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Saturday, 31 December 2011

Last of the 2011 Hawk Watching








My health hasn't been the greatest over the last two months, and I have a pile of things relating to the garden to sit down and write about, but until I actually take those photos and discuss what I put into the garden before the October rains hit us, all I have is good intentions. And pictures of hawks, which are much easier to come by it seems, than pictures of bug nibbled spinach leaves and masses of Queen Anne's Lace.

2011 has not been a great year for a lot of people in the world, but it appears that the struggles many of us faced were for a beneficial outcome. I'm glad to leave it behind, because I have the sneaking suspicion that 2012 is going to bring a lot of those struggles to fruitition. Both literal (more apricots please!) and figurative.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Katydid



This last month has been slow for various good reasons, but we're well into a new season now, and new seasons bring new bug to the surface. This is the first time in my entire life that I've seen a katydid, and despite finding it near my new arugula and lettuce seedlings, I take as a good sign. Seeing new insects and birds every year is a sure sign that we're bringing the garden up to spec - even if they don't always eat the things you'd wish they'd eat.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Stitches in October









[top to bottom: 1) green wool sweater | 2) stashbusting acrylic baby blanket | 3) detail of a crochet edging on a pair of fingerless mitts | 4) gift gloves for my brother, half finished]

I still haven't found the perfect place to photograph things I make - this house is built dark to stay cool, and that has the obvious drawbacks. Not procrastinating about working on this issue would probably help! But in the meantime, I'm not lacking for projects, or projects that I want to make as autumn closes in on Southern California. There are mighty cold winds blowing in from the north and through the house already.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Starting for Fall 2011





Seeds from the top left hand corner (going clockwise):

- Early Purple Sprouting Broccoli
- Rapini Broccoli
- Giant Noble Spinach
- Gigante Spinach
- Purple Sicily Cauliflower
- Cour Di Bue Cabbage
- Mammoth Red Rock Cabbage
- Brussel Sprouts in the middle

The toilet rolls contain: Russian Red Kale, Oak Lettuce and DiCiccio Broccoli (this method taken from Whole Larder Love). The DiCiccio broccoli is the only non-heirloom so far.

The past two years have seen me planting my leafy greens entirely too late in the spring and not really getting anything out of it except a few baby greens- so instead of trying to follow the traditional cycles used by those in cooler climates, I'm following the weather (with guidance from local SoCal veg blogs like Root Simple). When does it rain? When do the grasses return? How long do the grasses stay? When do we get the slight frosty dew outside? I've picked varieties to match the climate as best I can - Italian types where I can, sturdy plants that can survive a swing in temperature through January, short day onions (more on these later), lettuces that can sit in containers and be brought in to avoid any heavy rainstorms. And all are foods that we will eat - I didn't want to risk ordering parsnips or mustard/collard greens and then have them go uneaten. These are sensible vegetables to grow, but not quite in our meal rotation yet.

Not all of these plants are supposed to be started in containers (kale and spinach, for example), but as the containers I'm using are designed to rot down in the soil, I'm not sure what can go wrong. I have plenty of seed and time to direct sow them next month with the others if it all goes awry. The good thing about non-summer planting here is that there's plenty of time for learning and eating. Hopefully more eating this time.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Before the Santa Anas Visit











[top to bottom: 1) tomato cages at rest | 2) Dai Mao spends her afternoons on the porch, rolling around for no discernable reason | 3) the zucchini plant that-never-should-have-been has outlasted the rest of the squash plants | 4) a mysterious new orb weaver spider has appeared in our persimmon tree | 5) junk on the porch]

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Potapple Salad









Boil some eggs for 10 minutes*, potatoes for 30 minutes, one apple chopped into largish chunks, some mayo of choice and voila! Potapple salad.

*Maybe not this many, I boiled a few extra for eating separately.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

October Begins



This is one of those photos that hides the sheer disarray of the side yard - no visible plant pots strewn around, containing the horrors of the breeding black widow. No cinder blocks waiting to be moved, no broken old rubbermaid container lid with cat puke over it. Everyone has periods like this in their relationship with their house right? Where you're stuck in stasis and everything looks a bit crap and you'd like to fastforward through the next year and get to the good parts? Good. Because that gives me hope for the future.

But anyway: October is here, and October  brings change in Southern California - the first rainstorms visit us this week, which makes for happier trees and the return of grass to the yard. I've listed the seeds to start or plant - carrots, kale, cabbages, celery - and I'm pretty sure I know what I'm doing when it comes to growing brassica. I just threw a bunch of clover and wildflower seed around, hopefully to make for more flowers and less weed pulling next spring. I have blankets, and cardigans at the ready, and my first pair of socks on the horizon.

Very mundane parts of life. But very much appreciated.

Monday, 26 September 2011

San Diego's Pacfic Islander Festival 2011







[More photos here]

Went to the local Pacific Islander Festival yesterday with the sole intention of eating food. And food we ate - the BBQ teryaki was the best I have ever eaten. There were also a LOT more people there than any of us expected, so the lines for food were insane (but doable). Overall, a jolly good time, and despite the overcast weather until the afternoon (and thus, I got sunburned), the sun did eventually come out. If we go next year, I'll make sure we bring a few chairs and a picnic blanket with us - it's definitely a festival for kicking back and relaxing.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Roots





The end of a season is imminent - these are the roots of my Goldman's Italian American tomato plant. Here it is back in March, and then again in July. How far we came together - this particular plant was a conservative bearer, but the fruits are luscious and meaty, and gave us the right amount of fruit for eating and preserving. Highly recommended, and shall hopefully be grown again.

Left in the ground: the Better Boy (meh, would not buy again), a late English variety called Moneymakers (good for small spaces and BLT sandwiches), the Marianna's Peace (which really needs to be pulled) and the Chadwick Cherry (more on that later, it has exploded and has at least another month in it). Plus the Gold Rush squash, a zucchini plant which is running out of room faster than it is life, a miscellaneous volunteer tomato and a miscellaneous winter squash vine I grew from the seed of an acorn squash.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Autumn Incoming



[images above: 1) practically-antique yarn I scored from an estate sale, 2) the blanket in question] 

During the dead of the summer it feels impossible to write anything down. A week of over a hundred degrees and just... ugh. Why bother. Besides, it's impossible to garden or make anything large, so there's barely any content to go around. But with incoming cooler temperatures - and I'd never thought I'd think of 80 degrees as "cool", but there you go - back come the blanket making days. The above is a basic rectangular granny blanket with practically-antique yarn bought at an estate sale. My only real intention is to clear some space in the house, so I'm trying to ignore the niggling thought that this might not be something I'm completely in love with. But the yarn is holding up well, and the colour combination makes it honest-to-god vintage styling. So I'm not hating, just waiting.

 The lettuce and cabbage and spinach and kale days are incoming. But it's still too warm for now, and there are still raised beds to build. So for now, we have distributed this giant pile of mulch into separate piles across the yard, in order to redistribute them around trees and raised beds over the next few months. That was enough of a task for September. By November, I should have much more on show: seedlings and succulents and hopefully grass. I miss grass. My feet miss grass. Let it rain, and let there be grass.

Friday, 9 September 2011

The Great San Diego Blackout

The day the ceiling fans stood still.




Well that was strange. There we all were, 1.4 million people across San Diego, trying to beat the heat and get to the end of the afternoon without too much sweating... and then the power went out! Across the entire county! At first I thought I'd overdone the air conditioning - not an hour before, I'd tripped the circuit by trying to vacuum, have the television and keep our portable AC unit running at the same time (wow, that sounds dumb now I read that back). But after I managed to get Twitter working (cellphone networks slowed to a halt), I saw that Fred had power out at work, and KPBS were down, and then the hashtag they coined - the #sdblackout - sprung to life.

At first I, like everyone else, expected the power to come back quickly enough. We hung around, we tolerated the sweat. I grabbed an icelolly, took the cats outside where the air was at least moving, and streamed Pandora on my phone for a while. But as reports started coming through as to what was happening (rumours ranged from a vehicular crash to the ridiculous idea that it could be a terrorist attack), it became pretty clear we were in for at least one night of no power.



So you do what you do in any emergency: you take stock of your resources, you get a radio working and you occupy yourself. It doesn't take long to find the places where you're woefully unprepared - we should have had a stovetop kettle, a camping stove and a proper battery or crank operated emergency radio.



But success! Our bedroom clockwork radio could work from a battery, and we had a battery that fit! We tuned into KOGO, usually a talk radio station (and not something I would normally ever listen to), but they turned local and neutral through the night, taking calls from people across the county reporting in on the state of their power and airing the press conferences with San Diego's mayor and SDGE. It really reinforced how useful radio continues to be, and that I need a power saving option on my phone.

As for food: we had zucchini and tomatoes from the garden sat on the counter.



And a GRILL. Yes! Hot food!



No photos of the hot food because I was too busy eating to take low light photos that were not blurry. Priorities people, you can't fight zombies or looters on an empty stomach.

I found some scented candles in the spare room, and the extra light kept us sane.



and I had a little LED reading light, which meant I could knit a few stitches on my various projects and read a book.



And then we hit upon the genius idea to make some coke with our sodastream. I'd say that's a definite blackout tip: as long as you've got bottled water and a sodastream to hand, you can has soda.





So it was mostly OK in the end. The power was restored by the middle of the night, and the ceiling fans were once more rotating. But a lot of that time spent last night had the niggling little worry that this might be something that would last for days. That the water restrictions might turn into no water, and that the weather wasn't going to break and finally cool down. That we'd lose all the food in our chest freezer, that friends wouldn't be OK. The local Ralphs shut itself down - refusing to even sell ice to the local community, which shows that in an emergency, we can't trust them to sell us the supplies we'll need to get through even a few days of broken infrastructure.

But we have good neighbours (one of whom checked in on us and supplied us with the information about Ralphs), we had food and water, and the power was restored within 12 hours . For my first ever emergency situation, it could have been a lot worse. Hopefully next time will be this smooth.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Adventures in Preserving















It's summer, it's hot, and it's hard to really think about much that involves going outside and into the garden. The tomatoes are piling up in the fridge now, and we've been trying out canning methods to send them away to the future, where they will be pizza and soup and chowder and stew through the winter. Zucchini is still coming in every week, but in lesser quantities as the plants are beginning to dry up and I can't be bothered to replant for the rest of the year. Preserving these for the winter is much easier - shred them, lightly fry them in olive oil/salt and freeze them in a ziplock bag. When it's time to eat them I'll refry them for easy fibre, and if they turn out smooshy, into the pot of noodle soup they shall go.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Check First, Touch Second



Always check before you turn on the outdoors faucet. My bare, vulnerable fingers disturbed this brown widow after I went to wash out an ant-infested hummingbird feeder- thankfully it's not fully grown and was more afraid of me than t'other way around. Close up, they're kind of pretty.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Scrap Granny Square Blanket





[Ravelry Page]

I finished this waaaay back in May, but then got lazy and forgot to upload any photographs or even really acknowledge it's existence until the weather turned hot the other week. It's a mix of leftover yarns that needed to be turned into something useful instead of taking up space around the house - the only exception being the white acrylic/wool mix (Plymouth Encore) that I purposely bought from my LYS to use as binder colour. Now I can crochet a granny square with my hands tied behind my back, something like this is great experiment in assembling something cogent from a mess. It doesn't always work - some of the scrap used in the centers of each square really does not go with the turquoise/yellow/orange combination, but whatever man, that's just my opinion. It looks good enough, and because it's weighty without being too warm, makes for a great summer blanket to sleep benath.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Madia Elegans







This plant just appeared during the spring. I let it be, because it was taking up a corner of the yard that wasn't in use, and hey, maybe it would be pretty! You never know unless you try, and it turned out to be massive and pretty all at the same time.It did a good job making use of a neglected space (we're planning on paving over that corner and fixing the gate... soon), and the flower are lovely. And when it's done, it will go to the great compost bin in the sky. This yard continues to surprise me with a wealth of  interesting plants that grow and thrive without any human intervention.

[note on the name: I only recently managed to somewhat-identify it via the excellent California native plant blog Town Mouse and Country Mouse - apparently they aren't supposed to grow so large (this is at least seven foot tall), and only do so with heaps of water and good soil, neither of which I thought was present in that spot!]

Friday, 5 August 2011

Watermelon!!!





[image: Sugar Baby Watermelon, weighing 4.04lbs - not the best photos, my kitchen doesn't get as much light as it could]

It tastes better than any watermelon I've ever had - super sweet, refreshing and juicy. Never buy these suckers out of season, you're just looking for disappointment.

Things I've learned growing watermelon:

  • giving them their own bed is a pointless waste of soil and space. Grow them in the same bed as tomatoes (prune your tomatoes to leave the bottom 6-8 inches of stem without leaves and there will be plenty of room) or any other vertically growing plant maximises the space you have while requiring very little extra water and zero extra soil.
  • a caterpillar-beetle larvae type bug will, if left to their own devices, strip the skin from the exterior of the fruit, but not damage the interior.
  • directions on the internet to help you gauge when the fruits are ripe aren't as clear as they could be. When you read "it's ripe when the tendrils around the base of the fruit have dried up", that's a great way initially, but it helps to know what a ripe watermelon sounds like compared to one that's still growing. Even then, it's guesswork, so it helps to keep an eye on the fruit as it grows so the changes are obvious.
There are two more fruits out there (I suspect they'll be ready next week), but that's all there will be from the yard when it comes to 2011 melons. In retrospect, I wish I'd planted more of them and had the "below the tomatoes!" revelation sooner. Next year I'll add another type, possibly something larger, possibly planted on the ground of the hops patch.