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Lookin’ Fly: More Yellow!

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Well, here we go.  It’s nearly dinnertime and I’m just now sitting down to do the daily post.  I’m going to admit that I wish the blog would write itself today, and maybe tomorrow too.  We’ll see what I can do about that tonight.

 

First I want to let you know that I ended up making those shrimp bun bowls for dinner last night (mentioned in yesterday’s post) and they were incredible!  We made a quick visit to GrantStone Market last night and stocked up on some essentials like rice noodles, sesame oil, and a huge amount of basil (for 99 cents).  I forgot how much I love shopping at Asian markets.  Have any good sources for Vietnamese or Thai recipes that you’d care to share?

 

Left to right:

 

Yellow Hesperaloe

While our streetscapes here in Tucson are filled with red hesperaloe, my favorite is the yellow.  Perhaps that’s merely because it’s less ubiquitous?  I guess it’s easy to tire of the plants that dominate our commercial spaces (Texas rangers, yellow lantana, feathery senna), but maybe they deserve a bit more consideration based on their ability to tough it out in harsh conditions.  Both the red and yellow hesperaloes are looking great right now, and after they’re done blooming they continue to add interesting structure to outdoor spaces.  Over time the plant reproduces and what was once a singular plant turns into a wide clump, which you can then divide and share with friends (or other parts of your yard).

 

Yellow Bird of Paradise

I don’t normally give the scientific name for the plants I talk about since I figure you can find out for yourself with the Google machine.  But this one is a bit tricky because a variety of images appear when you look up “yellow bird of paradise.”  So the real deal name is Caesalpinia gilliesii.  Of the B.O.P.’s, this is my favorite (there’s also the “red” B.O.P. and “Mexican” B.O.P., and then of course the tropical B.O.P. that is not related at all to what we typically see around town).  I love the yellow petals with the red stamens, and they attract those huge black bees that are so fun (I don’t think they sting).  I think I’d like to add three or four more of these to the yard in the next week or so for some splashy summer color.  Bonus, if you’re wallet is hurting, they are pretty easy to grow from seed!

 

The Sunday Snatch featuring Staghorn Cholla

Happy Sunday to you!  I’ve done one productive thing today and I’m maxed out as far as that goes.  The rest will be spent lounging and pondering something delicious and fun for dinner.  Any ideas?  At the moment I’m thinking chorizo corn chowder or shrimp bun bowls.  My cooking creativity comes in widely spaced spurts, and right now is not one of those times.  What will you be eating tonight?

 

Another of my Sunday activities is looking at blogs.  Here’s what I read regularly: Mormon mom with 6 kids, Evangelical mom with 5 kids, Catholic mom with (almost) 4 kids, and husband-and-wife blogging duo with (almost) 2 kids and tons of home improvement projects.  I’m not religious, I don’t have kids yet, and I’m really not much of a home improvement kind of gal, but those are the spots where I land on a regular basis.  I guess there’s something about how different their lives are from mine that keeps me coming back.  Do you look at blogs that pertain to your life in no way whatsoever?  Maybe this one?  Fill me in, I’d love some new “reading.”

 

About a month ago we covered teddy bear cholla, and now it’s time to add in another of my favorites, staghorn cholla.  It’s so pretty!  We’ve reviewed in a previous post that it pairs nicely with creosote, so if you’re doing some spring planting you could get both of these in the ground at once.  Staghorn cholla has a lovely purple flesh and unusual multicolored flowers, and can take on an elegant vase shape over time.  If you’re worried about it taking up too much space, you can easily keep it in check with some quick pruning (and give the leftover bits to friends).  This is one of those plants that can contribute color to your yard – a definite break from the gray-greens we have so many of.  Plus, pretty much as low as you can go on the maintenance scale.

 

staghorn 1

You know the drill.  Grab some large pruners, cut off a chunk of the plant at a joint, catch it in a bucket, let it scab over for a couple days, then plant!

staghorn 2

I just added 12 new groupings of these guys to the yard.  So far they look happy and healthy, and the dogs have learned to steer around them after a few minor run-ins.  Success!  Now’s a great time to grab some, so keep the supplies in your car and be ready to snatch when the moment arises.

Bermuda Grass Blues

Hey folks.  I am running in ultimate slow motion today.  It took me 3 full cups of coffee to begin to feel semi-conscious today (I max out at 1 cup 99% of days, and no, it’s not related to a wild Friday night…I paid bills and wrote lists of things to do.  Hooray).

 

How about you?  Full speed ahead?

 

I received a call recently about how to get rid of Bermuda grass, and whether I might be the right person to hire to help with this issue (probably not, unless you  have a limitless budget).  Cue a sad song before reading the rest of this post.

 

Cynodon_dactylon

 

Bermuda grass is a fierce enemy, especially if you are adding any supplemental water to your space.  I wouldn’t say it’s a totally hopeless cause, especially if you dedicate some time and effort over a number of years.  But you’re not just going to pop out there this afternoon and take care of business.  I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news.  Here’s what I know about Bermuda grass: I’ve seen the roots go down at least 6′, it spreads by rhizomes (tendrils that spread near the surface of the ground), and it will come back up through a 6″ concrete slab.  I’m not in the habit of using expletives on the blog, but if I did, they would be aimed at this gem of a plant.

 

The only bit of advice I have is to keep digging the roots out as deep as you can (do not use a “hula hoe” – pointless) and then keep after the new bits as they come back until the plant has less and less vigor.  And, super important, pick up after yourself.  All those pieces of Bermuda that you pull up have the ability to start their own new and fantastic life!  So, another key point, using a weed whacker on Bermuda grass is a bad, bad, bad idea.  The ol’ whacker is an awesome way to make your problem worse, because you’re flinging those bits into new and potentially unclaimed territory.  Same goes for a rototiller.

 

Some people say Round Up works.  I disagree.  Well, I take that back.  If you used Round Up exactly the way you’re supposed to (early in the morning, right humidity and temperature, indirect sunlight, directly on leaves) and reapplied multiple times a year for multiple years, you would probably see some decent progress.  Bonus, you’ll have moderately toxic soil and a potentially sterile yard for years to come.  Party time! (Have those one-piece strapless jumpsuits come back yet?)

 

Here are some suggestions I’ve come across that might work:

*Pour a 12″ slab of concrete

*Split an atom in your yard

*Have a plane drop some Napalm

 

You’ll find tons of other suggestions on the web that may or may not work (probably not).  So, to reiterate, either start digging and keep digging, or get in the habit of mowing it down until the end of time if you don’t have the days/months/years to care.

 

Ta, DAH!  I know.  Remember the sad song?  I meant it.

 

Alright, I’m off to ponder which party pants I’m wearing to the Neko Case show tonight!  Have a super duper evening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Custom Concrete Stepping Stones

concrete stones

Happy Friday, everyone!  Do you have any fun plans this evening?  I do not.  But tomorrow night I’m hoping to go see Neko Case at the Rialto Theatre.  Love her voice.

Above is a project I worked on for a few weeks last summer (if you think I don’t work through the heat of June, July and August…guess again!) and now I’d like to implement some of these same elements in my own yard.  I made the concrete stepping stones myself, and have concluded that pour-in-place is the way to go.  I am yet to work on concrete finish for crawl spaces here. Each one is something like 28″ x 28″ and took 2 1/2 bags of 60lb concrete – so that’s around $8 in concrete + $3 in framing lumber for a beautiful, large stepping stone.  This would be a fun and fairly easy DIY to add to that list of things to do if your budget is  below the $1000 mark (and of course if your budget is higher).  Sometime soon I’ll show pictures of other stones I’ve done, because they all look cool and different and it’s a pretty easy way to give a designer touch to your space.  Next up I’m trying large but varied-size circles, or at least I will when I find the right kind of material for a frame.  Any ideas?

Digging without Discretion

I have three main points today, and unfortunately can’t think of any photos to accompany these thoughts.  Maybe by the end of this post I will think of some and sprinkle them in.

1 – I left the hospital in Flagstaff last night, but decided I wouldn’t do so until I was able to have one more semi-lucid exchange with my friend.  When he opened his eyes one moment, I said “hey, how is your brain feeling?  Are you confused or just tired or a whole mix of stuff?”  He replied “I feel pretty ecstatic, pretty great.”  This response would be totally in line with his normal sense of humor, so I had to clarify as to whether he was being facetious.  Again, he said “no no, I feel ecstatic and energized and great, I really feel good.”  Then he said he needed to go over to the woods and take a pee (pointing to the hospital hallway), followed by a quick reentry into brain-repairing sleep.  So it seems that he may have been in an all-together different realm than where I stood, but if it’s a place that conjures ecstasy, I’m happy for that.

One time I was talking with my girlfriend about the possibility of becoming fully paralyzed, and I stated that I wasn’t sure I had the character/brain-chemical balance/optimism/strength to carry on if something like that happened to me.  Then I asked her if she would feel the same.  In about .05 seconds she replied with “nope, there are so many books I want to read.”  I’m learning with each day that you have a huge advantage if you can ponder life’s possibilities rather than limitations at any given moment.  Lucky for me I’m paired up with someone who is a natural at this.

2 – I just attended an Arizona BlueStake safety seminar this morning about proper excavation protocols that keep people safe.  This is the organization you call when you need gas, electric, sewer, cable, and other utility lines marked where you’re digging (or else).  In exchange for me attending this free event, the very kind safety chief at Southwest Gas dropped a huge fine I incurred after breaking a gas line at a client’s house (which happened because I did not call BlueStake…oops).  That’s a fun story, but I’ll save it for when I can better stomach the  memory.  Anyway, the seminar was actually pretty fascinating.  Here are some things I gathered: a) if you hit a gas or electric line, grizzly things can happen (duh), but if you hit a fiber optic communications line you can bet your insurance company will be hit up for $3 million+ in damages and then you will be liquidating your own company, b) you should call BlueStake whether you’re digging 6 inches down or 6′ – there is no law in Arizona about where underground utilities can be (only recommendations) – so the reality is that they can be at any depth, c) even if you’re just pounding in a real estate or political sign, you are held liable for hitting lines if you don’t call BlueStake, this company has Attorneys that are in charge of any legal process that the client requires according to their case.   d)  the Arizona Corporation Commission can fine you $5,000 per infraction, and can even fine you $5,000 per potential infraction if they discover you did not have anything marked but did some digging close to utility lines (!), and e) possibly the most unnerving fact I heard, all around the Southwest people have been removing the copper grounding wires at the bottom of the huge electric line towers that disperse the energy to smaller lines, which means that you could lean against one of these towers and be sizzled in a second (not that you’re hanging around those towers, I hope, but still a major concern).

Point:  if you are digging in your yard, CALL BLUESTAKE.  Okay?  It’s free, and it’s fast, and they will come back and re-mark as many times as you need them to.

3 – I can’t remember what my third topic was.  Instead, here’s a picture of a sloth, and this charming video of a sloth, because I’m tired and I need to go start some digging.

sloth and cat

Hospital Gardens

Actually I don’t have anything to say today about hospital gardens.  Maybe tomorrow?

Well, everyone here seems like the friend I mentioned yesterday is back on the train tracks, which is incredible news.  He fell in a rock climbing accident up at Lake Powell, which then resulted in a rescue effort that included helicopters, “one-skid” landings, speed boats, and other assorted details that make my brain spin.  He broke his #1 vertebra (known as the “atlas” because it holds the weight of the world – the skull) into multiple pieces – at least 4.  Miraculously those pieces did not sever his spinal cord or his main blood vessels entering and leaving the brain.  Now those pieces are screwed together and attached to the #2 vertebra (the “axis,” which gives you most of your rotation ability) and the whole works is totally stabilized.  Modern medicine is truly astonishing.

In case you’re pondering an intense injury like this or in case of accidental injuries find personal injury attorneys for hire as they can help you out legally.Moreover, it sounds like the area around Flagstaff, AZ is the place to be.  Since the surrounding community tends to be very involved in outdoor sports, they have an incredible staff dedicated to athletic injuries.

Today will be far less adrenaline-filled, so I may actually pop into the hospital gardens and have a look, I already know they need the services of erosion control pierce county wa.  Outdoor spaces at medical facilities can provide much-needed respite and relaxation, which is important for both patients and visitors.  I know the people I’m with right now will need some meditative moments in the coming days.  So more tomorrow on that subject – I might even gather some thoughts from those who aren’t design nerds like myself.  Scintillating!

Lookin’ Fly : Palo Verdes!

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I have to keep today’s post super short and a little boring because I have about 3 seconds to spare today.  Remember how I just talked about celebrating when things are not actively going off the rails?  Well a good friend’s train is definitely off the tracks, but hopefully moving back toward the rails at an ever-quickening pace.  Vague, I know.  Just throw out some good vibes to the universe if you have a spare moment today.  Thanks a million.

 

 

So based on my neighborhood I’d say the palo verde trees are in full bloom.  In my yard the Desert Museum variety is looking fantastic and buzzing with bees.  Near the street I’ve also planted two Sonoran palo verdes (palo brea), and they just opened up their first few flowers this weekend.  On a neighborhood walk I’ve seen the blue palo verdes bursting with yellow flowers.  I have not, however, noticed whether the foothills palo verdes are blooming, which I find quite odd because I think the hills near my house usually turn a nice shade of lemon right about now.  So what’s up, did I miss it, is it happening now but I’m just stuck in a visionless stress-vortex, or is it yet to arrive?  Someone fill me in.

 

Left to Right:

 

Blue Palo Verde

Love these trees.  Blue/green trunks and stems, rich yellow flowers, seed pods galore after bloom (which wildlife love), and nice dense shade.  I have 3 babies started in my yard.  Can’t wait til they get a bit bigger.

 

Desert Museum Palo Verde

I have two totally healthy trees of this variety and two that have been sickly since I planted them 3 years ago.  But the sickliness seems like an outlier based on what I’ve seen around town.  These hybrid palo verdes (a genetic mix of foothills, blue, and Sonoran) grow fast, have green bark and stems, get fairly tall, and bloom for an extended amount of time.  I know some of my “plant purist” friends argue that a human-made hybrid is not a great decision based on the fact that the tree has not naturally evolved here over a huge amount of time.  And they may be totally right.  But I still love them and I have a total of 4 that will hopefully someday create a nice backyard canopy.  I guess to counter this argument I would say it’s a good idea to plant a whole mix of trees in any given yard/neighborhood/city.  That way if some pest comes along a destroys everything of one variety, you have a series of backups in place.  Anyway, this year I think my healthiest Desert Museum is going to put on at least 4′ of growth, inching it closer to being a real shade tree!  Pretty stoked.

 

Farewell for now, friends.  If your day is still solidly on the tracks, sing a little tune for me!  Something with pep.

 

The Sunday Snatch featuring Aloe Vera

Well hello!  Have you had a productive, fun, or relaxing Sunday thus far?  Mine has been a mix.  I just planted a whole bunch of cholla in the back yard, did a bit of tree watering, and soon I’m going to dig a few holes for footers – that shade structure really is in the works, finally.  And, duh, tonight we will be watching Game of Thrones.

 

aloe 1

 

So this snatch features a tough standby that I hope to accumulate more of as the years roll on – Aloe vera.  At least I think that’s what it is.  It may be some other sort of aloe all together, because there are so many different kinds.  Wikipedia just informed me that this particular type of aloe is “found only in cultivation, having no naturally occurring populations, although closely related aloes do occur in northern Africa.”  Either way, whether it’s actually vera, barabadensis, or some other species, it’s the one you see all over cultivated landscapes in the southwest, and it’s a great plant.  With a bit of extra water they are green and perky and flower vigorously in the spring.  Without an additional drink they tend to get a bit more gray-green with crispy edges and don’t produce as many flowers.  But they’ll survive!

 

I love pairing them with yellow barrel cactus, dinner plate prickly pear, and the various palo verde trees.

 

So this snatch is pretty basic, but might require a shovel depending on how hard the ground is where you find your donor plant.  As seen in the photo below, I took a shovel to this mass of plants and dug up about 1/3 of the group.

 

aloe 2

You’ll end up with a snarled clump of plants that are intertwined, but that can be easily fixed.

aloe 3

 

It helps to have a trowel or knife to take them all apart.  Alternately, you could just replant the clump and let it do its thing.  Either way works great.  As you can see, my clump turned out to be 17 individual plants.  Not a bad haul for one shovelful of work.

 

aloe 4

I ended up using a few of these to add to my indoor plant collection.  The rest will be redistributed throughout the front yard, so year by year they will have a bigger and better presence.  Yay for aloe!  It’s a great plant for people who think they have a “black thumb.”  If this is you, come over and I will give you a handful of these guys and you can test your plant skills.

aloe 5

 

Favorite Gardening Book and thoughts on Facebook

Well, the day is nearly done but here I am, fully dedicated to getting the daily post out to my devoted reader.  Thanks for tuning in on this exciting Saturday night!

First a few enlightening thoughts on Facebook, which I know you’ve been waiting to hear from my generally enlightened position in life.  I had an account for a few years, took a few years off, and now I’m back for the long haul (I think).  During my FB sabbatical I came across multiple studies showing that the way people use social media platforms influences how they feel about not only the platform itself, but life in general (to some degree, maybe small).  In short, lurking friends/family/friends of friends of friends of former romantic partners = sad, while participating and engaging with people you know and like = happy (or at least neutral).  My first Facebook stint fell solidly into the lurking category and I truly felt bad about it.  It’s easy to fall into a social media hole and come away thinking everything and everyone is better off than you are at any given moment in time.  Now that I’m back I’m trying to take a whole new approach, with much more active participation (e.g., spamming you with this blog on the daily) and much less lurking (ideally none, but sometimes you wonder what your fellow 7th grade camp-goers are up to).  The other part that helps is that I do not have a smart phone, so the checking Facebook tic is automatically kept to a home activity.  Maybe I would feel bad again if I could check on things in real time.  The one thing I’m super glad about is that I did not have this social media as a teen.  Holy smokes, I can’t imagine the anxiety it causes people of that age.  Right?  Way too much ability to compare and contrast without full brain development and a wider lens on life.

What about you?  Love it?  Hate it?  Have an account but let it gather dust for long periods of time?  It’s an interesting challenge, but for now I’m finding it to be more helpful than hurtful.  We’ll see how that changes as time moves forward.

Well, the rest of this is just a snippet because I’m eager to settle into the couch and not move again until it becomes mandatory.

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If you love to grow edible things here in the desert, I have found the book “Extreme Gardening : How to Grow Organic in the Hostile Deserts” by Dave Owens to be extremely helpful.  He talks about how to plant things in companion groups to get beneficial relationships going (like pairing up corn, squash, basil and tomatoes in a small space).  He also tells you how to attract beneficial bugs, repel pests, enrich your soil, and the best commercial fertilizer to use, all using natural interventions.  And it’s specifically written for our region of the world, so it’s pretty much right-on, unlike the generalized gardening books you might find on the subject.  It’s nothing fancy to look at – no photos or glossy pages – but it’s awesome and makes me want to turn every spare inch of my yard into an organic greenhouse production paradise.

Garden Regrets and other Life Regrets

Between the ages of 17 and 27 I dated Justin off and on for almost 6 years.  It was alternately wonderful and dismal due to his depression and drug use, and my eagerness to rid him of those sufferings.

 

After taking a summer off at my mom’s house in Colorado, post graduate school mania, I came back to Tucson to move on with life in an “official” and “adult” manner.  Shortly thereafter I received an email from Justin saying how much he wished he had married me and addressed his personal issues.  I mentally met this communication with irritation and disgust.  After all, I had put in a lot of years to hear those words and had finally and completely thrown in the towel.  Instead of writing a reply, I waited a week to get my thoughts together.  I’m sure there was also a part of me that delayed in order to get the “I’m doing great without you” message across that happens at the jagged end of a relationship.

 

About thirty minutes after I finally sent a reply, which included nonsense like “I’m heading out to do some yard work and then some cooking and then the gym!”, I got a call from his good friend, who left a voicemail saying that he needed to talk to me about Justin.  Again, irritation, because I did not want to be pulled back into the position of helper/therapist/drug addiction specialist.  I had already done that at least a hundred times.

 

Without hearing from me in another hour, the friend called again, I picked up, and was told that Justin had died of an opiate overdose three days prior, and they had just found his body in his apartment.

 

There aren’t too many things I regret to any serious degree so far in life, but it’s a pretty substantial sadness I carry with me about not sending an immediate and compassionate email the same day I received word from him.  It may or may not have changed some things, but it would have been quick and easy and the better thing to do.

 

So I don’t have a quaint summary statement about drug addiction and the preciousness of life or anything like that.  But I do realize that life is full of both dark and light moments and I’d like to think I’m now more capable of summoning kindness on a regular basis.  You never know the place someone is sitting at any particular moment.

 

regrets 1

 

…………

 

Okay.  So I’m gonna go ahead and hop on over to the lighter side of life.  I definitely don’t mean to be flippant, comparing real sadness with garden and yard sadness,  but I guess what I’m trying to get across is the fact that lots of everyday problems and annoyances are so trivial.  We all know that.  I heard an interview with The Avett Brothers once, and they made the comment that in the moments the train isn’t going completely off the rails we should celebrate (and sing, loud).

 

On the celebratory note, here are some of the garden regrets I’ve experienced in the recent past/somewhat present: thinking sand can be a nice patio/lounge surface for the bare foot factor (nope, cat poop galore), planting trees so close together that they eventually have to be pruned “sad tuba” style or removed all together, planting and watering a whole bunch of vegetables that I don’t actually like to eat, planting trees with massive thorns where the mail person gets a scratched face/arm/body each day – so many things I could just write a blog on the mess-ups.  But the super duper thing is that this stuff can almost always be reasonably fixed.  Cultivated landscapes are great in that respect.  You can create and move and re-imagine, allowing the chance for very little, or at least temporary, regret.

 

If you’re looking at your space and pondering all the things you wish you wouldn’t have done, let’s get them fixed.  There are as many options as there are days.

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