Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Update on projectsthough took nearly 4 months got back yard fence done, which is pretty nice so we can let them out to run around... but can't leave them out at night since that fence is only 4' tall. Fence just goes from one end of back yard to the other. May end up making a good tortoise yard, too, so maybe I should get another desert tortoise or two. Not much to eat in this yard, though... gotta amend that, though not sure if Pup pup will allow live plants in her area (she chews and digs every thing up). Scratched myself up pretty bad but no major injuries building this area...
However, whacked my leg on shovel by kicking a palm upright... now, two weeks later, still have a nightmare knott on leg that has bled out all over and still causing me a lot of pain thanks to be on Warfarin... hate that drug. Oh well.
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Short, warm winterWell, except for a 2-3 'cold' period when our electric pump could hardly be expected to send water up to our house first thing in the morning, as it similarly had trouble last year about 20x, this winter has been amazing warm... almost like spring. Without those 2-3 days, I could have left all the plants I hauled in and out of the carport and greenhouse outside instead and they would have been basically unharmed. Really need another greenhouse or two. Now that it is officially spring, it is quickly starting to feel more like summer. Bummer... hope this summer doesn't make us all regret this warm winter. Must be the shortest, warmest winter we have ever had in CAlifornia (southern California, at least).
Gotta work out something better than dragging a hose around to keep things watered. Now that we actually got an almost normal amount of rain this winter, it is amazing just what some water can do for the plants, which looks SO MUCH better. I need to get drip, just don't have the brains on how, or the funds, to do it.
Current project is fencing in the back, top yard (would LOVE to fence in the property, but that's gotta cost many thousands). Tammy is helping, which has made things go a lot faster, but also working about 80+ hours a week, so that has been slowing things down, too. Tammy cannot figure out why I work so much, as it seems no matter how much I make, we have nothing at the end of two weeks. Hmm... think she' right. I do buy a lot more fencing and stuff for the yard when I think there's extra money, which keeps there from being any. HAVE to save some for taxes next year as I am doing so much W99 relief this year. That really killed me two years in a row, making me have to pay monthly both the IRS and the state for 3 years now... this year FINALLY 'got money back' (not really... it just went straight to the IRS and state to help pay back what I owed the last two years).. will not get that luck this year, though. Hope by the end of this year will have paid those things off (or nearly so).
Mulched pretty well this winter so hope things dry out more slowly this summer... fertilized most things, too... fruit trees last year produced a total of about 10 fruits altogether... this year well over 100 so far... but last year ALL fruits were either eaten or blown off the trees... this year will put bird cloth over the trees and keep fingers crossed no more 60mph winds (had a horrific day last year... blew a lot of roof tiles off, too). Got rock for front yard and cactus garden, but still need about $500 more to finish the job... bummer. Put down a bunch of weed cloth, but frustratingly the weeds came right up through it... should have doubled it up! Oh well, live and learn. now I really should rake up all the rock, reapply the shade cloth, double thickness, and start over again (NOT looking forward to that!!).
Saturday, June 21, 2014
Heat is on!Well, just like last year, spring lasted basically a few hours. Only summer and winter in this location. Other than December, winter was relatively mild (compared to many previous years, at least according to almanacs). Rain total disappionting, but not as bad as previous year (3 inches).. this year got almost 7". Still pretty pathetic. But chance of rain between now and September non-existent. Oh well. Water bills not bad- shows that I am not watering enough. Winds been bad and are always going to be bad. Writing an article about it. Got nearly 60mph one day. Blew all the fruit off Nectarine, and all the flowers off apple trees, so no apples this year. Beautiful Echinopsis hybrid flowers only look good for an hour or so, then the wind dries them out. bummer. Planting is improving, as far as health of planted trees... just need to put a gopher barrier around each one, and create a large water dish for them all, too. Whole new meaning to drought tolerant here in desert... no such thing really, unless you include rare natives like Hesperoyuccas and Creosote. Even Junipers dying this year. All plants, regardless if acclimated or even established need to be watered at least 2x a week, if not 4. Makes for very little time to do other things... but then again, I like watering.
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Cold came and wentWell, for 3 days we had either only water in the afternoon, or none at all.. .pipes kept freezing.. water company basically said tough shit. Plumber came up and suggested I build a 'shed' around all the exposed important areas (two, maybe three) and then put in a heat lamp inside each insulated shed and that should keep this from happening again. Lot of work for a few weeks of inconvenience... but not being able to take a shower or having to buy the dogs bottled water was a drag. Should do it... main problem I think is the pump which needs a house built around it, insulated, but with easy access (since there is a hose bib in there, and for fixing in case it needs to be replaced)... So basically needs a way to dismantle it easily... thinking of building some panels that slide in and out of place, or working on the pump could be a real pain.
But for now the weather is better (still windy as hell of course).. even got up into the mid 60s today. Just a week til Christmas (well, almost). Flying to Washington soon after that to visit sisters. then it's next year... hard to believe.
worked on second planter box today... if we can't have lawn, at least we can have plants.
Saturday, December 7, 2013
Real cold is herePipes froze last night, though unfrozen by 10AM... got down to 27F. All hoses frozen. Unattached all hoses and bought pipe insulation for any bits of exposed pipe I could find (except under the house which I hate crawling around under)... probably will have to do that anyway soon. Sunny nice day with usual high wind afternoon. got up to about 48F. Tomorrow supposed to rain/snow... yuk. Down to 20F is predicted... hope not.
Aloe vanbalenii unfortunately in such a heavy, unweildy pot I decided to leave it out and see what happened.. .well, it is mostly dead, though it doesn't really look it yet.... but wait and see... 90% of it is mush and will rot away... but plant isn't 100% dead.. amazing.
Saturday, November 30, 2013
REAL cold is acommin'Nice day today and tomorrow... but this week things are changing... I looked up Acton weather forecasts and depending upon the forecasting service, it's either gonna be a record cold snap (down to the teens even), or just barely freezing. The amount of variability is amazing, though all agree it's gonna get a lot colder (I could have even guessed that). Variation so great it's a tad 'astrological'. Never realized the weather forecast services disagreed with each other so much.. and this is California where weather is much more mundane than most of the rest of the country. A lot of eenie meenie minie moe going on it seems.
Either way, I think I better step up getting the sensitive plants crammed into the garage... probably should include the new palms and things that are destined to be planted, just to keep them from croaking before they even have a chance to feel native soil (of souless dust as I refer to it). Garage will definitely be 'cosy' soon. Need to insulate the greenhouse, too (was on a long list of 'someday' tasks that seemed in the never never future)... probably should just go out a buy plywood and insulation today. Just hate the thought of emptying out greenhouse now that I just filled it. I am not one of those 'hardscape- THEN plants' kind of guy.. I put in plants.. then try to hardscape around them (rarely works).
Monday, November 25, 2013
Tad WarmerWell, not as bad I as I was suspecting ...pretty dang cold, but never got down below 36F as far as I can tell.. still, need to move some stuff about. Need to get a dolly (with TWO tires) to move heavy stuff to safer locations. Nice and sunny today, but snow level pretty close to us.. Drove to Phelan to work today and snow level right to bottom of slopes there, almost to altitude of Phelan. Brrrrrr. Winter is here!
Sunday, November 24, 2013
Tad ChillyGot down to mid to high 30s last night... and drizzled over 24 hours. Today clearing up, and though forecast says low 40s, I don't trust that we wont get frost, so put most of sensitive plants in garage or greenhouse. Heavy outdoor sensitive stuff still sitting there... need to get a dolly to move those plants (Cyphostemma, Tylecodon wallichii, Aloe congolensis and Agave attenuata, all too heavy to lift easily). Getting too old to lug about 100lb plus plants.
Plan to build some larger shelving in greenhouse, and, I hope, to insulate it better (at least the walls). Discovered the greenhouse is not even close to being water proof... rain leaked in all over the place... in a way, good for watering the palms planted in there, but a muddy mess (need to haul in some gravel). Need to get some cat boxes for Mr. Smith to use, too, so he doesn't keep stinking the palm garden up.
Friday, November 22, 2013
Final project look... finished!The 'deck', stairs, railings and walkway are done... just in time.. raining today.... never got time to treat it so it will show some mud and rain damage, but otherwise looks great. Wow... I can hardly believe I built that. Maybe I need to change professions!
Friday, November 22, 2013
Weather changeUh oh... finally raining.. AND getting cold (down to 39F this AM). Blowing, drizzly, miserable day... but at least I think it's finally putting down enough moisture that things aren't going to die if I don't water them today. Drizzled all day long... been drizzling for 24 hours now... my weather station says we got 1/4"... I know that doesn't sound like much, but it's an 1/8 of all the rainfall we got over the last year, so not bad...
Yesterday drizzle was sans winds (a rare time here).. made for ornamental look of the bird netting in back yard.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Deck and stairsHard to believe, but just a week ago we had the same old stairs that were here when we moved in 8 months ago... they were actually pretty nice, though steep and a tad short. Some of the dogs had serious issues with them and needed a supplementary ramp. And on top of that, the wife and I took our turns falling off them. And the top stair started about 5" below the floor level, making it particularly tough for Cindy, or freakazoid 70lb dog with 4" legs, to make it out the door with (particularly the doggie door) without some major difficulty, often convincing her to skip the entire adventure and use the living room as her bathroom.
Well, we decided it was time, with winter coming and potential life threatening slips in store for us, to dismantle these steps with the hopes I could figure out how to build replacements (something definitely NOT in genes, or past experiences). I am NOT known for being a perfectionist... in fact, measuring things precisely is not only frustrating, it is literally impossible for some reason (I hope genetic, and not laziness). Yet... despite all concerns and trepidation... I pulled it off. I built a small, albeit NOT to code, deck and a nice set of longer, less steep stairs out of red wood and it actually is solid as a rock. And looks passable if not actually good (need to figure out how to hide all the annoying screw holes). All the dogs can go up and down fairly easily, even Cindy, the freak, and Petal, the 2 lb chihuahua. There are some embarrassing spots, some mis-measurements (goes without saying) and somethings I would like to do over again if doing something over again wasn't so against my philosophy. I even made a railing though it took my wife's urging to do this, saying the dogs would fall off otherwise (so, then we have less dogs?... shouldn't say that sort of thing as a vet, but seriously...). And even those turned out fairly OK (as long as you don't notice the variable distances the up and down posts are from each other). But most importantly it is functional and solid... and not an eyesore. Yahoo. Of course I did this in lieu of taking my vacation (first one in 7 years)... oh well, still didn't have to go work for a few weeks. VAcation's over and tomorrow it's back to the grind. But with at least some sense of accomplishment.
Shot of the deck work at its beginning, with dog ramp to they could get into and out of house in the mean time
Wednesday, November 20, 2013Here is shot of old stairs with new sod (neither remain 6 months later... the stairs redone by me and sod killed and/or dug up by the dogs... sigh). Photo from April this year
Wednesday, November 20, 2013final product (taken at night... couldn't wait til tomorrow to upload it)
Monday, November 11, 2013
Nice weatherWell... last 2 weeks have been pretty nice, and only nice in the forecast (good since we plan to be on a few day vacation). Got some great plants from Grigsbys this weekend along with a truck load of palms, agaves and a nice Rhus (African tree). Still windy but been less windy than usual last week. Moved weather station to a spot in yard where it will no longer be protected (was at back of house at first and then on roof)... now near drive to west side and should be able to monitor winds from all directions. Nice wireless machine, but I still don't know exactly how to use it. From Home Depot.
Plan is now to dig up two sad looking Phoenix canariensis at top of drive and replace them with smaller, but healthier and more adapted (to a point) Phoenix... Phoenix dactylifera and Phoenix sylvestris. Not sure they have quite the hardiness of canariensis, but those two in particular were duds... just not acclimated to this harsh climate and got wind blasted from day one..maybe smaller plants will deal with wind better and grow slowly into their horrible new existence. Poor things. Got a new Jubaea, too... for top of the hill on east side (need 10 more??).
Vacation week two... today is my last day of relief work... worked 5 days of relief on my vacation so far... some vacation. But at least have a little extra for a drive up the coast. Hope that goes well.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Another brief taste of winterBitter cold (relatively) today... very windy.. not cold enough to kill any plants, I think, but cold enough that the wind whipping through the doggie door in the bedroom (dogs unable to figure out how to get out door with a flap in place, so basically just a big hole in the wall) making it essential to use a quilt to sleep. And supposed to rain a whopping 0.1" next 24 hours (I will believe when I see it). Have not watered much lately, but so far nothing expiring instantly from lack of water as they were a month ago. Might be able to spend more time doing other projects now instead of spending every waking outdoor moment dragging a hose around.
1st project is to try to set up an automated watering system... not easy with so much land and so few brains... but I will try.
2nd project is to redo stairs out back door so we don't keep falling out of our house as we trip down the step, narrow steps.
3rd project is to put up the portable carport I bought Tammy a few months ago for her birthday.. (some birthday gift that turned out to be... still sitting in a couple boxes on the driveway...)... was waiting for a less windy day to put it up... I now realize that day is never going to come. There are no windless days up here.
4th project is to insulate the greenhouse
5th to insulate the shade houses we have so sensitive plants on deck don't keel over this winter (that's what time off next week is for). .. maybe this should be the first project.
6th project is to fence in back yard so dogs can run out doggie door to the yard, rather than the dinky deck we build them.
7th project is to build deck where one was obviously planned by last owner... pretty sure we SHOULD be getting that project inspected... but why when we haven't had anything else we build inspected? That one will show, though as you can see that spot of the yard from miles and miles away. Maybe no one will care?
8th project is to dig trenches and put in more watering lines (this should really be the second project... or should that be the carport... or cleaning up the garage... or etc. etc etc. ?)
Monday, October 14, 2013
Fall has arrived after a few days of winter!!Well, I was too pessimistic and premature... it IS autumn (maybe only for a few days...?) and NICE for once. Breezes are a bit less (only 100mp instead of 200mpg) and nights are downright cold... have to wear a sweater at night (just two weeks ago we were sweating on top of the sheets and cranking the AC). Saw a road runner again (not seen one all summer) and the quail are back in force. It's like the animals have come home for the winter (or maybe they are just stopping here on their way to Mexico).
Made a small structure (bolted a dog run together) and going to try to insulate some, for some of the less cold sensitive things that would otherwise die for sure up there (the aloes, for example)... Adeniums and other super sensitive things are going in the garage. Synadeniums have already been defoliated by the winter blast last week... yikes!
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Short FallWell, it's now winter. Just last week it was summer. This place has the shortest Springs and Autumns ever. Today is the first day I have seen it rain here since March, or it even be cloudy all day (or really cloudy at all). Just a week ago I would have a really hard time imagining it cold here, cloudy or rainy... just constantly hot and windy. Well, at least one thing hasn't changed... it's still windy. Suddenly I am concerned for all my previously baking, basking, sun-worshing succulents that are going to be taken off guard and frozen to mush. OK, it's not THAT cold yet, but barely 50F... a cold night in Tarzana. Tomorrow night's supposed to be getting close to 32F. I gotta start thinking about where to put all these things... have about 100+ plants to stuff into warmer locations... The greenhouse is nearly stuffed as it is. Hmmm...
Monday, September 23, 2013
UPdateWell, it's been a LONG time since I bothered to blog anything... sort of got out of the habit, mostly due to the depressing thought of losing my garden and having nowhere to move to... but lucked out and was able to sell home in a short sale (I was about as upside down as you can get, AND had ZERO equity anyway) and get a new home... though in a pretty extreme climate- NOT the climate I would have ever chosen in a zillion years... but beggars can't be choosers... this is about as far away from where we work and be drivable in terms of distance...
Anyway, we now live in Acton, California, a dinky, hick town in the mountains above Los Angeles, though still amazingly enough in Los Angeles county... not too far from Palmdale. We are a tad closer to our jobs than we would had we moved to Palmdale, but it's still a long ways away (about 45miles). Oh well. And we are at 3000'. Snows every year here... Augh!!! No more cool succulents or palms I'm afraid, though I did bring a smattering up with me to either stuff in the garage or greenhouse in winters (lucked out and place had a small greenhouse crammed between house and garage).
So time to start over again (third time... three's a charm... though this one is hardly a charming climate!!). Moved here in late winter... just in time to see snow on the property. Yikes. But after a few cold weeks, it suddenly became summer. No spring that I could identify... went from freezing cold to incredibly hot in about a day... not transition... toasted a load of plants I had stupidly already brought up.... plants were NOT used to cold, first of all, but certainly not used to cold and suddenly hot. Transition was tough (and fatal for many).
And it's pretty much been hot ever since.. until the last two days when it's suddenly cooling down... almost like fall weather (coincidentally on first day of fall?)... wonder if winter will start in a few days now.
One thing that me and my plants find hard to get used to, other than the baking heat and freezing cold, is the constant, unending, ferocious zero-humidity winds that blow mostly from the southwest... but also from every other direction now and then. Usually in the early AMs the wind is minimal.. but by 10 it's becoming lethal.. and by 2pm its impossible to even stand on the edge of the property- I swear it's over 50mph all the time. I just set up my little weather station yesterday and was disappointed to learn it was only 25-40 mph... but there were gusts up to 49 mph... still, yesterday was particularly bad so I was assuming it was about 200mph... guess I just don't know my winds well. Still winds have been relentless since March when we moved in... until today that is when we had our first relatively windless day (first day of fall... wonder if it always works like that)... only 5 mph... was a blissfully nice day... not hot and not windy... wow! One nice day in 7 months... not a good fraction... good weather about 0.047 percent of the time... bummer.
If you like sun, this is the place for you... out of the 7 months we have been here, there has been ONE day that was cloudy... and only part of the day. This has been an exceptionally dry year.. 2" in the entire year.. .hope this subsequent year ends up a bit better. We missed all the rain.. though it did rain up here a month ago (freak summer rain)... sadly I worked that day and missed the entire event.
Been changing my entire perspective when it comes to growing plants... I used to be interested only in cool, weird or overly interesting species... now I am happy to just have a plant that is alive... even common, boring stuff... even... gulp... natives... yes, the most despised group of plants I have known- California natives- I am actually going out of my way NOT to dig up and throw out (though here most natives look like they are dead 95% of the time, with a brief blur of life in mid winter)... When we first moved here, my snobbery made me want to chop down the two shade trees on the property (Shinus mole, Pepper trees) because they were a 'dime a dozen'... but now I am so grateful for their presence as they provide the only real shade on the entire 2.5 acres, other than the house does at certain times of the day. I have been gradually accumulating 'shade' plants ever since, but even these common and 'no-brainer' trees I avoided like the plague in Tarzana, have very questionable survival liklihoods here in the high desert. I water things almost EVERY DAY just to keep them alive but they still look pretty bad sometimes (mostly because I simply cannot water everything every day- I work 50-80 hours a week)... I need an automated water system... at least water bills have been affordable (wish I could say the same about electricity.. having the air conditioning on basically 24 hours a day for 3 months, plus an added one of the bed room has been hard on the wattage usage). I am hoping the mandatory airconditioning weather is finally over with. Now it will be time to keep the heat on all day?
I have moved up a LOT of cacti and most of them (so far) are doing great. Unfortunately those are about the only plants I have moved up that are doing great. Most cycads are OK.. some are not. Most palms are bad, but some are OK.
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