I took off the four days of use-it-or-lose it time I’d accrued on top of the 267 hours of time My Beloved Employer has to pay me for if I get laid off. Tomorrow is the last of those four days.
With vacations like this, we don’t need salt mines. When I wasn’t sweltering with figures trying to calculate how (if) I can get by without a job, frantically conferring with my financial advisor,and negotiating with potential Copyeditor’s Desk clients, I was filling out job applications or throwing myself around the yard trying to catch up with several months’ worth of neglected gardening chores. Today I tackled the front courtyard: hauled three jammed wheelbarrowsful of plant trimmings and debris out to the garbage can. The other day I hauled two of the same out of the backyard. There’s still a lot to do—more pruning, more cleanup, more hauling. Today I worked until I couldn’t stand up anymore and then collapsed on the sofa and fell asleep.
There’s a phenomenal amount of work around this place that Gerardo doesn’t do, for the grandiose $75 a month I pay him. Grr! I asked him to trim the Texas sage in front. He nipped off about three twigs, far as I can tell. I cut it down two or three feet—quite a trick to do that without turning the thing into a futbol. I like my desert plants to look like desert plants, not like sculptures of soccer balls, but that doesn’t mean I want them to run amok.
Day before yesterday (was it that long ago?) I shoveled the last of the moribund flowers out of the poolside flowerbed, spaded the compost from the bin into the soil, and chuffed the bin full again with new plant debris. Having decided I’d better have some food growing if I was about to be out of a job, instead of flowers I planted beets, chard, carrots, red scallions, and bush peas. And one hopeful tomato, not likely to produce before the frost—but nothing ventured: it was only a couple bucks. One of last spring’s tomato plants survived the summer (a rarity!) and is blooming, so it may produce before winter nips it back.
The package of bush peas held many more dried peas than I had room to plant. Then the light dawned: around the base of the queen palm! Of course! It gets watered by the bubbler that overflows onto the queen palm from the Meyer lemon, and the palm’s trunk is a natural trellis (tho’ supposedly trellissing is optional for these plants). This meant I had to dig up the desert landscaping to plant the peas, which I really didn’t want to do. So I troweled little “cups” into the crushed granite, cut open the fabric ground covering underneath, planted the each seed in the dirt, and then packed the cup with a mix of dirt and potting soil. This was a chore: those guys who landscaped the backyard dumped four or five inches of Madison Gold Minus Three out there. Digging it up is not a joke. The result looks pretty ugly, but the plants should cover it up, and after they’re spentit should be easy enough to shovel the gravel back in place.
I also filled a big pot with soil and planted a bunch of the peas in there. Pruned roses, cut back some other plants, fertilized and watered roses, dug the dead clover and dichondra out from between the flagstones. What killed that stuff? Gerardo thinks it didn’t get watered, and I will say: it was dry. But it’s been thriving all summer—just suddenly keeled over. Pearl mites?
The watering system doesn’t seem to be working. A couple of sections are nonfunctional. So…why are my water bills through the roof? I suspect there’s a leak somewhere.
Coping with that is more than I can deal with just now, and so I think I’ll probably shut it down and drag hoses. Argh.
Cleaned the hummingbird feeders, made new hummer food, reloaded and rehung the feeders.
Backwashed the pool, refilled the filter with diatomaceous earth, treated the water. It needs a chlorine shock treatment, which I will administer once it’s REALLY too cold to swim. We’re right at the verge of that: this afternoon it was mighty crisp, but it still felt soooo good after spending four or five hours sweating in the sun.
Today trimmed part of the desert willow (didn’t do it much good; had to get the saw out to cut one limb) and the Texas ebony. Invented a system for tying the bougainvillea to the block wall without drilling into the wall and without gluing hooks to the wall. Pruned the bougainvillea and tied it up. Pruned the Texas sage. Cut my foot open on a cactus; bandaged foot, dug out spines; drove one spine in too deep to get it out. Trimmed back the palo brea and the vitex. Hauled heavy metal chairs back and forth. Moved the rustic (read “rusty”) iron crucifix from behind the boug and figured out how to hang it on a different wall without having to drill another hole. Dug the dead grass and weeds out from between the flagstones. Took the scissors and trimmed down the overgrown, leggy, dried-out Mexican primroses. Jammed two communal garbage barrels full of trimmings and plant debris. Left an incredible mess on the ground to shop-vac up after resting. Repaired the pool cleaner & got it running again.
And now I need to get up and finish the job. But first must dig the out the thorn, which hurts.
Ain’t homeownership grand?
Fed dog; dog evidently not annoyed by spinach (human having run out of preferred veggies), which she normally picks out and daintily sets on the floor: food dish emptied and chased around the kitchen floor. Dug cactus spine out of foot, accompanied by some profanity. Dragged shop-vac to front courtyard to inhale up leaves, compost, and dirt. Cleaned out four clogs, left courtyard looking about 110% better. Paused to feel smug. Dumped plant debris, compost, & dirt into compost bin. Cleaned out shop-vac; washed filter (did you know you can actually rinse out one of those expensive paper filters that come with shop-vacs? yesh!). Put shop-vac away.
Fired up BBQ; cooked a couple hamburg patties and some freezer-burned mystery meat for dog; cod filet for human. Incredible dinner: how did this happen?
Accidental Wonderful Dinner
§Hardwood chops (hickory chips were on hand)
§Filet of firm-fleshed fish such as cod or salmon
§1 cup rice (I used converted; you could use regular white or brown rice but try to avoid instant rice…ick!)
§21/2 cups water or broth; a little wine or sherry optional
§Chives or other herbs
§Tarragon or other herb, to taste
§Small blob of butter or splash of olive oil
§Your favorite way to light coals
§Fresh lime or lemon
Step 1: Start the charcoal. Set the hardwood chips to soak in cold water.
Step 2: While the charcoal is firing up, pour a little olive oil in the bottom of a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add a cup of rice. Let this turn golden brown; stir now and again. Pay attention: once the browning starts, it can move right along. When the rice is evenly brown throughout, add2 1/2 cups of some sort of liquid. Since I was sharing this with the dog and I had no chicken or beef broth, I used water only. If no canine roommates are in the offing, mix and match to your taste. Sherry is a nice blandishment; so is white wine. Combine about 1/2 cup of either with broth or water. Whatever: add to the rice when the rice is browned, turn the heat down to medium-low, and set the timer for about 25 minutes if you’re using converted or about 35 or 40 minutes if you’re using regular white or brown rice.
Step 3: Wash and trim the asparagus. Set it on a sheet of tinfoil. Add a small blob of butter or a splash of olive oil; top with pinch of tarragon or any other herb that suits your fancy. Wrap tightly in tinfoil.
Step 4: Check on charcoal. Pour yourself a glass of wine or beer. Supervise in a desultory way until the charcoal is ready to use. At that point, place charcoal in grill (if it’s not already there; I use a chimney, so have to dump charcoal into the BBQ when it’s covered with white ash). Drain water off wood chips and toss wood chips on top of charcoal. Place grill over delicious charcoal and wood chops.
Step 5: Place the tinfoil package of asparagus over the heat. Rub a little olive oil over the fish and put the fish over the heat. Close the cover.
Step 6: Continue drinking and supervising. Keep an eye on the rice: don’t let it burn dry. When you flip the fish over, also flip over the tinfoil package. Watch rice.
Rice, fish, and veggies should get done at about the same time. Test fish by gently pushing apart with a barbecue spatula. It should flake but not be dried out.
Step7: Retrieve fish and asparagus from grill. Serve on plates with rice and juicy cut lime or lemon. Add some chives to the rice, if available, or dried herbs and a little butter. Be prepared for dog, if available, to try to sponge dinner from humans.
Step 7: Eat. Enjoy.
And so to bed.