Sunday, February 28, 2010


imageIn 1973, my mother walked to the Green Frog Market.  I don’t know what was on the shopping list; but I know things like Pop Tarts, Space Sticks, and Tang or Funny Face may have been on the list.  Anyway, the market was a few blocks away from our house.  On that day, a yard sale was taking place between our house and Green Frog.  In that yard sale was a patio swing.  I think the paint was a faded turquoise.  There was a frame for a canopy but there was no canopy or cushions.  She paid $7.50.  I’m sure a picture may exist of how it looked then; but I don’t think I’m up for the task of looking through boxes of old, unlabeled photos.  My mother thought she made a bad purchase.  $7.50 for a patio swing frame?!  Oh well.  It was ours. 

The swing was painted white and cushions filled the frame.  It was one of the best napping swings EVER.  Years flipped on the calendar.  The swing moved to a couple of other homes until it finally landed in my backyard.  Farmer MacGregor is handy.

Not only is Farmer MacGregor handy, he can paint.  He dismantled the old swing and prepared to paint it to match the trim on our house.  The swing was successfully reassembled; but Farmer MacGregor had plans – big plans.  Custom cushions with a custom canopy.  HIS plans would probably reach the $750 mark.  Preposterous!DSC_1048_3282Metal straps and springs needed to be gathered to replace hardware that never accompanied the swing back in 1973.  Materials were found and purchased at the local Home Depot.  Today, the swing was braced up to insure a firm seat and back. DSC_1050_3284 The metal frame has been attached to wooden 2X4s so it won’t damage the brick patio.  I found some cushions at Costco and…DSC_1051_3285 Viola!  I have my napping spot all mapped out for the afternoon.  The Sunday paper and some gardening books will be enjoyed.  I’ll be sewing some pillows to add to the comfort level.

Even though the purchase was made almost 40 years ago, my mother is still stewing on the fact that she paid entirely too much.

Note:  Old Bessie rides as good as ever.  I conked out while listening to A Chef’s Table and reading a gardening book.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Sweet Peas

DSC_1037_3271 The sweet peas (Royal Blue) began blooming today.  They were planted September 14. may be Starry Night planted on October 11, 2009.  They are not the spicy variety.  Their scent is genuinely sweet.DSC_1042_3276 These sweet peas are planted around a fence post under the nectarine tree.  The plants are much larger than the spicy other variety I planted under the other trees.DSC_1043_3277 The blue in the throat of the blossom looks like a gas flame.DSC_1043_3277The blue is so dark that it’s almost purple.  The seed package portrayed the blossoms to be more of a lilac purple than this deep, rich, velvety blue.  This is a pleasant surprise.image

DSC_1009_3311I’m so confused.  I’m not really sure what type of sweet pea is blooming.  If more colors begin to burst, then those plants will be Starry Night.  Anything that is completely blue will be considered Royal Blue. 

The plan was to have the garden fence be lined with sweet peas this spring.  However, Farmer MacGregor was tenacious in pulling weeds and cleaned out most of the sweet pea shoots thinking they were weeds.

The smaller spice variety hasn’t bloomed yet.  Next year, I must advise Farmer MacGregor to cool it when snagging weeds.

Note:  It rained last night with a break this morning.  The rain returned around 3pm.  Hail and thunder was reported in Wasco – none noted in Oildale.  The air is fresh and clean.  The plants are vigorous.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


DSC_1000_3235 It’s almost time for the lilacs to explode around here.  I suspect they will open this weekend along with a lot of other blossoms like peaches.  I have 2 lilacs; and I have no idea what variety they are.

One is a cutting from Farmer MacGregor’s grandmother’s lilac.  It was started years ago and planted outside my kitchen window.  The bush was well over 6’ when it had to be uprooted to make way for a new walkway and fence.  It didn’t survive very well; but a cutting rooted and we’re starting all over again.

The other lilac is from a cutting given to be by a friend.  His great grandmother brought it with her when she migrated to the southern Sierra Nevadas years ago.

Both plants are now about the same size and both plants are very similar.  Currently, I’m trying to determine which is which.  I believe I have it figured out.  Regardless, I’m about to enjoy some great perfume.

Monday, February 22, 2010


DSC_1007_3240 Hummingbirds are in Bakersfield year round.  There are different types migrating at various times of the year.  I’m no expert.  I’m not even a novice about these birds.  I just enjoy watching them.  DSC_1386_2772 They come around just as the sun comes up and feed until the last sliver of sunlight has vanished in the west.DSC_1387_2773 They come from Alaska to South America and places in between.  The type that are around here the  most are called Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna).  Impressed?  Heck, I just picked up a little Bird Watcher’s Digest – Enjoying Hummingbirds at Home Depot.DSC_1384_2770There’s always a brightly colored male that claims the  bird feeders as his own.  I call this tyrant, whomever he is, Napoleon.  This year, Napoleon rules over his kingdom from the top of the pergola, perching on the wisteria.  If any other hummingbird (male, female – it doesn’t matter) approaches, he zooms in after them clicking and screeching then engaging in midair warfare as if he’s a war bird in action. 

Sugar water is left out for them year round to supplement the nectar they gather from any blossoms and the small insects they eat for protein.  (May I direct you to the broccoli?)  I know these little, hyped up birds are grateful for everything I do for them…




DSC_1008_3241  …and it shows.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Cabbage Aphid

According to UC Davis, my broccoli and Brussels Sprouts have been infected with Cabbage Aphids.  Bastards!  DSC_0995_3230 With the warmer weather come the insects.  UC Davis advises to giving these beasts a sharp blast of water.  Insecticidal soap is also helpful.  Lady bugs (Lady Beetles) are their natural predators.  Last year, the garden had loads of lady bugs.  It doesn’t look like I can expect lady bugs to migrate down to the valley floor until March.  Last year, I noted lady bugs in the garden on March 29.DSC_0474_509copy March 29, 2009    Lady bug patrolling tomatoes.

Whenever they decide to head on down the hill, I have a feast for them to enjoy.  Here’s a life cycle chart of Lady Beetles provided by UC Davis:image

Lady bugs, come on down!    

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sweet Rain

DSC_1355_3217 Brussels Sprouts – Long Island Improved

DSC_1333_3195 Lemon – Variegated Pink

DSC_1331_3193Rose -  Pope John Paul II

DSC_1336_3198 Pansy - ?

DSC_1323_3185 Pansy – Mammoth Red

DSC_1339_3201 Grapefruit – Rio Red

DSC_1346_3208 Sweet Peas – Royal Blue?

DSC_1348_3210 Apricot – Blenheim  This is the 2nd fruit tree to bloom following the Santa Rosa Plum.

Friday, February 19, 2010


DSC_1271_3128 The peas are really thriving in the warm weather.  The loads of white blossoms are maturing into sweet pea pods.  When I’m out in the garden and spot a nice, fat pod I take a seat and enjoy the naturally sweet treat.  I haven’t been able to save enough to cook.


DSC_1452_2862These were planted on October 2 and October 5.  By the end of January, they needed to be contained with some twine to keep them from overtaking the garlic.  The package of Little Marvels listed 62 days to maturity.  WRONG!  The waiting time was double.


The Little Marvel peas aren’t the only peas doing well in the garden.  Royal Blue Sweet Peas planted in September are getting ready to fill the air with spicy scents. DSC_1273_3130

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Maybelline’s CSI Unsolved

Last night, I returned to the garden even later than the night before.  This would, no doubt, allow ample time for the punk bugs to return and start chewing.  No luck.  The only thing I saw was an earrywig (earwig) on a carrot green.  I was so excited to find a pest that I fumbled with the flashlight and camera so long that it scrambled off to a more peaceful setting.  There was absolutely nothing in the cabbage patch.

image This morning I was out there before the sun came up.  Again, nothing.  The earrywig may be my only suspect.  During the wet years of 2005 and 2006, we had an enormous amount of these creepy crawlies.  I’ve learned that they can mow down seedlings.  I’ll keep my eyes opened; but for now the earrywig is public enemy #1.  Creeps!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Maybelline’s Crime Scene Investigation

DSC_1242_3107Some varmint is skeltonizing my cabbage!  The evidence/damage isn’t overwhelming.  Just a few outer leaves on a few heads.  Most all of the cabbage heads have been visited by caterpillars gnawing on the outer leaves.  They were discovered and picked off.  This recent damage is different and I can’t determine what is causing this.  I suspect beetle larvae; but I need more clues.

The next crime scene is disturbing.  You may want to click away.






Alright.  You asked for it.

DSC_1246_3111 That’s right.  Something is mowing down my beets. 

DSC_1249_3114Here’s some healthy beets growing.  The little, out of focus, red dots in the foreground are the victims.

Bastards!  My 1st suspicion is pill bugs.  They’ve done me wrong before.  A few years ago, I grew heirloom tomatoes from seed.  The seedlings were transplanted into a beautiful, warm garden.  The next day, most of them had been mowed down.  What the…??!!  I came out that night to catch the fat mob of pill bugs returning to the crime scene.

Right next to the beets are carrots.  This next image may make you nauseous.  Continue on if you feel strong enough.

DSC_1245_3110 The offenders seem to prefer beets over carrots.  Nevertheless, damage is occurring in the carrot patch as well.

DSC_1359_2753On New Year’s Day, this is how well the carrots had progressed.  Have you ever eaten a carrot right out of the ground?  Yeowsa!

DSC_1093_2960Last evening, I waited for the sun to be set for an hour or two.  Waiting for darkness insured me the element of surprise to catch any offenders in the act.  I armed myself with a flashlight and camera.  Pumpkin, the yard cat accompanied me.  We were on a mission.  I envisioned hoards of pill bugs invading my garden. My assistant and I walked in darkness to the 1st crime scene then blasted the flashlight on  the cabbages.  Nothing.  Nothing at all.  We moved in darkness to the beets and carrots.  Same results.  What the??!!

The mystery continues.  I’ll try going out later tonight to catch the culprits.  They must be stopped.

To be continued…

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Winner Is…

DSC_1231_3096 The Santa Rosa Plum is the 1st fruit tree in the garden to pop.  It popped today.  The tree was planted on January 12, 2009 from bare root stock.  It bloomed on February 20, 2009.  We’re ahead of schedule this year!   It has been warm and sunny lately.  This may explain being a week ahead of last year.  I suspect bees will follow tomorrow since these opened in the late afternoon.  The pollen is almost fluorescent.  There are about 24 buds on the baby tree.DSC_1237_3102 These buds have a couple of flies on them and the biggest bud has a spot that looks like a burn.  All the fruit trees were sprayed with dormant oil this winter to help prevent infestation and disease.  The oil is suppose to be perfectly safe and recommended to use on these trees to eliminate borers.  I don’t know what these flies are up to; but I don’t like it.  I’ll keep an eye on this.DSC_1240_3105 The apricot looks like it will be the runner up.  Here’s the bud at the bothersome cut shown previously.  The sap is still formed but the bud has gotten a bit plumper.  Here it is last week (02/06/10).DSC_1179_3044

Saturday, February 13, 2010


imageI went to a local nursery today to get some answers on citrus questions.  A couple of times each year some nurseries host citrus tastings so you can taste the fruit before buying the trees.  I had my questions answered by the representative from the citrus grower and was satisfied that my citrus is on the right track.  Now it was time to browse.
I like puttering up and down the rows of plants thinking of how I could use a particular type or how I could grown something from seed.  Many of my produce questions were answered during this stroll.  I found a thornless boysenberry I want to try.  I don’t know much about these; but Farmer MacGregor likes them so I’ll give it a shot.  Now it was time to get the seeds I needed.
The seeds selection was less than exciting.  I want to try some new varieties this summer.  The Baker Creek Heirloom Seed catalog is dog eared and loaded with sticky notes on my kitchen table.  It’s time to order.
This evening I did a little research about the thornless boysenberry (Rubus ursinus) grown by L.E. Cooke Co. out of Visalia, CA.  I may be wrong, but I think the Latin name offered is in reference to the blackberry stock involved.  Boysenberries are a combination of blackberries, raspberries, and loganberries.
Even more interesting is the history of the boysenberry:
In the late 1920s, George M. Darrow of the USDA began tracking down reports of a large, reddish-purple berry that had been grown on the northern California farm of a man named Rudolph Boysen.  Darrow enlisted the help of Walter Knott, a Southern California farmer who was known as a berry expert. Knott hadn't heard of the new berry, but he agreed to help Darrow in his search for the berry.
Darrow and Knott learned that Boysen had abandoned his growing experiments several years earlier and sold his farm. Undaunted by this news, Darrow and Knott headed out to Boysen's old farm, on which they found several frail vines surviving in a field choked with weeds. They transplanted the vines to Knott's farm in Buena Park, California, where he nurtured them back to fruit-bearing health. Walter Knott was the first to commercially cultivate the berry in southern California.  He began selling the berries at his farm stand in 1932 and soon noticed that people kept returning to buy the large, tasty berries. When asked what they were called, Knott said, "Boysenberries," after their originator.  His family's small restaurant and pie business eventually grew into Knott's Berry Farm. As the berry's popularity grew, Mrs. Knott began making preserves, which ultimately made Knott's Berry Farm famous.*
image The Los Angeles Public Library offers this image of a family visiting Knott’s Berry Place in 1941.  I suspect their lives changed dramatically soon after.
imageHopefully, boysenberry production will be so successful that I will need to master the art of making boysenberry jam.  But an even superior goal would be to make ice cream even close to that of the Mountain Berry Ice Cream made at Reimer’s Candies in Three Rivers, California.

Note:  The boysenberry plant was potted 02/27/10.

*  From Wikipedia.  Take it for what it’s worth.

Friday, February 12, 2010

How to Prune Fruit Trees

image This handy, dandy little guide by R. Sanford Martin was 1st printed in 1944.  It’s been printed at least a gajillion times since.  All kinds of trees are covered – deciduous, citrus, subtropical, and  fruit trees.  This is my guide to training my fruit trees in espalier forms.  There’s even directions for berries and grapes.

It’s a paperback that is only 90 pages; but the sketches and directions are clear.  I’ve seen pricey versions offered online.  Ridiculous.  I think these go for under $10 at my local nursery.  This is a great resource to have in your garden library.

Typical deciduous fruit trees need to be thinned while they are dormant.  This will allow more sun in to develop fruit and send energy to produce fruit.  I’m ashamed to say that my pruning habits in the past probably led to the demise of many of my fruit trees.  Boring critters did them in.  The combination of good pruning and dormant oil spray should keep the espalier in good health for years similar to those growing at Mt. Vernon.image

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Here Comes Spring

The buds are forming.  Some are even swelling so much that they are about ready to burst.  Here’s what’s going on in the garden:

DSC_1173_3038 Wisteria – My dad gave me this vine.  I’ve had it quite a few years and thought I lost it in the transplant.  Looks like it may thrive.

DSC_1174_3039 Day Lilies -  These rarely bloom.  I’m keeping them crowded to see if that might work.

DSC_1176_3041 Lilac – Love, love, love lilac.

DSC_1180_3045 Apricot – See the sap running?  I don’t like this cut and may correct the pruning later after the blossoms pop.

DSC_1181_3046 Nectarine – Thought this tree was scorched this summer and might need to be replaced.  Glad I was wrong.

DSC_1183_3048 Pear -  The buds are pointed and oblong.  Don’t know if these are leaves or blossoms.

DSC_1185_3050 Apple – Notice how orange the bark is?  It has a copper like shimmer to it due to the dormant oil spray.

DSC_1188_3053 Plum – This may be the earliest to bloom of the fruit trees.

DSC_1189_3054 Brussels Sprouts – The sprouts are finally starting to form.  These have some raindrops on them.

DSC_1191_3056 Camellias – This is my first year with camellias.  I don’t know if these buds are leaves or flowers.  Stay tuned.

DSC_1193_3058 Azaleas – See the pink starting to break through?  I’ve killed every azalea I’ve ever had and intend to break that trend.

DSC_1198_3063 Cauliflower – Old reliable keeps on giving and giving.

DSC_1208_3073 Roses – This Pope John Paul II and my Jaune Desprez along with all the other roses in the yard are all starting to leaf out.

The rain continued today.  It was soft and gentle but continual.  Lovely.