Winter yard prep

I pruned back the Matilija Poppies (Romeyea) today, and with the 20% threat (yes, I said THREAT ;-) ) of rain I watered the natives in the front. I've decided that for California native gardens, the threat of rain is like a big sign telling me to water.

I've watered my Ribes deeply in the past month to stimulate growth and bring them out of their summer dormancy.

The Western redbud (Cercis occidentalis) haven't dropped their leaves yet, but when they do I'll move the one in a pot into the ground.

I still need to prune the salvia in the front yard and revitalize the front yard meadow, starting with extending the sprinkler system. I don't water often, but when I do I want to get complete coverage.

I've cleaned the gutters twice - most recently after a high wind and today I raked up and composted the leaves in the side yard where both my property and my neighbor's drain to the street. Maybe I'll be able to keep more water on my property in the future. For now, it's important that I not flood myself out so I need to keep a clear, leaf-free, channel open.

I've also cracked a Syrah, my first this winter. Bigger reds are key for the winter gardener. This one's Andrew Murray Estate, Santa Ynez Valley, 2004. I paired it with a turkey pot pie (from Banquet, I'm not going to make things from scratch every night). I'm a bit disappointed that it's not more complex, but it did travel with me to Lair of the Bear and back. Even though it traveled in a cooler, there could be some impact. It's been so warm that I've been enjoying whites and roses. My good tasting memory of Rhone-type wine was an astounding Chateauneuf du Pape, so perhaps the Andrew Murray isn't being fairly compared.

Finally, I need to get about 1 more cubic yard of wood chips to spread about the garden.

Green Remodel in the Watershed

I stumbled upon Green Remodel in the Watershed blog the other day and have found it an interesting read so far. It is the journal of a couple who are doing an interior and exterior green remodel of a property on the outskirts of Sonoma, Ca.

I've found it early in the remodel, so I'm excited to follow along as projects start and complete. Maybe this couple has more tenacity than me and will actually finish their projects on schedule.

The blog is organized a little differently than the all-on-one page format used on blogger.com, so I'm clicking around a bit more than I expected.

An article of particular interest is one on rainwater runoff management. Comparison is made between pre-development and post development rainwater runoff using the Small Storm Hydrology WQV (Water Quality Volume) Method. This is new information for me, so I'm particularly interested in the linked downloadable calculation sheets that the author provides.

I've read that deep rooted native grasses allow more efficient intercalation of rain water into dense soils than traditional turf grasses and I suppose that this is a general effect. However, it doesn't appear at first glance that the WQV method takes type of vegetation into account. I'll have to keep this question in mind as I learn more.


Back to water III

Well, it's happened. Remember when I discussed local water companies in Back to water? I reviewed the politics and economics of water conservation from the municipal and water company standpoint.

I then chased that thought with a discussion of the current drought in Back to water II. The bottom line on that is that nothing's changed. We're still in a locally moderate drought and the watersheds in northern California are in a severe drought.)

But, the response from my local water company has been swifter than I could have imagined!

Today I received a cheery letter asking for my "help to voluntarily reduce water usage." By 20% in year 2020! Since population density is increasing, this really means that per capita reduction will need to be greater than 20%. For me, greater than 20% savings seems a pretty unreachable goal, but perhaps there's highly egregious water wasters that can afford to cut back 30% so that I only have to cut back 5%. On the other hand, perhaps everyone else is saying that too.

The letter goes on. After a short paragraph extolling the merits of their efficiency rebate program (Nothing revolutionary like gray water or rain barrel rebates, instead, "Rebates for High Efficiency Washers, High Efficient Toilets and Urinals, Smart Irrigation Controllers and synthetic turf may be available.") they have a follow-on paragraph about how they have "taken proactive steps to change [their] rate structure to reward conservation" with their new tiered rate system. They then wrap up by telling us that "these efforts will allow us to achieve the necessary conservation of this most precious resource" and chase that aspirational remark with the threat of mandatory conservation measures should "voluntary" efforts fail.

I would bet this letter meets a legal requirement for notification. And I wonder how many people will actually read it?

They encourage us to find out more about tiered rates and rebates. Let's see what that's all about.

I called their 800 number at 7:40 PM and spoke to a pleasant person located in San Dimas, California, about their rebate program and new tiered rate structure.

The rebates are administered through the centralbasin.org web site. Hmmm - it looks like I can get a rebate on a new high efficiency toilet (regardless of my current toilet). Maybe my butt needs a style upgrade. There's washer and sprinkler upgrades too. Maybe I can get a retroactive rebate for my front loading washer!

The new rate schedules decrease the monthly fixed costs of a water meter and implement two consumption-based rates for single family residences only. The rate change occurs at 13 HCF (hundred cubic feet) per month for the area where I live. I use about that much, so I will expect a slight decrease in my water bill since I'll mostly receive my water at the lower Tier I rate. The break even point of consumption (new rates vs. old rates) seems to be designed around 18 HCF / month. The only time I used that much was when my neighbor watered my lawn while I was on vacation and I don't have the lawn anymore.

The tiers don't adjust for the size of your lot or for your historical usage patterns, so my earlier concerns about having already conserved to my limit and then being asked to conserve more were overwrought.

Businesses and apartments will also see a decrease in their monthly fixed costs but will have an increase in their charge per HCF. No tiers, however. Their break even point in my water region is at about 48 HCF / month. In hotter areas, businesses and apartments have a break even point of about 88 HCF.

The tiered rates are divided into two geographic areas, Region II and Region III. I'm in Region II, along with a bunch of other cities, mostly near the coast. Region III includes Seal Beach, but all the other cities in RIII appear to be inland and significantly warmer than RII. Here's a comparison of RII and RIII single family residence costs:

Region II (cooler coastal cities): Tier 1: 0-12 CCF $2.549; Tier 2: 13 CCF and up $2.93. Fixed costs: $14.35
Region III (warmer inland cities): Tier 1: 0-16 CCF $2.067; Tier 2: 17 CCF and up $2.378. Fixed costs: $12.25

What drives the price difference? Is it an acknowledgment that the lot sizes in the Inland Empire are typically larger and covered with a greater amount of grass needing a greater amount of water than coastal lots? Or is there a maintenance cost that's higher for the older infrastructure of RII?

Since I believe in the power of markets to shift consumption, I think this the new pricing schedule is a step in the right direction. It remains to be seen if it's enough.



When I was in Thuringia, Germany this summer I enjoyed some of their local potato dumplings (Kartoffelkloesse) along with their local braised meats, particularly venison. These dumplings are baseball-sized, and VERY gummy - not to everyone's taste.

According to my hosts, the family recipes for Kartoffelkloesse are tightly guarded secrets and when a man marries his wife inherits both his and her family recipes which she then combines and mutates into a best of breed recipe. I tried to pry some recipes from various people, but they all pled ignorance.

Some time later this recipe landed in my in-box from the wife of one of my hosts.

1. Thuringian Potato Dumplings (Thueringer Kartoffelkloesse)

3 kg Potatoes
2 Rolls

a. At the previous day dice 2 rolls or white bread and toast it with butter in a small fry pan. The dice should have a maximum size of 1 cm.
b. Peel the potatoes and cook 1 kg of them - piled with water - until they are mellow. Whisk them to a thick plain porridge. Please be careful, the porridge should not scorch. In the meantime grate the other 2 kg on a very fine grater or use a food processor. To avoid a discolouring add a knife point of „Kloßweiß“ or „Fruchtklar“ (antioxidant).

Give the grated potato mass in a potato sack (or a wipe) and wring it. The dryer the mass, the better the result. Collect the wrung water. It contains the required potato starch on the bottom. Salt the potato starch after your fancy. Use a very big bowl!

Following give the strong cooking and very hot mash about it (brew it in two steps). Mix the dough fast and strong with a big wooden beater until it is completely plain and disengaged from the bowl. Then shape the dumplings in your hands. Dip your hands in cold water, take a portion of the dough needed for one dumpling and give some toasted roll dices into the middle. Shape the dumpling pretty round. Give the dumplings in a big pot filled with hot water you have boiled before. Important: The dumplings must not be boiled in the water. They must only brew for about 10 minutes. Then you can take it out and serve.

Sioux war hammer

The assignment was to make an American Indian artifact. Suggested artifacts were pottery, clothes, dioramas, and so forth. No weapons were mentioned. I toured the entire 5th grade last week.One enterprising girl had recreated a couple games. There were the usual clothing and tee pee dioramas, pinch pots and baskets. But nearly all the boys had made weapons.


Roulade of pork loin

A week or two ago I was inspired by a recipe in one of Juli's magazines that used a sliced and pounded pork loin stuffed with all sorts of good things. The official recipe called for brining the pork for 8 hours before, but I don't plan that far ahead, so I skipped that part. Then, I didn't have a single thing that the recipe called for except the pork loin, so I ended up with what you see here instead.

The stuffing has apples, cranberries, lemon zest, pine nuts, sage, thyme, salt, pepper. This was delicious, particularly when served in a small pool of cranberry sauce.

In the spirit of sharing the wealth, my son thought I should send the recipe to Grandma for Thanksgiving.

Baked sweet potato fries

These didn't turn out as well as the last ones I made because I overcrowded the pan and consequently they didn't crisp very much. Still, they were tasty.

sweet potatoes
olive oil
sea salt


The fog rolled in last night. I like the fog, but it has become an increasingly rare occurrence in recent years. I've read that this is due to the heat island effect. The heat island effect simple states that the sun will warm a parking lot or other low-shade urban area more effectively than a grassy meadow. The slight rise in overnight temperatures due to residual heat can tip the balance away from fog-forming conditions. Urbanization is also blamed for altering normal wind patterns and therefore contributing to changes in fog frequency. However, that's not the whole story. It turns out that there's also correlation of the decrease in coastal fog over the last 22 years to the decrease in airborne particulates (because we've improved our particulate emissions the airborne water vapor has fewer particles to condense upon) and to periodic, long-term, ocean water temperatures.

Many native plants are adapted to take advantage of the coastal fog and drip the condensate from their leaves into the root line. My memory is vague on this, but I recall reading an article a while back that claimed some large fraction of the soil moisture in redwood forests came from condensed fog. (The figure I seem to recall was near 50%).

My electrician, an old timer with a long history in the area, commented that he used to have to open the door on his car and navigate by the center stripe on the road in the early morning hours. That used to be fairly common a couple decades ago, but he hadn't seen fog like that recently.

Driving to work this AM shortly after sunrise, I noticed that the fog was denser over the grassy fields of nearby schools, suggesting a very local observation of the heat island effect.

The abstract below from "Trends in fog frequencies in the Los Angeles Basin" by M.R. Witiwa and Steve LaDochy is informative.

Data from throughout the Los Angeles area were examined to determine the horizontal distribution of dense fog (visibility < 400 m) in the region and trends over time. The relationship between the occurrence of dense fog to the phase of two atmosphere–ocean cycles: the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) measured by the PDO Index and the Southern Oscillation measured by the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was investigated. In addition, the influence of the urban heat island and the amount of suspended particulate matter were assessed. For the three stations that had 22 or more years of data, we examined trends and the relation to atmosphere–ocean cycles. Results show a decrease in the occurrence of very low visibilities (< 400 m) at the stations in close proximity to the Pacific Ocean, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and Long Beach International Airport (LGB). Occurrence of the frequency of low visibilities at these two locations was also highly correlated with the phase of the PDO. Only a weak, non-statistically significant relationship was seen with the SOI. At Burbank, a reporting station about 30 km from the ocean, no trends were noted, and there was no evidence of a correlation with either the PDO Index or the SOI. In the Los Angeles Central Business District (CBD) when comparing dense fog occurrence in the early 1960s to a similar period in the early 2000s we saw a decrease in dense fog from a mean of 10 h per year to a mean of 3 h per year. Also contributing to the decrease was decreasing particulate pollution and increased urban warming. A downward trend in particulate concentrations coupled with an upward trend in urban temperatures were associated with a decrease in dense fog occurrence at both LAX and LGB [Long Beach Airport]. These trends were evident for the period 1966–1997, but appear to have ended by the late 1990s.


Baked cauliflower with Feta and tomato sauce

I've enjoyed this several times recently so I thought it worthwhile to make a permanent note.

Kounoupithi (Baked Cauliflower With Feta and Tomato Sauce)

This recipe is copied from here with my added comments.


* 4 tablespoons olive oil
* 3 garlic cloves, minced
* 1 large yellow onion, chopped
* 30 ounces Italian plum tomatoes
* 1 bay leaf
* 2 teaspoons dried Greek oregano
* 2 inches cinnamon sticks [I used powdered and it was fine]
* salt
* fresh ground black pepper
* 1 large head cauliflower
* 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
* 5 ounces feta cheese
[* Honey or sugar (Optional. 1-2 tsp or to taste. Use sparingly.)]


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a saute pan, gently cook the garlic and onion in half of the olive oil until soft. Add the tomatoes, herbs, spice and seasonings. Cover pan and simmer 5 minutes.

Cut up the cauliflower into florets and stir into the tomato sauce mixture. Cover pan and cook another 10 minutes.

Transfer the mixture into a shallow, ovenproof dish, and drizzle with the remaining olive oil and the lemon juice.

Crumble the feta cheese on the top and garnish with black pepper.

Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 25 minutes. I used the convection setting.

A better presentation is to steam the cauliflower florets separately, put the tomato sauce in the bottom of an oven proof dish, and put the cauliflower on top.Dribble some oil, squeeze the lemon and crumble the feta over the top, then bake. Using this method, the visual and taste contrast between the cauliflower and sauce is more striking: Rather than one homogeneous taste, it has a range.


New house colors

I have spent a good long time thinking about colors for my house, including a failed attempt at using the computer. For a long time I knew that I wanted a sage green main color, but the other colors eluded me. Recently, as I was falling asleep, I thought how nice an old Cabernet colored trim would be with a sage green house. I didn't quite end up with that color, but today I settled on

  • Benjamin Moore "Country Redwood" for trim around doors and windows and for the fascia board at the eaves.
  • Pratt & Lambert "Off White" 32-31 (old #2301-1FB) for the windows, French doors, eaves, and garage door. Seriously, it's called "Off White"
  • Pratt & Lambert "Olive Fog" 18-11 (old #2217) for the body of the house.
Juli didn't initially buy into my vision. Then she did. After that, she quickly helped me home in on the right three colors.

As she pointed out, the Country Redwood plays well with both the brown roof and the brick facing.

Both Pratt & Lambert and Benjamin Moore have online house "painting" services. BM implements Personal Color Viewer (the same software that I tried at home and got frustrated with). An hour or two in the paint store looking at color chips was far better time spent.


Gardening software

I get a weekly email from CNET / Download.com. This week they focused on gardening software. Has anyone used these tools before?

Behold, our favorite five fall gardening applications for the week of October 17:

1. Gardens and Plants - It's impossible to manage a garden if you don't know what you're maintaining. This helpful reference software lists more than 2,500 plants and 4,000 pictures to help identify and learn about plant species.

2. Garden Planner - With a drag-and-drop interface and solid support for Windows 2000, XP, and Vista, this simple-to-use software lets anyone create a garden design in seconds. Users can select generic or specific plant shapes, then add patios, fences, paths, and other objects.

3. Realtime Landscaping Plus - This powerful landscape-design software brings your ideas to life with realistic 3D simulations. Design elements like gardens, water features, patios, and fences, and then walk around your creations as you view them from 360 degrees.

4. Vegetable Garden Design - Many crops like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and carrots (you know, all those kid favorites), can grow well in cool weather and extend the growing season. This helpful garden-design tool lets you create your map and then add all the vegetables that you want to plant.

5. Folia - The best way for budding horticulturists to learn is from veterans. This social-networking site for gardeners lets users share and learn from the successes and failures of others. Ask specific questions about plants or techniques and get answers from the experienced Folia community.


Garden-made trellis

I built A-frame two trellises (trelli ??) this weekend with some left over limbs from some long-ago yard demolition work. I'd like to say that I waited so long to use the limbs because I built a tee pee for my son with them, which is true. However, the tee pee came down half a year ago and he didn't really care for it anyway, so it could have come down sooner. I do like that that I was able to reduce the apparent level of debris in the yard and reduce my waste stream (or fire wood pile) at the same time.

There they are leaning against the fence.

The wooden pieces that make up the trellises are all tied together with wire. I think it's a galvanized wire, but I've forgotten where and when I bought it. What I do know is that I've used non-galvanized wire on other outdoor projects and they don't last too long due to corrosion.

On the right, a gift boysenberry(?) vine from Mike K. can now see the sun for longer periods of time. At left, Vitus californica "Rogers Red" grape vine is planted at the base. The grape vine languished on the ground all summer and now is reluctant to be easily repositioned onto the trellis. Native plants in view are Epilobium canum (formerly Zaushneria, aka California fuschia) behind the sun dial. That's been a real winner for me with great red color at a time when many other garden flowers have shut down. I have another sub species elsewhere in the garden. Low growing blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium bellum - could be "Rocky Point" as my clumps don't seem as large as the undifferentiated species are claimed to be) is to the right of the sundial's base. With water, this will make it through the summer, but it reseeds well and can go summer dormant, so maybe next summer I won't apply water. Behind the stump (which is just placed there for interest and as a stool) and also to the right of it are two Linum lewisii (blue flax). I need another few of those.

I don't know if the Ceanothus in the foreground ("Darkstar"?) will grow to shade the vines too much.

In other weekend activity, my son and I dug out a small area for the new porch that I will install off my bedroom door into the back yard and filled it with sand. I'll use my very own cast concrete pavers - four initially - to provide the walking surface. For now it's just a shallow pit with landscape fabric at the bottom covered in ~1.5" of sand. An old board on top lets me walk on it for now.

We also made a Sioux Indian war hammer for a class project requiring an Indian "artifact".


LA Times on wildflowers

Emily Green writes in the LA Times about seeding wildflowers in your garden. The companion article, "How to pick wildflowers for your garden" is useful as well. However, the slide show linked from the main article is just OK, since it doesn't really feature wildflowers in gardens.

After a bit of research prompted by the slide show, I now know that invasive African sorrel, Oxalis pes-caprae (which I knew as sour grass as a kid) looks similar to the native Oxalis albicans (which they also call sour grass).


"True" cost of home improvement hobby II

Back in May, 2007, I tallied all the receipts that I had for home improvement supplies from the previous half year.

The results are in for this year, and with an additional year of data, the results are more interesting. As before, this is only receipts that I saved (I try to save them all, but don't anguish over a few lost ones), big box stores mostly, and includes all projects (Cub Scouts, helping the elderly neighbor, etc).

I tally $4555.05 spent between 9/9/2006 and 10/5/2008, a period that encompasses the previous reporting period. That's about 2 years even, making my average spending per year about $2250.00. This figure doesn't include the table saw purchased this year or the compound miter saw purchased the year before, occasional hired help, lunches for my buddies who help, or any of that. I still think it's a useful starting off point for budgeting purposes.

Other trends showed up in the data:
1. In April I have the lowest number of purchases: 0 in 2007, 1 in 2008. I guess I'm focused on taxes.
2. June is the second lowest number of purchases each year: 2 in 2007 and 1 in 2008. I seem to recall that there's been a confluence of school ending, vacation, business travel, etc in the last two Junes.
3. I've spent pretty consistent amounts year to year. However, this might be misleading, since I'm not consistent on how I treat big ticket items not purchased from the local big box emporium: I included my French doors in 2006 but not my table saw in 2008.
4. I spend most of my money at Home Depot. This is because it's close and it's between home and work.
5. There are 92 purchases over the two years, or an average of just under one per week.
6. Each purchase was on average about $50, but this isn't representative of my typical spending habits as the standard deviation of the average is about $62 (excluding refunds).

The graph of my spending rate could be interesting to present if I hadn't hobbled myself by using Google Docs to tally this all up. Their graphing capability stinks.

Back from Austin, Tx

I traveled there on business, but had time to stop by Stubb's BBQ. I've used Stubbs BBQ sauce puchased from the grocery store, and found it to be quite good. Unfortunately Stubb's was closed for a private party. The security guard suggested we try the Iron Works BBQ, about 6 blocks away at the corner of 1st and Red River. We did, and it was good. I had the sampler plate (a meaty rib, some brisket, and a sausage in my order of preference). I added a Lone Star beer and home made blackberry cobbler. It was all very good except for the sausage which was only just good. I guess I make exceptions about not liking lagers when they are ice cold and washing down delicious BBQ.

I didn't eat anything else until the next day when I was again served Austin BBQ at lunch! This time I had the BBQ chicken and brisket. The brisket was my favorite that time around. I ought to try some at home.

The local BBQ vernacular includes potato salad (mayo-based), a slice of bread (white, at the Iron Works, corn bread or roll at lunch the next day), and pinto beans. Tomato-based BBQ sauce is served on the side to supplement the sauce already on the meat. I think there was also coleslaw at lunch, but I didn't have any. The interesting Texas variation is that dill pickles and sliced onion (I had both mild white and red) are provided as a foil for the rich BBQ flavors. This works well. I had a feeling that the BBQ chicken was only an afterthought to the main feature of brisket and ribs.

We were able to walk from Iron Works BBQ to the Congress Street bridge and see the 1.5 million bats that live under the bridge leaving at sun down. We were on the wrong side of the river to see the mass exodus in detail. Near us we saw plenty of individual bats, but on the far side there were so many leaving at once that they looked like a thin wisp of smoke trailing up the and down the lake.

On our walk back to the car (parked near Stubbs) we travelled down 6th street, the heart of Austin's music scene. We were walking along about 8:00 and I felt that we were about an hour too early that evening and a decade too late. The next day, I was told that 4th St (? forgot the intersection) was more suited to my age. I also received recommendations of County Line BBQ and one other that I've forgotten, should I be back in town.



These have been ready for about a month. The larger orange ones are 16" or so across. There was a 3rd large orange one, but it rotted on the vine. I think that they do that unless you cut them off. Then they seem to last forever.

Promised rain fails to come through

Only a light mist fell on Saturday, 4 Oct, even though early forecasts sounded pretty sure that real rain was on the way. I booked 0.001" as a place holder, even though I couldn't actually measure that small of an amount.

I was outdoors most of the day, and at one point my shirt got damp, but that was the heaviest extent of the rainfall. Still, the nice crisp air was a fine reminder that fall is here and a good break from the previous week's heat (up around 80 F).

Weekend plants roundup

I had an extra relaxing weekend, due to the fact that today is a school holiday and I didn't need to leave Sunday mid afternoon to pick up my son. He'll be back this evening, and that allowed me to pace my weekend over two full days like a normal person.

Saturday early AM I was on the road to the Payne Foundation for their members fall plant sale. Even though I arrived shortly before 9AM on a cool morning that promised rain, they were still busy. The crowds only grew through the afternoon. For the most part the native plants people are mellow and slow moving, but at one point I picked up a mimulus with tangerine colored flowers, then though better of it and decided I'd go with a yellow colored one. However, before I could get to the yellow mimulus plants someone pounced on the remaining two with a triumphant cry and I was "stuck" with tangerine one I held in my hand. Something similar was going on in the tangerine colored mimulus area, so I thanked my luck at not having already put the one in my hand back.

By and large, I stuck with my plant interest lists that I wrote about previously but I wasn't able to overcome the urge to make a few impulse purchases. Here's what I bought:

Fragraria Nesus (Woodland Strawberry) - Two 4" pots. These are both now planted in the shady and forgotten NE side yard of my house along with a companion Fragraria chiloensis(?) (which is the sole survivor of two or three plants that I put in and may be misidentified altogether in my earlier Sept 2007 blog entry). I don't know why I'd plant F. Chiloensis in such a poorly lit area. Then again, maybe that's why I have only one of several plants left there.

Heuchera "Opal" (Coral Bells) - One 1 gal pot. This is planted with the Fragraria in the dimly lit side yard. The volunteer at the Payne Foundation told me that this was one of the easiest of the non-hybrid Heuchera to grow. I look on this purchase as plant trial.

Juncus patens "Elk's Blue" (Common Rush) - Two 1-gal plants. I split one and planted it in the SW side yard where I think the neighbor's lawn water will keep it hydrated. I don't really have a place for the second except to increase density in the side yard, so I didn't really need two.

Ceanothus "Ray Hartmann". I think I will put this against espalier it like I saw on the Payne Foundation garden tour. The only question is where? A fellow customer at the plant sale told me that one of hers that gets half sun does well, growing proportionately slower to one in full sun, but otherwise healthily. I could put it against the stucco wall next to my bedroom or against the wooden fence to screen the neighbor.

Encelia californica (California Bush Sunflower)- Two 1 gal pots. There require more water than I'm used to giving, so maybe I'll put them near the citrus tree in front or the vegetable garden in back. I think I should look for another Aster with dryer soil needs for the front if I want to plant anywhere else.

Mimulus "Jeff's Tangerine"

Ashy Leaf Buckwheat (Eriogonum cinereum) - This is to replace the too large buckwheat that I currently have planted. I have E. grande rubescens from seed sprouting in several places in the yard which I will also use.

Woolly Blue Curls (Trichostema lanatum) - One 1 gal plant. Love the name and it looks cool. The only question is if I can find a place it will flourish. It needs rocky, well-draining soil and no summer water once established. This plant was twice the price of the typical plant. I wonder why?

Checkerbloom (Sidalcea malviflora) - Two 1 gal pots. A little more reading has me hoping that the two I previously planted will come back from apparent death. Apparently this disappears in the late summer only to reappear in spring.

Desert mallow (Spharalcea ambigua) - Has beautiful apricot blooms, but not really well suited to my yard, so this will be a challenge to site and grow.

Deer Grass(Muhlenbergia rigens) - Have some that hasn't grown with abandon. Need to try more.

I hit the mother lode with the seeds and bulbs I needed:

Purple needle grass (Nasella pulchra) - Have some and need more.

Castilleja exserta (Purple Owl's Clover) - This one requires sowing with an herbaceous perennial (like yarrow). I was told that the perennial provides a little upward scaffolding but calflora.net calls it partially parasitic.

Clatonia perfoliatia (Miner's lettuce) - My second go round with this.

Miner's Lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata)

Loco Weed, Angel’s trumpet, Devil’s weed (Datura wrightii)

Eschscholzia californica "Maritima" (Coastal form of California poppy)

Santa Susana tarplant or Tar Weed (Deinandra minthornii) This was formerly Hemizonia minthornii, which is how it was indexed in the seed library at TPF.

Allium unifolium (Single leaf onion) - this is a N Ca. native that likes some shade and summer water. Tolerates clay soil.

Juli came through with some little artichoke plants for the front yard. I'll be using them as a hedge just off the front porch, and I got them in the ground as night was falling on Saturday. These are from the farmer's market plant vendor.


Happy new year!

Water year, that is. The southern California water year started 1 Oct.

California's reservoirs are down to 62 percent storage capacity. Diamond Valley Lake, a reservoir built by the MWD that is capable of storing nearly 800,000 acre-feet, is expected to be sucked down to 50 percent capacity by the end of the year.

"We are moving into the potential third dry year, and there is not any sort of guarantee that we will be able to refill the reservoirs," said Jennifer Persike, spokeswoman for the Association of California Water Agencies.

Records show that there have been other, much drier periods, such as from 1924-34, 1976-77, and 1987-92.
Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer - October 1, 2008

Coast live oak planting from acorns II

Last year I worked with my brother and father to plant several hundred acorns from local trees on the "upper 40" part of my parent's property near Santa Barbara. I wrote about that in Coast live oak planting from acorns I.

An oak mast last winter helped make it easy to collect the acorns. I've discussed masting before as well. Here and here.

I was disappointed that the acorns hadn't produced any visible growth back in February. I'm happy to report that we have about 30 oak sprouts on the upper 40 now. That's a 10 to 15% germination rate, assuming that my guess of 200 acorns planted is correct. None of the sprouts is more than a few inches tall, so there could be some attrition, but since we're getting into the cooler months, I'd guess that the main hazard is gophers rather than the weather.

Also, the one oak that I accidentally dug up last year had an extensive root system already, though the leaves were not yet visible. Were I to pull up any of the oak sprouts, I'd bet the growth would be mainly in the root.

Lessons: Wild grown acorns appear to sprout much slower than pot-grown acorns (these had natural rainfall and very limited supplemental watering). They also develop extensive root systems without much apparent above ground growth, unlike their potted siblings which will get very tall and root bound very quickly in a 1 gallon pot.

List of seed suppliers

My recent mail order purchase of vegetable seeds from Peaceful Valley heightened my awareness of seed suppliers.

Recently I again visited Wildscaping.com and re-discovered their short list of seed suppliers. Of course they have an emphasis on California natives. Here's a link to Wildscaping's seed supplier list.

Among certain types, garden machismo accumulates with the number of plants that you raise from seed. I don't think that I'm buying into that belief, but I am discovering the convenience, economy, and selection available in seeds.