Saturday, August 18, 2012

Previously Thought Thoughts....

July 13, 2012

I want to share great garden developments, wildlife stories and discoveries, some life stories, and details on our progressing business opportunities as we rebuild everything.

Welcome to Hawaii. Last night it rained the hardest tropical summer rain we have had in our six summers in Rancho Carrillo. Right now it is 80 degrees with 99 percent humidity and I love it. This is absolutely my favorite weather of the year and the plants love it as well. It looks like we had about three quarters of an inch of rain. The garden is loving life.

What is growing you ask? I am focused on carrots, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, green beans and tomatoes which are all doing well. Herbs are going off in abundance especially the basil and mojito mint which is out of this world. The tomatoes haven’t ripened yet but are getting ready to explode. Green and brown onions, three varieties of potatoes, cabbage, and broccoli are all doing well too but not what we are going to focus on going forward. Now that I know what works best and sells best I will focus on fewer items and specialize in what we do grow in the future. That is why the rain timing is nice because now that we made our entries in the fair I will be harvesting the rest of the potatoes, cabbage, onions, broccoli and some other greens to replant in time to have a second round of summer crops. Oh yes, I planted the pumpkins as well. Halloween is just around the corner you know. Boo.

Tarantula Hawk in action

See the lovely photos here? If you can’t make it out that is a Tarantula Hawk pulling a baby tarantula up the wall of our house!

Yesterday Allison screamed for me from the front driveway and there was this large reddish wasp, the Tarantula Hawk, pulling a mid-size tarantula across the driveway toward the side of the house. We watched and followed as this wasp pulled the spider all the way around the house into the backyard, across the backyard, and then pulled the tarantula (which had to be three or four times the weight of the tarantula), up the stucco wall of our bedroom fireplace. It pulled its prey all the way up a twelve foot wall and onto the roof. It turns out we were witnessing a truly rare parasitic relationship event.

Upon more research, we learned that the wasp hunts the tarantulas, stings the spider with its special venom that puts it into a coma but doesn’t kill it. The wasp then drags the arachnid to its lair were it lays its egg inside the body of the living but stunned  host. The egg grows inside for a month eating from the spider and then is birthed from the body cavity. The tarantula then dies.  I had seen an entire National Geographic episode about this years ago and now saw it in real life.

All night in bed last night as it rained I could only think of the spider and the wasp on the roof of my bedroom or in the fireplace hiding from the rain.

That’s it for now. Tomorrow I’ll have information on Dirty Dave’s Farm, mountain lion encounters, red-shouldered hawks and other wildlife stories. Thanks much and have a great day.

July 14, 2012
Check out the photos here. The photos were taken by my next door neighbor’s motion-activated outdoor camera. The first is me and my buddy Bob O’Riley out for a nighttime forest walk.
Hey, I think the camera's this way...
Bob loves to take nighttime walks after several beers whenever he comes up to spend the night. I knew my neighbor had the camera set up so I had the brilliant idea to go out and find it and do really awful things in front of it so we could have some really special wildlife photos. The problem is that I couldn’t find the damn camera in the dark but it apparently found us! No flash on that camera. Well the second photo is three hours in the same spot with a collared female mountain lion tracking us. Holy shi….! I believe the females are usually collared when they are mothers which means they get very nasty with babies in tow. It was possibly watching us the whole time. The photo location is less than 100 feet from our horse stable. 

I used to hate having a six foot fence around the yard......  Now I don’t think it is so bad.

While we are talking wildlife, there have been two pair of red shouldered hawks nesting in our next door neighbors trees. They are absolutely beautiful and obnoxious as hell. I love them but they sure have taken over our part of the valley. Every morning at 5:30AM they start screeching and hunting. I believe they are nesting here because of our pond where they hunt constantly. I have seen them pull out frogs and snakes. They also have taken out the gophers. They do make the best organic gopher control I have ever seen. For awhile they were hanging out on the fence around the garden and now there are no more gophers. The birds are aggressive and have no problem landing on our patio ten feet from us. Thankfully they are not interested in our chickens or cats.

Taco the Duck with the Koi

Speaking of the pond, OMG it is alive! I hadn’t been paying much attention to it just keeping the water flowing and the ducks fed. Because of all the late season April and May rain I didn’t have to add any water until June 15 which is great. Last night’s summer rain helped too! Love free water. Anyway, my ten year old daughter Isabel and her friend Ben decided to explore the pond last week with my large fishnet and boy did they uncover some life in the water. They were pulling in baby koi, young bluegill, green sunfish, shiners, mosquito fish and tons of giant bullfrog tadpoles. I had no idea all this spawning was taking place. Just over a year ago a friend brought up buckets with baitfish from a lake on Irvine and they have gone wild reproducing. Two and half years ago I brought up a few large koi from our San Clemente house and they have taken to making babies which is so cool. We have a koi factory now. I have made our smaller pond by the house into a koi nursery now and hope to raise many fish. Time to add bass to the big pond, I say.

We love our farm so much but it is a time of great uncertainty for us. Dirty Dave’s Farm is thriving but we have no money and are rebuilding our lives. I know people are wondering what the hell we are up to and what is our plan. Funny thing is, even with the uncertainty and pressure to rebuild, our home is much happier and more peaceful now.  That kind of stress does not compare to what we have been going through for the past few years.  It is a welcome change for sure.

Wishing you all good health and happiness.  Until next time.....

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Award Winning Veggies

July 19, 2012

Dirty Dave’s Farm is now award winning! Our hard work and perseverance paid big with two first place awards at the internationally recognized and world famous Orange County Fair Vegetable Competition. With dirt under our nails and smelling like manure we fearlessly trekked to the fair the day before it opened with our freshly picked goods. This was our first time entering a competition for vegetables so we wanted to make a good impression. But upon arrival at the fairgrounds parking lot, we had to muscle a few old ladies out of the way as they tried to take us on with their zucchini and lemons. I had Isabel distract one while I tripped the other and caused them drop their produce. We even knocked one elderly gal into the water at the pond display as we made our way into Centennial Farms. She never knew what hit her. The paramedics were nice to her.

Anyway, Allison, Isabel and I cluelessly delivered perfect specimens of our veggies, but we didn't understand the rules and were only able to enter a few of our items.  It turns out that we needed to have three of each vegetable to be judged on type, size, uniformity, condition and market quality.  Of course, we know the rules now.  But damned if we didn't win top prizes!  We won for the largest carrot (it took some patience to dig that one out of the dirt) and top specimen for our Yukon Gold potatoes because we fortunately brought three of those.
Paige with "Gigante".

Allison’s father, John Blaydes, also entered a couple of his watercolor paintings and a photo in the fine arts category.

The lady with the lemon did pretty well after all. 

On August 5th we will be at the fair showing our chickens. Please come by and say hi. It is really fun and we are somewhat clueless about the whole chicken thing as well, but what we thought was our least impressive pullet last year won Show Champion and we still have no idea why. The judge knew something though as that chicken grew up to be our prettiest and most consistent egg layer.

We know a little bit more this year but still are a long way from the expertise of the chicken show circuit people. Yes, we have discovered a subculture of chicken people who travel all over showing their flocks. We will still be arriving with our chickens in a dog crate. The pros have custom made and hand painted show boxes. That separates the men from the boys in chickenland.

Mini Farmers Market in the neighborhood
Last night we made our first effort at a mini farmers market we put up in our community. It was a ton of flipping work to get together just a couple tables worth of our goods. I have so much respect for farmers and the incredible work it takes to get their goods to market. We were going to have the girls do the farm stand, but as it turned out it took all four of us three hours just to pick and clean the produce. The neighbors were great and showed up to support. We made $75 the hard way but it is a great lesson for the girls and was a great first run for us. Plus the neighbors loved it and can’t wait until the next one.  When we have our sauces bottled we are going to use some real farmers markets as test markets for the sauces which we will amend with some of our fresh produce. Stay tuned, have a great day and go get dirty.