Broke and Bone Dry: California Water Utility Companies are Essentially Fining Californians for Conserving Water!

I. am. so. thirsty…

It’s been a rough four years here on the West coast. A record drought has ravaged the land year after year and everyone has been feeling the effects. For two years in a row, farmers have had to fallow over a half million acres of land each year. Birds burst into flames spontaneous and drop from the skies like small squawking comets. Reservoirs are receding at alarming rates leaving little more than dried cracked earth and masses of huddled boats and extremely nervous fish.

I often liken it to living on the surface of the sun. When traveling about town, I find it prudent to make slow furtive movements, like that of a tortoise, in hopes that I do not dehydrate into a pile of dust like an ill-stowed mummy. I keep looking to the heavens in search of the giant child with a magnifying glass here to dole out karmic retribution for the evils of my youth.

As a gardener, I feel the effects on a profoundly deep and personal level.  But I’m not alone; it has gotten so bad that Gov. Jerry Brown (ex-lead singer of the Dead Kennedys*) has mandated a mandatory state-wide 25% reduction in water usage. In short, it’s been bleak people!

Mind Your Dirt urban “farms” has done its part in spades! I’ve gotten my water usage down between 60-70% without having to sacrifice too many plants. I’ve even figured out a way to maintain a small portion of my lawn with lush and deep green results!  I’ve created a small scale grey-water reclamation system, replaced many plants with native and drought-tolerant species, layered up thick mulches, and have tried creating shadier micro-climate / “cool zones” that also serve to produce food stuffs for my belly!

In other words, I’ve paid my dues more than two-fold of what was asked of me by the state of California.

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So why is it that I now have to suffer from increased rates and fees from the water utility company because their profits are being hindered by too much (mandatory) water conservation? Essentially they’re upset because I’m not buying the water that they don’t have to sell me in the first place?!? What fresh hell is this?

Just read for yourself.

It’s truly a “fined if you do, fined if you don’t” scenario and I am left bereft of hydration and money. Pooped and demoralized. Here, on the surface of the sun. As birds burst into flames.

If you’re having trouble seeing my tears it’s because they evaporate instantly.

[*just kidding. I had you there for a minute didn’t I…]

Night of the Living Jasmine

[in the voice of Vincent Price]

From dark and chilly depths of fetid yet well fertilized and mulched dirt, the beast reaches deeply into the abyss in search of evil nutrients and minerals of ill intent. Its sickly sweet scent fills the air mockingly, as a warning of what horrors await the gentle passers by. With icy tendrils reaching to the heavens that will no longer accept it, the cold grip seizes all that tread near.

Not only a grip to grasp maidens hair or heroes well coiffed mustaches, these skeletal fingers seek something more profound; your very soul. Move verily and hastily to safe quarters, dear traveler, for ye are beyond the safety of home and hearth!

The jasmine is among us!! For tonight belongs to it. The night of the living jasmine!! Mwahahaha!!

Just in time for Halloween, I have a tale of pure gardening horror and danger. But as with all tales, one must begin…well…in the beginning.

My plan was of noble and simple origins. To sweeten the air entering my bedroom with delicious jasmine flowers. Here in California, the winds are almost always blowing from the West to the East off of the ocean. When I was house hunting I brought along my trusty compass to make certain that sun and wind will be positioned to my favor. So, if I plant a jasmine vine by my back door where the breezes always waft into the house, I’d have my own natural air freshener. Genius right? Yes, yes it is.

What I failed to anticipate was how viney vines are. I began training this vine properly, but as it rose up columns it began to get away from me as I had nowhere to secure it above the columns. I thought I’d tackle that issue as it arose. Well, dear reader, it has risen!

And then some! It began reaching out in all directions to the point that I couldn’t exit the house without getting a face full of reaching tendrils. Some of them tipped with creepy crawly things! I had a friend record a typical day for me to show you. Here I am passing by the vine…


As you can see, something needed to be done! My thanks to Craig T. Nelson for coming over to help me out. And a special wag of the finger to Taylor for not chipping in and cuddling with that weird little blonde girl! Bad Taylor! Coward!!
Continue reading “Night of the Living Jasmine”

Starbucks has Free Spent Coffee Grounds for the Garden!

I just love it when a large company like Starbucks goes out of their way to do a decent, responsible and sustainable thing to make the world a better place. They don’t have to do it. It doesn’t net them any extra cash, in fact, it probably adds some costs. But they did it anyways!

Many Starbucks locations now keep their spent coffee grounds out of the landfills and into our garden! Which is really smart when you think about it. Used coffee grounds are very nitrogen rich and although some of their acidic properties are stripped away during the percolating process, raw spent coffee grounds are best saved for your acid loving plants. They are however a perfect addition to your compost bins or a yummy treat for your worms (vermicomposting). Once composted, they can be used as a top dressing or a soil additive with the rest of your compost.

Raw un-composted coffee grounds can be used for all your acid loving plants. Or, if you have very alkaline soil (like we do in San Diego), they can be used with more fervor on most any plant species. Roses absolutely adore the nutrients from coffee grounds. So do plants like azaleas, rhododendrons, blueberries and raspberries. In fact, you can make a fertilizer “tea” with these spent grounds that will make any berry bush seem to double it’s production and growth rate. Pink hydrangeas aren’t your thing? Lowering the pH with acidic coffee grounds will turn them blue!

There’s also a lot of Magnesium and Potassium, both of which plants really like; but not a lot of phosphorus (the fruiting and flowering nutrient) or calcium, a mineral that many plants crave. So use these grounds carefully and know your soil pH levels before going hog wild!

In other words, Mind Your Dirt!