Another crazy Summer in NorCal – no tomatoes yet?!

Back in July, as we were watching the blossoms on our tomatoes dry up and fall off, I read this post from Pobept:

https://survivalfarm.wordpress.com/2017/07/06/summer-weather-pattern-settling-in-for-a-long-hot-dry-period/

“Tomato’s and Peppers stop pollinating and blooms drop occur when:
Daytime temperatures greater than 32° C (90° ) Pollen sterility occurs, flowers may drop.
35° C (95° F) Much reduced fruit set .
Night time temperatures less than 15.5° C (60° F) or greater than 24° C (75° F) will result in poor fruit set.”

Well, crap! Our daytime temps have been well over 95 for months now, with night time temperatures in the high 60’s, even 70’s.

We’ve seen some fruit on our tomato vines, but it’s just sitting there.

DSC00247

This will be a nice tomato…some day…

Beautiful green round tomatoes. The only ones that started to ripen turned out to have blossom rot.

But, we have been getting my favorite beans, the asparagus and long red beans. We get enough of those for dinner about every other night.

DSC00268

These asparagus beans will be ready tomorrow.

I have to look hard, they like to hide in the Johnson grass. 

DSC00270

It only takes a few of these beans to make a meal. You have to pick them regularly or they go to seed, like the bean at left. Of course we’ll save those for next Summer.

Peaches don’t do well in this weather either. They don’t get very big, they get burned, they don’t ripen evenly. And the blue jays are waiting. Every day I go out and pick a small box and leave it to ripen in the garage for a couple of days.

DSC00003

These are small but smell good.

DSC00084

Next January I will be damned glad to have them!

Today I have enough to fill a freezer bag.  They aren’t as nice as tree-ripened fruit, but it’s better than paying $2.50 a pound at the store.

 

My husband planted the usual melons, different kinds – in past we’ve done well enough to freeze a bag of mixed melon.

DSC00258

The future looks bright in the melon patch.

The last months have been tough. We spent our “discretionary” money fixing up our old rental to sell, and with no tenants to pay rent, that got pretty hairy. I worried and worried as my husband and son scraped paint and replaced rotten wood, replaced old fixtures, spent a couple thousand bucks just doing required testing and repairs. Luckily the buyer was anxious and willing, and very cooperative, or I think my husband would still be on top of that house scraping and hammering. 

He had to replace the hail-damaged shingles himself, but it was worth the savings.

Plus, my son was going through a lot of angst over the last year, marginally employed, girlfriend marginally employed, our town turning to crap all around their heads. Even in the worst neighborhoods, housing  is incredibly expensive here, whether you buy or rent. They wanted a house with a yard – in their price range, that would mean “Chapmantown.” Poor Mr. Chapman, getting that albatross hung round his neck.

A typical example – one cute house they looked at was on the news a few nights later. The neighbor, an elderly woman, had an old motor home parked in her side yard, and couldn’t keep the transients from breaking into it at night. One night it caught fire and nearly burned her house and the house next door. The news crews talked to other neighbors – older folks, many of whom kept little trailers on their property, or had sheds in their yards, and had the same problem – constant break-ins by transients.

Chico is having horrific problems right now, so we all had to wrap our heads around the concept of them moving to another town. That was hard for me, and later I realized, it was pretty traumatic for them too. 

They found a much nicer house and cheaper expenses, but we are physically separated for the first time, another town, a good half hour away. 

So, it was nice for the boy to spend a couple of months tagging along with Dad, scraping and painting and hammering, and talking about things that go bump in the night.

So now I got my husband and my dogs and my garden, and thank goodness for texting. 

 

 

 

I should read up on stuff before I set it in my yard!

At 5 am Venus soars ahead of the sun, “like a diamond in the sky…” The crescent moon hangs just beyond. The air is cool – Delta Breeze came sliding in yesterday, to give us a break from the triple digits. 

DSC00218

Top of the morning to you Old Mother Cactus!

My cactus garden likes this weather, as long as I give it a splash from the water pot.

DSC00219

This cactus came to me in a 4 inch pot, look how big it has grown! And two heads! The other plant is kalanchoe, it fell into the cactus pot from it’s mother pot above.  It’s going to flower too, and that ought to be something.

DSC00231

This cactus came from Old Mother Cactus – I took a pair of cooking tongues and pulled it off like an old tooth! But the flowers are different, what’s with that?

DSC00239

Here’s that agave I planted in my cactus garden, it’s grown about 4 times it’s original size.

I should read up on stuff before I set it in my yard. After I’d already started planting those agave I got FREE from a neighbor, I found out, they get HUUUUUGE! Another name for these plants is “Century Plant,” because they live 100 years, and then they flower, and then they die. Of course, in that hundred years, they produce like a gazillion baby plants. 

I should have known – I saw one across the road from the county records building in Oroville, and it was the size of a Volkswagen Beetle, surrounded by babies ranging in size from a few inches to a few feet tall. 

Oh well, I don’t care, I don’t think I will be here when they have to bring in the back hoe.

Okay, I’ll admit it – the heat is starting to get to me! I’m having crazy ideas!

Yesterday afternoon as local weatherman Kris Kuyper was announcing Chico’s high at 108, I stepped out onto the patio to snap this pic of my KIST thermometer.

 

DSC00054

Eeeee–eee–yew! 

 

Not that I don’t have the utmost respect for Kris, I’m sure it was 108 somewhere in town at that time, but on my patio, it was 112.

I tried to beat the heat the other day – literally – I got up at 4 am to get my bread going, get it in the oven by 6am. Sounded like a good idea. I love the morning, the temperature is cool and the breeze is friendly. But neither Sourdough Bob nor I were quite awake all the way. We wrestled around the bread board, Bob almost taking a dive off the counter at one point, desperately clinging to my arm. I threw him back in the pot to rise, went out to do some chores, and when I came in, he had “fallen.” That’s not good! As I put him in the oven, he spread out like a mother of 10.

DSC00007

Sourdough Bob is not at his best at 4 am, but still quite a guy.

He huffed and puffed in the hot oven, his middle pushing itself up, trying to take on a proper shape, but he just couldn’t do it. I blame the heat – I think he rose up so fast, he just collapsed. I’ll have to watch that next time, get him in the oven a little sooner.

As you can see, he still turned out okay, just flat. Sourdough has a taste that improves as the days go by, we will eat him to the heel. Tonight we’ll roast a few cloves of garlic on the bbq, toast some thin slices of bread, good and crispy, and spread that garlic nice and thick. 

And here’s my other crazy idea – we’re going to sleep outside. It’s the funniest thing – we live upstairs, and it seems to get extra hot upstairs. The air starts to cool fast outside after the sun goes down, it feels great to relax and watch our old tv by our little inflatable swimming pool. We even burn rosemary in our old camp stove, it’s like camping out. 

But inside the apartment the air sits, even with windows open and fan running. The air inside our bedroom stays at 81, 82 degrees, which is very uncomfortable to sleep at. I can’t even stand that kind of heat in the Winter! It’s kind of suffocating.  So, we’ve been sleeping with the windows shut and the air conditioner on 81. It runs about once an hour, all night, for 10 or 20 minutes, just to stay at 81. 

I’ve tried setting our alarm for midnight – as soon as I opened the windows, I could feel warm air coming in. 

So, when the lows are only going down to high 60’s or low 70’s, we don’t open the windows until we get up at 5 am – or 4 am, whatever. Then we slam them shut again by 7 am, as the sun hits our eastern windows, the thermostat on our a/c is already at 79. 

So I’ve got this old cast iron day  bed. It sat in my grandparents’ room when we were little as a “sick bed”. It’s very plain, from the turn of the century, when “fevers” ran rampant, and people started to realize furniture needed to be sanitized – no more wood or upholstered beds for kids. It’s about 26 inches wide folded up, and when it’s folded out it’s about the same size as a double bed. 

My grandparents always kept it folded up, they only had a twin mattress for it.  It was moved to the enclosed front porch when my grandmother rearranged the bedroom. We used it like a couch when we watched the old tv, and my grandfather used to nap on it regularly, cause he didn’t have to take off his shoes to lay on it. My grandmother would just cluck her tongue and slide newspapers under his dirty boots.  

There the tiny mattress was got into by mice. We could never keep mice off that back porch. My mom and uncle finally realized the old mattress was a breeding sanctuary, and loaded it off to the dump. The bed frame went into the tank house where it sat for years.

It weighs like 100 tons, ‘scuse my rampant exaggeration. But that’s why I got it, cause my husband and a couple of our best friends were  willing to load it into our truck. I’m sure some of the other kids in my family wanted it, but yeah, they didn’t have my husband or his penchant for talking his friends into helping us move stuff. And then I guess they realized, what would they do with it?  I mean, after they hosed out all the owl shit? 

We cleaned it up and we’ve used it.  We’ve used it for our kids’ bed, we’ve used it as a couch. For a long time, we had it on our covered patio with a piece of plywood over the springs. We put carpeting and dog beds on it, and the dogs slept on it until Biscuit was too old and stiff to jump up and we had to make her a shorter bed.  

Now I am trying to convince my husband that we need to get it out of the garage and place it next to the old camp stove, in the shadows of my cactus garden. Folded out, it will fit our inflatable mattress, all we have to do is cover the springs with plywood and a moving blanket. 

I think he’s convinced. Today he helped me unload all these old boxes of stuff we had stacked on it. We just have to figure out how to get it out there, it may take some help from our kids. 

I’ll keep you posted!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

America was born and lives at the family table

 

 

Yes the heat wave went away, leaving us with a new appreciation for temperatures under 110. Isn’t it funny how we learn to get used to stuff – now 100 is almost comfortable!

The heat dried things out pretty good. The sycamores are shedding like it’s September. But the crepe myrtle is blooming prettier than ever.  

We had out-of-town relatives who came a long way to see us, we tried to show them some California hospitality. We’ve  been on a tight budget because we’ve had to spend some money selling a rental while getting no rent from same.  So we had to be on our toes and plan ahead.

We’ve learned to watch Safeway online and take advantage of sales.  A couple of times a month they usually put whole chickens on sale, sometimes as cheap as 89 cents a pound. When our cousins first told us their plans, we started checking the website almost every day until we found Safeway had the birds marked down to 99 cents a pound – you can get a big 6 pound bird for less than 6 bucks, that’s pretty darned nice!

The day before our family was to arrive, my husband set up our smoker and Badges took his post alongside – we call him, Grill Dawg.   Andy put the chickens in about noon, the weather was nice enough to be outside and do some chores while we enjoyed the aroma.  I could hear the men on the construction site next door commenting on it.

Later that afternoon I took up watch on the smoker and my husband went to Chico Locker to pick up a tri-tip – my favorite, the Yukon Gold. A two pound tri-tip will run about $22, but you get a lot of meat.

The tri-tip went on the grill the next morning, with our guests expected somewhere around 2pm, we were well ahead of the game. As soon as the roast came off the grill we went to Cash and Carry to pick up a couple of watermelons – about $2 per melon, what a deal, they are crisp and sweet. One was enough for the afternoon, and then I have the other for the rest of the week. We also got a huge pack of strawberries for about $5.  I buy a lot of these melons and berries, cutting what we don’t eat right away into bite size chunks and putting them in ziplock bags in the freezer.

My son had come home from college for the visit, so I wanted to make him some corn tortillas. It’s so easy, I can make 20 tortillas within an hour, and set them on a plate between two paper towels, under a pot lid. 

Our cousins arrived exactly on time. They were coming from a three-day visit to the Bay Area, and had already remarked about the cold and rain in San Francisco. Their pictures showed heavy fog. Imagine stepping from that into 100 degrees! Luckily we had kept them well-informed about the previous stretch of 110, so they were grateful to get out onto the pavement without their shoes sticking to the street.

We hustled them into our apartment, where we’d kept the thermostat at 79 all day. We don’t have much furniture, but we have a big dining table with an extra leaf,  so we were able to sit everybody around the table – 9 altogether, like The Waltons. We’d had to scramble for chairs, borrowed one folding chair from our son, but we were left with plenty of elbow room. 

I always feel good when my guests get up to help themselves to seconds, the kids took thirds. My husband was proud as a peach, he really likes to grill and smoke, and have a big crowd at the table. My corn tortillas flew off the plate.

I’m sitting here now, we haven’t taken the leaf out of the table, we’re still missing our guests. We won’t see them again for many years, their kids will visit us with the grandchildren probably. 

We were watching the news last night and Debbie Cobb read a pick-up story about entertaining for the holidays. They do these every year, for those summer picnic holidays, it’s just a push piece for people to go out and SPEND!  She said a meal of burgers and hot dogs for 10 people  should cost about $55 a person, averaging about $550.  I had to laugh – she got that wrong, I looked it up.  Articles I found online said it was $5.50 a person, not $55 a person. Debbie, it’s time to retire!  We spent less than $100 on our meal, including sodas. We fed 9 people, and we’re still eating the left-overs. 

So I hope the rest of you will enjoy this holiday, chow down with your special relatives and friends, and remember, the cornerstone of America is the family table. 

 

 

 

 

 

Delta Breeze slides in to save us from the heat wave

Just as this heat wave was getting to me, it seems to be slipping away. A little. At noon it was only 96 degrees on the old KIST! thermometer, when it’s been at least a hundred by that time for the last, what, six days? 

Are we counting?

I told my husband this morning, “I ain’t working outside today, ain’t, ain’t, ain’t!” Answer: “snnnnoooooorrrr.…” as he turned his backside to me and took his pillow in a love embrace. We’re both tired, we feel like we’ve been 10 hard rounds with Mother Nature, she’s walloped us pretty good.

But of course we wandered outside and one thing led to another and the next thing we knew we were dusting the backside of the house, cleaning the air conditioner unit, and then we wandered out to the street to prop up our saggy old mailbox. Putter, putter, putter. Sometimes I’m afraid to stop moving.

I suddenly realized, it wasn’t quite onerous outside.  

And then, like a dream, that old Delta Breeze came swinging through.  I had my nose in the air like Badges when he smells BBQ. My husband immediately paused in his chores and held his arms out from his sides to get some of that sweet air. I could feel it slithering around my feet and ankles like little fish. 

 

We’ve been under alot of stress in my family lately, with the selling of the old rental, worrying about finances, worrying about the weather has been just another bb on the stack. That old Delta Breeze, she’s telling me, it’s going to be better sooner than later. 

 

The end is in sight – heat wave will be over by Monday!

DSC00020

Crispy, sweet, and COLD!

 

My husband and I like to garden, but there’s a few things we don’t bother growing cause they’re so cheap at the grocery store.

Our local restaurant supply store, Cash and Carry has been getting better produce lately, they’ve been stocking a lot of fruit. Right now they have  a ripping good deal on watermelons – usually about $2 a melon.  

I buy two – one is cut up and put in a zip-lock bag in the freezer, I’m always thinking ahead.  When I open this bag in December or January the smell of Summer will fill the kitchen.

Are hot days longer than cold days?

You can literally beat the heat, if you get up early, get out there now. At 5 am I saw Venus rising just ahead of the sun, full and round like a glowing cue ball. The air is sweet and soft, a cool brush across your cheek.

This morning, as I was running around the apartment opening windows,  I remembered to put some garlic in the oven, it’s in there right now. I like to have some roasted garlic to spread on toast and crackers, but who wants to turn the oven up to 425 at noon? 10 am? 

Cash and Carry has a jumbo bag of the nicest garlic you will find for just about $4. I like to grow garlic too, but I found out green garlic is delicious, and my husband and I ate it all before it bulbed out. It was great roasted too, the green leaves get crispy and taste very rich. It’s also wonderful minced up in salad dressing. I’ve had frustration trying to grow garlic bulbs, they are very thirsty. I haven’t had big ones for years, cause I’m too stingy with the water.  When I found out how good green garlic is – and you can’t buy it at any store I’ve found – I decided to grow more of that over Winter and just buy bulbs at the store.

We made a big shopping trip to Cash and Carry the other day, bought a bag of 6 huge green bell peppers for about $4.  We’ve given up growing bell peppers – they also require a lot of water, and in poor soil are prone to blossom rot. We haven’t had a good bell pepper in years, and when something is so cheap at the store, it seems stupid to knock yourself out.

We use them hot or cold – I oil them up and my husband throws them on the grill next to the meat. There’s usually enough left over for sandwiches the next day, or cut up in salad, etc. I also like pickled bell peppers – give that a try!

DSC00035

It’s COLD!

I cut two big peppers into strips, put them in a bowl, and sprinkle over a tablespoon and a half of salt, toss them around in there.  That needs to sit for about an hour. Meanwhile I boil a cup of white vinegar with a half cup of white sugar just until the sugar dissolves, then set that aside to cool. When the peppers have sat for an hour, they’ve shrunk down, and I find these Bubbies Pickles jars just the right size to stuff them into.  I smash them down in there, and pour over the vinegar and sugar. Then it goes into the refrigerator, ready to eat in 24 hours. These will keep up to three weeks in your fridge, but they probably won’t last that long.

DSC00036

Crispy and sweet, also, again, COLD!

These are good to eat with a salad, a sandwich, on crackers, etc. And the vinegar is good for your teeth and gums! 

Time to GO OUTSIDE!

 

Next stop 120!

 

Hmm, AccuWeather reports it’s 97 in Chico right now.

DSC00008

Oooo-la-la!

 

The KIST thermometer has my money – 111. It was 98 degrees on my patio at 10 this morning, I knew we were in for a whopper.

The weather is a serious subject around here, that’s not just an old farmer joke. This kind of weather, well – it sure gets your attention, doesn’t it? 

The nicest part of the day is about 5 am. I like to  go outside and see what I can get done before the sun hits my yard.

DSC00003

More than two days of triple digits and stuff just starts dying around the yard.

 

Yesterday I filled a wheelbarrow with dead and dying feverfew flowers.  They were beautiful as long as we kept getting those rain showers, grew waist high, covered with those dainty white flowers. Within a couple of days of this heat, they turned to straw flowers. 

It is helpful when you have outside work in this heat to stay close to water. We have one of those wading pools, the dogs like to stand in it while they drink, and we like to stand in it to cool down and un-scatter our thoughts. I call it, “The Think Tank”. 

The other day I was cleaning a patch of dead flowers out of my tenant’s yard, I was determined to get rid of it before it became the neighborhood eyesore. Like everything else, they came in like gangbusters, some of them grew up over my head. When they were in full bloom, the iridescent purple flowers were enough to slow down traffic. As they went to seed, the big puffy white heads were also very attractive. Then the rains stopped and they turned dead and brown – instant ugly! 

So I put on a pair of men’s swim trunks and tank top over my oldest crapped-out bikini, and I dived in there. Of course the beautiful flowers had been hiding a tangled mess of every kind of sticker weed we got around here. I laid a tarp out on the ground next to the patch and started yanking them out by the roots and tossing them into a neat pile, all end to end, how nice. That way I can drag that tarp through the gate and out to the compost pile.

Ever find yourself in a giant weed patch in the beating sun? Just when I thought I would have to call Butte County Search and Rescue, I burrowed my way out of there. I turned around to admire my work – only I could appreciate the scene, cause I knew how bad it looked before I started. All those dead flowers gone, nice clean ground left behind, and no more rain to bring weeds. I will not have to touch that patch again for months and months. 

I wrapped up my weed burrito and headed for the garden compost pile. It was after 9am, and the sweat was trickling through my eyebrows – you know how, when your hands are full and all dirty, you always think there’s bugs in your hair? I couldn’t get over the notion I had spiders all over me, and I had to stop a couple of times to run my fingers through my hair, jiggle my clothes, jump up and down like an old jackass.

I had so many stickers in my socks, I just stripped them off and tossed them into the pile behind the tarp load. 

Me and the dogs went to stand in the Think Tank.  I reached up to scratch my head and found a bunch of wild parsley seeds stuck to my scalp – they have a velcro cover, and they’re a bitch to get out of your pets’ fur, not much easier to pull out of your own hair! 

It’s too hot to work outside by 10am. My husband also does his chores early. Then we go inside. Our apartment, with the thermostat set at 81, is a pleasant refuge. We also find my husband’s shop, on the shady side of the house, with a tile on concrete floor, stays relatively cool all day. The dogs plod along behind us, Badges dropping himself like a bag of sticks.

There’s nothing much to do in the worst part of the afternoon but lay down for a nap, wait it out, stay fresh for later.  I putter in the house too, plenty of inside chores. Today I cleaned my kitchen cabinets, even put some lemon oil on the doors. Good to rifle through your cabinets once in a while, clean that freezer too!

We cook a lot of meals on the bbq outside, and we try to cook enough meat so we don’t have to cook for another day or two. I’ll tell you what else – I make a big batch of rice every few days, it’s good reheated or cold, on salad. One of my favorite bedtime snacks is a bowl of brown rice, brown sugar and milk. 

It’s fun to go outside at 8:30 or so at night, light a candlelaria, sit and watch the sun go down. It’s still hot outside, but it’s getting cooler, which is way different than getting hotter.