Branching Out: A Humble Attempt at Growing an Espaliered Grapefruit Tree

What would mankind be without rudely trying to bend nature to their evil wills? Imagine a world where man realizes that any attempts at control are merely an illusion and every creature danced naked in the woods in joyous celebration of total peace and harmony. Ahh, soothing. And the exact opposite of the grotesque horrors in the form of massive and aggressive amputations gifted to my new grapefruit tree. Poor oroblanco, you came here to suffer for my aesthetic whims. Rest easy though, your suffering will be remembered in song and lore.

All of this would probably be more warmly received if I didn’t twirl my mustache and cackle maniacally during the process. But I have my methods and plant sensibilities be damned. But I’m not doing this just to pander to my false sense of control and dominance. There are very practical reasons to espalier a fruit tree. The rather obvious one is that it looks insanely cool as a landscape design feature. Like a white-gloves touch to the garden. Classy as a MF’er. It also makes for a perfect space-saving solution to those with limited garden space.

There’s an even more impressive scientific reason for this ancient methodology of fruit production.  When trained against a wall, the light is reflected back onto the tree and the heat is stored during the day to keep the area warmer during the cooler nights.  When trained in an open space, you can line it up to be parallel to the equator to totally maximize its fruit maturing potential.  Both strategies serve to lengthen the fruit maturing season.  Science is amazing. Be sure to science more than you do now.


“The word espalier is French, and it comes from the Italian spalliera, meaning “something to rest the shoulder (spalla) against.  During the 17th Century, the word initially referred only to the actual trellis or frame on which such a plant was trained to grow, but over time it has come to be used to describe both the practice and the plants themselves.

Espalier as a technique seems to have started with the ancient Romans. In the Middle Ages the Europeans refined it into an art. The practice was popularly used in Europe to produce fruit inside the walls of a typical castle courtyard without interfering with the open space and to decorate solid walls by planting flattened trees near them. Vineyards have used the technique in the training of grapes for hundreds or perhaps even thousands of years”

-Brown, Sydney Park; Yeager, Thomas H.; Black, Robert J. (September 2007) [May 1985]


For my specific reasons, I had a very unruly back planting strip behind my house. I let it get out of control and many of the plants there were leftovers from the previous owners. Just look at this hot mess… Continue reading “Branching Out: A Humble Attempt at Growing an Espaliered Grapefruit Tree”

Fancy New Chicken Run: Phase Beta

Almost a year ago to the day, I posted about my designs for a new and improved chicken run for my girls. One that would be the envy of all the world’s fowl. In case you missed it last April, here’s the link…

Fancy New Chicken Run: Phase Alpha

Well, a year later and I was still too swamped to make the time to finish this project. If I was being a responsible adult that is. I decided that a life focused on making ends meet isn’t enough and quickly developed a “fuck it” attitude and went and got myself some lumber and cement.

Something I should say before we even get started here is that this chicken run is by NO MEANS predator proof. Using chicken wire as a barrier is useless with raccoons, skunks and foxes as they can just tear through it like Kleenex if they’re hungry enough. Hardware cloth or steel fencing is what should be used in areas where there are predators about. Also, raccoons can open any latch that man has ever created. Little cute fluffy genius trash pandas.

I live about six miles from downtown San Diego, and even though there are skunks, possum, and raccoons in my area, they do not make it into my yard often due to all the dogs in the neighborhood. It’s a gauntlet of sharp teeth and butt-lickers before they can reach my hens so I’ve taken a much more lax approach to my chicken coop design. And over the last five years, I haven’t lost a single hen to predation *knocks on wood*.

So, that being said, here’s how to make a very overly-fancified chicken run that is a mix between the Colosseum and a circus tent.

I’ve mentioned before that my initial chicken run was slapped together in a fury and with little thought towards longevity. I wasn’t exactly sure what my needs were at the time, or the needs of my hens. Was it too much room or not enough? Was I wasting precious real estate in the yard? So I decided a simple fence wouldn’t be too terrible in the short run while I observe the hens and see how it vibes with the yard as a whole.

Just to give you an idea of the set up I have, here’s a little video to illustrate the design using the finest of modern drone technologies. Note the difference between the newer front of the run and the floppy backside. Also, if you want to learn more about the coop design, go here. I’ll wait.

I’m loving this drone footage! A very very old friend of mine was visiting recently and he brought his drone with him. Spent hours zipping all over my neighborhood and took some amazing footage. I’ll be using that for posts coming up when appropriate. Cheers Mike!


Back to the chickens. After a short while, I was able to determine what worked in the run and what didn’t work. So I began to design a modified run in my head. Which was just in time as the old one was quite literally falling apart.

Continue reading “Fancy New Chicken Run: Phase Beta”

Scenes from a Winter Garden

Part One: Violet and the Ghost of the Great Pepper Tree

Violet doesn’t belong here. She wasn’t invited. And neither was her brother, Squats for that matter. These were random chickens that were squeezing their tiny fluffy butts into my garden through a gap in the fence.

Just big enough to fit little peeping babies that would peck and scratch the shit out of all my garden beds and make a hell of a mess on my manicured pathways. My precious, precious pathways.

This I could not abide for long. An action plan began forming in my head and I decided to set up some chicken traps and capture these usurpers of my calm. I set up a net at the end of my long cement makeshift patio. A tunnel of many confusing obstacles leading to a hidden circular lobster net. I then went inside and waited. Maniacally so.

After a few hours, I went out to find them in my veggie garden picking, scratching and eating all my vittles. Our eyes locked and all three of us were frozen in the timeless dance of predator v. prey. I pounced, barefoot and snarling. As planned, they leaped out of the raised bed and began sprinting down the long cement pad with me slapping bare toes behind them.

They hit the hidden net like so many drunkenly applied darts into pub dartboards. *thunk, thunk*. With wings flapping uselessly, they could do no more than submit to my gentle yet firm grasp.

After some moments of gentle cooing, I placed them in my little elevated chicken coop for newbies. And there they remained. The day was won!

Continue reading “Scenes from a Winter Garden”