Monday, September 4, 2017

Fire, water, air... don't say it.

Non-vegetable post

Fire update: Containment now to 30% and fire crews are getting the upper hand. Acreage burned is 7,000.  Freeways opened and all mandatory and voluntary evacuations have been lifted. A total of three structures have been lost (2 structures were on one property) and four non-life-threatening injuries of firefighters have been sustained (dehydration, exhaustion, etc.)

Some news reports state that this is the 'worst' fire in LA history: but like all newsy-news reports, *terms and conditions may apply. Whether they are basing this on firefighter involvement (1,061 personnel assigned), or just fires in LA county, or just in terms of acreage burned (vs. structures burned and/or lives lost) is not made clear. As it wouldn't be. The point isn't to impart information, it's to get ooh-aws and oh-nos and have you stick around through the commercial break.

Seriously though, although I prefer guaranteed primary sources like the LA Fire Department Alerts page, I do try not to base all my info on a single source unless it is the only source. However, one of the news websites (which I will leave unnamed) was so ad heavy it crashed my browser this morning. I hadn't even had my coffee yet.

I mean, it's not like we're trying to get the facts on a potentially life threatening fire here. So by all means, show me the unprompted, half screen shoe advertisement video pop-up first. Maybe I'll pick up a pair on my way to the evac center. For fucks's sake.
But, Day, tell us how you really feel.

Media rants aside, a cool thing happened last night -- it rained!

Can you see it, can you see it! yeah i can't really either. But I swear it's a puddle.
oh, and it's also labor day... in case any of you got up super early to move your car for street sweeping and spent fifteen minutes in the dark before coffee at the butt crack of dawn hunting for left side parking just to realize they're not street sweeping today because it's labor day.

Ya know, in case that was your morning. 

And though we did get rain and it was super awesome, unfortunately it didn't rain on the area that was burning. At least as far as I can gather from friends living near the burn zone. But this makes two rains in five weeks, that's pretty astounding for our summer weather. I'll take it.

Admittedly, it was a little odd to be under fire watch, heat advisory, and a flash flood warning all at the same time. I kept thinking to myself: Fire, air, water... we're missing one.

Whatever you do, don't say it. Cuss all you want, but don't ever state the nature of the 'the big one.' LA is not a superstitious town really, except in this one way. Want to not make friends in LA? Go to a bar and say the ten letter word that starts with e- and rhymes with shmurthshmake. I dare you.


More coming later this week, and much more vegetable oriented content. Until then, I look forward to checking out everyone else's hauls for Harvest Monday.

Happy Planting!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Children of Fire

So if you've read my right hand sidebar, you might have seen the little line that goes 'Summers here are hot with a chance of we're literally on fire...'

Yes, I was trying to be funny. But I was also being serious.

Photo © LA Times
Yesterday afternoon, La Tuna Canyon started smoldering. By this morning we have a 5,000 acre, 10% contained blaze heading in four different directions, with daily temperatures expected in the 110-115° range. Sections of the 210 freeway are shut down until further notice and some neighborhoods in the Burbank hills are being evacuated.

Here is the 'official fire map' provided by the Burbank Fire department via twitter (which I 'borrowed' from the LAPost-Examiner):

No masterpiece, but they're kinda busy fighting fires here.

They say that when the world ends, only people and cockroaches will be left.
I'd like to add Microsoft Paint to that list.

The above map, while very specific in the "what's currently on fire" category, doesn't help anyone who's not familiar with the LA area. LA County is extremely confusing to non-locals, so I took the liberty of hacking apart a google earth screenshot and labeling it as I saw fit. Hopefully this gives you an idea of how the La Tuna Fire fits into the greater LA area.

Click to enlarge. Also, "AIRPORT" should be right above "Noho Arts District," not humping it.
For the record, this is not all of LA, just a good chunk of it. To give you a sense of scale, the Shandy Dandy (far left, beige) is approximately 18 miles from the La Tuna Canyon Fire as the crow flies. If I were to drive the same way (surface streets, as straight as possible) my commute time on this saturday late morning would be about 55 minutes. Using freeways would bring that down to about 35 minutes.

Keeping that distance in mind -- here's how my morning went:

When I got out into the garden today most of the plants were sprinkled with ash, flakes about the size of pencil shavings, if you crushed a handful in your fist. I figured the neighbors used their fire pit last night, maybe had a labor day BBQ. So I shrugged it off and I went about my morning garden chores. 

It was 8:30am and already in the 90°s, but thankfully it was also partially overcast. That took the edge off the heat while I did the morning watering. Awesome. While watering the peppers, I let my eyes wander. 

Even with the heat, it was actually a pretty gorgeous out. Despite it being the height of our summer, it smelled like autumn, that warm and comforting smell of fallen leaves and fireplaces. The sun was mild, hazed by clouds. And the sky was a beautiful shade of...  


No matter how many years I live in the LA area, it always sneaks up on me. Ash. Smell. Dim sky. Warm glow. You think I'd know by now that 1+1+1+1=fire.

My garden and I are in no immediate danger, apart from poor air quality and a minor ash-induced boost in soil pH. The flames would have to battle across nearly twenty miles of densely populated city to reach my doorstep. And while I'm skeptical of many things in life, the determination and skill of the LA, Burbank and adjoining Fire Departments is not one of them. These men and woman are absolutely the toughest, most badass people out there, as far as I'm concerned. Perhaps that's a bias of living so many years in LA (where cops are despised like dogs {unfairly} and firefighters revered like gods). 

Side story:

One summer years ago, when I was in high school, I nearly watched my own house burn down. The short version of the story is that I sneaked back into the evacuation zone to try to locate a missing pet. And I will never forget the feeling of standing with my toes at the edge of my driveway, house behind me, and staring into the face of red flames licking the hillside in front of me. 

Going face to face with the flames is not something from an action movie. The fire does not see you; it is blind. It cannot be reasoned with or persuaded. It is emotionless. Not alive. And you are flammable. Not a person, just a burnable thing. Like your house, your pets, your photo albums. The fire is neither evil nor smart. In an odd way, it is nothing. The maker of nothing. The thing that turns things into ash, and can only exist while it destroys. You can run, but it can run too. It's legs do not get tired. And it can run at you from all sides. It's truly amazing, terrifying, beautiful and horrific all at the same time.

A little melodramatic, perhaps, but I hope it highlights my feelings on the matter and consequently my feelings about the men and woman willing to step between me and fire, don 75 lbs of gear on a 115° day, and do battle against the flames with hose and shovel for 24hrs or more without rest.

So far, we've had no burned homes and no injuries, firefighters included. I very much hope it remains that way.

From the time I started I writing this post to now the wind has changed. I went outside to snap a picture of the 'golden overcast' I keep talking about, but instead got an eyeful of glaring sun and grey-blue skies. It still smells like a fireplace, but no ash is drifting down. The east horizon is undeniably greyer than normal, but otherwise it's business as usual.

Admittedly, this wasn't a typical Gardening post. But some things in life demand attention, regardless of their nature. Should there be any major updates, I'll post again. For now, it's off to check the blogs of others in the LA area. Hopefully they're faring as well as I am here at the Shandy Dandy.  

Happy Planting ~

EDIT - in the time it took me to type this post, one home was lost do to the La Tuna fire. No injuries.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Man eaters, no spots, and Myself

A quick update from a busy week, so I'll get right to it:

Firstly, there is one big problem with having a mantis army guarding your doorstep. In order to increase your mantis population... must first decrease your mantis population.

Don't see it? Here --

I put my phone so close to her I was sure I was going to get my fingers snipped off. For anyone still confused, google sexual cannibalism. ACTUALLY, definitely put the word 'mantis' in there too.
Just in case.

Apparently female praying mantises (or praying mantids, but which I hear as praying man tits no matter how hard I try) chew of their partner's heads during sex only, like, 13–28% of the time. At least according to the article I read two minutes ago on a sorta scientific website.

All in all, there's been a lot of 'good bug' sex in my garden lately. (As opposed to 'good bug sex,' which reads entirely wrong). And, headless horseman aside, I'm super happy to be the host of a future nursery of beneficials.

Because, seriously, I don't even have the heart to show how terrible the aphids have gotten. And the spider mites. And the white flies, kill me, those white flies. I'm basically just growing bugs, with some plants underneath.

Which is why I'm hella excited to see this little lady as well--

Oddly perturbed that my first lady bug has no spots.

Or dude, I dunno. I didn't ask.

Another fun bug fact, the myth that the number of spots on a lady bug determines its age is exactly that: a myth. Though spot numbers can sometimes help you tell the species of lady bug, as is the case with the Seven-spotted Lady bug. I bet you'll never guess how many spots that one has.

I think I've only seen one other ladybug in my garden since the day I moved in. And the fact that they (or at least one) are/is finally showing up, in my time of great need, gives me all sorts of warm and fuzzy feels.

Something that doesn't give me the warm and fuzzies --

sir, please state your name for the record

Whatever this is. Look familiar? Leave me a comment. I've legitimately never seen this wobble walking grasshoper wanna-be before. I'm pretty sure it wants to eat my shit, but I hesitated squishing him until I know for sure.
 IN OTHER NEWS, remember when I found a mystery seed in a baggie and decided to plant it?

It grew! --

-- really fast

-- like, crack fast. 

 That picture was taken yesterday. To give you some idea of how fast, below is a picture of my Gete Okosomin squash, taken today.

And he's a few days older than Myself. Pretty wild.

So far, I'm thinking Myself is probably a C. pepo squash, based on leaf shape and color. She's yet to form any immature fruit, so until then we can fling around any theory we want. I welcome your thoughts and ideas on the matter. Look like anything you're growing?


Oh, and in the off chance you were thinking "Boy, that headless mantis from the first picture sure looks like Bean Bob..."


Bean bob is alive and well, which was the first thing I checked too when I realized Corn Carl (now Carlita) had nommed someone's head off. He's gotten big, too, and is growing flap flaps on his back like his cannibalistic lady neighbor. And while I love my mantis guardians dearly, I won't lie -- having a bunch of giant flying snipping fingers everywhere gives me the willies.

Now, as to how long Bean Bob will be alive and well -- it mostly depends on whether he is in fact Bean Bob, or rather Bean Bobbita.

Final fun bug fact of the day -- apparently color is not an indication of mantis sex, as I first thought. Rather, you have to count their abdominal sections. Females have six, males have eight.

Goodie. Looking forward to leaning in close for that one.


That's it for today's speed post; Happy September! And, as always,

Happy Planting!