PART I Weather and People
“In an old buckboard with our luggage strapped on behind we drove through fields of golden poppies. At last! … a breath of incomparable pure mountain air and a view of … Michigan Avenue (now Foothill Boulevard) in the heart of … our valley. I found most … to be interesting, kindly people, some prosperous, but mostly struggling ranchers, for a drought was upon the land.”
– Emily Lanterman, as she reminisced about her first impressions of the Crescenta Valley in the summer of 1885.
I can imagine this scene and first impressions upon arriving in 1885, even though much has changed over the years. “Interesting” and “kindly” hopefully still describes us as a community. Droughts are common in the Southwest, a part of the climate and resulting weather, which has changed little. Fortunately, this year our rainfall was above average for the season.
Temperatures began to climb at the beginning of this week, but overall our summer has been cooler than normal. No complaints here! It’s a good time to be outside and checking on my crops. A rather humble garden, consisting of two tomato plants – a Roma and an Early Girl– a Jalapeno pepper, grapevines, a Fuji apple tree and a lemon tree. But at one time agriculture was central to the economy and survival in the Foothills.
The Crescenta Valley had been settled thousands of years before the arrival of those folks mentioned in the above quotation. Villages of Native American people, the Tongvas, were scattered throughout the valleys and foothills. Mike Lawler (local historian and CV Weekly columnist) estimates the population of Wiquagna, the village located in the Crescenta Valley, at around 200 people. These first residents were drawn by the mild climate and almost perfect weather, accompanied by a plentiful source of food and water.
Advanced hunting skills and an understanding of native plants were required by the Tongvas to reap this rich bounty. Animal food included deer, squirrels, quail (and their collected eggs), ducks, rabbits, skunks and rats. Large grasshoppers roasted on a stick over a fire were a favorite. Trout and other fish were caught with spears or nets in local waters. Acorns and Chia seeds were both ground into meal to make flat bread and soups. Edible plants included cactus, wild lettuces, yucca and cattail shoots. Wild berries were varied and plentiful, such as grapes, elderberries, blackberries, Manzanita berries and gooseberries.
The diet of these first people was nutritious and, depending on preparation methods and selection of ingredients, the menu was filled with possibilities. Just think … dinner on a warm summer night in August: acorn soup, grilled trout, currant and nut bread, mixed greens salad and berries.
Our cool summer transformed as the mercury climbed toward 100 degrees. Fortunately this weather pattern should peak as you read the CV Weekly today, and cool down 10 degrees this weekend. Nights remain in the 60s. By the first of the week, the thermometers begin to rise once again … and yes, this is summer.
Next week: Part II –Weather and People