of some friends of Chicken Corner. The well-appreciated goslings even have a journal page on the web site of photographer/actor/writer Meeno Peluce, their human dad. Two of the geese are Toulouse and one is from Africa.
Click here
to see the goose babies play about a tub of water. Paul Simon, if you're reading, could you write a song for the girls?

Speaking of underestimated barnyard animals: Spiegel features Luna, a cow trained as a horse. Here.

June 15, 2011

Free Dodgers tickets, sort of

Well, it's nice that the Dodgers give some free tickets to their neighbors in Echo Park. But it's curious that they don't go the whole distance and provide free parking, too. What is it with this team and parking? Never mind, don't answer that. With attendance at the stadium low, Chicken Corner wonders that they don't try harder to fill seats, even at the expense of a few parking spaces.

Here is the invitation posted on the neighborhood list serv (and emailed directly to Chicken Corner as well):

As has been our standing offer, we have a limited number of tickets available for members of the Echo/Elysian Park and Solano Canyon communities who are interested in attending the event. *Please understand these tickets are on a first-come, first-served basis* ... also, note that this does NOT include parking).

As regards the Dodgers, Chicken Corner is very curious about the public ownership possibility, which the city council endorsed 8-2 today (both LaBonge and Garcetti missing the vote, and Reyes voting no). Imagine the people of Los Angeles owning all those parking spaces.... Cluck, cluck.

June 14, 2011

Movies on the bus

In case you were on one of 2,200 select municipal buses Monday or today (and through the weekend): It's not your imagination. They're showing independent films, shot in 16mm. For the price of bus fare, you can watch them. They're made by kids. With Out the Window, a project with origins in Echo Park, we've gone from busing children to school to children schooling the folks on buses. And who said a bus ride couldn't be a fine-art experience?

The children -- local teens -- were brought into the project by the Echo Park Film Center, which helped them create the short, black-and-white pieces. Chicken Corner was lucky enough to see one this evening, at an ALOUD event that included Fabian Wagmister, an Out the Window principal, who helped the project with interactive functionality. The very funny segment Wagmister showed was written by the kids and asked the question of whether junk food was "worth it." Suffice it to say it was the first time Chicken Corner has seen a grease font.

And the new arts high school, at Grand, directly across from a major fast food franchise, has a cameo that will be gratifying for EP locals.

According to the LA Weekly, "Out the Window videos will screen on Transit TV for five minutes an hour June 13-17, and for two 45-minute cycles a day June 18-19."

For group rides on the city bus, look here.

Snazzy billboards



Los Angeles historian Anna Sklar provided both of the Wilshive Boulevard billboard images above. From a time when billboard gardens were not an oxymoron.

June 13, 2011

Mining billboard history

On Tuesday Echo Park landscape architect/historian Rhett Beavers will be grist in Huell Howser's magnificent subject mill. KCET will broadcast the short segment at 7:30. The subject? Billboards and gardens.

According to Beavers, Howser introduces the interview with the comment "this is obscure." Which is fitting, considering that one of Beaver's avenues of inquiry, according to his TED profile, is "remnant landscapes -- when only the memory remains." In this case, we're talking billboards set amid gardens designed specifically for them, once a common sight along Wilshire Boulevard and other major streets in Los Angeles.

At least one of these garden-billboards still exists -- at the corner of Glenarm and the mouth of the 110, where it becomes Arroyo. I drove past it hundreds of times without noticing. But there it was on Sunday, billboard and modest garden setting together as if the whole point of a billboard (besides advertising) was not blight.

Speaking of Howser, the original video blogger, he'll be one of the hosts at the This is Your Library after-hours event on June 23 at Central.

June 10, 2011

Elderberries time*


The elderberries are ripe now, and don't the wild birds know it. Ripe time is bird time each spring/summer. All kinds of migrants and visitors -- tanagers, towhees, plenty of unidentifieds -- stop in the back for a treat. Except for this year. A predator or two -- or five? -- have been staking out my back yard for over a week. Staring at the chicken coop. Sitting on our roof and on the neighbors', sometimes while mocking birds poke it in the back in repeat attacks that eventually end in the winged beast moving, for a short while. It's not a red-tailed hawk. It looks like a falcon and so far has declined to pose for pictures. I hear the distinctive hawk-like squeal all day -- at this moment, even -- which makes me think that the big nest in my pepper tree could be theirs, though it's not as high as I would have guessed for a hawk/falcon. Every now and then there's the sound of wings flapping and then a shadow. Meanwhile, so many elderberries are going uneaten.

Regarding the elderberry tree -- which is either Sambucus caerulea or Sambucus mexicana -- it was a stump when we moved into the house in 1999. It had been cut down, presumably to allow for sun for the vegetable garden that was planted in the back. I removed the vegetable patch, and let the stump alone, ignoring it until it had sent out shoots that were eight or nine feet tall. I was planning to have the thing dug out at the root but discovered it was a native elderberry and that birds love its fruit. So I let it grow back and tried to shape it.

It won't be winning any sculptural beauty awards from the garden club. But it's now about 25 feet tall and loaded with fruit. It provides shade, bird food, and mystery, as two California cherry trees, another elderberry, and a walnut have grown up around it -- a tiny native woodland in the back yard.

I've been feeding the berries to my coop-bound chickens. They love them.

*Edited post.

June 7, 2011

The Patootie Chronicle


Get down from there! Cutie Patootie gets into the kitchen, flies to the top of the cabinets.

Cutie Patootie is alive and well. She has been spayed.


Yes, my lovely little boisterous hen has been relieved of the agony of laying eggs. Because for Cutie is was literally agony. A few weeks ago -- just before Seder (I remember because I hard boiled a dozen eggs) -- I posted that Cutie Patootie had recovered after being "egg-bound," a situation where a hen gets an egg stuck in her body. In the weeks that followed, the condition became chronic. She would lay two or three semi-normal eggs (we didn't eat them), and then she'd have trouble, which would require medical intervention -- pain killers, hormone injections, calcium shoved down her throat. One of the eggs she layed was as big as a regulation-sized baseball and was actually an egg within an egg.

All the while, my well-meaning friends were making jokes about stew pots. Even I thought the jokes were funny. Except that Cutie Patootie is a pet. She is affectionate with my daughter and I, and wary of people she knows less well. The relationships are mutual. When she's feeling okay, she is lively and extremely curious about...everything. She likes human company, likes to be held, likes to explore, gets into mischief. When she's not in the coop, she follows us around. If it weren't for the way she flies onto my shoulder I'd say she was like a dog. Does anyone suggest the stew pot when their friends' dogs are sick? Of course not.

But after three trips to the veterinarian's office -- and a calcium-supplement strategy that didn't work -- I decided to try home remedies (off the internet), and if that didn't work...then it was time to let nature take its course. Which is another way of saying I'd give up. Because chickens are partly dinosaur and partly man-made creatures -- superbred to lay eggs or provide flesh for food -- there is no "natural course" that takes place without humans; "hands off" does not mean handing things over to nature. It just means washing your hands.

I moved her inside, and tried to make her warm and comfortable. My daughter wrote her post-it notes that exhorted "Come on, Cutie, lay that egg!" We tried putting her in a steam-filled bathroom -- all the inexpensive remedies. We held her in towels on our laps, and she would fall asleep. She was so tired. It became clear she did not have the strength to push.

After four days of this, I couldn't stand it. I had vowed not to continue the vet-visit cycle (in fact, I couldn't afford it). But I decided one more visit -- I expected she'd have to be euthanized (something I simply would not do myself). Letting her die slowly was not doing anyone a favor.

It turned out that there were no available appointments, and the veterinary office where we'd gone recommended another -- Exotic Animal Care in Pasadena. And that was where truly we got lucky. We met an amazing doctor, Tiffany Margolin, who had the expertise and willingness to do surgery on a chicken, X-rays having revealed that Cutie had at least three eggs folding into one another in her body. The office agreed to a discount that certainly wiped out any profit. (Dr. Margolin is certified both in traditional, western-style animal medicine and acupuncture and other holistic practices.)

And it was not a simple "spay" as it would be for a dog or cat. First, she had to be made strong enough to survive surgery. She was dehydrated and had loss weight. Then there was the matter of removing the rotting eggs from her uterus. When they did the surgery, three days after I brought her in, it took two full hours. The night after the surgery Dr. Margolin took Cutie Patootie home with her. By chance, Cutie received the best medical care anyone -- animal or human -- could hope for.

A week after I brought her in, we took her home. That was almost three weeks ago. She is now back to normal with a vengeance. Full of beans. More affectionate than ever. She spent over a week in my dining room, sleeping in a dog crate -- inside of which she absolutely would not tolerate confinement during the day. The room was a mess, with newspapers all over the floor, and Cutie escaping into the kitchen whenever she could (see photo).

Fortunately, she's back in the regular chicken coop now, though at first her flock mates, Rainbow and Sparkle, rejected her -- a drama with its own lengthy chronology. The short version: She's back and healthy, holding her own with the other hens. She's happy to be alive. She lives in a world that made room for her, and I think she knows it.

And Rainbow and Sparkle are supplying plenty of eggs.

From the archives: Even as a tiny chick, Cutie was adventurous, the first of her flock to want to see outside the box.




A bit more cautious: Rainbow, Sparkle, and Goldie.

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