Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sunset Bay Cruise - Weds 7/24/13


(Just a little break from the normal garden stuff.)

This week of the 20th was very exciting because my 2 newest team members were  in the San Francisco office for the week for training and getting to know the others on the team. We work insanely hard at Riverbed, more than I sometimes think is humanly possible so I wanted to give them team a little treat of some kind. My first idea was Alcatraz but I couldn't get tickets, in fact it is sold out for the next couple of months. So I took them on a 2 hour cruise.. sorry had to get the Gilligan's Island reference in there!

We left on a boat from the heart of the tourist area, Fisherman's Wharf, on the Red and White Ferry line. We toured around the bay seeing the bay bridge, Alcatraz, Angel Island, Sausalito and of course the golden gate bridge. There was sandwiches and drinks on board and it wasn't crowded at all which was surprising. One of the team was sick so we had another employee come along which was fun.

Here are some of the pictures from the trip, it was windy and cold so we would run up to see something and then back down to the main cabin to our table we had staked out.

Our group in the main cabin - Wes, Brice, Paru, Jenna and Duncan. (L to R)
Sausalito Harbor
Fog coming over Sausalito at sunset

Bay Bridge - hopefully it will open soon!
Golden Gate
Golden Gate in fog - because that is most of the summer in SF
We had a good time and the visitors got to go under the golden gate bridge and see it close up. Even if it was foggy!


Monday, July 22, 2013

Sunflower Seeds for Sale - 2013

July 28th - Update

I have cut the heads off the tallest and biggest 4 sunflower plants and have started the drying process. 

If you would like me to mail you a packet of seeds, email me your shipping address at -  Then as soon I as verify your payment through paypal and the seeds are ready to go, I will send them to you.


Okay here is the deal - I have been saving the seeds from the biggest sunflowers I have grown over the last couple of years and now I have some giants! They are averaging 8 -to-10 feet tall and still have really big flower heads. See below one of the flowers that I will be harvesting seed from this year.

If you are interested in ordering some for your garden, click on the link below. It is through PayPal and is secure and safe to purchase. I will bag up 25 seeds per packet and send them to you via mail. Probably mid- August once the flowers are done and the seed are dried. No guarantees they will reach this height but if you are looking for something dramatic, why not give it a try?

Quantity Ordered

Sunday, July 21, 2013

July 21, 2013 - Garden Update

Well if it is the end of July you know the garden is hitting full-speed ahead !

This year I planted a few things differently - like giving up on my dream of enough tomatoes that I could can some for the winter. I planted a lot of sunflowers in the veggie garden after a couple of years of seeing them struggle on the back hill against the deer. Plus they bring the bees in and you need them for pollinating.

Well - I can tell you I have a jungle made out of vines from my pumpkin, cantaloupe, honeydew, zucchini and yellow squash plants. I have a bunch of corn and really tall sunflowers. I have 2 of them that are about 12 feet tall... and the rest over 8 ft. They are pretty impressive especially now when they have started to bloom. The "small" ones are 6 feet tall!

I have some corn and got to eat 2 early cobs this weekend.. and every summer it is a highlight of the season. If you have never eaten sweet corn that was just picked you need to find some and do it! The difference in taste is remarkable because the sugar in sweet corn starts loosing it's "sweetness" within a few hours of being picked. I have even eaten a freshly picked cob raw... yep.. raw. 
The squash plants are overachieving again and the goats were the benefactors of that bounty.. a good 10 lbs of squash they were fed because it was too big to eat. I planted a new little "summer squash" which is a globe one, and they were good. Here are the pictures from the weekend...
Casey supervising in the yard.

Sunflower with bee - this is on zoom because it is too tall for me to get that close

Front sunflower is about 9 ft tall - the one behind it is 12ft

pumpkin flower and bee

Baby Pumpkin - I better get more than just 1 this year!


To give you a sense of the size of these flowers. That brick wall behind them is 6 feet tall. 
New summer squash

Add caption

only tomato plant that is doing anything, but none are ripe yet

Basil is growing well in the beds

Squash, corn, plums and grapefruit from my yard

Vine area from my deck.. it is a jungle!

Sunflowers from my deck

more sunflowers


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Fishing - Caves - Snakes - July 4th - Oh My!

Fourth of July Weekend - 2013

I am really annoyed - I have this new laptop and haven't figured it out quite yet. So I downloaded my camera and then deleted the pictures as usual and have lost a bunch of the pictures somehow. 

I don't have pictures of my sunflowers that are 2 feet taller than my son so at least 8 feet tall. And all the pictures of my pumpkin patch and the snake. The only pictures that transferred successfully are of my sister and her family, who came to go fishing and to visit the Black Chasm cave in Volcano, CA. 

Here is what I do have for this past few days ;

July 4th - my pumpkins have gone a little crazy and my sunflowers as well. I was out there in the morning trying to clear the weeds and cut back the pumpkins when I ran into a rattlesnake. He was just chilling under a big pumpkin leaf and wasn't aggressive at all and not too big at about 2.5 feet long. He wasn't in a spot where I could get to him easily and shoot him, and so I persuaded him to move back to the wild area. Of course that put him under the propane tank as well so really couldn't shoot him safely. Nick was there and I woke him up to help me convince him to move on. Here is a video of the snake, that I named Harry, under the lemon tree and pumpkin leaves while I was waiting for Nick to come out from his room.

Just in case you think my yard is the only one who has this issue, it has been a bad rattlesnake season this summer. The Safeway shopping center has this sign posted everywhere in the parking lot.
They apparently shop at Safeway too!
My sister and her family came by to go fishing and to tour a cave in the area called The Black Chasm.  Here are some pictures of the fishing visit.
Mokelumne River view upstream

Denise and Laine trying catch something! Matt is in the background.

Not sure what these are called but they are everywhere and pretty.

Jacob - trying to fish and keep and eye on his dinner at the same time.
The river is really low and the fishing is bad but it is such a pretty place that I am happy just hanging out there.
The cave trip was fun, and it is nice "starter" cave if you haven't gone on a cave tour before. It is well-lighted with stairs leading to two caverns, and it is pretty short only 40 mins. There are 160 plus stairs so that is the only problem if you are someone who has mobility issues. Oh and a couple of spots will be hard for anyone over 5'5" tall. Here are some pictures from that tour, I recommend it for anyone who hasn't been on a cave tour or if you have younger children that you aren't sure would like the tours where it is dark and much longer underground.
Laine at the first landing stop next to the rope that people used to have to use to take the tour.

These are an unusual form that looks like undersea coral to me.

Beautifully lit waterfall form

More of that coral looking stuff - it is really amazing.
The rest of the weekend was spent fixing up my bathroom by replacing a mirror, light bar and shower head. Nick has painted my bedroom and it looks really nice. The bathroom had a plate mirror without any style and I am sure the original 1976 light bar. I took them both down and replaced in just a couple of hours. It took me longer than it should because I had to paint some spots that were showing now.

After - also hung up new "blackout" blinds. What a difference they make!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Four Years and 200 Posts!

4 years and My 200th blog post

I can hardly believe this but I have owned the MokeHill house now for four years. It was a house I put an offer on and then withdrew, and then a month later put another offer on and got it. It was originally built in 1976 as a custom home for a single guy who then married a woman with 3 kids and then they went on to have 3 more. It has an elevated play house (remember 6 kids) that eventually I hope to make into either an office or guest house, unless it falls down first. When I got this house, it was a foreclosure property that had sat on the market for 9 months. The yard hadn’t been watered so the plants and trees that survived were really amazing to me. The property has a beautiful view from the deck as the house sits up on a hill and my first 2 years there I think I took about 100 pictures from that deck.  The reason the house didn’t sell, even though it was a ridiculous low price, I really believe was the wacky floor plan. You see the house had an outside concrete patio that was accessed through the master bedroom and a sliding glass door. At some point, the owners built an addition on top of that patio and created a laundry room and office. To get to the laundry room, office and outside, you had to walk through the master bedroom. In the fall of 2010 Nick and I along with a retired contractor fixed that strange floor plan and now it flows really nice. (I actually could make the TV room into a 4th bedroom if I want to update the septic system.)
Here is a list of the things I have done to the house in the 4 years since I bought it:

1    Replaced the roof
      Replaced the siding
Remodeled the floor plan
Replaced the sink and faucet and all the appliances in the kitchen
New flooring
Painted almost every room
Retaining wall in yard area for my veggie garden
Created the veggie garden

My next project is replacing the windows in the house. They are really inefficient and some leak if you squirt them with a house. Oh and hopefully, the bat removal will not cost too much and I can put some money into the driveway.

I started the blog as a way to share pictures and updates with my family and friends since I am not on Facebook. (Well I am sorta..)No one really read the blog unless they knew me. But now it is really amazing. I have had over 11,000 page views from countries all over the world. After the US, Sweden is the most avid reader of this diary of mine. But I have gotten hits from Jamaica, Moldova, Ukraine, Iraq, and really all over the world. If you are reading this from one of those places, could you email me and let me know why you read and what interests you? It intrigues me that someone so far away would be interested in my simple home, D.I.Y projects and my garden. (Email Julie at
My garden has been a source of joy and consternation since moving there. I love gardening if you can’t tell from all my posts. I am never not in the mood to do work in the veggie garden. But the area when I first moved in was rock hard dirt that was full of weeds and junk. I must have pulled at least 50 pieces of broken tiles, landscape nails, old gopher traps and just bunches of garbage out of there. Usually I would just amend the soil and move on, but this has taken a more long - term effort. I decided to try “lasagna gardening” and I am now in my 3rd year of it. I did it out of desperation really as I knew the lifeless soil would end up just breaking my back and diminish my enjoyment of the garden. So it started with layers of cardboard, newspaper, Starbuck’s coffee grounds and some bagged amendments and just kept at it. This year I added corn stalks at the end of last season and straw the beginning of this spring. And finally I am seeing signs of life like worms! Still have gopher issues though and until I can move there full-time I probably will until I can get some cats.  (The gophers created some additional complications – see the next blog for more info.) The plants in that section have gone crazy! My sunflowers are over 8 feet tall!
The house is a lot of work and when my job and the 2 houses was getting to be too much for me, I decided to sell my Moraga house and move to a condo in Walnut Creek. The MokeHill  place makes me happy and sitting on the deck and looking at the hills at the sunset calms me. Of course, now that I am approaching the end of the remodeling chores, hopefully in the next year or so, I am trying to decide what to do with the place. I want to start CSA or something like that but I am just not sure this is the right place. My dad says I have “gypsy blood” that comes from my mom’s side of the family. Buy a wreck of a house, fix it up, sell it and move on. Not really a flipper because I don’t do it for the fast cash… more like a serial remodeler.
I want to thank everyone who has helped me out with the house over these last few years. My son, Nick, has been the most constant person to help me. Right now he has been painting the last few rooms left unpainted and is really great to have around. Thanks to my family members who never know how to respond when I call up and ask them if they have any plans for a certain weekend. And the tradespeople who have been just awesome up there, my landscaper, realtor, plumber and electrician. Super nice people in Moke Hill.
Finally, thank you to everyone who has read this little weblog… if any of you are ever in central California on the way up to Tahoe, feel free to stop by!