Chicken Corner
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December 23, 2011

Happy Holidays!

May your holidays be full of wonder -- and treats! xoxoxo, Chicken Corner


Here at Chicken Corner, we're running around lighting Hanukkah candles, overdecorating the tree -- a droopy but aromatic douglas fir -- and we're cooking, cooking, cooking and, yes, shopping, shopping, shopping (there is simply no way around it) -- and yet we're trying to keep it simple. Latkes and lemon madeleines. Oh, and decorating the dog, who just barely escaped being dressed as a reindeer with antlers. The season is so upon us!

Card by Madeleine Burman-Smith.

December 21, 2011


hastings.jpgMy friend Rhett Beavers, the landscape architect, had a copy of the elusive Trees of Santa Monica and generously gifted his copy to the Chicken Corner library. And what a labor of love this paperback by George Hastings (1888-1964), edited by Grace L. Heintz, is. Hastings, a science teacher and naturalist, walked and biked dozens of Santa Monica streets, identifying each tree and including its address and whether it was on the street or in a yard. There are special sections for landmarks like City Hall or the Santa Monica College. First published in 1944, the book features a phone-directory-like front section and then a descriptive section that includes addresses. Consulted almost 70 years after its first edition, it's a historical document as well, though I am sure many of the trees listed in '44 are still in place. A glance at Tenth Street shows 33 different types of trees -- from Water Wattle to Beefwood to a live oak that Hastings noted "may be the oldest tree in the city."

A puzzler: the copy Rhett gave me was published in 1981, a 2nd edition. A note by its editor, Heintz, mentions both that some of the trees listed may be gone and that she had retraced Hasting's steps. But she does not explain to what extent she edited the list of trees -- to wit, did she delete the Hasting trees that were not standing in the 1970s when she was revising? Looks like Chicken Corner will have to see a 1944 edition to have those questions answered. Cluck!

A special thanks, also, to the writer John Shannon, who alerted Chicken Corner to this wonderful directory.

December 16, 2011

Books on trees

Speaking of books about trees, a reader named John Shannon offers this recommendation featuring some local arboreal heroes:

Should anyone want a glorious book on So Cal trees, it is hard to beat the old Trees of Santa Monica, though you'll have to buy it used. It's a super learning tool. You look up specific trees and it will tell you what block they're on, or you can look up a block and it will tell you (albeit sometimes dated) what you're looking at. You can't ask for better than that. The book is glowingly mentioned in Jim Harrison's wonderful novel Dalva. That's how I found it.
I discovered the hard way that L.A. is a terrible place to start your arboreal self-education. Since EVERYTHING grows here, there's just too much at once.

A Google search is coming up with Trees of Santa Monica and Trees of Santa Monica Bay, both out of print, but both for sale. Los Angeles Public Library doesn't seem to have it, so that leaves special collections. What Los Angeles needs is a library superhero. Super Librarian, please swoop down in your cape and find this book for me!

Fan Palms, no one and someone

Looks like Chicken Corner misplanted the words "no one" yesterday -- as in we're living with all those fan palms that no one likes very much. It turns out someone does like them, enough to speak up in their favor. Fair enough. So, let's try: "We're living with all those fan palms that at least one person likes very much." Better? Hmmm.

To wit: I received the following this morning from one of Chicken Corner's longtime readers, Benjamin Cole:

Jenny -- Who does not love fan palms, the Los Angeles icon!
We have the slender, slightly comical towering Mexican fan palm (Washintonia robusta), or the thick and stately Washingtonia filifera (California fan palm, the only true native palm). Then we have pinnate palms from all over the world, and all wonderful too.
Also, I am not sure, you seem to laboring under the misconception that the beautiful eucalyptus is native. It is not--it is a lovely Aussie import.*
In this last, cosmopolitan regard I agree with you--what I love about Los Angeles is that you can plant desert cactus next to Norwegian pines, and both will prosper. No one** publishes books anymore, but a truly wonderful book would be pictures and explanations of the flora of Los Angeles. Even as a rank amateur I must have mentally cataloged hundreds of species.

Talking trees and talking icons. Instead of the urban forest we're now discussing the Urban Icon Forest. The birds ought to like that! And history, too.

*A correction: Seems I did not write clearly in yesterday's post about eucalyptus. The reason the eucalyptus are a mistake is that we imported them from Australia when we should have left them where they were among the kangaroos. Native plants are never a mistake in Chicken Corner's book.

**And, a double no one: Someone still publishes a book or two here and there, I am sure!

December 15, 2011

Gale force

Call me a dreamer. Give me trees.

Chicken Corner is amused that today's Los Angeles Times column titled "Lessons of 'Arbogeddon'" was written by someone named Gale, as in Gale Holland, whose concept of the urban forest in Los Angeles was whipped to bits in the recent 'Big Blow' -- or gale force winds -- we're all busy forgetting. Before I start picking at Gale's argument, I should disclaim: I have known Gale Holland for several years and like her quite a bit; she is middle old-guard Echo Park. But I think her call to completely rethink our commitment to trees in Los Angeles needs to settle and then reassemble.

There seem to be two arguments in this column, and because I care deeply about the urban forest, I think it's worth taking the threads seriously. In line with Chicken Corner's ideas on the matter, Gale calls for greater expertise in planning what types of trees to plant, where, and how to water them. To which -- who could argue? Let's do it better! Don't overwater native trees so the roots grow shallow! We're together on this one.

But then we part -- Gale also seems to be saying we're spoiled for wanting our non-native trees in a city like Los Angeles, which really just wants to be brown rolling hills dotted with oaks (the latter part is Chicken Corner's leafy flourish). The implication is that we should abandon the planting of trees and stick to cactus or whatever won't blow down in the next freak windstorm.

To which I start clucking, like the hen who spotted a hawk! And I have to ask, was it not the eucalyptus that proved most fragile and caused most damage in the Big Blow? With their shallow roots and brittle wood? Have we not known for many decades that mass-planting eucalyptus a century ago was a mistake? Mike Davis, who is quoted in Gale's column, wrote about this, and the fire department will burn you for having a eucalyptus too close to your house. We're living with the mistake of the eucalyptus, just as we're living with all those fan palms that no one likes very much. In the replanting of Elysian Park, for instance, there are no plans to renew eucalyptus plantings, while oaks do have a future.

To which -- I say let's do our homework and choose strong, deep-rooted trees that don't require excessive water, plant them appropriately, and live with them in peace and shade, not to mention better air. Call them wind breaks. To which!

December 13, 2011

13 years later


This photo comes from Reuters via Boing Boing. An abandoned Wonderland, a "Disney clone," outside of Beijing that was abandoned in the late '90s for zoning or property-rights issues. But not before the castle was built. Nowadays, it's farmland. One thing that strikes me in looking at this Reuters slideshow is the lack of ruin. Thirteen years after construction stopped in its tracks, the grounds are still maintained and the fake buildings appear stable. At the same time, they do look abandoned, occupying a strange zone in between abandonment and decay, if not a magic kingdom.

Photo: David Gray/Reuters

December 1, 2011

Dirty dishes, unwashed clothes

Add unwashed dishes to the rearrangement of the landscape on this side of town. DWP says leave them in the sink and don't run the washer if you live in Mt. Washington, Montecito Heights, Monterey Hills, Glassell Park, Cyrpress Park, or Highland Park or Hermon, the same communities that have lost electricity the longest. They say the electrical outages have "affected the water pumping infrastructure."

Morning report: a howler

Those winds kept me up most of the night, and made a few decisions for me as well. I had been wondering whether we had too many trees in the back yard -- not enough sun to grow the crops and all. The wind took care of that last night, taking down one eucalyptus tree, split at the base of the trunk, one elderberry tree, and one California cherry. I'll post pics if I can find the charger for my phone. It looks awful. Meanwhile, the chickens are looking disheveled this morning, but they are alive. The eucalyptus missed their coop literally by four inches. Our dog, Chyla, was awake all night, pacing -- she didn't like the pitch black after the electricity went out nor the whislting and whipping sounds and the banging of window screens coming loose, doors opening and closing, the whole howling package. At least the roof didn't blow away.

And my daughter gets to watch cartoons. Her school is closed today, following the lead of Pasadena Unified.

Elsewhere in the neighborhood, Christine Peters posted on the Citizens' Committee to Save Elysian Park's FB page:

Stadium Way and the park look like King Kong was in a bad mood and many trees down.

Tom Waits wrote a song about it.

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