Saturday, January 31, 2009

Citrus Morning

I spent a beautiful day (78 degrees!) as a Master Gardener volunteer at one of our local annual Citrus Clinics. I was assigned to the coffee, fresh-squeezed orange juice and donut table! I did not eat or taste even one donut! I knew if I started I could not stop. I certainly did not want anyone to see me inhale a dozen donuts in less than 5 minutes! We did a brisk business and sold out the donuts before noon.

I prepared myself for donut abstinence by eating oatmeal at 5 am and bringing a low-carb, high protein drink to the Clinic. I did allow myself 4 ounces of orange juice in mid-morning. We used a machine where you just drop whole oranges down a chute, and the machine cuts them in half, squeezes them, and out comes the juice at the other end. The rinds drop into a bin that had to be dumped when full. It took about three oranges for a cup of juice. I wish I had one of those machines, but at $3500, I guess I'll squeeze my oranges by hand.

We juiced Trovita variety oranges in the machine. It was fun to watch through the little window at how the thing worked. People were fascinated with it.


This was my favorite blood orange.

Tasting tables were set up and classes held throughout the orchard on everything to do with citrus. This will be the last year the research farm will be operated in our end of the Valley. The acreage is now surrounded on three sides with housing developments. Such is progress! I hate to see all those varieties of trees just abandoned and left to die.

As you can see, there are more varieties of citrus than you can find in the grocery stores. The farm has about 100 varieties of citrus.
We grew up on a farm that had 1/4-acre devoted to citrus. Most days we would eat over a dozen or more grapefruits and oranges. In fact, we ate our fill of anything that was in season. We never had any digestive disorders, never felt sick and we were never overweight! My problems with weight came on after I stopped smoking 28 years ago. I gained 35 lbs. in two months after I stopped, and it has been a struggle ever since! I think I will try eating a couple dozen oranges a day and see if I can get thin again! I'll let you know. Lol.

Strange looking citrus--it has no fruit, just rind.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Garden Chores

I repotted the nutrient-deprived Euphorbia tirucalli into a larger container today. I used cactus mix as the new soil. I was so afraid I would break a branch and leak the toxic sap that I couldn't get all the old soil off the roots! I threw away the large towel I used and quickly took a shower. A few years ago my B-I-L had to go to the Doctor after he got the sap on his hands then rubbed his eyes. He couldn't see for a couple of days, and had to be on antibiotics for 10 days. He was in terrible pain so the doctor also gave him painkillers! I certainly did not want to go through that! Hopefully the plant will adjust to the better environment and not go into shock. I've heard that this Euphorbia is hard to kill regardless.

First zinnia bloomed!

We were hoping for rain but the clouds are drifting away. This hasn't been much of a winter. No frost, no freeze, (which is good) but it worries me that summer will be even hotter this year. Could global warming be happening only in this part of the country?

I found this turtle planter at Sam's Club today. Does it need to be planted with a cactus or succulent, maybe flowers or ornamental grass? It is 8" deep and 12" long. Tell me what you think!

The patio tomatoes are getting ripe, but each day it loses more leaves. It has plenty of flowers on the few foliaged stems that are left. Yum!!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Trivia Time in Pudgeduck's World

With nothing much going on in my tiny garden, I thought I'd take a detour and write about something else for awhile. So, my next few posts will be much ado about nothing, which was my intent when starting my blog!

I just finished the second coat of purple paint on my 20+year old garden table and chair set. It was white, but it looked kind of dirty, so I decided to be bold. Now I need to get up the nerve to paint my block wall a terra cota color. I plan to make each section of the wall a different color. That's a common practice here in Arizona gardens. I think it's the Mexico influence in decorating that we have here. I have a view fence because of our lake lot, so I have to make sure it doesn't attract the attention of the HOA police.

I have had this pencil plant (some kind of Euphorbia) in this pot for over 10 years. It has been the same size for the past 6 years. I have never trimmed it. If I ever do, I have to be careful because the sap is poisonous and very irritating. It probably doesn't grow because the soil is depleted of nutrients. If I had the room to plant it in the ground, it would have grown to be over 20 feet tall by now, and possibly 10 feet wide or more.

I have as many frogs statues as I do turtles. I bought the big fat one on the right when I was in Indiana about 7 years ago. He was so cute, I just had to have him. I brought him home on the plane with me--wrestled him through security and then into the overhead baggage. A few months later I started seeing these same frogs at all the garden centers, and even Target had a few! After all the hassle I had lugged him 2500 miles, they showed up in my back yard!

Most of the rest of them are the same age and older. They are faded and beat up, but I can't throw them away. So, I will just keep piling them up.

This is what I see every day through my kitchen window. the thing never had a bird in its mouth, just a nest of wasps. I still smile each time I'm at my kitchen sink and looking out the window. Imagine though, at night-- when I see that open-mouthed thing staring at me through the dark. I sometimes have to catch my breath from being startled, until it dawns on me it's my bird feeder!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Spring Has Sprung

After spending the weekend in snow country, dressed in our out of the ordinary scarves, gloves and coats, we were anxious to get on the road home.

Although this is beautiful, I don't like being cold! I don't mind throwing a few snowballs, but I never wanted to learn any snow sports, nor do I like being inside most of the day. I just don't like feeling constricted in clothing, so I'm barefoot and in a pair of shorts most of the time. I once bought a coat when I went to Switzerland. It is the only one in my closet! It is a light weight Arizona coat and it didn't do a bit of good in Europe or during this trip to Flagstaff!

Just look what I came home to. Spring happened! The gazania bloomed white, and as the temperature warms, it will turn yellow. (I'm guessing--it was bright yellow last year.)

First wildflower of the season!! I'm not sure what kind it is.

The hibiscus is loaded with flowers. Isn't this gorgeous? If Turr Tull would wake up he could get his fill of his favorite food! Last year he came out in February for a few minutes. It has been in the 80s this week. I might see him soon. He went to bed in May last year--earl est ever--I'm not sure what that means. The latest that he stayed asleep was June. We always celebrate the day he comes out--everyone is happy when I call with the news! We're all glad he made it another year. He doesn't wag his tail, make any noise or run to me, but I know he is glad to be alive!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Is This January? 76 Degrees!

My Arizona Rainbow Hedgehog Cactus has taken on this strange shape after our recent rains. Could this be a Masculana hugeinimus 'Horny'?

I just cut off five pups around this Agave. With all the rain the pups grew so large they were pushing the mother plant over. We set it upright and looks like it will be OK. This was planted in the wrong place over 17 years ago, next to a light pole and on the property line. What were we thinking? One of the things that homeowners don't consider is how big a plant or tree will get on maturity. I've seen trees planted one foot from houses. They provide instant window shade, but within a couple of years, they are leaning out from the house or pushing up eaves, and will eventually raise the foundation. At least this Agave was away from the house!

Only the top pad of my Santa Rita Prickly Pear turned the normal beautiful purple. Last year all the pads turned, but we have had a mild winter so far. Today it will be 76 degrees!

This barrel cactus is loaded with ripening fruit. Inside each fruit are hundreds of black seeds. I should sell them on Ebay.

How can I cut back the Cherry Red Lantana that's still in bloom? I can't make myself do it just yet! It should have been cut back for a spring flush. Maybe it will do just as well if I leave it alone. Only time will tell.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Peace and Contentment are Mine!

It was another peaceful day on my swing, enjoying the flowers and the lake. I have surrounded myself with the things that I love, things that capture all that I ever dreamed of. My home and its surroundings ranks as a great source of my happiness.

The scent that emanates from the Alyssum flowers add to my comfort and the soothing atmosphere of my back yard garden! This keeps me outdoors all day.

The Snapdragons are looking good--enjoying the beautiful, sunny 6o-degree weather.

The Lavender Alyssum will soon spill over the planter wall. I think it looks especially nice when it does that.

I wasn't always so content. I became content a year after I retired. Before, I would come home from work, change clothes and run to my daughters' homes or to my friend's home. I was always restless, never feeling satisfied. Then, I planted a row of Sweetpeas. When they bloomed in Febuary, I sat on my unused-to-that-point swing, inhaling the fragrance and not wanting to leave. The magic of those tiny seeds haphazardly thrown into the soil produced such beauty that it truly transformed me! That year, I could hardly make myself go grocery shopping. I just wanted to stay home! That was the the most content, peaceful year of my life. Puttering around my small back yard and nurturing my garden is heaven on earth for me, and I never tire of writing about it, as you well know!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Skull Searching

I didn't go shopping the after-Christmas sales this year, so the money I saved will be spent on gas and lunches for the day trips I have planned for the next few months! Here is the first of the New Year.

It was a warm 70 degrees, and we just had to get out to explore the desert again! Our destination on this day trip was to see an oddity, 'The Skull', that had been mentioned in the local paper last month. I had never heard of it before, even having lived in this region practically my whole life. Last year I took a photo of Frog Rock near the Congress/Yarnell area, and Scull Rock is in that same area.

We took dirt roads to get to our destination. This part of the desert is thick with Creosote bushes and Mesquite trees, with just a few cacti scattered here and there.

On the way, we saw a black hill that is supposedly made out of lava from an ancient eruption. It does look like lava flows running down the sides, but maybe it's actually water rivulets. We used to search these types of formations for obsidian, which are a glassy volcanic rock, so maybe these are old volcanoes. As kids, finding an obsidian was a real treat. Not that we found many--but when we did find an area that had them, we'd spend hours trying to find the most transparent ones. Obsidian is a dull black until you hold it up to the light, so you never knew what you had without the transparency test!

Well, after seeing some great scenery on the way, we found it!

The Skull

Locals say this rock painted to look like a skull been there as long as they can remember. The Frog Rock was painted in 1928, and this was painted around the same time, but not by the same person. It was well worth the drive to check it out.

This hedgehog was near the dirt road on the way to find The Skull. There were quite a few in the area. This will look stunning when it blooms! I hope to get to the area when it happens!

I love the Vulture Mine road to Wickenburg. It is thick with beautiful, fat saguaros that haven't been damaged by vandals.

Teddy Bear Chollas and our Arizona state tree--a Palo Verde, in the background.

Mistletoe has completely overtaken this tree. I think it is a Palo Verde. Desert mistletoe feeds on the tree and causes a decline and will eventually kill it, although it takes a long time. Birds eat the Mistletoe berries and spread the seeds to other branches and other trees. There isn't any hope for trees in the wild after this parasite starts to grow.

Ironwood, a tree that just keeps going despite a lot of abuse! This tree blooms in May with beautiful pink to purple flowers that last less than two weeks. Ironwood is the longest-lived Sonoran Desert plant and has the hardest and heaviest wood. It is used in landscapes and medians, but not as much as other desert trees because it is very slow growing.

We saw an unusual sight, where three Saguaros were growing so close together it appeared as if it was one cactus. You can tell it's three separate cactuses by looking at the three trunks. You can tell the size of the cacti--that's hubby standing there beside these giant cacti.

It was strange that there wasn't any other Saguaros around the area, just these. The surrounding desert was just a lot of brush and few trees. Maybe these huddled close together to have company!