Friday, August 28, 2015

Growing a garden in the midst of a drought...



I strive for all low water plants - some cactus , succulents, and perennials suitable to this climate... 
"If it can't live here with the water I provide - I allow it to die..."  Natural Selection... I also attempt to use natural "desert spacing " that avoids crowding plants together - but allows space between plants...

One of the secrets is using bricks to define where the water goes - I observed this method first in Spain... I put out the word that I was looking for free bricks and found many people eager to get rid of surplus bricks...  Basil is an exception to the low water rule - I 'baby' my basil and it gets extra water...
The other method is to use ½ inch rigid black plastic pipe attached directly to a water source... I can supply drip to these strawberries and they do well

A surprise this morning! - 8" cactus bloom - lasts for one night and morning only - so ephemeral - and so beautiful...We get incredible cactus blossoms in yellow, pink, white... all sizes and clusters

I have two tomato beds like this with a south facing wall behind them and a cement patio surface around them - moisture is available under the cement - and they are wonderfully productive all summer - until November... These are about 8 feet tall and 10 feet wide - they get occasional water...   This is my "Fresno" microclimate

Cactus varieties abound - they aren't petunias and roses but they have their own unique beauty

Next big crop coming up - Chinese Dates - Called Jujubes or Zizyphus,,, Sweet Reddish brown fruit with one seed in the center.  Yum!  ...going to be a big crop!

Potted cactus in the Patio area

One of my 2 wonderful fig trees - one  with light green fruit , the other purple figs... the nice thing about figs is how slowly they ripen - a few each day - never too many to handle

Lemon tree - we pick them as we use them all year long .  We also have apple trees, apricot, big purple plums,  and 2 kinds of Persimmons

A tall cactus - 5 ft. (S. American) - One advantage to low water gardening is that weeds dont grow - My major jobs are winter pruning and spring 'cleanup' - And the answer to getting it done is to work in small time intervals rather than big 'knock out' work sessions

Valencia Orange tree - fruit sweet and good for most of the year ( look closely for orange fruit hidden in foliage )  the sweetest and best oranges are those that are allowed to stay on the tree through a second season!

Peruvian guavas ripening - they are deep red/purple when ripe in October/November - I also have a Pineapple Guava

Wild Pacific ferns can deal with long dry summers

My sheep bell collection - each from a different country - a strong wind will make beautiful music

Avacado ripening

One variety of Aloe

Ripening Fuji persimmons

Home to many birds, reptiles, and insects ( ~95% of garden insects are beneficial ) - One of the first things I did when I laid out the garden was to build a convenient system of casual pathways to explore and enjoy the garden...

I pretty much water on demand - when I see signs of stress I give a general hand watering - and this depends on how many hot days we get...But watering is rare...

This garden has evolved in stages from lawn to perennial  natives (but they often grew too large or 'leggy' and were difficult to control with pruning).  Then I did research for alternatives that were suitable for this environment - and slowly I have collected plants that seem to like living here.  

 Two beautiful succulents - 

My raised bed Is where I grow many kitchen vegetables - kale, chard, beets, carrots, radishes,,, but we were gone all summer so I allowed it to dry up - it also has  a drip watering system

In the back you see my compost system which is a disaster without adequate water to "make' the compost... I am waiting for ( I hope ) winter rain

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Krásné Čechy!

Since returning from our trip I find many Americans are lacking accurate information about the modern Czech Republic.  I am frequently asked about the government today, about the economy, and lives of average people.  Many still think of the Czech Republic as the poor step-child of Europe still recovering from the Second World War and the Communist period.  Some even ask if it is still a totalitarian government.  Here goes...

1.  Many tourists come to Prague and visit the standard tourist site - there is much more to see...

Prague - the right bank included castle hill and the early part of the city

Not to sell Prague short - it is one of the most unique cities in Europe - with ancient narrow streets that draw you to explore, and modern department stores... The Arts scene offers the best of traditional art and music and avant garde "pushing the limits" expression.  It has public art, squares, parks, historical sites...   But the Czech Republic has more surprises...

Vltava as it flows through Prague

2.  The lands of the Czech Republic have a varied landscape - There are mountains, vast grain fields, industrial areas, big cities and small towns...  We saw little evidence of environmental pollution, litter... ( although this was a problem in the past when industries burned vast amounts of coal that produced serious acid rain. )  There is a great interest in alternative sources of energy.

Hills and Krkonose Mts - N. Bohemia

Vlatava River (the Moldau) that Smetana wrote about)

Bohemian village

2.  The Czech Republic is a constitutional republic, in which the President is the head of state. They have a two house system; Both houses together make Parliament of the Czech Republic. The Czech Republic has a multi-party system, with 2-3 strong parties.  Elections are held every 4 years.

Parliament - Castle Hill - Prague

3.  The Czech Republic has one of the most developed industrialized economic system of the countries in Central and Eastern Europe. The country has quickly become the most stable and prosperous of the post-Communist states of Europe.

Finance center in Prague

4.  Stores and shops now have products of the same sort that you might find elsewhere in Europe - catering to special Czech preferences

Village grocery store - 'cold cuts' and cheeses

4.  People take time to prepare homemade food and traditional recipes.  The food is amazing...

Open faced sandwiches come in a myriad of types

I fell in love with the myriad of small open faced sandwiches -they can be served at a party or for a meal

Cakes and cookies of many types - some with fruit, nuts, poppy seed, bakers cheese,or chocolate...

3.  Scan this: "Worlds fact sheet" with statistics on life in the Czech Republic.

View north from Kuks historical museum - all buildings of historical significance

4.  There is a great deal of pride in the culture and history of the Czechs - The Slavs of the Czech region are an ancient people with many layers of history and culture influencing who they are today.  They have no sufficient borders to protect CZ from the north, south, east, or west...So history has not always been kind to the Czech people.  While today the country is modern and standard of living is high, there is still an appreciation of older cultural ways and tradition, and a long memory of 'problems' with neighbors...

Castle of the 17th and 18th century

Ruins of castle from the 14th century

5.  No, the people do not wear folkloric clothing from the 1880's - Styles and very similar to clothing all through the west...

Children - N. Bohemia

Adults gathered in Village meeting

School children

6.  No the people do not listen primarily to polka music or "um par" bands... Musically interests range from Western Rock and Easy listening music to a greater appreciation of the classics than generally found in San Francisco. There are many wonderful modern Czech groups with a wide range of styles.

Open air music concert

7.  Yes - the Czech people do enjoy beer -  Czechs top the national ratings with an average of 148.6 liters per person!  The US by comparison drinks 77.1 liters per person.  There is a Zero tolerance for driving after drinking alcohol - any alcohol in the blood - lose your license.

It is perfectly legal to own a gun in the Czech Republic - but there are only 16.3 guns per 100 people ( in the US there are 88.8 guns per 100 people)... I feel safe walking the streets.  You are 8X more likely to be killed by a Czech car accident than by a criminal.

8. Typical of the CZ national social policy, female employees are entitled to 28 weeks paid maternity leave beginning six to eight weeks prior to birth, during which time they can collect assistance.  Fathers may take over the leave, by written agreement, seven weeks after childbirth.  For the duration of the maternity leave, you should receive about 70 percent of your salary. 

Kozel beer

8.  The Czech Republic is about real people, working together, playing and relaxing together...

Relaxing with friends (processing cherries)