Monday, September 28, 2009

Hearst Castle Tour No. 4 – Botanical Gardens


My mother’s birthday is on September 12th.  My gift to her was a day trip over to Hearst Castle for a tour of the gardens then lunch in Cambria.  She loves Cambria and loves to visit the Central Coast of California.  Those of us that live in the Central Valley of California flock to the Central Coast of California to escape raging heat, almond dust (Farmers shake the trees to harvest the nuts.  This causes more dust than normal in the air.), and endless sunshine.  That’s right.  Like those that live to the north and go nuts because of too much rain or snow; we go nuts (mostly almonds) with the continuous sunshine.

We headed out moving up Highway 99 north to Wasco.  Please note:  locals will refer to highways/freeways in the same manner I do.  Those relocating from LA refer to highways/freeways as follows:  the 99” or “the 5”.  I hope this brief explanation has been helpful.  My mother-in-law lives in Wasco.  They are famous for growing roses.  I wrote about it here.  Continuing west, over I-5 (See?  There’s another freeway/highway reference.) and through the settlement of Lost Hills. 

But wait, my mother wanted to hit the McDonald’s drive thru for a “Senior” coffee.  I told her that I would pay for the coffee.  She didn’t care who paid for it.  She earned her “Senior” coffee; and wouldn’t stand for anything else.  We zoomed through and continued westward. 

Highway 46 can be a bit frustrating to drive.  Most of the way, it’s just one lane winding west and another winding east.  It can be deadly very often from drivers thinking they can pass slower vehicles safely.  The beach goers from Bakersfield join up with those from Fresno at the junction of Highways 46 and 41.  James Dean was the most famous of those to end their life on Highway 41 near Cholame.  Thankfully, there are occasional passing lanes to help me with my affliction of lead foot. 

As we close in on Paso Robles, the vineyards get thicker and thicker. From Paso Robles, we peel off on Highway 101 south looking for the Hearst Castle signs directing us to turn west on Highway 41.  Highway 101 is called El Camino Real - The King’s Highway.  It connects all the California missions.  It was a pretty cool drive when I was a kid and it’s still a pretty cool drive all these decades later.  Highway 41 is a short distance away and it’s an even nicer drive climbing through the vineyards and the coastal range.

It was always fun to see who could see the ocean first.  On that day, no one could.  There was fog.  Sweet, sweet fog.  When we joined up with Highway 1, we rolled the car windows down and enjoyed the cool, damp air.  North through Cambria and up to San Simeon, Highway 1 is probably very similar to how it looked 50 years ago.  Thankfully, Hearst still owns a good portion of the land that remains undeveloped.

We arrived in plenty of time to just take our time.  First thing, DSC_0508_1845practical footwear.   There is a lot of walking involved and a lot of stairs involved.  Since it was cool at the base of the hill, we assumed it would be even cooler up the hill.  We took jackets.  Bad move.


It was hot up there. We regretted bringing jackets and wished we had brought swim suits to splash around in one of the pools.  More on those a bit later.

We strolled to the visitors’ center DSC_0512_1849 and picked up our tour tickets then we wandered through the gift shop and looked at all the things we didn’t need.  We decided to go wait for our tour bus.  Before we could get to the the bus we were asked to stop and pose to “make a memory”.  I brushed them off and said that we didn’t want any pictures.  As we were waiting for the bus, my mother expressed her desire to “make a memory”.  We went back inside and posed for our memory.

The tour bus loaded up all of us tourists and started the standard climb up to the castle.  Red flags were shooting up because it was hot on the bus.  It was hot off the bus.  What was I going to do with my sweater?  I tied it around my waist.  My waist was hot.  Geez!

Art was our tour guide.  He told us some facts and herded us up stairs and along pathways.  He took us to a hidden terrace buried beneath the current terrace.  It was discovered by accident and was like being on an archeological dig.

The heat was getting to me.  I just wanted to strip down and realize my long put off fantasy and dive into “my” pool. DSC_0520_1856

I would settle for wading knee deep in this little pool off to the side.

DSC_0523_1859 I wanted to go swimming and I didn’t care if I missed the rest of the tour.  But we moved on.  Sadly.


There were a bunch of these in the building off the side of the pool.  Surely the group wouldn’t miss me if I just hung out here then made a giant cannonball into the deep end.


Art must have thought he would get some of us tourists to scream when we came across this guy on our path.  Our group was too hot to think much about this guy.

We enjoyed strolling along the pathway, stopping in the shade and listening to Art tell us stories and try to answer questions.DSC_0529_1864  The view was pretty nice.  DSC_0533_1868That Hearst really had a nice idea.  I think I could be comfortable living here so long as all these tourists would leave me alone so I could take a plunge.  Art took pity on us and brought us into a guest house to enjoy the ocean view. DSC_0532_1867There were fans plugged in and benches for us to take a load off.  Art let us rest for precisely one minute then moved us along.  We went down to the wine cellar.  I was under the impression that Hearst didn’t allow any kind of “hooch” at the Castle.  Apparently, wine was not considered “hooch”.  We passed by the tennis courts and walked down the path to see what was beneath those tennis courts.DSC_0538_1871Crikey!  Another pool?!  This is torture.

It was time to load up onto our tour bus and make our way back down the hill.  We were glad to go and made sure our windows were down.  When we disembarked, we headed for a “powder” then picked up our “memory”.  We needed to cool down even further and went into the National Geographic Theatre to watch the movie.  Ahhh!

We had fish and chips in Cambria after strolling around the shops and headed for home.  My mother fell asleep in the car while I was getting gas in Paso Robles; so the trip must have been a success.

When I booked the tour, I thought I would return home with disappointment thinking my garden has a long way to go. I am not disappointed.

Happy Birthday.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fall Planting Part II

DSC_0541_1873 1. eggplant/peppers 2. serrano peppers 3. broccoli 4. onions

DSC_1203_3068 February 6, 2010

The second bed from the west has been planted 1/2 way with fall crops – broccoli and onions. The eggplant, bell peppers, and serrano peppers are still producing; so they’re staying put for now.


Another bed is filled with pumpkins. I’ll wait another week or two then I’ll harvest the pumpkins and pull out the plants. Garlic should grow well over the winter. We use lots of garlic and onions; so I doubt if I could ever plant too much. Maybe some carrots and beets will fill that bed.

The final bed that had potatoes this past winter and cantaloupes this summer has now been turned with the hope of planting more above ground crops like broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, and lettuce. I would like to have some peas and need to noodle out a plan to get those in before things cool down.

Cool down? Is it possible? Tomorrow is supposed to be 108 and that’s more than enough to get these seeds off to a good start.

You can read Fall Planting Part I and see how the 1st planting is evolving.

September 24, 2009: The broccoli has sprouted! This heat is really pushing everything into high gear. Don’t know why I haven’t recorded the broccoli sprouts.

DSC_0759_2086 October 3, 2009:  The onions are sprouting.  Volunteer marigolds are joining in.



Monday, September 14, 2009

Sweet Peas

Sweet Peas were planted this evening with hopes of winter blossoms hanging from the garden fence rails.

DSC_1629_1833The seeds are soaked in warm water to help soften them before planting.  These should look nice.  I hope their scent is great.

DSC_1619_1823 The weather today was fabulous.  It was cool and it even sprinkled this morning.  What??!!  Here’s to filling these fence rails with Royal Blue Sweet Peas.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Wasco Rose Festival


Jackson & Perkins® Rose to Honor Pope John Paul II – 2007 growing in a pot in my backyard a few miles south of Wasco, California.

If you like roses, then Wasco, California is the place to be this weekend.  Each year the town has a Rose Festival on the 1st weekend following Labor Day.

wasco signWelcoming sign at the entrance to Wasco, California.  Note the roses at the base of the sign posts?

The featured rose at the Wasco Rose Festival is (I know.  The sign reads Wasco Festival of Roses.  No one and I mean no one calls it that.) is the Lynn Anderson.  Isn’t that a crack up?  “I never promised you a rose garden.”

lynn anderson Lynn Anderson – featured rose of the Wasco Rose Festival 2009

Oh, I used to attend.  We would pack up and watch the Rose Parade (not the Pasadena variety) where the town mayor, going by the name of Goob (short for Goober) would shout from the float to my mother-in-law, “Heat!”  “Heat” is short for Heat Lips.    Her group of friends could party like there wasn’t ever going to be another Rose Parade.  They probably still could drink me under the table.

Boy, I just got sidetracked.  The Rose Festival has a carnival, arts and crafts fair, dance, rose field tours,  rose competition, and a Rose Queen.  The carnival had rickety rides that the kids enjoyed even though it was usually hotter than Hades.wasco fields

Rose fields in Wasco, California.

For about three days, Wasco is everything roses. 

I haven’t gone in a few years.  The kids all grew up and the temperature never really cooled.  The rose growers, I’m told, are taking out the roses and replacing them with almonds.

Maybe the Wasco Rose Festival will be renamed the Wasco Almond Festival.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Fall Planting Part I

Last evening, we pulled out the last of the watermelon.  There were still a few melons developing.  There were even some blossoms; but they were past their prime.

DSC_1609_1806Here’s some of the Crimson watermelons in the garbage heap.  They just didn’t have any flavor left in them this late in the season.  Crimson can be recommended for flavorful, round melons that produce well in zone 9.

This morning, I got out there and turned the empty bed to prepare it for fall planting.  I have read that to encourage healthier soil, there should be a minimum of disturbance.  “Hog wash,” I say.  Around here, tractors disc under crops aerating the soil and helping with the health and drainage of the earth.  This isn’t a scientific study or anything, it’s just what I’ve observed farmers practicing here in the San Joaquin Valley.  Nuff said.

DSC_1610_1807 The western most bed has been cleared and planted with fall crops.  See the brick wall?  I’m trying to determine what to plant back there.  It’s 60’ long and the planting bed is about 3’ wide.  Camellias?  Wisteria?  Boston Ivy?  Any suggestions are welcome.  I’ll post the progress of planting that bed here whenever I figure it out.

DSC_1612_1809 1.  Cabbage  2.  Spinach/Cabbage  3.  Fallow Lettuce  4.  Cauliflower

DSC_0751_2078October 10, 2009

DSC_1202_3067 February 6, 2010

DSC_1618_1815The fallowed row will be planted with more spinach once this round has sprouted.  I thought I had broccoli seeds out in the shed; but I couldn’t find any.  Next,  we’ll clear out the cantaloupe to make way for more fall crops.

I’m also looking for a recommendation for garlic in zone 9.  Taste is the driving factor in my choice.  Looks don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that zing!

Please feel free to leave your suggestions for the brick wall planting and your choice for garlic in the comments section.


September 12, 2009 -


Cabbage sprouts.


Spinach sprouts.


Cauliflower sprouts. DSC_1433_2845 Cauliflower harvested on January 31, 2010.

September 13, 2009 -


I decided to plant a row of lettuce rather than another row of spinach.  Half of the row is planted in Romaine and the other half is planted in Iceburg lettuce.

September 17, 2009 -

DSC_1638_1842 Romaine sprouts.

DSC_1639_1843 Iceburg sprouts.

When I went out to turn the dirt in preparation for broccoli and onions, I noticed that the lettuce had sprout already.  It was only planted 4 days earlier.

October 10, 2009-

DSC_0760_2087 Cabbage

DSC_0761_2088 Lettuce

DSC_0762_2089 Cauliflower


Cabbage harvested (1 head) December 31, 2009.  Some minor freeze damage.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Woof Woof!


He had his eyes on something on the other side of the eggplant.  He needed to investigate.

DSC_1585_1791He hurried past the marigolds and peach tree.  Something was driving him.DSC_1597_1798

  Was it the garden hell cat lounging in the peppers after dinner?

DSC_1589_1795That’s a big, “NO WAY, Jose.  Scram, pooch.”


He was annoyed at something.  He was annoyed that I couldn’t understand English Mastiff.  For Pete’s sake.  What does a dog need to do around here to be understood?


Drool bubbles were starting to fly with his aggravation.  What did he want?

DSC_1578_1777 Did he want some of the summer leftovers in the garden?  Nope.








Did he want a game of “pull the legs off the grasshopper” with the garden hell cat?  Again, no.

DSC_1602_1803 He wanted a dirt clod to enjoy on the lawn as an after dinner treat.

DSC_1598_1799 Delicious!