Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Ah the Economy... And the Angry White Men Who Control It

Bye, bye. Thanks for all the prosperity/crash. You've got yours so, really, don't bother about us. Us working class - lower middle class they used to say - well, we don't need much. And by much I mean, food, shelter, clothing, etc. We won't mind working well into our 70s despite how much we save. That is if we can maintain the healthcare to stay alive into our 70s! Hahahahahahahaha.... awwwww, shucks. Well, you all take care now. No, no, I'm serious, you go on a holiday or something. Have you been to Rome? It is a great city. Naw, naw, you've done enough. And when you think about it, you've really been thorough. In fact, we'll still be feeling the residual effects of your 'economy' for years to come. You deserve to float around on a yacht in the Mediterranian Sea with a beautiful girl (who's with you only for the money and yes that orgasm was faked) - ooop! Did I say that out loud? It was just a bit of fun. Like that funny thing you all did, tapping the phones, yeah yeah like a reverse crank call... yeah, good fun that....

Ah well, see ya. Oh you're around through the end of the year... you could leave a little early, I'm sure no one would mind... you have what? Oh, a few other things to destroy first, the enviornment, last few banks want to make sure they've.... right, totally under.

OK. Oh and angry white men who've been running our lives (into the ground) my name is Citizen, not consummer. You never got that right.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Lawn saga

Here it is, the cool season in the desert. Well, cool-ish. Compared to the rest of the country this is spring. Great for vegetable gardening - I've got peas coming and beets, cabbage, lettuces, parsnips, even strawberries from seed coming up. But the lawn saga is what I really wanted to update.

This morning I went to a desert landscaping seminar hosted by the Water District. I had the chance to speak with someone in the landscaping department from my city and he told me there is "no alternative to the bermuda/rye grass overseed cunundrum". What I have is cool weather drought resistent fescue - not, as he pointed out, heat resistent. "It is sure to look awful in the height of summer" he said categorically. Well, true, but not that bad. As I pointed out there is no one actually on the grass in the summer and so the need for it dwindles as the heat rises. So, the fact that it looks bad becomes solely an aesthetic concern. And frankly, even the Bermuda summer grass looks bad, patchy, brown, whereas the tall fescue I have actually goes bald in spots. Not the most attractive but it was a far sight easier to reseed than having to kill off another type of grass and then coax new grass up. The hoops I went through to get the lush green water conserving grass I now have - which was basically fertilizing, manureur and some nitrogen addition, throw on some seeds and water like heck - is a lot less than what my own gardener and gardeners went through around town to 'overseed'.

By the time September and the end to the drastic heat came about I had a lot of bald spots in the lawn but I must say the middle - where we have the graded gully (for flood reasons - doesn't happen often but better safe than sorry) and the rotor sprinklers overlap was thick, lush and deep green all summer no matter what the heat. This grass loves company. There more there is the more there will be. If it starts to give in to the desert it goes rapidly until the balding meets a densly packed patch of thick blades, then it will stop.

So the idea this year is to reseed the cuss out of my lawn until I can get it as densly packed as the soil will stand... and then when summer comes, hang on.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Consumption Begins

Last evening commenced what is the official start of the consumption/candy/overeating season in America. I was heartened to know that my son's school teaches a little something about day of the dead - I think it's important to know why holidays came about as much as it is to celebrate them earnestly. But I was a little taken aback at the renewed emphasis on candy.

Here's the thing. Everyone wants to feel generous, that they've given a little something, been festive and lightened someone's day but when everyone is doing it, and to such an extreme it becomes too much... and meaningless... and worse for children, expected.

When I was a child I walked through miles of snow... just kidding, hate to bring up that old device but I think it may be relevant... when I was a child you went door to door on Halloween - that was the only way to get candy - and you got exactly one piece of candy per house. One. Uno. Not even dos... maybe if you happened to hit a house late and they had too much left over they didn't wish to themselves consumme. But one. If you wanted more candy you had to hit more doors, walk farther... and be costumed!

But this year there and for many years I have noticed, since having my own children, that there is candy everywhere. Not only can you get candy at the mall, the museum, the store, everywhere you happen to land at on or about Halloween, but you also get a handfull of candy at each door when trick or treating! We hit exactly our block, roughly 20 houses, and the kids could no longer hold their buckets so full of the stuff were they. And then when they took over the answering the door and doling out the treats they were giving great handfuls to the kids at the door (not to mention many, many uncostumed teens! oi). I had to stop them and tell them to give only two per kid - which I thought, my age showing here no doubt, was pretty generous - to their confused and 'if you say so, mama' looks.

And then today there was candy offered up at every stop. At school there were treats given, several to a bag so that the ancillary take alone was probably as much at the trick or treating portion. In kindergarten last year my son was as likely to get a pencil or eraser as candy bar which I thought pretty responsible. And whatever happened to the cupcake? Is an on the spot treat not enough anymore? Why does there have to be a takeaway prize too to the school party?

And all this consumption and giving, what does it do really? Fills our colons and bloodstreams with excess sugar (oh come on parents, you know you're in your kids' stash), our landfills with wrappers and plastic, our dollar bins with discounted more the days and weeks after, our fat cells with stored energy, too much to burn off in one day. But what in terms of goodwill or connection is it giving us? Our lives are still lived on the surface, we still know very little about our neighbors, we spend lives in private little familial cliques in front of TVs. It's 'fun' for the kids, but what is the message in the final analysis, to expect gifts?

And Christmas is right around the corner.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

An Update

OK, so admittedly, I was told by several gardening professionals that I would "not be happy" with my choice of grass... And now, of course, I see why. There are patches of bleak brownness giving way back to the desert and growing, just as the edged of clearcut rainforest give way to desert. But that part that is well watered and dense looks just lovely. And true enough it has taken quite a lot of water to keep it going during the torrid hot days of summer here in the desert. I suspect the proponents of the rotator type watering system somewhat exaggerated their wetting power. The patches that succumbed first to the desert were those that are on the edges of the rotators and probably do not get the volume of water the lovely green middle does. But I am still committed to my thick blades of deep green grass, even if I have to baby them along! I mean, seriously, can a kid pick up a bug with a wimpy thin yellowish-green blade of Bermuda grass or the fussy rye grass that gets reseeded come fall out here? I bought a 15lb bag of seed and have started to experiment with timing and temperature.

I did get a chance to use some of my compost on my reseeding experimentation. I is nice and black, just like northern soil. Note to self: Be careful not to shred those fake credit cards that come in the mail with credit offers - they don't biodegrade! At least not in months in the compost bin. I have several strips here and there in my grass! Nor do pistashio shells, peanut shells ace but pistachio, nope. And even though all the books suggest one put egg shells in one's bin they do not totally disappear. They are like little smiling teeth all over the reseeding patches of lawn. They'll keep feeding the soil - plants need calcium too come to find out - but if you are an aesthetic gardener maybe you should just bury them. Me, I kind of like the messy. Particularly since I live in the land of perfection - paradise - beauty - pick your adjective. The neat, tidy, sunshiny, paradisey goodness of this desert does get a little relentless. Seriously, 350 days of sunshine is just a little bit of crazy-making. I know why people want to move to the rough hewn hi-desert....

I digress. But I have many plantings that are really loving this climate - a thriving scilla violacea (that our baby-gal picked out herself), pachypodiums doing fine though a little sunburnt, adenium droopy but haven't figured out why yet, even the orange tree that isn't supposed to like this weather is pretty lush. I right killed a fockea edulis though. Perhaps I'll try again when I have some sort of bushy tree or shrub to put it under. Oh and I got a tiny little palo borracho tree - only 12 inches high - which I thought I killed which is doing really well. Jose, the gardener who does all the things I cannot, like putting in irrigation and trees - said "Isn't it going to be messy when it gets big and push up the wall with its roots" "Yeah, but I won't be around in 50 years, so why should I care!" Seriously, it will get too big for the yard and I promise that when we move I'll have it removed... but I am soooooooo looking forward to its butter colored flowers... in 4, 5, 6 years maybe!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Grass Update

Last weekend the kids and I took our first batch of compost, mixed it in with some topsoil and spread it on the brown spots on the lawn. Fingers crossed.

I've been told that this is a 'self-healing' type of fescue and I have seen evidence of that. The thing is the ground needs to stay moist for the grass to thrive. This happens naturally (and as I found out yesterday too well when humidity is high) by letting the grass stay a bit longish, 2 1/2 to 3 inches in the hot season. But once a dead patch develops it can spread because, of course, there is nothing covering the soil any longer to keep it moist. You could cover it with mulch or soil amendment (as we did with our compost) and hope that at the very least it won't spread. I'm seeing a few little stalks of green so I remain hopeful that this grass that everyone looked at me funny and swore they didn't think it could be grown in the desert (because no one they knew had done it before) will eventually thrive.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Add to the Annals of WTF??!!

We went to the great outdoors this weekend. Took advantage of the 20 degrees cooler temps in our local mountains.

We like this campground, only about 30 miles from the desert and have been there several times for day trips, once before to camp. When we arrived there were apparently several groups taking advantage of the 100 plus spaces, group spaces and the trailhead to a mountain biking loop. We were pretty lucky to get there early on Friday and get a spot. Pretty crowded but still not full.

As we set up though we began to notice the big daddies of camping arriving - Trailersaurus. Or in the plural, Trailersauri.

So here is the question: If you need to have lighting, a bed to sleep on, a kitchen to cook in, a TV, a VERY loud stereo system, a roll up door in the back with plenty of storage for your ATV and/or ALL of your children's bikes and motorized scooters and probably a full bathroom with shower while you are IN the woods, what are you in the woods for again? Isn't there a very lovely bed and breakfast just up the road that you could drive the car you are towing behind your Trailersaurus to and save thousands of gallons of gas in the process? And can you give the generator a rest for christs sake! That thing is loud.

Peace. That is what we are here in nature for! Not to listen to your generator running all day and to the country and western you just can't live without for one flipping day! We're in the wilderness people! For God's sake put the iPod down and smell the pine trees!!!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

So Far, So Good

Lawn Implementation 2008 is, so far, going fine. We have had patches of brown and a few large chunks that completely died. But Jose came by to see what was going on, adjusted the pressure of the sprinklers, and the time. That, along with about a week of spring-like temperatures, and the lawn took off. Not all brown completely gone but green is starting to peek through in most of the problem patches. But apparently most of it was doing great because we even got mushrooms! Backed off on watering a bit and we seem to have reached a happy medium for this time of year. In 3 weeks or so we will adjust again.

So, 3 weeks in. We thought it would struggle, so skeptical were so many garden experts I'd asked out here about this particular kind of sod. But in fact, we had to buy a lawn mower weeks ahead of when we planned and have cut it twice!

And you know, it looks very pretty. It is a deep, dark green with beefy blades - unlike the almost translucent, skinny blades that most summer lawns in the desert sport. I am wondering why no one had tried this before? I seem to be met with skepticism and surprise by every garden enthusiast and professional I talk to about my lawn. "What kind of grass again? Never heard of it. Who sells it?" Even the lady at the sod company when I made my order had to double check that I was calling the right office and ordering the right product. It is so unheard of here, that of the dozen or so people I have spoken to about it, not one has heard of growing this type of sod in the desert.

Perhaps more accomplished gardeners than I have tried and failed and everyone knows something I don't. We have, afterall, only just reached 100 degree temps for days in a row. The brutality of summer is not yet here. But then if they have never heard of it...? Maybe I am a trailblazer. Maybe I will see my foolish ways when the 120s arrive. Who knows. But so far, so good!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Green Gardening

I know, I know. It sounds like an oxymoron. But it really is a goal of mine. Thus the composting, thus the multiple visits to local nurseries to pick brains, ask questions, etc.

But right now we are on Lawn Implementation 2008 - which is the culmination of Lawn Quest 2008. I was searching for a grass that would grow under our wild temperature extremes - 40s to 120s. We don't get many cold temperatures, certainly not for weeks in a row. But we do get hot temperatures for weeks, months in a row. What other climates call summer we call Spring. The only area in the country that is hotter is Death Valley! But lawn we must because children need. So, what I gathered during Lawn Quest 2008 was that in order to have an efficient water use lawn is that you need several things: a deep root system; and efficient watering system whereby you can water without waste for longer periods thus encouraging the deep rooting; thick blade that can withstand the heat and will grow longer in summer to protect the root; and - here's the kicker - I DID NOT want to lawn scalp or as some people say 'reseeding'. But it is really not as lovely a process as 'reseeding; sounds.

Let me describe: In September or early October you stop watering your grass for about a week to ten days. Then, once it is completely dead, your gardener or yourself puts your lawn mower on the lowest setting, set to dig if possible, and you lop off the head and shallow root of the entire grass system, kicking up the worst possible dust cloud you can imagine and all the pollen, fertilizer you have put on the lawn all year and (if you garden really evil) herbicide to kill the grass before this process. Thus the term 'scalping'. It is really awful, what the hubby and I call Migraine Season. Worse than Spring, worse than pollen alone. Imagine pollen, mixed with the finest of sand - whioh our 'dirt' really is here in the desert - mixed with chemicals and whatever desicated bug juice and parts got swept up in the process. Now just imagine this fine particulate floating around the Coachella Valley that is shaped like a giant bowl - kind of like Mexico City - catching and holding in all this particulate. It gets everywhere, your car, your clothes, in your house, in your lungs! Indeed awful.

So, even though I only have 900 sq ft of grass I did not want to add to this process. (BTW just FYI there are over 120 golf courses in this valley ALL scalping, so when I say I am making a small impact I am exaggerating really, I am making a minute impact) I found what, hopefully, will be the best, albeit not prettiest, solution. See, my theory is that everyone here wants their lawn to look like the golf course. But you pay the scalping price. I just want lawn that will thrive during Fall, Winter and most of Spring, and survive the summer - because really in 110 degree heat the kids are not romping on the lawn.

We went to Earth Day at our local zoo and spoke to the water district and they told us about the most efficient sprinklers on the market. We asked our gardener, Jose, to put them in. It was the first time he had used them, they are so new. So impressed with their efficiency he says he wants to put them in his own lawn! Then this weekend we sent Jose's son off to collect the sod on Saturday. Saturday afternoon, temperatures reaching 113 degrees in Palm Springs Airport where they measure, Jose and his guys install. Not the best time to lay down sod on the hottest of days but what are ya gonna do. The weather often does not cooperate.

So far it is still more green than brown although there are patches that are failing, not getting enough water. The hubby is home babysitting it since he is currently jobless and making sure it gets added water as needed. The meteorologists promise temps will fall to the 80s in the next seven days.

Hang on grass!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Toy Season

It is our toy season number 1. Our second toy season of the year is, of course, Christmas. But come May and June we have two birthdays. The upside of birthdays a month apart is that you get them (i.e. party planning) over with and don't have to dread for months another one approaching. The downside is that because they are so close together there tends to be (and don't ask me why because I would have to admit to my bad parenting skills) more toy purchases. And we all know that with toy purchases comes trash.

So, what to do with cardboard that is covered with pieces of tape and plastic bits? It is the juice box dilemma all over. Technically, not recycleable. But practically, come on, shouldn't it be? But who wants to sit on the kitchen floor and peel all the tape off cardboard? I understand that packaging is now meant to be theft proof (and rough sea journey from China proof as well, no doubt) but do they really need THAT much tape and invisible rubberbands, and plastic covered wire holding pieces in, and plastic anchors? Each toy brings along 20 pieces of trash!

Who wants to write a letter to China asking if they can make all those pieces recyleable with me?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

How it works the wrong way

When we think of consumming less we naturally think of consumming less bad for you things, like beer and ice cream, or always buying the latest fashions in shoes and clothing and tossing last year's wear in the trash...

But apparently Americans - at least those here in our area - are consumming less knowledge. I suppose that is conservation of a sort.

My excellent hubby is a geography buff and had been enjoying teaching our 5 year old son countries on his little globe. Having practically mastered all the 'big' (geographically speaking) countries he wanted to get him a bigger globe. He had seen one that was half way in between our small one and the regulation sized at Target. But when we got there it was no where to be found. Hubby asked an 'associate' who at first did not know what he meant.

"What is this globe you speak of? What does it represent? Oh, you say an orb that is a map of the earth! How novel!" his perplexed look seemed to say.

So clearly there is a problem... but then we ran into another associate who said that globes were 'seasonal' items. Clearly Target places an emphasis on geography comprehension only at certain times of the year...

Undaunted we drove across the street to Mervyns. They had no globes. Our daughter did get a nice new Hello Kitty backpack for when she starts school. I know, I know, consumption. We could have just as easily gone to the thrift store or passed down her brothers backpack. She doesn't actually need one, it is all part of my scheme to get to her learn to use the potty - part of the bribery and cohersion part - no potty, no school. Hello Kitty backpack = enthusiasm for going to school. With our son school was enough. But either she is very clever or not as interested...

I digress. So hubby leaves us at Mervyns to browse and goes over alone to the dreaded Toys R Us. No one in their right mind actually takes children there! But there is one shoddy little talking globe without even all the countries and questionable scale and mapping.

Still undaunted he drove back across the street to Office Depot. There, was one, lonely globe on the shelf... which we now own.

So the question is, don't people own globes anymore? I owned a globe for years even after school just to look at and ponder! I highly doubt if all the available globes had been hungrily snapped up before we got there...

Yes, Jay Leno pokes fun at Americans for not being able to find their own country on a map and other global ignorances. I used to always think they tossed out the smart people to the editing room floor and kept the numbskulls. But what if I am wrong about that and actually most people are ignorant of their world. Scary thought.

So while I normally say Consumme Less, in this regard I have to say we all need to consumme more. More knowledge, more information, more understanding. Afterall the world is always in style... although it could possibly go the way of last year's pumps... yikes.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Composting, negative 101

In an effort to try to do more to save the earth from mounds of trash, (I'm super keen to see one) I decided when we moved into a house (with solar by the way, it's something at least) with a backyard, that I would compost. I could have done the under the sink composting - with worms - that's right live worms under your sink! Or as the Master Composter who taught the class indicated, dead worms, at least until you figured out how not to kill them... But I don't love the earth that much! Hey, wasn't putting up with cockroaches and mice (or could have just been really large cockroaches, possible, it is the desert) in my walls for years enough?

So, anyways... we now have a compost bin in our backyard so nothing goes in the trash that could go in the compost bin. I finally seperated out the almost there stuff (looking good by the way and our future tomato plants will love it) and started a new mound as we are getting ready to put in our irrigation and backyard lawn. OOOOOOHHHH! Blast! Lawn... that's right... in the desert. If it makes you feel better it will be terribly small and actually played on by a couple of happy children. Unlike the lawns that line the streets here in the desert, the lawns that no one walks on, that get watered incessantly so they look like golf courses, the lawns that get scalped every fall shoving dust with plant, chemical and probably animal particulate into the air for all passersby and local residents to breathe.

My search continues for a type of lawn that will withstand the heat and not need to be reseeded! They can put a man on the moon but they can't find a grass that can withstand the sun and the cold???


Consume Less Enjoy More (C.L.E.M.)

Just to be clear...

Thursday, April 3, 2008


I have for years not worn a watch. Something about being prego and then having babies makes you NOT WANT TO KNOW what time it is. But now, 3 and a half years after the second - and no new life on the horizon - I need a watch. For a time I resurrected my favorite watch which my Hubby bought for me when we were dating, a Swatch from the late 90s. But then the watch band broke and I was afraid I would lose it if I kept wearing it. My oldest, a boy, now 5 - almost 6 - decided that all my running, hiking and sports watches belonged to him. I did manage to borrow one back for a time, but the battery ran out.

So, in order to attempt to live more, use less stuff, be less of a negative impact, be less responsible for the overflowing landfills of trash - I decided to, instead of the typical American consummer impulse of just going to the mall and buying a new watch, to get a new watch band for my Swatch. I've never loved a watch before, so that takes care of the 'enjoy more' part. I have no idea how much packaging the new band will come in from Swatchonline.com. I may have to eat my 'consume less' words. I'll let you know. (And I won't buy a new jogging watch either. I promise to pick the cat hair out of the Velcro and just get a new battery for it, while wresting it from a five year old. The jogging that might go along with just may fit into the 'consume less' part, provided I can get the chocolate and white wine out of my house.)