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.

Candid Shots Inside the House

Here are some pictures of the inside of our house because Sophie asked. I resisted the urge to tidy up or wait until everything has a place before taking the pictures, because then of course it would be an even longer wait.

The first picture is a camellia in a bowl on the coffee table. It looks much better there than any of the blooms look on the bushes, which are still rather square (from their earlier severe pruning). The roses are on the back of the toilet in the hall bathroom. I wish I could send smell-files on the internet: these are fantastic old-fashioned really fragrant roses. When the bathroom door had been closed, I opened it and was struck by the noticeable aroma of roses in the air. The roses grow along the west side of the house.

Heavenly Spring Break

I've been busy in the best possible way. Rode over 10 miles on my bike on Monday, on three separate errands. Monday also brought visitors (thanks Laurie and Helen!), which reinforced the feeling of being on holiday. I've been puttering in the house and garden, spending time reading gardening books and cook books. Made my first jar of preserved lemons (thanks for the idea, Heather!), made more lemonade, plus vegan lemon-poppyseed cake.

I've also been solar cooking again, though my box oven needs some refurbishing or something. We've done rutabagas, beets, butternut squash. I cooked some beans today, but they didn't quite get done, so I finished them in the pressure cooker.

Today I had long chats with two neighbors. One offered to bring us some lemon liqueur she made from lemons from our trees. The other offered me free heirloom tomato plants, which I promptly put into the ground. He has been in the neighborhood for 35 years and has been raising tomatoes for 30.

We had our old push/reel mower blades sharpened, and I finally mowed the front lawns today. They're going yellow, and I'm sure there are neighbors shaking their heads and saying, "What a shame! The old people took such good care of the lawn." What will they think when we sheet mulch it and turn it into a native plantscape?