My Day In Pictures

Saturday starts with coffee.  It is generally a french press, rather than the drip coffee we have on weekdays.  Today it was Major Dickason’s Blend from Peet’s.  Lambchop insists on her Tinkerbell mug on the weekends.  It is her ritual.

All the plants get watered on Saturday.  My succulents only get watered once per week, while the tomatoes and roses get watered every day.  After this small cactus lost its flowers, it gained several babies.  This is in a pot put together by friend Jo.

I am very fond of most of my plants.  This small pot currently tops the list of those that make me happy.  It’s a melange of small soft plants and one tall one.  I found the duck and older bottle recently.  These 3 items make a nice set.

I have also been playing with plants in old soda boxes.  The 7 -up  box will ultimately be staged vertically.

My friend Anne gave me lots of Basil for my birthday, in an effort assuage my fears of an extreme shortage when my tomatoes ripen.  I’ve been liberally taking from them, so I’m not worried about the rest of the summer.  These babies are growers.

And then on to the tomatoes.  There are 9 plants and all are various heirloom varieties.  Roma, beefsteak and the other varieties you get at the grocery store have nothing on these.   All are doing  so well.

When this plant eventually bears fruit, it will be an explosion of tomatoes.

I can always tell when the gardener comes.  His assistant always moves Clementine and Clara.  He rarely puts them back when he’s done.

But I do.  For the record, they are Lambchop’s pets.

We planted the apple tree just over a year ago, and now we have almost 3 dozen apples getting ready for us to eat.

The cacti are also doing well.  I”m never sure what to make of this one.

Later we went to the nursery.  I didn’t take any pictures there, but this is what happened when a car cut me off.

but I cleaned it up and we went to the store.  You can see the cactus, jumped from its pot, lying in wait of rescue.   In the store I was thinking, ” I hope this is the last time I have to pick something up from here this summer.”

We bought stuff for fish tacos — Lambchop had caught lots of fresh fish on the Monday and her highness demanded fish tacos on Saturday.  Ok, perhaps I embellished a bit, but she caught 17 fish!

We went home and I promptly fixed the Cactus disaster.  You’ll see my verticals in the back, rooting and the rogue cactus sitting in the green pot incognito.  Lambchop has named this cactus  Dolerous Edd. or DE for short.  Last night she decided the cactus should be called Greyworm.  That’s why WordPress has an edit function.

After significant laziness watching HGTV (who’d have thought it would come to this?) it was time to start on the fish tacos.  First up fresh Pico de Gallo.

I didn’t realize the cilantro and jalapenos were so shy.  But, the finished product is always gorgeous.

 I made fresh Guacamole, and a beer batter for the fish.  Indeed they were great.  Fresh fish is so much better than what we get in the store.

We ate.  We did dishes.  Nothing else was picture worthy.  The end.

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I am a Friend of Chauncey Gardiner or a Modest Admission

My name is Lee and I am an addict.  It’s hard to put this out there.  I’m pretty sure most of you will judge me harshly. I know I should know better , but I can’t help myself.  I doubt  you’ve been there.  Its my own private torture.  I have a succulent addiction.  In a pinch I’ll settle for a cactus.  I find reasons to go to Home Depot, Lowes or OSH looking for cool little $3 plants.  Who could not love a $3 plant?  In pots or in the ground, they grow, sport colors and make the world a happier place.  Sadly, some die, but in Nature’s Kingdom that just makes room for more.  And my addiction grows like a ravenous vine.

Sometimes the hardware/home improvement stores aren’t enough.  Then, I travel to Cactus Jungle in Berkeley. A joyous nursery devoted to colorful and eye-catching succulents.  Its like my crack.  I dream of adding colors, textures and visual magnets to my yard and the house.   I can’t have too many.  Aeoniums, agaves, aleoes, crassulas, echeverias, sedums, sempervivums and more.   I go to Cactus Jungle too often.  I walk in and the staff see dollar signs.  when you spend $200 you get a $10 off.  I often give them a full card (20 punches) and they almost always give it back to me for the next trip.

some of my plants

For as bad as my addiction is, I  am lucky that Lambchop humors me.  Mostly.  I wake in the morning to see how the patch outside my window is growing.  I grab her to see things growing beyond my expectations.  I slyly avoid pointing out the deaths and prat falls in the garden.  Perhaps she notices the empty, growing stack of terra cotta pots. I haven’t gotten to hiding them yet.   Sometimes the squirrels dig out the ones  I’m propagating.  And I use the word propagate too often I’m told.  It is about to replace Spartacus as the drinking game du jour  (“apologies” and “gratitude”) in our home.

For several months I had talked of making a pilgrimage to Succulent Gardens in Castroville.  This might be the holy grail of  succulents.  I found them when I was looking for ways to make a vertical garden and they specialize in them.  They specialize in everything.   Before I get ahead of myself, we had to get there.  Lambchop had suggested a day trip a while back.  We had settled on May 26, because we were free.  It turns out so was most everyone else. It was the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend and the road was packed.  Castroville, you see, is the artichoke capital of the world.  Perhaps everyone was going there.  Or could it be that Castroville is on the way to Monterey and Carmel.  Well, maybe that was it.  Our 110 mile,  two-hour drive took closer to  three hours.  That happens on holidays.  we got there around 2:30pm  and they closed at 4pm.  Would I have time to browse?   Seriously, this place has 4 acres of plants.

Driving in, there was small empty parking lot and a giant “grow house.”  I don’t think it was a hot-house.  The landscaping facing the road and around the grow house was fantastic . I should have taken photos but I didn’t.  I was awestruck.  We walked in and were blown away with what we saw.  Plants, Plants and More Plants.  This photo I took.  This is a very small sampling of what we saw.

I was overwhelmed.  2′ plants. 3″ plants 4″ plants 6″ plants 8″ plants and 10″ plants.  It took an hour just to walk the 2 houses and small open space that were open to us.  I had visions of spending thousands of dollars to feed my beast, but I limited myself to a modest number, taking home 3 larger plants and about 20-25 smaller ones.

One of the joys of succulent overload is matching up various smaller plants in bowls or unique containers.  They tend to live harmoniously and grow into a visual delight.  While some folks plant larger plants in this type of arrangement, I tend to go smaller so as they grow I can see what’s happening and then add or change the arrangement to suit the container.  I had bought a lot of very small plants to build arrangements and a few gifts.  As we walked – well, wheeled the wagon – to the car Lambchop commented on how restrained I was.  In retrospect, I did hold back — but then I  was already planning my next trek to Succulent Nirvana;  Disneyland in Pots. Probably August.  I could have spent a few thousand dollars and still wanted more.  No worries, It was no more than a very nice dinner.  No, not French Laundry nice.

One of the most striking about the excursion was the help.  The two gals working the nursery were helpful, knowledgeable and, above all, patient.  As one helped me with the two fluorescent Aloes I wanted (they looked like someone set them aside and angering other patrons was not on my to do list) I made my usual comment, “I’m hope plastic is OK.”    Believe it or not I think I was in the last place on earth that took checks.  Cash or Check was my only option.   For just this reason, I always keep an emergency check in my wallet.   I would have had to put several plants back, I didn’t have that much cash in my pocket. I’m still amazed at that checks are accepted at a retail establishment.  Well, it was Castroville.

I realize that I have a monkey on my back.  I’ve embraced him and garden frenzy I create and maintain daily.  Today I ordered several difficult to find books on succulents and their health, propagation (DRINK!) and sprawl.  My monkey needed a banana.  He’s satisfied.  For now.

Dr. Strangefarmer or How I Learned to Stop Worrying about the Basil Crisis and Love the Farm

Last year’s tomato crop was horrid.  I think we got roughly 6 tomatoes across 9 plants.  There was lots of fruit, but most had blossom-end rot.  Everyone tells  me 2011 was very bad year for growing tomatoes. Me, I take it personally.  It was the first year I planted them in containers.  This house has some great southern exposures which is perfect for tomatoes.  Every inch of those southern exposures is paved.

I like heirlooms.  If I wanted a Beefsteak or Roma or generic tomato on a vine, I’d go to the store.  A lot less work involved in that though a bit more expensive.  Most plants cost about $3.  The containers were $9 each and each holds about $3 worth of potting soil.  And then there is the cage, that’s another $2.  So by my way of thinking, that’s $17 per plant.  While we can pretend water is free, I had to buy tomato food.  (Who doesn’t love a product called MaterMagic?)  I’ll round up and assume I am spending $18 per plant. 

I know many of you turn to my blog just for financial analysis and fun with math.  Heirloom tomatoes tend to run $3.99 -$5.99 a pound in season.  Let’s use $4. It’s a nice number. Round – its 2 squared. (Quick what’s the square root of 2?)  — and it is easy to work with.  I would need to harvest and eat 3.5lbs of tomatoes from each plant to break even.  Or more succinctly, Lambchop and I must consume 31.5 pounds of tomatoes this harvest to break even.  What the hell am I thinking?

I like a Caprese salad as much as anyone, but am I really committing to buying that much Mozzarella this summer?  That’s about 2 pounds each week.  I do have 3 basil plants (the Thai basil doesn’t count for Italian dishes) growing, but clearly that’s not enough to get me through the summer.  There will be a basil shortage. What have I done?  I think I’ve just committed to spending $100+ this year on a Caprese safety net.

I can always make marinara or Bolognese. This will, sadly, contribute to the great basil shortage of 2012. In fact, I see myself being held hostage to cruel gods that demand a tithe of tomato sauce.  Yes, I mean Lambchop.   I can freeze some.  But then I’ll need to buy vessels to hold said liquid in the freezer.   Zip-locks work, but they aren’t perfect. More money to spend.  I guess the boys really don’t need to go to college, especially with the youngest’s burgeoning popcorn career. (Who knew it was so difficult to put popcorn in the small bag?)  I guess I’ll be roasting lots of tomatoes and making gallons of sauce.  Maybe I should make homemade ketchup (no it’s not catsup at our house) as the core ingredient for homemade BBQ sauce.

I’m starting to think I’m nearing break even.  Maybe.   Then I realize all the time I spend watering and tending to these silly plants.  I often value my time highly.  It keeps me from doing silly things like as driving around trying to save $0.15 per gallon on gas.  That’s $2.50 a tank or 4 minutes of my time.  I’m ok with slightly more expensive gas.  I like the convenience.  I’d probably have to add in at least $10 per day in “tending time.”  For expediency (and to validate my mother and my children’s perception) my time is free, otherwise I’d need to grow enough tomatoes for the Tomatina to break even.

I’m not going to worry about how many tomatoes I grow.  Let’s just hope there will plenty for when you invite yourself over to have some.  We both know you will.  It’s ok to  admit it.

The square root of 2 is 1.4142 for those of you that haven’t done the math in Excel yet.