Thursday, May 30, 2013

When Things Go *Pop*

There comes that time every year in the garden.  The seedlings slowly make their way out of the ground. You wait, you wonder. Finally...the plants start to pop.

That's what happened to us. The picture at the top was taken 8 days before the picture below. You can see how much the corn has grown in that week plus.

Finally, the tomatoes are grown, the chiles are blooming, and we'll soon have fresh produce.

Soon? We've started harvesting zucchini and radishes. Sweet onions will be available soon.

Check out this ear of corn. I'm hoping to have a real good harvest with this patch...

...and the zucchini is coming along great too.


Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

FIELDS OF DREAMS - Safeco Field, Seattle, Washington

Currently residing at #14 on our list of Major League Baseball stadiums is this park with a giant umbrella in rainy Seattle.

Safeco Field is home to the Seattle Mariners of the American League. Yet to play in the World Series, the team has won the American League West Division Championship in 1995, 1997, and 2001. They were the wild card selection in 2000. The Mariners also share the single season record for wins with 116 wins in 2001 (also Chicago Cubs, 1906). Many All Star and Hall of Fame caliber players have called this team home over the years; Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey, Jr., Rickey Henderson, Edgar Martinez, and Ichiro Suzuki who was recently lost to the Yankees. Each year it seems, baseball analysts pick this team to win their division but lately have been falling short. 

In 2010, a management bloodbath led to the coaching staff being fired. This season, they're saved from the cellar by the new American League West member, the struggling Astros.

Safeco replaced the unloved Kingdome.

Here are the stats…
Year opened: 1999
Surface: Kentucky Bluegrass/ Perennial Ryegrass blend
Construction cost: $517 million
Capacity: 47 ,116
Field dimensions: Left field – 331 ft.; left center – 390 ft.; Center field – 405 ft.; right center – 385 ft.; Right field – 326 ft.
Home teams: Seattle Mariners (American League, MLB) 1999 –present
Events attended: one game

Safeco Field sits south of downtown Seattle proper, just outside of the free bus zone. It is an outdoor stadium that also has a retractable roof to protect it and the fans from the city’s frequent precipitation. The naming rights were bought by an insurance company.

The park feature four levels of seats, the field level, a terrace level, a small club and suite level, and the upper deck. There are also seats in the outfield. The concourse is open, so you can still see the game when you go to get your snacks.

There is wheelchair accessible seating throughout the park at all levels. We did not have any problems buying more than one companion seat. Tickets are now under dynamic pricing where demand sets the price...seems kinda unnecessary for such a lackluster team. We bought our tickets one day in advance at the Mariner’s Team Store in downtown Seattle. Ticket prices range from $7 bleachers to over $400 in the Diamond Club.

Yes, this is the mid-game crowd.  Why couldn't we buy better seats?

Another problem I had was that these tickets placed us right behind a camera well, severely obstructing our view. This was a game with maybe 3-5,000 fans in attendance. Luckily, the ushers let us move to better seats but why sell us such bad seats, at the high end of their ticket range, when we asked for the best seats, and many more better seats were available? And why such high prices for these seats, especially with a bad team and very low attendance? Lower the prices and get more fans to show up for the games.

The team was terrible the year we were there and their play showed it on the field. Hopefully, the team will someday resolve its issues and give the people of Seattle a better team but as of 2013, that day is still on the horizon.

Food here is good but expensive, just like the tickets. The signature item here is the sushi. A lot of stadiums now serve sushi but it’s usually premade like you’d find in a supermarket. I have to give a lot of credit to this stadium due to the fact that they have sushi chefs on site that make your order as you watch…a true sushi bar.

Besides the usual hot dogs and such…which are good…there is also Ivar’s, a local fried seafood landmark, barbecue, Mexican food, and a rotisserie stand. Across the street is the Pyramid Brewery which has a large beer garden and hall with a happy hour before the game. I highly recommend going there and having some of their great hefeweizen with great prices to match before entering the park.

Public transit got a huge boost when the Link Light Rail opened up. Frequent service to the stadium from downtown and points south is now available. When we visited, there was some commuter rail service to selected games (not ours) and inadequate capacity bus service from King Metro. There is also loads of parking nearby.

For a newer stadium, I have to say that Safeco missed many marks. The food is excellent as is (now) the public transit. Other than that, you’ll be paying a lot for a mediocre to average baseball experience. That’s why it only rates only a dismal 14 out of 18 on our stadium list. Still, it’s better than three other west coast parks…Dodger Stadium, Angel Stadium, and Oakland…but that’s not saying much.

Save up to $500 when you book your flight +hotel!

Copyright 2010 – Darryl Musick
Updated for 2013

Plant ID 101 - The Jacaranda Tree

Jacarandas are beautiful trees when they bloom. It's one of the quintessential trees of Southern California like the California pepper tree which it is often confused with when not in bloom. Like the pepper tree, it is not a California originally comes from the more tropica regions of South and Central America as well as the Caribbean.

In bloom, it's a snap to ID. How many trees go into a completely purple or lavender bloom? You can drive the freeways of L.A. in spring and easily pick out a jacaranda in bloom at 70 miles an hour in the blurring landscape.

The flowers are trumpet shaped tubes in lavender or a light purple...pick a color, either one won't be wrong.

When not in bloom, look for the leaves or seed pods to identify. The leaves are bright green and feathery. The seed pods flat and round, like a petrified beaver's tale or a small ping pong paddle.

While they are strikingly beautiful trees in bloom, the the not a tree for my garden.  Those beautiful flowers are also full of sticky sap that'll ruin your car's paint job, among other things, and they drop by the thousands...everywhere!

Yes, I love the jacaranda long as it's in my neighbor's yard.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Harvest Time?

Getting closer to harvest but I'm a bit disappointed with our lot so far. I've overseeded a bit so we should have more later this summer. 

Meanwhile, I've got ears showing on the corn, flowers on the zucchini and guava, small fruit on the citrus and grapes...

...and these radishes.

All that, and here's the first harvest of the season. The complete first harvest...

Hope to have more a little bit later in the season.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

FIELDS OF DREAMS: Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois

Wrigley Field is home to the Chicago Cubs of the National League. It is the second oldest major league baseball stadium still in use, only Fenway Park in Boston is older. They won back-to-back World Series championships in 1907 and 1908. It’s now been 105 years since they did it. Chicago is known as the hard-luck team, probably best personified by the vilification of Steve Bartman , a fan who caught what could have been the second out ball in the 8th inning of game 6 of the 1998 league championships. They were winning over the Florida Marlins, who quickly rebounded to win the game and the series.

It’s been like that for Cubs fans.

Big names who have called The Friendly Confines home over the years include Ernie Banks, Ryne Sandberg, Joe Tinkers, Johnny Evers, Frank Chance (Tinker to Evers to Chance), Rogers Horsnby, Dizzy Dean, and Sammy Sosa. Legendary broadcaster Harry Caray also called the press box home.

If you’re a baseball fan in Chicago and root for the Cubs, you’re a Northsider. Southsiders follow the White Sox. Currently, the team is ahead of only the Houston Astros in the National League Central Division.

Here are the stats…

Year opened: 1914
Surface: Grass
Construction cost: $250,000
Capacity: 42,157
Field dimensions: Left field – 355 ft.; left center – 368 ft.; Center field – 400 ft.; right center – 368 ft.; Right field – 353 ft.
Home teams: Chicago Whales(Federal League) 1914-1915; Chicago Cubs (National League, MLB) 1916 –present; Chicago Tigers (APFA –football) 1920; Chicago Bears (NFL) 1921 – 1970
Events attended: one game

Wrigleyville is a lively, kind of middle to upper class neighborhood just north of downtown Chicago. It’s got a great vibe with restaurants, bars, and such. Just seems like a nice place to hang out. In the middle is Wrigley Field, named after chewing gum magnate and former team owner, William Wrigley, Jr.

I’m kind of amazed that the capacity is so high, it seems so much more intimate with only two decks and a bit of bleacher area in the outfield. I would have guessed 36-38,000, not 42,000.

Since it’s such an old stadium, there are plenty of obstructed views…your ticket will note it if it is. Old stadiums are nice in a historical, museum kind of way…especially when it still used as it was intended. However, historical places like this can leave a lot to be desired for disabled customers.

Wheelchair seating is sparce but it didn’t seem hard to get. Wrigley has no written companion seat restriction policy…we had no problem getting 4 companion seats. The way the accessible seating here is done is that a couple of regular seats have been removed here and there from the top row of the lower deck and a wheelchair goes in instead. There is also one area right behind home plate that is served by one of those lifts that are attached to the staircase railing. Not too bad for an antique like this. Tickets are now priced dynamically and range from $20 for upper deck reserved against cellar dwellers to  over $300 for club seats against the premiere teams like the Cards. You are paying a bit of a premium for seeing such a popular and historic park…there is also a 12% entertainment tax on top of that.

Transit is excellent with an accessible El station right next to the stadium.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia
Kathy (kthypryn) under CC-BY license

Wrigley is also know for the apartment buildings across the street that set up bleachers on the roof to watch the games.  After some years of contention, the stadium has agreements from some of the owners to share in the ticket prices that they charge.  Some of them are also wheelchair accessible, see the sites for the team endorsed rooftops here (check the amenities and FAQs to see which are accessible).

Food is pretty much standard ballpark fare but they also have Italian beef sandwiches available.

Unfortunately, I can’t comment too much on the beer selection because we didn’t have any and all the snack bars, save for one, in our area were closed. The one that was open was serving Pabst Blue Ribbon.

The coffee wasn’t bad, though…

The one thing you do not want to do is come here on a cold day. We did. 26 degrees with a wind chill of 16 degrees. That and the fact that there is no cold like Chicago cold made for a challenging day at the ball park at best.

It had snowed the day before (this was around April 20th). The pitcher could only throw meatballs and, even though Sammy Sosa hit one out, the Cubs ended up losing. In a post game interview, the pitcher said he couldn’t feel his fingers anymore. We bought furry Cubs blankets from the gift shop and huddled together. It wasn’t enough…we left in the bottom of the 4th to retire in front of the heater in our hotel room.

Of course, this experience cannot be typical. I feel like I really didn’t get the full effect from Wrigley so I’m not going to hold the bad weather against it. I’d really like to go back someday in the summer to really experience it.

I am, however, ready to put it slightly ahead of Fenway because the accessible seats are better, as is the accessible transit. Neither of them would rise to the level of old Yankee stadium…which I know is nowhere near as historic but did have a very historic feel to it…but even with their accessibility challenges, I hope they never get rid of these absolutely gorgeous old ball parks. That puts Wrigley at number 4 on our list.

Every baseball fan, disabled or not, should visit Wrigley sometime in their life.

Copyright 2010 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved
Updated 2013

A Gallery of Ne'er Do Wells

We're on the cusp of starting the harvest season here at the Cheapskate's garden. Looks like we might have a slightly paltry first crop but with overseeding and warm weather, summer should be producing something more like a bumper crop.

In the meantime, I'm spending time working with the plants that REALLY do well here, the weeds.  As I pull them up, let's see what's clogging up my garden this week.

The Scourge of Spurge...this little guy is a bit on the nasty side. Not too bad if you get it early but let it ride for a week...

...and you get these mats along with deep, hard-to-pull-up roots.  Not to mention, it has a sticky sap that gets all over your hands and resists efforts to pull up with a glove.

Grass sprouts up here and there. Pull as soon as possible to avoid deep rooted clumps.

Oxalis (pictured at the top of the page) have spring-loaded exploding seed pods (really!) and are impossible to eradicate completely.

Oak trees are native in my area. Squirrels, jays, and woodpeckers stash the acorns everywhere, leading to this unique weed...the oak tree seedling.

Finally, palm trees. Enough already. I spend more time pulling up these free-sprouting seedlings than anything else.

Here, you can see the little seed too.  That's one more palm tree that won't be growing in Southern California.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Plant ID Faceoff - Orchid Tree vs. Trumpet Tree

Quick...what's that blooming tree in the picture above?

It's nice to be able to indentify plants on the go. It's not only helpful when you see something that would go great in your garden but is also a nifty parlor trick.


Sometimes, Nature likes to play it's own party trick on us by making plants very similar but different at the same time. That is the case with the Orchid Tree and the Trumpet Tree.

From a distance, these two trees are basically identical. I know I'd find myself saying "what a nice orchid tree that is," only to find out it was something else. Looking at the trees above, can you tell? They are different.

Upon closer look, the blooms give it away. The orchid tree is not an actual orchid but the flowers look very similar. There is the 5-petal, fan shaped arrangement but is missing the usual lip of an orchid, which is actually a 6th petal that is modified as a pollinator attractor.

If the orchid tree flower looks like an orchid, what do you think the trumpet tree's flower looks like? That's right, it's trumpet shaped and a close up look gives it away. It looks like a trumpet bell with a frilly fringe on it.

When you see something you think you know, be sure to take a closer look. It just might be something else. Oh, the trees above? The orchid tree...or at the top. The trumpet tree...or the second one.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

FIELDS OF DREAMS: Fenway Park, Boston, Massachussetts

Five days after the Titanic struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic, Fenway Park opened up just south of downtown Boston.  100 years later (as of this week), with a few modifications, the park is still going strong.  It’s the oldest stadium in Major League baseball.

Think of all the history this place has seen.  Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Carlton Fisk willing his shot to stay fair, the ball rolling through Bill Buckner’s legs, the curse of the Bambino and the 86 year World Series drought, Carl Yastrzemski, Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling’s bloody sock, and finally…two world championships in the 2000’s.

The current lineup includes such names as David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Jacob Ellsbury, and Mike Napoli. The team just couldn't function under manager Bobby Valentine last year so new skipper, John Farrell is guiding the team in 2013.   Maybe there's something there because, as of this writing, they're tied for first place with their biggest rival, the Yankees.  The team also has the record for the most consecutive sell outs, not a hard feat with such a small stadium and a powerhouse team. 

Here are the stats:
Year opened: 1912
Surface: Grass
Construction cost: $650,000
Capacity: 37,402 for night games, 36,974 for day games
Field dimensions: Left field – 310 ft.; left center – 379 ft.; Center field – 389 ft.; right center – 420 ft.; Right field – 302 ft.
Home team: Red Sox (American League-MLB) 1912 - present

Fenway is quirky.  It’s old.  It looks and feels old.  The first time I stepped foot into the park, I saw the rust, the grime, the pallets of beer kegs, the trucks…and I thought I was in the loading dock.  Nope, this is the concourse where you’d go to get food and beer during the game.

It’s most famous feature is the giant wall in left field that is 37 feet tall called the Green Monster.  There’s a street on the other side and the wall keeps the stadium into its lot.  A ladder and a garage door are on the outfield wall.  Both are in play and can make the ball bounce in crazy directions.  The right field foul pole is only 302 feet out.  Weak hitting second baseman Johnny Pesky figured out how to hook a ball just right to get around this pole earning it the name of Pesky’s Pole.

The scoreboard in left field is manually operated.  Not from nostalgia but because it’s just that old.

We have been to the park two times.  The first was on the day that the hated New York Yankees eliminated the Sox from the playoffs in 1999.  We struck up a conversation with groundskeeper Al Forrester, who was sitting in a chair outside.   When he learned we were from Los Angeles, he asked “do you have a camera?”  Yes we did.  “Go on in,” he said.  We did and wandered around the empty stadium to our heart’s content.

Several years later, we came back and took a formal tour because the games that week were sold out.  This time, we got to walk along the warning track, see inside the dugouts and scoreboard, and see the private club behind home plate.

It’s the most time we’ve spent inside a stadium without seeing a game.  With that in mind, here are our impressions of the park.
The Other Side of the Green Monster

On game day, it’s festive outside the park with food booths, souvenir shops, restaurants, and bars.  If you can’t get into the game, watch it at one of the local watering holes across the street.    Even on non-game days, there is still quite a bit of activity in the area around the stadium.  It’s a fun place anytime.
The seats are a bit small.  There are newer seats located on top of the Green Monster and on top of the right field roof.  Wheelchair accessible locations are available throughout the park, although the accessible seats at the top of the Green Monster were built with huge obstructions.  Their website says they’ve been re-designed, I have not seen them since they were.
Tickets a pretty darn expensive and hard to come by at the perennially sold out park.  Disabled fans can call (877) RED-SOX9.  Prices run from $22 to well over $300. 
I have no idea how the food here is but in addition to the usual fare lobster rolls, Italian sandwiches, pulled pork, and our favorite East Coast treat…fried dough…is available here.
Transit for able-bodied fans is great.  The Kenmore Station…the closest one to the stadium…is marked as accessible on the MBTA’s map but on the station list says “no accessible features.”  We had to disembark at another station a mile away and walk the remaining distance.  Also note that this area is served by the Green Line, Boston’s oldest transit line and the most accessibility challenged one.  Maybe they’ve added accessibility to the Kenmore station since we were there, but their website is contradictory on it.
Very limited parking is available near the stadium.
I’d love to see a game here someday, just to see one in the oldest stadium.  Be aware that there may be accessibility issues when you go here and prepare for them.

Copyright 2010 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved
Updated for 2013

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Spring Flings...More Visitors to the Garden

Look who's stopping by the garden this week...

Above is a hooded oriole. We get these visitors each March and they usually stay till September. Migrating up from Mexico, they really like the sweet. We look forward to them every year but the hummingbirds wish we had a more secure border...they don't care for the orioles hogging up their feeders.

Speaking of hummingbirds, we had three different kinds this week.

Here's an Anna's hummingbird, a year round local in our yard.

This black chinned hummingbird is a bit more rare and only seen during the warmer months.

The Allen's hummingbird is very aggressive and thinks the backyard belongs to him. Here he is in full warrior mode.

Not quite in our yard but in the park a block away is this guy, the red whiskered bulbul. Our research indicates that they are escaped pets here in the U.S.

Also at the park, this western tanager is a colorful spring and summer visitor but rarely makes it down the block to our garden.

Looking over the whole affair is this turkey vulture, a very common bird around here.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

FIELDS OF DREAMS - PETCO Park, San Diego, California

Today, our most popular post ever on the blog.  Yes,, I don't know why...but here's an updated look at San Diego's Petco Park.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
Nehrams 2020 under CC-BY-SA license

Dropping a notch to #13 on our list of Major League Stadiums, Petco Park is the home of the San Diego Padres who moved here from Qualcomm Stadium (formerly Jack Murphy Stadium) in 2004.  It is a downtown stadium in the middle of the Gaslamp District, San Diego’s dining and entertainment heart, and across the street from the convention center.  It is one block away from the ocean. 

Here are the stats:
Year opened:  2004
Surface: Grass
Construction cost: $450 million
Capacity: 42,445
Field dimensions: Left field – 367 ft.; left center – 390 ft*.; Center field – 396 ft.; right center – 391 ft.*; Right field – 382 ft.
Home team: San Diego Padres (National League, MLB) 2004 – present
Events attended: One game

*Note: field dimensions with the asterix were moved in for the 2013 season to make the park more hitter friendly.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
hober under CC-BY-SA license

Petco was incorporated into the downtown redevelopment zone and preserves a historic building built into the left field stands, the Western Metal Supply building which was declared a historical building during the early phase of the stadium development.  This delayed the project (along with political issues – San Diego is known for being very tight with the tax buck) two years.  Eventually, it was just incorporated into the stadium.  It now houses a restaurant, the gift shop, and the team’s offices along with a few seats for the fans.
It’s a block from the ocean but faces the other direction.  This is because batters would be looking into the setting sun if it faced the beautiful ocean view.  The view started looking out over a construction zone but is in the process of being developed.

Tony Gwynn had his number retired the day we were there
Wheelchair seating abounds at all levels and a quick call to the team’s office can take care of you and your companion’s needs.  We had no trouble at all getting a wheelchair and two companion seats, plus four more seats for my sister’s family in the adjacent row.  The Padres practice dynamic ticket pricing.  That means prices fluctuate according to demand.  This year's Padres don't seem to be a team that would be in such high demand but a quick check on their site shows prices running from $10 to over $100. Call (619) 795-5005 for help with accessible seating.
The outfield is a park on non-game days.  During a game, it’s a large grassy area to spread a picnic blanket on.  A cheap standing room only ticket gets you access here.  There’s also a sand pit at the center field wall for the kids to play in.  It’s called “The Beach” but since the park is named after a pet shop, I call it “The Litter Box.”
Food here is on the slightly-better than mediocre side.  There’s a good variety of food but most of it is pretty bland.  I’ve been told that the food on the club level is excellent, but that is off-limits to most ticket holders.  Draft beer selection is excellent.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
cooljuno411 under CC-BY-SA license
In the adjacent Gaslamp area, there are a number of mostly pricy restaurants where you can get a pre-game or post-game meal.  A few nearby bars also have cheap beer deals you can take advantage of before the game.  We like to take advantage of this to ease the budget once inside the stadium.
The staff here is very friendly and helpful.  The team’s web site, though, makes it seem that there is scarce parking in the area and will sell you distant parking from the stadium for some pretty hefty prices where you can take a shuttle to the park.  We found a non-affiliated parking structure just across from the third base entrance where $10 got us 24 hours of parking.  There was plenty to go around too.
Transit access is among the best we’ve seen.  The accessible San Diego Trolley has two stations at the stadium.  If you’re coming from up north, say Orange County or Los Angeles, it’s easy to take Amtrak’s Surfliner to San Diego, then the trolley from there to the stadium.

Many hotels are in the neighborhood and around trolley stations further out such as Mission Valley.  The best, if you can get a good rate, is the Omni San Diego Hotel which is connected to the stadium via a foot bridge and has its own entrance into the park.  We did get a $99 rate there but that’s not the usual price.

Before he managed the Padres, Bud Black was the pitching coach with the Angels.  
Here he is with Darryl and Tim along with former Angel utility player, Jeff Davanon.
The team is doing miserably this year under the direction of manager Bud Black.  Between them and the Dodgers, it's hard to say who's the worst team in the division right now.
All in all, a good park.  In the middle of the pack, average but just above mediocre.  It doesn’t capture my spirit like PNC Park or the old Yankee Stadium, but it’s still well above other stadiums on the west coast.  I’d say it’s second in the west only to AT&T Park in San Francisco.

Copyright 2010-Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved
Updated for 2013

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

May's Gray Days...

Not a lot to do on the gardening front this weekend as clouds moved in for a spring shower.  Deadheading a few roses, mowing the lawn...not the most visual or interesting chore to talk about (although it is good exercize), sweeping, and fertilizing.

Still, this gives me more time to just enjoy the garden, look around, and take stock of where we're at.

There are a lot of things about to happen, as evidenced by the little flower buds popping up here and there. The corn stalks are shooting up flowers, it won't be long till we see some ears developing along the sides.

The grape vine is in full bloom. Not spectacular flowers, hard to even see, but it'll be much nicer when these polinated blooms mature into delicious fruit. It's looking good right now but there'll be a battle coming up on to fronts...the animals that like to eat the grapes and the fungus that'll destroy them if I don't treat at just the right time.

Chiles getting ready to bloom. No problems here, just waiting for all that flavor to be ready to pick.

Squash blossom...zucchini and summer squash will be very dandy when they come up.

A little beyond the flowering stage, our citrus is now showing tiny, little fruits.

The guava tree is showing a ton of blooms. This has been a rehabilitation project for us. We used to have it in a container and winds kept blowing it over. We moved it into the ground but haven't had any fruit for three seasons. We're crossing our fingers because we haven't seen this many buds on it for a long time either.

Lastly, on the beauty front, these little buds will open up to the very fragrant and pretty plumeria flowers soon.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved