Not All Pests Are Animals or Insects...

Well, I want to start off the post with something pretty. The Dragonfruit, which go very quickly from bloom to ripe, are ready. I picked this one and another one this weekend. This particular variety has a deep, dark, hot-pink flesh inside its fruit.

I wish it would produce more. The plants, a cacti, have little thorns that keep the animal pests off so I don't have to worry about the squirrels or deer getting to them. They also are very drought tolerant, which would make them ideal if they produced more fruit.

Speaking of pests, this morning I saw a lady come down to our back wall and snatch a large cluster of flowers from our plumeria tree. As you can see above, it grows a bit over our back wall. There's a public jogging trail on the other side.

I guess, I don't mind them taking whatever grows over to the other side, I just hope they don't harm the plants or think they can reach over the wall and take whatever they want. 

How do you feel about parts of your plants that grow beyond your property?  Is is open season on whatever grows there?

In other parts of the garden, you might have heard that California is in the worst drought of our history. The state has announced fines of up to $500 per day for visible water wasting. That's in addition to a conservation rate of 20%...we must cut back 20% on our water use.

I wonder about that last one. I've been trying to cut back for years. In fact, I qualified for a lower sewer service rate because we cut back 20% years ago. Do I now need to cut back another 20%?  What about those around me who haven't cut back at all.  Do they get to waste more water than me?

I tell you, the more I think about it the deeper the confusion is. 

Here's our lawn, which I have on a timer. You can tell it's suffering from lack of water, I'm just trying to keep it alive enough to come back when the rains do. It gets 10 minutes of water very, very early in the morning so that all the water is soaked in before the sun comes up. 

This is typical of what the lawns in our neighborhood look like right now.

A couple of people have stopped watering altogether but that brings up a lot of dust. What to do?  I think I might swing by the city hall someday and see what they will allow me to grow there instead of grass but that also might cost quite a bit.

Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

An Early Harvest

This will probably be my biggest harvest this summer. 

While the squirrels decimated my zucchini...I will not get so much as one squash this least the tomatoes and grapes pulled through.

The grapes are usually end-of-summer but this hot, drought parched year made them come in early. Very early. But we did get a good crop. The bunches above represent the last of this year's.

The tomatoes are just starting to come into their own. The rodents attacked them early in the season, even uprooted the vines I have now, but I guess tomatoes aren't to their tastes after all because they've pretty much left them alone since then. 

Now the plants are recovering and producing fruit.

Luckily, the dragon fruit grow on spiny cactus stocks, so we can count on a few fruit from time to time from that.

It won't be long til we're picking Meyer lemons too.

Copyright 2014 -Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Battling Back for a Harvest

So far, my harvests this year have been pitiful. The drought's taking it's toll...not on the plants directly...but driving animals down from the dry, cooked mountains behind our house.

Deer have been using my rose garden as a diner, picking up dinner whenever the flowers are in bloom. Squirrels have invaded, some even trying to burrow under our water heater, and have decimated my zucchini. Although they can't stand the hot chiles, the leaves are to their taste and our pepper harvest is very minimal.

The pest control guy says to just block their access so we try to fill every rodent-sized hole with bricks. Just when I think I'm making progress, I look out and see another squash or pepper plant laid waste.

We have had limited success with our tomatoes, especially the cherry tomatoes I grow in a hanging basket.

The grapes have been my most successful battleground. Years ago, I put up a rodent-deterring cage around the bottom of the vine. That works for the mammals but the birds still have access to the top.

I've tried netting and, while that worked, the fruit was tiny. My wife thinks it constricted the plant too much.

This year I applied holographic tape to scare the birds away. My wife says she still see mockingbirds eating the fruit but even so, some clusters have made it through (I put fruit nets around some of the clusters but not most of them).

The heat and drought have also had another effect. Our grapes usually ripen at the beginning of September. We're harvesting now...the first week of July...and expect to get around 10 pounds.

At least I've had one success this year. Now, if I can just sneak some veggies past the squirrels, I'd be a happy gardener again.

Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Recipes for a Cheapskate: Stuffed Chiles

Sunday's are barbecue days at the Cheapskate's house. Probably 40 out of the 52 weeks in a year will find me out on the patio grilling some poor, dead creature over flame.  The garden often provides the side dish.

This week, along with some roasted potatoes, it's an extremely simple stuffed chile dish.

These three Anaheim chiles are from our plant. They have somehow made it through the relentless squirrel attacks we've had this year.

Anaheim chiles are very tasty and have just a hint of heat.

After washing, I just score them. The chiles off of this particular plant have hardly any skin on them so I don't bother peeling them.

Not a lot of seeds inside either, so it's just insert a sliver of cream cheese, sprinkle on a shredded jack and cheddar mix, wrap in foil, and cook on indirect heat on the grill along with our main dish.

Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

DINNER TIME! Dutch Oven Beef Stew

It can still get a little chilly at night here in Northern California. A hearty stew is just the thing to take the chill off. This reci...