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Archives for December 13, 2014

Gardening tips that come in handy the entire year: The Pecks

In keeping with the tradition of the holiday season, we come bearing gifts.
Gifts borne of  experiences in the garden and around the house the past year, both from things we discovered while working and things we discovered just don’t work.
In other words, gifts you can’t exchange, even if you do have a receipt.
But, much like the jelly of the month club in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” they do keep on giving the entire year.
For example:
1. The orchard ladder is your friend, enabling you to reach previously out-of-reach heights, even (especially) on uneven ground. If you don’t have one, get one (and it’s not too late for Christmas).
2. If you don’t have any uneven ground, or even more to the point, if your back yard is all concrete and hard surfaces, you should not get an orchard ladder, which can slip and be quite treacherous on, say, a patio.
3. Always — without exception! — be flexible. And while we’re talking about home/garden projects specifically, it’s a gift to those around you no matter what the situation. In our case, we began the year certain we would be putting in a beautiful new vegetable garden this spring. That is, until it became clear our front porch was much worse than we anticipated and rotting beneath our feet, demanding our full attention and every minute of free time. The garden project is still there, waiting to be done, and now the rebuilt foundation of our porch means it’s not going anywhere.
4. If you look hard enough, it’s possible to find a positive in a negative situation, no matter the size of the negative. Yes, we’re talking about the porch again. Instead of just repairing it — and we use the word “just” loosely — we created a sizable storage area beneath it where there was none before.
5. You can grow hardy banana plants in Oregon, and as far as we know, it has nothing to do with climate change. Yet.
6. A fabric store just before Halloween is no place for the squeamish. Seriously.

View full sizeA dancing granddaughter can do wonders for even the most stressed-out person. 
7. No matter how difficult a project might be, no matter how many hours you might have spent crawling on your belly under, say, a porch, a smile from a grandchild makes everything OK. Great, even. Marcia: Especially when, at 22 months old, they decide to dress up in sunglasses and a knit cap and dance to the Bee Gees.
8. Crushed rock is the “best thing since sliced bread” of the moment. You can use it on paths, on patios, for drainage, in wall footings and even to break up compacted soil in your lawn. Is there anything it can’t do? Sure, but it still, well, rocks.

OK, enough with the gifts. It’s time for a walk back through the year’s highlights (and not-so-high lights) before diving into next year’s projects.
It’s hard to believe that this spring we’ll have been writing this column for four years (Dennis: Not this column specifically; it just took a couple days). That’s a lot of projects. Sometimes they’re easy, sometimes they’re not.
1. I hate to admit we started 2014 with our covered front porch full of dry rot. Unfortunately, it was a lot more extensive than we thought, but we are now about two-thirds of the way through repairing it. We needed to hire a contractor for the structural stuff and are doing the rest ourselves. To paraphrase the postal service motto, neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night kept us from the repairs. Which reminds me of the time I was using a power mitre saw for the porch trim and our postal carrier came up behind me to give me a package, scaring the beejeebers out of me. Luckily, I still have all my fingers, but it does suggest this note to the postmaster general: Training should include no sneakiness, especially if the recipient is wearing ear protection, safety glasses, using a power saw and is in the garage with her back to you.
2. Last January, we wrote about how to make an upholstered headboard and, as predicted, our cats, Buster and Lucille II, decided it was instead a glorified scratching post. Bad kitties!
3. I painted a mural above the new headboard as well as a mural above the snoring room bed, but, truth be told, I wasn’t crazy about either. The dragonfly is pretty predictable and just a bit trendy for my taste. And the snoring room wall was painted over immediately, because what should have been a cute little bee looked like a housefly. I see a column re-do in the future.
Dennis: And all I can see is that painting with the freaky eyes that used to be above our headboard, staring at me from its new home in the master bathroom.
4. I never did entice Matt Damon and George Clooney to help weed our garden.
Dennis: Three words for you, Marcia: restraining order.

View full sizeRoxy has found both the natural approach to her disease and the new sofa pillows very much to her liking. 
5. The herb pot I created for the back deck is well-used year-yound. Our daughter-in-law Andie, who wrote about the healing power of herbs in that column, even concocted an herbal mix for our dear little wiener dog. Roxy was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease, but thanks to our vet, who practices alternative medicine, and Andie’s herb mix, she is doing remarkably well.
6. After writing our column about plants you might not expect to thrive in the Northwest, I was determined to try Burl Mostel’s recommendation of a giant pineapple lily. The plant seems to be thriving in our garden even after our especially early cold snap this November. We also wrote about plants that look good year-round. Our potted camellia ‘Yuletide’ out on the back deck has been putting on quite a display since October, and won’t quit until Easter. Since it barely blossomed last year with our freaky 8-degree weather, it’s even more welcome this year.
Dennis: Did you say pineapple? I can’t wait for the fresh pineapple. Wait, there’s no fruit?
7. I’m still smitten with succulents, although Dennis somehow confused them with succubus.
8. I’m wondering if I should have built a new arch in our back yard. After renovating our old one in July, I removed some of the thick bushes at its base in September so Dennis could seal it and I discovered that one of the posts was pretty rotten. I’ll cross my fingers and hope it will last a few more years.
9. I must confess I still haven’t planted the Elaeagnus ‘Gilt Edge’ on our hillside that was mentioned in our column on screening with plants. At the time of the column, the wholesale nursery I frequent was sold out and I figured we could dig a hole in the hillside and plant it later. It wasn’t until I was looking at this year’s columns that I realized I had forgotten about it. Note to self: Buy Elaeagnus and plant it, sooner rather than later.
Dennis: I just dig holes. If anyone had asked me, I would have pointed at another plant on the hillside and said, “there it is.”
10. I’m a landscape designer by profession and passion, so it’s a real pleasure attending the many garden tours and open gardens and sharing what fellow designers, as well as homeowners, are creating. If you have a chance next year, you might like to try the Association of Northwest Landscape Designers tour or the Garden Conservancy tour. Fair warning: It will definitely inspire you to create something in your garden. Shed, please!
11. One of our dogs has decided the pillows I made for our sofa is the best place to sleep in the entire house, and the cats have decided that the new sofas are also glorified scratching posts. But then, isn’t everything?
12. The best part of finally finishing the powder room after six years was reinstalling the door stop. I can’t tell you how many times the door locked itself because the lock button would hit the wall. I will probably come back as a locksmith, or even better, a burglar, in my next life.
Dennis: I won’t even ask why being a burglar is better than a locksmith; that’s between you and your reincarnation.

Looking back at the year, we accomplished a lot and had fun doing it. I truly wish there were two of me, though, so that Marcia #1 could do the fun, creative stuff and Marcia #2 could finish repairing the front porch and installing new wood floors.
But such is life, plus, I can only imagine what Dennis would have to say about two Marcias.
Dennis: Two words: Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.

Marcia Westcott Peck is a landscape designer ( and Dennis Peck is not. He is a curator at The Oregonian, which is a good thing for him, because if he had to use his hands for anything other than typing, it would not be pretty.

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Garden tips for winter

What should you do in your garden and yard this time of year? There are several things that should be done as we go into winter and other things that can be done if you get the urge to be outside on one of our sunny, warm days. 

If you have an automatic irrigation system, now is the time to adjust it for winter conditions. Consider installing a rain and freeze sensor which will turn the system off during rain or freezing temperatures. This will save you money by not watering when you don’t need to and helps conserve a valuable natural resource. Also, a sensor can prevent hazardous, icy conditions from occurring by eliminating irrigation during cold snaps. If you haven’t already covered your faucets and rolled up your hoses, it’s time to do that as well. 

Another thing to do this time of year is to run your lawn mower one more time to run it out of gas. Fuel left in the mower over the winter can make for a non-responsive mower in the spring. You can also purchase and use a fuel stabilizer if you do not want to empty the tank. 

Mowing all the leaves in your yard into bits is a good thing to do as you are trying to run out of gas. Leaves will break down and put organic matter back into your lawn. You can also use

leaves as a mulch in your garden or flowerbeds, whole or shredded. I water the leaves down to help them stay in place. 

Adding a layer of any kind of mulch is a great thing to do this time of year. Mulch provides insulation to the plants for the winter. And, it makes a landscape look finished and clean. Leaves and other sources of organic mulch, such as wood chips, also break down over time acting like a slow release fertilizer.

Perennials, shrubs, trees and lawns will occasionally need supplemental irrigation in the winter. This is especially true when plants still have their leaves, we aren’t receiving rainfall, and the weather is windy and sunny. Lawns, for example, need about an inch of water every 15-20 days in the winter.  

Now that we have had temperatures below freezing, warm season annuals have died and can be removed. Warm season perennials probably have died back to the ground by now and can be cut back such as lantana, purple heart and turk’s cap. Ornamental grasses may be dormant, but I like to wait and cut them back in February. The foliage adds nice winter interest in a garden or flower bed. Some shrubs and other woody perennials will lose leaves this time of year, but don’t need to be cut back. If you want to cut a shrub back because it’s too big or unruly; replace it. It’s not recommended or effective to prune shrubs to control their size. Best practice is to select a shrub with a mature size that will fit within your parameters. 

Contact us with your garden and landscape questions at 940.349.2892 or email us at
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Janet Laminack is a horticulture agent with the Denton County office of the Texas AM Agrilife Extension Service.

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A bird’s eye view: Alan Titchmarsh tips to look after wildlife in your garden …

Put up bird boxes, too – they’ll be prospecting now for next spring.

Heaven knows what the weather will be like, but if we do get a white Christmas, or even a white few days, take all your snaps of the garden looking lovely (it covers up a multitude of sins and can make the most derelict of plots look worthy of a Christmas card) and then knock the snow off your evergreens and conifers. I know it’s pretty, but once the thaw comes it weighs ten times what it did when it was light as a feather and can snap branches.

And if the ground is just frosty, keep off the grass or you’ll spot nasty brown footprints once the thaw comes.

Have a pair of secateurs in your pocket to snip off stems and branches that are in the wrong place or which are getting in your way. Roses in particular are good at ripping jackets and snagging sweaters, so do a little early pruning – the main job can be left for a couple of months yet.

And then, when you come back indoors, settle down in a comfortable chair with a glass of whatever takes your fancy and go through the seed catalogues marking up the things you’d like to grow next year.

Don’t miss Alan’s gardening column in today’s Daily Express. For more information on his range of gardening products, visit

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December garden tips from UCCE Nevada County Master Gardeners

Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherimma) are plentiful this time of year, and they are available in a variety of colors.

Poinsettias are lovely to give as gifts, and here are a few tips to keep them looking their best.

Keep them away from heat sources — they prefer indirect or filtered light and cooler temperatures. Water them when the soil is dry by putting them in a sink and allowing water to run through the pot and let it drain. Avoid keeping them in soggy soil. Do not fertilize blooming plants.

— There are some things you can do outside when the weather permits. Renew acid mulch around camellias, azaleas and rhododendrons. If not done in November, apply dormant sprays to fruit trees. Fixed copper sprays can be applied to dormant almonds, cherries, plums and prunes to help control shot-hole fungus and peach leaf curl. Peaches and nectarines may be sprayed with lime sulfur instead of copper to control peach leaf curl.

— Beetles that infect conifers are dormant during cold weather so pines, firs and cedars can be trimmed up from December to mid-March. The UC Davis IPM website provides information on pest management:

— The Western Nevada County Gardening Guide makes a thoughtful gift for any local gardener. The Garden Guide may be purchased at local book stores, some nurseries, and at the Master Gardener office at the Veterans Memorial Hall, 255 South Auburn St., Grass Valley. There is a gardener in the office on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon.

University of California Cooperative Extension Nevada County Master Gardeners, Western Nevada County Gardening Guide, 2010.

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Design Master Class: Paige Dick tackles a Cary home


In new schools, Tony Habit is quietly effective in pushing for change

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1934’s ‘Winter Wonderland’ inspires 2014 Phipps’ Winter Flower Show design

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With or without snow, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens will be a “Winter Wonderland” through Jan. 11.

The 1934 song, with lyrics by Dick Smith of Honesdale, Pa., is the theme of Phipps’ Winter Flower Show, which last year drew more than 90,000 visitors to the Victorian glasshouse in Oakland. This year, they’ll find even more to see outdoors now that the Winter Light Garden has been extended into the Discovery Garden. More than 65,000 square feet is packed with brightly colored orbs, cones and LED lights.

Jordyn Melino, the Phipps exhibit coordinator who designed the outdoor display for the third year, says she tries to add new touches to past favorites. They have added 20 more of the 7-foot-tall glowing cones and 1- to 4-foot orbs that change color. She’s also very proud of a 30-foot-long tunnel of lights.

Doug Oster gets a special tour of the Winter Flower Show at Phipps with exhibit coordinator Jordyn Melino. (Video by Pam Panchak and Doug Oster; 12/06/2014)

“People love the lights that look like dripping icicles,” she said. “They want to know where they can get them. Unfortunately, they’re not for residential use.”

New this year are 50 topiary frames playfully covered in lights and six large chandeliers made from strands of twinkling lights and paper star lanterns.

“They want to see them every year,” she said.

The 12-foot-long lanterns in the Palm Court help to tie the outdoor display to what’s inside, which was designed by Terra Design Studios associate Rob Thompson with help from Cindy Tyler and Theresa Nelson-Chada.

“Winter Wonderland” was one of the three themes Terra proposed to Phipps last December. The firm also designed the 2011 spring and winter shows. Mr. Thompson was inspired by the Pennsylvania lyricist’s well-known verses. Each room illustrates a different one.

A snowman and woman wedding in the Sunken Room — groom and bride are made from air plant (Tillandsia ionantha) — got its inspiration from the line: “In the meadow we will build a snowman,” and the next one about a quickie wedding compliments of Parson Brown.

To conjure the fires mentioned in two lines, Mr. Thompson used dark red ‘Jester’ poinsettias and hot orange and red tropical bromeliads.

Poinsettias are the stars of the flower show and there are about two dozen varieties, including ‘Candy Cane’ and ‘Carousel Red’ grown by Phipps staff and old favorites ‘Red Glitter,’ ‘Ice Punch’ and ‘Sparkle Punch.’ New this year are Euphorbia hybrids that come in bright white, hot pink and magenta.

“We were intent on keeping all the rooms interesting at night. Lots of visitors come to see it by candlelight,” Mr. Thompson said.

Poinsettias are started in February to make sure they peak for the winter show. The designer said Phipps workers are adept at creating seasonal shows while the conservatory remains open.

“What we do is easy compared with what they do,” he said. “They don’t get enough credit.”

Hours for the Winter Flower Show are 9:30 a.m.-11 p.m. through Jan. 11, except on Dec. 24 when show closes at 5 p.m. and closed Christmas. Admission is $15 for adults, $14 for seniors and students, and $11 for children ages 2-18. Members and kids under 2 enter free. Information:

Kevin Kirkland: or 412-263-1978.

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Gardening: Garden design for everyone

Your garden might be the furthest thing from your mind in winter, but it’s the perfect time to think about it. Without foliage, a garden’s structure (or lack thereof) is visible. When you’re not worrying about watering, planting and weeding, you can focus on the components and overall design.

Like your home’s interior, gardens are spaces created to suit the tastes and needs of you and your loved ones. If your garden does not do that, it’s time for a change.

Take a long look: The first step is to grab a pad of paper and get ready to embark on some garden soul-searching. Over the coming weeks, take a good long look at your property. Look out your windows. What do you see? Does it please you?

Go outside and tromp around. What do you see when you collect the mail, take out the trash, take your kids to the bus or walk the dog? With fresh eyes, envision what people see as they pass your house or walk to your front door.  Do you like what you see, or is it lacking? Why?

Take your time looking, and think about what you see. Be sure to jot down your thoughts.

Use it or lose it: The next step is important: Assess how you use — or want to use — your outdoor spaces. If your garden suits your needs, you will be more inclined to use it. Again, that pad of paper comes in handy as you answer questions such as: Do your children or pets need outdoor play space? Do you want to entertain outdoors? Do you enjoy cooking outdoors? Do you want to grow edibles? Do you intend to play lawn games like badminton, bocce or croquet, or is having a relaxing oasis more your speed?

Get physical: It’s critical to note the physical attributes of the property in your notebook, too. How much sun do various parts receive? Are there any areas where water ponds after a rain? Are there other drainage problems? Making simple sketches helps record these important points, or you can draw on a copy of the survey you received when you bought your home. Show all structures — house, garage, shed, playhouse, pool, driveway, vegetable beds, septic system, utility lines, etc.

Add motion: Take your survey copy and lay tracing paper over it. Using different colored pens or markers, draw lines that represent where you drive and park your car, where your pets and/or children play, the path you take to pick up your mail, how visitors travel to your front door, and other pathways that might occur on your property. This exercise can reveal faults, eyesores and difficult access paths in a landscape.

Style matters: Note the style of your house and garden styles you like (cottage, formal, modern, etc.). This is the time to dream and have fun. Websites like Pinterest are great for helping you find the styles, colors and details you like. Magazines and books are great resources too, as well as real gardens you may have visited. Keep track of things you like to help guide your new garden space, either scrapbook-style or electronically.

Taken together, your notes and sketches synthesize the facts about your landscape as well as your thoughts, desires and needs for it. Use these materials to come up with a list of changes — pathways that need to be added, removed or changed; eyesores that need to be screened; spaces that need to be created; or more pleasing views that need to be established.

You can begin to work on these changes yourself or with the help of a professional. If you have drainage problems or need to move a large amount of earth, it’s best to consult with a landscape architect or engineer. Most garden designers have a high level of horticulture expertise and are a good choice to help you choose plants.


American Society of Landscape Architects:, 1-888-999-2752.

Association of Professional Landscape Designers:, 1-717-238-9780.

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Nixon City Council unhooks old RV ordinance

Posted: Friday, December 12, 2014 10:12 am

Nixon City Council unhooks old RV ordinance

By Erik McCowan

Gonzales Inquirer


The man that was hired to clean up the city of Nixon was making good on his promise to do so at Tuesday’s regular scheduled city council meeting.

City Manager Manuel Zepeda set out to amend the city ordinance concerning recreational vehicles. Currently an RV can be hooked up to any residence for six months before it has to be unhooked. He said that there was no way to track the exact date of hook up by residents and that some had been continually operating for eight months, which has been the length of his employment with the city.

Zepeda said that he had consulted the ordinances in neighboring cities regarding RVs and reported that most do not allow them to be connected in residential areas, only in designated RV parks.

His main opposition was that residents that flout the laws are cheating law-abiding citizens and called the instances a blight on the city. In addition, he described some residences having four or five RVs connected to a single mobile home, which is a major fire hazard.

Zepeda said that the ordinance would be a tool that he needs to clean up the city one more notch.

Councilman Doug Koenig expressed some concern if a homeowner, like himself, could continue to hook up an RV at their residence for a couple of days prior to taking the vehicle on a trip. He felt that it would infringe on the property rights of owners. Zepeda explained that the ordinance would only apply to occupancy of an RV.

“If you want to live in an RV, put it in an RV park,” Zepeda said.

Mayor Hector Dominguez set to clarify Koenig’s concern by saying that if you have an RV, you are allowed to keep it on your property— you just cannot live in it. He said that some people in the city had been living in RVs for years and that it can become a nuisance.

It was further explained that Zepeda would work with RV owners so that no one is thrown out into the cold. Also, those still operating within the current six-month hook-up window would be allowed to continue to do so until their time has expired.

Mayor Dominguez recommended the council act on the ordinance that night. The ordinance was approved on a motion by Councilwoman Dorothy Riojas and seconded by Koenig.

The council also listened to the monthly fire chief’s report in which assistance was requested in the improvement of the department’s barbecue area. Roof repairs to be completed and a cement slab will be poured in another area in which another barbecue pit could be added. It would give the station a nicer appearance, he said.

Zepeda remarked that it would be a nice community area after the improvements. The council agreed to go in half with the department on the repairs, with grant monies being an option.

In public comment, Donald Hoffman asked the council for assistance in a beautification project for a historical marker in town. The $1,500 marker was purchased by Hoffman and his family and he put forth some ideas on landscaping for its location.

Hoffman wondered if the city might be interested in placing a rock garden around the marker to draw people to the site. He said that other communities have done such and it brings an added value to the presentation.

Zepeda remarked that he had researched the area surrounding the marker and noted that the property belongs to the city, requiring no action from TxDOT. It would be possible for the city to come up with a couple of plans and a dollar amount. Mayor Dominguez recommended putting it on the agenda for the January meeting and deciding the outcome then.

It was also announced that the Nixon Chamber of Commerce is hosting a holiday drawing this Saturday with many items donated from local merchants. The event starts at 5 p.m. and Santa will be available for photographs.


Friday, December 12, 2014 10:12 am.

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Living at the Movies: The Captive and Little Feet

Liam Neeson obsessives who deep down believe they’re just a single “taken” loved one away from transforming into the ultimate bad-ass could stand to watch Atom Egoyan’s The Captive—at least for an hour or so. Matthew Lane (Ryan Reynolds), the distraught father in the latest from the writer-director of The Sweet Hereafter, has also lost his daughter to a sinister kidnapping ring, but unlike Brian Mills—Neeson’s ex-spec-ops-assassin in the Taken series—Matthew has no “particular set of skills” that might help him recover Cassandra (Peyton Kennedy), the 9-year-old last seen waiting in the backseat of his truck while he picked up a to-go order for dinner. He doesn’t even have the emotional wherewithal to cope with the guilt he feels for leaving his daughter alone and vulnerable for those crucial few minutes.

In fact, Reynolds’ Matthew is perhaps the opposite of Neeson’s Brian. He’s the owner of a failed landscaping business, and his soon-to-be-estranged wife Tina (Mireille Enos) views him not as a potential savior, but as a negligent father, undeserving of forgiveness and incapable of redemption, earned or otherwise. The police detectives assigned to the case, Dunlop (Rosario Dawson) and Cornwall (Scott Speedman), see Matthew as, at best, a victim (Dunlop’s view) or a possible suspect (the inexplicable opinion of Cornwall). In the course of The Captive’s eight-year, nonlinear timeline, Matthew manages to throw a single, cathartic punch and make a couple of satisfying speeches, but he’s mainly just shoved around, silently resented, or flat-out accused of playing the villain in his own tragedy.

Unfortunately, Matthew’s situation more closely resembles those of the more than 10,000 real families with missing children reported to the National Center for Missing Exploited Children last year, than does the absurd masculine wish fulfillment depicted in the Neeson action vehicles. Reynolds, far from Marvel-hero mode, plays a broken man, unable to move on for fear of betraying the memory of the daughter he feels responsible for losing. “There are no happy endings,” says Detective Dunlop of the cases she works as head of the local child exploitation unit, “only stories that just stop.” That The Captive’s first hour so closely resembles this kind of story makes its move toward a more conventionally complete, if not outright “happy,” ending in the final act seem like a cheat—unfair not to the viewer, but to the countless actual parents who find no such resolution.

Credit Egoyan, however, for making his film’s victim (played in later scenes by Alexia Fast) much more active in her own story than the doped-up virginal MacGuffin Neeson slayed half of Eastern Europe to save. Cassandra—who ages beyond the sexual interest of her captors during the film’s duration and is forced to help them lure new victims—begins manipulating her abductors in an attempt to escape, a tactic real victims employ to bring about their own resolutions, happy or sad, in the absence of any CIA-trained, silver-fox saviors.

Of course, many more children are the victims of forces even harder to fight, let alone define, than a faceless kidnapping cabal. Little Feet, the latest film by writer-director Alexandre Rockwell (In the Soup), stars Lana and Nico Rockwell (the director’s real-life children) as a young sister and brother trying to process the death of their mother in a world now largely absent of adults. Their overworked, alcoholic father (the director, in what amounts to a cameo role) is to them almost as abstract an idea as the memory of their mother. Lana and Nico, also credited with helping create the film’s story, live in a world that revolves around improvised games and salvaged toys and trinkets in their small East Los Angeles apartment.

When one of the children’s two pet goldfish (significantly, the “momma fish”) dies, Lana and Nico take pity on the survivor and skip school to release it into the L.A. River. The great body of water they imagine themselves to be questing toward is, of course, a famously bone-dry concrete ravine, but comparatively, that’s just one of the minor nonsensical cruelties these impoverished, neglected children must reconcile with their worldviews. Shot in 16mm black-and-white and clocking in at a little over an hour, Little Feet relies on the symbolism of freeform child’s play to convey its ideas, in much the same way its protagonists trust that 99-cent-store animal masks can transform them from powerless mourners into brave adventurers. The result, in both cases, is charming and magical and more than enough. 

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Letter: Landscaping fixes could be uneven

Re: “There’s no reason to water parkway turf,” Mailbag, Dec. 10. Burbank resident Robert Feldman is good to remind us that the drought is persistent and real in his letter, but I’m not sure that trolling individual homeowners, as the Raul Roa photo accompanying the letter does, is appropriate.

In my neighborhood there has been much sincere discussion of reducing water use, noting restrictions, and a general acknowledgment that green lawns might need to be foregone if water isn’t replenished. I see property owners striving to maintain their homes as designed in the face of serious water challenges. If drought shaming is to begin, are we also going to call for water meters on all rental units in the county, shut down the carwashes, and impose severe restrictions on industrial water use?

Mr. Feldman’s ideas about alternative parking-strip finishes merit consideration, but these should be done with planning oversight and code enforcement. A patchwork quilt of “creative” parking-strip changes, each different from its neighbor, would be an outright disaster. And as for hard-scaping everything, some pet owners in my neighborhood already have difficulty maintaining the waste of their dogs. I can’t imagine what would happen if the parking strips are all paved over.

Blair Erhard

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