Coffee heat rising

No Crash Here: Riches in the Department of What Matters

Spring has sprung in these parts. The weather—never bad this winter, really—has been spectacular for the past several weeks. Everything is in blossom. At this time of year, the citrus perfumes the air like frangipani in the South Pacific islands. It reminds us that our strange, abstract human constructs of “wealth” are so silly as to be meaningless. Does losing a quarter million bucks in real estate and the stock market really matter when far more believable riches surround us?

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Wonderful as flowers are, I’m planting a lot more vegetables in the garden. That chard borders the pool, and probably will grow there through the summer. Soon its neighbors, the beets and carrots, will be ready to harvest. Meanwhile, yesterday in a part of the yard that gets more sun I put in some cantaloupe and some butternut squash, which I hope will grow from grocery-scavenged seeds.As times grow even harder, food is going to be more expensive; possibly even scarce. So, the flowers will have to make way for things that can be eaten.

The yard already has plenty of that: I’ve been scarfing tree-ripened oranges for the past two and a half months, and now the oranges, lemon, and lime are all covered with new blossoms. Next winter will see another bumper crop of citrus, I think.

Those oranges are sweet as candy. Eat your heart out, Warren Buffett!

Why didn’t I think of that?

Last evening Cassie and I walked past the proprietorship of an eight-year-old entrepreneur, who sells garden flowers out of a sidewalk stand built of his mom’s card table and some paper signs. Turns out the kid has made about $70 from his various projects, which also include peddling the citrus from the backyard trees and handing out gift cards to relatives. Kid and a half!

Chatting with his mom, I learned the family had recently moved in, after her mother-in-law, the home’s original owner, had passed. Sad though they were to lose the grandmother, they were thrilled to be in the house, which they’ve begun to renovate.

Among several things she revealed, the young mother told me that her mother-in-law had demarcated certain parts of the yard as outdoor living areas; other parts she simply wrote off. This explained why half the front yard was green and happy, and half was mostly bare dirt. The parts of the large lot that she didn’t personally use as living space did not get water wasted on them.

Click! Here I am sitting here wondering how the heck to cut some of the amazing costs of living in my quite desirable house, one of which is the astonishing water bill, which rises apace.

My house has an advantage over the mother-in-law’s, in that it’s already desert-landscaped. Where no plants grow, rock mulch covers the ground. But the problem is, I don’t take advantage of it: the place isn’t a desert…it’s a jungle!

The frontyard west of the driveway is overwatered, because I couldn’t make the landscaper understand that the potted plants around the westside deck need to be watered every day in summer and so they needed to be on their own valve. Disregarding the Female Voice, he linked the front west with the irrigation lines that water the potted plants. This means that all summer long a half-a-yardful of xeriscapic desert plants get watered every day. Needless to say, I’ve quite the thicket out there.

There’s no reason I can’t have about two-thirds of the berserk plants removed and then simply put plugs in every one of the drippers. Let those xeriscapic plants fend for themselves during the summer, or haul a sprinkler out to them about once a month. That would cut a substantial part of the water bill.

Ditto the useless plants along the outside of the eastside back wall, whose main purpose seems to be to block pedestrians from strolling along the sidewalk and to provide cover for the bums who use that wall as their public toilet. Why am I watering plants that don’t populate my living space? There, too, Gerardo could yank out the plants and we could plug all the drippers: more water saved!

Most of the plants in the east front yard are highly xeriscapic. Several of those—a palo brea tree, a vitex, a yellow oleander, a cassia, and a Mexican bird of paradise—were installed to create a visual screen between my front windows and Dave’s Used Car Lot, Marina, and Weed Arboretum. That they do, effectively…and a little weirdly, given that they’ve grown into something that resembles a huge green bunker instead of a screen. Now that they’re firmly established, they also shouldn’t need to be watered more than once or twice a week. Plug up their drippers, for hevvinsake, and drag a sprinkler out there every two or three weeks during the driest part of summer. And get the darn things trimmed!

The weeds between the flagstones in the front courtyard have crowded out the dichondra, are always out of control and usually overrun with hated bermudagrass. Dig out the dirt between those pavers, fill the spaces with river rock, and turn off the sprinklers. Connect octopus heads to the sprinklers and run dripper hose to just a few ornamentals, thereby bringing a stop to a great deal of water wastage there, too.

I’ll bet that by mapping out three relatively small outdoor living areas—the back porch, the westside deck, and the front courtyard with its backdrop of xeriscapic shrubbery—and cutting off the water to everything else except the fruit trees, I could save $40 or $50 a month on water. More, maybe: the base water, sewer, and trash bill is about $60; my bills have been more than twice that. Whatever dies gets pulled out. The yard would look better because it would be less overgrown, and my checking account would also look a lot better.