Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Viva La Fiesta!

Old Spanish Days Fiesta Santa Barbara is here! This year's theme is "A Tribute to Tradition". A most appropriate theme as Old Spanish Days Fiesta is an eighty-five year old tradition established by the founding families and business leaders of Santa Barbara.

Monday, July 20, 2009

One Giant Leap For Mankind

FORTY years ago I was traveling back from San Diego with my family. We had been sightseeing with our cousin, Rudy, who was visiting from Germany. The car radio kept us posted to the Apollo 11 journey, when the announcement came that Apollo's Eagle lunar landing vehicle was in the process of landing on the moon. We quickly pulled off the highway and stopped at a cafe/bar and watched this historic event on a small black and white television with many other travelers who had made the stop.

What an amazing event! It was simply mind-boggling to all of us who were crowded around this little television watching our hero Astronauts and listen to Neil Armstrong's famous words, "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed." as he stepped out onto the surface of the moon: "One small step for Man, a giant leap for Mankind!

American ingenuity and commitment. The "exemplary moment of America's we-can-do-anything attitude."

Friday, July 17, 2009

Plant A Garden, Feed a Bunny!

Bush Bunnies ate my plants!

Today is Friday, and what a gorgeous day it is here in Paradise! I prefer Goldy Locks' days..not too hot, not too cold...just right. And today really is a Goldy Locks' kind of day. TGIF doesn't mean much in a Real Estate Week. However, today was one of those lazy days of summer Fridays.

After a pretty light Broker Tour morning (with some gorgeous new listings to view), I stopped by my two favorite Nurseries on the north side of town: La Sumida Nursery and Terra Sol. They are located very close to each other but are quite different and are both wonderful in every way. Their employees love their jobs, their customers; and are very knowledgeable about plants. Their plants are healthy and beautiful. Both Nurseries have wonderful Mouser cats who are as friendly as their owners. The Big Box Nurseries just can't compete...no matter how much choice they have in their warehouse style stores.

La Sumida is one of the oldest Nurseries in town and is still owned and managed by the Sumida family. It is a terrific place for volume annuals, a variety of veggies, especially tomatoes; ordering flats of ground cover or 5 gallon plants to replace what the gophers have lunched on. Their rose nursery is amazing and voluminous. Today I stopped by to pick up some six-packs of annuals to refill some pots, and some much needed six packs of green beans...which is why I went shopping at the Nurseries in the first place!

As you can see from the pictures above, the bush bunnies ate all but one plant of my green beans, which I planted from seed...for the second time! I refuse to give up on being able to harvest my own tender green beans! So...I just went and bought some 'ready made' ones. I may have to put little fences around them for a while. I'll keep you posted (no pun intended) on the tug of war between the bunnies and me.

Our tomatoes and lettuce are doing fabulous this summer, as did our bountiful fruit trees, and blackberry bushes. The artichoke's totally atrophied and I don't know why. This is the first year that I have been able to nurse a pumpkin plant along. I usually lose them to mildew, same with our grape vines. This year there are also several bunches of green grapes coming along just fine. They haven't been discovered by the birds yet. We don't like to spray because I have begun planting a lot of milkweed and other butterfly attractors. Milkweed attracts the butterfly caterpillars and once established re-seeds itself quite readily. I have a second batch of caterpillars munching away. The first group are the butterflies now dancing in our garden.

Terra Sol Nursery is a most unique garden type nursery. They feature unusual plants, particularly perennials, lots of garden art and statues, outdoor furniture, beautiful garden vignettes from water gardens to Asian gardens, succulent gardens, water fountains, benches and so on. Stopping by Terra Sol is my once a week must. Some people go to the Mall, I go to Terra Sol. It's like a garden painting. There is always something new to look at, ideas to try at home and new plants. Again, the owners and staff are very knowledgeable, plant and people friendly. Even though my husband is able to order direct from the importer/producer as an Architect, he prefers to deal with the wonderful people at Terra Sol. http://terrasolgardencenter.com their on-line newsletter is available at http://terrasolgardencenter.com/neww/9/30

Terra Sol Nursery

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Santa Barbara Treasures

The Music Academy of the West is in the throes of it's Summer Festival. Currently into it's sixth decade, the Academy was founded to aid in the development of gifted young classical musicians through advanced study with accomplished faculty artists. As the reputation of the Academy grew it moved from Cate School to permanent facilities at it's current location at the Miraflores estate bequeathed to the Academy by Helen Marso. A year long renovation of Hahn Hall and the surrounding campus has resulted in a first class Music Academy rich in architectural history of the facilities along with the Academy's rich musical history and future.
The Academy has welcomed an outstanding group of visiting artist this summer. There are many opportunities to enjoy this local treasure for free Master Classes and Concerts and formal ticketed events.

The following are free to the public:

84 Instrumental Masterclasses: held Wednesday afternoons at Miraflores, except for the following: Trumpet-Mondays, 3:15, Hahn Hall; Collaborative Piano-Tuesdays, 1, Lehmann Hall; Clarinet-Wednesdays, 1, Lehmann Hall; Percussion-Thursdays 3:15, Hahn Hall; Flute- Thursdays, 3:15, Singher Studio.
6 Community Concerts: Immensely popular, these concerts feature Academy Fellows performing as soloists and in ensembles. Arrive early for a seat. Thursday July 16, 23, 30; August 6, 13 at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.
Merit Recital: Friday July 17, 1 pm at Hahn Hall at the Academy. Accomplished local music students celebrate the conclusion of their two-week Festival immersion with a concert open to the public.
Academy Brass Ensemble Concert: Wednesday, July 22nd at 7:30 pm at Hahn Hall.
Piano Studio Presentation: Thursday, August 13, 1 pm at Lehmann Hall.

The above listings are just an appetizer to complement a full menu of events throughout the summer to be held at the Academy as well as other venues in the community. To view the complete menu of events go to the Academy's website: http://www.musicacademy.org/ or order tickets by phone 805 969-8787.

As a final note of importance about the Music Academy of the West....The Rack is a wonderful little shop on the grounds, featuring gently used women's wear. Lots of designer items, furs, and evening clothes. Next to The Rack is The Treasure House, another little shop filled with antiques, brick-a-brack, sterling, dishware, and many treasures. Both are staffed by Volunteers and stuffed with goodies. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 11-3.

You heard it here! If you want to have an adventure filled summer in the American Riviera on a modest budget for a day, a weekend or a lifetime, tune in again for my next post on one of Santa Barbara's Treasure's...Lotusland!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Santa Barbara Summer Events

The French visited Santa Barbara this past weekend during the annual FRENCH FESTIVAL, complete with miniature Eiffel Tower, and Statue of Liberty along with approximately 2,000 Francophiles in attendance. Having just completed it's 20th anniversary, this fun event is free to the public. Held annually at Oak Park, the festival includes Can-Can dancers, a Poodle Parade and lots of French food, crafts, art and music.
With current economic hardships it's nice to know that there are wonderful events, parks and places to go in our beautiful community at no entry fee. There is so much to do, see and participate in, it is difficult to see it all.
The INTERNATIONAL ORCHID SHOW was also held this past weekend at the Earl Warren Show Grounds and does have a nominal entry fee. Unless purchases are made, there's plenty to see once the entry fee has been paid. The Orchid Growers and Orchid Affectionados turn the entire Showgrounds into an Orchid Paradise! My problem is visiting the show without indulging my passion for Orchids. I love them and have many of them growing in and around my home and gardens. Many Orchids are grown locally by commercial Orchid Nurseries as our climate is very hospitable to these gorgeous flowers. Some of the Nurseries are open to the public for purchasing orchids. Visit Stribbling Orchids and Westerlay Orchids along with Island View Nursery (featuring many plants), all in Carpinteria and open to the public.
As a Realtor, I have sold nursery land, existing Nurseries and Avocado orchards to my Agricultural clients. During these transactions I learned that the Carpinteria Valley has one of the longest growing seasons in the world..due to it's unique exposure to Ocean breezes along with a temperate climate. The cost of growing produce, orchids, flowers, etc. in hot-houses here is cost effective (after the tremendous one-time cost of the land has been paid) because the light and temperature can be controlled with shades, vents and fans, along with the help of Solar energy from the sun. Hydroponics have become the standard in our local nursery industry. As many of the growers in the Carpinteria Valley hail from Holland, they brought along their knowledge of hydroponics...which was invented in Holland. Hydroponics allow control of water use, detrimental and beneficial insects, nutrients, and reduces labor cost. The Carpinteria Valley has a very high water table, as does Holland, and with the requirements of the Clean Creek Ordinances passed in our State some years ago, along came "hydroponics." Necessity is the Mother of Invention, as the age old saying goes. The Carpinteria Valley Nursery Association hosts several tours of these commercial Nurseries throughout the year. A most interesting and informative tour which has even been featured on KCET's Huell Howser's California Gold Program. Recently Huell featured "Hollandia's Live Gourmet Lettuce" grown in the Carpinteria Valley.
CONCERTS IN THE PARK are held each Thursday evening during the Summer months at Chase Palm Park, across from East Beach. The concerts are from 6 until 8:30 pm. Bring your friends, family, a picnic and your dancing shoes! Come early if you want to find a convenient parking spot and a place to spread your blanket. Each week features different well know bands from old time to new time. A wonderful free family event.
More about unique and special Santa Barbara Music venues in my next post...
A bien tot!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Are YOU prepared for an emergency?

It has been a very busy 6 months in our beautiful community! We've had two major wild fires in the last year! In fact, counting the Gap and Zaca Fires (neither of which caused damage to residential areas) that would be 4 fires in the last 16 months.

A recent article written by Robert Muller for the Santa Barbara Independent describes our unique climate and the ecosystem in which we live, along with the vulnerability to wild-fires in our area. Following are excerpts from this most informative article: ... "much of Southern California is home to a unique environment characterized by cool wet winters and warm dry summers. This Mediterranean climate occurs in only five regions in the world and in all cases supports brushy vegetation such as the chaparral found in much of Santa Barbara County. The species are unique and Santa Barbara's chaparral is also home to many endangered species. The plants of the chaparral provide important ecosystem services that allow us to live where we do. Most notably, they ease storm water runoff, reducing erosion and keeping our streams clean. Our mountains are also a source of beauty found nowhere else in the world. The textures and shades of green that clothe the slopes of the Santa Ynez Mountains are a constant reminder of the variety of life that they support."

"Historical records of the last 100 years suggest that most of Santa Barbara's chaparral fires have not burned the same areas. Rather, most of the fires burned formerly unburned acreage," (with minor exceptions). Much of last year's Zaca Fire burned vegetation that was at least 100 years old and had no historical record of fire. The point is that while chaparral does burn, and burns with intensity, fire in chaparral is not a regular occurrence with a set periodicity." Muller further states that there is no scientific evidence that old chaparral needs to burn in order to retain its vigor. "The 100 year-old stands of the Zaca fire showed no sign of senescence. Indeed, stately old-growth manzanita occurred through those areas with no signs of decline." Muller goes on to say that Chaparral is not a 'fire-dependent' ecosystem. It does burn, but it does not 'depend' upon fire to be self-sustaining.

In fact, Muller states: "there is also evidence that too-frequent use of 'controlled' burns leads to massive conversion of landscapes from chaparral to a landscape infested with weeds, which are also known to burn with intensity. These pose an equally dangerous fire problem and a serious ecological problem for land managers. Using controlled burns to reduce fuel accumulation can lead to a pernicious cycle of frequent and continued burning, and may have consequences far beyond those intended."
Dr. Muller is the director of research at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden since 2002 and author of Trees of Santa Barbara.

The beautiful and much loved Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens located way at the top of Mission Canyon was severely damaged in the Jesusita fire, along with many of her residential neighbors.

There is a saying that bad times brings out the worst and the best in people! I sure have seen the best of the citizens of our wonderful community! First and foremost, the coordination of the community's emergency task force from fire, police, red cross, local news media, animal rescue, neighbors, volunteers, and so on was simply amazing. The evacuation of 30,000 citizens from their homes...'just in case', was as orderly as a line in Disneyland!

We were packed and ready to go very early on. Be assured that when a helicopter with sirens flies over your roof and the Sheriff drives down the street with a bull-horn, it motivates you to GET GOING NOW! The resulting adrenaline rush creates a sense of urgency not conducive to clear thinking. We had turned the water off earlier (to help with water pressure), and then turned it back on convinced that we would not have to go.... more about that later! We checked on several neighbors, called our son, and our friends who had a guest bed ready for us, put the cat in the car and off we went, not to return for 4 days.

Having lived through a wildfire (The Painted Cave Fire) which razed our neighborhood 20 years ago, (including 500plus homes) we were well aware of the dangers, and how quickly situations can change. Some time ago, my husband had organized all of our valuable paperwork into a binder along with our Red Cross Evacuation back-pack, and those can't live without items: a week's worth of clothing, cosmetics, medical prescriptions, check books, water, some snacks, etc. He had also taken photographs of each room in the house and our closet contents. All items were stashed in a large plastic container ready to grab and go. We took flash-drives to our computers. The unhappy cat had been in the cat-carrier with 5 days of cat food long before necessary (try catching a cat during panic time!). Business paper files, flash-lights, blanket, crank radio, etc. All items had been loaded into both cars, which were on the driveway pointed toward the road...keys in the car. We had even made arrangements with friends as to who would go where, depending upon where the emergency came from. Our son, away at College in another State had been notified as to our potential evacuation plan.

Here we are in July, a month later! Looking back on the events and results of the fire, it comes to mind that most 'stuff' is replaceable. We came back to our home and found our kitchen/family room flooded with four days of water running from a leak in the water purifying system under the sink. In the rush to leave, we had forgotten to turn the water off again. It took a month to replace a good portion of our hardwood floors, refinish them and paint the floor boards, etc. Certainly not a catastrophe, mostly a major inconvenience with some serious cost involved. Thanks to excellent insurance and our terrific Contractor Charlie Love, all is in place again.

Fortunately we had reviewed our home owner's insurance after the Gap fire and raised our coverage to reflect current building costs. Especially since we had done some major updating in our kitchen in the Spring. Yes, it increased our premium considerably...but hey, you do get what you pay for! Unfortunately, we know numerous people who lost their homes in both the Tea and Jesusita Fires who were very much under-insured.

We love our home and our magical gardens and feel so fortunate to have escaped the devastation of another fire. My Architect husband, Doug Reeves, designed and built our home some 20 years ago; a year-and-a-half before the Painted Cave fire. Our home was one of a handful in our neighborhood that survived. Over 500 homes burned in that fire. Today our neighborhood looks like it never happened. Hopefully in 5 years the 250 homes lost in the Tea and Jesusita fires will have been rebuilt creating thriving neighborhoods again. Our homes are filled with memories of special times, treasures, and mostly our security. The community outreach has been simply wonderful, and we have all learned a lot.

As a Realtor with 30 years of selling Santa Barbara homes, one yard at a time, I know that home is where the heart is. Take note of some of our emergency planning and make sure you are prepared for an emergency. By the way, always put your purse/wallet and car keys in the same place...so you can find them in a panic. Get started now! For more information contact your local Red Cross. Your local Fire Department is also available to make an on site visit to review your home's fire safety. Call your insurance agent and make sure your home and contents are covered.