Sunday, May 28, 2017

"Great architecture has only two natural enemies: water and stupid men." -- Richard Nickel

Our 1925 cottage may not be "great architecture" but it certainly has an adorable front porch.  Here it is a few years ago, at Halloween.  (Details on painting the hellmouth can be found here.)

We've known this porch needed love, for some time now.

The whole thing is catty-whompus:  crooked in every direction imaginable.  

The problem wasn't just that the structure was a bit off-kilter.  It turns out that the porch suffered from both of the enemies of architecture:  water, and stupid choices.  The problems were a multiplication of both those factors.  

Luckily, Robb is both fearless and skilled in house-building.  The whole project makes me a bit queazy, but he's undaunted.

I'm sure our neighbors are suitably horrified.

Saturday, May 27, 2017


This afternoon, while Robb and I were working in our back garden, one of our hives of honeybees swarmed.  Being in the middle of a swarm is an intense experience.

The bees, annoyingly, flew into the middle of our next door neighbor's impenetrable bottle brush tree, and stayed there for several hours.

One of the crazy things about a swarm is how quickly it happens. Having rested in the neighbors' tree for most of the afternoon, the bees decided to relocate around 4:30, and within twenty minutes they had flown into a different neighbors' low-hanging bougainvillea.  While they were flying, I climbed up on the roof of yet another neighbors' garage, and sat inside of the swarm.

It was magical, although I suspect some folks might describe this experience as "horrifying."

I called Jamaica who lives a few blocks away, and who is always up for a Bee Adventure.  She and I shook the bees into a specialized cardboard beehive, while the neighbors looked on.

I try not to damage the plants the bees land on.  I did not chop off any large branches.  I was using those loppers because they have nice long handles.

Once the bees settle down for the night, they'll go to Jamaica's house.  I've got plenty of bees, even counting the ones I lost due to this swarm.  And she wanted another colony.  So it's a win-win situation.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Of Orchids And Other Treasures

Every Mothers Day weekend, a local orchid grower has an open house.  Attending this event is like being let in on a wonderful secret.  Fiori D'Amore Orchids is located in a neighborhood just up the hill from where I live.  From the street, you'd never suspect that the house with the beautiful garden is home to a massive growing operation.

The family who run this business have such a passion for their plants, which are simply mind-blowing.  Take a look at those clusters of white-and yellow flowers in the top photo.  Each flower cluster is the size of my thigh.

The size of this operation is hard to convey.  There rows and rows and rows and rows of thriving plants.

The full sized plants often come with full-sized prices, but for more modest buyers like myself, there are a dazzling array of well-labeled divisions.

Somehow I got chatting with the owners.  The discussion meandered from the multi-year drought we have just emerged from, to beekeeping, and somehow we ended up talking about the surprising variety of tropical fruit trees that can be grown in Oakland, California.  The next thing I knew, the proprietors were inviting me into the private areas of their garden, and showing me their personal treasures:  papayas, coffee and chocolate plants, cherimoya and dragon fruit.

I certainly wasn't planning on it, but I came home with two baby cherimoyas (lovingly grown from seed) and a cutting of a dragon fruit.  And we won't discuss the number of orchids that I bought.  (We certainly won't discuss the fact that I went to another orchid sale the next day, and came home covered in tiny biting insects.  Nope, we won't discuss any of that...)

If you're curious what other gardeners are discussing head over to Our Happy Acres, where the Monday Harvest blog party is hosted.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Civic Engagement

Since the imposition of the Muslim Ban, I've been compelled with write to our elected representatives in Washington.  It started small, and just kept going.  So far, I've written over a thousand postcards.  What follows are my photos of this endeavor.  


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