Recent Photos





We (F, J, our visiting-from-Australia friend S, and I) took a hike in Redwood Regional Park, and climbed Redwood Peak, hoping for a great view. It was a nice climb, and the redwoods were nice and cool, but the view was not so much of a vista, really, as the peak was densely forested.

Just before we left, Justin decided he needed a haircut so he wouldn't look like a hobbit in his new hat, which is not even featured in any of the pictures. Next time!

Pobala Persimmon Tree






Advice, anyone?

Just to be clear, these pictures represent two fallen branches. The skinny one that is still attached in the picture has been cut off below the cut. The other one is still as shown here.

Meandering through the Pastures of the Past

Unearthed many treasures and nostalgia triggers in boxes that have been stored in my parents' barn since at least 1998.

A few highlights:






Cornhusk dolls: These are some of the folks who lived in my dollhouse. My mom made the man and the baby, I think.
Answering machine: My sister says that we were the first people she knew with an answering machine and this was it.
Diorama of flower fairy: This was not for school, but the kind of thing a kid like me did for fun. Originally there were dried and pressed daffodil flowers as part of this I think, but they had long since crumbled and fallen away.
My first knitted projects: a bag/purse, a bear, a lion.
Pegasus: yes, this was mine.
Macrame: my mom made this and I think it's great. It definitely speaks from a certain era, doesn't it?
Apache roadster: I don't actually have any memories of this, but I'm guessing it was my older brother's.

More in another post.

Yard and Garden update

Poor neglected blog, usurped by the promiscuous and seductive facebook...

Garden report: Justin made great croquettes last night with squash, beets, onions, garlic, garbanzo flour, egg. Wish I could say the eggs were from our chickens, but we don't have the chicken area set up yet, alas.

Crookneck squash, green beans, spaghetti squash (some of which we've been harvesting young and eating raw), beets (pretty much done now, until the ones I just planted are ready), a few very delicious sungold cherry tomatoes. The rest of the tomato plants (and there are a lot of them!) are laden with various shapes and sizes of heirloom tomatoes, all still green, but looking ready to change color at any minute. We ate our first pears yesterday, and I just ate a wee but ripe apple! Cactus pads (nopales) are always available, and there are a few flowers now, and I'm looking forward to some tuna (prickly pears; beles in Tigrinya).

Roses are blooming, and coreopsis, and some mallow and sweet peas and mexican primrose and yarrow. Sunflowers getting close, and some other things which I won't be able to identify until they bloom. Some flowers that were coming up all over the place (in and outside of beds) that I had left because I thought they were calendulas have finally bloomed, and although they are yellow and pretty enough, they don't look like calendulas unless they're a different variety than I've ever seen.

I radically pruned 4 camellia bushes in front, in hopes that they will grow back with a more open and natural shape (as opposed to rectangles with dense surfaces). We'll see how that works out! Here's a picture of the pruning in process.

If you can't beet 'em...



Justin happily harvested a good bunch of beets the other day.

Exposing the hidden beauty



We tore out the carpet in the guest room yesterday. Taking out the staples from where the pad had been attached to the floor was a little tedious, but also satisfying. Removing the tack strips along the edges that help the carpet in place was difficult at first but became easier with practice and the right tools. The floors are a gorgeous polished dark reddish honey color. The carpet pad left a waffle pattern across much of it which we need to clean off once we figure out the best way to do that without damaging the wood.

The baseboard needs some augmenting. For some reason the floor boards do not reach all the way to the baseboard (which sits on the subfloor, below the level of the flooring), so we are going to add a foot molding to the current baseboard. We thought of pulling the baseboard off and starting over, but it turned out to be a bear to take off, partly because it is partially below the surface of the flooring. I don't know if the picture really shows it that well.


We thought we might go ahead and paint too, while the furniture is out of there, so that's pretty much the agenda for this week, in addition to getting a cat and finishing our drip irrigation system for the veggies.

Mallow Maladies




The Coreopsis problem




So many sad plant symptoms...so few diagnostic tools

If only they could talk.

We bought a coreopsis at Annie's over a month ago along with some other drought-hardy annuals. The coreopsis has grown vigorously and is now about 3 feet tall with flower buds at the ends of many top branches. All of a sudden it has been losing its lowest branches. It's quite woody and the branches at the bottom are also fairly woody and sturdy and stretch out from the main stalk nearly parallel to the ground and are quite long. The pattern is that a branch goes all wilty without changing color or anything else, then it just falls out of its socket (where it attaches to the main stalk). It's very sad to see. The branches are opposite each other and so far I think it has lost three pairs of opposite branches, the two lowest pairs and the third lowest.

The other plants right next to it are fine. However, the giant mallow (yes, I know it is considered a weed and that it has a humongous tap root, but I think it's pretty) growing across the walkway from the coreopsis also experienced one lower branch drop. It happened before the coreopsis started losing branches, so I didn't pay that much attention at the time. But the mallow is also very woody with very wood sturdy branches. It hasn't lost any more, but I did notice that it's got some kind of thing causing little bumped dots on a lot of the large lower leaves. Pictures of all of it in the next post.

Like in so much of my gardening, I am adopting a wait-and-see attitude, only because I can't figure out anything else to do.

This is also my attitude about a number of weeds/volunteers coming up around the yard. If I don't recognize 'em, I let 'em grow so I can see what they turn out to be. I was letting a bunch of something grow that I thought was calendula but now that the buds are close to opening I no longer think so. Oh well.

Other garden notes: The tomatoes are getting so big they have completely outgrown the silly little cages we had put up with they were wee. Justin improvised some new cages from the fencing I took down a couple of weeks ago. They look like they'll work, but we didn't have enough fencing for all of them.

I tore out the rue after realizing that was what had caused a bad rash on Justin's arms. I also cut down most of the luxury snail accommodations a.k.a. calla lily patch, and spread worm castings under several of the fruit trees.

So much to learn and do! I'm excited to have more time to do it starting Monday.

More Garden Pix

One of the natives we bought at Annie's.
The leaf that I am holding in the 2nd picture is from a plant in a corner of the yard (3rd picture). It was completely bare at first. It has a lot of upright cane-like stems all coming from a central root area, and it is about 5-6 feet tall. Any ideas about it? It reminds me of a poinsettia. The prickly pear, of which we have been harvesting and eating the pads, is finally also producing fruit. Not a lot so far, but I'm hopeful. I'm in love with the walking onions, in multiple pictures below, not just because they look like crazy Dr. Seuss plants, but because they taste great, too!






Untethering the Fruit Trees


Another task I did recently (can't remember if it was one or two weekends ago) was to free all the trees of their multiple restraints. The number of ties and ropes and wires and cords was really so incredible that I began to suspect the previous owner of perhaps acting out his bondage fetish on the trees. As an incorrigible scavenger, I appreciated his re-purposing of so many things; however, my sympathy for the trees was greater. The pile of cords pictured with my foot were all taken just from the persimmon tree, pictured below. The belt, though, remains, as I could not untie it. The bucket includes ties from several trees.

Integrating Spaces


I recently took down one of the fences that had defined the dog area for the previous owners. It's interesting how hard it is to re-imagine space that has already been divided in a particular way. Slowly, I am beginning to imagine how to create the spaces in our yard that we want.

Justin has since managed to get all the rest of the posts out, discovering in the process that the irrigation pipe runs below them, along the side of the sidewalk back to the shed. Fortunately, no pipes were broken in the process of that discovery.

These pictures are from that day. Now the space looks a lot more connected, and it's saved me a lot of walking around and through the two gates.

The fruit Ripeneth



The pomegranate has begun to blossom.







The persimmon.












The fig.















The pear.








The peach.

Resident Amphibian

I finally got around to trimming back the calla lilies a bit. I was not surprised to find a lot of snails and slugs, but I was surprised to find this little critter. I'm assuming it's a salamander, but I don't think I've ever encountered a salamander in my backyard in California. Does anyone know what type it is? The video shows it scampering back to cover.



video

Earth Day festivities

I went to the 10th annual West Contra Costa County Earth Day shindig on Saturday. It's at the recycling center, but I didn't get to go on that tour. I toured the Wastewater Treatment Plant, which was just a little ways down the road. I've posted some photos on facebook, so if you're on fb you can check them out there. The power at the plant comes from three sources: methane captured from the contents of the sewers, solar panels, and from our local gas company. The stink was pretty bad in certain areas, and if I were to take students there I would suggest bringing a bandana to cover over the nose and mouth. Overall, though, it was really interesting. A good thing to see. Everyone should know where stuff goes when you a toilet.

Back at the main Earth Day event, I volunteered at a booth where we let people make paper from paper scraps. Just put the tiny scraps in the blender with water, liquify, pour the pulp over a screen, roll out water, and let dry on newspaper. It was kind of crazy, as it was very popular and there were not always enough volunteers.

Today, Forest and I made a classic cardboard and aluminum foil solar box cooker. It took longer than expected as we didn't boxes of exactly the right size and spent some time re-sizing our boxes. Still, a worthwhile endeavor. Forest is going to try it out on his balcony, which gets hot western sun.

I hope you are enjoying this lovely time of year, where the plant world seems to be noticeably changing every day.

Fruits of the Season

I have just started to read about how to harvest and cook nopales. Anyone have a favorite way of getting rid of the thorns?
The lemon trees are so productive, we cannot keep up with just the windfall (and there are some strong daily winds here, so there is always windfall).
The fig, which had fruit before it had leaves, currently looks like this. I was just reading about figs last night, and I think this is the small first crop, which will be followed later in summer by a larger main crop.
The peach tree has these fruit now.
Below is the fruit on the first apple tree to bloom.

I am now pretty certain that the two trees at the northeast corner of the house are strawberry guavas. My first thought upon tasting them was, "guava-like" especially the texture and seeds inside. However, I couldn't believe guavas would grow in this climate, and also the fruit were much smaller than any guavas I'd ever seen. Other people have agreed that they seemed like guava, but nobody has been completely certain. I just read that there a couple varieties grow in the area, and one is called "strawberry guava." I believe that is what I have. Today I discovered some of the fruit higher up on the tree is quite large. Previously, we'd only seen fruit about the size of cherries.
The picture shows the range in size of these fruit.