Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Our First Crop!!!!!

It consists of two tomatoes!!!  I'm so excited I could pee!!!  Ok, maybe not that excited.

Yes, they're small.  Yes, there are only two.  But, I couldn't care less.  Roma tomatoes.  We cut them up and put them on some chicken taco's tonight.  And, they tasted like the most tomatoey tomatoes I've ever had.

Now, the plant itself on the other hand...

I expected it to be, well, bigger.  It has about a dozen tomatoes on it, but the cage is so damn big, I thought this thing would be a monster.  Maybe it's still early in the season.  I give it fish emulsion every two weeks.  That's all it gets, so I don't know if I should be giving it more.  I'll stick with that schedule over the summer and see what happens.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Drip Irrigation Retrofit

This past weekend, we began retrofitting the back planter sprinkler system.  I order much of my stuff through The Drip Store (I'm going to get free crap if it kills me).  They have an excellent tutorial you can download and their customer service has been quite helpful in answering my questions.  I must note, that I do not get anything from them and, honestly, they probably don't even know I exist.  I just found their tutorial and starter kits to be very helpful.

Now, the previous homeowner, whom I am related to, did a fantastic job in the irrigation system.  Everything in all 10,000 square feet is covered with overhead sprayers on eight valves and it works flawlessly.  That is a HUGE advantage we have.  We simply want to change over to a drip system.  However, we don't want to be digging up the yard in order to do so.  Hence, the retrofitting.

In order to retrofit an existing system, you need four pieces per sprinkler head you wish to use, in addition to the hose itself.  We'll cover that in a future post.  No use shooting our wad all at once.  From left to right is a 90 (imagine a little degree sign here, as I have no idea where in the hell that is on the keyboard) elbow connector.  This piece is fitted to the riser.  We'll get to that later.  Next is the 25 psi pressure regulator.  The pressure regulator is very important and is dependent on the hose and fittings you are going to use.  Both of those should display what the recommended psi is.  This is the hose connector.  The 1/2" black hose is inserted into the slip end and is held in place with pressure alone.  Next, no shown, is the hose.  Last, on the right, is the plug which goes at the far end of the hose.  Otherwise, water would gush out all over the place and that would be idiotic.  Held in place just through pressure alone.

Sprinkler head.  We've all seen one.

Insert riser.  I buy the adjustable risers where you can cut off the sections you don't need.  I try to get the top to be right at ground level to hide it as best as possible.  You can put this system completely underground, but it makes maintenance difficult.

There are three of the four pieces in order from left to right as noted above.  The 90 (imagine degree sign) elbow, pressure regulator and connector.  I use plumbers tape in all the joints just to be safe.  I have found they occasionally leak.  I find this out when there is a massive mound of weeds growing around your retrofit.  And, they are normally the prickliest damn weeds on the planet.  Guaranteed.

Here is the hose running down the back of the planter box.  We can probably handle anywhere from 12 to 20 plants from this one line, depending on the size.  Some of the larger plants, like the Lion's Tail we just purchased which will be in a future post (I know you're just giddy with excitement!!) will take two emitters.  So, I guess I should have just said it will handle about 20 emitters.  Christ, sometimes I can't keep up with myself.

Hold on, we're not done.  Lastly, you need to plug the sprinkler heads that won't be used.  Here we will probably be able to block three heads for every one we use.  That will remove 12 heads and replace with three or four drip lines.  As I have said previously, the County of San Bernardino charges for a minimum amount of water, whether used or not.  Our goal is to always stay below that, even with the lawn.  If I'm paying for it, I'm going to use it.  If they lower the allotment, I'll lower my usage.  Now, who needs a cocktail?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sunday Planting

We finally got some plants into the ground today.  Just a few of our recent acquisitions.  With the early morning departure of the Three Lions (England, by the way), that has suddenly freed my calendar for gardening and other assorted forms of debauchery.  We planted a row of Impatients today.

Actually, Bubba did most of the Impatient planting.  I was inside putting the baby down for a nap, no, I was not getting a drink, and when I came out he had eight of the ten in the ground, already.  Look at him go.

We did a row of orange and white interspersed along one edge of the lawn.  I have no idea how big these things get, so I'm hoping our eyeballing of proper spacing allows them to be shoulder to shoulder.  If not, it was the boy's fault.  Alright, alright, I told him where to put them.  Simmer down, people.

We also got the daylillies from yesterday's post in.  I think I need to wait until the evening for the pictures, as with summer approaching the daytime sun is rather harsh.  I give it 50/50 I actually remember to wait.

We did have some other plants that went in, but that will be for a future post.  In the meantime, I leave you with a "Fun with Duct Tape" moment.

Yes, it's a hang glider.  Made of duct tape.  Damn Mythbusters.  Look them up.  I need to start a blog just with the crazy ass stuff this kid does.  Until next time...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Recent Acquisitions

It has been a long week.  Between marble filled children, football and the a-holes at the Securities and Exchange Commission, there has been precious little gardening time.  Never fear, with the elimination of the US this morning, I am now down to one team to root for.  Come on, England!!!!  I do want it noted that a Tottenham striker, not that useless United striker, propelled England out of the group.  I'm just saying...

Anyway, back to the task at hand.  Picked up a few plants this afternoon, since I had run out of booze at noon, which surprisingly opens up one's day.  We picked up a couple of daylillies to go in the front yard.

Hemerocallis Purple Galaxy.

Hemerocallis Velvet Red

The flowers are from the end of the day, but they still don't look too bad.  We'll be getting them in the ground tomorrow, along with some of the other items we picked up.  After England and Germany, of course.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Big Game Tomorrow

Tomorrow morning, 7 am PDT (or is it PST, I never remember).  The United States takes on Algeria at the same time England go up against Slovenia.  Very simple, really, if the US wins, we go to the knockout rounds.  Lose, and we come home.  Tie and we wait for the announcers to tell us.  Really, I do know, I just don't have that much time.

For England (my second favorite national side), the situation is the same.  Win and they're in, lose and they head back to Heathrow, tie and math is involved.  Everybody keep your fingers crossed!!

Monday, June 21, 2010

What is This?

No, really, what in the hell is it?  It was here when we got here.  It dies back every year and comes back again in the spring.  It just got going, otherwise, it would be in full bloom.  Speaking of blooms...

That's what one of the blooms looks like after it's gotten itself going.  They end up pink like this, but start like this...

Notice the blooms are slightly purple.  That's how the start before turning pink.

I just have no idea what it is.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to all the dad's out there.  Go plant something.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Thinning Onions

I think the onions need to be thinned.  I would read the package, but that was lost long ago.

I'm not sure at what point to actually thin them.  I'm going to wait until some look like they resemble a green onion and then give them a yank.  I'll probably leave them about three inches apart.  That pot is not very big, I think it's maybe a foot across.  I'm just shocked the damn things grew.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I'm at a Loss...Again

I think I put them in upside down.  Apparently, there was a top and a bottom.  They looked like pieces of straw at the time with no discernible right-side or wrong-side.

These were the three daylillies from a previous post.  Only one has sprouted.  I dug up the other two to see if there was any sign of greenness, but no.  Now, the one that survived sprung up way over to one side, which is why I'm thinking they went in upside down.  Crap, there's another weed in the picture.  I think I need to take a photography class and study "staging"; primarily, as it applies to the absence of weeds.

I'm not sure which daylilly this is, so it is a little exciting anticipating which it will be.  I did notice there is a second sprout, which is barely visible from the living pot.  In hindsight, I'm thinking I may have put two in one pot.  Twice the fun, I say!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Dog Days of Summer and Poo Watch!!

It's been a very trying week here at Castle Turling.  Especially, for my son.  Last Wednesday was the last day of school.  That afternoon, he came down with some type of virus that affected his stomach.  Let's just say there was a lot of mopping going on here in the Castle.  All over the weekend, the poor lad fought the infection.  Then, yesterday, our in-laws Beagle, whom my son has been with since the day my son was born, was hit by a car and killed.  Last night was not a pleasant night.  It was the first time my son and I sat and cried together.  I've never felt so bad for him before.  It was not the best way to start summer vacation.

We'll miss you Winston the Dog.

As if that wasn't enough, the other child, Banana, decided last Thursday, when my son didn't find a piece of food he actually wished to keep in his stomach, that it would be a good day to eat a...marble.  Needless to say, there was pandemonium here at the Castle.  My lovely wife was in the shower when my son burst into the room screaming that Banana was choking.  My wife sprung into action and ran downstairs to a baby who was turning blue.  Needless to say, a fruitless car drive, a call to 911, an ambulance ride and several x-ray's later, my wonderful daughter is the proud owner of some miscellaneous round object in her gut.  Now, the poo watch.  We get the joy of sifting through dirty diapers looking for the marble.  None, yet.  A return to the doctor today revealed the marble has only moved slightly, but at least it has moved.  That's a good sign.  Don't worry, I don't have any pictures of the dirty diapers.  No need to turn away.

There was some house work, though, that got completed amongst the chaos.  I'm building a built in cabinet for a downstairs closet.  This will become my wife's workstation for her scrapbooking and a place where the kids can do their homework.  We got the center section stained and polyurethaned this weekend.

This center section of cabinets is going to go between the two side towers of shelves below.

Well, that's a crooked little picture.  I'm thinking the tripod may begin to come in handy.  The center cabinet will go between the top two shelves of the two towers.  Once that's completed, four drawers will be built for the four gaping holes in the bottom two cabinets supporting the desk top.  After that...trim work.  Never a dull moment on the homestead.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


Thanks to Robert Green, England's keeper, the USA drew against England.  The lads played very well, and were a mere inches from snatching victory from a later Jozy Altidore shot, but were able to get a draw thanks to an absolute blunder from England's keeper against a very tame shot on target from the USA's Clint Dempsey.  The shot was so tame for that matter, that I believe US coach Bob Bradley missed it, having turned away expecting a simple collection from the English net minder.  No matter, the draw was a spectacular result for the US.

This should set us up very well to make it out of the group stages.  I do still believe we will finish second due to one of two scenarios:

1)  England will beat both Slovenia and Algeria, while the United States will win and draw against the same two opponents,


2)  England and the US will both win their next two games, but, England will win on superior goal differential.  The Three Lions are much more inclined to go for the jugular then the US, so they will pound both Slovenia and Algeria, while the US will merely win.

Either way, congratulations to Clint Dempsey and the boys for a job well done.  Now, I must go and pull some weeds.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Day Off. World Cup. Enough Said.

Tomorrow, the World Cup moves into the second day, with the United States of America taking on England.  There will be no gardening tomorrow.  There will be football.

I do not expect the boys from the US of A to win.  A draw would be a spectacular result.  If (when?) we do lose, I hope it's only by a goal or two, as goal differential is the first tie breaker.  Over the next couple of weeks, we take on Algeria and Slovenia, two teams we should be able to beat.

Now, before anyone screams "UN-AMERICAN!" this is football.  This is reality.  There are no false hopes and winning the World Cup is not the ultimate goal.  This is NOT the National Football League, where the rules are rigged to, at some point, make all teams equal.  There will be teams that will NEVER win.  I don't think the US is one of those.  We will win the World Cup.  Someday.  There are teams that will win consistently, such as the homelands of my ancestors, England and Germany (that made for fun family years in the early 20th century), as well as Brazil and Argentina.  Hopefully, we'll be amongst those.  Someday.

A good result in this World Cup will be to finish second behind England in our group (there are four teams) and then put on a good showing against Germany, our likely second round opponent.  We outplayed Germany in the 2002 quarterfinals, but lost.  Ce la vie.

As you will hopefully remember, I went on a multi-day drinking binge when my beloved Tottenham Hotspur finished fourth.  Fourth, people.  F-ing spectacular the lads were.  Championships are hoped for, but not expected.

England currently has five Spurs playing out of the 23 man roster.  As I tell my friend Pete (he's Irish and a Liverpool fan, but we still like him), Spurs are going to win the World Cup.  Write that down.


When we moved into this house, there was a Wisteria vine that was attached to one of the two patio covers we have.  For two years now, we have attempted to remove this vine, but with no luck.  I do not like things growing on the house.  Weakens the structure and causes problems.  Pergola away from the house?  Grow little vines, like you've never grown before.  As with most things in life, I know when to change my tune.  This is one of those times.

We have decided to allow the Wisteria to return to its normal perch on one of the patio covers.  I took a piece of scrap wood and leaned it against the patio cover to give the vine something to adhere to.  Yes, those are stilts in the background, designed and built by a seven year old, who is pretty damn good on them.

The one disappointment is that the Wisteria was close to 10 years old, I believe, when we took it out and had quite a bit of character to it.  Now, we'll be starting over.  Keep in mind the "Greenhorn" portion of this blog.  We all learn from our mistakes.  And, no Greenhorn is not referring to a venereal disease.  Remember the gutter people.  We're from America, different meaning.

This is the patio cover it will eventually cover.

In the past, the vine has completely covered this patio cover by the end of the summer.  We'll need to be sure to keep it trimmed to keep it from grabbing onto the house.  In the meantime, lesson learned.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Garden Gate.

After installing the basic requirements of the vegetable garden (please refer to yesterday's post), I decided it was probably a good idea to build something to keep the riff-raff out.  Then I decided, since I am the riff-raff, I should probably build something the riff-raff can go through, but the rabbits can't.  Or eventually can't, as there are still a couple of items to put on.  The vegetable garden gate has finally been mounted.  Not that kind of mounted, get your mind out of the gutter, my mother reads this blog.

What I would like to do is go through the steps of building a very simple gate.  I do love woodworking and need to have some excuse to bring it into the light, so bear with me.  I built the gate out of redwood.  Not redwood from old growth forests that tree huggers were chained to, but the crappy stuff on farms that is forced to grow too quickly.  I began by making a simple square that is a little more than an inch smaller then the opening it is meant to go into.  That should leave me, roughly, half an inch on either side, which should be enough to keep vermin from squeezing through.  The MOST important thing when building the gate is keeping it square.  There is nothing more frustrating then dealing with items that are not square.  Might as well take up drinking.  No, that's not why I do.  Keep up, now.

The clamps were put in place in order to keep the gate square, meaning each corner is a true 90 degrees. Now, notice there are two screws at each corner of the bottom rail.  Whenever you fasten into end grain, which is the end of the stiles (pieces on the side), this creates a very weak joint.  Mechanical fasteners abhor end grain, like nature abhors a vacuum.  Therefore, we need to put in some bracing.

Simple scraps cut at a 45 degree angle in the corners.  This will allow the screws to be fastened through the sides of the lumber, which make for a significantly stronger joint.  (Yes, yes, yes, the lower right piece is a piece of firewood, as I didn't have enough redwood.  I'm cheap, remember?)

Now, at this point, I would like to point out something I have learned from experience.  If you need eight screws, do not buy eight screws.  Buy a box of screws.  It's only a couple of dollars more and you will inevitably need them for something else.  There is nothing more frustrating then spending $4 on gas to drive back to the hardware store to buy three more screws.  Keep them organized, and your life will be closer to fulfillment.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.  Once the gate is to this stage, the clamps can be removed and outside we go.

Since, my family went to Chuck E. Cheese (look it up), I was left on my own.  Yes, the house is still standing.  Therefore, I used a clamp to hold the gate in place with a spacer that is roughly half an inch to keep my spacing.  Now, at this point I would like to bring to your attention that if you are going to be doing this it is best to clamp it in place when you are on the hinge side of the gate.  Otherwise, you are climbing through that little hole to get to the hinge side.  Secondly, you will notice I put a small strip of wood on the ground underneath the gate to keep it off the path.  If there are nails in the scrap piece of wood, do not put them point side up.  Trust me on this, especially, if you have to crawl through the God forsaken hole.

Since your gate is stable, installing the hinges is straight forward.  Hold them where you want them and mark the holes.  I'm sure there is some scientific method to this, but I'm not Norm Abram.  After drilling pilot holes drive in the screws.  Do the same with some sort of latch contraption.

And, there you have it.  I need to do a little work this weekend lowering some of the pavers as the gate scrapes slightly, then I'll be able to place the same slats on the gate that are on the rest of the fence.  That should keep the vermin at bay.  I hope.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

We are Gardeners. We are Not Savages.

Inside the vegetable garden, I have installed the most technologically advanced item to ever enter a garden. Keep in mind, the vegetable garden is no where near complete.  There are no vegetables.  There are no plants.  There are no raised beds.  There are weeds, however.  There is also this.  What is it, both of you ask?  Well, it is simply the greatest invention of this century.  Great minds were consulted.  Weak minds were consulted.  Of course, the weak minds came up with this.  What is it?

We are gardeners.  We are not savages.  Don't live like one.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Balloons, Cub Scouts and Other Stuff

Well, maybe not so much other stuff, but this past weekend was filled with the Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival and my son's Cub Scout Soap Box Derby races.  Unfortunately, not much gardening got done and that seems to be becoming a theme.  But, not to worry, I have plenty in store for this week.  Oh, Christ, I'm becoming one of those bloggers.  The one's that just promise stuff.  Stay tuned!!

The Wine Festival occurs on the first weekend of June and we have been going for the past eight year's now.  This year, we were fortunate enough to get one of the campsites right outside the festival.  Make's the whole staggering process much easier only being a hop, skip and a jump from the entrance.  In case you were wondering, above is how a two year old spends her time at the festival.  Below, is how a two year old should spend the weekend.  I'm kidding, get off the phone to social services.  She was playing with the dog, for crying out loud.

The festival itself contained about two dozen of our local vineyards.  It did, surprisingly, seem a little smaller this year as far as vintner's went, but a good time was had.  When not drinking and being otherwise merry, the festivities include hot air balloons which are quite common in these parts.  The balloons take off early Saturday and Sunday morning along with passengers that have more money then sense.  I was on the ground with my coffee and camera.

At night, the venue changed to what is referred to as the glow.  About eight or so balloons are tethered down within the festival.  They then hit the flame causing the whole balloon to glow, hence the name.  Clever these Temecula people are with their naming.

Wonderful time at the festival.  If you're ever in the Southern California area during the first weekend of June, I highly recommend stopping by.

Next up, my son graduated from the first year of Cub Scouts.  He moved from being a Tiger to being a Wolf.  It's quite a lot of work these boys put into this, so it is quite an accomplishment.

There he is getting his certificate.  They had a little bridge that they crossed over, which quickly became a ramp and jumping contest.  Their seven, what do you expect.

I was going to imbed a video of his run, but for the life of me, I cannot figure out how to do that at this point.  So, you'll get a picture of Banana, and you can imagine her tearing down the hill.

All in all, a very fun filled and action packed weekend.  We'll return to our regular programming, momentarily.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

We're Back. And, the "Palm"

Well, we survived our excursion to Washington, DC.  I had a seminar to attend on SEC reporting, which was actually quite informative.  The folks at the SEC Institute put on a top notch event, should you be so inclined (or required) to attend.  While I was in my two day seminar, my lovely wife and son enjoyed a few of the many sites around our nation's capitol.  I, unfortunately, only got Saturday to drag them around to the sites I wanted to see.  With a seven year old, as I'm sure you gathered, stops at botanical gardens and arboretums are not on the agenda.  Aquariums, museums and anything involving the sale of ice cream top the list.

I would like to give a special thanks to The Elegantologist and ADG for their very helpful tips and recommendations.  I'm starting to realize all of you other blogging folks aren't such a bad lot, myself excluded, of course.

At this point, I must point out one thing that still irritates me.  Now, I do hate to dwell on the negative after a great getaway, especially when the entire rest of the trip was wonderful, but here three days later this still is under my skin.  On Saturday, we visited the American History Museum.  Just outside the museum, my son had purchased a small American flag on a stick.  One that probably every other country in the world sells.  When we here at Castle Turling secede from the Union and establish our own kingdom, even we will sell little flags on sticks.  Once my son (remember he's seven) walked three feet from the man selling the flags, he no longer wanted to carry it.  My wife then put the flag into her backpack, so the flag itself protruded out the top.  She looked like a tour guide.

Upon entering the museum, we had to go through security.  The guard, or officer, I'm not sure whom he worked for, told my wife that she had to roll the flag up and put it upside down into her backpack so only the stick stuck out.  When she, rightfully, asked why, she was told we didn't want to offend anyone.  WHAT????  ARE YOU F-ING KIDDING ME????  OFFEND ANYONE????  We're in the AMERICAN History Museum and we can't display an AMERICAN flag??  Want to know something...I'm offended!!!!!  If I were to walk into the British Museum, I would expect every single person to be carrying the Union Jack.  I reckon I could have carried that into the American History Museum.  Anyway, back to the task at hand.

For today, I want to talk about our, I believe, Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta).

This palm (ok, I understand it's not a palm and it's not a fern, it's a cycad, but if it walks like a duck, talks like a know where I'm going with this) is right at the front door.  It dominates the walkway that you can see a portion of in the lower right.  I really like this palm (shut up) and it seems to really like the spot.

However, if you'll notice at appears to have been hit with a samurai sword several times on it's right side.  Bear in mind, I did no such thing.  I have other uses for my samurai sword.  The issue is this:

What is that, you ask?  I'm guessing it's offspring.  Their are six of these growing around the base of the palm.  I was under the impression these plants are single trunk, so either ours is proving some Darwinian theory or I'm mistaken.  For the past couple of years, I have cut of the prawns from these little devils and the next year they sprout anew.  At this point, the cones are now starting to poke through, so I feel I'm at a crossroads.  Do I allow a seven headed monster, keep cutting the prawns or embark on some more drastic surgery.  I'm not sure how of if I should remove the children from the parent.  Maybe that's how I would propagate more?  Anyone?  Bueller?