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Sunday, 31 July 2011

On Emergency Plumbing Situations

So this weekend, our mains water pipe decided to bust itself open and leak like a crazy banshee across our front yard. That was awesome. To make it extra awesome, we noticed the leak yesterday and thought it was just a sprinkler acting up. So we ignored it. A few hours ago we came home to a large puddle forming on our driveway, and after pulling away some of that awful black plastic tarp that redevelopers love to put in yards, we discovered a bubbling fissure of water below the plants.

The lesson there is to never ignore a strange appearance of water, especially when it's in front of the yard, and especially when you live in Southern California. If water just appeared like that it wouldn't be so damn expensive.

On the plus side, I think we've saved the plants that were over the mains pipe. With the exception of a large, thick rooted bush that is already in the ground out back, they're sat in containers with loose soil protecting their roots, waiting to be replanted in a less pipe-y environment. Time will tell when it comes to their survival rate - I'm certainly not redirecting any extra water to landscaping. My intentions are to have a 100% native landscaped front yard (then we can finally smash the crappy sprinkler system to tiny pieces), and a similar outlook for the back yard. I suspect it will average out at 75%, as some useful plants take well to the climate without needing any additional liquid care.

The plumber is finishing up now (I hope), and with any luck, this is the only time this will happen. If you're looking for an emergency plumber in San Diego, I highly recommend Plaisted Plumbing - we called two other places and they couldn't get out to us until late in the afternoon (TOO BAD GUYS, NO MONEY FOR YOU), but this chap was more than willing to help us and arrived within the hour. In 86F heat. It's hard to find good skilled people to work on your house, so we'll definitely be using him in the future for non-emergencies.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The Tomato Beests





With a nod to Ted, I then smashed it with a brick. I felt a little bad about such wanton murder, as it was so obese and perky, so I'll spare the universe the pictures of the gooey mess. But I've also been losing perfectly good tomatoes to little mouths (everything in this garden has a taste for my heirloom plants), so fuck that shit.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Green Lynx Spider



Each new bug I discover is confirmation that we're doing something right. After a little googling, I think this is Peucetia Viridans or the Green Lynx Spider. It's an attack spider instead of one that builds webs (not aggressive to humans though), and tends to eat moths. Finding this in the tomato patch gives me hope for the future - I have seriously thrown too many gnawed upon tomatoes into the compost box over the last few days and I'd like to actually eat the tomatoes I grow. This garden is not intended to be quite so charitable.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Today I went to the Thrift Store and I got...





A Kodak Instamatic X-35 camera! Not entirely sure how good a find this is, as the red lining is falling into dust and I'm pretty sure that you can't buy film for it. But it was $3, it's got that classic red/white/black design that I love so much and it's made in America. Well worth saving from the landfill, even if it's only to hang on the wall and admire as a cheap relic of past times.

And then there were these:



4 sets of DPN knitting needles for $1.75 each! Original packaging and everything (which is going to kill me to throw into the recycling dammit)! My local thrift store always has a great selection of crafting goods, and today was no exception: too many knitting needles for me to even think about buying beyond those I genuinely needed. Being that DPNs tend to retail for around $8-10 a bundle, I've saved a fairly significant amount of cash here. w00t! Onwards with the making of tubes!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Some More Tomatoes



[Better Boy tomatoes, heaviest weight: 0.98lbs, the plastic fork is just to show the size]

Seems as if the first Better Boy tomato was misleading in taste/damage - I had another yesterday and it was much meatier. These are the next bunch to come off the plant, and I think they're looking great. Heirloom/organic tomatoes around our way tend to be about $3/lb, so this plant has already made back the $5 I paid for it (making our own compost and using very little fertiliser keeps the costs down too). Not sure how these will end up, but I'd hazard a guess they'll be eaten by the end of the week.

Sidenote: I would have left them a little longer but something in my garden has a taste for my tomatoes this week. I swore quite loudly when I saw this damage - whatever it was (probably a ground squirrel) should have just taken the whole thing with it. Such a waste. But less of a waste if we didn't compost.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

First Tomatoes

OK, so technically the Chadwick cherry tomatoes are the first (eaten on Monday), but there were only two, they're smaller tomatoes and I don't have any photographs. So these to me are the first proper tomatoes.



On the left are the infamous Marianna's Peace. On the right are the Better Boy. They look great! Lovely red tomatoes, still warm from the sun.

Unfortunately this is what was inside one of the Better Boys...



Oh dear. I don't know what that is, and I'm almost hesitant to ask. Is it a bug? Are they insect eggs (kind of looks like crumbly sand)? Is it just where an animal or insect got in, had a snack and walked off?

Safe to say, that chunk went straight into the compost bin. I did slice off the other half, as it looked *okay* and had a taste. It wasn't great. It could be that it was picked a little too early, or because it's not grown from seed, or because it's a blander variety (and not heirloom). If the rest turn out the same, they'll be funnelled into canned soup and not eaten raw on the table.

When it came to the Marianna's Peace, a quick bite turned into "I will eat this whole damn tomato" and it was gone within the minute. Sweet, creamy and juicy. The kind of tomato that sells in the local grocery store for $2.99/lb. Absolutely flawless! I weighed the larger one, and it came to 0.93lbs, so I have now met my base standard for tomato growing - great tasting, visually attractive and around 1lb or so per fruit. I couldn't be happier.

Well, until I saw that one of my beefsteak tomatoes had blossom end rot.



Boo. It seems to be an isolated case, but I'm having similar issues with my straight squash because they seem a little pickier for nutrients than my regular zucchini. We have plenty to eat from the other plants this year, so I'll take this as a learning experience and add some more fertiliser and egg shells to the soils over the weekend.

Tomato Update: Almost Ready!



The tomatoes are ripening in Southern California! All hail July! The one pictured above is a Better Boy. A comparison shot to earlier in the year:



The transplants I bought from the local nursery have grown to well over 5 foot tall, and my from-seeds are rapidly catching up.



Some Goldman Italian American action. These are destined for canning: either pastes or sauces. Look at those ribs!



The Marianna's Peace (the story of their trip to North America is worth a read) was the first to grow, and should be picked for eating on Friday soon:



and there are plenty more coming:



I've already eaten two Chadwick cherry tomatoes that had ripened over the holiday weekend, and they were pretty good. Lots more coming, this ended up being one of my strongest from-seed plants:



I don't know how or why this tomato plant decided to grow, and I have no clue as to what it is (my theory was that it's another Chadwick, but the fruit is too large), but I'm willing to accept it's existence beneath the cinderblock zucchini, and keep it watered.



The beefsteaks (fairly generic ones, looking forward to growing more heirloom varieties next year) are harder to photograph because they're either sprawling or tucked up right inside the tomato cage. Their behaviour exposed my lack of caging experience, but they're doing well.



This Moneymaker is a survivor. Originally I had considered pulling it up to let it's sister grab more of the nutrients as it was rather sickly: the leaves were fuzzy and the flowers just malformed. But now it's fruiting, I'll let it carry on. Not entirely sure the resulting tomatoes will be good however:



They're certainly a lot paler than the other tomatoes. I've been monitoring them carefully.

So I'll be harvesting these either today or tomorrow, and the larger Marianna's Peace is headed for a Friday night tortilla. The Better Boys will be lunch, perhaps turned into a mini version of Matt's Heirloom Tomato Salsa Fresca with some cucumber for good measure (seriously, how good does that look?).

By August, I hope to be canning. Eek.

[note: I link to Baker Creek not because I'm affiliated with them in any way, but because this is where I bought the seeds that the plants came from. None of this post is paid for. However: that's not to say I wouldn't accept free seeds. I love free seeds, especially heirloom non-GMO free seeds. If you have seeds you want to give me, please contact me and I'll grow them next year with your name on a little label next to the results.]

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

The Gardens of San Francisco Zoo

July 4th weekend brought with it a trip up to the Bay area to visit with the in laws - and on Friday we took some of the younger members of the family to the San Francisco Zoo. I won't bore everyone with holiday snaps, but one of the unexpected discoveries was how important plant conservation is to the look of the whole park. Great swaths of the zoo are shaded by trees and paths are dotted with drought tolerant plants, and as a result, the zoo uses very little water to maintain it's landscaping and it's patrons get very little sunburn.







They also maintain a basic vegetable garden that I forgot to take photographs of (just standard raised beds with summer vegetables, nothing special). I took note of the beehive...



...it was super active!

So along with the penguins and tigers and bears, I had a jolly good time considering applying their efforts to my own yard. Especially the bee-friendly flowers. At this time of the year all I can really do is plan future planting, it's ridiculously hot out there, and that doesn't lead to much physical productivity. Roll on October.

[If you want to see said penguins and tigers and bears, I'm keeping them in their own photogallery. The basic UI isn't great. Working on it.]