Archive for the ‘Home & Garden’ Category

Summer Seems To Be Here

Wednesday, May 27th, 2020

Our First Saguaro Flowers

In spite of the actual summer start date next month, we have had triple digit weather for two days now and the forecast is for more of the same for the next few days. I just went out on the back patio (4:30PM) and saw the temperature gauge showing 105°F. That’s about a degree cooler than an hour ago. We can deal with it since the air conditioner is keeping the house cool enough.

The flowers in the image above were open this morning on our big saguaro cactus out front by the driveway. These are the first two buds to open on this cactus and there are many more to come. There have been saguaro flowers open in other places in town for a couple of weeks now, but these are our first. We look forward to having a lot more of these in the weeks to come.

In the courtyard, I am expecting our Red Bird of Paradise shrubs to have flowers open any day now, and our Cherry Red cactus flowers coming shortly after those.

Despite the warmer temperatures, we always look forward to our summer flowers. Click on the image to enlarge.

Arizona Spring Cactus Flowers

Thursday, April 30th, 2020

Beavertail Cactus Flower Prickly Pear Flower
Argentine Giant Cactus Flower Ball Cactus Flower

Since mid-March, the cacti in our xeriscape gardens have had open flowers. The individual flowers aren’t around more than a day or two at most, but, thankfully, the individual flower buds have matured at different times over the last five weeks providing us with almost continuous colorful flowers from day to day.

The two flowers at the top are from our opuntia cacti, a.k.a. paddle cacti. Top left is from one of our beavertail cacti and top right is a flower on a prickly pear. The bottom left is an Argentine Giant flower. one of three that were open simultaneously last week. On the bottom right is a flower from a little ball cactus that my sister in Stockton, CA, mailed to me last year. I don’t know the botanical name of this cactus, but it sure makes pretty pink flowers.

I love springtime in the desert!

All the photos were taken using my Canon EOS Rebel T6i camera or with Bob’s Canon EOS Rebel SL1, both equipped with EFS 18-135mm lenses. Click on any of the images to enlarge.

Yard Cleanup – Feeding the Chipper

Wednesday, March 25th, 2020

Feeding the Chipper

Over the past months (maybe over a year) we have trimmed mesquite tree branches away from the driveway and in the back and front yard areas. We also recently removed a few branches from the plum tree in the courtyard to encourage it to grow upward. When we don’t have time to break the limbs down and stuff them into the refuse bin, we sometimes drag them across the road to our lot over there to be dealt with at a future time.

Well, the future is here. Yesterday, Damsel and I took the chipper that we bought last spring over there to dispose of the branches and create some mulch for Damsel’s gardening. I took the 3KW Honda Generator in the back of the pickup so we could have power to run the chipper.

We got most of the work done in that single session and created a box full of wood chip mulch that Damsel can spread on her trees and other items she grows. There remains some thicker branches that we will chop into firewood for our neighbors that have fireplaces.

When operating the chipper, the manufacturer recommends protection for eyes and ears (pieces fly and it’s loud). I borrowed the goggles and earmuffs from the range bag for the job. Click on the image to enlarge.

Winter Cactus Flower

Friday, January 3rd, 2020

Winter Cactus Flower

Damsel’s so-called “Christmas Cactus” has flowers opening about a week after the holiday. From the looks of the plant, it’s showing that many more of the flowers will be opening over the next several days. Damsel took this image today when the sun was shining into the front window where the plant sits on the sill.

We didn’t post a new year message on the eve or the day, but we take this opportunity to wish everyone a very happy and prosperous 2020. We let the post slip in favor of just relaxing and doing the usual holiday things, football bowl games, food, you know – celebrating in our own way.

It turns out that the switch from the old laptop to the new one has a few wrinkles. I have slowly been transferring all my “stuff” to the new one, but need to stay on line here until the complete switch over. My laptop is also the print server for the household, and it would put a drag on things if it were to be down for too long.

Another project associated with the computer replacement is the overhaul of the desk/workstation in the office. It needs to be reorganized and updated to new stuff. I just finished assembling a three-level desktop shelf (something needed for a long time) that will hold the various devices and get a lot of the stuff currently on the overcrowded desk up and out of the way.

So, we’re making progress on everything while keeping the pace comfortable for ourselves as we move through it all. Again, may you all have a blessed and happy new year.

Sometimes, Life Gives You Lemons

Tuesday, December 10th, 2019

Dwarf Lemon Tree Harvested Lemons

Late last week, the Damsel and I picked most of the lemons from our dwarf lemon tree west of the house by the RV Drive. For a “dwarf” tree, I’d say, it has reliably produced a large number of lemons each year since we had it planted seven or eight years ago.

We normally give some of the lemons to neighbors and a couple of senior centers here in town, and use the rest of them to produce Limoncello, an Italian “digestivo” after dinner liquor. Damsel uses a recipe form an on-line website modified to use diabetic sweetener rather than sugar. We can’t tell the difference in the end.

This year, however, we have a surplus of both lemons and Limoncello, so we’re going to give most of the crop away and juice some for another couple of uses. We don’t have any trouble finding friends, neighbors and food banks locally to dispose of them for good uses.

Just for a lark, I put together the little graphic below to leverage on an old adage about life giving you lemons . . .

Make Limoncello

Click on any image above to enlarge.

Queen of the Night Cactus Fruit

Monday, October 21st, 2019

Queen of the Night FruitNow that the hottest days of Summer are over, we find ourselves in our so-called fifth season, “Second Spring.” This is when we get another wave of cactus flowers opening, blossoms on our rosemary shrubs and ripening fruit from summer blooms.

Last summer, several of our cactus flowers opened. Among them the Queen of the Night (peniocereus greggii) rescue cactus in our courtyard which had two flowers open. Now, those two flower stalks have become cactus fruit as shown at the right. After pollination overnight, the flowers wither and eventually fall off, leaving the flower stems which enlarge to become the cactus fruit.

More about P- Gregii from The University of Arizona – namely cultivation of the cactii:

Peniocereus greggii can be propagated from either seed or short stem cuttings. Once established this species is known to have large tuberous roots that are similar to potatoes. Generally this plant species likes to grow around or under desert ironwood, creosote bushes, and other desert shrubs that can provide shade, support and concealment. This cacti species only flowers once a year at night (usually in June or July) and for the rest of the year it appears to be dead. The following morning at sunrise, the flower dies. Unlike other cacti, P. greggii is not self-fertile and has widely separated individuals as a result. These flowers are cross-pollinated by hawk moths. P. greggi also typically has a slow growth rate, uses little water and does well in full sun, or partially shady environments. These cacti are also hardy plants, suffering damage at temperatures below 10° F.

Be sure to click on the links in the first paragraph above to see a couple of the Damsel’s excellent photos in the Cap’n Bob Image Viewer.

Irrigation Problems – Solved

Tuesday, September 10th, 2019

Back of the RV Drive

What a difference a couple of days make! We were bemoaning the problems we had with a busted irrigation system just a couple of days ago and today the problem is non-existent. Our landscape contractor found the time to come here and fix our woes this week instead of what we thought would be a delay of unknown length. They quickly diagnosed the problems, made the changes and this evening, all is working again.

Of course, the fixes weren’t all as simple as I make them sound in the first paragraph. They actually spent considerable time cleaning up the area behind the RV drive where our “Rosemary Farm” is growing – or maybe overgrowing. In the composite image above, you can see the after cleanup of the back area – I could look in the photo archives to find a before picture, but I’m too lazy this evening. 😉

I forget the exact number of one gallon rosemary shrubs they originally planted back there, but it was over fifty and under a hundred. Each one with a watering tube of its own from the irrigation feed line planted on the hill just above the shrubs. After the cleanup as shown, the crew installed an all new main line and “spaghetti” feeders for each shrub. This time, the feeders are short and they extended the larger diameter feed line for each group of two or three shrubs. We tested it this afternoon and it looks like everybody is getting the water they need in our arid climate.

The first thing they fixed (yesterday) was the leak shown in our previous post about the problem. They also replaced one of two electrically-controlled valves that activate the two main feeder lines according to the program set up in the controller. Both the leak and the valve malfunction contributed to the excessive water usage we have been experiencing.

We are still in the process of doing some other work with the landscapers; there is another area we want to have irrigated where we acquired a nice ocotillo after the fact. There is also some overdue rock and cactus garden maintenance they are willing to do while they are available. We should be in pretty good shape after they’re done with that and won’t need to do any of that for ourselves until after the weather cools down a bit.