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Posts in category High Desert Living

Not Every Gardener Has a Green Thumb

Growing a Garden in High Desert Soil is Tough

Years ago, I made a plan for my first garden bed. I fenced out rabbits from my plot of land. I dug up the heavier rocks and raked and turned until thought I had a decent bed to start. I then made a deal with the groundskeepers at the local park that I could collect their lawn and leaf trimmings. I hauled home a small trailer full of rich composting material.

It pays to talk to other gardeners in your community. They may have the background you don’t. Why work so hard?

Garlic Bulb

A fresh garlic I never raised

Use Gardening Magazines but Don’t be Beguiled

I raked and tilled, mulched and watered. I knew that in this virgin soil, nothing would grow for the first year. So I tended the plot and added some amendments that I had read about. Pored over the organic magazines all Summer. True to their word, they recommended that planting in the Fall would be better for a sound crop; I only planted two rows of potatoes starters. The bitter winds of Winter made gardening brutal. I was on a water tank system, still am, so each time I watered, I paid more attention to how much absorbed into the ground.

Dirt Farmer

Without water and good soil your garden is nothing

Garden magazines are helpful but they can draw you into false security, thinking that everything is just fine. They don’t know your climate or soil health. I watered and tested my young spud plants until early Spring.

Seduced by January Garden Dreams

You know all of those gardening magazines arrive in your mail boxes in January just to whet your keen edge for a voluptuous garden … the dream garden. I devoured each page. i was seduced by promises and beautiful pictures.

By early February, after the frost, I planted several rows of green onions, yellow onions, garlic and some pepper plants. I even planted marigold plants between rows to discourage bugs and worms. Master Gardeners suggested that. I was on my way to having a “green thumb”, or so I thought. But the High Desert had different ideas.

It seems that while I was developing the soil and strengthening the PH balance, diligently following the master gardeners’ insider hints, the desert was killing off my dreams.

The first early shoots of my potato plants withered. The onion rows sprouted a feet high but when I pulled a few, no onions! Even my “anyone can grow” marigolds refused to send out roots. The first wind that came along blew them right out of the ground! And the horn worms that can attack tomato plants like an army on the move had made a night raid and wiped out my two feeble pepper seedlings.

Find Out What Your Garden’s Enemies Are

Horm Worms can devour a whole plant

Tomato Horn Worms look healthier than my pepper plants

You’ll need to study who your enemies are: underground, under leaf, in the stems or on the stems. Consult your local gardening department in a building and housewares store. They always have a gardener on hand. Take their advice.

It seems that the lack of humidity in the ground, even with my diligent watering, was not enough to grow a garden. The rodents conspired to burrow under my rows and finish off my harvest long before it showed above ground. And, for all of my watering, it seems that it all percolated down and away from my baby garden roots. I didn’t have the soil primed for holding the moisture.

By the time I expected to harvest early onions, potatoes, and garlic… I found two … yes, two onions. No Garlic. My potato starters were still small, laughing at me, I’m sure.

So I am the Brown Thumb gardener. I still buy my produce from the store. I still have my garden outside my window. Now I grow rustic antique cultivators, harrow row rakes, steel wheels, and antique hand plows … the basic elements of a gardener’s tool collection when the tools brought great harvests to more fortunate gardeners.

Rusty, no dirt under my fingernails …

 

Farmers Market Fresh Vegetables

Shopping at the Farmers Market

farmers markets

High Desert Farmers Market

Fresh Berries

The best place to go shopping for produce, fresh from farmers’ gardens, in the Victor Valley of the High Desert is at High Desert Farmer’s Market. The market is open every Thursday from 8 am until 12 noon. Beautiful blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries are already available, and spring hasn’t even arrived yet. You wouldn’t know it by the gorgeous weather last Thursday at this Certified Farmers Market. It was sunny, and there were fruits and vegetables galore.

farmers markets

Fresh Berries

Fresh Raw Veggies

The tables set up at Angelo’s Farm High Desert Produce especially attracted my eyes to it. There were leafy greens with yellow and orange stems. I walked over to see what these beauties were, picked up the green-leaf vegetable with the colorful stems, and admired them. While I was trying to figure out what they were, a lady came up and asked, “What are those?”

farmers markets

Leafy and Colorful Veggies

“I don’t know. That’s what I was wondering,” I said when a younger lady answered, “That’s Swiss chard.”

The first lady, Marian, laughed because she said the younger woman, who knew what the vegetable was, was her daughter.

I’m sure that I’ve eaten Swiss chard before, probably at a Chinese restaurant with mixed veggies or a meat entree. But I don’t recall ever cooking it at home. I bought the pretty vegetable and have cooked it already, stir-fried with other vegetables – and I like it.

Marian’s daughter, Heather, tries different recipes every week. That got my attention because I am a food blogger and come up with various recipes to share on my blog. I asked her to submit an article about her recipes for High Desert Blogging. So, Heather, if you’re reading this, I can’t wait to hear from you and see what new recipes you’ve tried this week.

Heather pointed me in the direction of another vendor who was selling different colors of cauliflower. I’ve seen BroccoliFlower before but not orange cauliflower. One of my favorite cauliflower recipes is Mac & Cheese Cauliflower.

cauliflower

Cauliflower Colors

It’s exciting to go to the farmers market and see so much fresh produce. Meeting other like-minded individuals like Heather and Marian that love trying out new vegetables and creating recipes is so much fun.

Pets at the Farmers Market

Pets and animals show up at farmers markets, too. I noticed an area that appeared to be either an animal-petting section or where you could pay to ride one around a small sectioned-off place. Though I didn’t walk over to observe closer, I think I noticed a camel ready to give someone a ride. Next time I go, I’ll pay closer attention and tell you more the next time I see the animals. I met this little dog, Kisses, and owner, Anthony, and Anthony’s Aunt Linda. The adorable Kisses is believed to be a terrier and teacup chihuahua mix.

On my way out of the Farmers Market, I met Anthony, who was carrying his pet dog, and Anthony’s Aunt Linda. Anthony introduced me to his little adorable pet, Kisses, who is believed to be a terrier and teacup chihuahua mix.

terrier and teacup chihuahua mix

Anthony and Kisses

I left the market smiling. Who could not smile at getting to meet a friendly little terrier-teacup chihuahua, a mother and daughter who love to create fresh veggie recipes like me, and bags filled with fresh raw vegetables and fruits to boot?

Thank You For Visiting High Desert Blogging!

Blueberry Gardening in the High Desert

Grow a Blueberry Bush in Your Backyard

Blueberry Gardening

Blueberry Bush

Did you know that you can grow blueberries in the high desert? They need acidic soil to be successful, and it helps if they are planted in pots.

Planting Tips

Helpful hints from these three websites will help you get started: READ MORE »

UGH! It’s a Bug!! The Scorpion That Isn’t

High Desert Insects Challenge Your Sanity

It’s a buggy world. If you stop and consider there are more insects hatched daily than there are people living around the world, you wonder why we aren’t up to our ears in bugs.

That buggy world we live in  — especially in the Southwest — keeps us ever watchful to know which bug is a friend and which one is out to get us!

Sun Scorpion 

Sun Scorpion

Long Legs and Scary Looking Mouth Makes Sun Scorpions Similar to Scorpions

 One of the ugliest insects is a night traveler that looks a lot like a scorpion but doesn’t have a stinger or a tail. Light yellow honey-colored  is the “Sun Scorpion” also known as “Wind Scorpion” or “Sun Spider” even “Nina de la Tierra” or “Child of the Earth.” Its more scientific name is a solpugid and solfugid, depending on the books I looked into.

Its head is large and looks like it shouldn’t be able to walk let along race across the ground. When you find it in your home, it’s usually in your bathtub or crawling up a wall. They sneak around at night, falling into tubs and sinks, then can’t climb out. They can grow as large as two inches (5 cm).

The good thing — if there is good thing about weird-looking bugs — is that it’s fragile, more fragile than any scorpion, beetle, or spider. Just swat it with a rolled up paper or a flyswatter and it’s dead.

Sci-Fi Alien Mouth

Mandibles in a Large HEad

Ugly Bug

Before you annihilate it, take a look at its strange head and large mouth parts. Its sci-fi alien looking mouth comes right out of a nightmare. It has four pointy jaws that open and close like a grappling hook in those stuffed toy coin-operated vending machines. Their bald head is actually covered in fine hairs — always on the alert. It helps them feel their surrounding due to their lack of good eyesight. But that’s typical with nigh bugs.

They also have giant fake pincers called pedipalps that look like they could hurt you but they aren’t harmful or even poisonous. They use these strong front arms with the next pair behind to control their prey. When they feel threatened they raise their front arms up defensively like scorpions or tarantulas do. This can make them look more dangerous to predators or even humans. Most solpugids live less than a year so they need to live on the defensive or die early.

Glow in the Dark

The closest bug that looks like a Sun Scorpion is a large, caramel-colored Jerusalem Cricket it sometimes shares its name “Nina de la Tierra” with the sun spider, also found in the Southwest deserts. It has a large head, long legs, moves slower, but is active at night. I’ve only seen two of these in 40 years so they may be more rare today.

 Jerusalem cricket

It’s not from Jerusalem or a cricket

Another way you can tell differences between true scorpions and pseudo-types is to use a black-light and hunt at night. A scorpion will “glow in the dark” while a Sun or Wind Scorpion  will not.

So keep an eye open for those creepy-looking bugs but also take the time to see what they are and how they share the desert with you. Most are beneficial and eat other bugs, so they’re doing you a favor. Really.

Rusty

Unofficial “Bugologist”

March Flowers to Plant in High Desert Gardens

Spring Garden Planting

Pansies

Spring Pansies

The high desert has seen gorgeous spring days already in February and the first few days of March. Like we always read on many packets of flower seeds, “Sow…after danger of heavy frost.” Victor Valley’s weather report indicates that by tomorrow, temperatures are going to dip down into the low 30’s – heavy frost kind of weather to consider (although frost can happen in April, too) when planting flower seeds.

Pansies may be the answer to your March flower garden. You can find them at nurseries and even WalMart right now. But you have to decide if you want to plant pansies now or wait a little longer to plant spring and summer flowers that can endure the desert heat. Pansies do best with temperatures between 40 degrees at night and 60 degrees during the day. Hesperia only had about five days last month that didn’t go over 60 degrees during the day and fifteen days that were in the 70’s. If you do plant pansies, they can add vivid color to your garden through the spring.

Bulbs and Flowers to Plant in March

Plant flowering bulbs such as dahlias and gladiolas.

summer flower bulbs

Gladiolas (photo from morguefile.com)

Choose from drought-tolerant marigolds and zinnias when beginning your spring gardening. Both are colorful, although zinnias provide a wider variety of colors than marigolds including pink and white.

marigolds

Marigolds (photo from morguefile.com)

Marigolds are believed to have pest-controlling benefits for vegetable gardens. That could be true if you plant them in abundance, but they may not keep out the neon-green tomato hornworm.

Learn how to use the right amount of irrigation to encourage a deeper root system, and you’ll enhance the beauty of zinnias. Zinnias can grow up to 3 feet tall or more and attract birds and butterflies.

zinnias

Zinnias Attract Butterflies (photo from morguefile.com)

Children’s Craft Mother’s Day Card

A Mother’s Day Gift

flowers in a vase

Mother’s Day Vase of Flowers

School teachers, Sunday School teachers, and daycare teachers have something in common. They plan crafts ahead of time. Teachers have the opportunity to make a huge difference in children’s lives. READ MORE »

Chasing Radio Signals Through High Deserts

Why NASA Looks for High Deserts?

Part III

Space scientists studying around the nation need uninterrupted air and land areas to work in. Signals coming from deep in outer space are so weak that we need to bump up the strength so we can listen and capture the radio waves that planets and stars emit. Then we have to trap the signals so they can be sent to places like Jet Propulsion Laboratories (JPL) in California to be studied.

Dishes move on rails

A series of small dishes capture condensed signals

We often go to High Desert expanses like St. Augustin Plains in New Mexico, Mojave Desert in California, and Eastern Oregon’s high plains to receive the clearest and strongest signals. We need a noiseless and fairly high plain without too much interference.

In this Part III look at high deserts, we can say that St. Augustin Plains is remote and clear enough to try new studies. It sits about 50 miles west of Socorro, New Mexico and about 20 miles west of Magdalena. The Very Large Array (VLA) is a series of small satellite dishes running on a closed system of rails on the ground in a specific pattern. With many small dishes working together, a stronger concentrated signal can be captured. https://public.nrao.edu/tours/visitvla

many dishes are better than one

Dishes move to one target signal in space

The flexibility of a rail system also allows the pattern on the ground to adjust to new studies. You can take your family to see the public tours most of the year, watch the system working, the souvenir shop, and other historical displays.

At St. Augustin Plains wild antelope still roam the plains. They don’t seem to care if people get out of their vehicles to take photos. Here you can learn more about radio astronomy and the role the Very Large Array (VLA) and other NRAO telescopes play in current research.

What is Radio Astronomy?

 We see the world around us, because our eyes detect visible light, a type of electromagnetic radiation. Objects on Earth and in space also emit other types of EM radiation that cannot be seen by the human eye, such as radio waves. The full range of all radiating EM waves is called the electromagnetic spectrum.

Radio astronomy is the study of celestial objects that give off radio waves. With radio astronomy, we study astronomical phenomena that are often invisible or hidden in other portions of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Radio Astronomy Reveals the Hidden Universe.
Since radio waves penetrate dust, we use radio astronomy techniques to study regions that cannot be seen in visible light, such as the dust-shrouded, busy center of our Galaxy, the Milky Way. Radio waves also allow us to trace the location, density, and motion of the hydrogen gas that constitutes three-fourths of the ordinary matter in the Universe.

Partnerships: How We Study Earth From Space

The primary objective of DSCOVR, a partnership between NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Air Force, is to maintain the nation’s real-time solar wind monitoring capabilities, which are critical to the accuracy and lead time of space weather alerts and forecasts from NOAA. http://www.nesdis.noaa.gov/DSCOVR/

The satellite was launched in February and recently reached its planned orbit at the first Lagrange point or L1, about one million miles from Earth toward the sun. It’s from that unique vantage point that the EPIC instrument is acquiring science quality images of the entire sunlit face of Earth.

Nation’s first operational satellite in deep space reaches final orbit

June 8, 2015 — More than 100 days after it launched, NOAA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite has reached its orbit position about one million miles from Earth.

Earth From DSCOVR

First Full Spectrum View of Earth

Data from EPIC will be used to measure ozone and aerosol levels in Earth’s atmosphere, cloud height, vegetation properties and the ultraviolet reflectivity of Earth. NASA will use this radiometry data for a number of Earth science applications, including dust and volcanic ash maps of the entire planet.

In addition to space weather instruments, DSCOVR carries a second NASA sensor — the National Institute of Science and Technology Advanced Radiometer (NISTAR). http://www.nasa.gov/earth Data from the NASA science instruments will be processed at the agency’s DSCOVR Science Operations Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. This data will be archived and distributed by the Atmospheric Science Data Center at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

So without the wide array of remote high deserts, NASA wouldn’t be able to gather as much data from space, use it to understand radio waves that give us measurements to study, or the ability to share the data with our technical scientists here and around the world.

Rusty

Food Cravings and Food Blogs

FOOD BLOGGING

Chocolate and Yogurt

Yogurt Granola Chocolate Sweet Snack

Bloggers on High Desert Blogging write articles about the High Desert, the Southwest, blogging, gardening in the high desert, food, and Victor Valley. Food writing on the blog varies from historical to new recipes, Route 66 eateries, and recommended restaurants. But have you heard of or visited the High Desert Farmers Market? The Farmers Market is held on Thursday mornings from 8:00 am until 12:00 pm. Go to highdesertfarmersmarket.com blog to find their recipes.

SALSA CRAVINGS

What kind of food cravings do you get? One of mine is salsa. The latest one I made, Sweet & Spicy Salsa, has a southwestern flavor and includes corn. So delicious. It is made from the kitchen garden mostly (except the corn and a can of diced tomatoes and green chilies). The corn gave the salsa a sweet flavor. And, of course, it’s spicy with a very hot jalapeno. Sometimes, the jalapenos aren’t as hot. You never know how hot the garden jalapenos will be until you add it to the salsa. I’ve had some turn out very hot, and others seem quite mild.

SWEET CRAVINGS

Top food interests found on Pinterest and in blogs are:

  • desserts
  • recipes
  • healthy snacks
  • healthy recipes
  • nutrition
  • gluten free

When you try to combine dessert, healthy, nutrition, and gluten free, it can be quite a challenge. What do you do when you crave sweets but need gluten free ingredients and want to eat nutritious food? How do you satisfy the sweet or chocolate cravings?

Lately, I’ve had some sweet cravings – some for chocolate and some for lemon. Try this recipe that I came up with to satisfy the chocolate and sweet craving.

Yogurt Chocolate Granola Mix

5 minutes

1 Serving

Approximately 1 Cup

360 calories

15 fat

6.25 sat fat

51.5 carbs

10.5 protein

5.75 fiber

38.5 sugar

149.7 sodium

Yogurt Chocolate Granola Mix

Yogurt Granola Chocolate Sweet Snack

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup Plain Yogurt
  • 1/3 Cup Quaker Summer Berry Real Medleys
  • 4 Guittard Milk Chocolate Baking Chips
  • 1 Tablespoon Sun-Maid Chopped Dates

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together.
  2. Ready to eat.

Notes

Nutrition amounts are approximate.

Recipe Management Powered by Zip Recipes Plugin
http://highdesertblogging.com/2016/02/24/food-cravings-and-food-blogs/

Chocolate Meringue Pie and Lemon Meringue Pie are my two favorite family pie recipes. I’ve had the two desserts on my mind, so when I saw a box of two lemon meringue pies in the frozen section at WalMart, I took it out and read the nutrition values. Not too bad. The only thing that jumped out at me was the 41 carbohydrates. However, my yogurt-chocolate medley’s carbs are higher. The lemon pies were justified. After all, I did pull a mountain of weeds in the yard. Well, maybe not today but yesterday. Uh-huh. They went into the grocery cart, made it all the way up to the register, and only one got to go inside my freezer. Lemon meringue. Mmmm.

High Desert Food Blog Contest

Now you know why I also have a food blog, Kitchen Hospitality. Maybe you’ve been keeping up with the Traffic Generating Experiment between Patty Cakes Pantry j(try her Taco Salad in a Jar) and Kitchen Hospitality. It’s going on for the month of February. Both blogs are fairly new, so Patty Cakes and I decided to challenge each other and also try out strategies on the blogs. We were both raised with southern-style cooking and enjoy sharing our recipes and cooking tips on the blogs. We will report the contest results on March 1st if you are interested in food blogs or want to start one of your own.

Chocolate and Yogurt

Yogurt Granola Chocolate Sweet Snack

Thank You for Visiting High Desert Blogging!

 

Blog Linking Parties:

Inspiration Thursday

Just What Are Those Astronaut Dudes Doing, Anyway?

Part II: A Viewpoint  of Deep Space From our High Desert

As we enter 2016, and sit smugly in front of our big screen TVs enjoying the latest “spinoff” of a comedy show, have you ever wondered how the Earthly industries that create the things around us actually happened to be in our homes?

Have you ever thought about what goes into the items you buy? Did NASA ever spinoff its own stuff? Have you ever wondered “What are those astronaut dudes doing up there anyway?”

Wonder no more. After years of taking a backseat to modern inventions from deep space labs affecting our daily lives, NASA has finally taken an Open and Shared attitude. Tooting its own horn…

What New Inventions and Adaptations From Space Are We Using Today?

Our world has changed by the giant steps of technology since the first man-flights began. Next time you actually remember to get out of your recliner and go stare at the night sky for the current fly-by of the International Space Station, you might think of these:

VEGGIE-GROWING IN SPACE 

Space food

Photos of the Ground Zinnias’ Harvesting inside the SSPF

 

Zinnia plants from the Veggie ground control experiment at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida were harvested Feb. 11 in the same way that crew member Scott Kelly  harvested the zinnias grown in the Veggie system aboard the International Space Station on Feb. 14—Valentine’s Day.

LAND MINE REMOVAL

Rather than blowing things up in war-torn countries and causing huge holes in the ground, The Demining Device flare uses a battery-triggered electric match to ignite and neutralize land mines in the field without detonation. The flare uses solid rocket fuel to burn a hole in the mine’s case and burn away the explosive contents so the mine can be disarmed without hazard. (Spinoff 2000)

FIREFIGHTING GEAR

Firefighting equipment widely used throughout the United States is based on a NASA development that coupled Agency design expertise with lightweight materials developed for the U.S. Space Program. A project that linked NASA and the National Bureau of Standards resulted in a lightweight breathing system including face mask, frame, harness, and air bottle, using an aluminum composite material developed by NASA for use on rocket casings. (Spinoff 1976)

TEMPER FOAM MATTRESSES

As the result of a program designed to develop a padding concept to improve crash protection for airplane passengers, Ames Research Center developed a foam material with unusual properties. The material is widely used and commonly known as temper foam or “memory foam.” (Spinoff 1996, 2008)

NEW MARKETS SPUR OUR ECONOMY

Astronaut in Space

More people are signing up for Astronaut School than in many years

Space exploration has created new markets and new technologies that have spurred our economy and changed our lives in many ways. This year, NASA unveiled two new complementary interactive Web features, NASA City and NASA @ Home, available at www.nasa.gov/city. The new features highlight how space pervades our lives, invisible yet critical to so many aspects of our daily activities and well-being.

HERE’S SOME OTHER SPACE-TECH ITEMS:

Did you know that many of the things we use today weer first developed by the space lab techs and experiments that became our life-improvements?

Enriched Baby Food, Portable Cordless Vacuums, Harnessing Solar Energy, Refrigerated Internet-Connected Wall Ovens, Improved Radial Tires, Anti-Icing Systems, and Infrared Ear Thermometers, just to name a few.

Did you know that there were 136 Space Shuttle flights where they developed ways to deal with space problems that we never heard of? Those travels also helped scientists in the International Space Station to learn how to transport men and supplies efficiently.

We don’t use shuttles anymore due to other countries taking on the task of moving men and cargo to the International Space Station – we’re looking at Mars, as you know, but the problems of long-term travel in space is a whole other matter.

As we gear up for living on a Mars environment, we are using the Moon to get answers faster. More on that in Part III.

To learn more you can go to :

https://spinoff.nasa.gov/Spinoff2008/tech_benefits.html

Rusty LaGrange

Natural and Drought-Tolerant Plants Good for High Desert Gardens

Natural and Drought-Tolerant Plants

It’s time to plan your spring planting. Lavender and rosemary are two evergreens that can grow well in the high desert. See the eHow article, Rosemary Plant in the High Desert, for more information on planting rosemary in your garden.

evergreens

Rosemary photo from http://www.morguefile.com/archive/#/?q=rosemary&sort=pop&photo_lib=morgueFile

There are several websites with helpful information on organic and/or drought-tolerant plants for high desert gardens. I’ve listed four below to get you started:

  1. Going Organic Magazine – In the article, Winter Organic Gardening in The Desert, Maureen Gilmer gives insight on how to plant with drought-tolerant landscaping. If you are wondering which vegetable crops can be sown or planted in February, this article will be helpful.
  2. Moana Nursery – This website offers Local High Desert Tips on things you can do between February 16 through February 29 for your spring garden.
  3. Garden Solutions for the High Desert – Read Blogger Marnie Brennan’s blog post on Seed Starting for Spring Planting 2016 for help on seed planting.
  4. Mohave Desert Nursery – Learn about natural and drought-tolerant plants that grow well in the high desert.

Organic Salsa Garden

Plant an organic salsa garden – tomatoes, green onions, carrots, and peppers. Green onions and carrots grew in my garden through the winter months. Both go great in a homemade salsa recipe. The last green onions I pulled up out of the garden were so long I had to double them to store them in the frig.

Green onions and tiny carrot

What recipes do you put green onions in? Share your recipe in the comment section for this blog post.

Rain visited Victor Valley’s high desert this week, the best natural watering for a garden. It’s time to dig up the garden weeds and prepare for spring planting.

Gardening takes work, but it’s a good way to exercise and to enjoy natural Vitamin D.

Got gardening tips to share? Let us hear your spring planting plans.

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