New lettuce, kale and chard seedlings are sprouting up in the garden shed. The propagation mats get plugged in on New Year’s Day. Then we get busy sowing seeds, since our average last frost date is Feb. 11th. When the seeds sprout, they move off the mats to make room for more. Then a shop light on a timer (12-14 hrs/day) goes up… suspended close to the seedlings. After a few weeks, the plants are hardened off and planted on the grounds. This cycle continues throughout spring.
The peas that were planted mid-September are starting to climb the string trellis in the garden, and should pick up speed now that the days are getting longer again.
The compost that has been cooking for months gets turned and half gets layered with more chicken straw, kitchen waste and oak leaves. The bottom layer of rich compost will go into the garden.
One of the best times to go to the beach on the California coast is during the winter, with the clear, clean sky and no summer fog. It’s this time of year when low tide coincides with the spectacular sunsets. It’s extra special during the full moon… when a few minutes after the sun sinks below the western horizon, the moon rises in the east.
When the forecast called for three nights of freezing temperatures, I took some succulent cuttings of particular tender varieties (Sunburst Aeonium, Dudleya, etc.) that were growing in unprotected areas and stored them in the garage and greenhouse. The cuttings will survive just fine for a month or more, growing roots after a couple of weeks. They can replace those plants killed by the freeze when the weather warms up… just by sticking them back in the ground. Staghorn Ferns are also sensitive to the cold, so they spent a few nights in the greenhouse, where the temperature doesn’t drop below 40 degrees.
All grown up now, Buddy is curious and full of energy. Proven to be a good hunter, he has caught 1 mole, 7 mice, 1 gopher and a small garter snake so far. Every morning he hops up onto the edge of the hot tub to get a drink as I’m having my coffee, and then he and Reo chase each other around the yard. Great way to start each day!
Pinecones are perfect kindling… even better when they are dipped in cinnamon scented wax. They look great in fire starter baskets on the hearth and make nice gifts for the holidays. Start with a slab of wax and some fragrance (available in crafts stores) and score a line in the wax with a knife. Hit it on the corner of the counter or butcher block along the line to break it up into smaller pieces.
It’s wise to protect your stove area from hard to clean up wax splatters with aluminum foil before melting down the pieces of wax in an old pot on med-low heat. Brush off pinecones with a whisk broom if necessary to remove pine needles and/or dirt. Add fragrance and color (optional) to the wax when melted.
Use tongs to dip the pine cones. Submerge or roll around to cover with wax. Drain a few seconds before setting on a tray covered with parchment paper or foil. Stack the pine cones up more than one layer to cool. Extra wax that drips off can be thrown back in the pot. The lower the temperature, the more wax adheres to the cones. The photo below shows a cone dipped in freshly melted hot wax on the right versus when the wax had cooled down on the left.