Friday, July 31, 2015

The Dynamic Duo and the Tomatoes

There's quite a bit of satisfaction in picking 25 pounds of tomatoes from your front yard. So much so that you want to take a picture of them to remember what an abundant summer you've had.

The minute I picked up my camera, Joma came running in and plopped down beside the tomatoes -- is that what they call "photobombing?"

Oh, why not. A hammy three-year-old probably is more interesting than a bunch of tomatoes, anyway. And then of course her favorite accomplice had to throw himself onto the carpet nearby, to make sure nothing dastardly was going to happen to his baby ... or maybe to make sure he was going to get some action if she was up to mischief.

Eperis is about three months shy of two years old; he's beginning to develop some sense, but Joma doesn't encourage that. It's much more fun to tackle the grandparents' bed and burrow underneath the neatly-made covers with shrieks of laughter, making the dog bite the pillows. Then the dog slithers under the blankets and Joma pokes his nose to make him bite from underneath. And the game ain't over until all the blankets and pillows are on the floor.

It's good to see them playing together. I know down the years I'll look back at this picture and laugh about how many tomatoes I picked, but mostly what I'll remember is how much fun Joma had with her dog.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Fun with Corn

When our big tree fell down this past spring, I promised myself that I'd plant corn instead of grass in the ruined lawn. But when I went to plant the corn, I found that the soil was a mass of roots from the now-deceased tree. It took a lot of work to find a section of earth that I could work at all, so my idea of a whole corn field went by the wayside.

We also added three planter boxes off to the right of this picture, so my corn space was limited in that direction as well. But I couldn't let the seeds go to waste, so I planted a couple rows of Sun and Stars from Burpee Seeds, not really expecting much. After so many years of the giant eucalyptus draining the nutrients out of the soil, I was really surprised when the tiny plants sprouted.

They're not as tall as the catalog suggested, but they're taller than me, and some of the stalks are trying to make three ears of corn! We sampled an early ear, and it was long enough to cut into four pieces, and so sweetly delicious that after a bite, Joan ate all hers and mooched the second half of mine. We'll be picking some more this week.

There's a perverse streak in me that enjoys the challenge of this drought. We had a pretty little front lawn, but we didn't play by the same rules that other homeowners on the street did. No, we had to have a couple big wa-honkin eucalyptus trees blocking the view of our house. With the trees gone, how could I fly in the face of convention and conserve water? Why, put in a veggie garden, of course, with corn as a hedge!

And here are my special pets, more On Deck hybrid corn by Burpee's. By the time these pampered darlings are ready to tassel, the Sun and Stars will be all done. That should be the second week of September at the latest. I've been watering this planter by hand; I haven't got around to putting in the last line of drip system yet. Maybe in a couple weeks, when the temps drop a little.

I love my tomato plants, but I must admit that corn makes me giddy.

Monday, July 20, 2015

If That Mockingbird Don't Sing ...

... it would be because of this guy.

A few evenings ago, a family (?) of six Cooper's Hawks came sailing through the neighborhood. Amazing sight to see, loud and plaintive sound to hear. The juveniles obviously didn't want Mom and Pop to leave them all on their own, screeching their pleas to the world.

You can hear a recording of their calls here: Just scroll down the page to "Begging Calls of Chicks."

At least one of the young birds has been hanging around, doing a low fly-by each day, perching on the street-light out front or in the neighbor's sequoia trees.

In June of 1997, we woke to our first morning in this house, hearing the beautiful sound of singing birds, so different from the previous home, where the predominant morning noise was the traffic from Highway 99, one of the main arteries of traffic running north-south in Central California.

Since Young Cooper's Hawk moved into the area, we hear NO birds singing. No crows, no jays, no finches, no sparrows ... because what Cooper's Hawks eat is other birds. How awful, you might think, and indeed, some birding sites on the web advise people to take down their bird feeders until a hawk moves on to a different locale.

We're ambivalent about this. It's true that we miss the song of house finches and the company of scrub jays on the back patio, but none of us misses that blasted mockingbird who used to proclaim himself Ruler of the Block incessantly all day long, and in the middle of the night, too.

The other possible benefit of the hawk is that the jays and mockingbirds aren't gobbling up our ripening grapes for the first summer in a long, long time.

Eventually, the hawk will fly off to the river a few blocks away and hunt more fruitfully in the canopy of the trees. In the meantime, silence is golden.

Monday, July 06, 2015

My Friends, the Corn

I'm not at all fond of having my picture taken, but my delight this morning is fairly evident -- Bernie insisted on commemorating a milestone in our California garden: our first successful container-grown corn!

This is the third try for me; in 2013, I put corn in the raised boxes out in front of the house. Scrub jays watched me lovingly plant the seeds, and dug them up and ate them. What few I replanted and raised were feeble ... I used what I thought was good potting soil, but it wasn't, and there wasn't enough sustenance in it for any of my plants to thrive.

Last year, I got the good soil (Miracle Gro Potting Soil) but got bum advice (from a website that turned out to be for Back East gardeners) about ripeness, so all my poor corn cooked and shriveled in the ear in the scorching California sun.

This year, I watched those ears like the hawk that perches in my neighbor's sycamore tree waiting for her Yorkshire terrier to venture out alone, and pounced upon the swelling corn on this cool July morning. Bernie scurried off with the first two ears and cooked them up.

They were beautiful!

And a delicious breakfast, as well. The variety is "On Deck" by Burpee Seeds, and it's bred to grow in containers. The taste is sweet and delicate, and there is nothing like the bursting flavor when only a few minutes before, the corn was still on the stalk.

I grow the corn on the patio mostly because I get a kick out of sitting in between pots of lush corn plants in the evening, but I'll definitely plant this variety again next year.

Happy Corn Day!