Sunday, October 8, 2017
Remember the bamboos that I used to make a trellis? Some of us know that bamboos are extremely invasive and fast growers. I wonder if the people who planted them knew these facts about bamboos. They have grown into my surrounding neighbors' yards. They have grown so much that I started to see big spiders and their webs on them. After doing some research, I believe these big spiders are Orb-weaving spiders, which are non-aggressive to humans and not toxic; however, they are big and scary and walking into their big webs would be terrifying. After doing more research on how to get rid of them, I decided to go the natural route - cutting down and thinning out the bamboos. Once their preferred habitats are removed, they will move on.
I spent the weekend sawing off the bamboos from as close to the ground as possible. I kept some of them fence height, and also cut off some super tall ones. I will be keeping some straight thick ones for more trellis. After hours of chopping, cutting, and trimming, I noticed some stinging and itchy sensations on my arms. I couldn't help not to scratch them. I was wearing garden gloves but only wearing a t-shirt and overall shorts. My ankles also experience a little itchiness. After scratching my arms a few times, I noticed little red blistery bumps all over my forearms. Upon doing more research online, I found that others have experienced the same symptoms after dealing with bamboos while some people have never experienced any problem. It's believed to be some kind of allergic reaction, which I am not surprised. My skin tends to get allergic reaction from brushing against certain plants. This is another reason to get rid of these bamboos. The dogs were running around the bamboos and stepping on the leaves. I tried to shoo them away since I don't want their little paws to get some bad reactions from the bamboos, but they don't seem to be bothered at all.
Monday, October 2, 2017
|Glass Beach (this side has fewer glass)|
I have wanted to visit Glass Beach in Fort Bragg for a few years now. I first saw a photo of Glass Beach on Instagram and was surprised that it's within driving distance from where we are. It's a little over 3 hours of drive from El Cerrito. This past weekend we took a drive up north to check it out. The weather has been unusually warm for this time of the year. However, it was also very windy at the beach. A lot of people were picking the shiny glass pebbles on the beach. I read that Glass Beach is gradually disappearing. Even though the law prohibits anything to be disturbed or removed from California State Parks, you can imagine people do take the pebbles as souvenirs. The area that's closer to the water has more glass but Cracus isn't water kind of dog, so we stayed on the dryer side.
We took a walk along Ka Kahleh trail. It was beautiful and a easy walk except it was super windy to the point that your ears would hurt. We had to turn back because of the strong wind. In the afternoon, we also visited MacKerricher State Park and took a walk on the boardwalk. It was a lot of walking for little Cracus on one day. In the evening he just rested quietly on the bed. Shortly after he started snoring. We had great time.
Friday, August 18, 2017
Back in May I planted some Japanese cucumbers, passionfruit, and Peruvian Gooseberries. They have been growing vigorously in the last 3 months. The cucumbers had a lot of flowers. I used a little brush to help with pollination between female and male flowers. Unfortunately, most of the baby cucumbers just dried up except the 2 in the photo above. I am letting them grow a little bit before cutting them off.
I also propagated a small cutting that already rooted from our previous location in El Cerrito. In 3 months, it branched out to all directions and bloomed its first flower. It's getting a bit late in the summer, so it might not have any fruit this year. If the flower successfully grows into a fruit, it will not be ripe until late winter. Next year, it shall have a lot of passion fruit as the vines continue to grow through the winter.
Sunday, June 25, 2017
Earlier this month I had a cold. It started with coughing and then runny nose and then a severe sore throat. I think in the past, it normally started with a sore throat when I was catching a cold. Lately it's always been the cough first. Very often the cough would just go away after a couple days but not this time. My voice became hoarse after I started coughing for 3 days. When the sore throat kicked in, I had to take my first sick day at my new job. By this time, I had already squeezed 4 fresh lemons for making hot turmeric lemon tea and drank it for several days. That was one of the home remedies someone gave me. It might have kept me hydrated but certainly didn't cure the cough. As I laid in my bed, I figured there had to be other home remedies I could try. There had to be something that would actually work.
I stumbled upon a youtube video of a woman making a raw garlic, cayenne pepper, and honey elixir to cure her sore throat. I also watched a woman who swallowed a tablespoon of pure honey, and a few other video clips which all claimed they would work. I have tried the pure honey method in the past. It didn't cure my sore throat. After watching a few more videos, I wanted to see the raw garlic video again but could not find it. I started to Google the internet for any reference of that remedy and found an article on Dr. Christopher's Herbal Legacy. I remembered that woman in the youtube video saying that Dr. Christopher was the person who she learned the remedy from. At this time I had taken extra strength Tylenol for several days. I also took some cough syrup. I figured that I had nothing lose to try this safe home remedy. I quickly walked to the grocery across the street in my pajama to get the ingredients I needed and made the elixir. Below is the formula:
* One tablespoon of pure honey
* ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper
* Four cloves of garlic pressed through a garlic press
Those are the proportions, but you’ll need more than that, so take four tablespoons of honey, one teaspoon of cayenne pepper and sixteen pressed cloves of garlic, and mix that all together. Take ½ teaspoon to one teaspoon of the formula every 30-60 minutes.
Don’t wash it down - let the honey coat the throat.
I do not have a garlic press, so I just minced all 16 cloves of garlic with a knife. I swallowed this elixir every 30 minutes until the whole thing was gone. I felt the heat in my face and inside of my ears after swallowing the garlic and cayenne pepper; however, it was not unbearable due to the sweetness of honey. It felt like something was actually working with the burning sensation. Before I finished it all, my throat no longer hurt. It actually worked like a miracle just like the article says. I was very excited. Now knowing this magic potion, I shall not suffer from sore throat anymore.
Sunday, June 4, 2017
I have always loved tacos with carnitas. It's crispy, tender, flavorful and juicy all at once. I always thought about making it, but you can't just make a cup of carnitas. You are either going to make enough for 10 people or you just go buy some from a taqueria. As I started learning Spanish recently, I am more interested in Mexican and South American cuisines than ever. When a taco potluck at work is coming up, I decided to bring some homemade carnitas. I searched the internet for a simple and delicious carnitas recipe, and this is the one I decided on. However, I don't have a slow cooker big enough for a piece of 5 lbs of meat, so I had to cook it in the oven. I can't even remember the last time I bought a piece of meat that big; however, I do have a roasting pan. It baked in the oven at 325 F. for almost 3 hours.
Pulling the pork apart was the most labor intensive step of this process. Maybe I needed bigger forks. My fingers were sore when I was done. At this stage, the pork doesn't taste like the carnitas I know at all. It didn't taste or look all that good to be honest. There are a few more steps in the recipe, and these steps are "not optional" according to the poster. I was so tired by the time I was done pulling the pork apart, I put everything in the fridge and went to sleep.
When I got up this morning, I was hungry. I made some coffee and proceeded to make some carnitas for breakfast. I fried up some of the pulled pork and warmed up some tortillas. I didn't have anything else to put in the tacos, but who needed anything else when you had homemade carnitas? I ate 4 street size tacos for brunch this morning. I better save the rest for the potluck!
Wednesday, May 31, 2017
This year I work with a couple fruit enthusiasts. Sometimes the three of us would take a break during our work day to walk and check out different plants in the neighborhood. Since I work just 4 blocks away from home, we are basically checking out the edible plants in my neighborhood. A couple months ago we looked at this tree in the photo above. At the time it did not have fruits. Today we went back to the same tree with a book called Tropical Fruits and Other Edible Plants of the World by Rolf Blancke in attempt to identify this tree. Unfortunately, we could not find anything in the book that looks exactly like what we saw. In addition to the flowers and premature fruits on the tree, I also found a ripened fruit on the ground. I picked it up to show my coworkers. One of them pulled it apart using her hands. We all had a good look inside of it. I even tasted it by touching it with my finger first. It was sweet.
Since both of my coworkers have been looking through the tropical fruits book for the past several weeks, it was my turn to look at the pictures. As I flipped through the pages, I saw a fruit which could possibly be what we saw today. The photos in the book for each fruit are very limited. It has either one or two photos only and usually they are pictures of the fruit and leaves. Every time I saw a possible candidate, I typed it into Google Images for more photos. After about 3 tries, I found the mystery fruit. It turned out to be white sapote! I was able to find many images of the trees, flowers, ripe fruits and fruits on the trees, etc. It was a perfect match. By the descriptions of white sapote, it sounded delicious. We didn't really try the slightly rotted fruit on the ground because we didn't really know what it was even though we suspected it was edible.
I will be walking Cracus toward the direction of the white sapote tree from here on.
Monday, May 29, 2017
|Free lemon and lime trees on the street corner|
I have a new "Free" site that I used. Craigslist.org used to be my "free" site, but in the past year Nextdoor.com has become my favorite free site. Now I only pick up free stuff from my own neighborhood and very often I just walk over to pick them up. This morning I walked the dogs to a house not too far away pick up some free Calandrinia grandiflora cuttings. I have seen these flowers in the neighborhood and thought they were really pretty, so I was very excited to get some free cuttings. A few hours later, someone else nearby posted "free lemon and lime tree (see photo above)". Initially, I was going to pass, then I thought how I have wanted a lime tree for many years. I Googled how to tell a lemon from a lime tree, and decided to swing by the trees with the car. I smelled both trees, but I really could not tell the difference, so I just had to pick the one with smaller leaves (the one on the right) and hope that is a lime tree. I already have unlimited access to free lemons, so it would be a waste of effort if I had picked the wrong one.
|the jade plant had to go|
Initially I was going to plant the lime tree in a planter, but I decided it would be best to plant it in the garden. I have always thought the big jade plant was wasting a prime spot in the garden. It's not particularly pretty, and it doesn't produce anything useful. A couple weeks ago, the 13-year-old girl next door even said that jade tree is kinda ugly, and that I should get rid of it and plant something else! I just started cutting down the jade plant with my Pocket Boy. It didn't take long for me to get to the roots. I dug up as much roots as I possibly could. My arms were shaking as I finished prepping for the planting location.
Before I put the lime tree into its place, I clipped off some branches that didn't look too good. They were covered in scale pests. I also removed some soil around the roots. As I placed it in the hole on the ground, I mixed in some compost and covered it all up with soil before watering the tree really well. It looked a bit dry.
|My new lime tree (I hope)|
It took over 2 hours to complete this project. The weather got warm as I worked the soil and dug up the river rocks and the roots. I was pleased how good the new tree looks in its new home. It already has several buds and possibly baby limes. It would be so cool to pick limes from my own garden. I guess I will find out soon enough.
Saturday, May 20, 2017
|Installed a rear carrier rack on the bike|
Ever since I rode the bike on Bike to Work Day, I had been thinking about how I could ride the bicycle with Cracus. I figured the easiest way to carry Cracus around on the bike would be putting him in his crate. He is familiar with his crate and is safe in there. I wouldn't have to worry about him jumping out of a box or a basket. His traveling crate is small enough to be strapped behind me on the bike. I realized that I needed to get a rear carrier rack in order to strap the crate to the bike. After looking around online, I found Ventura universal rear rack. It was the only one I thought that could possibly work with my bike. I was lucky to find a youtube video on how to install Ventura universal rack on a cruiser bike, which further confirmed that it would most likely work on my bike. I found it for sale on eBay for $16, which was super cheap compare to all the other rear racks. It arrived in just a few days, and it didn't come with any hardware just like the one in the youtube video. I went through my collection of random screws and nuts, and luckily, I was able to mix and match and got the rack installed after several tries. It supposed to be able to hold 55 lbs. of weight.
After getting a few bungee cords, I practiced strapping the crate securely then invited Cracus into his crate. He eagerly went in there and took his crate treats joyfully. I took the bike out on the street, walked over to Ohlone Greenway. Cracus did not make a sound the entire time. I hopped on the bike and rode down the trail. He never made any noise. After riding a few blocks, I rode back home. It was hard to tell whether Cracus enjoyed it. I had to put the crate sideway, so Cracus was not able to get the effect of wind blowing on his face. I could tell he was hot being in the crate, so we ended his first bike ride. Next time we will go for a longer ride and stop somewhere interesting so he can also walk around.
Thursday, May 11, 2017
Today was the annual Bike to Work Day. Many cities around San Francisco Bay Area participate in this annual event including City of El Cerrito. The City hosted an energizer station from 7 am to 9 am next to El Cerrito Plaza BART station to promote the event and the healthy lifestyle of bicycling as a way of transportation and exercise. At the energizer station, city employees handed out goodie bags, snacks, drinks and provided bicycle maintenance tips. For the very first time in my life, I participated in this event. Many years ago I rescued a vintage bicycle from the apartment complex dumpster where I lived at the time. It was covered in tape. I think it was done on purpose to discourage thieves. I removed most of the tape, replaced some parts, and a friend gave it a tune up. It turned out to be a beautiful bike. I can't even tell which manufacturer made the bike. It has just one label that says "Lifetime Warranty call 1-800-USA-Bike for any question". The bike is heavy compare to newer bikes. It also has coaster brakes instead of hand brakes. While I like my unique bike a lot, I don't ride it often. One of the reasons is that I don't want it to get stolen.
|My bicycle complete with a wire basket|
A few days ago, I decided that I would participate in the Bike to Work Day this year. I got the bike out of the garage and hosed it down in the backyard. I had not been on the bike for many years. I even did a trial ride of 4 blocks to work; however, I had to ride further this morning to get to the energizing station. I didn't see too many bicyclists on my way there at 7:15 a.m. As I got closer, I saw many people and children with their bikes. It was like a party! I had some drink samples of chicha morada and passion fruit from El Mono, the local Peruvian restaurant that I love. I grabbed some snack and a Bike to Work canvas bag filled with goodies. There was a lot of excitement, and I wished that I could stay longer. I didn't want to be late to work so I started pedaling again along Ohlone Greenway. When I got to work, I was 10 minutes early!
Sunday, March 19, 2017
Back in 2010, I got some free compost from the City of El Cerrito on Compost Giveaway Day. This year I noticed the city is giving away compost for an entire week starting yesterday until March 24th. This morning I brought a bucket with me to get my compost. I will try to go get some more if I can find another bucket to put it in. I love that earthy smell! Cracus loves it, too. He tried to eat it as I was trying to add it to the base of the mulberry tree. I think he actually ate a little. He likes to eat dirt occasionally.
While walking Cracus, I came across a patio umbrella stand someone left out on the sidewalk for free. It's a heavy duty one. Sure it is old, but who cares. It is just going to sit outside and get weathered anyway. I promptly picked it up with my car after walking Cracus back home. While walking Craucs, I also spotted a cluster of puffballs in the grass on the sidewalk. I collected all of them in one of the clean poop bags. I love having these bags handy. They are useful in many ways not just for picking up dog poop. With the exceptional rain volume this year, I have seen plenty of mushrooms while walking Cracus, but this is the first time I found something tasty.
I can't believe I got all these free things on the same day!
Sunday, February 26, 2017
|Before and After|
This past winter, we had more rain than average. According to Washington Post, as of February 21st, San Francisco is running nearly 10 inches above average. Everyday I hear from the radio that certain parts of California are now flooding and families are being evacuated. That's something you rarely hear in California, the state which has endured drought for more than 10 years. With the excessive rain, the garden is now overgrown with weeds. I like to keep the dog run weed free, so I have been working on it for a couple weekends. The result is obvious as Cracus proudly poses above.
|Before and After|
I also like to keep the river rock and mulberry tree area weed free. I have been working on it for a few weekends now. Today it is finally clear of sour grass. There is about another half of the garden that needs to be weeded. More work will continue as the weather starts to feel like spring and flowers start to bloom.
|More to go on the left|
Saturday, February 25, 2017
On my way to work a couple days ago, I noticed one of my neighbors was giving away a bunch of "organic dino kale" in his/her driveway. It was written on the pavement in chalk, "free organic dino kale" with arrows pointing to the plants. They were whole plants with roots and dirt attached to them. I was walking to work, so I didn't have time to take any. I told myself that if they were still available on my way home, I would take a few. A few hours later, as I walked home for lunch, they were still there so I picked a couple of them with less dirt. I put them in a bucket of rainwater in the yard for the time being.
Today I finally have some time to work in the garden, so I planted them in one of the sunny spots. I had clear out all the weeds and dead plants a few weeks ago. It was the perfect spot, and Cracus of course had to check them out. I think he would eat it if I handed him some kale leaves. I clipped off some kale leaves so the newly planted plants wouldn't be too top heavy. The kale leaves were chopped up and added to my big pot of combination korma curry for dinner.
I finally have some vegetables in the garden!
Monday, January 2, 2017
One of my neighbors spent a week in Hawaii for Christmas. She brought me a little Blue Ginger to grow since it has blue-violet color flowers, which is my favorite color. After reading more about it on Dave's Garden, I decided to grow it indoors since all my orchids seem to be dying off. Blue Ginger blooms all year round, and it can reach 6 to 8 feet tall! I am sure I'll be trimming it so it won't become a giant plant inside of the house. I can't wait to watch it grow!