Trying something new – gardening in containers

One of the biggest lifestyle changes we’ve made lately is gardening in containers. After all those years having a big truck garden and so many tomatoes we needed to get an additional freezer for the sauce, we find water has become too expensive to garden in Chico anymore. So we potted them up and moved them to our camp site in the hills. 

They get noticeably bigger every day.

Here we share a well with neighbors, paying about $200 a year for our share of the electricity bill for the pump. Our summertime Cal Water bills in Chico were over $100 a month.

GFY Cal Water!

So far they are growing like crazy and getting good, fat blossoms.

These look healthy and viable – last year they were small and gray.

At this time last year, the heat had already hit the valley, and I learned that blossoms will not “set” in temperatures over 94 F. They just withered and fell off. Many of our gorgeous plants, which I’d started from seed, never had any fruit. They sat mummified in the heat.  We pulled many rather than waste the water.  We only got about three dozen tomatoes all summer.

I had used the last of our seed store. So this year we bought cheap plants at Home Depot. We got an interesting cherry tomato from a neighbor. We bought dirt in the bag at Walmart. And we gathered some old black plastic tree pots we’d saved for recycling bins. 

My son also found several of these “grow bags” around the corner in our neighbor’s “free” pile.

This is a Geopot. I’ve seen them online for about $6. We’ll see how it works. It could hold a lot more dirt but I ran out.

They’re light and have handles, so you can move your garden if you need to. 

I also brought my potted flowers – echinacea and selvia. While my echinacea is taking off nicely in the ground in Chico (as long as I run a sprinkler on it every few days), the selvia was getting pushed out by an outrageous crop of feverfew. So I potted up a few selvia and grabbed my collection of echinacea pots. My husband, bless his heart, heave-ho’d them into the F-150. 

Selvia is loving it here – the first day it was here, ants raided the pot and ate all the pill bugs.

In Chico I had to water these every day, here they only need a quick squirt every other morning, and they’re going to town. 

I know my husband wants me to spend more time up here, cause he loaded up over half my cactus pots and quite a few of my big rocks. We’ve arranged those around our little patio, just in time for blossoms.

I’ll keep you posted, next time, on “This Old Lady! with Juanita!”

 

 

 

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Get ready for Winter – and Election 2018!

When my husband took our propane tank to the gas station for a fill-up the other day, the attendant refused to fill it – we had got it second-hand, and it was looking pretty beat-up. Good call – we decided to get a new one, and The Tractor Store is having quite a sale. Saved $20 on the new tank and got me a new pair of “barn” boots for about $5 off.

I love my barn boots, I wear them all Winter, and the old ones had sprouted holes in the heels – that’s a deal breaker.  As broke as we’ve been, I was afraid to ask for a new pair, sure the price had gone up – nope, only $25, which works out to about .001 cents a day over their lifespan.  

I noticed Summer had taken a powder the other morning, when I went onto my front porch here in Chico and found the KIST! thermometer at 59.  Whoa, that’s a new one – a week previous I had a hard time catching it below 70.  

So are you ready for Winter? I’m almost afraid to find out what kind of Winter we have ahead. I guess I’ll hope for rain, and hope it doesn’t come down too hard or too fast.

I’d also like some snow at the appropriate elevations, and I’d like it to stick, unlike last year, when Spring rains brought it melting down into the valley – almost lost O-ville, for Heaven’s Sake!

Of course it’s still so dry now you can hear the ground crunching under your feet, so while we’re making the rounds of the gutters and siding we have to keep the water running on the landscaping.  Everything is covered with dust and spiderwebs, and the leaves are turning – our yard looks like a widow at a funeral.  I would like to spray things down, including the siding on the house, but given our last water bill, I don’t dare. 

That’s right, I was going to write a letter to the editor about Cal Water rates again – our bills show that while we’ve cut usage drastically, we still spend more.  I’ll keep you posted on that.

I’ve got my feet firmly planted in two worlds right now – the future and the past. My husband and I are trying to change our lifestyle to suit the times, but we have to move carefully, not cut ourselves off. I want to get out of Chico, but the fact remains, we’ll have  rentals here, we have to deal with issues like utility bills, property tax bonds, and local ordinances. So, Landlady has to stay alert, stay awake, keep both feet awake.

We’ve already heard candidates announcing campaigns for 2018 – which starts in June, where some races will actually be determined. So, while you get your house ready for Winter, you might want to be thinking about arming your town for the pension apocalypse.

That, by the way, is the name of my neighbor’s kid’s band – wow, I see they are doing pretty good, I’m just glad they don’t live at home anymore!

https://www.facebook.com/armedforapocalypse/

 

 

 

 

 

First you’ve got to get mad

All the little birdies on Jaybird Street just love to hear the Robin goin' "tweet tweet tweet"...

All the little birdies on Jaybird Street just love to hear the Robin goin’ “tweet tweet tweet”

Robins have been swarming my lawn and the neighbor’s yard twice a day to gorge themselves on bugs. I’ve watched one after another wrestle big night crawlers out of the ground. As my husband mowed our lawns yesterday afternoon they gathered in our oak trees, waiting to swoop down on displaced grubs and pill bugs.

The pollen tree over my driveway has popped out with lots of dusty flowers. I watched a green cloud burst across the window pictured above – which has been shut tight the last two days – and then the wind caught it and it seemed to dance like a green ghost as it disappeared.  The shiny green dust is all over my patio. I can’t wait for RAIN!

Biscuit continues to thumb her nose at  the skeptics. She likes to play, but she’s so emaciated and weak, it’s going to take her a while to get up to speed. Meanwhile, Badges is constantly offering her a ball or a rope or a bit of stick. 

I try to keep to my routine, it helps me to stay busy. My husband found me some cheap strawberry plants at Home Depot, about 50 cents a plant. This time I am skipping my strawberry pots – too hard to water – and putting my little plants in individual plastic pots in the green house. They’re doing great, I’ll have to get more. They will produce new plants at the end of the season, so it’s a good investment.

Drought again, I know. I’ll be careful what I plant this year. I put garlic in one of my raised beds a couple of months ago, and now it needs water. Every time I turn on the hose I feel Cal Water fascists staring down over my shoulder.

I realized the other day, we’ve got more people living on our property than we did in 2011 – a family replaced the childless couple in the house, and we replaced the single guy in the apartment. So I am appealing our water “budget,” I’ll let you know how that goes. They have a form here,

https://www.calwater.com/conservation/drought/appeal/

We’ve done everything they asked, and we still go over budget at least a ccf or two. I’m tired of living like this, Chico has water. They just want money for their unfunded pension and health insurance liabilities.

I found their Securities Exchange reports here

 

https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1035201/000103520116000009/0001035201-16-000009-index.htm

In a report from 2015 I found a note about Cal Water’s pension liability, and a warning that it could negatively affect their investment returns:

Adverse investment returns and other factors may increase our pension liability and pension funding requirements.

        A substantial number of our employees are covered by a defined benefit pension plan. At present, the pension plan is underfunded because our projected pension benefit obligation exceeds the aggregate fair value of plan assets. Under applicable law, we are required to make cash contributions to the extent necessary to comply with minimum funding levels imposed by regulatory requirements. The amount of such required cash contribution is based on an actuarial valuation of the plan. The funded status of the plan can be affected by investment returns on plan assets, discount rates, mortality rates of plan participants, pension reform legislation and a number of other factors. There can be no assurance that the value of our pension plan assets will be sufficient to cover future liabilities. Although we have made contributions to our pension plan in recent years, it is possible that we could incur a pension liability adjustment, or could be required to make additional cash contributions to our pension plan, which would reduce the cash available for business and other needs.

Furthermore, the report predicted employees might even walk off the job if they were asked to either prune their benefits or pay their own benefits. Cal Water management currently pay nothing, and I’m guessing the lesser ranks pay less than 10 percent.  Like most public workers, Cal Water employees retire at age 55 with 70 percent of their highest year’s salary.

And they just expect us to pay for it. 

I always think of the old movie, Network, at times like this.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZwMVMbmQBug

“First you’ve got to get mad…”

Spring is coming – I can hear the weeds growing

While the weather outside is dreary, and I’d much rather be kicking it in front of the boob tube, watching The Munsters, Punxsutawney Phil has got in my head with his predictions of Early Spring. That, and I can hear the weeds growing around my house.

I have been busy, covering whole sections of my yard with plastic and cardboard.

I had old sheets of black plastic from a roof job we did, and every time I go to Cash and Carry I grab a box. Yeah, I know - it's ugly.

I had old sheets of black plastic from a roof job we did, and every time I go to Cash and Carry I grab a box. Yeah, I know – it’s ugly.

But it’s better than weeds, especially those GD sticker weeds – I don’t know their names, but I can identify at least four different kinds of nasty pest sticker weeds before they are a half inch in circumference. They get in our pets’ fur, they get in our socks, they stick to the strap on our flipflops – boy, I really get mad when they get in the laundry and come out stuck to the elastic in my underwear. I find them in the rug, they just get everywhere.

A couple of years ago, as the price of water started to skyrocket, I noticed it was hard keeping the grass alive, but the stickers could live – not just live – THRIVE! on hardly any water at all. As soon as the lawn was compromised the stickers moved in with a vengeance. So, I dug this big pile of plastic out of the shed – I had threatened to throw it away about 800 times but my husband kept saying we’d need it for something.  What a guy, he’s so smart – he is The Repurposer.

Sheesh – you want to kill weeds? Kill them dead? Rot them to dust? Evaporate them? Get yourself some black plastic, I never seen anything like it. See the picture below – that mud used to look just like the green section there around the dog house. It did not need to be told twice. 

But, I was amazed how quickly the Summer sun rotted the plastic. Recently I had to get rid of one sheet that was disintegrating into chunks and blowing all over the yard. I just spread the last piece of plastic I had over that spot, and I don’t expect it to last beyond Spring. I have another bare spot I don’t have any more plastic to cover, so I have to get busy.

This is where I think I'll plant some of those trees Whipple gave us last Fall.

This is where I think I’ll plant some of those trees Whipple gave us last Fall.  The ground is clean, but also really hard and compacted from months under black plastic. I need some mulch to keep it clean, soften it up, and protect the young trees from the Mutha Summer we are going to get.

Luckily, my husband also has a compulsive habit of scanning the “Free Stuff” on Craigslist with his coffee almost every morning. Today he found a neighbor only a few blocks away had a tree removed and ground up and was offering a big pile of free redwood chips. The picture showed they were sitting in the public  right of way on a busy street, likely to disappear fast, so he called my son and  they were out the door by 8:45 to score the free chips. They loaded our pick-up full – which is quite a bit of work to keep me busy – and there was still quite a pile left for the next opportunist.

The nicest thing about these chips is they were free. We've paid $20 for a pick-up load like this.

The nicest thing about these chips is they were free. We’ve paid $20 for a pick-up load of shredded almond bark.

 

It took us almost $60 worth of chips to mulch in this redwood tree.

It took us almost $60 worth of chips to mulch in this redwood tree. Ignore the skid marks where my husband pulled the truck in to dump the new load, those rake out. 

 

this area

I just spread this sheet, but it won’t last long. I’m not sure what I’ll do here after I get some little trees planted in the bare spot to the upper right.

This is a hot section of yard, right off our front door. If we can get some baby trees to grow, we can change the environment. In my dreams, we will get the grass back. Grass does not take nearly as much water in the shade, go figure.

All this and time to make a pizza, get out! Look how puffy the crust is – I rolled some little strings of mozzarella cheese in there. Then my husband dressed it up with some sauce, proscuitto, canned olives and the rest of the string cheese.

Ooooo - too pretty to eat!

Ooooo – too pretty to eat!

 

oh yeah just kidding.

oh yeah just kidding.

 

 

 

 

 

Why are all these public and quasi-public agencies installing bullet-proof glass in their lobbies?

 

Wow! I looked out my window into the dark this morning, and there’s a shiny ribbon of water running down my driveway to the street.

Too bad we can’t see the sky this morning – Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are apparently all visible just before dawn right now. The rain is drumming steadily outside my window, so I doubt there will be a chance to see them today, but I’ll be ready if there’s a break in the storm this week.

I’d like  to hang out some laundry. I had a chance to hang out some towels the other day, had to finish them in the dryer, but they smell a lot better if they get a few hours out on the line. 

I’ve been keeping track of the rain in my notebook, watching for dry periods during which I would water my landscaping, and there haven’t been any. According to my records, it hasn’t gone a full week without raining since the beginning of November.

But, just showering and laundry have put my household over the budget Cal Water set for us. It doesn’t make sense. I read in the News and Review about a family that has applied a couple of times for a more reasonable water budget, having removed lawn, etc, but Cal Water has denied their request. 

I don’t know how many of you have been to Cal Water’s big shiny office – about a year or so ago my husband and I noticed they’d installed bullet-proof glass between the lobby and the work section, where you can go in to pay your bill. 

http://www.tssbulletproof.com/bulletproof-glass-remove-barriers-municipal/

Yes, the city installed bullet-proof glass in the Downtown lobby a couple of years ago too. 

Why would they expect the public to want to shoot them?

Just asking.

 

 

Venus says, “get off your ass and write that letter to the CPUC!”

At 6am you can see Venus, Jupiter and Mars lined up right across the Eastern sky.

At 6am Venus, Jupiter and Mars are lined up in a trio, like three lanterns crossing the morning sky.  If you look really close here you can see Jupiter there to the lower left of Venus, but Mars was too shy to get in the picture. 

Orion is standing up very tall in the West, and this morning Taurus charged out in all his glory. The Sisters are very bright, standing behind Taurus, I think they’re giggling.

Sheesh, I just drank my coffee so fast I don’t remember what it tasted like. I try to get up early, give myself a chance to wake up before the day comes roaring in. The freeway’s already so loud I have to shut my windows. 

I’ve been taking a few minutes here and there to work on my protest letter to the CPUC over this latest Cal Water rate hike proposal. I was perusing the CPUC website for instructions when I found this disheartening reading material:

http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/NR/rdonlyres/47B1568E-3B88-4420-B75C-9AF53042E5F6/0/PPDtheWRAM.pdf

I’ll give it to you in a nutshell – the CPUC is proposing a system by which water rates are raised regularly, so rate increases are less noticeable. Yeah, that’s right – CPUC is proposing this scam, for the benefit of Cal Water and other water service companies.

Ever feel just plain beat?  Whenever I’m feeling beat, I know – you’re on the down Juanita Girl, you better get ready for THE UP!

Because, as you probably know, life is a series of ups and downs. It’s just plain science, it’s the law, and if you don’t understand that, you’re likely to get a serious case of motion sickness. 

God, I hate fucking quitters, don’t even come to me with that shit. Here’s what we gotta do – we must point out that while we want Cal Water to have plenty of funds to take care of infrastructure and maintenance, and to pay reasonable salaries, we should not have to pay for stockholder profits or for employee pensions.

Yes, it’s smart to have a regular formula by which you raise your prices when you offer a service. That way, you don’t have to come to your customers when you have a big expense and shock their socks off – you’ve already saved up money for emergencies. That’s a smart way to manage rates and expenses. Of course, in a model like that, rates should go down when expenses are paid off. When was the last time you ever heard anything like that out of Cal Water?

An emergency fund is one thing. Is it really okay to allow stockholders to profit in a utility company, even when the company repeatedly turns to it’s ratepayers with demands for more money? Is it okay to pay stockholders when a company complains they can’t keep up with costs? 

I do believe it’s okay to offer your employees decent salaries.  Poorly paid employees have little to contribute to the community at large because they don’t have any discretionary income and have to turn to the public teat when they need healthcare or have some other crisis.  Chico Area Recreation District, for example, creates poverty by paying most of their employees below subsistence wages and cutting hours to avoid  paying Obamacare. 

But, nobody at Cal Water is suffering from poverty, the lowest salaries at $77,000/year – that’s almost twice the median income in Chico.  Out of salaries ranging from $77,000 – $115,000, they pay NOTHING toward their own retirement or their defined benefits pension packages. 

We also need to point out, while we’ve cut our usage, our bills have gone sky-high. I hope you’ve saved your bills, if not, look through your check book register and old bank statements. You can ask Cal Water for your usage history – tell them you want the water amounts, not the money amounts. Go back three or more years. 

Really people, get off your asses, the enemy is coming up your front drive.