Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Our lasagna garden turned me into a wet noodle

As early as March I saw them both. The tomato plants at the nursery and the people buying them. It was much too early. I knew it, the nursery knew it, and some of the people knew it too. Yet, they hope every year it will be different, that the night time lows will miraculously stay warm and their tomatoes will thrive. Gardeners are a hopeful lot.

With patience that is unheard of for me, I wait until the real tomato planting weather begins. Traditionally that has been May 1st, but with warmer temps and especially in raised beds, the tomato experts have pushed it up a few weeks. But I'm still pretty faithful to the May 1st rule, especially when this April was too busy to even think of our pathetic little place we've named The Garden. When it got cold again last week and dumped rain hard just six days ago, I was happy I had waited until now.

Feeling like a rebel, I put my garden in today, April 30th. It was blazing hot but I slathered on the sunscreen and plopped on my trusty floppy hat. I put a few more layers on our lasagna garden and put my plants in without much of a plan. This is the first garden in the new house and we have so much more work in the yard, so I'm keeping my expectations low. Instead of trying a bunch of heirlooms and veggies that never grow for me, I'm sticking with the basics - the holy trinity of tomatoes, zucchini and cucumbers. The varieties I bought are many of the same ones my Dad planted when I was young, so that makes them heirlooms. No purple tinted, stripped or pear shaped fruits here, just your run-of-the-mill tomatoes that are red, round and tasty. 

I put The Garden in view of the kitchen window, close to the house without being annoying, near enough to a water supply, and the best part, where it gets sunshine almost all day. No more cursing the shade of a fence or tree, this area is screaming Grow Vegetables Right Here! So here we go, one day early and blazing hot, let's get growing little guys, salads are a'waiting!

I don't Pin It, I Staple It.
Summer Garden Plan 2014

  • Better Boy
  • Champion
  • Ace
  • Sweet 100 
  • Big Beef
  • Yellow Crookneck
  • 2 Green Zucchini
  • Mystery Squash seeds saved from our last garden
  • 2 Persian
  • Armenian
Nice and simple, that's it. I threw together our funky planter box set-up from the old deck pilings that are having babies in our yard. There are way more, but I stopped hauling and lifting them when my back started to rebel. Next year, I'll add on to it until we use up all the deck pilings. But I promise I'll not go crazy with the green zucchini. Friends don't doorbell ditch baseball bat sized zucchini. No promises with the mystery squash, however. 

Not exactly anyone's dream garden.
But the weeds will cover it all up soon enough.

Because the world needs more zucchini.
Possibly from a boy named Jack.

Another task crossed off the list!

Our ball obsessed dog makes relaxing by the pool a self cancelling phrase.
She can't take the suspense, so she hides behind the chair. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Neighborhood Color

We've seen the signs for the neighborhood association meetings for some time now. It seems they meet every other month, always on a Thursday. We often talk about going, but either forget or have something else going on. (We usually just forget.) We figured they talk about trees and sidewalks, sidewalks and trees. But the Thursdays come and go and we don't go.

Yesterday I was working out front trimming our adorable feather grass, my favorite part of our Kill the Lawn Project. They have such personality, I'm surprised I haven't named them. A nice car pulled up and a nicely dressed woman introduced herself. We had two not so nice cars out front and I was not very nicely dressed, but I introduced myself back. She was the head of the Neighborhood Association Group, which I'll refer to as NAG. She invited to me to the NAG meetings and told me a little about them. They discuss crime and the importance of reporting it. They have potlucks in the park. Then she brought up the crime issue again. She lamented about "the _______ man on the corner who has frequent garage sales" and that we should always put in our complaints to the Sheriff about him. (Insert a color of your choosing into the blank space.) She then said that he sells white and red T-shirts, "which are gang colors you know".

At that point I was so happy that our Thursday nights had always been busy and that we were forgetful on the nights they weren't. While digesting the hit-me-in-the-gut statement that this complete stranger had just shared with me, the woman told me that they just pulled out the mulch in their backyard and put in all grass. Finally recovering from her earlier comment, I knew I had my chance. "I hate grass" I told her, "Just hate it." She came back that she loves it, front and back yard, and that it is a must for her grandchildren to play on. I wanted to say sarcastically, "You allow your grandchildren to play in your front yard with ________ people in the neighborhood?" but I just said again how I detest grass and we are taking out as much as we can. She drove off in her nice car and I went back to my turf-less yard. (In reality, I think lawns are pretty, just not giant expanses in arid regions.)

In talking to my other neighbors today, they related a conversation they had with her, and she had told them she HATES bark. I was so tickled to think back on how our yard looked when we first killed the grass in front - a SEA OF BARK. It must have infuriated her, and now I wish I had left it barren just a few weeks longer just to get under her skin. Those Thursday NAG meetings? Not a chance, we'll be too busy preparing for our next garage sale. To do list: order some gang color T-shirts to sell.

Before and After shots of their spring haircuts.
Don't they look lovely against the bark?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I've become a bag lady

What costs a mere 59 cents, can be used for laundry, shopping, camping, organizing, transporting gross dirty things you don't want to touch but that need to move from one place to another, dog stuff, garage stuff, porch stuff, off-season shoes, off-season anything and everything? IKEA blue bags! Their official name is FRAKTA. (Would it be FRAKTI for plural? Wouldn't coming up with those weird names for IKEA items be the best job ever?)

What I did before these blue wonders came into my world, I honestly don't know. We are having a party next week with a gob of people, and it occurred to me: we don't need more ice chests just for drinks - we have IKEA bags. We don't need recycle bins - we have IKEA bags. We don't need new pool toys - OK, we need new pool toys.

I bought a large amount of these before our last move and used every last one and wished for more. A perfect gift for someone who is moving is about 20 50 of these things and some pizza. Done, move's over, time to unpack. At 59 cents each, that amounts to $29.50 (minus the pizza) and you'll have a very happy friend who can then pass on the bags of blue joy to others. Forget friendship cakes, those are so last century.

FRAKTA to the rescue!

Yesterday it was time to tackle the hall cabinet/medicine cupboard/scary place area. To really organize something, I need to haul every last thing out and start throwing stuff in piles. What we seem to have enough of is antacid and lady shavers. Before Ernst's heart attack six years ago, he was having really bad indigestion. We were trying everything, as seen from our OTC supplies. Turns out indigestion is not normal, it can be an indication of blocked heart arteries. Three stents later - voila - no more indigestion. Now with our very much expired collection of antacids, we're prepared for guests with heartburn, gas and bloating. And hairy legs, we have that covered too with enough lady shavers for a college dorm. Note to self - don't buy razors ever again forever.

Another miracle in my life are the box photo holders from Michaels.
Boxes, bags and burps, we have it all under control.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Sour news about Gummi Bears

It is rare that I let my paid writing and my for fun writing overlap, but this will be an exception. I just finished an article about the effects of sour candies, chews, powders and breath mints on tooth enamel and I just had to share. What I won't share are the photos I saw, because this is mostly a fun blog and the pictures were anything but jolly.

The news on sour candy is anything but sweet.
What a bitter pill to swallow.

Speaking of Jolly Ranchers and Skittles and Warheads and Sweet Tarts, they are powerful little enemies of tooth enamel, especially for young kids with soft dental enamel. What at first seems way too sour to endure can become quite addictive and soon flavor cravers graduate to atomic levels of sourness. What creates all this super sour flavor that makes the ears almost explode? Citric acid - reaching close to the pH level of battery acid in the case of some candies! This power of citric acid and sugar doesn't just cause cavities, it eats away at the enamel and is really destructive. You can't do much to replace enamel once it gets to the Yikes! Stage (not a dental term) except capping or tooth replacement. Not only can these candies, powders, sprays, gels and breath mints (and yes even Vitamin C tablets) damage tooth enamel, they do a number on the soft tissue of the mouth - the inner cheeks and tongue.

So the solution is to brush really well after eating sour stuff, right? Wrong! When the enamel is weakened by eating or drinking citric acid or lemon juice, brushing is the worst thing to do. Any abrasion at that point is going to wear away more enamel. The only thing to do is swish with plain water, which has neutral pH. Or, just give up the sour habit and switch to the flavors of cinnamon, mint or real fruit flavors. If your favorite candy is on the following list, compare the pH in it to water (neutral) and battery acid (!). I don't want to be a sour puss, but when it comes to keeping our dental enamel, we don't want to be X-treme Airheads. 

Acid Levels in Popular Sour Candies 
 Acid (pH) 
 Low = Bad 
Water (neutral) 7.0 
Loss of tooth enamel 4.0 
Spree® 3.0 
Sweetarts® 3.0 
Big Stuff Pacifier® Sucker 3.0 
Sour Gummi Bears® 3.0 
X-treme Airheads® 3.0 
Sour Punch Straws® 2.5 
Shockers® 2.5 
Skittles® 2.5 
Baby Bottle Pop® Powder 2.5 
Brach’s Gummi Bears® 2.5 
Sqwigglies Gummi Worms® 2.5 
Wonka Laffy Taffy® 2.5 
Starburst® 2.4 
Sweet Tarts Shock® 2.4 
Lemon Heads® 2.4 
Mentos® Fruit Chew 2.4 
WarHeads® Sour Rips Roll 2.3 
Lollipop Paint Shop® 2.2 
Zours® 2.2 
Sour Skittles® 2.2 
Airheads® Cherry Chew 2.0 
Wonka Nerds® Grape 2.0 
Now and Later® Cherry Chew 1.9 
Too Tart Extra Sour Goo® 1.9 
Wonka Pixy Stix® Powder 1.9 
Altoids Mango Sours® 1.9 
Wonka Fun Dip® Powder 1.8 
WarHeads Sour Spray® 1.6 
Battery acid 1.0 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Attack of the Weird Dog Vomit Mold

That title needs a bit of clarification. This is not a post about vomit from a weird dog. It is about mold that looks like dog vomit. It is weird. And it attacked me.

This has been a very odd winter for California. It rained early. Then it didn't rain at all. For a very long time. In the time it was not raining, it was really cold. For a very long time. Then it got warm, then it rained and rained. It got cold and hailed. Now we're back to unusually warm.

All this wacky weather did some strange stuff to our yard. We started noticing large blobs of bright yellow goo in the front yard. It looked like dog vomit. Or diarrhea. Something bright yellow, from a dog, and not good. We should have shoveled it up and thrown it out. But it was cold, then it rained, then it hailed. So we left the dog vomit slime/mold/spores/alien creatures where they lay and hoped they went away. They dried up, yet still we did not remove them. We are very optimistic people.

Last night I was planting some Rhaphiolepis to replace the gardenias that were wilting at the sight of the dog vomit mold. After I got them in the ground (I must say that our sheet mulching is creating some killer dirt, killer in a good way) it was time to water them. The spray hit the dried up dog vomit mold and a plume of reddish brown powder arose from the earth like a mushroom cloud. I should have ran for my life. Instead I stood there in awe, and then sprayed it again because my only weapon was water. Since spraying it was what started the dust bomb of atomic proportions in the first place, water was the last thing it needed. When the water didn't work, I continued to spray. We are very optimistic people.

Last night I developed a scratchy throat and was sure I was getting sick. This morning, still a scratchy throat but added in was a weird heavy feeling in my lungs. Then the fun began. Being plagued with spring allergies my whole life, I am no stranger to pollen induced allergies. But I would have to say today was easily in the top five worst allergy days of my life. Not as bad as the worst pollen day ever - spent outside in Reno while the sage brush was blooming. But it was close.

Way too much allergy medication later, and after a shower and a dose of the Nettie Pot, I've dropped down to one of the top ten worst allergy evenings of my life. So if you see something in your yard that looks like a dried up pile of dog vomit, run and don't look back. Don't investigate, and whatever you do, don't spray water on it. This pile of dog barf bites back.

The bright yellow color faded to the color of bark.
Kind of creepy when mold knows to use camouflage.

On a much brighter note, I planted this new variety of Lamb's Ears.
They are big and soft and adorable.
Hmmm, maybe that's what I'm allergic to?