After The Fall

I made good on one of today’s resolution… certainly the most labor intensive one: the sweeping/raking of the back yard.

Here’s the last load, the third time I’d filled up this 30-gallon trash can:


That’s a lotta leaves — especially when considering that I did it all before five days ago.

One might read this and wonder why I do this somewhat obsessively given the fact that we have gardeners (actually more like an indiscriminate weed-whacking leafblowers) come every two weeks.

And the answer is because they only come every two weeks, whereas the leaves they fall every hour of every day and 10 times as much during the rain.

Plus I’m weird in that I actually like doing stuff like this.

What’s In A Name?

Here’s a surname I’m pretty sure doesn’t get sounded out every day: Engensperger. Specifically Mr. P. Engensperger.

Who dat? Good question. Don’t know. But it’s the name on the latest trinket found in the never-ending treasure trove of our backyard. While out cavorting with Ranger (who overnight has taken to fetching the frisbee like she’s been doing it forever) I spied this doubled-over piece of lightweight metal by the hammock that when I unfolded it and dusted it off revealed itself to be a typeset embossed tag of some sort…


…showing the home’s address and the name of a previous resident (owner?), a Mr. P. Engensperger. Of interest in regards to the tag’s potential age is the last line that reads:


It could be argued that the use of the last two digits of the zip code was for space reasons, but I’ll bet this plate was made back when two-digit postal “zone numbers” were the order of the day, which means prior to 1963 when the national five-digit system was installed. The “26” being placed after the city instead of after the state would support this as the two-digit postal zone numbers typically indicated smaller local areas (Hollywood 28, for example). Additionally the use of “CAL” as an abbreviation for the state instead of the two-letter abbreviation (a program also implemented in 1963) would indicate this plates age at 43 years or more. But I’ve no clue as to why there’s an ampersand after the “CAL” or what it might represent.

The other notable element on this side is one that can barely be discerned in the rough scan. On the right edge is a vertical arrow with a feathered tail design that’s embossed from the opposite side as the address stamp. On the tag’s flipside and barely readable through the metal’s deterioration (even with an 8X lupe) at the top edge is “FARRINGTON” and at the bottom is “TRADE CHAP-A-PLATE MARK.” A Google search proved unhelpful using either or both terms.

So did a search for “Engensperger.”


Regulars or those with some familiarity with this blog or friends and visitors to the house who’ve obliged me when I’ve bid them enter the “museum” of artifacts I’ve collected during various excavations know that the backyard of our house has yielded up everything from a silver-plated teaspoon from the Beverly Hilton to an at-least 42-year-old whisky bottle to a seemingly authentic German army helmet from World War II and a whole bunch of other bric-a-brac.

Well, today I was back at it, trying to upright a broken and severely leaning section of pony wall up in the back and to do so required me to shovel out deep behind it. During the course of the dig, I unearthed a whole bunch of old nails, a blue marble, a small brown glass vial, the arm of a small toy doll, a nice piece of steel that looks like it could be a stirrup but probably isn’t, and some more nails.

Then came this:


[click image to enlarge]

It’s the corner of an 83-year-old license plate — the “23” indicates the year it was issued as back then it was stamped directly on the plate. I was thrilled by this piece because it’s the first example of a find that leaves no doubt as to how old it is.

Of course during the rest of the shoveling I kept a sharp lookout for other pieces, but none were to be found.

Fierce Predator Loose In The Backyard

I hadn’t seen one of these magnificent creatures in awhile. The last one being near the horticulture offices of the L.A. Zoo… and that was two years ago. Coincidentally, after going through and checking out some of my Flickr contacts’ latest submissions yesterday and finding this fine one posted, I wondered how long it might be until I encountered one myself.

Sure enough I went to let Ranger out into the backyard and sitting righting smack dab on the backdoor screen was this gorgeous representative of one of the fiercest and most ruthless predators on the planet. This one’s three-inches long.


Eventually and with the aid of a stick for it to climb up on (after it first attacked it viciously) I was able to relocate the mantis to an environment more condusive to getting it something to eat, and that’s where I photographed it after it had assumed its deceptively humble inverted position of patient impending doom for some unsuspecting prey. It’s still there this morning…. waiting and watching.

Gentlemen… Start Your Chainsaws!

Workers are arriving as I write this, preparing to timber a tallish tree in our backyard. It’s an Australian brush cherry tree that’s as close to being a nuisance as I can call a living organism just doing its thing. From an actuarial standpoint, it’s a risk being situated much too close to the house, only a few feet from it and it’s long been left to overgrow the roof. From a gardenerial perspective, it’s just a pain in the butt to clean up after almost year round. If it’s not dropping its fruit by the pounds, then it’s raining leaves and these odd little fine feathery things that need sweeping.

Still, I can always deal with that latter aspect and I hate destroying something that’s been thriving just because whoever planted it however many years ago (20/30/40 years maybe?) didn’t consider the ramifications of its location. On top of that the tree’s trunk has proved a great source of amusement/exercise for Jiggy and Pumpkin, both of whom like to charge at it and scale its trunk as far as they can before hanging from it suspended by their claws until they release and drop back down to the ground.

But the fact is that in recently changing homeowner insurance policies the tree is the one thing that troubled the insurance company. And while its recommendation was just to trim it back away from the roof, Susan and decided that we shouldn’t prolong the inevitable.

And now the chainsaws have started. I will certainly photograph the aftermath of their endeavors, but I don’t think I can bear to watch them in action. In the meantime here’s a before shot of the arbor snapped earlier this morning.


Morel Majority

Nothing new uncovered in the realm of aged glassware or World War II memorabilia. Instead our latest discovery is of a much more organic variety. A mulch-covered patch of our backyard has sprouted many examples of an alien lifeform such as this strapping individual here:


The place is practically lousy with the things. Turns out they’re morels — also known as woodfish, or sponge mushrooms — and tthey are allegedly delicious. We just have to find out about that!