The Deer Hunter - This Week's Chores

Chores this week: deadhead roses, trim back citrus trees growing into walkway, pull weeds.

No, I don't actually hunt them but it is tempting sometimes. 

Actually, I love living in an area where we get to mingle with wildlife. Deer, bears, rabbits, skunks, coyotes, squirrels, birds, possums, and racoons can be seen with regularity. The deer most of all.

During the drought, the deer found out they could make a much more hassle-free living by coming down out of the mountains and living at the foot of the hills behind our house. Why hunt for food when the people in the neighborhood grow all you want for free.

They found the rose gardens on our street...including the half dozen bushes in my front yard...and eat those tasty blooms before they can even open.

During my recent front yard landscape project, I also planted a dwarf nectarine tree. Guess who else likes the taste of nectarines. Well, at least the leaves and branches. 

I found evidence of deer damage and put a tomato cage around the sapling.  That wasn't going to work so I had to move it.

I dug up the plant.

I put it in a hole in my fenced-in backyard where I had recently removed a rotting camellia bush. Next, watered in with some vitamin B1 and done.

Now, I had a large hole in my new front yard landscape.

I went to Home Depot and bought this bright red crepe myrtle and planted it in it's place. 

I already have a pink crepe myrtle about five feet away that the deer leave alone. Hopefully, they'll find this bush just as unappetizing.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved

A Merging of our Interests: The Cheapskate Suburban Dweller

Hello, friends. Today we're launching this blog. I don't call it a new blog because it's not, really.

You may know us from the Sunday Sauce Blog or the Cheapskate Urban Gardener blog but it was getting hard to come up with content for two separate blogs like that, plus a lot of went on with one blog was related to the other.

So today, we're merging those two...the Sunday Sauce and the Cheapskate Urban Gardener blogs are merging to become The Cheapskate Suburban Dweller blog. It's also got a more appropriate URL...bookmark for all the gardening, cooking, and household lifestyle content from the Musickchannel family of blogs.

Thank you for your continued support.

Darryl and Tim

Rebooting the Yard and the Blog

It's been a couple of years since our last post. Yes, things in real life just spun out of control and so hectic that I just didn't have time to keep up on all of our Musick Channel blogs. The good news is that I retired in March. The bad news is I'm still very busy but a lot of the stress has been let go and I should be able to start keeping up on our other blogs now.

So, the big news was the 5+ year extreme drought that we had in Southern California. Early in 2017, the drought was declared over...although 2018 is back to light rainfall...and it was time to take stock of the damage. 

The big thing is that our front yard was just scorched beyond repair. I really only had two options...remove all plant life out front or re-landscape.  I chose the second option.

This was not going to be a project I could do alone or cheaply, I'm afraid, so I enlisted the services of my neighbor's gardener.  He's a great guy and gardener but has a phobia of telling you a price. I do trust him, though, so into the breach we went.

I drew up what I had in mind for my new yard...a new lawn with sprinklers that took up a little more than half the room of the old lawn. Next, a strip of wood chips that I could put some drippers and shrubs in, and the last part - next to the driveway  a strip of rocks that could double as part of the driveway, if needed, but would just be part of the landscape for us. This was to alleviate the part of the lawn I'd have to drive over if I had a second car (I got rid of our second car when I retired).

First job, at a couple hundred dollars, was to kill and remove the old lawn. Then, he ground up all the dirt and added a couple of inches of mulch.

Next was installing a sprinkler system. More spendy at $1600 but I got a state-of-the-art automatic system that would evenly water the grass and I wouldn't have to remember to water. Plus, it only waters where needed and doesn't splash all over the street. The last station on the sprinkler system was connected to a spigot. This I used to put a drip line through my rose garden and also the new shrub garden under the bark. It is also on the timer.

Last, another $400, my gardener installed Marathon Sod for the new lawn. We'd talked about St. Augustine but he went with the Marathon. I'm glad he did because it feels much finer on the feet and grows much thicker than St. Augustine, choking out potential weeds very well.

Plus, as a Marathon lawn family member now, the company sends me periodic reminders telling me when to fertilize, overseed, how much I should be watering during current seasons, etc.

The lawn was looked fake. Now the gardener was done, it was my turn to finish.

First, I planted nandina around my roses. This is supposed to repel deer, which have been munching on my roses for a few years now.

Next I planted dwarf nandina going up to regular nandina at the top of the bark strip. I also put in some leptospermum which puts out little, bright red flowers. Around the mailbox by the curb, I planted tancetum...which is a gray-leaved yellow daisy like flower...and at the top of the strip by the house, I planted a dwarf nectarine tree.

I went to a local quarry and ordered enough pea gravel to fill in the last strip.  A large truck was dispatched, and the driver got this special fork lift and dumped the gravel in the spot.

It was up to me to spread that out. Lastly, I went back to the quarry and bought some of the biggest rocks I could carry myself (at 9 cents a pound...about $19 all together) and placed them in the gravel.

There, I'm finished.

Six months later, everything still looks great. I had to have the gardener add another zone to the sprinkler system because of low water pressure, that's why you seen the brown, damaged lawn at the top, but everything's worked out great. The sprinklers being timed and soaking better than I could save me about 30% on my water bill and my lawn is still the greenest on the block.

It was more than I like to spend on my garden but well worth it in the end.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2018 - All Rights Reserved

SUPER SIDE: Broccoli Au Gratin

Eating healthy can be a bit daunting sometimes but here's a cheat even my son loves. A creamy, cheesy, broccoli side dish.

We're serving this on the side of some pork chops with a port wine, mushroom reduction sauce.

INGREDIENTS (3 servings)

1 large head of broccoli
4 oz. cream cheese
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup low fat mile
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper.

In a small sauce pan, melt the cream cheese into the milk.

Break up the head of broccoli and put into a casserole dish. Salt and pepper the broccoli. Cover with the cream cheese and milk sauce. Sprinkle the cheddar on top.

Bake, covered,  for 20 minutes at 300 degrees.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2016 - All Rights Reserved

DINNER: Pork Chop 'Alte Heide'

Inspired by a pork Cordon Bleu dish we recently had in Munich, here's another dish I tried to make upon our return.

The Alte Heide is a small, neighborhood cafe and biergarten in Munich's Schwabing district. It also made the best food we had during our stay and the best of that was their pork Cordon bleu.

Similar to chicken Cordon bleu, it's stuffed with cheese and ham, and fried with a breadcrumb crust. I'm using a parmesan crust on mine.

We're cooking five chops, to serve three and have some leftovers for lunch. Scale the recipe up or down as needed


5 boneless pork chops at least 1 inch thick
5 slices prosciutto
10 1" wide slices of Havarti cheese
Shredded parmesan cheese
1 cup chicken broth
1 diced medium onion
1/2 cup white wine
3 tablespoons Kosher salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil.

Heat up chicken broth in bowl, add salt and pepper to make a brine.

Put chops in sealable plastic bowl, cover with brine (above). Seal and put in refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

Drain brine from bowl.

Take pork chops out and slice almost in two so that there are 2 - 1/2 inch slices and put prosciutto and cheese in the middle.

Sprinkle each side with parmesan cheese.

Heat olive oil on high heat in stainless steel pan.

Brown pork chops for 2 minutes on each side. Move pan into 350 degree oven for 8 minutes on each side.

Remove chops and cover with foil. Put pan back on medium heat, add wine.

Use a spatula to scrape up the drippings in the pan.

Add the onions, stir in, and cook another 5 - 10 minutes to reduce a bit.

Serve and ladle sauce over chops.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2016 - All Rights Reserved

TODAY'S MENU: Ispanaki Patates and Bacon/Spinach Omelet

It's a Popeye themed day today. Spinach and potato casserole for dinner...Turkish bacon/spinach omelets for breakfast. Recipes at the links below.

You'll be good to the finish if you eat your spinach...

BREAKFAST: Bacon/spinach omelet using our basic omelet recipe and stuffing with bacon, spinach, and cheese.

DINNER: Ispanaki Patates Casserole


DINNER: Ispanakli Patates Casserole

Ispanakli Patates is Turkish and it basically translates to spinach potato. Recently in Berlin, we were treated to the most fantastic food in the Turkish neighborhood where we were staying. The Turks are one of the biggest non-German ethnic groups in the city, over 300,000 live there.

Our favorite restaurant...though, it's hard to pick one out of all the good restaurants Cafe Neffes.  I had this wonderful spinach and potato casserole there one night and vowed to try to make it for myself when we returned.

A couple of weeks later, after browsing dozens of Turkish recipe websites, I've came up with my own variation.


1 cup cooked spinach (1 cup after cooking)
1 cup Greek or Mediterranean yogurt
2 oz. feta cheese crumbles
1 small pasilla chile, chopped

2 large tomatoes or 4 medium tomatoes, diced
1 cube chicken bouillon
3 Mexican green onions or 1 medium white onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon marjoram
dash of nutmeg
1/2 pound golden fingerling potatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil

1 link soujuk sausage, thinly sliced (easiest to do when frozen)
2 eggs

In a pot of boiling water, boil the potatoes for 30 minutes over medium heat.

If your  spinach isn't already cooked, put a tablespoon of olive oil in a 12" pan. When hot, fill as completely as you can with spinach and cover. It should render down to about a cup of cooked spinach in around 5 minutes. When cool enough, chop it up.

In a medium sauce pan, heat up 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the onions and cook...stirring...until translucent. About 2 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and pasilla chiles. Add the chicken bouillon. Add the garlic, oregano, marjoram, and nutmeg. 

Stir in and bring to a boil. Add spinach and stir in. Turn the heat to medium and boil for 5 minutes then turn heat off.

When the potatoes are done boiling, strain and set aside.

Coat a casserole dish (about 3 quarts) with another tablespoon of olive oil. Put a layer of the tomato/spinach sauce on the bottom in a fine layer. Put some sausage over that and sprinkle with feta cheese. Spread a layer of yogurt over that. Ladle some potatoes over that.

Repeat this layering until you run out of sauce.

Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, put two raw whole eggs on top, put back in over for 10 minutes to cook eggs. 

Let cool for 10 minutes after that before serving.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2016 - All Rights Reserved

The Deer Hunter - This Week's Chores

Chores this week: deadhead roses , trim back citrus trees growing into walkway , pull weeds . No, I don't actually hunt them but it i...