Sunday, January 31, 2010

Decanso Gardens

After touring Heritage Square we had a few more hours left of our afternoon and realized that we did not have much further north to drive to see these gardens. The gardens are located in La Canada Flintridge, the area of concern last week with the heavy rains. Descanso in Spanish means restful and that is a good description of these gardens. E.Manchester Boddy (publisher and editor of the Los Angeles Daily News) built a home for his family here in 1938. Just before World War ll started he purchased a large amount of camellia plants from two Japanese-American nurserymen who later had been placed in the Japanese internment camps in California. Decanso now has a 20 acre oak forest which provides a canopy for a dazzling variety of camellias in every size and color. Unfortunately we would have to return in about another two months to view them in the peak of blooming. And yet we were satisfied with what we did see.
The gardens also has five acres of roses, 500 lilac bushes, and an area featuring plants of the Southern California heritage. There is also a large redwood forest, Japanese and  iris gardens. For children there is a small Jurassic Garden featuring plants of prehistoric time. I did not know that ginkgo, redwood trees, also magnolias and ferns dated back to that time. Just before we left this rhododendrom caught my eye.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Heritage Square

This small area located in Los Angeles has been a work in progress for about thirty years, and it still has a long ways to go until completion. Presently it features five architecturally significant homes that were located in different parts of the city from the years 1865-1914. They were moved to this area in the late 1960s. Besides the homes there is also a church and a carriage house built in the Queen Anne style. We had a very friendly guide, Matt who has a thick British accent. He came to live in the states four years ago. He has a history major but is a film maker. On Fridays he volunteers as a guide for Heritage Square. We were fortunate to be here on a Friday! There are also volunteers who work on the restoration of the homes, which explains the slowness of the completion of the buildings. Each of the buildings have their own  unique features . In the Queen Ann style home below note the bolsters on the porch indicative of that architectural style. This home's restoration has been completed and the inside is furnished with furniture of the period. It was the first time we saw lincrusta, or what looked like wood carvings on the walls. It is a heavily embossed material that when painted or highlighted resembles wood or leather or metals ( Matt used the word papiermache to describe the material). It was created by Frederick Walton in 1877, the same man who invented linoleum. I have a picture of that home below.
The next house I want to show here is unique for its wood carvings, both outside and inside the house. This house was built by a woodcarver who did all the carvings himself.

The last house I want to show is very unusual for its day and time. It is an octagonal home. This one is still in the process of restoration. The inside has a winding open staircase all the way up to the cupola. There are transoms above the doorways which ,when opened, allows a warm breeze to flow upwards. It is a very energy efficient home and, as Matt expressed it, was forward thinking on the part of the builder. It was built in 1860. It was a fun place to tour as it has square rooms but in its odd shaped corners are different sized built- in cabinets and closets. We enjoyed touring all the homes and would like to come back in a few years perhaps when more restoration has been done. The church will also be interesting to see. At present we could not even enter it.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Griffith Park

Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Garden are in Griffith Park. We spent most of Wednesday afternoon at the zoo  before heading to the Griffith Observatory and Planetarium. The zoo does not have as much plant life as we saw in the San Diego Zoo, but what was there made for an enjoyable walk through the zoo. The plant pictured here is a cycad, a prehistoric plant which can live under very harsh conditions. It is like a living fossil. Shortly after we entered the zoo we were greeted by these meerkats sunning themselves. Too cute for words!

The zoo is pretty old and parts of it are currently under reconstruction. Some cages were empty, a staff member informed us that the city just doesn't have the funds to keep everything going. Something I noticed about this zoo, in comparing it to other zoos we have seen, is that the various species are placed together according to the geographical area they came from. Consequently a cage of birds may be placed next to a cage of large cats. Before I leave the subject of this zoo, I want to show a picture of a markhor. It is the largest member of the goat family from Afghanistan. Its corkscrew-like horns caught our attention. Those horns can get up to 64 inches on the male.

The other  picture I have here is a view of Los Angeles from the conservatory. Any tour of this city should include a visit to the Griffith Conservatory.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Huntington Gardens

Camellias are now in bloom here in southern California and we saw plenty of them in the Huntington gardens. I just had to take a snapshot of one unusual one which I have posted here. After traveling around in the southwest John and I thought we had seen every kind of cactus possible. Henry Huntington, however, wanted plants for his garden from around the world. In his cactus garden we found this hairy cactus from South America.

Even with it being an overcast, gray and cool day I really felt uplifted in this garden. So many plants were in bloom, butterflies and birds(especially hummingbirds) were quite active. I would almost further describe it as quite noisy what with the birds singing and chattering.

Maybe some of you are wondering what the Shakespeare garden is all about. It is a huge lawn surrounded by statues representing the characters from his plays.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Huntington Art Gallery

The above sculpture caught my eye just before I entered the Huntington house. And it was just not the sculpture which impressed me, but the lush green foliage surrounding it. Since the heavy rains of last week it seems that southern California has slipped into springtime. Plants have now become a vibrant green,and even grass is appearing in places where there had just been dry earth. When Henry Huntington, owner of the Central Pacific Railroad, built this house in San Marino in 1911 he meant for it to be a modest dwelling. He wanted it to be converted eventually into an art gallery. His marriage to Arabella in 1913, however, changed that notion. The house was upgraded to 55,000 square feet. I did not  see a lot of evidence of the grand house that it once was, but I still could note its elegance in the grand hall, large library, dining room and drawing rooms. The house displays one of the largest collection of European art in the nation. Highlights include Gainsborough's Blue Boy and Lawrence's Pinkie. The estate also has a large research library containing rare collection books and manuscripts. There are also two additional buildings for American art and changing exhibitions. Winter hours allow four hours to see everything in one day, including the gardens. It was not in our plans, but we did stop to look at the current exhibition of American lithography. It features more than 250 objects documenting color lithography from advertising posters,product labels, and wall calenders to art prints from children's books to sheet music and trading cards. It was well worth our time. One could come to the Huntington estate just to see the gardens and still feel it was worth the admission price. There are Chinese, Australian and Japanese gardens as well as a rose,Shakespeare, children and subtropical gardens. In the picture here, taken in the Chinese garden, note the tall Taihu Rock on the right side of the building.  It is a type of rock found in China which is valued as a legendary decorative garden rock. It is considered by the Chinese to be a source of inspiration and contemplation, also called a scholar's rock.

The other picture I have here was taken in the Japanese garden. Unfortunately it was an overcast day with little sunshine. I will write on the cactus garden in my next posting.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Will Rogers State Historic Park

It is hard to believe that Will Rogers died before John and I had even entered this world. He has certainly been an American icon. I guess what I mainly knew of him was his rope tricks. We saw a movie in the  park showing rope tricks performed by him. The film was old and a bit grainy but we saw enough to be very impressed with his roping skills. When he threw a rope over the horse the rope went down to the ground and, after the horse galloped through it, the rope came up and tighten around the horse. We also saw Will Rogers do a figure eight, lassoing both rider and horse in pretty much the similar manner. Of course his rope tricks were only a small part of the life of Will Rogers. He was also an entertainer, movie and Broadway star, comedian, philosopher and a radio commentator. He just wasn't America's icon because his influence went around the world. He also was a person of good will and generosity. Being of part Cherokee descent, his concern was always for the common man and human rights for all people. While in the park we took in a guided tour of his house. We saw a stuffed calf in the great room of the house, a gift from a friend who thought Rogers should practice on the calf instead of his friends when they came to visit! I have a picture here of the house.

The grounds are beautiful around the house. The park has 186 acres which was given  by the family for public use as a memorial, a historical monument and a public park. It has the only polo field in Los Angeles. The park also still has Will Roger's barn and riding arenas.

The hills surrounding the house and stables afford some great hiking trails. From the highest one, Inspiration Point, one can view downtown Los Angeles and the ocean off in the distance. It is a very beautiful park and many people were there taking advantage of the sunny day. They were either picnicking, hiking, biking or riding horses in the arenas.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Entertainment in Los Angeles

In Los Angeles here we are constantly being reminded about about the latest movies either via television, newspapers or bill boards. And yet this city has a lot more to offer than that venue. Last Sunday we attended a  community theater's production of Mitch Album's play And the Winner is.. It is the story of an actor nominated for the Academy Awards but dying before he found out whether he won. He bargains and is allowed to return to earth only long enough to find out whether he had won. The play was well done and quite entertaining. We have seen two movies in the past week, Book of Eli  and Avatar. The story line of the  latter movie reminded me of the movie Dances with Wolves. Yes, I know, Avatar is all about the scenery and special effects in 3D which we did enjoy. I should not take the story all that seriously. And speaking of that movie, we saw a notice in the paper that the soloist Karen Hogle Brown (who was a soloist in the sound track of  Avatar) was singing in concert with The Concord Ensemble on Saturday. Saturday's concert was to be held at a Lutheran church in Manhattan Beach, available free to the community as it was to be a preview of the main concert being performed Sunday in Beverly Hills. We attended that, as well as a melodrama show in the evening here in Long Beach. The last act of that show had a variety of song and dance. As I listened to an actor and actress sing some goofy song of jungle noise I thought back to the concert that afternoon when Karen Brown and Scott Graff sang a portion from the operatic comedy The Barber of Seville. It seemed that John and I had gone from the sublime to the ridiculous in one day with the musical fare we had heard! By the way, if you have a chance to hear The Concord Ensemble, do try to go to one of their concerts. They have toured extensively throughout the United States and the world, headlining some very prestigious music festivals. We enjoyed their concert very much.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Natural History Museum- January 24

The first half of our day Friday seemed to be a comedy of errors. We left home with the rain still coming down and with the hope that the weather forecast was going to be correct; the rain was going to stop at noon. We drove to the metro station and immediately caught a train to downtown L.A.  Well, we did not intend to go all the way downtown. We wanted to end up southwest of town, in the museum district. As we did not know how or where to make bus connections to that part of town, we did end up riding to the Union Station downtown. At least we knew there was an information booth there where we could get directions. As we entered that part of the train station we noticed a bright light shining in the corner by the information booth. Apparently a movie was being filmed. While John proceeded to get information as to how to reach our destination, I watched in fascination at the activity around me. I soon realized that the same people kept circling around me, going out the revolving door only to return a few minutes later.  I deduced that they were the extras for the movie. We then made the right train/bus connections and reached our destination. We were pelted with heavy rain as we walked from the bus stop to the museum. It was 1PM by then, so much for the veracity of the weather forecast. The museum is a large building and parts of it are under construction. We couldn’t find the main door. John went to the construction office for those directions. Unfortunately the path to the main door was under several inches of water.  At this point I was ready to return home, but we chose to walk through the water. As we entered the museum a little lady scurried around us mopping up the water we were dripping on the floor. We came to find out that the cafĂ© is under construction and we were going to have to skip lunch. I was able to purchase a chocolate bar in the museum gift shop. Things started to look up after that. I enjoyed several of the museum’s exhibits. The museum claims that it has one of the world’s largest gem and mineral collections. It was the biggest collection I have ever seen. Most impressive was the Kazanjian Red Diamond, one of the rarest of all diamonds. In this gem collection are also jewelry, figurines, and vases made from the precious stones. We stepped out of the museum a little after 5PM to pleasantly discover the rain had stopped and the sun was out!  Before I end here I do want to show the first automobile to be mass produced. It is the 1902 Oldsmobile Dash. It cost $650.00 and the fastest it could go was 20mph.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Norton Simon Museum- January 22

Until yesterday we have pretty much been staying inside because of the heavy rains. Yesterday there was a small break in the storms so we headed out to the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena. This museum is one man's collection of art over thirty years. Norton Simon (1907-1993) started out with a few thousand dollars with which he bought the Hunt canning company. Over the following years he also purchased McCall's Publishing, Canada Dry, Max Factor and Avis car rental. Hard to believe that one man could be so diverse in his business dealings! Needless to say, he was successful and earned the millions necessary to build an art collection. We had a very enjoyable afternoon here at his museum. There was plenty of information, via short movies and written material, to help us understand the paintings  which we were viewing. There are 21 galleries of European art from the 14th-century to the 20th-century. In these galleries are a renowned collection of Old Masters, Impressionists as well as modern art. I especially enjoyed the study of portraits done by the museum which is entitled Gaze. A perceptible shift in that genre started happening in the late 1800s. Conventional portraits continued to be painted, but a "decisive challenge to these standard practices arose in the work of the work of the Impressionists and continued through the 20th-century" ( quote taken from the museum brochure).  I like this quote from Pablo Picasso: "are we to paint what is on the face, inside the face, or what's behind it?"  The museum also has the largest collection of Asian art outside of that area of the world. That collection consists mainly of sacred shrines and statues related to the three religions of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Unfortunately the gardens of this museum, which contain some sculptures
from Europe and Asia, was closed off to the public because of the rain. I am not sure we would have had time anyway to tour them because the museum itself took up our whole afternoon.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Scherer Park, January 19

We have had a second day here of heavy rain with  more rainy days ahead . Something interesting we have found about California weather is that it seems to do whatever it is going to do in a big way. When the sun comes out, especially in the afternoon, it is hot and very intense. And when it rains it pours, flooding roads and creating puddles big enough to lose your car in. And those puddles are slow to soak into the ground. Maybe it is just that it does not rain much here, so the attitude is that one need not worry about gutters on the houses or drainage ditches for the roads. A big source of concern right now is for the homes located in the hills of Los Angeles. Three years of drought plus lots of forest fires is the perfect set-up for mud slides during heavy rains. There was one area of homes evacuated yesterday, those people have returned to their homes by now. The worse of the storms is coming tomorrow. Guess this is what winter is like for southern California. Fortunately for us, between showers, we can get out and walk in Scherer Park. It is a local city park with a small lake and lots of strange looking ducks and geese. I questioned one man (who seems to feel it is his mission daily to feed these water fowl) as to why there are so many unusual ducks and geese in this park. He opined that some of them have just been dropped off by people who were raising them, and others came in from the nearby hills to escape forest fires. I thought the muscovy duck to be very strange with  pinkish-red caruncles which extend down his face from his eye to his bill. Most of the ducks and geese are together in pairs or in groups of three to four. This duck was a loner, possibly because he was very aggressive with the other birds. My informant said he thought he was of that nature because of his missus who was sitting on a nest of eggs.

Another unusual species in this park is the crested duck. The only pair are always seen together.

There is also a small flock of Chinese geese which I have pictured below. The male of the species has a large black swelling or basal knob on his forehead.

We have also noticed  snowy egret, cormorants, coots, mallards and snow geese hanging around this pond. They bring many people to the park mainly during the early hours of the day and again in the late afternoon when children get out of school. I do believe these birds are existing mainly on a diet of bread crumbs!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Cabrillo Whale Watch- January 16

From the day after Christmas through the end of March gray whales can be seen on their migration along Southern California's coast. Saturday John and I went on a whale watch excursion boat. We were out at sea for about three hours and spotted only one mother-calf pair. At times the calf could be seen riding on her back. He was just a bit too young to be swimming continuously on his own. We did see a lot of dolphins swimming around the boat. It was quite a sight to see them flying up out of the water and diving back down. They seemed to do it so gracefully and with little effort. There were  a lot of commorants out on the water. We learned from the guides on the boat that as the day wears on those birds will sink deeper into the water, which is why they retire to the shore and stand with their wing spread out. We also saw sea lions sunning themselves on a buoy.

 After our tour out on the sea we headed to the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium for a guided tide pool walk. We saw a lot of the California sea hare, noted for its two big ears sticking up( actually for this critter it is their nose).

Our guide on the walk also turned over a rock so we could view the sea urchins hiding out there.

  We were informed by the staff that trash thrown out on the streets of the city gets washed down through the storm drains into the ocean and can then be seen out on the beach during low tide. That was a sobering thought for us during our tidepool walk. We certainly saw a fair amount of styrofoam, rusty cans and glass bottles out on the beach!

Friday, January 15, 2010

San Gabriel Valley- January 14

In the past when I thought of Los Angeles my mind brought up images of the city itself, especially Hollywood. I never gave much thought about the natural setting, as the ocean and mountains. Having been here now for over a month I am coming to appreciate the beauty of this area. Yesterday we drove northeast of the city into the San Gabriel Valley. From that area we had a good view of snow covered Mt.Baldy.

After a picnic lunch we did some hiking along a mountain stream. We did not progress very far on that path  however, because the trail was quite rocky.  We did find the scenery very beautiful and tranquil with the clear water rushing over the the rocky river bed. It was nice to get away from the noisy activity of the city.

 I also have here a picture of the  Morris Reservoir and dam. The water level is certainly quite low. We are to get some heavy rains next week and maybe that will change.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

South Coast Botanic Garden, Part 2- January 14

The garden is divided into some very distinct areas. There is a redwood grove, as well as a eucalyptus  and ficus collection, to name a few. And speaking of ficus, we eagerly headed toward that section of the garden when we learned that banyan trees were located there.  The first tree we saw there was the Moreton fig! We should have expected that are of the same species, they both have the same flared buttresses for roots(makes for a shallow root system). The road next to the ficus trees is buckled, it seems the roots are pulling up through the pavement. I don't know what the garden can do about that situation, but the garden brochure says that the garden is constantly being renovated to "compensate  for the settling of the grounds and to prevent landfill gasses from escaping into the atmosphere". The garden was created  on a sanitary landfill in 1959. Gasses that form underground as a result of decomposing refuse are collected throughout the garden and are used to generate electricity. This is a most unusual botanical garden in more ways than one! And speaking of unusual, one picture I wish to share with you was found in the succulent area of the garden. Anyone hungry for pork and beans?

Another unusual plant which we found in the garden is the white floss silk tree from Peru. Its blossoms look like white orchids, and its bark is covered with sharp needles.

And we were surprised to find a blooming wild lilac, a native of California. Its blooms look different than the lilac plant which I am familiar with, but it still has the wonderful smell of a lilac.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

South Coast Botanic Garden- January 12

Today I woke up to the gentle sound of rain falling on our roof. I was told by one of our neighbors that February is the rainy month here in southern California. After touring this botanical garden Monday I am sure that the rain is much needed.  Some of the plants and trees looked very dry, or maybe they had either died or gone into hibernation. And yet the garden brochure does say that the goal of the garden is to have 75% of its plants drought tolerant.  We also discovered that just by looking at the trees it was hard to determine what season it is!  We saw a flowering Japanese apricot, and a sweet gum with its leaves turning color. The apricot tree I have posted here- it was absolutely beautiful!

This garden has 2,500 different species of plants and 100 rare specimens. They represent countries from as far away as south Africa, Australia and Italy. So maybe it was not unusual to see as many blooming plants as we did.  And it also was probably not so strange,then, to see so many unusual plants and trees. How about this sausage tree from Africa?  Note its fruit which really does look like sausage. There was also a cigar tree with yellow blossoms on it which looked like small cigars.
I was also surprised to see a tree aloe, which I have also posted here. It has a yellow flower on top, otherwise its leaves do look like those of an aloe plant. In the next posting I will show more of the unusual plants which we found in this garden. We spent about three hours in the garden and were constantly intrigued by all the different flowers and trees which can be seen in the garden's 86 acres.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Getty Villa- January 12

This is a pretty awesome museum. The whole afternoon we were there I felt transported back to the ancient areas of Greece, Rome and Etruria. Even the setting lends itself to that feeling of ancient antiquity. Getty had this museum built in a small canyon with the coastal mountains to its north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The museum he built to house his collection of antiquities was modeled after the Villa dei Papiri, a Roman country home in Heculaneum, Italy, which was buried by the eruption of Mt.Vesuvius in AD 79. Shortly after arriving at the museum we took the garden tour with a docent. She pointed out the features of the villa and gardens which harks back to ancient Rome. After walking through an atrium, which has a ceiling open to light and air, we stepped into the inner peristyle. This area has formal gardens with bronze replicas of statues found at the Villa dei Papiri. Going through an archway leads to the outer gardens and peristyle shown here. In the pond is a satyr reclining in the water. He looks like some heavy imbibing of wine made him quite happy!

The outer peristyle is a covered walkway on both sides of the gardens. Here we found Corinthian columns  decorated with the curling leaves of the acanthus plant.We also could view the coffered ceiling and geometirc patterns on the walls which are very typical of ancient Rome.

All of the gardens have only plant species from the Mediterranean area. Ancient Rome used herbs a lot to make their homes smell good, and also used them for eating and medicinal purposes. I found the rosemary hedge to be an interesting plant. The picture I have here is of the herb garden (our son Mike is standing there), and behind him is a papyrus plant. The other picture is in the East Garden. The colorful fountain is decorated with shells and theater masks.

The art galleries inside the villa cover two floors. The antiquities collection dates from 6,500 BC to AD 400. It contains monumental sculptures as well as artifacts from everyday life as vases, coins and jewelry.  It is easy to tour the galleries without feeling overwhelmed because they are organized according to themes. There are rooms dedicated  to the Gods and Goddesses, Monsters and Minor Deities, Temple of Herakles, and Mythological Heroes- to name a few. The statue of the Lansdowne Herakles was impressive, it was one of J.Paul Getty's most prized possessions and inspired him to build the Villa museum.

Monday, January 11, 2010

George F Canyon Nature Center- January 11

While most of the nation continues to be plagued with an unusually cold winter, we here in southern California have continued to enjoy the warmth of the sun. A docent at Rancho Los Amititos pointed out to us a blooming hebe plant and remarked: "what is that doing?"  "It is not to bloom until spring."  So maybe we are not seeing the usual southern Californian winter. At this ranch I saw a camelia plant starting to bloom. I just had to get a close-up shot of that flower, it was too pretty to pass up.

Saturday we took a hike in the George F. Canyon. It is located on the Palo Verdes Peninsula. We were told that it would be a flat, easy walk. In reality the path went constantly upward to the rim of the canyon. We were amazed at the beautiful homes sitting on the edge of the rim. It is easy to understand how a forest fire in one of the many canyons located around Los Angeles ends up destroying so many homes and causes large mud slides when a heavy rain falls on the denuded area.  And yet I am sure that is not what the home owner thinks about when he dreams of the lovely vista he will have from his home on a hill!

Despite the fact that the canyon is located in a very built up area ,John and I did enjoy our walk through the canyon. We used our binoculars  to do some birding. A red tail hawk swoped lazily above us. We decided he was not too seriously looking for his dinner. A scrub jay chattered loudly so he was easy to spot. And I am now finding it not too difficult to identify the bushtit. He always has a large entourage of other bushtits with him. The last picture I have here is the view we had once we reached the top of the canyon. Off in the distance we could see the city of Los Angeles and the mountains surrounding it. Quite a spectacular view!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Rancho Los Alamitos- January 9

This ranch is  in the Long Beach Area, as is Rancho Los Cerritos. It also was part of the land grant given to the Spanish soldier Nieto in 1790. Rancho Los Alamitos became an outpost ranch of his oldest son Juan Jose. This ranch went through a couple more owners before John Bixby (cousin of Jotham Bixby of Los Cerritos) acquired the property. He restored the old adobe home on the ranch, and planted trees and a garden. His son Fred and wife Florence took over this ranch in 1906. It was Florence who created the expansive gardens that surround the house today. It was very interesting touring the home; a large, rambling  comfortable ranch style building. The family lived in the home until 1961 and in 1967 turned it over to the City of Long Beach to maintain and develop as a museum. They left their collections of glassware, paintings, rugs, furniture,and appliances with the home. Some of the furniture was made by John Bixby. There certainly was a lot to look at and admire in the house. The above picture is of the front of the home, which has a couple of Moreton Bay fig trees shading it. The five acres of gardens are comprised of a series of thematic garden areas. I have posted here a picture of the cactus garden. That is a flowering jade plant in the lower left corner.

There was also a small  secret garden, native, rose, and  friendly garden. The last picture posted here was taken in the old garden. There were also oleander and jacaranda tree walks, which I would love to see in the springtime when they would be in bloom. However, there was still plenty of blooming foliage to enjoy when we toured the gardens of this ranch. And an Allen Hummingbird even charmed us with his presence while we were viewing one of the gardens. We enjoyed every minute of our time here!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Long Beach Farmer's Market- January 8

John and I have decided to stay here for another month. The sunshine is just too good to pass up, especially now that the rest of the nation is receiving  an arctic blast. And there is more than enough to see and do in the Los Angeles area. We also  found another reason to hang around here a bit longer. A couple of weeks ago I saw a field of ripe strawberries, so I have been looking for some place to buy them. I found them in the stores, but they did not have the very juicy ripe from the field flavor. What a surprise to find that  I can purchase them at a farmer's market within walking distance of our home! Another bonus is that this farmer's market is a Certified Farmer's Market. That label means that what is sold in this market is locally grown.  You can tell how excited I was about what we found,  because after coming home I had to set out all our purchases and take a picture of them.

We sampled quite a bit of the produce before buying anything. We found the Chinese Grapefruit to be quite tasty. That is the large yellow fruit sitting in the middle of this picture. It is also called a Pummello. The fruit inside is very sweet, seems only to have a hint of the flavor of grapefruit. This farmer's market has two Asian farms represented, as well as an organic produce stand. One other item I want to mention here is the Kristmas Karmel Korn. It is caramel corn with a cheese coating.  I know it doesn't sound good, but we found it to be quite tasty! We were tempted to buy everything we saw, but  were reassured that the market will come back again next week on Thursday afternoon.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Rancho Los Cerritos

In the shopping districts near where we are currently parked we have often seen the words "Bixby Knoll's". Those words have new meaning after we toured Rancho Los Cerritos.  The area  in which we are now located was in 1784 a part of 300,000 acres of land given to a Spanish soldier as a reward for his service . By 1790, because of a land dispute, that amount of land was reduced to 167,000 acres. The land was further divided down over the years, and the soldier's daughter ended up with 27,000 acres of land in 1834.  These acres of land are bordered on the west by the Los Angeles River, and on the south by the Pacific Ocean. It became known as the "Ranch of the Little Hills"The land eventually ended up in the hands of the
firm Flint, Bixby and Co. Jothan Bixby resided on the ranch with his family. The ranch house was remodeled in 1930, and in 1955 4.7 acres of the ranch was sold to the city of Long Beach as a public museum. The original configuration of the adobe was left intact over the years, so the home was interesting to tour.

 But to me what is even more exciting about this ranch is the garden, which still has the trees planted in it from the years 1844-1881. The most impressive, because of its height and trunk size, is the Australian Moreton Bay Fig tree which I have pictured here. (Note the people for size comparison.)

In walking the garden we found a rather tall bush with flowers on it that looked like the flowers of an impatiens plant. We were fortunate that the horticulturist of the gardens was at the ranch during the time we were there and she was very eager to answer our questions. She said the plant we saw was of the impatient species and it is a perennial. I will post a picture of it here.

While we were talking to the horticulturist, a large flock of birds descended on a patch of honeysuckle which was close to where we were standing. They were swooping and diving among the flowers so they seemed to me to be hummingbirds. The gardner informed us that some were hummingbirds, but that many of them were bushtits. So now I have learned of a new bird, one of many I never knew before! The birds left the honeysuckle before I could snap a picture of them.