Sunday, March 22, 2009

Color Me Home

Nearly every type of weather we've received in our new house so far has led me to turn to ECG and say, "I love living here."

Today, we have had bitterly cold wind and fast-passing angry spits of rain. The wind made the cold even colder: it was cuddle-necessary cold.

In between the splutters, the sun shone so brightly it was hard to believe that it wasn't warm. This early afternoon, when the sun shone the brightest, ECG asked me what I wanted to do today. I suggested a walk, this time not up the canyon and into the mountain, but instead, just across the street and down into the wash.

It was a very good idea.

We've lived here since September. Since September, and still, we had not yet walked simply across the street and down the footpath into the sandy floodplains. When I think about why we haven't done this, I guess it's simply because we've so busy with our home, we've forgotten to give attention to our neighborhood. As ECG has been building furniture and I've been building vegetable garden beds, neither of us have taken much time to appreciate that which is not far beyond our property walls.

The Arroyo Seco gallops out the canyon and down into the flat plain, where hopefully it slows to a lope before hitting the Devil's Gate Dam. The dam, so-named because of the Satan-faced rocks that used to frame the narrow passageway before its construction, is a pre-WPA piece of solid, fascinating concrete construction. (Someday, I'll spend a whole post on the dam; it's worthy of more than a side-note.) The wash the Arroyo Seco leaves in its wake is wide and undulating, scattered with native trees and volunteer eucalyptus.

Parts of the floodplains are vaguely developed, spotted with dredged areas for water control, the remnants of an old playing field and volleyball court, towers of rock piled by folks who wanted to leave a mark. But for the most part, it feels peaceful, empty, and connected to the deep-deep past. Today, we saw things we would have seen 1000 years ago: mountain lion tracks, a pair of ducks descending to a pool, hunting hawks, snakes.

This wash and other nearby wild areas inspire the directions I want to go with the our yard. The generations of folks who lived in this house before ECG and me clearly loved the house, but didn't necessarily embrace the essence of the place itself. Although—thank heavens—a mighty, mighty native oak still grows in the deep corner of the property, no other natives (other than unwanted weeds, many of which aren't native anyway, but instead invasive pests) exist on the property. I hope to begin incorporating the native plants into the landscape, continuing to remove more and more lawn, connecting this little ranchito of ours to the place from which it sprang.

If the natives happen to be edible, all the better. Today on our walk, ECG and I discovered a huge stand of elderberries and another of golden currants.

Finding both of these beautiful, native, food-producing plants has my kitchen brain whirring and spitting out idea after idea. I've already got a plan for some foraged elderflowers later this week and I'm brainstorming over the berries. Berries. Berries! And I didn't even have to grow them myself. Oh, I have so much to learn and discover.

All I needed to do was look past my walls and see a glimpse of what my neighborhood has to offer. I hope I remember to keep my eyes open wide enough to learn everything this corner of the planet has to teach me.

While I hope to learn from my surroundings, I also hope to learn from my online community. Our neighborhood unfortunately has an eyesore: our house. Neither ECG nor I like the color of our house, we assume our neighbors probably don't like the rancid mustard color either, and on top of that, our paint is peeling. We need a paint job in the next year or so. Although we've been talking about what color(s) we'd like our house to be since before we moved in, we just cannot come to a conclusion. Knowing that my readership is a creative bunch, ECG suggested we turned to you for help.

To allow that to happen, ECG created an online house-painting program using a photo of our house from before we moved in, Photoshop, lots of mad programming skills, and sheer ECG-genius. Follow this link, play around a bit, and submit a color-combination that you think flatters the house. We'll choose a few that we like then post them for a community vote-off.

Help us make our neighborhood even more beautiful.


Susan C said...

That paint color selector is brilliant. Did your hubby develop it? I have to talk to him. I'm doing a story about selecting paint for the LA TImes H&G section.

Sara Reddy said...

I found your blog through 7,438 untraceable clicks, and was very happy to land here. I'm actually starting a veggie garden in the next few weeks, and am very, very excited. I was raised on backyard veggies, but this will be the first I've started on my own. I look forward to coming back for ideas.

Anonymous said...

Elderflowers - hooray!

I cannot believe how much fun ECG's house paint playing thingo is. Together, you two make for creative genius. Shall have a serious play later. Though I put in an immediate NO, a loud one, to the puce!

Terry at Blue Kitchen said...

What a wonderful applet ECG has created, Christina! I love the random buttons. Don't know that I'll come up with anything worthwhile, but I'll certainly have fun playing. And your neighborhood sounds fascinating. Glad you're finally getting a chance to explore it.

kristan said...

Dude, that was SO FUN!

Christina said...

Susan C: Why thank you! I'm pretty proud of this guy I married.

SRC: I've got plenty of ideas to share--if you've got any questions, feel free to send them my way. If I don't have the answer, I'm sure I know someone who does.

Lucy: Hooray indeed. Isn't it fun? I say no to puce too.

Terry B.: You should post your creation whether you think it is worthwhile or not. Even the "out there" ideas are getting us thinking.

Kristan: Dudette, you rock. Just remindin' you.