Friday, August 15, 2014

Dog days are here!

The phrase “dog days of summer” is an ancient term going back to the time of the Romans… it refers to the hot lazy days in July and August.  Something about the ‘dog star’ Sirius being visible in the night sky during this season.  I love this time of year – In Northern California now is the time of year that high cool ocean overcast comes every night and days heat up to 90 degrees. 
"Its always 'dog days' in the Zlatnik household" - Rusty
It is the season of tomatoes and zucchini, green beans and cucumbers… and the first ripe figs!  Our rain year goes from July to July – officially we received 7.72 inches last year, compared with an average of 15 inches.  Thank goodness for our vast complicated regional water delivery system.

First ripe figs
My ‘dog days’ are filled with projects that I don't have time for during the year.  A woodworking friend gave me his special formula for bringing life back to worn cabinets or lacquered furniture… 1/3 Satin finish Varnish, 1/3 Tung oil, 1/3 Linseed oil…

Refinished cabinet door

Apply a bit of the mixture into a small piece of the finest grade steel wool (0000) and gently work it into the cabinet surface  ( going with the grain).  The mixture has no color and will penetrate the wood to restore vitality.  You must do the entire surface to get a uniform result.

I took about 40 minutes of work for each cabinet door, then carefully rubbed down the door with soft cotton cloth to remove excess mixture and any loose material that was worked loose in the process.  For problem areas you will need to repeat the process 2-3 times.  We are delighted with the result.  When you do the process of fine antique furniture best to proceed cautiously, first testing in a non-critical corner – and instead of steel wood use a soft cloth to work the mixture in.

Chinese dates - Jujube - 'Zizyphua contortus'
Over the years I have indiscriminately added people to my Facebook site – with the result that the site is flooded with such a huge number of messages that it is not possible to manage.  To refine the list I use the “acid test” of whether of not I recognized the name of the person.  So now I have a much more manageable list…perhaps I can actually use Facebook differently.

A new improved genetic variety of strawberries from UC Davia - large, tasty, and bears over3 a long season!
My wife Judy loves birds and wanted me to set up a feeding station for finches and Goldfinches… It is possible to buy something like a long loose sock filled with the special seed that these guys love the most – and then you can buy a big sack of seed to refill the sack.  So I built a location right out the back door where we can easily see and hung the feeder – for 10 days not a single bird came – 
Finches getting fed
then all at once on the 11th day the gold finches came (actually by the Audubon bird guide they are “Lesser Gold finches” -  “Lesser” refers to their size.)  During the daytime we have 8 or 10 finches there all the time. They are very democratic – They squabble with each other as they feed - but not as bad as  hummingbirds around a feeder– there always seems to be room for one more to come and feed.
Green beans
One of my raised garden beds needed reworking – I just harvested potatoes and removed the lettuce and kale that had gone to seed.  There is a small Mexican owned horse ranch in my neighborhood that I visit to acquire horse manure – (I ask for “mierda de caballo”).  I love visiting the ranch – they board about 20 horses – some of them young and spirited!  There are chickens and a goat, farm dogs and little kids…

Laid out bed with swiss chard
A local Mexican radio station is often playing in the horse barn… I take big plastic bins and fill them to the level that I can lift and carry them in the back of my “hatchback’.  This manure I add to my raised bed and mix with a garden fork, then place my drip irrigation hose in place attached to the timer – and run it for 15 minutes a day.  
A fall corn crop
This time I year, with the summer heat, there isn’t a lot to plant – but I planted a 6 pack of red Swiss chard plants.  I will also plant beets… I will have to wait until things cool off s bit to plant the rest… 

There is a lovely inviting hammock set up under the persimmon tree in the back yard … and I never seem to find time to lie in it…
My poor unused hammock

Last week I gave a recommendation to “The Fateful Adventures of the Good Soldier Svejk During the World War” – However since then, I read Book Two of the series and found it written with a disappointingly different style.  My suggestion for book one stands – but forget book two.

I cut open a carved Peruvian gourd and removed seeds which I planted in my garden