Thursday, December 30, 2010

Somebody Was a VERY Good Boy This Year!!

I'm not sure who that was, but I'm sure somebody was.  There are 6 billion people in the world, 49% of them boys, so I'm using some basic statistical analysis, I figure three were good.  Therefore, my title is not misleading.  Oh, of course it is while referring to me.

Needless to are the goods...

Not the air hockey table.  That's for the other good boy in the family.  No, ladies and gentlepersons, the Beer Equipment Kit!!!  Five gallons of true bliss will be mine in four weeks following the day I gather the courage to actually brew something.  I give it until Saturday.  Damn the courage, this is beer people!!

Now, IG recommended How to Brew by John Palmer, which my lovely wife also obtained for me and I have since read nearly cover to cover.  Los Angeles to Phoenix, Arizona and back is a long drive, so I've had some time on my hands over the last few days.  This book is literally the bible he described.  That IG described, of course, for all I know John Palmer is a member of a satanic cult, so his bible would be completely different.  The books contains all sorts of charts and graphs and math and big, long words and other things I didn't understand.  It pretty much reads after chapter four as "blah, blah, blah, beer, blah, blah, blah, better beer" etc.  Not to knock the book, as I'm sure as I move along things will become more clear and I will refer to it consistently.  Thanks, IG.

I also got this:

Now, Big John Palmer (really, we're practically cousins now) doesn't recommend kits that say to add pounds of sugar, rather use a kit that contains multiple types of malt, or at least malt in place of sugar, which this does.  It contains both liquid and dry malt in addition to hops, which if you read my last post isn't going to be NEARLY enough, along with a bunch of bottle caps, dextrose (which has me concerned) and yeast.  Per Palmer's recommendation, I'm going to toss the yeast and go buy fresh yeast tomorrow.  Otherwise, I'm going to use everything else in the kit.

The other thing that shocked me was that a kit makes five gallons which is roughly 48 12 oz bottles.  That's a lot.  That's all of breakfast and part of lunch.  So, I decided to get started collecting bottles this morning.

Not bad for a light brunch, I say.  In the meantime I'll be sure to take lots and lots (read: 1) of pictures of our first batch this weekend.  IG can tell me everything I'm doing wrong.  Oh, and Kyna's Canadian so, she should know what to do simply through osmosis.

P.S.  I almost forgot, I haven't updated both of you on YOUR football team.  Tottenham has been spectacular recently.  Won our group in Champion's League and drew AC Milan in the knockout round starting February.  Also, we beat Aston Villa and Newcastle on Boxing Day and 48 hours later to be sitting fifth in the table, only two points behind the Evil Empire (aka Chelsea).  Now, if we can hold on to Bale and Modric through the January transfer window and find a central defender capable of playing more often then once a month we'll be in business!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bless His Heart

Our fence blew down during some Santa Ana winds several weeks back.  Our neighbor, God love him, went out there to repair it.  The other day, after six solid days of rain (unheard of in Southern California), I came home and it had fallen over again.  Apparently, this is how he repaired it:

Yes, that's a door latch nailed to the piece of wood that split off from the post.  I just had to stand and stare for a moment.  It's an inch and a half long.  To hold up 100 pounds of fence.  Yea, didn't work.

I took two pieces of 18 long walnut I had left over and propped it back up.  Looks like Turling Castle gets a new fence come spring.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

I. Love. This. Beer.

Stone Double Bastard Ale.  Go buy some.  Now.  I'll wait.....

This is the most bitter, hoppiest beer I have ever had, and it's delicious.  Feel free to use it as a meal substitute.  Let me put it this way, when my wife took a sip she said, "holy shit, how do you drink that?!?" I consider that to be 9 out of 10 stars.

Stone Brewing is a San Diego, California based brewer.  I consider that local.  They are 83.4 miles from my house, so thank all that is good and holy should I ever do the 100 mile challenge (only eating things within 100 miles of our home), this would still qualify.  Whew!  Even if it didn't, I would ask for an exemption.  They have been around since 1996 and are still growing.  They are still considered a craft brewer, though.  Meaning, you may not be able to get their stuff in other parts of the US, and if that's the case let's go with other parts of the world being less likely.  I have read that they are planning on opening a European operation, so I'll be sure to keep everyone posted on that.

Now, some sites will go through this whole process of saying "it has citrus overtones with a little honey and some milkweed thrown in for good measure."  I smell it and smell beer.  So, you won't be getting smell from me.  I don't know who smells that type of stuff, but it's not me.

A friend of mine whom I, unfortunately, have not seen in quite a while because he moved back to Denmark is from, well, Denmark.  Now, I decided next to the English (this is a compliment so stick with me), the Danes are nearly as big a bunch of drunks.  In a good way.  I would consider Americans drunks, but we seem to get drunk on flavorless beer.  Anyway, I have no idea where that was going, so I'm coming back to my buddy L.  When he was here, we would head out to the local brewhouse after work and the man always insisted that the head of a beer needs to be two fingers high.  Of course, I started in with "Natalie Portman fingers or Andre' the Giant fingers", because, yes, I'm that prick.  Anyway, he usually responded with some Yankee comment which ended my portion of the discussion.  Now, I have had several of these and, honestly, they have given nearly two fingers of head if poured properly.  So, on the "L" scale, I give this 8 out of 10.  As I'm typing, I'm coming up with some type of scale which will hopefully all come together at the end.

Ok, so we have taste...sight...smell we disregard, because it's overrated...let's have an all encompassing type one.  Ready??  The "how many more would I drink RIGHT NOW scale".  We'll call that the HMMWIDRN scale.  Ok, we'll come up with a different name later.  I was hoping that would spell something.

This scale needs to be realistic, as the normal answer would be "until I pass out."  So, how about this?  When I'm at a restaurant and order a beer, I would normally order a second beer at some point.  I have kids.  In a restaurant.  Parents understand.  So, I think this scale should be if I'm in a restaurant would I order this again or would I switch to something different, which happens more often then not.  This scale will then be the likelihood I would order a second of the same beer.  10 out of 10.  Hands down, no "if's", "and's" or "but's", that's the answer.  Now, let's add this up.  Christ, this is fun, I may have to do more of these.

Wife scale:  9 out of 10
L Scale:  8 out of 10
HMMWIDRN scale:  10 out of 10

Now...math.  I think that's 9 out of 10 overall, which I think is fair.  We can't start this with a perfect score, that wouldn't be sporting.  And, no, I don't think ALL beer is fantastic...ok, yes I do, but I don't think ALL beer is a 9 out of 10.  Give me a fruit beer and you'll be lucky to get above a 2.

Alright, we're done here.  Now, go plant something.  Might I recommend some hops?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Rodents are F-ing up My Day!!!

Damn rodents.  And, no, not the gopher this time.  Although, it's still a son of a bitch.  However, it seems to have vacated as we threatened it with the new contraption and then said we'd throw good ol' medieval at it for shits and giggles!  And eat it!!  That seems to have done the trick.

No.  These are cousins, I believe, although I'm not sure what rodents they are.  Rats, is what I'm guessing.  Maybe opossums, but I think those are too big.  Anyway, came home from work today and was planning on enjoying (and reviewing!) a proper beverage.  When I got home, I decided to first fire up the old Scout, as she hasn't been driven in a while and the last time I started her she, well, didn't start.  It was pouring down rain at the time, and she doesn't like being soggy, so I chalked it up to that.  Today, she fired right up.  Atta girl!  Went for a drive around the block, please all take note I did this BEFORE embarking on the proper beverage.  That's called planning.  Make a note.

So, we come on back home and she's making a slight knocking sound that she normally makes when the oil gets a little low.  She leaks oil like it was going out of style.  So, I popped the hood and Sweet Jesus to Betsy the engine's smoking!!!!!  So, I of course froze, because I find sometimes procrastinating for a moment works out for you.  And, it did.  Rather then have some sort of breakdown and run for a fire extinguisher and all the mess it causes I stared at it...and said...that smells like shit.  The old Scout doesn't normally smell like shit.  Exhaust...yes.  Gasoline...yes.  Oil...yes.  so I took a closer look and found this:

And this:

My engine is covered in feces!!!  Sons of..............blahhhhh!!!!!!  Obviously, some vermin decided to use the warm engine as a home.  As I'm typing, I don't think it was rats.  I did a pretty thorough examination of everything and none of the rubber has been chewed on.  Also, you can see the white fur in there, which is quite fine, so I'm thinking something was trying to nest.  I also found some partially eaten olives on top of the starter.  I think opossums are too big to fit in there, as there really isn't much space.  Maybe I should set a rat trap in there and see what I get.  In the meantime, I cut into my planned beer drinking to clean up rat shit.  So, you'll have to wait for the beverage review.  Try and contain your disappointment.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

There are 24 Hours in a Day

This, I believe, is a universal truth.  Well, maybe an earthly truth, as there are probably more hours in a day on, say, Jupiter.  Therefore, one good thing to come out of this post is that I'm glad I don't live on Jupiter.  I already waste a good chunk of the day, there it would just be worse.

Most people spend 8 hours a day at work.  Throw in lunch, commuting, showering before, etc and we can probably tack another, say, three hours on that.  So, were up to 11.  I think, someone check my math.  Sleeping should be 8, but I think most people get 6, so let's call it 7.  We're up to 18, yes?  Damn, now subtraction.  Eighteen (notice I didn't start the sentence with a number, look at me go) from 24 (I have no idea of mixing digits and numbers spellt out is acceptable or not, try and keep up, though, this is going somewhere) and we're left with 6.  Six hours.  Per day.  That's ours.  Notice I'm concentrating on the work week here, as weekends are a whole different story.

Six.  This is where I fall down.  I'm guessing the same holds true for a lot of people.  Two thirds of a workday.  Wait...three quarters of a workday.  What do you get accomplished?  Chores?  The next great novel?  Retiling your bathroom?  Probably not.  Me, neither.  Unfortunately, most people probably get caught up on Law & Order reruns.  And, that's sad.

I don't do well at night, which is when my six hours of freedom occurs.  I've never been much of a night person.  And, now that daylight savings has ended, it's dark by the time I've served my daily pennance, so I just want to go home and get into my pajama's.  But, that sucks.  That has to change.  Now.

So, this week I have told myself that at least one night I need to work on something.  Not get something accomplished, as that may be an unrealistic goal.  Just get off the couch and go do something. 

What, you ask?

Something that gets me further along to where I want to be.  Maybe it's packing up more stuff to be donated/sold/trashed.  Maybe it's working in my woodshop in the garage (that needs a lot of work).  But, just do something.  And, I think both of you should, too.  Pick something you've wanted to get accomplished and work on it during your six hours of freedom.  Even if it's only for a few minutes.

There is a famous Dutch woodcarver, Nora Hall.  So famous, you've probably never heard of her.  I have a feeling woodcarvers are famous to, well, other woodcarvers.  I saw an interview with her some time ago where she said something that really sticks with me.  She said, "practice carving everyday for 15 minutes."  That's it.  At least 15 minutes a day and the affects will be astounding.

Fifteen minutes.  I think I can carve that out of my 6 hours.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Weekend Chores

Quite exciting weekend in that some gardening actually got accomplished.  Even more exciting since the word "Garden" is in the title of this blog.  I believe that's called a win-win.  I always like to throw in a bit of business terminology that makes my stomach turn.  Anyway, on to the gardening...

We got about halfway through trimming back the lavender.  It's the first time we've trimmed these, and they are coming up on year three.  They look a bit butchered, but I'm hopeful they bounce back.  We didn't touch the one's that are blooming, such as the one in the upper right of the picture above.  We'll hit the second half next weekend.

As you can see, the 13 or so lavender have kind of grown into one large mound of plant.  Which, of course, was the point.  I love it when a plan comes together.  Especially, because it happens so seldom.  Not that it comes together, more that we actually have a plan.

Next up was something I have been concerned with for some time.  The trimming of the olive tree.

Of course, I didn't take a picture of it before I trimmed it.  Remember the whole "we rarely have a plan" comment?  This would fall into that category.  (Actually, fine reader, you really should substitute the "we" with "me" or "I", as my lovely wife always has a plan.  I just stumble along.)  Here is a picture of the olive from a few months back:

As you can see, it was really more of a bush.  Now, it's more like a tree bush.  I hacked off about the bottom two feet.  Next year, we'll hack off a little bit more, and then it should really look like a tree.

In the meantime, let's all light a candle and hope it doesn't die.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Oh, Crap

I had turned comments off.  Sorry about that.  I'm an idiot.  Or, at least that's what I'm going with as to why no one commented on anything.  Not, that I'm an idiot, but that I turned the comments off.  I've always been an idiot and people still commented.  Even the Idiot

Anyway, I think all is fixed, so go plant something.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Olive Harvest 2010

Saturday we headed out to the front 40 (not acres, mind you, more like square feet) for our very first olive harvest.  Now, we only have one tree, so let's not make this out to more then it is, but it was still quite exciting as it was the first thing we've ever really harvested.  I don't consider the occasional tomato or the instantaneous eating of a somewhat red strawberry by my son to be a harvest.  So, here we were:

Kiki hunting for olives.  She did pretty well, once she understood we didn't want the ones on the ground.

My son really got into it.  Especially, when he figured out he would need a ladder.  That was great fun.

We still have no idea what kind of olives these are.  So, we're sticking with "black".  We harvested these fairly late, December 4th, so nearly all of them were black.  And, when I say nearly I mean 99%.  From what I understand, olives can be harvested from September to December, with the greener olives providing a different flavor then the more mature black olives.  Whether or not this is correct with our unknown variety, I don't know.  Next year, we'll be noting on the calendar to harvest half in October and the other half around Thanksgiving.  That way, we'll compare the difference between harvesting at different times.

The pot is actually lower in the grass, so it looks like less, but according to the NASA-like accurate bathroom scale, we got around 8 pounds.  And, yes, I remembered to subtract the weight of the pot.

We did some research online as to the different ways to cure the olives.  Since, I didn't want to go out and buy anything exotic, meaning stuff that wasn't already in the pantry, we're curing the olives using two different methods.

Half of them we are curing in plain water.  Olives in, water in, that's it.  My father-in-law is doing the same with his olives and changing the water once a week.  I've read the water should be changed once a week and I've read it should be changed daily.  Being realists, we're going with the once a week approach.

The second half of the crop we're curing using a brine.  One quarter cup of salt to one quart of water.  That will also be renewed once a week.  Both of these methods should yield edible olives in three or four weeks.

Water bath on the right, and brine on the left.

Once we're done, my family will have a taste test and let both of you know how they turned out.  You see, I can't stand plain olives, so they will all taste terrible to me.  However, everyone else eats them like candy, so I'll leave the tasting to the experts.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Decluttering: Take One

I'm not sure decluttering is actually a word, but I think everyone gets the point.  We've decided to begin clearing out our crap.  No, not to make way for new crap, but to open up some space in the kitchen and our closets.  Something I find stressful is opening a cabinet and having to remove four items in order to get to the one item I need.  Drives me batshit crazy.

So, we are clearing out the crap we don't use so we can more easily get to the stuff we do use.  Later (notice the title "Take One") we'll decide if the kept stuff is required as well.  This will be a continuous process and already feels liberating.  Anyway, on to the goods!!

This barely makes a dent.  Anyway, the following is what the Salvation Army will be picking up Monday. And, yes, Mr. IRS Agent, this is my PROOF of my deduction.  (Sorry, I'm an accountant.  For now.)

2 End tables
4 Framed pictures
1 Toddler bed frame, toddler not included
2 Bags of clothes
24 pieces of dinnerware, plates and the like
1 set of mixing bowls
1 mini table top fountain thing
1 coffee maker
1 bread maker (makes crappy bread, but I don't think that affects my deduction any)
4 serving dishes
1 icee maker
1 laptop, hard drive scrubbed, of course
1 waffle maker

Now, this stuff was pretty easy to get rid of, as we honestly never used it and a lot of it is duplicates of things we already have.  At any rate, it will be fantastic to get this stuff out of the house.  I can't wait until Monday.

Now, if you'll all excuse me, I have some actual gardening to do!  Alert Anderson Cooper (look him up)!!  My hands will be getting dirty!  Along with two children, if all goes according to plan.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Our New Minimalism

For some time now, I've been reading blogs about minimalism.  I originally wanted to start this post with a definition of minimalism.  Here's what I found:

1)  A school of abstract painting and sculpture that emphasizes extreme simplification of form, as by the use of basic shapes and monochromatic palettes of primary colors, objectivity, and anonymity of style. Also called ABC art, minimal art, Also called reductivism, rejective art.

2)  Use of the fewest and barest essentials or elements, as in the arts, literature, or design.

3)  Music. A school or mode of contemporary music marked by extreme simplification of rhythms, patterns, and harmonies, prolonged chordal or melodic repetitions, and often a trancelike effect."

Not really helpful, is it?  Everyone seems to have their own definition of what this type of living entails.  By reading the dictionary's definition, I can see why.  In a nutshell, it's freeing yourself from the clutter and confines of, well, stuff.  Not just physical stuff, which many refer to as "crap", but the mental things that seem to bog down your day and life.  I was speaking with one of the father's at my son's Scout meeting on Monday and he was telling me, after running into the room five minutes late, about his day.  His son got out of school and went to football (soccer) practice where his wife left his son to go take their daughter to dance class.  He then had to go pick up his son and get him to Tae Kwon Do while his wife took his daughter to piano.  His son got to eat (I'm sure some type of fast food) in the backseat of the car on the drive over to the Scout's meeting.  I was so exhausted after that, I didn't even bother asking if his wife was going to show up to the meeting we were in.  I assumed she was face down in some parking lot from fatigue.

And, they choose to live this way.  Well, we don't.  These types of stories, which I fear are the norm, are what make us not want to live that way.  I doubt the poor man even got to see his wife that day.  I won't even venture into that might be part of his plan.

Notice in my definition above the word "free".  Yes, yes, yes it's the base word of another word, but shut up.  That's what we're looking for.  Freedom.  Freedom to do what we want.  Freedom from the crap in our lives that weighs us down.  Freedom from the obligations related to things we don't want to do, and the ability to concentrate on the things we do want to do.  And, no, I'm not talking about sitting around in your underpants watching football all day while pounding pints.  I'm talking about doing something that gets you out of bed on the morning without the use of an alarm clock.  That is what we are striving for to do in our family.

And, using this blog, hopefully we'll inspire others to do the same.  The garden will always be a big part of what we do, but so will our home and our life in general.  Hopefully, we'll pick up a few of you for the journey.

And, before my loyal followers start worrying I'm going to break into a bout of Kumbaya while tattooing a peace sign on my forehead and turning vegan, don't worry, the gopher still dies this weekend.  And, for shits and giggles, we may cook it and eat it!  While enjoying a pint...or several, of course.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Giving Thanks

This past weekend was Thanksgiving here in the United States.  A time to get together with family and friends and enjoy their company along with good food and drink.  Unfortunately, it's also the start of the sickening shopping season, but that's a different story for another time.

This past weekend we spent Thanksgiving day with my father-in-law, whom we don't get to see nearly enough.  We had a fantastic time with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, my wife's soon to be world famous yams and my father-in-law's cranberry sauce that I really, really need to get the recipe for.

After that, we drove up to Big Bear, which is a mountain town where my wife's family has a cabin.  It's about 75 miles from where we live; however, we don't take advantage of it nearly enough.  We're going to work on changing that.  We spent the weekend in the snow, as there was a storm that passed through a few days prior.  We also got another snow on Saturday night, but not enough to snow us in and keep me from work on Monday.  Damn.  Maybe next time.

I do believe that one of the best parts of going to the mountains is that the cabin doesn't have a television.  Well, it does, but only plays dvd's and vhs tapes (remember what those are?).  It allows you to spend more time with everyone.  And, that's what's important.  Because, when all is said and done, you won't remember the meal so much as who you spent it with and the value of that time spent.  That's what I'm thankful for lovely wife who puts up with my two beautiful children who are young enough to think of my crap as normal...and the time we got to spend together.

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend.

P.S.  Not to fear, we'll be back to gardening posts soon.  As I'm sure you all figured, the bitch is back.  Mounds on the far side of the planter where the previous vermin was extinguished.  We'll be breaking out the new contraption, keeping ol' medieval in the wings just in case.  In the meantime, since it's winter (yes, yes, yes, I live in California, but we still get winter!!  See the snow!?!?!?!) and there is not time for gardening except on weekends, we'll be updating on more indoor activities.  We have a nice floor going down at the moment that I just KNOW you're both on pins and needles to see.

P.P.S (P.S.S?) Whatever.  Spurs 2, Liverpool 1 over the weekend.  Another spectacular comeback.  I know I had no television, but my lovely wife has a phone thing that gets used for everything except what a phone is actually used for.  Followed the victory on that.  Spectacular.  Fifth place.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone here in the United States.  Happy Thursday to everyone else.

I have not vanished, changed my name and appearance to stay one step ahead of Johnny Law (although that is always a possibility).  Nor, am I dead.

I'm just pondering what I want this blog to be.  Or become.  Or go back to.  I'm not sure.  I've been putting a lot of thought into it and, eventually, I just need to say "screw it" and start down a path and see where it leads.  Soon.  In the meantime, enjoy the links to other blogs written by people who actually blog.  In the meantime, I'm going to grab another pint (it's noon!!) and bask in the glory of our beloved Tottenham Hotspur advancing to the knockout stages of Champion's League!  Come on you Spurs!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Humans 1, Gophers Nul

HA!  Victory over the vermin.  This is shit:

I actually think the gopher used it for what we thought it looked like.  Well, if it was a girl gopher.  This was actually buried under a gopher mound.  So, yesterday, I went to my tried and true.  Which has still been tried, but isn't quite as true.  The hose.  I flooded the holes, but nothing.  I probably didn't wait long enough as dinner was ready and we must have our priorities.  It was chili night, after all.

So, after chili and a couple of pints I ventured back into the backyard last night and pulled out ol' medieval.

Now, as I have pointed out in previous posts, my understanding on how to do this was to dig a big hole around a gopher mound and then place this in front of one of the exposed tunnels.

Yes, yes, yes, these are previously used pictures.  I'm trying to prove a point, so shut it.  Now, according to Curbstone a trap called a cinch trap should do the trick.  So, I ordered one.  It's not here yet.  Mail and shipping and all.  However, the vermin wasn't about to wait for the trap on a white steed, so I had to improvise.

Now, the website I linked to above,, does an excellent job of explaining how to set their trap.  Now, I figured, why not set ol' medieval in the same way!!  Brilliant!!!!  So, I set him and shoved him down the hole last night.

Fast forward to tonight.  I got home and headed out to the yard.  I gave the wire a tug, was stuck. I also noticed it was sprung.  Now, we had a problem.  Curious children were inside and they have this habit of suddenly appearing at bad times, which we won't get into as this is a family website.  I digress.  I didn't want to pull out a dead gopher with them.  So, I quickly put down my pint (it was after 5!!) and gave a little harder tug.  Then, I had a second fear...and it was true...what if it wasn't exactly, well, dead?

Sure enough, ol' medieval had only gotten a leg.  I had to think quickly.  It was definitely still alive as I pulled it out of the hole.  The middle gopher finger it was showing me was a dead giveaway.  I looked to the left...nada...I looked to the right...shovel.  Brilliant.

Now, I would recommend giving your wife fair warning before swinging a shovel over your head in a very angry like manner.  My wife did not see me swing, she only heard it, so she walked to the window. Unfortunately, well, I missed, so a second swing was required (don't start getting holier then thou, it's vermin), which did the job.  Unfortunately, she saw that one.  It was all very Jack Nicholson in The Shining.  She now stays at least six feet from me at all times.

So, the gopher is dead.  I'm sure of it.

P.S.  I know I have been terrible in my Spurs updates.  Lost today 4-1 to Arsenal in the Carling Cup.  Perfectly fine.  We need to stay focused on Champion's League and Premiere League games, both of which we are doing fine in.  So, stay tuned.  The pork (West Ham) on Saturday!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Do These Work?

We put these in over the weekend.  Ok, about 10 minutes ago, and it wasn't so much as "we" as much as "I".

That's one of the two that  came in the package.  And, yes, make your jokes, because I think it looks like the same thing.  Put some batteries in it and you'll be convinced it is.  But, to keep everybody's mind from the gutter, this is a family blog of course, we shall assume it is for ridding ourselves of gophers.  And moles, which I don't have.

That's it in the ground.  I have now cried "Uncle!" in my battle with the gopher and I'm bringing out the Enola Gay.  Look it up.  That's it in the ground amongst the gopher remnants.  Another view:

I can't seem to get a good picture of the gopher pile up,  but it's there.  Also, for my one reader from Japan, I'm the most politically incorrect person there is, so my apologies for the reference.  Just to you, of course.

Now, this thing says it keeps out gophers for up to 15,000 square feet.  My lot is 10,000 square feet, so one in each corner should do the trick.  I'm going to drop a bill in the neighbor's mailboxes on either side for the portion of their yard I'm supposedly securing.  And, yes, this thing is irritating.  I put in the three batteries required (calm yourselves, it doesn't require a cord, at least), and it let out what sounded like a sonar ping along with a vibration.  Sorry, but no other word could describe it.  Shake, perhaps?  Shimmy?  No, it definitely vibrated.

I was hoping the little son of a bitch would come bounding out of the ground once it heard the irritating ping, but no luck.  I stood with my shovel for five minutes and nada.  Disappointing.

So, I'm going to level the gopher mounds and see if anymore pop up.  If yes, it's a dismal failure and I shall require my $27 back.  That worries me, as well, as six weeks ago it was $40.  Hopefully, that's not a sign.  If no further gopher mounds appear, then we'll call it a success, and I shall stock up on D batteries.  I will let both you know.

Monday, September 6, 2010

What Can I Say

Thanks to some people I've been called out on my recent lack of activity.  I wish I could say I won the lottery or was sold to some third division football team somewhere, but life is not that exciting.  The reasons being twofold:  first, I just haven't done anything gardening related.  Every weekend has been filled with non gardening stuff, like auto maintenance:

Dejection, yes.  Me realizing the previous owner smashed into something on the Beast Scout and that plate holding the u-bolts that hold the leaf springs isn't coming off without a torch.  I don't have a torch.  The reasons for which should be obvious.

Second, I was passed over for a promotion at work.  For some reason, that really pissed me off.  They gave me a raise, mind you, but I would have gladly forgone the raise for the promotion.  Now, that I'm finally done feeling sorry for myself, I can get back to very important things.  Like putting wood into the ground.

This is going to be the gate leading through the hedge of brush cherries, I previously posted about.  Now, would be a good place to put a link to that post, but I'm too damn tired.  Two eight foot pieces of redwood dug two feet into the ground and held with concrete.  The individual at the big box hardware store must be on commission, as I was pretty sure three fifty pound bags of concrete would have done the trick.  He was insistent the little sign said three per post, so I bought six.  I'll be returning three tomorrow.  Don't doubt yourself.  Screw the little sign.

Hopefully, this is a better picture to let you know what the finished product will look like.  These cherries have really bounced back from when they first went in.  Now, I just need to build the gate.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Ain't It the Truth

     Frank, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there on the planet? What happened to the dandelions, violets,  milkweeds  and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But, all I see are these green rectangles.

     It's the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers 'weeds' and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.

     Grass? But, it's so boring. It's not colorful. It doesn't attract butterflies, birds and bees; only grubs and sod worms. It's sensitive to temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?

     Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.

     The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.

     Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it-sometimes twice a week.

     They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?
     Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.

     They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

     No, Sir, just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.

     Now, let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow And, when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?

     Yes, Sir.

     These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.
     You aren't going to believe this, Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it, so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

     What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn, they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. It's a natural cycle of life.
     You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.

     No!? What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter to keep the soil moist and loose?

     After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.

     And where do they get this mulch?

     They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.

     Enough! I don't want to think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you're in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?
     'Dumb and Dumber', Lord. It's a story about....

     Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Plants Rabbits Won't Eat

From the good people at Sunset Magazine.  I'm only planting these plants in my garden.  Here's the link:

Rabbit Hated Plants

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Really? Brain?

Walking out to lunch yesterday, and the delivery truck with our Company's bottled water delivery is out front.  I notice a massive puddle of water on one side.  Walking around, I see the driver standing with three large (the give 5 gallon water cooler type) bottles on their sides letting the water drain.  He looks at me and says, "cracked".  I'm guessing the bottles, although I could have just as easily guessed his brain.  Keep in mind, he is doing this three feet from the bank of plants alongside the building.  The exchange went something like this:

Him:  Cracked.
Me:  Don't you think it might be a little less wasteful to poor them into the plants right there, rather then down the parking lot?
Him:  Can't.
Me:  Why?
Him:  Against company policy.
Me:  Your company is against watering plants?
Him:  If the plants die, it would be our fault.
Me:  What's in your water that would cause the plants to die?
Him:  Nothing.
Me:  Then why not water them?
Him:  Oh.  All done.  Have a nice day.

This is why I need to be allowed to drink while at work.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Not that.  Stop it.  Quick post tonight, as we have family visiting.  I think the onions are ready.  As you may notice, there are a few less.  Certain seven year olds have the patience of...something that has no patience.

I think they're ready.  Maybe another couple of days.  I'm going to chop them up and throw them in with a roast this week.  Yum.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


I figured it's about time to post some pictures of our Yosemite trip.  Not too many, mind you.  And, after a long weekend of painting, water parks with the Cub Scouts, gopher hunting (still haven't killed that little critter), car maintenance and the like, I'm just too darned tired to be witty.

Lower Yosemite Falls (don't take the pictures mid-day...make a note)

Half Dome, from a distance

Do Bears really shit in the woods?  Yes, they do.

Rafting on Lake Tenaya.  That's my sons raft in the lower left corner.

Deer that came wandering through camp.

Ahwahnee Hotel.  From my seat.  At the bar.  No need to live like heathens.

Kiki and dad playing in the Merced River.

My son and his uncle, heading downriver. 

That's all for now.  Say goodnight, Gracie.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Where is the Damn Summer?????????

That's the hill behind our house.  What hill, you ask?  The hill that's covered in God damn fog that's what hill!  It's suppose to be 75 F when I wake up in the morning in August and then hit 105 F in the afternoon when I'm inside an air conditioned building.  Instead, it's 55 F when I wake up and barely passes 80 F!  My tomatoes hate this crap and I took the top off my truck and freeze to death because of it!!!!  Alright.  I think I posted something with enough exclamation points.  Everybody back to sleep.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

My Brilliant Idea and a Gopher Update

Well, gopher first.  The little bastard has briefly outsmarted me.  It set dummy holes along the back planter, which were about three feet above the holes I pictured Monday.  I set my trap, only to get squat.  Removing the trap, I put my hand in the tunnel and realized it was filled two inches further down.  The best I can figure is the little bastard comes straight up, then the hole fills over the evening.  Looking at new mounds revealed no tunnels.  I decided to smooth everything out and wait for tomorrow to see if there are any new mounds.  You have won this minor skirmish, my adversary, but I will win the war!!  Woo-ha-ha-ha.......

Now, to my brilliant idea.  I have spoke before about our wisteria.  Well, my wife and I (not the kids, they couldn't care less) realized that the post I set up for the wisteria to grow up was going to create a problem.

Yes, there as a 2x2 post in there.  We realized once the wisteria grew, that it would be impossible to get the post out, since the wisteria had wrapped itself around it like a stripper in a Las Vegas club.  Not that I would know anything about that.

We decided it would be best to pull the post out (too many visuals regarding Vegas) and tie the wisteria to it, rather then allow it to wrap itself around it.  That way as the trunk thickens (this just keeps getting better) we can remove the post and the plant should stand on its own, as it did before we tried to kill it.  So, after the obligatory pints (Killian's Irish Red, if you must know), I decided to attack the stripper plant.

Surprisingly, the post slipped out easily.  Stop it.  I mean it.  Stop.  This is the now limp plant next to the hard rod.  I used a couple pieces of that green stretchy garden stuff that I'm sure has a name, but I'll refer to as the rubber.  Tied the plant off in a couple of places and propped it back up.

Erecting the limp plant on the post put it right back where it was, and was obviously most happy.  But, then who wouldn't be.

In the winter the wisteria will go dormant (at least it does here, and I'm hoping that's normal), and we'll cut it back to one or two trunks.  In the meantime, off to the showers.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

We're Back! To gophers! Sons of...

Yes, I know, you didn't know we were gone.  But, we were.  We went to one of the most beautiful national parks in the world, Yosemite Valley.  Six nights, seven days.  I think that was a movie, but Harrison Ford was no where near us.  Which is good, because that waif he's married to wouldn't have survived, and I'm sure at some point we would have been forced to eat her.  Anyway, that's a different post, once I get all the pictures together.

This one is about what we returned to.  A damn gopher.

Two holes up against a rock wall.  This is one of the difficult one's as it is at multiple levels, so my favorite flooding method does not work.  I think this one is the cousin of the last one I offed, so he's learned.  I think there is some Gopher Tribune around that gives away all my best stuff.

So, I laid the gopher trap this evening.

That would be the instrument of death.  Yes, we kill them.  Then, we cut their little heads off and put them on a stake that says, "Abandon All Faith, All Ye Who Enter Here."

Now, the question I first had is how in the name of God do I use the trap.  It's quite the contraption after all.  I'll leave it to you to figure out how to set it.  Don't let it close on your hand.  I'm sure it would hurt like hell.

First off, dig into a freshly created hole.  In this case, I got lucky and got a hole that was the end of the line, meaning I only need one trap.  If it's a pass through and there is a tunnel on two sides of the hole, then you'll need two traps, one for each direction.  Set the trap without puncturing your own hand and place right at the gopher hole entrance.

I attach a wire to the trap, because sometimes the little vermin backs into the hole after being caught.  This way, it can be dragged back out, again.

After setting the trap, cover the hole with something, in this case we used a piece of plywood.

Be sure to cover the edges so as to keep any light out of the hole.  Now...wait.  Tomorrow, I'm sure the trap will be sprung without a gopher attached and the hole completely filled to the bottom of the plywood.  That's how they mock me.  Little bastards.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Book Review: The Bucolic Plague

I wanted to like this book.  I really, really, really did.  Perhaps, that's why I was disappointed.  I still did enjoy the read, I guess it was just not what I was expecting, and that failure to meet my expectation eventually let me down.

Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Dr. Brent Ridge are a couple from Manhattan.  During a trip to upstate New York, they stumble upon a small town called Sharon Springs.  In that town is an old farm called the Beekman Mansion.  The estate was created in 1802 by a local merchant and farmer, William Beekman.  After falling into disrepair, as so many of these places seem to do, it was available for sale when the two drove by.  On what was described as a whim, they purchased the farm and began plans on renovating and making it a second home.  After a time, the boys decided they, although it reads as though it were mostly Purcell, want to turn it into a full time home and need to find a way to make the farm self sufficient in order for that to happen.  Both have full time jobs in New York, Ridge with Martha Stewart and Purcell as an ad executive, so would be leaving substantial income and opportunities behind in order to accomplish this.

Now, that's where the story for me takes the turn I wasn't expecting.  I thought it would be more along the lines of hours of toiling in the soil, restoring the home, before and after pictures, etc.  Instead, it really is the memoire it is described as and spends much of its time on the relationship of Ridge and Purcell, the business aspect of what they are hoping to do, the characters in Sharon Springs and Martha Stewart.  There's lots of Martha.

The two also have a show shown in the US, I'm not sure if it's shown in other parts of the world, called "The Fabulous Beekman Boys".  The show follows there lives as they try and make the Beekman Farm become the self sustaining business and home they want it to be.  This book was written prior to that show, so don't expect tidbits of filming and the like.  I guess you can consider the book part one and the show part two of their journey.

Overall, I did enjoy this book.  I would recommend this book to anyone.  Keep in mind, that this book is more about following dreams and the stresses related to trying to start a business while balancing your personal life and not going bankrupt.  It is not what I would consider a farm or garden book.  And, I think that expectation is what led to my disappointment.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

And, I Know When It's Done...


These are the pot onions.  No, not onions you smoke, onions I'm growing in a pot.  For Christ's sake, pay attention!

The largest one in the top picture is about two inches across.  However, from reading other blogs, I'm finding out size doesn't matter.  Although, my wife....anyway, back to the onions.

How in the name of all that is good and holy do I know when they're done?  I looked for one of those little plastic pop-ups like you get in a turkey, but no luck.  Apparently, these are the "gardener" variety, where you're suppose to know what you're doing, as opposed to the "greenhorn" variety, where you're utterly clueless.  I think the greenery is suppose to die back, but then I read about bolting, which I still have no idea what in the hell that is.  It has something to do with tastes great, less filling tastes crappy.  I'm pretty sure lightning might be involved.

Then there is a whole drying process, which is another post, I'm sure.

P.S.  My previous post on my trip to see Spurs play in San Jose is by far my most popular.  Thanks to the newsgroups that posted the link.  But never fear, faithful few, we're all about the plants here.  With a little Spurs thrown in for comfort.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Finally. Game Day.

Yesterday was the day.  It has felt like years since I first purchased the tickets to see our beloved Tottenham Hotspur take on the San Jose Earthquakes.  The day started, yesterday, with a 4 am wake up call, followed by a six hour drive north to San Jose.  The game was originally scheduled for 7 pm, but was picked up by ESPN (as you all know, since ALL of you watched it) and had to be moved up to 1 pm.  Apparently, we weren't the only peeved Spurs fans trying to check into the hotel early.  We navigated our way to the stadium with plenty of time to spare.

Starting line ups.  It's not a very big stadium, so yes we were that close.  We sat in the section reserved for Spurs fans, but it honestly seemed like we took up half the stadium.  Attendance was 10,700, which apparently was an all time record for San Jose.

Unfortunately, we decided to bring our small camera, with two kids and all the attachments they require, we thought it would be safer.  Needless to say, the pictures could have been better.

During the game, these chaps below stood the whole time and sang.  It was all fine until about the 80th minute, when a few drunken San Jose supporters realized their team wasn't going to get slaughtered and began singing back.  I have no idea what they said, but our boys started in on their sisters.  It was all downhill the last ten minutes.

The game ended 0-0.  We had one disallowed goal for an offside call.  Spurs were short about half their starting line up, as World Cup players were allowed to skip the trip.  San Jose had their full squad as they have, well, no one that played in the World Cup.

The fun really began, though, afterwards.  While at dinner, I overheard someone say, "aren't those soccer players outside?" (were in America, deal with the word)  I turned around to see Robbie Keane, Jermaine Jenus, Tom Huddlestone and Alan Hutton.  After throwing the baby across the table, she's rubbery still, she was fine, I sprinted outside as they were getting a cab.  Just in time to say, "Robbie Keane!" and have him turn around, shake my hand and say, "how you doin', mate?"  Then, off they went in a cab.  But wait, it gets better.

We decided to head to the Fairmont Hotel for a drink only to find that was the hotel Spurs were staying in.  See, this drunken problem is paying off finally.  We walk into the bar and the first person I see is...head coach Harry Redknapp.  My son (yes, I brought my son to the bar, shut up) quickly grabbed the pad of paper from his "Spurs Starter Pak" he got at the game, and I walked up to Harry and said, "Coach Redknapp?"  He then started in as if I was a long lost relative with the how are ya's.  We asked for an autograph, and my son got his first Spurs autograph.  As we were looking at his autograph, Harry walked over and struck up a conversation with my father-in-law.  But wait, it gets better.

Next up, Younes Kaboul.  We spotted him in the lobby and my son got his second autograph.  He seemed like a nice guy, as I was completely taken aback when he was asking where we from and asking about the area.  I didn't expect a conversation!  But wait, it gets better.

Next up, Vedran Corluka, Luka Modric and Niko Kranjcar!  There in that order below.   Our three Croatians.  Hopefully, you realized the short one is my son and not Croatian.  I'm terrible with remembering to take pictures, but we remembered this one.

My wife now has a crush on Niko.  Need to remember to leave her at home next time.

Lastly, our backup goalkeeper, who is our starting keeper on this tour as Horelio Gomes played in the World Cup, was Carlo Cudicini.  He was hitting on a woman and her daughter, so we had to wait politely a little while for this one.  Again, no picture.

All in all, a fantastic time was had.  Almost time for the season to begin.  August 14th.  Mark your calendars.