Archive for Home & Garden

Cherry Red Cactus Flowers

cherry-collage.jpg

Last October, Damsel and I separated the individual stalks from our Cherry Red (Trichocereus Grandiflorus) cactus and planted them in various pots with the hope that they would survive and produce more of the wonderful hot pink flowers that the original produced. Well, we are pleased and amazed that nearly every one of the pups and the mother all have flowers or flower pods this weekend.

Judging from the number of immature flower buds, we should be enjoying Cherry Red flowers for days to come, if not weeks. This cactus (even though we may have overpaid a bit for it) has been a joy in that it reliably produces the attractive flowers each spring. Click on the image to enlarge.

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New Shredder/Chipper

chippa.pngOver the several years we have lived here in Arizona, we have found that the natural vegetation on and around the property requires some maintenance by us. Most notably, the mesquite trees and the creosote bushes. Either of those will overtake its environment given unchecked growth. There are several other vegetation varieties which might require some maintenance, but those are mostly out away from the house and garden.

Image: Assembled Unit

We acquired a light-duty unit since most of what we will shredding is on the order of ½ to ¾ inch branches and such. The unit is capable of chipping branches up to 1½ inches, but we will be saving the larger ones for the neighbor’s fireplace.

I assembled the unit today and did a test run with some of the scraps that are still up in the wash behind the retention wall, where I threw them after maintaining one of the mesquite trees up there a while back. There is a lot to clean up there and the test sample was a tiny bit of it. The rest will come later.

I took the manufacturer’s advise and used gloves, long sleeve shirt, eye and ear protection (courtesy of the shooting range bag) and commenced to feed some of the branches through the hopper. The material I was feeding conformed to our intended use being of small to medium sizes and the chips and sawdust-sized shreddings went into the unit’s built-in catch bin. No problems were encountered. The remains of the material fed through looked suitable to use as garden mulch, although we don’t exactly have that sort of garden here in the desert.

The unit requires 15 amps of 120VAC current. It is actually quieter than would require ear protection with the stuff I shredded today, but I will be using the earmuffs anyhow just in case something comes flying out of the unit backwards which can happen. Having more cover is better under those circumstances.

We’re pleased with it so far and intend to start some more serious cleanup of the wash area and some stuff still laying across the road where we trimmed up some of those mesquites over there.

UPDATE - FRIDAY 04/26/2019: Damsel and I took the shredder, the truck with the Honda generator and a bunch of tools across the road today to clean up an old mess of cut branches and to trim some of the spring growth off of the big mesquite over there. Happy to report the mess is cleaned up and many of the low-hanging branches on the tree are now redistributed at the base of the tree in the form of mulch. The chipper worked great. There is still more to do, but since it was hot (95°) today, we knocked off after we met our initial objectives.

Shredder at work

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First 2019 Argentine Giant Flowers

Argentine Giant Flowers

After being in the ground out front for over seven years, this cactus is finally showing signs of being as prolific as some of the other Argentine Giants in town. These three flowers opened late this afternoon. There are numerous more flower buds on the cactus that should also be opening soon.

There are also buds near the bottom of the cactus that will be new cactus limbs, not flowers. There is plenty of room for the cactus to expand where it sits, so we’re glad to see it starting to take off. This cactus, native to Argentina, has an unusual growth habit for a cactus. It does not get any taller than about two to three feet at maturity and has sprawling limbs that grow just as wide as the main plant.

More about Echinopsis Candicans:

Echinopsis candicans is a species of cactus from northern and western Argentina (Monte Desert). It has large fragrant white flowers that open at night.

The cactus has a shrubby growth habit, with individual stems up to 60 cm (24 in) tall. The plant as a whole can be as much as 3 m (10 ft) across. The stems are light green, with a diameter of up to 14 cm (5.5 in) and have 9–11 low ribs. The large white areoles are spaced at 2–3 cm (0.8–1.2 in) and produce brownish yellow spines, the central spines being up to 10 cm (3.9 in) long, the radial spines only up to 4 cm (1.6 in).

Click on the image to enlarge.

UPDATE April 17, 2019: As mentioned in the post above, the cactus is showing a great amount of activity and growth. There are over a dozen new flower buds that look as if they will be coming out soon and all at once.

Coming soon

UPDATE April 23, 2019: Almost all of the rest of the flower buds on the cactus opened this afternoon. It’s like a bridal bouquet with a dozen open flowers.

Bouquet

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A Serious Pollinator

A Serious Pollinator

Now that the cactus flowers have started to open here at the homestead, the bees are out in force. I took this shot of a honey bee with its head, thorax and wings buried in the stamens of a hedgehog flower out front. The bee was burrowing down to gather nectar at the base of the stigma, I guess. Click on the image to enlarge.

Damsel and I have been out in the yard over the past couple of days taking photos of the recently opened flowers on both the beavertail cacti (opuntia basilaris) and hedgehog cacti (echinocereus engelmanii). There are flower buds forming on other cacti in the area and we will look forward to getting more images of those when opening.

The weather is quite pleasant this afternoon with light breezes and 93° temperature. The forecast is for more of the same tomorrow and then cooler at the end of the week with a 20 percent chance of precipitation. Gotta love the Arizona springtime weather!

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Rosemary Farm

Bee Gathering Nectar

When we originally had the landscapers plant our yard along the back slope above the RV drive, they installed about fifty or sixty one-gallon rosemary shrubs with an irrigation system. The shrubs have been there for over seven years now, and have grown to mostly cover what once was bare slope behind the house.

I took this photo (click to enlarge) of a bee browsing some of the tiny flowers on the shrubs which have been blooming most of the winter. I can’t hear the buzzing anymore (tinnitus), but Damsel says the bees are quite loud as they busily gather nectar. Now, when the hummingbirds come by to do the same thing, I can hear them just fine.

When we need herbal rosemary for a recipe, we have no further to look than out behind the retaining wall on the north side of the RV drive. Damsel will send me out there with a pair of shears to snip off a couple of the freshly grown stems from one of the many bushes. I take the stems inside, wash them and pull the needles from the woody part. Damsel will either mince the needles or use them whole, depending on the recipe.

More on the Rosemary Herb from Wikipedia:

Rosmarinus officinalis, commonly known as rosemary, is a woody, perennial herb with fragrant, evergreen, needle-like leaves and white, pink, purple, or blue flowers, native to the Mediterranean region.

It is a member of the mint family Lamiaceae, which includes many other herbs. The name “rosemary” derives from the Latin for “dew” (ros) and “sea” (marinus), or “dew of the sea”. The plant is also sometimes called anthos, from an ancient Greek word meaning “flower.” Rosemary has a fibrous root system.

Rosmarinus officinalis is one of 2–4 species in the genus Rosmarinus. The other species most often recognized is the closely related, Rosmarinus eriocalyx, of the Maghreb of Africa and Iberia. The name of ros marinus is the plant’s ancient name in classical Latin. Elizabeth Kent noted in her Flora Domestica (1823), “The botanical name of this plant is compounded of two Latin words, signifying Sea-dew; and indeed Rosemary thrives best by the sea.” The name of the genus was applied by the 18th-century naturalist and founding taxonomist Carl Linnaeus.

My only observations regarding the text above is that (a) we’re a long way from the sea and (b) we don’t get much in the way of dew in the desert. I guess that the Rosemary herb likes it hot (it does get hot here), tolerates mild cold (rarely below freezing) and depends on the irrigation system we have here for moisture. And, clearly, the bees and hummingbirds pollinate them to their mutual benefit.

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Limoncello Day 2019

Limoncello Day

Today was the day for bottling (Mason jars, actually) the finished Limoncello product that Damsel put away last December. The intermediate step was completed to remove the lemon rinds and add sweetener in January, so after maturing, the product was finally ready for putting up today, if not in bottles but in Mason Jars.

Image: Damsel dispensing the finished limoncello from the big brewing container to a mason jar. Click on the image to enlarge.

I don’t have any photos of this year’s lemon harvest in late November, but it was certainly as large as the haul we made in the lemon harvest of 2015. Our little dwarf lemon tree has reliably produced since we put it in the “Orchard” in 2011.

From Wikipedia:

Limoncello is an Italian lemon liqueur mainly produced in Southern Italy. In northern Italy, the liqueur is often referred to instead as limoncino. It is also a popular homemade liqueur, with various recipes available online and in print.

Although there is debate about the exact origin of the drink, it is at least one hundred years old

Visitors to our humble abode are usually given one or two bottles or jars of our brew. We also carry some with us when we’re on the road in the motorhome to give to friends and acquaintances. Sorry, we can’t ship it since it’s against USPS rules and other carriers don’t want it either. You will just have to come and get it or wait until we drive by for a visit.

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Diet Support Kitchen Gagetry

VeggieSpize Spiralizer

One of the things we most lamented about when we started on our diet last October was giving up pasta. For years, we have enjoyed dishes with all those carbohydrates and all the adverse effects they may have been having on our metabolic systems.

Now that we are on our reduced carbs diets and have been for about three months, we see our results taking place. Damsel is losing a little weight but more importantly, is reducing her blood glucose (she will be tested for that soon at the clinic). I have lost about twelve pounds and two belt notches since the start.

And all the while, we have been enjoying our new cooking lifestyle with substitutes for those things we thought we couldn’t live without. Instead of mashed potatoes, we have mashed butternut squash. Instead of noodles, we have enjoyed Zucchini Noodles (Zoodles) and that brings us to the gadget in the photo.

The photo shows the spiralizer cranking out zucchini noodles. It is a VeggieSpize Spiral Slicer available from Amazon. Damsel and I used it for the first time last week to prepare Zoodles to be served with her homemade low carb pesto.

You can buy prepared zoodles and other veggie or tofu products already packaged in the store, but the drawbacks there are 1) cost and 2) preservatives and other additives. Packaged zoodles in the size that correspond to one spiral cut zucchini is about $3.00. To do it yourself as in the photo is about $0.55 in cost and you know what’s in the final product.

As far as spiral-cut veggies being a substitute for pasta, they do the trick; zoodles, like spaghetti, actually take on the flavors of the sauces and are of no special value other than to transport to your taste buds. The Pesto Zoodles made a nice side for some Filet Mignon steaks we had last week.

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