Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mutha Nature

Mourning doves in the garden have been a thorn to me this season.  The trash they dragged in to try to construct so many feeble nests.  Their poop they let fly with abandon.  And most recently, two chicks – Tisket and Tasket – were determined to meet an early end a la Charles Darwin.  This afternoon, I needed some onions for some salsa so I headed out to the garden to grab a few.  GASP!  A collection of small feathers that looked to be those of a mourning dove were on the lawn in the shade of the Chinese Elm tree.  Pumpkin!  What have you done?  The basket in the grape arbor was empty.  No way would Pumpkin take the initiative to climb up and grab a snack.  Once upon a time Pumpkin was known to sit under the bird feeder then spring at least 5 feet up to snag a dove.  Not now.  Time has passed.  The chicks must have made another lame attempt at flight and fell right on top of Pumpkin.  The old gal may not be as limber as she once was but with time she has gained wisdom and patience.

I continued on into the garden to pull some onions.  Up in the grape arbor rested an empty basket that briefly held Tisket, Tasket, and their mama.  C'est la vie.  While pulling onions I spotted Tasket tucked amongst the onions.  I snagged her and put her back up in the basket.  At sunset, the basket was empty.  Let’s simply believe that Tasket made a successful flight to the neighbor’s dilapidated orchard and is resting comfortably in a dying lemon tree.

Some creatures believe that you can’t fool Mutha Nature…





…while other creatures have no opinion.DSC_2146_6509

Monday, May 30, 2011

I am Grateful.

Recent wisdom gleaned from the internet told me that the reason I sleep like a log is because I am grateful and content with what I have and don’t have any unfulfilled desire to have more.  Ain’t it the truth?  Memorial Day seems like a fine day to show gratitude in the garden.

DSC_2174_6531Strawberries continue to keep on giving.  The bugs still get a few of them but I get my share.  I am grateful.

DSC_2167_6525The bumblebees and honeybees are enjoying the bounty of lavender.  Even after a Hidden Valley box full of lavender was harvested there was still plenty to buzz about.  In fact, I couldn’t even tell that the blossoms had been thinned.  I am grateful.

DSC_2179_6536Everyone of the 19 tomato plants look to be headed to a productive summer.  This one is Rutgers that I purchased from the Tomato Lady at the local farmers’ market for $2.  I am grateful.

DSC_2178_6535Teddy Bear sunflowers are almost ready to open.  This one survived the bug mowing that all the others fell prey to.  I have since replanted and am hopeful.  I am grateful.

DSC_2181_6538Look!  The corn is almost as high as an elephant’s eye AND the tassels are forming.  Oh what a beautiful morning.  I am grateful.

DSC_2168_6526Smelling just as sweet as candy, the Butterfly Bush is starting to pop.  This should lure some beneficial insects to the garden.  I am grateful.

DSC_2182_6539I’m a fan of fruit chewy candy like gummy bears or Sour Patch Kids or jelly beans or DOTS.  With boysenberries ripening each day there isn’t any desire to wander down to the local Rite Aid and pick up a chewy treat.  I am grateful.

The Memorial Day weekend started with a phone call to Farmer MacGregor’s great uncle.  He shared his Purple Heart earning story with me relaying his horror on Okinawa.  Genealogical details were sprinkled in but he kept returning to  his experience during March/April 1945.  Memories of an event that happened almost  70 years ago were shared with vivid detail.  I am grateful.

Furthermore, I may celebrate my gratitude with a nap on my patio swing.  I am grateful.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Tisket & Tasket

Late yesterday afternoon the wind began to pick up.  The lame nest that the dopey mourning dove built on the grape arbor crumbled to pieces.  Her two babies were down on the gravel floor of the garden and she was cuddling close to them.  This was hopeless.  They were all doomed to be cat food as soon as the sun set if not sooner.  I told myself to not interfere.  This was the way Darwin had explained it.  Right?  This dopey mom with no nest building skills was destined to be eliminated.  I went inside for approximately 1/2 hour checking on the situation about every 5 minutes.  It was getting dark and I couldn’t stand it anymore.  I went out to see what I could do to keep the babies out of harms way rather than experience a night of terror. 

Everyone was gone.  There was no sign of a struggle.  No feathers.  No blood.  A quick search of the garden found the 2 babies huddled together on the other side of the corn patch with mama sitting on the fence above them.  I gave her a few choice names then went to the shed to get the ladder and an old basket.  Mama flew away.  Tramp.  I quickly gathered the babies and put them in the basket.  They were returned to the grape arbor not far from their dilapidated nest.  Guess who was up on the arbor safe and sound?  That’s right.  Mama.  Tramp.  I tucked the basket amongst the vines and hoped it would be secure.

The wind really picked up in the night and brought rain down here in the valley and snow up in the mountains.  It is nice a brisk today.  I’m pleased to report that Mama and babies (now named Tisket and Tasket) are resting comfortably in their new nest.



There is someone in Darwin’s plan that is not happy that I interfered with Nature’s Plan.  I’m the FEMA of the garden.


Sorry Pumpkin.  Let them fatten up a bit more.  You’ll thank me then.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Vampires Beware!


Garlic was planted for the first time in October 2009.  It was harvested in May 2010.  Between May and October 2010 all the garlic was used except for one head and a few loose cloves that were set aside to continue the routine.  Those were planted in October 2010 and recently the garlic was harvested earlier this month.  About 40 head of garlic were produced without much effort.  Ah the circle of life.  Seems a successful routine has been established as far as growing garlic is concerned.  Curing the harvest is a snap using the drying racks that Farmer MacGregor constructed.  Brushing and braiding is the final task reserved for this weekend.  Perfect.  Garlic is one of the easiest items to grow in my vegetable garden.  Pest free.  Disease free. Limited irrigation – just to get it started.  If you have a patch of loose dirt (loamy sand) in full sunshine give, it a try.  If you’re close to Bakersfield, California, try the October/May schedule and see if it works for you.

DSC_2165_6523Box repurposed from Costco for toting weeds, lavender, and garlic.  No one in the garden is a fan of Hidden Valley – especially me. 



Interesting garden note:  Farmer MacGregor does a mean impersonation of Count Von Count counting.  Ah. Ah. Ah. Ah!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Best in Show

DSC_2158_6516Lavender & Sweet Peas

If you follow gardening blogs it seems they are broken down into a few groups:  Edible, Flowers, Homestead.  I think the edible part of gardening I’m getting the hang of.  Homesteading isn’t going to happen.  I have pioneer blood but it enjoys air conditioning along with me.  I’m simply too much of a whiner to be a homesteader.  That leaves the flowers group.  This evening as I cut some flowers to use as bouquets, I determined that I need more flowers in the garden.  So in addition to this being the Year of Corn in the garden, I will now try to incorporate more flowers into the landscape.  I mean try to pack spaces with blooming plants.  Nothing too difficult or fussy will do.  I’m going to stick with varieties that are hardy in the hell hole of summer in the south San Joaquin Valley.  Marigolds, zinnias and the like will be the things I’ll try to grow from seed. 

Now the research begins to determine what to try.  Any suggestions for flowers that do well in zone 8-9 are appreciated.  Thanks

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Family Tree

DSC_2137_6489Grape – Red Flame

Farmer MacGregor is the right man for the job…the job of thinning grapes.  He’s been studying the best way to prune the vine and the bunches in order to produce big, beautiful grapes with an eye toward future production.  I don’t know a thing about it and I’m glad he is taking control of the vineyard.  Does one grapevine constitute a vineyard?  Thinning is difficult for me.  I know I’m not alone.  Onions are easy because they can be thinned and used as you go along.  The fruit trees are a different beast.  The fruit trees were thick with fruit earlier this spring.  All that fruit is a promise of jam, pie, cobblers, fruit leather, and just plain fruit.  Many encouraged me to thin the fruit out to enable stronger fruit.  I didn’t.  Mother Nature and her wind loosened the weaklings and threw them to the ground.  Thanks Ma.

With days full of garden chores and a nighttime addiction to ancestry.com, I have had little time to make entries in my blogging garden journal.  There is no 12 step program for this addiction and I don’t care.  Like gardening, history is especially interesting.  My branches extend back well beyond the Mayflower.  Farmer MacGregor’s branches are a challenge to me though.  One of those branches is especially difficult because so many records were destroyed during the wars in Europe.  Finding information, and some of that information is only a sliver, can help create a character in a complicated story.  This type of history gives me a greater appreciation to those before me.  Thank goodness they didn’t thin me from the tree.


Garden Note:

  • Planted Sugar Baby Watermelon 05/22/11.
  • Thinned grapes 05/21/11.
  • Harvested garlic 05/16/11.
  • Planted red peppers 05/22/11.
  • Thinned & repotted spider plants 05/25/11.
  • Fertilized vegetables 05/24/11.
  • Amended two middle beds 05/22/11.  Added sand and Gardner & Bloom.
  • Sulfate of Ammonia applied to front lawn 05/20/11.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Berry Good

Berries are busting in the garden.  Strawberries lead the way followed by grapes then boysenberries.  Take a peek.






Sunday, May 15, 2011

Ingrate Eviction. Nothin’ but Trash!

Not that you would want to with the photo below, but if you want a larger image of a photo simply double click on the image and a new window will pop up with a larger version of the photo.  This is information that could be helpful to the gals of the DBE that follow along occasionally.

Here’s another tip gals:  If you want to leave a comment and have it appear on a post you will be asked to type some letters in a window to confirm you are not a nasty robot leaving spam junk.  No, not the kind of canned meat that Anna makes famous sandwiches with.  Make sure you get through that process and then your comment will be included.  It’s that way on most all blogs.


Now for the ingrates.  Honestly, the stupid mourning doves that nest in my yard aren’t doing me any favors.  Just look at the mess below one of the nests in the pergola.  They brought in so many weed seeds with their nesting materials that I consider them extremely bad tenants.  Soon this single mother will have some babies she will try to raise before she “hooks up” with some other fly by night fella and be back on the nest.  The pile of poop can only grow.  This continues all summer long. 


The plan is to remove any nest once it’s empty and replace it with a healthy amount of scare tape.  Doves are pretty and all but poop and weeds are the limit.  If there is evidence that doves eat earwigs I may reconsider the eviction.  Otherwise, notice has been served.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Fruit Trees

Most all the fruit trees are producing great this year.  They are 3 years old and trained espalier to keep them manageable, tidy, and productive.  Organic fertilizer is applied about every 4 - 6 weeks.  Irrigation occurs as needed.  I use a moisture meter to determine when to soak the basins.  Pruning/pinching happens as needed and it’s been needed quite a bit lately.  So far, the trees have been pruned 3 – 4 times this spring.  The goal is to encourage a dense canopy over the open branches to avoid any sun scald to the fruit, trunk, or branches.  The wire cable seen in some images is used to train the espalier.  When the branches mature, it will be removed.


Plum - Santa Rosa

Plum – Santa RosaThis is the western most tree and maybe the hardiest.  The fruit is really developing nicely with the weaker ones thinning out naturally.  Thank goodness.  Thinning is taxing to me psychologically. Seeing the smaller, weaker plums take a dive for Darwinism helps me out.  Thanks weaklings.


Peach – O’Henry

Peach – O’Henry:  Pinching the tender new growth of the peach tree is a snap and can be do simply using my fingernails.  By pinching the tips, new growth is forced elsewhere helping to form a thicker shade canopy.  The peach isn’t the most vigorous tree but the fruit is really good.


Apple – Granny Smith

Apple – Granny Smith:  Not many fruit was produced in 2010 on this tree.  2011 looks to be way more successful.  These should be ready to harvest in August.  Old Granny had sun scald troubles.  Umbrellas will be used to shade any trees that are showing signs of being sensitive to the sun.  The umbrellas will go up nonetheless to comfort a whiney gardener with swamp pants.

Pear – Warren:  Sadly, I didn’t snap off a picture of Warren.  There are no fruit but the foliage is looking great.  Pears are some of the easiest trees to espalier train.


Nectarine – Fantasia

Nectarine – Fantasia:  Poor thing.  This is the 1st year any fruit has formed.  Sadly encouraging.  This tree suffered major sun scald.  I thought it would need to be replaced this past winter.  But it seems to be producing.  The goal is to encourage more leaves and make it stronger. 


Apricot – Blenheim

Apricot – Blenheim:  One of my favorites.  “Who put the ape in apricot?”  Name the movie.  This is really exciting to have a healthy apricot tree.  Blenheim sits at the eastern most point on the line of espaliers.  It is as vigorous as the plum.  New growth is regularly pruned/pinched.  Only recently has it begun to shed weaker fruits.  There are still plenty of beautiful, healthy apricots that should be ready in a few more weeks.

Another application of fertilizer is due in the next few weeks.  The trees were last fertilized during the 2nd weekend in April.  Heck.  This weekend seems like a fine time to feed these hungry babies.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Cherrio, Licorice



May 5, 1991 – May 10, 2011

The Empress of the Garden has left our garden for one much more beautiful.  Thanks for keeping the varmint population down.  Thanks for keeping any other pet of the garden in line.  Thanks for hanging around so loyally for 20 years.  I’ll miss you.  Tell everyone “hi”.  Dang it.

You can read a light hearted remembrance of Licorice posted by her original human.  Pets are a wonderful thing.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Happy Mama’s Day!


The perfect gift for my mother on Mother’s Day is not flower, candy, or perfume.  The perfect gift for my mother on Mother’s Day is a perfect (or not so perfect) home grown tomato.  Lunch at Wool Growers’  with a plate of not so perfect farm grown tomatoes will have to do until my home grown tomatoes are ready.

My treats came early from my garden gnomes and that’s fine by me.  I’ll be spending Mother’s Day lounging and puttering cuz that’s how I stroll.

Upon returning from a party this evening, I found a bouquet of flowers on the front step.  A note from my 1st gnome was attached thanking me for not making her a complete “doofus”.   I feel I have failed because the 1st gnome isn’t a doofus in any manner.  This is something I may need to pursue if she feels inadequate.  Perhaps some customized scrunchies and a complete set of Saved By the Bell recordings.  I could throw in a pair of short overalls for good measure along with some hiking boots.

DSC_2585_6456Does spilled red pepper flakes have any significance like spilled salt?  And why is spilled salt bad lucK?

My 2nd gnome presented me with a wallet, perfume, and the greatest body scrub ever.  The stuff smells great, tingles, and makes your skin zoom.  At the party, I met a teacher that worked years ago at the elementary school both my garden gnomes attended.  She wanted to hear all about him and was delighted that he had a path in life.  This was the teacher that he would proudly spell any color backwards.

imageThis stuff is really great.  It’s good to know the French haven’t lost their touch.


So today was a pretty good day.

  • Farmers’ Market.
  • Lunch at Wool Growers’ with mother, mother-in-law, Farmer MacGregor, and my 2nd garden gnome.
  • Shopping with the elegantly mature gals.
  • Party.
  • Mother’s Day goodies.
  • The promise of lounging and puttering tomorrow.

Tomorrow will be pretty good too.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Onions, Garlic, & Birthday Wishes

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The water is off the onions and garlic.  Now it’s time to wait for the greens to dry a bit before they get pulled out of the soil and put on the drying racks to cure a bit.  The garlic will be braided and the onions stored to use as needed.  Garlic will be planted in October for another harvest the following May.  More onions will be planted to enjoy as green onions throughout the summer and brown or purple onions when they mature.  All the onions are started from seed in place.  They are some of the easiest plants to grow.  I encourage anyone starting a vegetable garden to start with radish seeds and onion seeds.  Everything germinates (sprouts) quickly.  Results are quick.  Harvest can begin in just a few weeks with tender radishes and green onions.  By harvesting early and often, you’re providing room for the remaining vegetables to mature.  Extra bonus:  a package of seeds is so inexpensive that it’s worth a try.  All that is needed is some loose soil, full sun, and some occasional water.  A sack of garden soil from a garden center is a simple way to start a small experimental garden.  Make sure to puncture the bag to allow for drainage. 

Mother Earth News - Spring 2011

Mother Earth News – Spring 2011


Special birthday wishes to the Empress of the Garden, Licorice.  She was born in the garden 20 years ago.  Congratulations old girl!DSC_1488_4137


Note:  Windows Live Writer has been updated and I’m just getting acquainted with the updates.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Twilight Garlic

I’m out in the garden well past twilight working and inspecting.  It’s about time to harvest the garlic that was planted back in October 2010.  I’m a lousy record keeper regarding the garden; and blogging is helpful but I didn’t note what date the garlic was planted.  At least, I can’t find record of it.  It was sometime in October.  Now the garlic is starting to dry out.  Today the drip lines were pulled away from the garlic and onions because irrigation will switch to automation in the morning.  Prior to that the garden was watered manually as needed. The temperatures are climbing into the 90s this week so it’s time to rely on the water conservation system to keep the garden and gardener happy.  This will help prevent swamp pants.DSC_2588_6433The variety of garlic is a mystery.  In the fall of 2009, I picked up a package of garlic to experiment with.  It grew.  The harvest was dried (cured) then braided and used from June to December.  There was a small, junky head that remained from the braid so I busted it up and planted it in the fall of 2010 to see if it would grow.  It grew.  The circle continues.  From about 40 cloves of garlic came 40 heads of garlic.  The initial investment of 30 cloves was probably no more than $5.  From that came 30 heads plus 40 more.

image How much garlic can you buy in the grocery store for $5?  I don’t know.  I believe I’m getting a pretty good return on my investment AND I know how it was grown.  That’s a pretty good feeling.


Garden Note:

The summer garden is moving right along.  Here’s what has been going on:

  • Tomato starts have been planted in their summer bed.  The supports need to be strung in preparation for a burst of growth.
    • Cosmic Purple Carrot seeds from Heirloom Acres Seeds were planted with some of the tomatoes to see if carrots really do love tomatoes.
  • Malali Watermelon seeds from Baker Creek were planted along with some French Breakfast Radish seeds.  Last year, this variety of radish was planted with squash as a beneficial.
  • Nastursium seeds were planted in the holes of the cinder blocks that form the raised beds to help attract pollinators.  If the pill bugs let some seedlings grow to maturity, it should look good.
  • Strawberries received an application of Garden & Bloom.
  • Scale was discovered on the grapefruit tree and the orange tree could be threatened.  Take down was applied.  A 2nd application should take place in 10 days.
  • Scare tap was tied to the grape arbor to scare away nesting mourning doves.  One empty nest was removed.  The following day a nest with an egg was discovered.  Scare tape does not scare stupid mourning doves.
  • Sweet Peas continue to be harvested.  This area will be reserved for more beans this summer.
  • Irrigation drip lines are in place to start a regular schedule to begin May 4.
  • Bolting parsley was trimmed back.
  • Shoots were removed from the healthiest (eastern most) wisteria.  The canopy was adjusted to encourage growth to spread over the top of the pergola.  Tomato cages were removed from the bases of both vines.  Cages were used to prevent puppy from teething on the trunks.
  • Received a couple of cherry tomato seedlings from a co-worker.  These have been transplanted into small pots to harden.  They will be used for grilling.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Scale Wranglers

On a scale of 1 to 10, having an infestation of scale on my grapefruit tree rates about a 9.  I noticed that ants had been skeletonizing the leaves of the Rio Red Grapefruit and Robertson Naval Orange.  Thankfully, Farmer MacGregor will not stand for interlopers in the garden and went into attack mode.  He loaded his weapon of choice (garden sprayer) with a few rounds of ammunition (Take Down Garden Spray).  His initial mission was to spray the trunks of these two trees to prevent the ants from getting to the leaves.  That mission increased dramatically when he discovered the scale he thought he had licked was back.DSC_2585_6430The citrus had been sprayed with Take Down over the winter but it must not have been enough.  Take Down Garden Spray is a mixture of pyrethrums and canola oil which can be used to control a wide range of insects during the dormant and growing seasons. The unique combination of pyrethrins and canola oil has a dual effect which helps to control both adult and juvenile insects.  The oil is supposed to smother the stinkers IF they are covered.  If not, scale is moved around by the ants to suck the life out of a tree and leave honeydew for the ants.  Ants are kinda like cowboys of the bug world.  Black sooty mold is resulting from this infestation.  Old MacGregor will need to follow up with another application in about 10 days to beat these suckers down.  Scale has only been recognized on the grapefruit tree but the orange tree is close enough that the ants may have started their shenanigans over there.  To be safe, both trees will be treated.DSC_2586_6431 Once the scale is eradicated, any damaged limbs will be pruned out.  There isn’t any litter under the trees and I’ll keep it that way.  So far, the emerging fruits look untouched.  These strange bugs look more like a fungal growth than insects.  I hope to be able to post of a successful take down.