Friday, August 1, 2014

Adventures come in all flavors

1,  Just past sundown each evening the crickets start their nightly concert. Different species chirp different songs. When crickets chirp their calling song, the rate of chirps is temperature dependent. You can calculate the temperature by counting cricket chirps.

Individual crickets are influenced by their neighbors – they tend to chirp together. As more crickets in a small area sing together, the song becomes much louder and more influential. The chorus eventually spreads until they’re all chirping together.

Field Cricket

2.  The California drought continues.  In my neighborhood, many homes have allowed their lawns to go brown.   Here in Mediterranean climate Northern California the idea of a green lawn in unnatural anyway.  The idea of surrounding property with green grass originated with the grass enclosures within early medieval settlements used for communal grazing of livestock. 

Dry California Reservoir
The damp climate of northern Western Europe made lawns possible to grow and manage, and from there the idea was carried to parts of America. Maintaining a lawn was a statement of affluence and position.  They showed that the owner could afford to keep land that was not being used for a building, or for food production.  They were never part of the early property in the Mediterranean lands of southern Europe. As transplants have moved to California they brought with them the idea of having lawns.  Now Southern California uses vast amounts of Northern California Sierra snow water, transported in an extensive system of canals and aqueducts to provide water for their massive number of green grassy spaces.  All to be evaporated into the dry desert air.
Eurphorbia - the group is very diverse and takes many forms
What are the alternatives?  Learn about what plants grow naturally in your climate zone.  For us, we can grow a wonderful array of native plants or native plants found in Southern Europe, the Pacific coast of South America  parts of Australia and New Zealand, the coast of South Africa. Of special interest are the vast array of succulents, cactus, and Euphorbia plants.  All cactus plants are native to the Americas, and native Euphorbias fill the same ecological niche, most originated in similar habitats in Africa.  

Pick your zucchini daily!  If you forget they grow humungious!
3. To maintain a small watered section in my garden I am using one hose timers with the control powered by 2 AA Alkaline batteries.  (Timers are available in any hardware store).  They are amazing!  I begin by adding two “T” to my water faucet and add two faucets.  Attach the devise  to one of the faucet, add a hose to the other end.   Allow the other faucet to be a normal faucet.  I use ½ inch black plastic flex pipe ( it comes in 50 or 100 foot rolls), and push on plastic fittings.  

When  I place the hose where I want it to be, I use a 1/16 electric drill to make holes in the pipe where I want water.  Now the automatic times gives me 15 or 30 minutes of drip from the holes right into the root zone.  I have now a total of 3 different systems in different parts of the  yard. They turn themselves on and off each day.  Never have my zucchini, cucumbers,and green beans been so prolific and tasty. I had one on my potato crop, and for the first time ever we are having a continuous supply of really high-quality strawberries.

One of many one hose timer units - select one that fits your needs
In Peru we discovered Stevia - it is a wonderful natural plant that you can grow in your garden or it is grown and  harvested commercially, and processed into a white powder... Read about it here on Wikipedia: As you see it is 300 times sweeter than sugar and a totally natural product.  In Peru many people grow the plant, dry and pulverize the leaves,  and add just a bit to their tea or food.  I was inspired; and came home to find plants for sale - and they are now growing well in my garden (on one of the drip lines).  The only problem  with Stevia is using little enough - it is so intensely sweet that a tiny amount is adequate.

Stevia plants ready to transplant
My other great discovery this summer is making dried tomatoes.  Take cookie sheets, spray with non stick stuff ( PAM ), cut tomatoes a little more than ¼ inch thick and lay out on the trays.  Point at the sun and adjust as the day progresses.  It takes two days to become bone dry.  I take in at night to avoid the dew.  When finished I store in a plastic bag in the freezer.  Cooks that 'know' rave about the qualities of sun-dried tomatoes, the intense tomato taste...  The internet is full of suggestions for using Sun-dried tomatoes - here is one I find helpful

At the end of day one