Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Return of the Moth

A glance around my yard shows many signs of spring, from the leafy artichoke bushes (only two lost to the Fantastic Mr. Gopher) to the new growth on the native plants and weeds. The overwhelming color is green with spots of purple sage and yellow sunflower just starting to blossom. I watched bees preening the tiny pale blue ceanothus blossoms, their back legs laden with pollen glowing bright yellow.

A more subtle spring return has been the return of moths. As I stepped up the front porch steps in the afternoon a fluttering movement caught my eye. I spied a cloudy apparition in an open lantern globe. I peeked through the top and spied a pale hairy headed moth. Although the globe had about a three inch opening, the moth was trapped, unable to could gain enough altitude to exit.

I took the time to observe and snap these shots. My son peeked too, then lifted the globe to release the moth.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Eucalyptus Down

On Friday night, when my family returned home after enjoying dinner at the Good Girl Cafe, I noticed that the light at the end of our street seemed off. At first I thought the street light was out, then I realized the eucalyptus in our neighbor's parkway had fallen across the street. The heavy tree was supported by two power cables. As I parked the car on the street, the DWP truck had already shown up.

In about an hour, the big guns were on the scene with a giant crane. These guys worked tirelessly throughout the night finishing at 3:30AM after arriving to the site at 8:30 in the evening.

When I woke in the morning, I found the eucalyptus in pieces.

Our ill-fated mailbox suffered some damages... did our sweet Catalina Cherry tree. Eric trimmed up the tree. She'll definitely make it through, but she is altered from her run in with the eucalyptus. Then in the afternoon, two of the same DWP who had worked till 3:30AM showed up to fix our mailbox.

Our mailbox has been hit by so many travelers pulling a too-tight u-turn, the SPCA van, our neighbor's moving truck, countless times by the developer who built the two big houses next to our Ramshackle Compound. No one has ever returned to fix it.

This is the best our mailbox has ever had it. My hat's off to the DWP for tending to the tree & coming back to resuscitate the mailbox.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Heavy Rain Yields Snow & Poppy Growth

San Gabriel Mountains dusted with snow behind my oldest son's school.

The California poppies continue to grow. No sign of a blossom yet.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Rain=Project Native Seed Bomb

Make & get out there! I used CA native poppies for these seed bombs.

Seed Bomb Recipe & caveats via the Urban Field Guide:
5pts dry red clay (to hold them together until the rain)

3 pts dry organic compost (for seedlings nourishment)
1 pt seed
1-2 parts water

*Combine dry materials, add water until a paste is thick enough to form penny sized balls. Allow the seed bombs to dry for 3-4 days in the sun. For those of you in California the seeds from lupine and california poppies are great plants to use.

Now while I LOVE this idea, and would encourage folks to try it out, I have a few caveats.

*Make sure that the seeds are for local native plants only. I know cities aren’t exactly natural, but we can still hope to encourage the wildlife that need native plants to take up residence. It would be totally irresponsible to throw seed around from non-native invasive species.

*Please stick to lots and city cracks only. Do not bomb any area set aside for wildlife. The ecosystem is fragile and I’d hate for your enthusiasm to have catastrophic interspecies effects!

L.A. local source list:

Here is a great local resource for clay:

2856 S. Robertson Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90034

Tel/Fax: 310-815-1525

For large orders of clay:

14400 Lomitas Avenue
City of Industry, CA 91746
Toll-Free: (800) 4-LAGUNA
Local: (626) 330-0631
Fax: (626) 333-7694

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Verdict on the Lemon Preserves

In late January, I made some lemon preserves with lemons harvested from our tree. I let them sit for a few weeks and popped one jar open.

The verdict: d e l i c i o u s

Tangy with a salty kick. A little goes a long way and I think I've already gone through two cups. I love taking a quarter wedge of lemon, slicing it thinly and putting it on beans and rice. I also like adding a small portion of diced preserves on my salad. I made two quart jars. One plain lemons and salt, the other lemons, salt and spices. I've only opened the jar of plain salt and lemons. I look forward to opening the jar with spices after this one is empty.

I followed Hunter Angler Gardener Cook's recipe. In the future, I think I would use a trifle less salt.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Weed Whack Awakening

I woke in the morning with a bee in my bonnet after realizing I didn't even like being around the area with our raised garden beds because it was too hard to reach. With spring hitting, the fast growing weeds between the garden gate and beds towered over two feet high, making a 30 foot walk a tough slog.

I heard an Echo. After I dropped my youngest son off at school, I headed back home with a myopic focus on reclaiming by lower garden (the middle garden is heavily mulched. Weeds still flourish but not to the degree of the lower yard. I haven't mulched the lower yard beyond the oak leaves because I'm soft on the naturalized nasturtium that spills over the area. That may change.). I powered up the Echo and felt an unexpected camaraderie with my fellow weed whackers humming in the distance coupled with a strong desire to curse.

In a hour an a half, I made a decent dent in whacking and now happily stroll without impediment to my planter beds. All the better for watering the freshly planted sorrel and arugula transplants.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Back from the Desert

Although we were too early to see the wildflowers in full bloom, the sky in Joshua Tree did it's part to showcase the desert colors.

Trees were climbed at the Oasis of Mara at 29 Palms Inn.

A shantyboat with no drifting except where your mind roams.

Rocks were explored within Joshua Tree National Park. The boys and I enjoyed some time with my parents and my brother from Alaska who is town for a brief visit. He and I have been coming to Joshua Tree to camp since we were kids. This was the first time for him and my parents to stay at the Inn. Such a delight for everyone.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Another Battle in the Aphid War

Ramshackle reader morgaineotm had some great aphid abatement advice:
Basil. Mrs.Meyers Basil Soap specifically. VERY diluted. Has helped just about all my plants that have been inundated with insects.
My youngest son and I rolled out a diluted Basil Soap attack. Next step in the ongoing war, I will follow EarthShaper's great advice:
I had the exact same problem two years ago with my artichoke plant. They all left. What I did last year was to actualize a pre-emptive plan. First I planted flowers the lady bugs would like. Look up insectiary plants. Then I went to my nearest nursery and bought me some ladies...Flashing forward a while later, I started becoming alarmed at the amount of lady bugs (and their larva) in the garden. This year I have the same plan, except I will try to keep flowers around longer and see what else I can attract.
Thanks for the tips.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Exquisite Lizard Catch

Last week when cleaning up in the shed, I found a tiny lizard corpse in the bottom of a bucket in storage. Over the weekend, while working in the garden, I came across a bucket next to the redwood planter with three lizards very much alive. I felt like Mr. McGregor stumbling upon the sleeping bunnies in The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies, "One. Two. Three. Three leetle lizards." Though I had no intention of skinning them to make a coat or sell the pelts for tobacco.

The big one with her right front arm on the head of the littlest (note missing tail. Eaten by the other lizards in a fit of Donner hunger?) was the most spirited, catapulting her body half way up the bucket. I tipped the bucket over and she bolted sheltering under the carpet of oak leaves.

The other two stayed in the bucket longer. The smallest with the missing tail was the last to leave. She steadily walked to the edge of the bucket and exited slowly. She stopped ten inches away from my crouched body.

She turned her right eye to place me. We watched each other in silence for about five minutes. I reached out and touched her unflinching body still dusted with dirt from the bucket. Alive and free.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Cataloging Art

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Exquisite Lizard Corpse

Found in an old pot in our garden tool shack. Dessicated. Tiny. About three inches long including tail. Tragic yet beautiful.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss

"Ten years ago, Dr. Seuss took 220 words, rhymed them, and turned out THE CAT IN THE HAT, a little volume of absurdity that worked like a karate chop on the weary little world of Dick, Jane and Spot." --Ellen Goodman, The Detroit Free Press, November 1966

Theodor Geisel would have been 107 years old today. It amazes me how relevant his work remains to this day and how much it has informed storytelling to children. I don't think kids of today even know the mundane world of See Jane run. Thanks to revolutionary work of Seuss, the art of storytelling is alive and well in children's literature.