Saturday, June 18, 2011

Making Strawberry Cages

The biggest advantage of growing strawberries at home is that you can eat the ripest strawberries when they are at their best. Unfortunately, birds and squirrels tend to get them first as they hang out all day just to steal your best strawberries at the perfect ripeness. A few days ago I transplanted my potted strawberries into the ground because they have long outgrown the little pots. Putting them in the ground will give them the opportunity to propagate and grow more strawberries. However, I know the squirrels around here. They eat the peaches, apples, loquats, strawberries, and even tomatoes.  Unless I eat the strawberries before they become fully ripe, I often don't get any strawberry.

Last night as I laid down to sleep, I thought about how I could protect the strawberries from the bushy tailed bandits. I thought that I could make cages just big enough for the strawberries. Since they stay pretty low to the ground, they cages don't need to be tall, and I have the perfect material to make them.

I bent and rolled pieces of green wire netting and placed them around the strawberries. For the openings on the top or on the sides, I either used black bird netting or nylon netting bag from buying various groceries. When the strawberries are ready, it will be a little more work to remove the cage and netting, but that may be well worth it.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Wild Bun vs. Dusty

I had to run some errands yesterday afternoon. When I pulled into a parking lot in Pinole, the picture above is what I saw out of the windshield. "A bunny!"  I yelled out loud in the car. It's not often to see a rabbit sitting in a paved parking lot. I grabbed my camera, got out of the car, and slowly approached the rabbit. It didn't seem fearful at all as I got closer and closer.

I suspect this rabbit was once a house pet. It was either released or escaped. I was almost within an arm's distance when I took the final picture above. It then slowly hopped away to a shadier spot of the parking lot in between two trucks. Below is a picture of my pet bunny, Dusty, which people often mistaken for a kitten or puppy at first glance.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Tomatoes and Passiflora

It finally felt like summer for the last two days. I spent 3 hours this morning clearing out some weeds and planting some strawberries. I checked on all of my tomato plants and finally spotted a few baby tomatoes!!! I planted all of my extra tomato seedlings that have been sitting on the propagation table for the past month. When it starts to get really hot, the tomatoes should start coming in rapidly. I hope.

The big surprise is the passion fruit flower! I got a few passion fruit cuttings more than a year ago from my friend's overgrown passion vines in Oakland.  His vines produced tons of passion fruits that year. It took months for my cuttings to start growing roots. I have much sentimental memories of eating fresh passion fruit in the tropics as a kid, so I was willing to do whatever I needed to nurse these cuttings. They stayed in the campus green house for months before I took them home and kept them in my green house. I even took them back to the school's green house when I was out of town.  Last November I decided they were big enough to be transplanted outside next to the new arbor. They grew very slowly in the cool temperature of El Cerrito. For a while they didn't seem to be getting any bigger at all. This morning I was shocked to see this one flower in full bloom (pictured below). There are several more flower buds.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Garlic and Onion

First bulb of garlic

I grow a lot of onion. Besides onion, I also grow chives, garlic chives, and garlic. They are all related to onion and belong to Allium genus. I grow them for several reasona: 1. They are easy to grow, 2. They are essential in cooking, 3. They offer many health and medicinal benefits. "In in vitro studies, garlic has been found to have antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal activity. However, these actions are less clear in vivo. Garlic is also claimed to help prevent heart disease (including atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure) and cancer. Garlic is used to prevent certain types of cancer, including stomach and colon cancers. In fact, countries where garlic is consumed in higher amounts, because of traditional cuisine, have been found to have a lower prevalence of cancer." (For more info, see Wikipedia)

Garlic patch

Last night my best friend asked me if I have a couple onions to spare. This morning I went out there to dig up some onions. The onions I have now are smaller than commercial onions because I didn't leave enough spacing. I just planted a bunch of seeds and didn't take the time to separate them. Since they were covered in dirt, I cut off the long roots and peeled off the outer layers. They are very pungent, so I am leaving them outside of the car until I am ready to drive up to visit my friend. Onions are very nutritious. Below is the nutritional chart of onion. For more info, please see Wikipedia.


I planted the garlic bulbs more than a year ago. Initially, they seemed to have died. Suddenly I saw them growing, so I proceeded to separate them. Now the green parts are drying up, so I know they are ready to harvest. Have you ever roasted garlic? A few years ago, I got several pounds of garlic bulbs from a Gilroy grower. I roasted about half of them and squeezed out all the roasted garlic pulp into a glass jar. I kept the roasted garlic mixed with olive oil in the fridge and used it for cooking. It always made the food taste and smell better. It's super easy to roast garlic. This is the recipe I used - Roasted Garlic Recipe.

For a brief period, I wondered whether it was worth my time to grow onions and garlic since they are very affordable in grocery stores. With all the food contamination outbreaks in recent years, I say it's well worth it. I know exactly how my vegetables are grown and what's in the soil. Additionally, who wants to go to the grocery store just for a few cloves of garlic?

Green onion patch

Friday, June 10, 2011


On my way to the Fermentation Festival last month, I stopped by Beekind, a store in Sebastopol that sells local and varietal honeys, bee related products, and beekeeping supplies. I have heard of this place for quite a while. What makes it stands out is that they have their own bee farm, and you can taste over 50 different honey. By the way, if you don't have car or don't want to drive all the way out to Sebastopol, they have a small kiosk inside of the Ferry Building in San Francisco that sells honey and bee wax candles.

Sebastopol is a beautiful little town. It's amazing how rapidly the scenery changes from the short drive between San Francisco to Sebastopol. The beautiful bee mural is hard to miss as you drive down Gravenstein Highway. I was very excited to be there. I entered the beekeeping supply shop briefly then quickly went to the honey shop next door. I wanted to try every kind of honey at the tasting bar. It was hard to decide what to get.

I loved California orange blossom honey cream, so I got a couple of the small jars. Since I am a big lavender fan, and there are at least 6 varieties of lavender on Sand Village Farm, I always have to try anything that's lavender flavored. Some lavender flavored edibles taste too artificial and some taste like bath products! Their Sonoma lavender honey tasted wonderful. I also got some Oregon blackberry and a bigger jar of Northwest raspberry. 

After I carried all my little glass jars of honey to the car, my friend pointed out that there were beehives in the garden behind the parking lot. We went back there to visit the bees. Since there were stacks and stacks of hives all concentrated in a small area, the bees could be intimidating to some people. A couple years ago I would not be able to approach a colony this size at ease. In July, 2010, 3 beehives in San Francisco Hayes Valley Farm were attacked by pesticide, killing up to 200,000 honeybees. I can't begin to fathom what was going through that person's mind. I don't think any healthy minded people can. As Master Ken puts it, some people are irrationally fearful of bees. When people hear me talking about bees and capturing bee swarms without protective gear, they can't imagine that I was extremely fearful of them over a year ago, but the bees have shown me that they never mean any harm to anybody as long as you don't provoke them. So, be kind to honey bees, and they will be kind to you in return.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Rain in June

It rained this morning. It rained so hard and loud that I had to look out of the window to make sure it was just the rain. However, the sun is out now at 2 P.M. I went out to check on the plants and see what I could pick for lunch.

All the tomatoes I planted are looking quite pathetic because of the unusual cool and wet weather except this one in the 5-gallon pot (pictured above). I planted a few in pots hoping to keep them alive during the winter months. This one is bigger and has more flowers than all the others even though I leave it outside just like the others. Perhaps it's the soil I put in the pot? I got it from my compost tumbler, the one without worms.

It looks like red white daikons and sweet peas are the fresh produce for today. I planted these daikons in March, and they are ready to become salad. I diced up the daikons and added them to my mayo-free tuna salad along with the peas. I don't have any tomatoes today.

The string beans I planted along the arbor a couple weeks ago are looking good. I hope they start growing fast. I am tired of peas and miss fresh green beans! This happens every year.

Green beans