Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thank you, Bruce Little...

I just want to take this opportunity to thank Bruce Little, owner of Select Travel Network in Camarillo, for using my photography/artwork to illustrate a story about one of our local historical buildings, the Strathern House. You can read it on his Facebook page at!/bruce.little.

Thank you, Bruce!

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Santa Susana Cantina, aka "Wallie's"

The Santa Susana Cantina, now owned by SRM Properties and used as office space, has had a long history in Simi Valley. John Wayne and other movie cowboys hung out here and Jay Leno paid a visit as well. It is even rumored that Charles Manson stopped by to "wet his whistle" once. It is mostly remembered as being a bar/saloon or restaurant by long time locals. Some have claimed that this building actually started out as a stagecoach stop in the 1800's, but records show it was built in 1930. This date could be wrong and it could have been built earlier. Many of the older buildings in the Knolls area have been given estimated build dates on official records because actual dates have been lost. In the early 1900's it supposedly served as a small church for a time, which would give it a build date of earlier than 1930. It was in the year 1932 that the first liquor license was issued for this building to be operated as a drinking establishment. Since then it has been known by many names, such as "Scotty's," "Irene's," "Jave's Reef," "Rod's," "Otto's Oasis," "Otto's Beer Bar," and even, in 1984, "Olde Susana Restaurant." But most seem to remember it as "Wallie's Hideout."

"Wallie" was Lottie W. Matthies, who bought "Otto's Beer Bar" in 1986 and renamed it "Wallie's Hideout." Lottie herself was quite an interesting character, who, at age 14 learned to be a butcher from an uncle. In 1944 she joined the Marines and became a drill sergeant. After leaving the service she headed for California, where she worked for 33 years as a butcher in various grocery stores. She finally retired from the trade and bought the bar, which she dedicated 18 more years of her life to. "Wallie passed away from cancer on January 30th, 2003. But, she saw a lot of life and colorful events at her little bar in "Santa Susana," including the filming of one of the "Terminator" movies in her parking lot, as well as scenes for the televison shows "The X-Files" and "Twin Peaks."

Here is "Wallie's Hideout" in the X-Files, season 9, Episode 10, about 30:35 minutes into the show. As you can see on the photo, this is supposed to be taking place in Canada, LOL! I have my friend Gary Wayne, of the Seeing Stars website to thank for finding this for me. If you want to find out about Simi Valley locations to be found in movies or television shows Gary is the man to contact.

This shot of "Wallie's Hideout" can be found in the old television series "Twin Peaks." This is from season 2, episode 18, called "Masked Ball." Apparently "Wallie's" also shows up in season 2, episode 22, "Slaves and Masters," but I haven't looked yet.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

True Blood in Simi Valley

In early May of this year my sister Diane, our friend Jean and me decided to hike around the Tapo Canyon area of Simi Valley. Our purpose was to see if we could gain access to the Big Sky Movie Ranch in order to photograph the former "Little House on the Prairie" film location. We meandered up and down small roads, photographing wild peacocks, checking out the old ranches and talking about the history of our hometown. Finally, we headed up Bennett Road, where the Big Sky Movie Ranch is located. Unfortunately we were unable to access the road leading to the former "Little House" set, but we did stumble upon some scenes being filmed for HBO's popular vampire series, "True Blood." Never one to miss an opportunity, I turned on my camera and captured some shots of the house.

Naturally, being the curious type (some would say nosy!) I wanted to know more about this little old house, it's use in the "True Blood" series, as well as it's history.

To find out more about it's purpose in the "True Blood" series only one person came to mind, Gary Wayne, webmaster of the "Seeing Stars" website. I have often utilized his informative and interesting site when seeking information regarding filming in the area. Gary was more than happy to help and he didn't disappoint. Not only that, he was silver-bullet quick with his responses! According to Gary, who took the time to re-watch older episodes in his efforts to provide identification, this house appeared first in Episode 12 of Season 3, when Hoyt surprises Jessica with her new house. But instead of telling you all about his discovery here, I invite you to visit his website and read for yourself. Gary has done far more justice to describing the scene than I ever could. Besides, I wouldn't want to deny you the privilege of having a look through the rest of his superb website.
Hoyt & Jessica's House - True Blood - Seeing Stars Website

Regarding the history of this quaint little ranch house, I believe it was originally part of the Tapo Rancho, which in 1904 was purchased by the Patterson Ranch Company of Oxnard, who intended to use this land for raising horses and mules, as well as grains and hay for feeding them. A 1911 map drawn up by Dessery & West, Civil and Hydraulic Engineers, shows this area of Bennett Road with a number of buildings identified, including the cook house, bunk house, Superintendent's house and the blacksmith shop. It is my belief that this was the former Superintendent's house. While part of the Tapo Rancho this area was known as the Home Camp, which indicated that this house was built before 1904. Later, this property was purchased by the Tapo Mutual Water Company, and is now owned by the Big Sky Movie Ranch.

If you'd like to view or purchase digitally filtered prints of this house please visit my gallery at:
Hoyt & Jessica's House gallery

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Matilija poppy (Romneya)

Article written by Diane

Who doesn't enjoy setting their eyes on an open field of wildflowers? When you stumble upon the Matilija Poppy your eyes get a delightful surprise!

Also known as tree poppies this wildflower is native to southern California and northern Mexico.

The name Matilija (pronounced ma-TIL-i-ha or ma-til-EE-ha) appears to be of Chumash origin, possibly deriving it's name from Chief Matilija of the Chumash Indians of Ventura County, Ca. The name is also noted in Matilija Canyon above the community of Ojai and Matilija Creek in the Los Padres National Forest.

First noted by the author of the 1897 book, “The Wildflowers of California" Mary Elizabeth wrote “The Matilija Poppy must be conceded the queen of all flowers.”

A photographers delight; this dazzling and defiant wildflower grows where she wants, when she wants defying weather conditions and it's environment. Usually the Matilija poppy inhabits dry washes and canyons below 4000' in coastal sage scrub and chaparral away from the immediate coast and blooms from May to July.

Towering as high as 8' tall the showy white flowers are the largest of any plant native to California. It's bright yellow stamens and a single large pistil is the centerpiece of six crinkled pure white petals. Bees, butterflies and birds busily feed on the pollen of the large centerpiece the flower provides.

A little history tells us that In 1832, Thomas Coulter collected this species, most likely in the San Luis Rey River valley. Later In 1845, William Harvey, who introduced many of Coulter's collected plants to botanists in Europe and America, wanted to name the genus after him. However, another plant already bore his name, so he gave the genus name, Romneya, in honor of Coulter's friend, Reverend T. Romney Robinson, an astronomer, and the species name, coulteri, to honor Coulter. The common name, Matilija poppy (pronounced ma-TIL-i-ha or ma-til-EE-ha) is said to be named after Chief Matilija of the Chumash Indian Tribe.

In the stalk of the flower, there is a clear to yellowish liquid substance that the Cahuilla Indians used to drink. The Native Chumash Indians valued the plant for its medicinal value as well. The plant was used medicinally for skin and gum problems and stomach upset. The folklore of the the Chumash people believed the petals of the flower were made from the soul of a maiden, who died of a broken heart. Their Chumash gods transformed her into the pure white petal.

If you’re thinking about planting Matilija Poppies in your garden, keep in mind that the plant is 'normally' difficult to grow, but when the poppies take root, they can take over your garden so give them space to flourish. They are not called defiant without reason.

According to homeopathic medical advisors today, the tea or diluted tincture, as a drug analgesia, works well as a wash for skin pain and inflammation caused by an allergic reaction, chemical irritation, heat rash, or mild burns or sunburns.
As an astringent, it is a quality antimicrobial, and can be used as a powder to help with more common skin fungi. Though the diluted tincture is not very palatable, it apparently inhibits microbial growth in the mouth, lessens gum sensitivity, and decreases plaque buildup.

Painful and debilitating but not serious bacterial gastroenteritis can be soothed with the tea or tincture, helping to inhibit the bug, lessen the pain and cramps, and act as a mild sedative.

Warning: information on the herbal properties of this flower have been gathered from the Internet and has not been validated by the author. Always do your own research before using any herbal remedy.

Unfortunately, the species is slowly declining in areas of California where development is taking place a may soon become an endangered species.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Slender Flowered Thistle (Carduus tenuiflorus)

Article written by Diane

This thistle has been spotted so far on two of the five trails we've been on, Wildwood and Hummingbird. Standing tall above woodland grass and low lying wildflowers this woody stalked thistle is not very attractive but it's delicate bright blooms have amazing 'curb appeal' and add to the beauty of the array of wildflowers.

More commonly known as the winged plumeless thistle, and also known as shore thistle. The thistle plant in general carries quite a tale.

Thistle is an old English name given for a large group of plants with a questionable reputation. According to ancient Greek folklore the thistle was apart part of the original curse put upon the earth and specifically on man. In Grecian history 'Earth' made the thistle in a moment of grief for the loss of Daphnis, shepherd and musician, poet and hunter. In Norse mythology Thor, the thunderer god, protected the plant, known as the 'lightning plant', and all those that wore it was protected from harm.

The common cotton thistle or Scotch thistle (Onopordum acanthium L.) has quite a noble stature. During the reign of Malcolm I of Scotland, Norsemen attempted to capture the Staines Castle by wading across the moat in their bare feet, only to find the moat dry and overgrown with thistle. The agonized cries of the warriors aroused the castle guards and the Norsemen were defeated. To memorialize this victory, the thistle flower became the emblem of Scotland. In some stories, thistle is also the basis of Hans Christian Anderson's tale The Wild Swans, where eleven princes were freed from their entrapment as swans when their sister made shirts from thistle and placed them on their backs.

Our common noxious thistle weed does not have such a majestic tale. Discovered and identified in 1991 in Thurston County, Washington, this thistle plant like all others are deadly to animals and livestock such as sheep due to it's crown of thorns and spiked stalks. This pretty slender flower thistle is an aggressive exotic weed that invades and infests grazing pastures and open ranges.

The thistle plant is in the asteraceae or compositae family, along with the aster, daisy, and sunflower. Slender flower is not native of America but made it's way here from Europe and Asia.

The delicate cluster of rosette leaves deeply lobed with numerous spines have the appearance of a pineapple and each lobe produces clusters of pink, purple and mauve blooms. Each "flower" is composed of many individual florets.

Many edible products come from 'composites', or thistle plants such as cooking oils, lettuce, sunflower seeds, artichokes, sweetening agents, and teas, but not so with this particular species - look but don't touch!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Santa Susana Monkey Flower (Diplacus rutilus)

Article written by Diane

During our hike through the Santa Susana brush-land at Corriganville, we spotted a rare variety of the Monkey Flower, known as the Santa Susana. Although the monkey flower is not in it's natural habitat in Pasadena, it has been known to grow there quite well when planted in full shade, thus the plant is also known as Pasadena Red Monkey Flower.

The monkey fower is in the Mimulus family. The generic name in Latin, mimus means "mimic actor", from the Greek mimos meaning "imitator."

The Santa Susana monkey flower is primarily found on the hillsides of Santa Susana and has velvety deep brick red flowers, fading to touches of yellow and glossy green foliage. You can look for this delicate flower hiding in shaded areas under the protection of trees, shrubs and large rock outcroppings. When this monkey flower thrives, it is stunning in all colors and varieties and several species produce a musky aroma.

Described as a 'knock your socks off flower' by one botanist. Filled with sweet nectar, the monkey flower is the perfect flower if you are planting a 'hummer garden', this flower attracts hummingbirds. Strange however, this plant does not attract butterflies.

It's a mixed bag as to if this plant is edible. While one source states: "Mimulus species tend to concentrate sodium chloride and other salts absorbed from the soils in which they grow in their leaves and stem tissues. Native Americans and early travelers in the American West used this plant as a 'salt substitute' to flavor wild game. The entire plant is edible, but reported to be very salty and bitter unless well cooked. The juice squeezed from the plant's foliage was used as a soothing poultice for minor burns and skin irritations."

Whereas another source states: "No medicinal properties, not edible and do not self-administer."

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Tarantula Hawk

Article written by Cindy

This ugly critter is commonly known as a Tarantula Hawk, with the scientific name of Pepsis Formosa. We came across him/her while hiking the north trails at Corriganville in Santa Susana. They are in the spider wasp family.

Measuring up to 2 inches in length, these brightly colored insects are the prey of only a few predators, the roadrunner in particular. They are "nectivorous," meaning they live mosly on nectar, and have been known to become tipsy after feeding on fermented fruit.

The Tarantual Hawk preys on, as their name states, Tarantulas. The female of the species is able to find a tarantula through scent, and will then enter its burrow to chase it out. She will now attack the tarantula, stinging it, which causes paralysis. She will then drag her victim back into it's burrow and lay a single egg on its abdomen, seal it up and leave it to hatch. If a male tarantula is attacked the wasp will make a burrow and go through the same egg-laying and sealing procedure.

These wasps are generally mild-mannered towards humans and it is rare they will sting. However, one researcher who has been stung describes it like this... "To me, the pain is like an electric wand that hits you, inducing an immediate, excruciating pain that simply shuts down one’s ability to do anything, except, perhaps, scream. Mental discipline simply does not work in these situations. The pain for me lasted only about three minutes, during which time the sting area was insensitive to touch, i.e., a pencil point poked near the sting resulted only in a dull deep pressure pain."

Friday, May 20, 2011

Purple Sage (Salvia leucophylla)

Written by Diane Beauton

We found this specimen on one of the trails at Wildwood Park, Thousand Oaks.

Purple Sage is a sturdy drought resistant plant belonging to the mint family.

This succulent looking plant is actually a shrub and one variety of sage plant native to California. It's woody stem blooms blue/purple flowers. The plant is sweetly aromatic and is a lover of bees, insects, and birds who feed on it's sweet nectar.

Native Americans used this plant during ceremonies for it's hallucinogenic powers to induce visions during healing rituals, much like the shamanic traditions use another well another known variety, Saliva Divinorium. And according to Mazatec legends, they believe the plant is an incarnation of the Virgin Mary. The seeds of this herbal were also a part of the diet of the Chumash Indians.

One source states, "Botanists generally agree that salvia divinorum is low in toxicity and has a pretty low potential for addiction. It is still legal in most states, but we don't recommend you run out and try it." Seeing how Salvia Leucophylla is in the same family I am assuming the toxicity is also low.

The only difference between the two is their strains of power.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Deja Vou - or My, that looks familiar!

Written by Cindy Nunn

While looking through the photos of our blog you might be thinking to yourself..."I'm SURE I've seen this place before!" yet you've never been to Simi Valley or even to California for that matter.

My answer to you is this..."Oh, but you HAVE been here, many times, if only through the magic of Hollywood. You just weren't aware of it!"

With its rugged mountains, gentlly rolling hills, groves of oak trees, pastures of green and gold and sandstone rock formations Simi Valley and Santa Susana have been the backdrop of literally thousands of movies and television shows since at least the 1930's. The Larry Levinson Studios, producers of the Hallmark Channel movies, is located in Santa Susana / Simi Valley, directly across from the former Corriganville Movie Ranch. We are also home to the Big Sky and Paramount movie ranches.

Simi Vally is a small town with lots of BIG country surrounding it, making us an ideal location for everything from an old west setting to more modern suburban ones. Recent movies filmed here have been Transformers, Thor and The Benchwarmers. That "cursed" Poltergeist house? You'll find that right in the middle of one of our average, middle-class neighborhoods.

The location of the photo below will be familiar to any fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder as this is where America's much loved "Little House on the Prairie" television series was filmed dueing the entire run of the show. Sadly, the buildings are now all gone, with most of them going up in a blaze of glory on the last day of filming for the series when the town was blown up. Those few buildings which remained were consumed by the wild fires which raged through Simi Valley and Moorpark in 2003.

Another classic, Gone With the Wind, was also filmed in Simi Valley. Well, okay, not the entire movie, but those famous Tara cotton fields were filmed here. I suspect that some of the footage with the oak trees may have also been filmed here since our valley is full of these grand old trees.

At Corriganville you can still wander through "Robin Hood Forest" and visit the site of the former "Fort Apache." You can also stand in what was at times the lagoon from "The Creature From The Black Lagoon," "Robin Hood Lake," and "Jungle Jim's" swimming hole. In this recent photo, taken by the author, the lagoon/lake is dry.

For the rest of the world Simi Valley's "old west" flavor has been immortalized on film, with actors playing the parts of tough men crossing rugged trails and desert canyons. For those of us who reside here, well, we get to experience the real thing through our hiking adventures. In many ways the Old West is still alive and well in Simi Valley's back hills country and meandering canyons.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Yellow star thistle (Centaurea solstitialis)

Written by Diane Beauton

This plant is a member of the Asteraceae (Aster or Sunflower) family, and is a native to the Mediterranean. The plant is also known as golden starthistle, yellow cockspur.

As pretty as the pineapple crowned cotton-fuzzy cluster is, the plant itself is a tangled web of stems. This plant is a common weed, so common in California it rules the fields. Threatening the open range of Washington and Idaho, Montana is monitoring the spread and has an infestation alert to keep it from invading it's state. The seeds of this plant are carried away by the drift of the wind and quickly take root where it lands. It's a deep rooted and difficult to uproot.

The Yellow Star Thistle most-likely was imported to California from the Mediterranean during the California Gold Rush, in contaminanted grains such as Alfalfa feed.

The long sharp thorns are the plants 'warning' to four-legged creatures to stay away! This plant is especially toxic to horses; one bite and it paralyzes the horses mouth and can kill them and it's deadly to many other animals as well.

This plant is not like the 'Milk Thistle' used in herbal remedies, stay clear of this one.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Hoary-leaved Ceanothus (Ceanothus crassifolius)

Written by Diane Beauton

Hoary-leaved Ceanaothus is also known as mountain Lilac and is common in the coastal mountain areas of Southern California. This plant is a tall growing shrub/tree and is a native of California. The leaves are thick and rippled with white fuzzy undersides and teeth along the edges. The blooms are white, white Gray, or appear to have yellow or pink hues.

The center surrounding the stigma has five long and thin bright yellow filaments that are fuzzy . It has five petals the shape of a spade giving the overall appearance of 'star' when fully opened.

Hike to Paradise Falls

Written by Diane Beauton

No doubt about it, hiking is a new experience for a sidewalk stroller, but one that is very rewarding. We begin our hike to Paradise Falls in Wildwood Park wearing our newest hiking gear. I graduated from a little black fanny pack to a double holster water waist pack and Cindy to a larger fanny pack to a full on backpack stuffed with trail mix and granola bars. Cindy armed with her knife and I with pepper spray; we were ready for the challenge of another hike.

Wildwood has many trails that lead to Paradise falls and being a newbie hiker I voted for the high trail, the easy trail and Cindy just wanted to hit the trail – any trail. Small problem though, the signposts didn’t point, beginners go this way! So we eeny, meeny, miny, moed it and headed on the east-bound trail. Another small problem; turns out we were on the low trail, the windy, narrow more difficult, look over the edge trail, but it was a breath-taking view.

As I followed behind, Cindy did a great job as scout calling out, “narrow road, rock to the right, poison oak to the left and bee.” She is definitely ready for a job as a “wilderness guide.” The downhill hike into the valley was a little tricky for me but Cindy was in the lead for a very good reason- to break my fall; what are little sisters for?

The scenery looking down into the valley was humbling to say the least and our little point and shoot cameras didn’t do it justice but its there for the capture so we snapped away framing flora along the jagged hillside, wild daisies, flowering cactus and a glimpse of the falls from a birds-eye view.

The canyons are crawling with predators’, the winged kind like the damselfly and the California black gnat (they bite and feed on blood), four-legged lizards, six-legged velvet red ants (flightless wasps) and especially the two-legged variety, known as people. The later being more like stalkers of the wild aspiring to capture that perfect awe-inspiring shot that lands on the cover of National Geographic.

Finally we reached the glistening waterfall and tranquil pond that fed the running creek and the cool shade of the trees. The sound of the waterfall, the gentle breeze and rock formations made the hike worthwhile, somewhat like finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. After taking more pictures we headed back ‘up’ the trail in search of the easy way back. What I learn is there is no easy way ‘up’! What else did I learn, bring more water!

All the colorful wildflowers make the wild a haven for bees gathering honey and pollinating – all kinds of bees. It didn’t take long to heed the warning calls – “little bee, big bee, really big bee and SWARM”! Yes, SWARM or "killer bees" as Cindy called the alarm. Midway on the trail is a shaded resting spot and viewing point in the design of a tee-pee; here we stopped to munch and rest. This is where we saw the SWARM of bees, thousands of bees buzzed by over-head. There is nowhere out in the wild to take cover, so reminder: “add Benadryl along with Avon Skin so Soft to keep away Mosquitos and those 'pesky' black gnats) our one casuality after biting Cindy to list of things to bring on hike.” Back on the trail the uphill climb was a bit difficult for me so we moved along at a snails pace and since there were no trees I took cover under the shadow of every bush along the trail. This experience gave me a whole new view of the spirited pioneers and their perilous journey West.

The hike took us about 3 hours, not bad considering I’m out of shape and we stopped to take pictures.

The wilderness trails are dusty and cracked and steep and windy but its landscape is dotted with multicolored blooms and lush foliage where birds nest and critters roam. Back in the concrete jungle of highway road rage and parking lot crazies; I think I'll continue the occasional wilderness hike with the company of creepy crawlers and things that go buzz.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Aztec Dancer

Written by Diane Beauton

Wildwood Park, Thousand Oaks, Ca. is the natural habitat for all kinds of insects that crawl and fly! On our way back down the trail we spotted a dragonfly and snapped a shot of him. Yes him...we know it's a him because of his bright neon blue color. The males, especially, are brightly colored in blue, green, yellow, orange, red and bronze neons.

What we didn't know is this was not a dragonfly but a damselfly. Now one might think 'damsel' refers to female but it does not, it refers to a smaller insect in the dragonfly family.

Since we didn't know that, we thought others might not know either and our readers might find a little information about this guy interesting.

There are approximately 450 varieties of this species but the size of the torso, color, wing placement and distance between the eyes helps to identify this one as an Argia nahuana also known as Aztec Dancer. Notice the eyes on our damselfly are set apart; whereas most dragonflies eyes touch.

Being predators, these little guys have their important place in the balancing of the ecosystem by feasting on other insects including harmful ones. They eat mosquitoes, gnats, ants, termites, spiders, bees and even butterflies. So again we learn something new about the world we share with things that crawlers and fly!

Foothill Penstemon (Penstemon heterophyllus)

Written by Diane Beauton

Corriganville Movie Ranch, Simi Valley 'past' provided us with the settings for Robin Hood, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Jungle Girl and Rin-Tin-Tin to name a few. Fort Appache, The town Saloon and Trading Post and County Church are all memories now but present-day Corriganville remains a showcase surrounded by majestic moutains, golden fields and some of natures most colorful flora.

Belonging to the Plantaginaceae family this gorgeous iridescent blue-lavender/electric blue bloom is Native to America, thriveing in the Sierras and throughout California. It's also Native to Asia.

This pretty is also called Mountain blue penstemon, Margarita BOP, Blue Springs or Gay Penstemon.

The Foothill Penstemon is a herbaceous perennial with blooms like snapdragons.

If you like the sight of butterflies, birds and bees frequenting your garden this is the plant for you.

Small Town - Big Country

Di and I hope you are all enjoying our blog so far. I know we are finding a lot of satisfaction in being able to share our adventures with you, as well as some history about the town we live in.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Simiopolis – Simi’s First Tract Home Neighborhood

Written by Cindy Nunn

During the 1800’s there were three distinct areas in what is now known as Simi Valley, with ranches dotted throughout the area from one end of the valley to the next. The land near the hills to the north, in what is now the Tapo Canyon and Tapo Street areas was called Rancho Tapo, the south east area was called Santa Susana and the rest of the valley was known as El Rancho Simi, Simi Valley or simply ‘The Simi.’

In the year 1888 a group of land investors, called the California Mutual Benefit Colony of Chicago, was formed with the intention of bringing new settlers to Rancho Simi from Illinois. These investors bought land in Simi for the town site, as well as acreage for farming. The area was advertised as a place for those seeking a more healthful environment, even going so far as to portray a paddle-wheel boat in the arroyo, making the small body of water appear far larger than it was. Soon, about one-hundred brave and hardy souls signed on to become the new settlers of what became known as Simiopolis, a name which lasted for no more than six months before reverting back to the more simple Simi.

Twelve ready-made homes, none of which came with in-door plumbing, were purchased from the T.W. Harvey Lumber Company of Chicago, who also specialized in cottage style house plans, which could be chosen from a small catalog of designs and sold for about $300. These houses were partially assembled in Chicago and sent by rail to Saticoy, California, where they were then picked up and hauled to Simiopolis by horse and wagon. In November 1888 the first group of new settlers left Chicago and arrived in Simi Valley on 15 November. However, the houses had not arrived yet, forcing them to camp out in tents at the Simi Hotel. They were no doubt shocked and surprised to find that they had come to a settlement that had neither church nor school, or much of anything else in the way of amenities for that matter!

Soon, the homes were up and the new “Simi Colony” came to life. This area, bounded between current-day First and Fifth Streets and Los Angeles and Ventura Avenues, became Simi Valley’s first tract housing neighborhood. Sadly, only two of the original homes exist, one of which is located at the Strathern Historical Park. The other, however, remains in the same location at which it was first erected, at 2nd Street and Pacific Avenue, and is owned by Larry Powell, who has been lovingly restoring this Lovely Lady of Simi Valley for well over twenty years.

Before Mr. Powell purchased the property it was owned by Rose Arabella ROWE Printz, and then by her daughter, Bessie Printz. Ownership of the home pre-Printz is not positive, but I believe it may have been the William H. and Mary Gardner family.

Rose Arabella was born Sept. 1861 in Fayette County, Ohio, where her parents, Levi ROWE and Eliza DAVIS owned at farm at Sugar Land. On census records for 1870 and 1880 Rose was actually enumerated as Arabella R. Rowe. Her siblings were Oliver, Martha ( aka Mattie) and Wesley. On 9 June 1886 Rose married Charles Albert Printz in Fayette County, Ohio. Charles was born in Miamisburg, Montgomery County, Ohio in the year 1860.

Soon after, this newlywed couple moved to Cook County, Illinois, settling in Hyde Park. Charles was a wholesale grocer at this time. In 1888 they were living at Jefferson Avenue and 57th Street, where daughter Anna Francis Printz was born on 27 May 1888 at in the evening. It was in this year that the partially assembled houses for the Simi Colony were being loaded on the trains at Chicago for their trip to California and daughter Bessie recalled that her parents talked about watching these houses being loaded on to the train cars.

Apparently Charles was a land agent in Los Angeles for the Simi Land and Water Company for a short time. He must have had itchy feet because by 1890 we find him living in Pleasant Valley (current day Camarillo), Ventura County, California, where he became a Registered Voter on 19 July 1890. He lists his occupation as farmer. Then, in September 1891 it was reported that he was almost finished building “a comfortable little house on his ranch,” which was located in Simi Valley. This is where daughter Gertrude Lillian was born in December 1891. Daughter Bessie was born in October 1893, probably in San Jacinto, Riverside County, where the family were living at the time of Charles’ death on 3 October 1894. Land records show that Charles and Rose granted land to the Simi Land & Water Company on 17 January 1892, quite possibly where they had built their little house.

In 1900 we find ‘A. Rose PRINTZ’ and daughters living in Fairfield, Highland County, Ohio, according to the census for that year. Sometime after 1901 Rose and her daughters returned to Simi Valley, where they lived in one of the Colony Houses from 1903 to 1905. At this time Rosa was the postmistress of Simi Valley. In 1905 the family home caught on fire and burned to the ground, forcing a move to the house next door, which is the one still standing at 2nd and Pacific. From here, Rosa not only retained her position as postmistress, a job she held from 1903 until 1941, but she also ran the telephone exchange for Simi from this house. After many years of moving from one state to another, and than from town to town, Rose finally returned to Simi and stayed, forever immortalizing the part she played in the history of the little Simi Colony. Later, daughter Bessie took over the position of postmistress and the eveidence is still there. If you happen to stop by to see this beautiful little house, don’t forget to take note of the respectful tribute paid on the mailbox by current owner Larry Powell, which still reads “B.M. Printz.”

Please note: Research into the history of this colony house will continue as new information comes to light.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Woodland Clarkia (Clarkia unguiculata)

Written by Diane Beauton

As beginner hikers we are discovering the hidden beauty of the back roads in our own community. What's most exciting is when you stumble across and are rewarded with a bit of nature that has a little more history behind it than most, such is the case with the Woodland Clarkia.

But keeping the reader in suspense let me tell you about the this needle in a haystack first.

This variety of Clarkia is cataloged as an annual herbaceous plant (simply put, it's an herb) that is native only to California. It is also known as Elegant Clarkia and Elegant Fairyfan for it's delicate and wispy petals.

This particular species name unguiculata means "little red claw or nail" and refers to the narrowing shape of the petals where they connect to the flower head.

Belonging to the Onagraceae (Evening Primrose Family), this plant is toxic,

so although this plant is cataloged as an herb, medical uses are unknown as is the possible hazards to your health. Naturalist consume at your own risk!

Its colorful, spidery-looking flowers showcase as a variety of colors, ranging from white to vibrant purple to soft pink to bold crimson. This wildflower would be a compliment in any garden.

Now for the 'needle in the haystack' of history. Its variety name Clarkia is named after Captain William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

The following excerpt is taken from one of there journals (original spelling) after making it to the Pacific Coast in 1805:

"I met with a singular plant today in blume," wrote Meriwether Lewis on June 1, 1806, "of which I preserved a specemine. It grows on the steep sides of the fertile hills near this place." He described the root, stem, branches and leaves, and finally the parts of the delicate flower:

...The corolla superior consists of four pale perple petals which are tripartite, the central lobe the largest and all terminate obtusely; they are inserted with a long and narrow claw on the top of the germ, are long, smooth & deciduous. There are two distinct sets of stamens the 1st or principal consists of four, the filaments of which are capillary, erect, inserted on the top of the germ alternately with the petals, equal short, membranous; the anthers are also four each being elivated with it's fillament, they are linear and reather flat, erect sessile, cohering at the base, membranous, longitudinally furrowed, twise as long as the fillament [and] naked, and of a pale perple color. the second set of stamens are very minute, are also four, and placed within and opposite to the petals. These are scarcely persceptable while the 1st are large and conspicuous; the filaments are capillary equal, very short, white and smooth. the anthers are four, oblong, beaked, erect, cohering at the base, membranous, shorter than the fillaments, white, naked and appear not to form pollen....This has the appearance of a monopetallous flower growing from the center of a four petalled corollar."

Above is the dried specimen of the "singular plant" that Lewis collected and was named in 1814 by botanist Frederick Pursh. named Clarkia pulchella.

We had a difficult time identifying this one so we requested the help from another plant lover who identified it for us. We want to thank Sharon Nixon a.k.a. 'Birdmom' for her assistance.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Bush Monkey Flower (Mimulus aurantiacus var. aurantiacus)

Written by Cindy Nunn

This little beauty was photographed while hiking the Corriganville Trails, located in Simi Valley, Ventura County, California. It is commonly called the Bush Monkey Plant, or Mimulus aurantiacus, and is considered a honey plant pollinated by bees and hummingbirds. Certain native American Indian tribes, like the Miwok and Pomo, used the flowers and roots of this plant for its medicinal purposes and it was particularly good for healing minor scrapes and burns.

Deerweed (Lotus scoparius)

Written by Diane Beauton

Deerweed is a perennial shrub in the family Fabaceae (pea family). It is also known as California Broom or Western Bird's-Foot Trefoil. Deerweed is very similar in appearance to the garden variety many of us have in our gardens, known as Witches Broom (Cytisus scoparius).

The plant thrives in dry areas of California, Arizona, and Mexico, but it is commonly found in many coastal sand roadsides.
This common stringy bush of green, yellow and reddish-orange has been sighted on every trail we have traveled, and made it's colorful show in most of our photographs.
The stems are erect and somewhat fork-like, with small leaves consisting of three to six leaflets. The yellow clustered blossoms appear between March and August. The fruit pods are curved and have two seeds.

Notice the bright array of colors of the Deerweed mingling with the other natural flora ~ it's beautiful in every appearing.

Click to enlarge to see all the radiant color.

Milk Thistle
 (Silybum marianum)

Written by Diane Beauton

Milk Thistle is also known as Holy Thistle, Silybum, Blessed Milk Thistle, Carduus Marianum, Our Lady's Thistle, Wild Artichoke, Lady's Thistle, Marian Thistle, Shui Fei Ji, Mediterranean Thistle, St. Marys Thistle, just to name a few.

This plant was spotted during the Mothers Day hike in Las Llajas Canyon, Simi Valley, Ca. Characterized by sharp needle like leaves, it's best to admire from a distance or the lens of a camera. The leaves are very distinctive, with white marbling on the shiny green leaves. Botanists beware... Look but don't touch!

Although found in some gardens, it is illegal to sell or buy milk thistle in many states such as Washington State because it is highly toxic to livestock when consumed in large quantities. California reports up to 4 tons per acre in heavily infested areas.

Milk Thistle is also used as an herbal remedy for cleansing the liver and used to treat the effects of ingesting poisonous mushrooms.