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April 3, 2007

Hot in Los Angeles

There is one smell I can identify immediately and I will forever associate it with Los Angeles, and that is the smell of a California wildfire.

Reporters and the people on TV describe the smoke as "acrid," which I guess it is, but to me a California wildfire smells like desert sage and a hint of dry eucalyptus and brown earth and heat and fear.

Apparently two dumbaii teenage boys from Illinois were playing with matches out near Universal Studios and the whole mountain caught on fire. They should be glad they are not my children or I would have paid the nice policemen to keep them in jail. Of course, I guess if you aren't from here you have no idea how easy it is to set the whole city on fire. Then again, as a teenager, you should have already passed the "play with matches" stage and be developing into the "sneak porno off the innernet" stage. I MEAN REALLY NOW.

You could see the smoke all the way downtown, a thick blanket of it settling down around the skyline. On the bus ride home we approached the 101/134 split and we had to shut all the windows because smoke was filling the bus. I got one not-very-good picture of the backside of the mountain where the fire was mostly out, just smoldering:

busride-hollywood-fire1.jpg


And most importantly, I got a sneaky profile shot of the Hot Bus Driver:
busride-hollywood-fire2.jpg
Bad picture but you'll have to trust me, HE HOT.

According to weather news, this is the longest dry spell Los Angeles has experienced in 130 years. I'm wary of the fire season, last year and the year before were too close for comfort out in Encino Adjacent. This year I have even more to protect from the scorching heat and fire danger, however.

THIS YEAR I HAVE OKRA.

Now, if you are right this very minute shriveling your petite, well-bred nose in disgust -- Okra! The horror! -- let me inform you that Southern Fried Okra (click for recipe) is the finest dish on earth. Served with a cold beer, some sliced tomatoes from the garden and maybe a whole ham, you will be the fattest and happiest human being around and your blood will flow finely through your veins, lubed up with oil and love.

I do not know if ya'll remember my raised bed garden I built last year, part of the Failed Square Watermelon Project of 2006. Anyway, it just sat there all year sad and empty after my tiny watermelon seedlings burned up in solid week of 118 degree Valley weather. It is now home to TWELVE little okra seedlings, because okra is a warm weather plant and allegedly LOVES the sun. The wildfire, not so much. But sun is supposed to be good for okra. There are also zucchinni in the corners of the garden bed and some marigolds because that is how I roll.

garden-0407okra.jpg

Having been a renter for five thousand years, I have always been a container gardener, and I usually have pretty good success in the containers. Check out the tomatoes and marigolds:
garden-0407tomato.jpg


Cucumbers (six plants because yes, I ARE CRAZY):
garden-0107cukes.jpg


I've had some of these pots for ten, twelve years now, most of them held giant cactus and succulents. But back in January we had a crazy hard frost and it was 26 degrees for several nights in a row. (That has never happened in the hundred years I've lived here!) Almost everything died. I was sad at first, but then it felt kind of good to make a clean start. I often forget that things and posessions and even plants carry energy and memories. Now I don't look out on the patio and see plants I had in a married house from way back when, I see a whole bunch of happy new little faces and just one or two old friends.

Over the weekend Faith and I wandered the aisles of the Green Thumb nursery in Canoga Park looking at their lovely herb selection and picking up each happily potted plant and smelling them, touching the leaves, and at some point I believe I even hugged a culinary-grade French rosemary. I bought Apple Mint, three varieties of Thyme, the aforementioned Rosemary, Greek Oregano, Cilantro and Basil:

[click for bigger pics]

That last pic is catnip ... in a hanging basket. I learned my lesson last year, you neighborhood alley cats who roll nekkid in planted catnip!!


I also got one red bell pepper, one yellow pepper and one purple (!) pepper, and lined them up like plant-art:
garden-0407bellpeppers.jpg


Most of my plants sit on little wheeled plant stands so I can move them into the shade this year when the Big Heat Wave arrives. I did not install a drip irrigation system because it was too expensive and I had already spent my entire budget on plants and potting soil and so on. But I cleaned the patio and arranged everything so that I can just buy one of those special nozzles for the garden hose that simulate rainwater and I'm going to hose the patio down at night when I water the plants, which (I hope) will have the added benefit of keeping Spider City at a more manageable level (the amount of dust and leaves and dirt and cobwebs on the patio was rather startling. Apparently I was very busy last year and did not have time for such pursuits as "sweeping" and "noticing the debris.")

While I would like to end this column with something involving smoke and fire and heat and me and the hot bus driver (as if I would tell ya'll anyway! Because, and Also: Hi Dad! Just sitting over here doing some Bible Study!) instead I'll tell you I spent the weekend gardening my little heart out and it was one of the most relaxing weekends I have had in ages. I used muscles I did not know I had, I got to see Faith, and I got to visit the Korean Market with my neighbor Mrs. Lee (I felt weird taking pictures, it seemed rude)(but it was fun!)

And now I have a little garden, and my hope, and a sturdy hose for the hotspots. I even found a home for Victor:
garden0407victor.jpg

Posted by laurie at April 3, 2007 10:25 AM