Thursday, June 27, 2013

Now You Tell Me...

Here is our potted jalapeño plant. I'm really looking forward to the taste and heat it will add to our late summer dishes.

Notice anything unusual about it?

I didn't either for a long time but there is.

There are two plants in the pot. Even when you look at the surface of the soil, it looks like it's all coming from a common root but, as you can see above, there are two different leaves. It helps that one of the plants foliage is turning purple.

My wife tells me this is a volunteer from an epazote plant (Dysphania ambrosioides) that she planted last year. Some of the seeds must have blown over into this pot.

Epazote, my Mexican wife told me after 26 years of marriage, is used in Mexico to add with beans as a carminative...that is, mixed with the beans, it cuts down on the intestinal gas much like a natural version of Beano.

After all these years, now she tells me...

Another difference is the flowers. Here are the flowers from the jalapeño.

Here are the flowers from the epazote.

It'll be nice to mix this with the jalapeño, the chiles, and the beans we're sure to cook later on.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Goin' Green With the Cheapskate

While I'm not above turning to a chemical solution when times get really bad, I try to avoid it as much as possible. I like to keep my gardening as green and organic as I can without giving away the farm to the pests waiting in the wings.

Some of the things I do to keep this space sustainable and in harmony with nature are listed below.

Since I don't have room for a compost heap, I practice "compost in place," such as when I deadhead the roses, throw them on the lawn, and use the lawnmower to mulch them into the grass.

And, while I sweep up the debris that lands on the patio, I leave the plant detritus in the planters to decompose naturally to provide nutrients for the soil.

The leaves and other green waste swept up goes into the green waste container, which is then picked up by our sanitation company to be turned into commercial compost.

I also recycle everything I can, such as using an old plastic shopping bag to line this hanging basket. It provides me a way to control just how much I want this planter to drain.

I have this can crusher in the garage that can crush six aluminum cans at once.

When this trash bin gets full of cans, I take it to the recycler to get more money for my garden.

Previously, I've posted about my sprinkler system, which is mainly a drip system on a timer that puts just enough water on the plants, saving that precious resource in this very drought prone area.

Some kitchen scraps can be thrown into your garden as well, composting and making the soil rich in nutrients. Coffee grounds, orange peels, and egg shells are some of the kitchen scraps that have found their way into the soil. No, someone didn't throw up on our chile plant, this is leftover wort from when I made some homebrewed beer earlier this year.

Finally, I like to use the least harmful methods of pest control I can. From building an inert barrier on the grape vine, to using naturally occurring controls such as sulphur and iron pellets, to manually pulling weeds when I can. Here, I'm using my own concoction of vinegar and garlic to spray the aphids on my rose bush.

Those of some of my eco-friendly ways of gardening, what methods to you use?

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Recipes for a Cheapskate: Grilled Buttermilk Herb Chicken

I'm picking two ears of corn, two zucchini, a handful of oregano (that I dried last week), Rosemary, and garlic chives

Now I need to incorporate all of this into a meal.

First, I'm using chicken thighs for the primary portion of the meal. I'm soaking them in buttermilk for 4 hours first. 

Next, I crush up all the herbs and mix with a cup of flower.

I Take the zucchini, slice up, put into a plastic bag with salt, pepper, a tablespoon of olive oil, and a half teaspoon of hot mustard.  I close the bag and toss it all up before wrapping in foil.

I dredge the chicken in the herb/flour mixture, pick a couple of ears of corn, and then toss everything on the indirect side of the barbecue and cover with the lid.

Cook for 20 minutes, then put the chicken over the direct heat of the coals for 3 minutes on each side, then serve.

Copyrights 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

FIELDS OF DREAMS: LoanMart Field, Rancho Cucamonga, California

LoanMart Field is the home of the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, the single A minor league affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers.   Opened in 1993, it’s a suburban ballpark located on the southern edge of Rancho Cucamonga, California…close to the Ontario city limit.  The name of the team comes from the frequent earthquakes that hit the area.

You’ve probably seen it…as the closest minor league ballpark to Los Angeles, it sees a great deal of filming from Hollywood.
Here are the stats…
Year opened: 1993
Surface: Grass
Construction cost: $20 million
Capacity: 6,588
Field dimensions: Left field – 326 ft.; Center field – 373 ft.; Right field – 297 ft.
Home teams: Rancho Cucamonga Quakes 1993-present
Events attended: dozens of games

The first big change for 2013 is the name. An awful naming rights name, you see it up above but it had such a cool original name that I will from this point on only refer to it by that name. The Epicenter fit the entire theme of the team. It is a very nice stadium that just misses being a top-tier single A stadium by a couple of flaws in design.  It’s situated with some very good views of the nearby San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountain ranges but also has the ugly backside of an adjacent shopping center beyond the outfield wall.
The seating bowl consists of one deck bisected with an aisle that separates the lower field level seats from the upper view section just above them.  There are also about a dozen enclosed suites on the top level surrounding the press box that is separate from the main seating area.  Bleachers are added to the area along the left field foul line and a restaurant with its own seating area is near the right field foul pole.  There is no outfield seating.
The design flaws are a closed concourse…you can’t see the game action when you go to the snack bar…and the long route wheelchair users must take to their seats. 
The park entrance is directly behind home plate, with another separate entrance around first base for season ticket holders.  Wheelchair users enter the seating area at either end of the seats in right or left field.  If you have tickets behind home plate, that is a fairly long route to get there.  Ticket prices run from $6 to $13 or you can rent a suite for $400 (works out to about $35 a person for 12 people). 
Buying tickets here pose no problems for wheelchair users.  The games rarely sell out, so feel free to go to the box office before the game.  Otherwise, call (909) 481-5000 and ask for accessible tickets.  They keep your preferences on file so the next time you call and give your phone number, they’ll usually respond with “you want the same seats you had last time and would you like to use the same credit card?” saving you a huge amount of time buying the tickets.
There are no bad seats here and the game views are excellent.  At only $13, the most expensive seats, very close to home plate, come with waiter service and free backrubs from Tremor, the Quakes’ mascot.
Food choices are mostly the regular ballpark fare consisting of hot dogs, pizza, and burgers.  There is also a good dessert bar across from the gift shop behind home plate.  Beer selection is excellent on weekend games with a couple of very good microbrew bars on the concourse with excellent bartenders.  On lighter attended games, these stands are left closed and the selection of brews drops dramatically.  Beer prices are good here.
Public transit is almost non-existent with the closest bus service about a half mile away and train service over a mile away.  Parking is tight but manageable and relatively inexpensive.
A good park, excellent staff (one of the best), great fans, the best mascots in minor league baseball, highly entertaining, and great game action.  Over all, a very good place to watch a baseball game even if you do have to go a ways to get to your seats.

Copyright 2011 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved
Updated for 2013

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

It's a Bloomin' Bachanalia

What new delights do we have this week?  The plumeria are dressing up the patio and providing a heavenly scent.

Angel Face has shown its face this week.

Double Delight is being delightful...

...and the day lillies are brightening our day.

Along with the zucchini, the squash blossoms are very edible too.

I'm picking a couple ears of this red-eared corn for our barbecue (recipe coming up later this week), along with some oregano, garlic chives, and rosemary for seasoning.


Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Recipes for a Cheapskate: Smoked Tri Tip

So the Cheapskate got a new smoker for his birthday. Time to break it in.

To keep this with our gardening theme, I picked some zucchini and the first two ears of corn for the season to throw in with the roast.

4-5 Pound trip tip roast, USDA Choice or better
Pineapple juice
Lemon Juice
Rub (here's a recipe)

Cooking is simple but time consuming.

First, is the marinade. I cover the roast in pineapple juice with another cup of lemon juice thrown in. Then, I let sit in the refrigerator overnight. It's important to get a good piece of meat with good marbling. This one is USDA Prime but Choice would be good too.

Once the marinade is done, I coat with a rub that my wife makes. I put a semi-circle of charcoal and wet wood (mesquite in this case) in the bottom of the smoker.  I'll light only one end so it will slowly burn in a circle like a fuse.

I let smoke for about 4 hours, monitoring the meat temp with a probe thermometer.  When done, I slice and serve with the corn and zucchini, as pictured at the top.


Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Grape Harvest is All Sewn Up

I have a very productive grape vine. It's a ruby red seedless vine and the fruit from it is delicious.

It's so delicious that all the birds, racoons, possums, and other assorted vermin line up to strip it just before the fruit is ripe.

Earlier in the season when the plant was at the peak of dormancy, I put some wildlife netting on the back of it and draped the rest over the wall.

I let the fruit go as long as I thought it could before the animals would get to it and now it's time to finish the job.

Bringing the rest of the netting over the top, I match up the sides.

I take some twine and tie it around a screw. A nail with a thick head would would just as well, maybe even better.  This I use like needle and thread to stitch the two sides together.

A half-an-hour later, I've sewn the plant shut inside, like sewing up a big pillow case.

Now I've got my critter barrier in, let's just let those grapes ripen.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Seasons of Bounty

After finishing the chores this weekend, I had some time to reflect on the upcoming harvest.   I nabbed some zucchini for the evening's barbecue. I think I'll get about a fruit a day from the plants the way they're going now.  What else can I see...

I counted 13 ears of corn on the 7 stalks in our 4-foot long cornfield. We'll have some with the coming weekend's barbecue...I'm going to smoke a tri-tip in my new smoker. I think there will be more than that as the season progresses, too.

The chiles are showing fruit...

...while the plumerias bloom.

Our heirloom tomato is climbing in its cage while the sweet onions are maturing to the right.

For a long time, I didn't think this jalapeño was going to make it but we'll have some good salsa after all.

The guava tree is in bloom, we're hoping for our first crop in three years.

On the flower front, this epidendrum is back in bloom...

Mr. Lincoln is going on his third bloom of the season, with backing from the Lincolnettes...

...and this unnamed yellow rose is on its second.


Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

FIELDS OF DREAMS: Chase Field, Phoenix, Arizona

Chase Field in Phoenix is currently home to the Arizona Diamondbacks. The team won a World Series three years after becoming a team in 2001 and gave us such stars as Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. By 2004, however, the good times were over and the team lost 111 games. Then, former Tiger and one of the all-time Dodger heroes, Kirk Gibson took over as manager and led the team to the playoffs last year.

Their fortunes are blooming June, 2013..they are 2 games ahead of the world champions San Francisco Giants in first place.

Chase…formerly known at Bank One Ballpark - or the BOB…has a retractable roof and air conditioning to shade spectators from the brutal Arizona summer heat. This was the first U.S. baseball stadium to be built with one. Toronto was the actual first, but it’s in Canada, and Montreal’s stadium also had a retractable roof but never worked right. Even with a roof, the Snakes play on real grass, a special hybrid that doesn’t need as much sunlight to grow. The roof is kept open as much as possible for the health of the turf.

Here are the stats:

Year opened: 1998
Surface: Bull’s Eye Bermuda Grass
Construction cost: $354 million
Capacity: 49,033
Field dimensions: Left field – 330 ft.; left center – 413 ft.; Center field – 410 ft.; right center – 413 ft.; Right field – 334 ft.
Home team: Arizona Diamondbacks (MLB National League) 1998 – present
Events attended: One game

From a distance, the stadium looks like a hangar at the airport, especially if the roof is closed. For night games, if the temperature outside is comfortable, the roof is opened just before the game giving fans a starlight view. Due to being mostly indoors, there is much echo noise here.

Wheelchair seating is plentiful and evenly distributed in all levels except the Dugout Club. We went to a nearly sold-out game and were provided seats in the front row in right field next to the visitor’s bullpen. Only a chain link fence separated us from the coaches and pitchers warming up and it was easy to get a few autographs. Another chain link fence in front of us was the only thing keeping us off of right field.

Ticket are priced dynamically and run anywhere from $9 to $150. Call (602) 514-8400 for accessible tickets. The team also maintains an extensive Guide for Guests with Disabilities on its website.

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

Some of the signature features of this stadium are the keyhole…a strip of dirt leading from the pitching mound to home plate, and the swimming pool in right field. Up to 42 guests can rent this out on a per-game basis for $3500 - $4,500 (it is sold out for 2013 but deposits are being taken for 2014). The pool also features a pool lift for disabled guests and an accessible locker room with roll-in shower (notice the lift at the far end of the pool in the picture above).

Food is good here but expensive. Tacos were available when we were there and were the lowest price option. The Mexican food is pretty darn good here. Other food options, beyond the usual ballpark fare, include sushi, barbecue, and comfort food like meatloaf and mac ‘n cheese. You may want to go to Alice Cooper’s adjacent restaurant, Cooperstown, before the game for some pre-game, lower priced specials. Try the Big Unit hot dog if you’re hungry. Come back afterward for the concert…your game ticket stub gets you in free.

There are plenty of parking lots next to the stadium and light rail goes right to it.

Not a bad place to see a game at all, check it out next time you’re in the Valley of the Sun.

Copyright 2010 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved
Updated for 2013

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A New Month and Some Old Chores

A touch late today but worked up a nice sweat in the garden this weekend, starting with mowing the lawn. I like to do the hardest chore first. Then, each chore after that get progressively easier and more enjoyable.

The lavender is getting rangy so I need to give it a trim.

No big trick to it except that you want to try to avoid the bees that swarm all over it. Luckily, most of the bloom is done so no bees today. In bloom, you'd want to do it early in the morning before the bees start their pollen runs.

The zucchini is putting out fruit. Need more? Wait a few hours and we'll harvest again.

Not only do we grow veggies and fruit but we've got quite a few herbs in the garden too. Here, you see the oregano overflowing into the walkway.

I trim it back, put it on top of our fire pit's grate, and let it sit in the sun a few days to dry out.

It's also time to treat the grapes and the front yard roses with sulfur dust again to fight off mold and fungus. Soon, I'll be draping the wildlife netting over the grapes to keep the critters from eating them.

Lastly, I'll fertilize before calling it a day.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved