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).

Saturday Tweets: A Solar Powered Blog, Caravansaries, Moths and Michaelmas

RIP Chef Ernest Miller and Dr. Tracy McFarland

Ernest Miller
It is with great sadness that I relay the news of the passing of chef Ernest Miller and veterinarian Dr. Tracy Elizabeth McFarland. Both were guests on previous episodes of the Root Simple podcast.

I had the great privilege of taking chef Miller’s Master Food Preserver training. Chef Miller’s knowledge of food preservation and safety was encyclopedic. Whenever I had a question I’d send Ernie an email. He was an accomplished chef, teacher, Navy veteran and a kind and gracious person who volunteered countless hours of his time. There is no replacement for him.

The Celebration of Life for Ernest Miller is on Monday October 1, and will begin at 12:30-4pm at Rose Hills Mortuary Visitation Center located at 3888 Workman Mill Road in Whittier and will conclude at 5pm-7pm at the LDS Chapel located at 7505 Garvalia Ave in Rosemead. His brother-in-law has set up a memorial fund to pay for funeral expenses.

Dr. McFarland’s was the most talented and dedicated veterinarian I have ever met. Her diagnostic and surgical skill were legendary. The last time I saw her back in April, for an appointment for one of our cats, she talked about the many times she would head back to her cat-only clinic, late at night, to check on patients. Like Ernie, she was one of those people completely dedicated to her craft, which was all about reducing the suffering of our animal companions. When she entered into hospice earlier this month she posted the following message to Facebook:

What a privilege it has been to welcome your cats to our family, I have loved every minute. I wish I could tell you personally how much each one of you mean to me. Some of you may know that I have been very sick lately. I’m at a point in my life now that God is calling me home. I want you to know I am well taken care of, comfortable and surrounded by my family. I wish you all much love, good health, good humor, and the strength to get through this time. My wonderful team will be there for you during this transition and through the times ahead. The Cat Doctor & Friends will continue my dream of providing honest, compassionate care with integrity. With much love and appreciation, your friend and sister Dr. Tracy.

A memorial service for Dr. Tracy will be held this Saturday September 29th at 10am in the worship center at Grace Baptist Church located at 22833 Copper Hill Drive in Santa Clarita. See the Cat Doctor and Friends Facebook page for information on charities you can donate to in honor of Dr. Tracy.

You can listen to Dr. McFarland on episodes 36 and 46 of our podcast. You can hear Ernie discuss pressure canning on episode 14.

Saturday Tweets: Neuro-Talk, Bitcoin and Other Modern Problems

Grafted Tomatoes: Hope for the Frustrated Home Gardener?


If you, like me, managed to kill all your tomatoes this summer you might want to try grafted tomatoes next season. Grafted tomatoes benefit from pathogen resistant rootstock (Maxifort is the most common rootsock variety).

A literature review “Yield and fruit quality of grafted tomatoes, and their potential for soil fumigant use reduction. A meta-analysis” by Michael L. Grieneisen, Brenna J. Aegerter, C. Scott Stoddard and Minghua Zhang came to the conclusion,

Grafted tomatoes show promise to reduce the usage of various soilborne pathogen treatments, with 33% of commercial tomato rootstocks either resistant or highly resistant to seven or more common soilborne pathogens. Our approach integrated trial data from around the world, though limitations in available data complicated our analysis of relationships between some experimental variables and fruit yields and quality.

While this research focused on commercial growers I suspect grafted tomatoes might be a good option for us backyard tomato enthusiasts. If you, like us, lack the space to rotate your tomato growing year to year, pathogens can build up in the soil. Grafted tomatoes, while not a magic pill or an excuse for poor soil stewardship, might be a worthwhile experiment.

I attempted to graft my own tomatoes a few years ago and failed miserably. I would recommend outsourcing this task unless you’re a seasoned garden geek with a greenhouse.

The research also showed that there’s little difference in taste between grafted and non-grafted tomatoes,

Concerns that grafting might contribute to inferior fruit quality (pH, titratable acidity, total soluble solids, lycopene, vitamin C, firmness, “taste”) seem unfounded in general, though isolated cases show dramatic differences.

There’s more work needed to find the optimal rootstock/scion combo.

Have you tried grafted tomatoes? Leave a comment with your results.