James and the Giant Atomic Death Robot

James and the Giant Atomic Death Robot!

For those that know me well you are fully aware, and hopefully fully prepared, for my many attempts at Total Global Domination. I have asked all my scientist friends over the years to aid in my noble efforts in one form or another. I’m looking at you Marty Cowles! Your delivery of one thousand mutated chimpanzees with backpacks loaded with two ferrets are late by the way!

There are a few ways to become a true mad scientist. One obvious one is to be insane AND be good at science. I’m halfway there. Another is to be crazy rich and have your own island fortress of doom. I’m way off from that!

A third path, and the one I’ve been following, is to hang around people that can get you part of the way. Collectively you can reign supreme. Eventually!


Well today, dear readers, I have moved one giant step forward towards my goals! On eight giant legs. I have driven the coolest giant atomic death robot ever! A complete dream come true!! Before I show you the video, perhaps some backstory is in order.

Read More


Guinea Keets

Teeny Tiny Fuzzy Nuzzlin’ Baby Guinea Keets!

They’ve finally hatched!! Tiny fuzzy squishy fluffballs dripping with cuteness. They beckon me from the spare room with itty bitty peeps and fuzzy nuzzles. I resist the urge to chew on them. What’s with that anyways? Why do I always want to chew on adorable little things? Is it just me? Is there some evolutionary advantage to that instinct? *Nomnomnom*

Regardless, now that Bernie and Hen Solo are finally laying eggs and are part of the main flock and Piper is all happy in her new bully-proof coop, I must admit to succumbing to a little bit of the empty nest blues. So I called upon my friend over at East County Zoo. If you live in the Southern California area and are looking for an amazing breeder, look no further than Aaron over at East County Zoo! Every bird I’ve got from him has been happy, healthy and shiny! Just look at these cuties!!!

Read More


Enter the Dragon 1_Feature Image

Enter the Dragon: A Time-lapse of a Dragon Fruit Flower Blooming

I may have mentioned once or twice that more times than not, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. I write Mind Your Dirt not so much as an expert, but as someone willing to learn and inspired by that learning. Growing dragon fruit apparently is no exception to this rule.

I was given some clippings about four years ago from a friend. I had dreams of eating my own weight worth of juicy dragon fruit (pitaya) almost instantly. This magical and mysterious fruit was aptly named.

Pitaya Cross Section.

Pitaya Cross Section.

It does indeed look like a dragon egg. Not that I’ve seen many in my lifetime, but this is what I would expect to see were that to change. Read More


The Grand Beedapst Hotel

Taylors of Harrogate’s Grand Beedabest Hotel

Tip top and Bristol fashion

Bristol Fashion

In order to write this one properly, I had to get myself tip top and in Bristol fashion. You’ll know why soon. Cheerio!

Since I began Mind Your Dirt back in October of 2014 there have been so many wonderful connections made from all over the world. People of like-mindedness and equal fervor in global stewardship have reached out to share ideas or simply talk shop. I’ve helped a woman in Mozambique find a way to save her coveted coastal coral tree. I’ve received amazing support from students at the University of California San Diego. I’ve had countless amazing correspondences with so many people in need of inspiration, tips, or just to talk shop. My recent post about the poor monarch butterfly needing a new wing has created an outpouring of support from the scientific community as well as families around the world all determined to come up with a design and material for synthetic prosthetic wings. Very cool!

I’ve been so energized to continue this little experiment by so many of my readers and there’s no signs of it slowing down. So thank you one and all. For your support, your guidance and just for being you! I love you all dearly. I’m writing this today because another amazing connection has been made through Mind Your Dirt.

Last week I was contacted by a representative of Taylors of Harrogate.

Bettys and Taylors of HarrogateTaylors of Harrogate is a Yorkshire-based family business devoted to the craft of outstanding tea and coffee since 1886. Tea experts at Taylors of Harrogate have decades of experience in seeking out the very best teas from the top gardens in the world and skilfully blending flavour-packed fruits and herbs to create beautifully balanced infusions. Using premium ingredients carefully sourced by Taylors and certified by the botanic experts at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the Taylors of Harrogate Fruit and Herbal Infusions range and Green Tea range are both blended to deliver pure and natural flavour. Taylors is proud to be a founding member of the Ethical Tea Partnership, which helps producers meet internationally recognised standards.

Taylors of Harrogate has just completed a wonderful project that promotes the care and conservation of pollinators. Specifically honey bees. They’ve just released this campaign today and they’ve asked Mind Your Dirt to collaborate on their amazing project! What providence.

They stumbled upon my post about making your own bee hotel and wanted me to join the cause. Which is quite an honor for little ol’ me. But it says a lot about the changing tide of good stewardship that I keep raving about. It gets me all excited. By the way, if you missed that post, check it out!

We Have a Vacancy: Building a Bug Hotel for Solitary Bees

If building your own bee hotel doesn’t suit your fancy (although I can’t imagine why, I had so much fun making mine!) there are many places to buy one for your yard! Here’s a few… (shameless plug warning)



Taylors of Harrogate partnered with Kew Gardens (who can boast the worlds largest collection of living plants by the way) to created something that is nothing short of spectacular! They’ve built the most amazing luxury bee hotel ever! Also while creating great a homage to Wes Anderson. It makes my hotel look like a decimated flea-ridden two bit motel. But I don’t mind being shown up for such a wonderful cause. Although, admittedly, I may have another agenda here.

You see, I have two hopes for this collaboration. First and foremost, to help spread these conservation efforts into everyone’s backyard and provide safe heavens for these essential pollinators. But also to come one step closer my lifelong dream of getting knighted! Anything to garnish attention towards that impossible dream would be smashing! Partly because I’d like to be referred to as Sir James Gielow, but I also want a sweet sword! Does it come with a sword? I know, I know: silly colonists can’t be Sirs. I can dream can’t I?

I digress m’lords and ladies! Back to tea and bee hotels! Just take a look at the video they’ve made that shows the Grand Beedapest Hotel. Prepare to have your mind blown!… Read More


The Sorrow of Daedalus 01_Feature Image

The Sorrow of Daedalus: Performing Prosthetic Surgery on a Monarch Butterfly

When young and foolhardy Icarus fell from the sky into the sea and drowned, poor Daedalus was forced to watch helplessly as his child floundered before him. Inexorably plummeting earthward to fatally kiss the face of Poseidon.

The guilt and sadness that Daedalus must have felt is appreciated by me more than ever. For today, I have failed one of my flock in a similar fashion. Today I was unable to successfully perform prosthetic surgery on a poor wayward monarch butterfly.


I was going to name her Jamie Sommers (The Bionic Woman). I thought we had the technology. I thought we could rebuild her. Faster. Stronger. But I failed and now she will be called Icarus. Here is her story…


Monarch munching milkweed

young Icarus full of promise

Icarus was born in the midst of my scattered milkweed plants that I added to my yard in to help give the monarchs a safe haven on their long journey from Mexico to Canada. It was part of my work to make my yard a certified wildlife habitat. All official like!

She and her siblings voraciously devoured the milkweed until they were fat and happy. Many of her siblings then wandered off to find a nice quiet place to begin their transformation. Much like this one here… Read More


Print

Mind Your Dirt gets Interviewed by UC San Diego Students

I wouldn’t call myself a nosy neighbor, but I do consider myself more observant than the average person. So when I came home from work and saw some youngsters eyeing the vacant lot next to my property, I couldn’t help snooping.

When I approached, they introduced themselves as UC San Diego students that are taking a Food Justice course. They are looking at vacant lots in San Diego neighborhoods that are at risk for becoming food deserts in hopes of transforming them into community gardens. They are also working closely with the San Diego Food System Alliance which you should check out!

Well, those of you that know me or have been loyal readers (thank you!) know that I can’t resist an opportunity to talk about one of my favorite subjects…growing stuff! I offered my services in whatever capacity they required in order to grease the wheels of what seemed a noble project.

They sent me an email questionnaire that I filled out immediately and with great fervor. Something in my patented nonsensical ramblings made these young students hunger for more nonsensical ramblings. And who am I to deny anyone fool enough to show interest in the words of this crusty mud-caked mustachioed jackass? Read More


Moving day

A Message to my WordPress Subscribers

It’s Moving Day!

Just a quick note to all the subscribers of Mind Your Dirt that have WordPress accounts. I have switched the site over to a self-hosted account and, although you can still see my posts in the Reader, you will no longer receive notifications of new posts via email. I’ve made my own *Brexit. Or Direxit? Mind Your Direxit? I’ll work on that…

I can sense your growing panic, but please put down that pitch fork and dry those tears. There is a very simple and quick solution to bring balance into this jaded world. Simply enter your email over there on the right and click the “I’m So Good Looking” button. Then we can be reunited in this brave new world of caring and sharing! Huzzah!

Did you click it? You’re soooo good looking!!


To those subscribers that don’t have a WordPress account, you don’t have to do a thing! While you were sleeping I stole you away in the night and tucked you in all cozy like over here on the new site. Didn’t even notice did you? Mind Your Dirt will take care of you, don’t worry.


So you may notice a few changes on the site as I play around with new features in a heated panic, desperately trying to not hit the self-destruct button while doing so. This move has been something I’ve wanted to do for over a year but have been afraid to. I imagined that I’d lose everything and everyone. While it wasn’t free of annoying head-scratching panicked moments and late night coding searches, it was far less troublesome than I imagined. Now the site will bend to my whims.

Let me know if you have any troubles or questions and welcome to the future!

*By the way, how crazy is that situation?! There is an ancient Chinese cures (debatable origins): May you live in interesting times. Looks like the curse is upon us because these days are end times kinds crazy! I hope this doesn’t cause a cascading domino effect and completely dismantle the EU. Personally, I’m ready for the end of the world. My zombie preparedness kit is updated, sharpened and ready for action! Is yours?


Kill it With Fire

Gettin’ Inside the Weed’s Head: Kill It with Fire

You may have been wondering what happened to me and where I’ve been. You may also have been wondering why I didn’t stay away longer. If it’s the former, I’ve been doing some behind the scenes work on Mind Your Dirt. I switched it over to a self-hosting site so that I can completely sell out as I was too rife with integrity and needed to balance the scales a bit. It is my hope that you have all made it over to the new The Interweb site and I haven’t lost anyone in the process (there was a scary moment the night before last!).

I have a few riveting posts just waiting to be posted and you will be seeing those…ahem…post haste! Sorry.

In the meantime, while I finish tweaking the code, polishing the logo, and putting a bow tie on Piper; please enjoy this interlude of death and destruction. Remember, gardening with danger is the only way to garden!


It’s that time again campers. Time to clean out the weeds in my pathways and flagstone. I never thought in a million years that the idea of weeding would make me all giddy with excitement. But ever since I deployed the new method of “Death by Flamethrower”, this whole process has become infinitely more enjoyable. I especially like taking the time to get all up in the weed’s head. Once you’re in there, they don’t stand a chance. Observe…

No weed, no seed and no mercy! Thank you for watching.


Bug Hotel 01_Feature Image

We Have a Vacancy: Building a Bug Hotel for Solitary Bees

Now here’s a project that doesn’t take too much time and is simply perfect for the whole family. The materials used for this are all items you can hunt for in parks or woods and make for a great excuse to go on a hike. With a little help from adults, kids can have a blast assembling these amazing and beneficial homes.

What I’m looking to attract are solitary bees. Many people think that honey bees and bumble bees are the only types of bees around. The fact is that they only represent about 10% of the bee species around and aren’t even native to North America. A majority of bees don’t make honey, but one thing that they do make is excellent pollinators!

Just one solitary bee, like the mason bee, can do the pollination work of 120 honey bees! They lack the little pollen baskets that honey bees have so they visit flowers way more often than social bees. And because they don’t have that golden treasure trove to protect, they don’t swarm and are safe around people and pets. There are three basic types of solitary bees but all come in varying shapes and sizes.

Solitary bees will either chew tunnels with their strong mandibles (like the carpenter bees) or they will seek out existing burrows left by beetles or hollow stems (like the mason or leaf cutter bee) to lay their eggs. They’ll crawl to the back to deposit an egg and then leave a lovely little packed lunch of pollen and nectar for the baby to eat. She’ll leave just enough room for the larvae to develop and then seal it off and repeat the process until the cavity is filled.

Wild bee cells. Via

Wild bee cells. Via

She can control whether the egg is male or female and lays females towards the back as males hatch before females do. That way the bees can emerge without blocking one another. I guess at least in the bee world, the males mature faster.

These types of bees are so often overlooked when people think about the recent decline in pollinators. Yet they do far more work than the honey bees do in that regard. All the more reason to do a cool project like making a place for them to live. Urban environments are not very forgiving when it comes to providing a home to these useful critters. Gardeners seldom leave dead wood laying around or old stems from plants that the bees would normally call home.

So not only is this a simple and fun project to get the whole family involved in, you’re doing a great service which will only provide you with enrichment as well as a bountiful crop! You and the kids can monitor the tunnels and see what variety of species have moved in. On rainy days, you’ll see them in there staying dry but most of the time you’ll know they’re using the home when you see the ends sealed up. This would also make for a great project for schools, especially those that have gardens.

So let’s get to the fun part…the building of the house. Read More


Bernie and Hen Solo 01_Feature Image

Meet Bernie and Hen Solo

The results are in for the Official MYD Name my Hens Contest™ and it was a close one folks! In the end, the hens decided on their favorite names. I had absolutely nothing to do with the decision making here and am but a slave to the whims of tiny dinosaurs.

Congratulations to Miscellinnie and Nury for the name of Bernie for my plucky Rhode Island Red and to Jack Burton for the name of Hen Solo for the adventurous Black Sex Link.

They took their sweet time in deciding too and when I placed the dry-erase board in the coop for their brainstorming sessions, they tended to poop all over it. But, then again, they tend to poop all over everything. However, after much deliberation, they finally have selected their favorites.

Ronald Reagan was the next runner up for the Rhode Island Red so kudos to the husband of Jenny from Bulldog Travels for that brilliant name!

Sasha was finally able to meet the hens face to face too. I wanted to make sure that my training methods still applied to new additions to the flock. They did in spades!

Bernie and Hen Solo 02_Sasha meets the girls face to face

We then did a nice photo session to help celebrate their new names. I’ve photographed a lot of subjects in my life and can safely say that chickens are one of the hardest things to shoot. The only thing harder was when I shot Buffalo Sabers games back in college. So much movement and with a shallow depth of field, damn near impossible to get the eyes in focus. So, out of the 150 photos I took, here are 14 that turned out decent. Enjoy!

And for those of you that are not sick and tired of looking at chicken videos, here’s the girls playing around in the adult section of the chicken run for a supervised play-date with the big mean girls.

I love watching them jump around with excitement like the little kids that they are. Especially in the beginning where Hen Solo tries to eat citrus leaves from the satsuma tree. Silly Solo, the scruffy looking nerf-herder.

Thanks again to all those that helped with your amazing submissions!