Monday, August 28, 2006

Saving The Seed Of Giant Lupine


These are seed-saving days around here and I’ve just finished collecting and cleaning the seeds of our Giant Lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus), a nitrogen fixing legume in the pea family with a very neat seed dispersal method.

When the seeds are mature, and the casings have completely dried out, they snap open with a forceful spiral twist which sends the seeds flying some distance from the parent plant so they might find their own place in the sun.

The first time I collected seed from Grape Soda Lupine (Lupinus excubitus), another native lupine with the same dispersal scheme, I put the seed in a bowl on top of our refrigerator. That night when Peggy and I sat down to dinner we heard these popping sounds and noticed lupine seeds were flying all over the kitchen, so after that we covered our bowls of lupine seed with a screen like you put over the frying pan to stop grease splatter.

From the time these lupine pods begin drying you only have a few days to collect the seed before they've all dispersed.

The Lupine pictured here was started in the spring of 2004 when I planted 6 seeds that I collected in the wild. These seeds have a very hard shell, so, as an experiment, I nicked the shell of 3 seeds with a small file and planted the other 3 as is, all spaced about 6 inches apart and their places marked so I'd know which ones germinated.

Two of the nicked seeds sprouted and none of the others, but one of the sprouted plants didn't come back the second year. As you can see the other is thriving and was over four feet tall this year.

The pictures below show, from top to bottom:

1. The plant just beginning to bloom.
2. A close-up of the flowers.
3. The still green pea-like seed pods.
4. Harvested seed in a bowl before separation from the chaff.
5. Seeds, and their dry twisted pods after separating, with an old dime to give an idea of the size.
6. One of the packets of seed that are now available for locals who wish to grow Big Bear native plants.

Our one mature Giant Lupine produced over 500 seeds this season and we have two younger plants coming up now as well.

Click on individual photos to enlarge

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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Stanfield Marsh, August 19th, 7:32 A.M.

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Clouds reflecting on the waters of Stanfield Marsh as Peggy, Dallas, and I, walk along the east end of the eastermost boardwalk this Saturday morning.

Another day begins to once more leave me in awe of the beauty in nature.

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Floating Gardens Of Stanfield Marsh

Click on photo to enlarge

This tire, mounted to a rim, is still holding air after floating around the perimeter of the marsh since spring, and the garden, complete with several species of plants and some driftwood garden art, appears to be thriving.

I wonder at the circumstances of how this life raft came to be.

A perfectly good tire & wheel, fully inflated with excellent tread, somehow becomes separated from its vehicle, fills with soil and driftwood, and ends up in the marsh where it sits high enough in the water so that whatever seeds were present didn't drown but flourished instead, upon the floating junk of industrial civilization, to create an oddly beautiful statement on life, renewal, and nature's adaptability.

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Saturday, August 12, 2006

Garden Girl Gets Gooseberry Giggles!

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Peggy comes down with a case of the giggles while she shows off our morning harvest of Gooseberries.

"Hurry up and take the picture" she squealed, "there's a bug crawling up my arm", but when I informed her it was the hops tickling her, she just started giggling until her eyes welled up with tears of laughter.

Ahhhh, sweet lovely Peggy Sue.

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Another Beautiful Morning Ride...

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Peggy at 8:10 this morning on the Alpine Pedal Path, the last leg of our 20 mile ride around the lake.

We left home before 6 A.M. but stopped a bunch of times, once for coffee, and many more to take in the scenery of this beautiful mountain valley we live in.

We got home about 8:30 making this the longest it's taken us yet. Our fastest time riding it together was 1 1/2 hours, and I rode it once in just under an hour on my road bike (when I was in my 40s). Peggy and I both enjoy lollygagging, we're just not in a hurry, so our bike rides are more than exercise, for us they're pleasure cruises not time trials.

So when I write about how long our rides take, it's not because we're trying to improve upon that time, I'm just attempting to give you an idea of how long it takes to ride 20 miles at a leisurely pace. At our pace, riding that distance isn't a grueling experience, it's more like an enjoyable walk in the park.

The worst part is the initial conditioning of the butt to the bicycle seat!
And don't attempt this ride if you've just come up for the day from sea-level!!

It takes weeks or months for a persons lung capacity to expand enough to do even moderately strenuous exercise at nearly 7,000 feet. Over the years, four visiting friends have tried to make that ride that with me. Two of them made it---both physically fit males much younger than I---and swore they'd never do it again. All of them could have easily done it at sea-level.

I finally realized that no matter how great of shape you are in, you can't come up for the weekend and expect to make that ride and have it be an enjoyable experience, you'll get way too winded very early in the ride.

Peggy just now reminded me that, during the Xeriscape Garden Tour Wrap Party, we won two tickets (for us and our bikes) on the scenic chair lift to the top of Snow Summit. The tickets expire in September so I guess we better use them soon. A short distance from the top of the chairlift is Skyline Drive, a gravel forest road, that runs miles along the ridge overlooking the San Bernardino Valley. Skyline Drive connects to more miles of dirt roads and trails leading in all directions. Peggy and I have ridden back to the valley from there down Mill Creek Road before, and our daughter Jamie and I rode it once too. It's much more hilly and challenging than the ride around the lake but it's exhilarating and scenic to the extreme. So, in the near future, when Peggy and I make the ride again, I'll try and remember to take my camera, with the SD card installed. ;~)

Anyhow, right now, the garden is calling, so maybe I'll post more later on.

Have a good day all.


I realize it probably bothers some people that I add to or edit my posts for some time after they initially appear. But this is a journal of sorts, and I don't always have time to complete each entry at one sitting, and I apologize for that.

Just be aware that many of the posts may not be complete for about 24 hours or so, as time allows, events progress, and my thoughts come back to the day or the subject.

I've noticed when I make more than one or two posts in a day, most people don't read the earlier ones anyway. Who has the time? So I've just taken to expanding my entries until I feel it's time to move on to something else.

Jim ;~)

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Roland Diehl 1940 - 2006

Click on photo to enlarge

Roland Diehl, one of my hippie brothers of the Topanga years passed away at 65, from cancer, on June 6th.

As you can see from the joy on his face Roland found great happiness with his loving sweetheart and partner of many years, Manda Beckett, who is holding a memorial for him on September 3rd, the weekend following his 66th birthday, which is August 31st.

The above invitation came with the mail today and I’m going to try and catch a train up to share in the celebration of his life. Roland’s gentle loving playful spirit will certainly be presiding and I'd love to partake in that experience one last time.

When I moved to Topanga in 1965 Roland was a 25 year old painter, and already an iconic figure of the canyon art scene. His best known work is the cover he painted for Neil Young’s first album in 1969 which I’ve posted below.

A couple of years before I left Topanga Roland moved to Portland, Oregon where he’s been working, loving, and playing his beloved conga drums with his friends up there ever since. We kept in touch by phone over the years, and it was a special treat for me a few years ago when Roland sent CDs of some of their drum sessions because my favorite memories of Roland are the Topanga drum circles we shared in 40 years ago.

Topanga Canyon was an impossibly beautiful vortex of free-spirited originality during the 60s, an island of creative experimentation, revelation, love, peace, freedom, and fellowship. For a brief few years it was a low-rent Bohemian art colony paradise-found, where in youthful innocence, we played naked in the garden as the world raged around us. The handful of friends I still have from that time share an almost sacred bond. Roland was a founder of that Topanga, one of the originals.

Your spirit lives on here in Southern California, too, Roland…


Click on cover to enlarge - Painting by Roland Diehl - 1968

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Sunday, August 06, 2006

1974-1979 Another Time, Another Craft...

Click on photo to enlarge

As you might have gathered from this blog, I've always had the desire to express myself artistically or creatively in some way, and after I started working for the Post Office that need grew stronger, so in 1974 I took a class on making stained glass windows, another craft I had long admired.

I pursued this rewarding hobby for several years and here are some of the results.

The window above measures 24 x 36 inches and was made for the front door of my parents home in Granada Hills. For this one I bought a pattern I liked and selected some earthy tones of glass that would bring warm colorful light into their house yet still allow them complete privacy from the busy street they lived on.

This was the last window I built, starting it in mid 1978, but not completing it until late 1979 because of being laid up from a motorcycle accident in which I almost lost the lower part of my right leg. Mom sold the Granada Hills house recently and I was very pleased to learn that she shipped this window along to her new home in Utah.

I still love the design of this one even though it was a fairly common pattern back then.

Click on photo to enlarge

In 1976 I was hired by a builder in Topanga Canyon to make a few windows for two rustic custom homes he was constructing out of huge timbers he salvaged from the old Ocean Park Pier in Santa Monica, and from ancient heavy planks that were once the floor of an old Southern California Chrysler assembly plant.

They weren't exactly your typical humble hippie abodes of the day, but most of the materials were recycled, and he built them all himself. Well, not entirely by himself, he did hire helpers, so I made the stained glass windows and also helped dig & install a leachfield for one of the septic systems.

This window was by far my biggest stained glass challenge. It's four feet in diameter and the owner/builder requested a Pennsylvania Dutch Hex Sign design which he wanted to be at least semi-transparent.

The design part was simple enough, I just checked out a Pennsylvania Dutch Hex Sign book from the library, found one he liked that I thought I could make into a window, and then selected the appropriate colors of glass in a variety of textures that I felt would accentuate the strong elements of the design even in a translucent/semi-transparent medium.

The challenge came in bracing and stabilizing a large-paned four foot diameter round window without detracting from the design. With a bit of difficulty I fabricated a segmented galvanized steel brace which was then soldered to the lead came on the outside of the completed window, and last I heard it was still there.

Some Pennsylvania Dutch folks believe the commonly six-pointed hex signs bring good luck or ward off evil spirits, and that the colors each have a meaning.

Blue for protection - note the six-sided cobalt blue center.

Red for emotion, passion, lust, & creativity - I chose a clearly vivid red don't you think? ;~)

Green for fertility & growth - a green ring anchors the segments of the large six-pointed central star.

Violet for things sacred - it's hard to tell from the photo but half segments of the large star are violet.

Orange for success in career - the other halves of the large star segments are orange.

White for purity - The clear panels were white in the original design and they do let a pure clean light into the room, which appears to be white on occasion, like in the photo.

But I wouldn't know about all that because I'm not Pennsylvania Dutch, I'm Swedish, Irish, and Cherokee...

The window was fitted into a massive frame and installed in a rock wall beside the hand-hewn front door of the house the builder constructed for himself.

I took the picture from inside the finished house a year or so after I built the window.

Click on photo to enlarge

The same builder was constructing a similar house on an adjoining lot with more of the same salvaged timbers. This was a spec house built and sold to pay off his construction loans on the two houses. The antique etched glass above was installed in the master bathroom of the spec house and I made the smaller stained glass panels to either side. These are two of my favorite windows because they were among the first ones in which the design was all my own.

I haven't done any stained glass work in 27 years, but I still have the equipment, so who knows, maybe one of these days I'll get back to it...

We have a couple of windows in our house that would look nice in stained glass

I rediscovered these old photos while going through my slides, copying them into digital format with a slide copier. I removed some dust specks and scratches in Photoshop.

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

$15 Studebaker - Van Nuys, California - 1971

Click on photo to enlarge

So here's the sweet old 1946 Studebaker Commander I owned when I photographed the sunset pictured below. I bought it in Topanga Canyon, sometime in late 1970, from collage and assemblage artist George Herms for $15. I was 25 years old.

George and Louise lived a couple hundred yards up the road from the old Topanga Corral nightclub where us canyon folk all socialized and danced to many of the great bands of the '60s. The Studie had been sitting up on blocks in their front yard for quite some time when George offered to sell it to me (I believe it was more gift than sale).

What it lacked was brakes, so I did a complete brake job on it, including rebuilding all four wheel cylinders, which probably cost me less than $30 in parts in those days. Aside from that, the car was in great condition, with very low mileage, and the 226 cubic inch flathead six purred quietly like my old treadle sewing machine.

The paint was a bit oxidized but a little rubbing compound, wax, and elbow grease brought back its luster, and when I removed the plastic seat covers the original mohair upholstery underneath was still in perfect condition. In the trunk I discovered one of those neat old, pre air-conditioning, bullet-shaped Thermador swamp coolers that mounted in the car window and whirled cool moist air to the interior.

The photo was taken on a drizzly fall day in 1971 out front of my old buddy Bruce's parents house on Oak Park Avenue in Van Nuys, California. Bruce works for the Post Office to this day, and is responsible for my having a postal career. Back in 1970 he talked me into taking the Civil Service postal exam with him even though working for the Post Office didn't really seem to fit in with my artsy-fartsy back-to-nature hippie dreams. But the starting pay was $3.51 an hour and I figured maybe I'd work for a couple of years, save some money and travel, or buy some land.

Little did I realize that the burgeoning '60s counterculture I loved, and was so much a part of, was coming unravelled, and that the world would very soon be a much harder edged place.

On March 8th of 1971 I began working for the United States Post Office Department at the Woodland Hills station (91364) as a Special Delivery Messenger (the patches on our linen shirts bore the image of a Pony Express rider embroidered in maroon and blue). Thirty years later, in July of 2001, I retired at $20 an hour, from the "modernized" U.S. Postal Service, Big Bear Lake station (92315), where I was the main window clerk (the patch on my polyester shirt was an ugly stylized Eagle's head in red, white, blue, and gold, meant to signify speedy service).

Much of those 30 years was spent outside delivering mail through rain, sleet, snow, heat, and dark of night, because that's the way it was done back then. In 1971 a postage stamp cost 6 cents and we delivered Special Delivery letters & packages up until 9 o'clock at night, seven days a week, for an additional 45 cent fee. In 2001 a stamp cost 33 cents and there was no longer a Special Delivery service, but you could pick up your $11.75 Sunday delivery Express Mail at the Post Office between the hours of 12 & 2 P.M., if you remembered to bring your identification.

Along with a modicum of affluence usually comes some consumerism, so in 1972, to demonstrate my environmentalist leanings, I spent $2,000 on a new, very small and economical 4 cylinder imported Datsun pick-up truck, and regretfully, sold the old Studebaker to a friend for $250.

Four years later, another much-loved Beat Generation artist from Topanga, a mentor to George Herms, my friend Wallace Berman, was killed in a head-on collision in a little Datsun truck just like mine, leaving his lovely wife and young son behind.

Years later, in 1990, when we needed a family car, we decided on a Toyota 4-Runner, at $21,000, because I wanted something sturdy that my family might be relatively safe in, it was our last car. Peggy was broadsided at a blind intersection in 1996 by a kid going about 60 miles an hour, and a beefy frame crossmember in the Toyota saved her life. Soon after the 4-Runner was repaired we sold it, on January 31st, 1997, and now we've been car-free for nearly 10 years. We didn't want to be in them anymore.

Then, on August 29th of last year, at the same time Hurricane Katrina was battering New Orleans, our 24 year old son Jimmy drove another sturdy Toyota 4X4 over a 450 foot cliff, an accident which left him legally blind, but that thankfully, he survived. Still, Peggy and I, again had to spend many dreaded hours in rented or borrowed cars to visit Jimmy in the hospital and get him to his medical appointments, but that too has now passed...

Looking at the handsome old Studebaker it's easy to understand how we Americans became enamored with our automobiles.

But at this point, in light of the realities of todays world; the global warming and climate change brought on by a hundred years of internal combustion engines, the urban sprawl, the freeways and congestion generated by automobiles, the asphalted, concreted, plasticized, polluted, smoggy filth of our civilization, and the oil & resource wars we must now wage to sustain it all (not to mention the nearly four million people dead from U.S. auto accidents), you'd think we'd be realizing there are not going to be automobiles in our future, if we are to have one.

They've certainly lost their appeal in my eyes.

In fact I've come to detest the damned things, they're an expensive, dangerous, destructive, odious, abhorrent, abominable scourge upon the land and I'd love to see them all vanish today.

What we've gained from the convenience of automobiles, for me, is not worth what we're losing in the quality of life, or the health of our ecosystem. If we won't give the cars up; hybrid, electric, hydrogen-powered, bio-fueled, or whatever, I seriously doubt there will be many human eyes left to behold the sunsets and trees of the 22nd Century.

The automobile and its infrastructure is, in my opinion, our biggest mess, aside from, and exacerbated by, our overpopulation of the planet. Clean running efficient cars won't address traffic congestion, or sprawl, and something like 60% of the pollution generated in a cars lifetime is produced during the manufacturing processes.

Here's an excerpt from my favorite Dr. Seuss book, The Lorax.

"What's more," snapped the Lorax. (His dander was up.)

"Let me say a few words about Gluppity-Glupp.

Your machinery chugs on, day and night without stop
making Gluppity Glupp. Also Schloppity-Schlopp.

And what do you do with this leftover goo?

I'll show you. You dirty old Once-ler man you!

You're glumping the pond where the Humming-Fish hummed!
No more can they hum, for their gills are all gummed.
So I'm sending them off. Oh, their future is dreary.
They'll walk on their fins and get woefully weary
in search of some water that isn't so smeary."

And then I got mad.
I got terribly mad.
I yelled at the Lorax, "Now listen here, Dad!
All you do is yap-yap and say, Bad! Bad! Bad! Bad!
Well, I have my rights, sir, and I'm telling you
I intend to go on doing just what I do!
And for your information, you Lorax, I'm figgering

on biggering




turning More Truffula Trees into Thneeds
which everyone, EVERYONE, EVERYONE NEEDS!"

And at that very moment, we heard a loud whack!
From outside in the fields came a sickening smack
of an axe on a tree. Then we heard the tree fall.
The very last Truffula Tree of them all!

Oftentimes I feel like the Lorax, and, in fact, I'm beginning to look like him too...

...funny how one thing leads to another; sunset to Studebaker to career to tragedy to Loraxish ranting.
:~ {{{{{{

addendum -

In referring to George Herms and Wallace Berman I realize many people are not well versed in Beat Generation notables, but most of you have probably owned a picture of Wallace. He was honored by the Beatles in being chosen as one of the people for the group photo collage on the cover of their 'Sgt. Pepper' album.

And Wally greatly honored me by hanging one of my drawings on a wall in his home.
OK, so what if it was the bathroom wall above the roll of paper next to the toilet?
What better place to contemplate art?

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Topanga Canyon Sunset - February 1971

Click on photo to enlarge

While going through my old slides, to find the spider image I posted a few days ago, I came across this sunset photo taken in February of 1971, just off Topanga Canyon Boulevard, near the Top O' Topanga overlook.

I would've been driving my cherry fifteen dollar 1946 Studebaker that day, just weeks before I began what turned out to be a 30 year career as a Postman. This is one of the very first photos I ever took with a halfway decent camera, however, it wouldn't be long afterwards that I could afford a Nikon and become hopelessly addicted to photography.

I remember driving past that tree many times, noticing how the sun would set between the divided trunk, and wishing I had a camera to capture the moment.

Looking at the picture I realize that tree was probably the initial inspiration which has led to my now having 35 years worth (and counting) of photographic memories, images which recall in me the people, times, and places of those years, and I'm wondering if the old tree is still around to frame todays sunsets for some other longing eye?

Copying the scratchy 35 year-old slide was done with the Digital Duplicator slide copier I purchased for our Canon S2IS digital camera. The image was then rendered slightly, with some brush effects in Photoshop, to cover blemishes in the aged transparency, but the color remains pretty much true to the original.

As I find the time, most likely in winter, I'll be copying and carefully restoring hundreds of the old slides, removing the dust specks, scratches, and blemishes so rendering with brush tools won't be neccesary. And I'm sure I'll be sharing many of them here. After all, what use are they if no one sees them?


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