Mushrooms and Bonsai

Spent some time today working on a long-term bonsai project.  For the last few years, I’ve been pruning and training some in-ground plants for eventual repotting as bonsai. From left to right, I’ve got crepe myrtle, dogwood, some kind of maple, some random plant I dug up years ago, and one of the hibaku hackberry trees.

Bonsai Fosters

I dug all five up and out with a spade, and set them aside, then created a little bed from concrete pavers and some leftover tile.

Plants Out, Bed In

I then roughly root pruned each tree, and replanted them in their new root training bed. In another year or two, I’ll pull them out and start potting them up.

Tucked In

In other news, a few of the mushroom logs have started to be really active. This particular maitake log is showing signs of fruiting, so I moved it to secluded spot, dug a shallow hole, and propped it up. It’s strange to me that the maitake would grow in the dead of winter, but I’m new to mushroom cultivation, so I don’t really understand fungal rhythms.

Maitake Log Going Off

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Does a Bear Plant in the Woods?

Apparently so.  A visiting bear was apparently gorging on some sort of prunus – likely a wild (native or escaped) plum – and deposited a pile of seed-laded droppings in the fall, east of the garden, right outside the trail that leads to the native California plot. With the warming temps, many of the seeds have germinated!

Bear Planting

While I’m all about having a plum thicket in the woods, the bear was imprecise in its planting, so I’ll probably move these emerging seedlings to a more appropriate forever home.  In other news, there was a big old slug in the compost this morning. Maybe a California Banana Slug?

Big Slug

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Future Mushrooms

I’ve decided to try my hand at growing mushrooms. I don’t care for them, but I do like gardening challenges. This oak, a fine specimen save for the fact that it was too close to the house, will hopefully provide the ideal…what? Host? Substrate? Anyhow, I dropped it and cut it into 4′ lengths, and stacked the logs for a curing period of two or three weeks…


…per the instructions that came with the the plug spawn.


I’ve got reishi, maitake, shitake in the fridge, and lion’s mane and pearl oyster on the way.

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An Embarrassment of Acorns

After many years – five, maybe six? – the drought is officially over. The big live oak adjacent to the garden put forth an unprecedented number of acorns this year.

A Good Year for Acorns

With the near constant rain and warm temperatures, thousand of the acorns have germinated.

So Many Radicles

I decided to pot up about two dozen for later planting down on the property. In case you’re wondering, the sprouted acorns are no less miserably bitter and tannin-filled than their ungerminated brethren.  One day I hope to gather and grind some, but this year, I’ve decided to try and propagate.

24 Potential Oaks

I gathered up a wheelbarrow full, and walked the property, throwing them here and there in the hope that they’ll fill in where trees have been taken down. Given the overall warming/drying trend, the pines and cedars are giving way to the live oaks anyhow, so I’m hoping that at least some will take, and in 100 years or so, there might be an oak woodland here.


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Milling Again

Spent a few hours today getting the Alaska mill up and running again, and crafted this beautiful cedar beam:


It’s more or less 7 1/4″ x 7 1/4 ” x 8′, and it will be part of the framing for a cordwood sauna I’m planning to build this spring and summer.  With weather on the way, it will probably be a couple of weeks before I can get out there and mill again, but it feels good to get behind the saw again.  Seeding for spring and summer vegetables is next on the list of winter tasks…

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Banking Rainwater

Over the summer, I set up a 1500 gallon tank, fed by the roof over the greenhouse.  Just checked the level, and  as of now it’s full of 1500 gallons of pure rainwater!

1500 Gallons. Full.

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The Cucumber That Got Away

If you’ve gardened for any length of time, you’ve probably found a huge zucchini hidden under a leaf, too big to be edible, but fun nonetheless. I saw this Armenian cucumber weeks ago, too big already to be very good, so I decided just to let it go.

The cucumber that got away

Yesterday I finally gave in an picked it. The chickens certainly appreciated it!


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Summer So Far: Fire, Raised Beds and Potatoes

I’ll start with the fire. The Trailhead Fire continues to burn, with lots of choking smoke starting usually around 11 PM and continuing through morning, although it’s looking like it will skip torching my house (fingers crossed).  This fire is much closer than the King Fire, and given that fire’s insane overnight growth in its early days, I’ve been keeping a close eye on this one.


The raised beds that I milled, assembled, and planted, are literally out of control. Tomatoes, peppers, and hulless-seeded pumpkins in profusion. I’m wondering how I ever lived without them, and I can’t imagine going back to planting in the ground, just given the amazing, healthy and lush vegetation, and the many tomatoes and peppers that will surely follow. I’ve got three more to build, and that will finish out my annual garden area.


Elsewhere I’ve been planting annuity crops, chiefly pomegranate, olive and mulberry.  On the harvest front, blueberries are just in, though not so abundant as last year.  I harvested and cooked in one meal the entire year’s harvest of potatoes, which were wonderful and fresh and waxy the way that homegrown potatoes can be.


There were of course more than shown in the photo, but not by much – quality, not quantity!

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A Not Insignificant Serpent

Wandering the garden this afternoon, I surprised this beautiful and LARGE California Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula californiae), the first snake of any kind I’ve seen this season.


The beast quickly retreated to the safety of a hollow space under a nearby planter, and then cautiously reemerged over the next 30 minutes or so and continued on its way.  Based on the relationship between its body length and the greenhouse in the upper left hand corner of the photo below, I estimate the snake’s body length to be 4 feet, which makes for a not insignificant serpent.  It’s about as big as they get, from what I’ve read.


I’ve grown to like snakes since truly fearing them as a child. Snakes of various kinds, including California Kingsnakes such as today’s visitor, California Mountain Kingsnakes (which have red bands in addition to the brown and cream bands of the Cal King), gopher snakes and even the occasional rattlesnake, make themselves known the garden and surrounding woods each year.  They presumably keep the vole and ground squirrel populations in check, and kingsnakes include rattlesnakes in their diet, which presumably keeps the rattlesnake populations in check, for which I am grateful.


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Spring Flowers

It’s warming up here, and many things are flowering. Pictured below is the very first flowering of the Felix Gillet quince.

Quince Flower

The fall-planted cabbages are flowering as well. I harvested most of the plants for sauerkraut, but let a few bolt. They look remarkably like their broccoli relatives.

Cabbage Flower

Rain in the forecast this weekend…

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