There is Something Beyond the Straw Bale

Fig tree off the front porch.

As usual, when I blog about our small vegetable garden as I did on Wednesday, I neglect to put that small part of the food growing efforts at the Root Simple compound in context. To correct this unfortunate tendency, I’m thinking of hanging a framed portrait of Jacques Derrida, the patron saint of 90s nerd boys like me, over my computer to remind me that nothing exists outside of a greater context. What applies to literature also applies to vegetable gardening. You can’t grow vegetables without also considering their relationship to other plants, creatures and human beings.

Bale, pomegranate tree and mess I need to clean up. Please note the raccoon poop zone on the slightly subterranean garage roof.

Our vegetable garden right now is just one straw bale in the process of conditioning and our philosophy has always been that vegetable gardens need to be surrounded by a native “hedge row” that supports beneficial wildlife. We’re also fans of hardy and climate appropriate perennial fruits and vegetables–beyond that solitary straw bale we have a lot of edible perennial plants and a bunch of work to do to straighten out the yard after years of other priorities.

Site of future seasonal rain garden.

Towards that end, our landscaper, Laramee Haynes and crew are coming next week to clean things up, install a kind of seasonal rain garden fed by a downspout, fix the paths in the backyard, and install some sprinklers and a few path lights. In short, to do all the things we couldn’t do when I was taking care of my mom and when Kelly was recovering from open heart surgery. The end goal is to have a yard consisting mostly of native plants, alongside our mature fruit trees and a tiny vegetable garden that will consist of either a small raised bed or a straw bale or an alternation of both bed and bale.

The fruit trees, for those keeping score, consist of a fig, pomegranate, avocado and olive as well as a few stone fruit trees that we will likely remove since the squirrels get every single fruit. In the perennial vegetable catagory, there’s also a few artichokes that pop up here and there, prickly pear cactus and an indestructible stand of New Zealand spinach. When Laramee is done we’ll install a bust of Derrida made out of pre-chewed termite infested wood that will slowly be colonized and deconstructed by Los Angeles’ endangered carpenter bees.

Lastly, please enjoy this completely gratuitous kitten photo that has nothing to do with this blog post, vegetable gardening or Derrida unless all internet cat photos do, in fact, have everything to do with Derrida. Let’s skip that speculation for now and note that this kitten, currently being fostered by our neighbor Lora, is up for adoption and looking for a home in which to snuggle next to you while you read impenetrable tomes in your reading socks. Email us if you want to bring this grey cutie home.

2018: The Year Squirrels Discovered our Pomegranate Tree

One could complain that this blog allots way too much space to two topics: tidying up and complaints about squirrels. At the risk of repetition, let’s discuss the squirrel issue this morning beginning with a year end review of our fruit harvest totals:

Fuji apples: 0
Winter banana apples: 0
Fuyu persimmons: 0
Hachiya persimmons: 0
Peaches: 0
Pomegranates: 6
Figs: 20?
Avocados: 20? but with a few bite marks

So not a total loss in the pom department but a long ways from my days of thinking that the hard skin of pomegranates are squirrel proof.

This is the point in my squirrel complaint blog post where I lazily link to UC Davis’ squirrel management notions. It’s also the paragraph in which I claim to have discovered a miracle squirrel cure in the form of a lame old man joke. Now you’ve got a bad case of earworm. Go ahead and suggest dogs and rifles in the comments and you’ll see us soon on a PETA billboard.

A Lemon Arbor

Consider this post one of those inspirational ideas we’ll never get around to but perhaps an ambitious Root Simple reader will tackle: a lemon arbor. You can find this particular lemon arbor at Lotusland in Montecito, California.

We used to have a grape arbor that became a “stacking function fail” due to Los Angeles’ disruptive rat population. I suspect the rats would be less interested in the lemons but don’t hold me to that speculation. Our grape arbor came down to make way for a new patio and backyard designed by Haynes Landscape Design (I’ll post an update when the work is complete).

We Grew a Cocktail Avocado!

This morning Kelly alerted me to the latest avocado news making its way around the internet tubes. Apparently a chain of grocery stores in Great Britain, worried about the lack of knife skills in our young folks (ugh), is marketing a seedless “cocktail” avocado.

What is a cocktail avocado? Some deep Googling revealed that they aren’t some new variety, just un- or under pollinated Fuerte avocado. Since we have a Fuerte tree in our backyard, I decided to do a deeper form of Googling, which involved prying myself away from the internet tubes and going outside for some first hand investigation. Ka-ching! I found a cocktail avocado that I plan on selling to a knife challenged Brit for a high and undisclosed price.

So how do cocktail avocados happen? Avocado pollination is one of the more complicated mysteries of nature for which I will turn to UC Davis for an explanation,

The first or female stage remains open for only 2 or 3 hours. The flower then closes and remains closed the rest of the day and that night. The following day it opens again. But now the stigma will no longer receive pollen. Instead, the flower is now shedding pollen. That is, each flower is female at its first opening, male at its second. After being open several hours the second day, the flower closes again, this time for good. If it had been successfully pollinated at the first opening, and if other conditions are right, it will develop into a delicious fruit.

People mistakenly think that avocados trees are either male or female. In fact, they are all both. The differences between trees are about when the timing of this alternate gendered flowering occurs. UC Davis goes on to explain,

Nature has provided for avocado cross-pollination by creating varieties of two kinds. The “A” type is female in the morning of the first day and male in the afternoon of the second day (when the weather is warm). The “B” type is just the reverse: its flowers are female in the afternoon and male the following morning.

The fact that we have two hives of honeybees in our backyard and lots of other avocado trees in the neighborhood means that we don’t get a lot of cocktail avocados. I could not find any information about the methods of cocktail avocado growers (located in Spain). I suspect they are either using nets to exclude bees or they are just selectively harvesting the cocktail avocados that naturally occur on every tree.

111 Cardoons, Medlars and Hipster Toilets

On the podcast this week, Kelly and I read and respond to listener questions and comments about cardoons, medlars and Toto’s Eco Promenade toilet! Here’s some links to the topics we rap about:

If you’d like to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. Additional music by Rho. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.