Monday, September 30, 2013

Falling for a Speckled Lettuce...and Spinach too!

My next fall project is to make a salad. I planted some lettuce last spring but the local wildlife gobbled it up as soon as the first tender shoots broke ground.

I've also had my share of tomato problems but I'm not ready to throw in the towel on my home-grown salad yet.

I've got some cool weather heirloom lettuce and spinach that I'm going to plant for fall. It's a slightly less than 2 months from sowing-to-harvest variety so maybe I can have that salad for Thanksgiving.

I'm putting the soil into the seeding tray. Funny how the hardware store doesn't sell them with drain holes in them already, first I had to take a nail and poke a bunch of holes in the bottom.

I'm putting the lettuce on one side and the spinach on the other. After sowing and covering up the seeds with soil, I tuck the top of each seed packet into the side of the tray so I can remember which side is which.

Water in...

...and cover with cling wrap (more to keep the animals out than anything else). Once I've got some good, healthy little plants, I'll transplant into the space that the onions and bell peppers were growing in during the summer.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

The Ethnic Melting Pot of Southern California: The San Gabriel Valley

Now that baseball season is over, it's time for me to figure out a new mid-week feature to replace the Fields of Dreams until next season.  I don't have to look far.

I am a big believer in the concept that the more you get to know people, the more bigotries and prejudices are starved for lack of oxygen. Yes, I love diversity and I love getting to know the different cultures in our world.

Thankfully for me, a good portion of them can be found within 10 miles of my home...the San Gabriel Valley...just east of Los Angeles proper.

Already becoming well know for it's large Asian population, it's also the home to a lot of African Americans, Latinos, and Caucasians that settled this area. Formerly a part of Mexico, at the time of the Gold Rush, many people migrated here from the eastern half of our country. Beyond the four biggest ethnic groups, there are also dozens more in smaller number.

In the recent past, it was known as an industrial land. Factories, gravel pits, landfills, warehouses and more dot the landscape. There's even a city here that is literally called Industry.

Perhaps, because of this, land prices tended to be lower here in years gone by and many immigrants flowed into this basin. 

Not all of the land was cheap, however. Some of the nation's most expensive real estate is also located here. San Marino has long been home to much of the 1%. Pasadena, San Gabriel, and Arcadia all have some grand homes on leafy streets. The foothills above houses what Forbes called the most expensive zip code in the country, Bradbury...which houses Chinese billionaires, rich athletes, top jockeys and trainers, and the youngest female billionaire, Linsdey Torres, owner of the In 'n Out chain...and sits behind a wall and armed guards at the edge of the mountains.

Mostly overlooked by travelers more intent on seeing Venice Beach, Santa Monica, Hollywood, and Disneyland, the residents here know there are some special places we get to enjoy without the traveling hordes.

Santa Anita is one of the world's premiere horse racetracks. The Tournament of Roses Parade and the annual Rose Bowl football game takes place here. The Los Angeles County Fair takes place at the end of each summer on the valley's eastern edge where the NHRA's two biggest races of the year also take place.

The valley is the gateway to the mountains that many locals use to escape the pressure of the city. Thousands of miles of trails lace the San Gabriel Mountains, which form the northern boundary of the valley.

A two century old mission anchors the heart of the valley and, yes, some of the best and most authentic ethnic food can be found withing its confines, thanks to the rich tapestry of its residents' backgrounds.

A foodie can spend weeks here sampling the fares of the world without driving more than half an hour. Recently, we tried to come up with how many different types of ethnic foods we could identify within our little valley.

So far that is is up to 38.  That's right, almost 40 different and unique ethnic foods...many quite authentic and not dumbed down for American tastes...right here.  Maybe we'll find a few more.

Starting this week, we'll be investigating all those different tastes to be found here in the San Gabriel can call it the SGV for short...and running a new weekly feature, The Ethnic Foods of The San Gabriel Valley, here on Wednesdays.

See you then, come hungry!

Copyright 2013 - Darryl
All Rights Reserved

Friday, September 27, 2013


We've been exploring this area here on The World on Wheels for the last week.  Here are some images of this area that straddles some of the most unforgiving, yet beautiful, border area around.  

Civil War re-enactors in Julian, California.  

Infamous canal that created the Salton Sea at the Border, Los Algodones, Mexico

Colorado River separating Yuma, Arizona and Winterhaven, California

Yuma Territorial Prison, Yuma, Arizona

Calipatria, the lowest town in the Western Hemisphere

Date garden near the Salton Sea

The Salton Sea

Anza Borrego State Park, California

Borrego Springs, California

Sunrise over the desert

Offroaders in the desert

Coachella, California

Scottsdale, Arizona

Spring Training, Tempe, Arizona

Copyright 2010 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, September 26, 2013

My Languishing Lawn

In the valleys of Southern California, it regularly tops 100 degrees in summer. In my particular micro-climate, pushed right up against the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, the hills trap and intensify that heat so that we also have several days of better than 110 degrees.

It's hot, plain and simple, and not all of the greenery can take it.

My lawn is one. It's St. Augustine grass. It used to look good for around 6 months of the year, and then die back because of the heat or winter dormancy.

We also used to have a big ash tree that shaded much of it but the city, fearing it might have termites, removed it and the shade it provided (when we asked for a replacement, the reply was "we don't have a budget for that"). 

While I missed the shade, I didn't miss raking up all those leaves so I didn't make a fuss about it.

Until I found the other insidious effect...without the shade, my lawn is severely scorched from this blistering summer sun (see the picture at the top).

So, this fall, my big project is the rehabilitation of my lawn. Since I'm the Cheapskate, I've got to find a way to do it that's not going to cost an arm and a leg.

I looked into renting an aerator. Minimum of $45 for three hours...not too bad...but the guys at the rental shop are scaring me saying you better know what you're doing with it and that it's a real bear to operate.  "A gardener can do it for around the same price," I'm told.

Approaching my neighbor's gardener, he tells us at least $800 and that doesn't include the cost of the aerator rental. He'd rather install sprinklers and a new lawn for a cost of several thousand dollars.

My middle and last name might be "Urban Gardener," but he's not quiet getting the first name...

So here's my plan...I'm going to overseed with drought resistant grass.  First, to aerate the lawn, I'm going to wet down the ground real good.

Then I'm getting a metal rake/fork and gouging the ground to aerate and break up the roots.

Some of those clumps are pretty darn tough...look what it did.

Here's today's results. I'm going to do a little bit each day until I'm done. Then, I've got a 10-day trip coming up where I can seed, set the timer on the sprinkler to water everyday, no one will be here to bother it, and - hopefully - that can give it the time and moisture it needs for some quality germination.

Wish me luck!

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

FIELDS OF DREAMS: Hall of Fame/Walk of Shame

We're now up to 32 stadiums for all 30 teams, 28 of those are current stadiums. Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium have been demolished since we've been there and San Diego has moved into Petco Park from Qualcomm Stadium. Petco is linked below.

In rating the ball parks, keep in mind that our focus is on wheelchair accessibility. Some fans may not like the positions historic Fenway and Wrigely occupy on our list but that's due to the less than great wheelchair accessibility -  newer stadiums are usually better in that regard.

With that said, here is our ever-expanding list of Major League Baseball and minor league stadiums from our best to worst. If there is a link, we’ve reviewed it - click the link to read the review. If not, I have yet to write the review. If it does not appear on this list, we have not been there yet…

1. PNC Park - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

2. Oracle Park - San Fransicso, California
(Old Yankee Stadium would have previously occupied this spot)

3. Kauffman Stadium – Kansas City, Missouri

4. Nationals Park - Washington, D.C.

5. Camden Yards - Baltimore, Maryland

6. Wrigley Field – Chicago, Illinois

7. Fenway Park – Boston, Massechussetts

8. Target Field - Minneapolis, Minnesota

9. Minute Maid Park - Houston, Texas

10. Miller Park - Milwaukee, Wisconsin

11. Citizens Bank Ballpark – Philadelphia, Pennsyvania

12. Coors Field - Denver, Colorado

13. Busch Stadium – St. Louis, Missouri

14. Tropicana Field - St. Petersburg, Florida

15. Progressive Field – Cleveland, Ohio

16. Great American Ballpark – Cincinnati, Ohio

17. Comerica Park – Detroit, Michigan

18. Chase Field – Phoenix, Arizona

19. PETCO Park – San Diego, California

20. Globe Life Park - Arlington, Texas

21. U.S. Cellular Field – Chicago, Illinois

22. SAFECO Field – Seattle, Washington

23. Dodger Stadium – Los Angeles, California

24. Angel Stadium – Anaheim, California

25. Marlins Park - Miami, Flordia

26. Sun Trust Park - Atlanta, Georgia

27. Rogers Centre – Toronto, Canada

28. Rickey Henderson Field – Oakland, California

Retired or demolished stadiums we have visited, in order of best to worst:

Yankee Stadium – New York, New York
Jack Murphy Stadium (Qualcomm) – San Diego, California
Shea Stadium – New York, New York
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum – Los Angeles, California (Dodgers)

Minor League Stadiums (note...none of these are bad at all but still ranked best to, uh, less best)

1. The Diamond - Lake Elsinore, California

2. Raley Field - Sacramento
3. Surprise Stadium - Surpise, Arizona
4. Tempe Diablo Stadium - Tempe, Arizona
5. Chukchansi Park - Fresno, California
6. The Epicenter - Rancho Cucamonga, California
7. Jay Littleton Ball Park - Ontario, California
8. Sam Lynn Field - Bakersfield, California
9. Recreation Park, Visalia, California

College Stadiums
1. Mazmanian Field - Walnut, California

Copyright 2010 - Darryl Musick

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Cherry Falls

No, that's not one of my punny titles, that's the actual variety name of the cherry tomatoes that I planted in a hanging basket outside of our kitchen window.

My travails with the regular tomatoes have been well documented here this season, although that could also be having a happy ending soon, but the cherry tomatoes have done a decent job.

Starting off in April, I selected a suitable basket and lined it with coco fiber. Next, I repurpose a plastic shopping bag so I can slow down and direct the drainage by poking a hole in the bottom. This will let the water spread out and pool for a minute or two before draining out getting the soil nice and moist evenly around the roots. Then, some potting soil for the plants to grow in.

The seed go in and are watered in before hanging.

I hang the basket outside, put a drip emitter over it, and the timer waters it for 5 minutes everyday.

A month later, a healthy seedling emerges.

In July, I get my first fruit on the biggest stem. It will repeat this act about every two weeks for the rest of the season. I can't wait to get some more stems, more fruit, and have more of a "tomato" fall effect.

Now, according to the picture where I bought it, the plant should look like this.

Unfortunately, none of the other stems (three in all) feel like producing. Fortunately, the one that does is a reliable producer and is still giving us great salad ingredients to this day...I picked those ripe ones a the top this morning.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Vanquishing the Dragon

Time to harvest some of our dragon fruit. No, not this one. Maybe next week but today I have to get the very ripe fruit in the back of the plant.

Not as easy as it seems. The dragon fruit plant is a type of cactus so it will be tricky to reach around to the back through all the needles.

I do manage with minimal damage and get these two. Just in the nick of time, too, as you can see one fruit already split.

Once picked, it's an easy job to cleave it in two...

...and scoop out the sweet pulp inside.

We sample some of the flesh and it's much sweeter than last year's bland crop. 

I'm going to mix it with a little vanilla ice cream, put some caramel on top, and enjoy.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

FIELDS OF DREAMS - PNC Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
alpineinc under CC-BY license

And now we have it...the best stadium in Major League baseball. An absolute beauty in every way, although they could have a better team. Admittedly, this could change as we still have seven stadiums left to visit but ,as it stands, this is number one...

PNC Park is the home of Pittsburgh’s Pirates of the National League. It is located across the Allegheny River from downtown Pittsburgh. It's one of baseballs newest and smallest stadiums with the ability to seat just over 38,000 fans...the second smallest in the majors. It only has two decks and wheelchair seating is sprinkled throughout the stadium. You could have just about any kind of accessible seat you want, the view is spectacular from anywhere in the stadium, including the front row.

The only bad thing about the stadium is that the Pirates are an historically terrible team,  but that's all changed this year as they are pretty much unstoppable and are in first place by 2.5 games, tied with St. Louis close to the end of the season behind the phenomenal play of Andrew McCutchen. The team also has some great history. This was the team that brought us the great, late Roberto Clemente. It’s one of the oldest franchises in baseball, dating back to 1887. They played in the first World Series and another one in 1909 behind the pitching of Honus Wagner. Other Hall of Famers to play here include Willie Stargell, Bill Mazeroski, and Ralph Kiner. Besides 1909, the Pirates took the World Series in 1925, 1960, 1971, and 1979.

Maybe, just maybe, this might be their year.

Here are the stats:

Year opened: 2001
Surface: Grass
Construction cost: $216 million
Capacity: 38,496
Field dimensions: Left field – 325 ft.; left center – 410 ft.; Center field – 399 ft.; right center – 375 ft.; Right field – 320 ft.
Home team: Pittsburgh Pirates (MLB National League) 2001 – present
Events attended: One game

The first thing anyone notices at PNC Park is the view. The most spectacular of any stadium I’ve ever seen. The park is situated to take in the view of Pittsburgh’s skyline over the Allegheny River with the bright yellow Roberto Clement Bridge thrown in for contrast. It takes your breath away when you see it in person.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
Donball09 under CC-BY license

Taking your eyes off of the view, you then notice the cozy feel of the park. Only two decks with the suites all but hidden. It’s one of the smallest parks in the majors and the placement of the press box on top of the stadium makes even the nose bleed seats seem close to the action.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
Adam Stone under CC-BY-SA license

Next comes the food. The famous (or infamous) Primanti Sandwich is served here along with 15 inch kosher dogs and Italian sausages festooned with peppers and onions. The stadium used to have an Outback restaurant that anyone could access. Then access was restricted to premium ticket holders, now it’s the Hall of Fame Club where all ticket holders can go on game days and the general public can go to the rest of the time.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
Banco under CC-BY licens

Another couple of cool features are the circular rotunda ramps that eliminate the need for huge ramps to mar the outside of stadium and the out of town scoreboard that not only shows you the score, what inning (top or bottom) but also a diagram of the diamond to see how many men are on base and where they're standing.

There are plenty of parking lots next to the stadium and public transit can get you close. Pittsburgh’s downtown subway will drop you off at one end of Roberto Clemente Bridge, you can walk or roll the rest of the way over it (the bridge is closed to traffic at game times). Buses go right to the stadium.

Tickets are easy to come by and range from $7 in the bleachers to $255 behind home plate in the Lexus club. Wheelchairs can sit in the front row along the left field foul line for $35-40 (depending on who they're playing).  Dynamic pricing is the name of the game for grandstand and bleacher seating.

If you’re in the Iron City, be sure to stop by and take in a game in baseball’s best stadium.

Copyright 2010 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved
Updated for 2013

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

September Status

While I contemplate how I will rehabilitate my lawn this fall, I go to the back and ponder how that garden is doing.  This plumeria is growing into our space so after it's growing season is over, I will lop of a few of the most offending canes.

When done, it should look something like this one, next to the grapevine.

This year, I planted mostly to have just enough veggies for the three of us. It worked well with the zucchini and bell peppers. Not so well with the tomatoes. And, some, like our patch of chile plants, are producing like there's no tomorrow.

I can't keep up with them all and some are just falling off, lying on the ground. Well, I'd rather have too much than not enough.

Another plant that is producing a bumper crop is our guava tree. We should start picking it in a week or two.

Although our regular tomato plants are a failed crop, I am getting some nice cherry tomatoes from this hanging basket by the kitchen.

They're great with bleu cheese on a salad.

I'll end this post with a quick look at our next delicious bell pepper crop. These are so tasty, I can't wait to have some more.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved