July 1, 2018

I know you love gardening—otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this blog.  How about music?  If you enjoy music, then I suggest you combine the two.  Now you could simply turn up the volume of your sound system (whatever that might be) and indoctrinate your neighbors with your particular brand of music.  But I can guarantee that your neighbors do not have the same appreciation for the genre you enjoy.  It has been my experience that it is really unusual for any two people to like the same tunes—just ask my wife.  So create your own personal auditory concert by using your smart phone and a set of ear buds.

            Then start a subscription to Spotify.  Spotify is a music streaming service that provides and almost unlimited source of music selections.  The cost is $10 a month and for an additional $5 you can have a family plan that allows others living in your home to have the same experience.  Once you download music, it will be in your phone and won’t require an internet connection to play.  You can organize different playlists—like one for gardening, one for a brisk walking pace, or one for relaxation to prepare for napping.

            One more thing:  Your ear buds should be blue tooth.  You won’t want to have a wire dangling about when you are gardening.  Skullcandy has a good blue tooth set of ear buds for about $25.  LaVille bought hers at Target.  She bought a red set and wears it around as a fashion statement.

            There you have it—a way to double your gardening pleasure while not affecting that of your family and neighbors.

Stan, The Blog Man

June 26, 2018

You know well the saying, “Do as I say–not as I do”.  Well, guess who was burning weeds with his torch when there was no breeze.  I was getting rid of the last moss plants in the garden.  Smoke billowed up and surrounded my face burning my eyes.  I moved side to side to no avail.  I don’t think another saying applies—“Smoke follows beauty.” applies here.  (Does that bring back memories of sitting around the camp fire?)  So I smelled like burned weeds the rest of the day—big deal.  But the next day my wife was alarmed at my sight.  (Not an uncommon occurrence.)  Sure enough, my right eye was bloodshot.  Actually bloodshot is hardly sufficient to describe the sight of this valuable little orb.  So I e-mailed my Doc. and the response was to apply eye drops and notify her if my eyeball falls out (a slight exaggeration).  Sure enough after a couple days, it disappeared . . the blood, that is.  So once again, if you use a torch to burn weeds, do so when there is a slight breeze so that smoke doesn’t rise directly up and turn you into a smelly, scary creature.

Stan, The Blog Man

June 12, 2018

I am sorry to report that I have had no luck finding a source of the circle hoe.  I have contacted the business in Grants Pass and they say that they have had problems with production.  Well, this has been the case for years now, so I don’t have any idea when this great hoe is going to be available.  Also, the gardensnob web site seems to be gone.  While hoe surfing, I came across ads for diamond files.  These are thin metal strips that are impregnated with industrial diamond.  The files are available in different grits similar to sandpaper.  The advantage to these files is first that they are thin and can fit into narrow spaces like where pruner blades come together.  These files also work in any direction—forwards, backwards, and sideways.  I ordered a set of three files of different grits and am anxious to try them out on your tools.         

Stan, The Blog Man

June 11, 2018

Let’s say you having a garden party that involves putting on a lunch.  Your daughter is coming and, as usual, she is late.  You are going to put the garlic toast in the oven 7 minutes before lunch is served.  The hors d’oeuvres are just about consumed and everyone is waiting for the meal.  Now you could call her and risk a car accident when she fumbles for her phone . . . or you could simply use the Life360 app on your smart phone.  Since she is in your “clan” you can see exactly where she is on the road and know how long it will take her to arrive.  7 minutes before her appearance, the toast goes in the oven and voila, lunch is served just as she enters.  Life360 is a free app that lets you see the location of the smart phone of your clan members anywhere in the world.  Currently we are watching the travels of our adopted family in Japan.  Now granted, this does cost you a degree of privacy because your family also has the ability to see where you are, but to me this is another way of maintaining family ties and I encourage you to try it if it sounds appealing.

Stan, The Blog Man

June 8, 2018

One person’s flower is another person’s weed.  I thought the moss plants growing in the iris garden were attractive.  Today I find that LaVille feels differently.  I wish she had told me sooner, as there are now large patches of moss growing among the irises and in the paths.  So I started torching the moss plants today.  I finally quit when my eyes were burning from the smoke that arose from the conflagrations straight up into my face.  My advice to you is that if you purchase a torch, doing your burning when there is a slight breeze.  Then you won’t stink of burned debris as I currently do.

Last evening and this morning I spent a lot of time pruning back recent grow on bushes and vines.  It is amazing how much growth has taken place in the last few weeks.  As I used my favorite thinning pruner that I have shown you several times, I cannot stop hoping that you have purchased this tool.  The long slender blades easily reach into a plant to reach the desired stem.  New growth is thin, so little mechanical advantage is needed, therefore the blades move more rapidly than those of other pruners.  Need I remind you how easily they fit in your back pocket?  If you lost my list of tools for the gardener, this pruner can be found on Amazon—Corona FS-4350 thinning shear.

Stan, The Blog Man

June 7, 2018

I have been sleeping well at night.  Now that SPPC has given me the opportunity to express thoughts, my mind isn’t going crazy with ideas and keeping me awake.  Now it’s my wife’s turn.  She lost a lot of sleep last night thinking about clay projects.  So she left me today to work at Alpha Fine Arts in Sacramento.  (She is coming back though.)  So much creative talent, and so little time.

While playing in the garden today, several thoughts came to mind.  At least some of you have continued to resist removing your lawn to conserve water.  I am one of these.  I love my lawn.  At one time it covered the entire back yard.  Now it’s far less than 1000 square feet.  It contains no weeds, but there are a few brown spots where my son’s dog has done his thing.  I love it best when the grandkids are here.  See, they have no lawn.  Their house is on a steep slope in the hills above Los Gatos.  The creek that runs 100 yards below them represents the line of the San Andreas Fault.  So you see, it is a treat for them to have a lawn to play on.  The girls do cartwheels and wrestle about.  At lunch time they spread out a blanket and they lie on their backs in the shade of the hackberry tree while they eat their Nana special sandwiches (strawberry jam, creamed cheese, and peanut butter}.  This is really why I love my lawn. 

So if you still have a lawn, I hope you have a mower that has a good vacuuming blade.  Practically all mowers come with a mulching blade that does not do a great job at sucking up plant debris.  You generally can order a blade that does a good job at vacuuming.  There unfortunately is no such blade for my Craftsman mower.  What do you do with your clippings?  I hope you use them for mulch around your plants in the vegetable garden.  If your clippings go into the organic recycle bin, I would suggest that you put a layer of dry plant material in first so that the grass clippings don’t form a gooey mess that sticks to the bottom of the bin.  Another suggestion is to leave the bin lid open.  This lets the contents dry out and this eliminates a lot of odor and prevents the condensation on the bin inner surfaces that gathers debris when the bins are dumped.  Now . . . if you just had a power washer, you could keep all your bins clean enough to eat out of . . . Perhaps that’s a stretch.

Stan, The Blog Man

June 5, 2018

Since Stan wrote about brown bananas, I am compelled to share a recipe for Banana Curd which appeared in The Sacramento Bee many years ago.   I find myself wishing my bananas quickly turn brown so I can make this condiment.   Enjoy it on toast for breakfast or graham crackers as a snack.  It serves as a chutney for spicy dishes, especially curries.  

BANANA CURD

Flavor depends on using very ripe, soft and sweet bananas with dark brown skins. If bananas are barely ripe, add a bit of sugar.  A hint of allspice or nutmeg is also good.  

2 or 3 very ripe bananas
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
Dash ground cloves
Dash ground cinnamon

Mash bananas with fork or potato masher, leaving a few lumps, to make 1-1/2 cups. 
Place mashed bananas in a small saucepan.  Add lemon juice and zest along with cloves and cinnamon.

Bring to a boil and simmer gently about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  While simmering, bananas will slowly heave up into mounds and then spout little puffs of steam, like simmering oatmeal.  
Cool.  Pour into a jar, cover, and refrigerate.  Curd will keep about 2 weeks.  

Per 1/4 cup:  47 cal; 1 g pro; 12 g carb; 0 g fat, 0 mg chol; 1 mg sod; 1 g fiber; 9 g sugar

Linda Hax

 

May 23, 2018

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If you have a twist tiller and no longer are using it, I will buy it from you.  A member of the Iris Club wants one.  She also wants 2 round nose and one flat end shovels, a pick axe, hula hoe, rake, and wheel barrow.

If you have harvested too many bananas at one time, (You do have a banana tree in your garden, don’t you?) as soon as a banana starts to get those brown spots, put them in the frig.  They may turn really ugly, but the fruit will stay palatable for days.

A tool you may wish to consider is a rubber mallet.  Removing a plant from a pot is generally easy with plastic pots.  You are able to squeeze the sides to loosen the soil.  But with a clay or ceramic pot removal can be a chore.  This is a two man job, but if one person supports the plant and soil on its side or up-side down, the other person can rap on the top of the lip of the pot to knock it loose.  Using a block of wood with a regular hammer will also work and keep you from breaking the pot.

Stan, The Blog Man

May 13, 2018

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I did some serious garage sale-ing the Saturday before Mother’s Day.  I landed my best find ever and I am once again a dedicated treasure hunter.  I bought an unused irrigation timer for $5.  Value on Amazon–$230.  I had to buy the same timer 2 years ago when an old one quit.  Now I have a spare for the next failure.  LaVille told me not to lead club members into thinking that this is a typical experience.  But I would like at least to suggest that you give garage sale-ing a try if you never have.  Here’s how you get started:

            Step 1:  Google “craigslist Sacramento.”  You will see a huge field of categories.  In the “search craigslist” box type in your city and then “garage sales.”  Here is your list of upcoming sales.  Often there are pictures accompanying the ad.  You will likely also see a listing of estate sales.  Estate sales are also listed on line at estatesales.net.  Estate sales are often interesting in that you generally wander through a house a get a glimpse into the lives of the previous occupants.  The garage generally holds the gardening tools and the gardening chemicals like fertilizer you are seeking, but don’t forget to check out the back yard.  Occasionally overlooked items can be found out there.  Often a company is running the sale, and they have to make their profit, so prices are higher than at regular garage sales.  You can expect to buy an item between 10% and 25% of retail at a garage sale.  Estate sale prices tend to hover around 30% to 40%.  Whereas the higher price may turn you off, you may find a unique item that you wouldn’t find elsewhere.  Moving sales are generally good because people often have to get rid of a great number of items and it’s often not just junk common to a lot of sales.  Another source of garage sales is your local paper.  I check out the classified section of the Davis Enterprise and frankly give those ads more credence than craigslist ads because the sale will likely be of a more serious nature since they had to pay for the ad—either that or they are computer illiterate.

            Step 2:  Make judgments about the sales.  You want to go to most promising sales first.  Ideally you would first visit homes in the better part of the city.  You want to deal with people who are more interested in getting rid of good quality stuff instead of just making money off of junk.

            Step 3:  Plan your driving path Friday night.  Pay close attention to the sale starting times.  They can vary tremendously, but most sales start at 8:00 A.M. 

            Step 4:  On Saturday (and sometimes other days) get up early.  Be the “early bird.”  It’s really depressing to see an item that you really wanted in the hands of someone else.  Check for late listings just before you leave the house.  Some sellers put in their ad at the very last minute.  Now estate sales are generally so well attended that you will find a line of 25 people standing at the front door when you arrive.  Sometimes the organizers will have you sign up on a list when you arrive, and they will restrict how many people can enter at one time.  This can use up valuable garage sale-ing time on a Saturday, so visit estate sales on Thursdays or Fridays.  You know, sometimes people get in a squabble.  It’s entertaining if you’re not participating.

            Now a few miscellaneous things:  Carry a wad of 1 dollar bills and a few quarters.  When you approach the sales person with something in your hand to buy, if no price is on the item, your question is, “How much are you asking for this?”.  When they respond, you say, “Would you take so and so?”  Generally they will agree because most people realize that bargaining is a part of the process.  If the item you want has a price tag on it, simply ask if they would take a certain lesser amount.        Occasionally, you will find a child who is selling lemonade and cookies at a sale.  If he or she is asking 50 cents, ask if you can have one for 25 cents.  Kids need to learn early that small business is a tough go, and that 70% of new small businesses fail.  I’m kidding . . . I’m kidding!  I generally buy from kids.  Besides, your generosity might get you a better deal on an item in the garage sale.  Now this bargaining process I’ve described will vary a lot depending on how reasonable the original price is, and also with your relationship with the sales person.  Some people are just so nice, that you don’t feel like quibbling over a couple bucks.  You will often get a better deal on items if you bundle them.  If you approach the seller with several items, you’ll generally get a much lower per item price.  Here is another thing I have found:  Most of the people selling things at garage sales are really nice people, and I find it a really enjoyable experience meeting these folks that I would never otherwise encounter.  Garage sales require a lot of work to put on, the monetary rewards are meager, and afterwards you have to deal with all the unwanted stuff that remains.  I often thank sellers for holding a garage sale when I leave.

There you have it . . . my attempt to interest you in the hobby of garage sale-ing.  I hope you will give it a try.  As per any endeavor, the hardest part is getting started.  Once you make it out of bed, the rest is easy and can be very rewarding.

Stan, The Blog Man

May 9, 2018

Yesterday, LaVille was digging up bulbs using what is called a transplanting spade.  When I showed this shovel to you, I said it was perfect for digging holes for transplanting from gallon pots.  I probably should have described it instead as a short, light-weight shovel that is the right tool for a woman to use.  Now I realize that sounds sexist.  Does it help if I tell you that I have used this spade a lot.  In fact is probably the reason that I got a herniated disc in my neck because I used it in a jabbing motion to dig an irrigation line through tough soil.  Anyway . . . let’s simply say that it is an easy digging tool because the blade is narrow and therefore finds less resistance when penetrating the soil.  Then too, the blade is long so it penetrates to a depth where bulbs are abiding.  The grip at the end of the 4 foot handle allows you increased torque leverage (The shovel doesn’t twist in your hands easily).  If I piqued your interest,  google “transplanting spade.” 

 

While LaVille was digging, I was working with the circle hoe.  The neighbor has many huge privet trees.  The birdies love the fruit and kindly deposit the seeds when they perch in our pine and hackberry.  Privet seedlings sprout up through the pine needles covering the ground.  The circle hoe allows me to sever the weeds without disturbing the pine needle ground cover too much.  Every now and then I come across an oak seedling that a scrub jay has planted.  The circle hoe is strong enough to penetrate the soil to uproot the acorn.  You know, if you have some interest in this hoe, I would let you practice using it around my yard . . . for free! The circle hoe is available from gardensnob.com.

 

My impaler didn’t work well today.  (The impaler is a stick with a nail at the end.)  You see, our neighbor (the same one with the multiple privet trees) has a huge magnolia tree in his front yard.  His house is on our west side.  Needless to say, a good number of magnolia leaves end up on our front landscaping.  For the last two weeks I haven’t been able to clean up the front yard.  When I finally was able to get to the task today, the “poker” as I call it did not pick up the leaves very well.  The leaves were so dried up that the leaves did not cling to the galvanized nail.  The nail’s penetration created too large of a hole, or the leaf shattered.  So if you are going to use an impaler to gather up large leaves in your landscaping, get to it before the leaves have a chance to become brittle.

Stan, the Blog Man