Next stop 120!

 

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

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you don’t like the weather…

Here we are, last day of May, and I woke at 4 am to a dumping downpour. Welcome to Northern California. Here, if you don’t like the weather, come back next week. Or leave, cause it’s not going to suit you.

A little over two weeks ago, we had flannel sheets and heavy comforters on the beds. My younger son came home from University of Reno to report there was still a snow blanket on Mt. Rose. A few days after he arrived, temps shot up to over 100 for two days, the old Kist thermometer registering 102 at one point. The air conditioners buzzed all around our house, and we wondered what kind of jump our PG&E bill would take.

This week it’s been in the low 90’s, not quite hot enough to stick more than a toe in the snow melt. It’s been uncomfortable to work in the direct sun at noon, but very nice the rest of the day, windows open most of the time.

My son drove back to Reno Sunday and spent Monday boarding Mt. Rose. He said “It didn’t suck,” which is his way of saying it was pretty good.

And now this dumper, which just started to get heavier as I’ve been typing. Haven’t I told you 100 times about that June we had a week straight of dumping rain? Our neighbor’s huge old oak tree was so overburdened with ivy and the roots so rotten, we actually watched it do a slow-motion tilt right onto our house, it took the entire week. 

Another year the temperatures were so mild and we had so many cloudy days, right into Summer, that we didn’t get our first ripe tomato until August.

Pobept had real tornadoes back in OK the other day –

https://survivalfarm.wordpress.com/2017/05/19/rain-storms-in-oklahoma/

Here we have little whips that come down from the sky to take chimneys and treetops. Now and then they “explode” an old barn, barn wood  scattering for miles.  Some years they’ve ripped out entire orchards – about 10 years ago there was so much orchard damage that  ranchers were selling downed trees for $5 each, come and cut your own firewood. Almond wood is the best, my husband and his friends brought in three big trailer loads of fuel for our wood stove.

Just a couple of years ago a Glenn County rancher lost an entire pistachio orchard! Noooooooo, not the pistachios!

We’re kinda nuts around here.  I don’t know what this “late” rain will do to the nuts, or the prunes. We like prunes around here too – although, some snobs like to call them “dried plums.” Hopefully this storm will just save the ranchers on their irrigation bill.

I know my yard is going to be very happy, I’m pretty stingy with water. If I’d known, I wouldn’t have watered Monday, but oh well.  My grapes are looking good this year, so burdened down, we had to take some wire and tie the branches up off the ground. The fruit is smaller than a pea right now, but growing fast. I’m not getting any “eating” grapes – I don’t know what’s the deal with  that old vine – but I am looking forward to plenty of juice to put in the freezer for next winter. My juice grapes have always been very generous.

Still dumping! I’m so glad my husband went out to take in our old patio chair. It’s not really an outdoor chair. It’s a “score” – we were going to the dump, and offered to take some of our neighbor’s stuff. She toted out this oak rocker – I envy this woman’s farm girl strength. It’s one of those new kind that works on tracks with a big heavy base, so you don’t squash your dog’s foot all the time. She said her “monkey boys” had it over, and it was all falling apart. My husband asked her if she’d like him to take a look at it, probably fix it. She said no, it caused too much trouble. So we headed right back down our driveway and left it.  

Later, my husband  put two screws in it, and it was good as new – except the cushion was pretty trashed. So it sat in the garage a while – it is too heavy to tote up the stairs into our apartment, where there’s very little room, anyway.  It sat in the garage, I waited until the Fall sale at Lowes and picked up a new cushion for about $9 – reverse-able! Get the hell out! New chair! We leave it in the garage during Winter and as soon as the weather dries out in Spring we put it on the front porch. We don’t fight over it as we immediately adapted to a take-turns system.

Still dumping. I’ve sat here for about 40 minutes. Thanks for keeping me company.  Things have been chaotic around my house, I’ve been so stressed out – new weight loss plan Girls! Worry! I’ve lost six pounds, and my hair line is headed due North, but I think I see a light at the end  of the tunnel. 

I’ll keep you posted!

 

 

 

 

 

Tempers flare in the garden

Every day I watch a hummingbird and a bumblebee go a few rounds over my flower patch.

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Bumblebee is crazy for these yellow mullein flowers.

Both of these tiny creatures are very protective of their favorite dining spots. Bumblebee will give you a fierce buzzing if you get too close to the mullein, the holly hocks or the honeysuckle. She looks ungainly pulling her big furry butt up to these dainty blossoms, and the stalk bends forwards as she tugs on the petals with her impractical looking legs, but she comes faithfully every day. She quickly cleans the centers of these mullein flowers, moving through a patch within a few seconds, then off she goes! 

I’ve never seen Hummer pay attention to these flowers unless Bumblebee was busy working them. He seems to have it in for Bumblebee, whizzing around her butt as she tries to scrape all the pollen off the bright pink centers. She responds with her ferocious buzzing, like an old school teacher rattling her ruler, but she’s no match for his speed. He whizzes away, waits for her to get busy again, and zooms in.  Eventually she seems to get so flustered, she heads for her little nest, somewhere behind our house.  She is always heavily laden with pollen, I don’t know how she can achieve flight with those teeny wings.

Hummingbird does same when Bee is working the honeysuckle along the driveway. These are too small to approach from the open end, so she inserts her sharp tongue at the base of the flower and you can see her sucking out the sugary nectar. Such a pastoral scene, a campesino working her orchard. And then here comes Hummer – WHOOSH! – and she spins in fury, taking up a quick chase as he disappears around the corner of the garage. Flustered she resumes her work, only to find him at her rear a few minutes later. I’ve never seen Hummer eating from the honeysuckle vines either, he only seems to appear when Bumblebee is at her task.

But  today two of Hummer’s favorite flowers opened. 

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Hummer is crazy for these pink powder puff flowers.

The pink powder puff tree hangs over the flower garden.  Yesterday a single blossom was visible and today about a third of the tree is covered with the fluffy flowers. This tree drives Hummer nuts, he acts like that crazy guy at the end of the bar – Are you looking at me!?!  Forget Bumblebee, he starts fighting with butterflies, who also come around in droves for this tree.  In years past he’s chased away many competitors of his own species, it seems no powder puff tree is big enough for everybody.

Down below, among the fever few and mullein flowers, is another of Hummer’s favorite treats.

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These blue sage flowers are ultraviolet and especially visible to Hummer’s beady little eyeballs.

Whipple gave me the blue sage – selvia – and it’s really taking off in the hot sun.  It lives well within the fever few, which seems to shelter and shade the roots. The stalks came popping up a week or so ago, and now the flowers are forming and opening, that incredible blue really sticks out on the landscape.

Whipple said he quit planting these in his yard because he noticed a neighbor’s cat had taken up a post in his flower bed, and had killed a few hummers before he realized what was going on. The tiny birds are so crazy for these flowers, they don’t seem to have any sense.

Sheesh, Nature is so violent! 

 

 

 

 

 

Motherhood is a good gig!

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Here’s Old Mother Cactus and her children and grandchildren.   Those furry nodules to the upper right will hopefully bust into striking pink flowers before too long.

My succulents took a beating this past Winter, but my spiny flowering cactus seem to be happier than ever. They are reproducing so fast I can’t find pots for all their offspring, and most of them have two or more flower buds swelling with promise.

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This is a variety of aloe vera known as “Alligator” – I get it! Not only do the leaves remind me of snapping jaws but the flower spears resemble baby gators.

I’ve got sap from these alligator aloe before, they’re just not as juicy as their cousin. They are more hardy, taking to the bright open sun. I’ve been spreading these along my rock walls, in out of the way spots – they make a good ground cover, treated with the proper respect.

Speaking of the garden.

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Here’s our tomato nursery – the bigger plants are from the box store. I’ve transplanted them from their original sixpack containers and they are ready to go in the ground now. I planted the smaller ones from seeds we got from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, and I’ve started to put them into the sixpack containers left from the box store plants.

Last year my kids got me this cute little plastic tray with teeny tiny cups for planting seeds. It sits in another tray, and came with a lid, which I did not need.  It was supposed to be disposable, but I’m careful with it and I will  use it again next year. 

Baker Creek is a very reliable source of seeds – almost every one I planted sprouted.  Of course we love the Best Boys and Early Girls we get a Home Depot – they produce a lot, all Summer. Some of the heirloom varieties – like the beautiful Indigo Apple – produce a lot of fruit. Others produce small quantities of really good, big fruit.

https://worldofjuanita.com/2016/07/17/think-i-can-fill-my-empty-nest-with-tomatoes/

The Hungarian Heart  and the Carbon produced big, sweet, meaty tomatoes, weighing in at over a pound each. I don’t know if I got a dozen fruit between the two of them, so this year I’ve made sure to plant about a dozen seeds each, and the little plants are growing really well. 

Of course our tractor is on the fritz – we bought a used Kuboda tractor, a tiny backyard model, from a friend of ours about 10 years ago. It’s been great, but the last couple of Springs we’ve held our breath as my husband has jimmied the ignition switch. This year it won’t start, so we’re digging beds by hand and waiting to borrow our friend Wooton’s little rototiller. 

Luckily we still have about a dozen pints of tomato sauce in the freezer. Last night my younger son came home from college and we sat down to homemade pasta, meatballs, and sauce from last year’s garden. 

It’s good to be a mother. 

 

 

The cavalry arrives – with a little encouragement, flowers will push out the weeds

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Finally, the flowers are starting to outnumber the weeds in my dooryard.

Feverfew is a wonderful plant, drought tolerant, self-seeding, and very pretty with a bittersweet odor. It’s used in natural remedies for allergies, headaches and skin problems. If you cut a sprig just as the flowers are opening and put it in a big vase or jar with cold water, it makes very nice arrangements.

It’s a great weed block, and when you don’t want it anymore, it’s easy to yank out. It does start to look a little frowsy toward mid-Summer when the heat really starts to set in.  

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Lately I find echinacea is pretty good at self-seeding.

As I pulled weeds from my yard I left the feverfew and other little plants. I was really surprised to find a bunch of little echinacea plants.

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I thought echinacea were so delicious to every bug in the county – and you can see, this one’s been nibbled – that I would never have planted seeds directly in the ground.

Altogether I’ve found five little plants that sowed themselves, and I just sprinkle a little water on them as I water the trees,  and there they are. Of course the ones I have in pots are big and lush.

 

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My container echinacea are happy as hell, as long as they get water every day. I wash out my compost bucket from the dog’s dish and dump it in there. Nutrient rich!

I planted some bigger plants in the ground last year, they are nestled into the feverfew.  They are one of gopher’s favorites, I keep a sharp eye for his tunnels.

When we bought this place, we planted fruit trees. Most of them turned out well – some were duds!

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Did you know, some fruit trees are only ornamental? We didn’t realize – this pomegranate tree is only for looks, it will never bear fruit.

Oh well, the flowers look like Spanish dancers, and if I cut them as they are opening, they make incredible arrangements with the feverfew.

We got those weeds on the run!  

 

North Wind sucks the moisture out of everything – a little bit of aloe vera can bring it back!

We’ve been having the worst North wind, dry and irritating, tearing new branches and buds off shrubs and trees, and sucking the moisture out of the ground. All that rain we had – you’d never know it now.

Yesterday I noticed, it had torn several branches of new grapes off the vines, and an entire branch of pretty orange blossoms off the flowering vine my friend gave us.

And it’s blowing all that grass pollen around – eek! My neighbor threw up her hands and quit mowing her back acre – it waves at me from outside my windows. I call it, “The Pollen Nation.”

My grandma used to suffer this time of year, a Kleenex tucked into the band of her watch, her hair sticking out like a fright wig.  We kids didn’t get it – now I get it. Every time I do chores outside I feel like my brains have been sandblasted. I wander into the house feeling completely disoriented – I do exactly what my grandma did, I make a cup of steaming coffee, and I hold it under my nose.

My husband has been working on our house for sale. He found out stucco is really easy to use, so he’s been patching cracks and holes in the old siding. He and my son also went around checking for rot, removing and repairing trim and window sills that were getting crappy. That, of course, required re-painting, and when the repainted items didn’t match the rest of the trim, they went around and painted everything. I thought it would never end. While they were painting, my husband noticed the hail storms had damaged a section of shingles on the roof, so he dug the leftover shingles out of the shop and went about replacing the damaged ones.

He’s been out in the North Wind and the sun, and he’s looking pretty beat up, despite long sleeves, a hat, and plenty of sunscreen.

So we’ve both been using a lot of aloe vera. It’s been tough – my plants took a hit during a couple of prolonged cold streaks last Winter, and then a good pummeling from a couple of hail storms later in Spring.

This pot was just outside the protection of the patio cover during that last hail storm.

I kept them wrapped in the green house during the cold snaps, but the green house doesn’t get any sun in Winter, and I’m too cheap to get lights in there, so I finally moved most of them back to the front porch.  They didn’t like the rain, and the hail storms left the plants around the edge of the porch  bruised and broken. They tend to mold  when they get too wet, so I’ve had to trim them extensively. It looked like there wasn’t much left of them a month ago, but we pinch away at them anyway, looking for relief from itchy skin.

This is my “nursery” where I put the babies I’ve thinned out of the bigger pots.  See where I’ve trimmed off leaves, the remaining leaf gets big and fat and keeps growing.

Somehow they keep growing, the warming weather is good for them, they are getting new leaves.  They don’t like direct, hot sun, but they like bright indirect light. The sun moves a little farther that way every day, they seem to be responding.

I used a stick to loosen up the soaking wet dirt in the pots, and that really seemed to help.

Trimming them actually seems to help. I leave a couple of inches at the bottom of the leaf, and that seems to fatten up and keep growing.

Both my kids took plants and are glad to get them. My older son got a sunburn from painting the old house, and had trimmed his plant so extensively he had to ask me for more, but reports the trimming he gave it has made it grow bigger and fatter.  My younger son took a plant off to college, he says he and his girlfriend take leaves regularly for chapped hands and face, and the plant is flourishing. So, today I am going to take a paring knife and cut back all the wilty leaves, thin small  plants out of the bigger pots, etc.

It’s a cluttered little rag tag garden, most of the plants in old plastic  pots from various plants we’ve bought at the nursery. They seem to like plastic pots the best, they don’t do so good in terracotta.

Have you noticed how expensive the bottled sap is at the store? And plants are getting pretty expensive too – a big aloe vera will sell for $50 to $100 at the big box stores. It’s better to look for small plants at the grocery store or farmer’s market, and start your own garden. 

Organic, hand filleted, these small leaves will yield about a teaspoon of sap. I just scrape it out with the back of the knife, right into my smoothie.

Or, I rub the split leaf on my skin.  It provides immediate relief, and dries without leaving any sticky feeling. I don’t like hand lotion because it only works if you leave it on for prolonged periods, and reapply every time you wash your hands. Aloe works immediately – you can wash it off five minutes later but you still got the benefit of using it. And there’s no smell, you can eat with those hands and not taste perfume.

Looking out my window, I think that North wind has finally passed. May is looking good! 

 

 

 

Mow, burn, pull that weed!

Yesterday I stood in my yard, sun shining warm on my head, rain drops sprinkling across my face.   This is absolutely fantastic weather for growing just about every variety of weed.

Just what is a “weed”? For some people, it’s a plant they didn’t put in, or plants that grow where they don’t want them to grow. 

Oh yeah, I got weeds.

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Whenever the weather dries out a little my husband is behind the mower.

The pollen coming off this yard is a health hazard.

So my husband mows and whacks, and I pull and burn. But Nature is having a big laugh on us – we can only work so many hours a day,  the weeds grow and grow, 24-7.

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Here’s where I dump the weeds I pull from along fence lines and flower beds.

Part of my solution is philosophical – I have learned to accept some weeds as harmless, even pretty.   They don’t make stickers or copious amounts of pollen, and they thrive with nothing but sun and rain water.

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This is “dock” – my grandpa showed me how to squeeze the sap from these plants to soothe the welts from stinging nettles.

Dock is really invasive, if you don’t want it to take over your yard, you need to look for it when it’s small and either pull it out by the roots or burn it out with the torch. This plant was in a nice spot, so I let it go. It stands over my head now, it’s very pretty. In Fall it will turn purple-red. It is actually a popular herb for skin solutions, shampoos, and other natural products. This blogger says it has the same dietary benefits as spinach, kale, and other leafy greens.

http://returntonature.us/stalking-the-curly-dock-rumex-crispus/

Another of my favorite weeds is mullein. There are two kinds that grow in my yard, this big furry leaf variety, and a smaller variety with shiny leaves and bigger flowers. 

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This plant has shot up to over a foot during these rain showers we’ve been enjoying.

These furry leaf mullein get to be very big – our biggest was over 9 feet, and Whipple claims he has had bigger ones. They get a tall stalk with lots of tiny yellow flowers, as the stalk grows taller, more flowers. Mullein is believed to have fairly strong antiseptic properties and you’ll find it in tinctures and salves down at Chico Natural or S&S. 

The bees love it. When the flowers are done, they turn into hard little seed balls. The tiny Downy woodpeckers come over and peck them open, eat the teeny tiny seeds.  They look so elegant, we don’t pull or cut them until late Fall.  Sometimes you can cut the dead stalk and the plant will grow another in Spring.

I sit here in the morning trying to plan my day – I can hear them growing out there right now.

 

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Mow me down!