Saturday, March 28, 2015

Spring Gardening 2015 (Sansevieria trifasciata) Snake Plant/Mother-in-Law's Tongue

Over the winter months, I have neglected my indoor plants.  With less sunlight, in the winter, plants don't need to be watered quite as much.  I didn't re-pot any of the plants.  I just let them do their thing over the winter, and I hoped that they all survive the cold months.  Most all of the plants survived well.  My West African tropical snake plant did especially well.  I had trimmed it back over the summer, and broke off a piece to give to a friend to re-pot.  I knew the plant was getting too big for the pot, but I did not realize how badly the plant needed re-potted until I looked at it very carefully.  This snake plant was so in need of space, it broke the plastic pot.  Unbelievable.

I guess my snake plant needed more room.

This is my technique for making plants grow good.  In the Southwest, we have dry heat, and one thing that kills plants faster than the sun, faster than drought -- it's actually root rot from over watering.  The best way to keep the roots from dying from root rot is to correctly pot the plant.  I have some ceramic terracotta type pots, but the way I grow plants and give them away, I'm not going to make a huge investment.  This is just a typical plastic pot from Wal-Mart, and it cost just under $5 each.  It's just a real simple plastic pot.

After that, I'm going to use some plastic bags for liners.   Anything that is waterproof will work just fine.  I've seen people use the plastic tarps from Home Depot which are costly and work brilliantly.  I'm not going to make such an investment.  Some people have used trash bags.  One time I used a trash bag and didn't realize that it was scented, and the chemicals from the scented trash bag started to kill the plant so I had to re-pot and start over again.  I don't recommend trash bags. 

Some people would say I'm crazy for doing it this way because wouldn't you want more drainage?  I know a lot of gardeners create drainage by popping holes in the bottom of the pot or buying a particular pot because it has holes in the bottom.  You don't really need holes in the bottom of a pot to have a successfully growing pot, and I'm going to show you why.

Use a plastic liner. I had Nicole do this.  This is a great project for kids to do.

Now that we've got our bags situated into the pot, we are going to find some rocks or pebbles to put in the bottom.  Buying rocks at a gardening store, it can add up quick.  You don't have to pay for rocks if you can find a spot where the rocks are free.  Rocks are all around everywhere, and really shouldn't cost anything.  The rocks for the bottom of the pot aren't going to be seen so they don't have to be fancy.  They can just be regular rocks.  I'm lucky.  I live right next to a drainage ditch.  All my neighbors rocks have rolled down the hill so I'm going to take full advantage of this.  I'm just going to pick up the pebbles from across the street.  These pebbles are absolutely wonderful for gardening.

What I'm looking for are the pebbles.  I don't want skipping stones.  I just want the tiny little ones.  These little rocks are about the right size.  Some of them sank deep into the ground so I have to pry them out a bit.  This is what the first set of my rocks look like.

The difference between a skipping stone and pebbles -- well the rock in the center is clearly a skipping stone, and I don't want in my pot.  The skipping stones are too large and too heavy. I want the light little pebble rocks.  Sometimes Nicole tries to short cut it and put the bigger rocks into the pot.  I go back and throw out the big rocks, and keep having to fill the pot until there is at least a base on the bottom of the pot with pebbles.

So it's coming along good.  There are a lot of little pebbles in the pot.  I want to at least fill the bottom.  What these pebbles are going to do for the plant is they are going to catch the water and hold the moisture at the bottom.  What the roots will do is they will dig deeper to tap into the water source.  Also if there is too much water in the pot (someone over watered the plant), the roots can move away from the rock.  Giving the roots more choice of how much water helps prevent root rot, and also strengthens the root.

We are going to keep loading our plastic lined pots with pebbles.

This is about what I want.  I wanted the base of the pot to be covered with pebbles.  I am happy with this.

This is the old pot that was literally torn and destroyed by plant overgrowth. I still cannot believe this house plant was virtually strong enough to break a pot.  I've seen outdoor plants break pots, but not indoor plants.  Indoor plants destroying pots -- that's freakin' crazy.

There is an old wise tale about the mother-in-law's tongue.  How ever long your mother-in-law's tongue plant is is how long your mother in law is talking about you.  Since my plant is short and stubby, I would say the mother-in-law is talking about me not very much, but what she does say is very juicy.  I think that's just a wise tale.  People have some really far out stories about these plants.  I can make the correlation, the snake plant does look like a bunch of reaching tongues.

This pot was so damaged by overgrowth of the plant that the plastic virtually fell off the rest of the pot.  It was badly cracked and took no effort at all to pry away.  The plastic snapped off effortlessly.  As you can see this isn't the first time I've potted this snake plant.  The first time I potted this plant, I used two trash bags to double line the pot.  It worked well.  I know from experience that this is an effective gardening trick.

I'm still pulling on this darn thing.  The snake plant is so molded into the pot that it doesn't want to come out.  The plastic is chipping away.  I've barely given it a tug, and the whole plant has come out roots and all.

See how ridiculously thick these roots are.  If I wouldn't have known this was a snake plant, I would have mistaken the roots for carrots.  What I'm going to have to do about these roots is that I'm going to have to break them up a bit and separate them.  This actually took a little bit of muscle.  These roots did not want to break away. As I started to break the roots up, I realized the plant had re-rooted many more baby plants, and there were about 12 plants total that had all been living in one tiny plastic pot.  I guess that is kind of crowded.

Here I am still pulling this thing apart.  Snake plants are native to Africa, to Nigeria and to the Congo.  I can respect that these are some intensely strong plants.  They multiply quickly.  Snake plants are flexible about sunlight, and they store water within their roots and foliage well.  Sometimes I forget to water these, and they don't seem to mind.  Less is more with a snake plant.

I put some potting soil into the pot and dug a hole out to make a spot for the snake plant.  I disconnected each and every plant.  This will send the plant into shock.  Shock can kill a plant so try and be caring when re-potting.  Pull apart each strand of snake plant and carefully place them into the pot.  Secure the snake plant by adding more potting soil.  After the potting soil is to the ridges of the pot, you have enough.  It's time to water.  I use luke warm water to help promote root growth.  It's important that the water is warm, and that there is enough water to fully saturate the soil, but not to the point of muddiness.

This is it.  I have two new pots full of happy snake plants.  They are already reaching for the sky.  My mom had snake plants, and they say that on average most snake plants at most grow about 3 or 4 feet tall.  My mom made the mistake of putting miracle grow on her snake plants and they grew about 6 feet tall.  The snake plant towered most of the visitors that were men.  My mom bragged that the mother-in-law tongue plant  was how long her mother-in-law talked about her.  I'm not sure that rumor is true.  It's a great conversation piece.

In Australia snake plants are considered weeds.  They most certainly grow like weeds, at least mine did.  Snake plants are useful.  They add good air quality, and they are fun to watch grow.  People are always commenting how awesome my snake plants are.  I like mine.  I encourage everyone to try to grow these exotic snake plants.

Friday, March 27, 2015

My Favorite Dulces

I heard around town that the Mexican candy was really good at El Bolson Mexican Store.  It's a little shop that sells all that you need to make enchiladas, tamales, and taquitos.  They had sections of the store where they sold in house tortillas both corn and flour.  They had the authentic Mexican versions of red sauces.  They had a variety of cheeses both Queso Fresco (a combination of cow and goat milk cheese such as in Spain) and Queso Panela.  The cheese looked absolutely white, fresh round blocks of goodness and delicious.  I'm considering finding a recipe and cooking with some of the cheese.  It has a little shelf for galletas (cookies), but they were cleared out and long gone by the afternoon.  I have a craving for those kinds of cookies. I was a little upset.  They had all kinds of natural beans, the kind that have to be rinsed overnight and pressure cooked, and a whole shelf of authentic Mexican spices. 

It wasn't like the King's Market that has everything.  El Bolson was a small Mexican store with no produce, only things that would store easily and last for months at a time.

As I walk into the Mexican store, heads turn.  I hear them saying something in Spanish about white people.  I feel the need to talk, and so I say, "Hola, como estas?" Hello, how are you?  They say "bien" which means good, and they leave me alone so that I can do my shopping.

I'll be honest with you.  All I want is the candy.  After we have walked through the entire store, we stop at the candy isle.  All the candy looks so good, I think I've died and gone to Mexican Candy Heaven (if there is such a place).


This one is caramel and milk.  This is a circular piece of cajeta, which is just a fancy name for caramel, and then it's milk.  The outside of it is white edible substance on either side and the center is chewy caramelly goodness.

The back of the package had this corny looking "Super Lion."  Oh boy, what fun.

Duvalin is basically a fancy kind of wrapped frosting.  Frosting can be a candy; it's pretty sweet. The pink ones are pink and white frosting, and the brown ones are the chocolate and white frosting.  They are smooth in texture.  Dip your finger in and eat them, and yes, it is that good.

This is what the back side of Duvalin looks like.  It's delicious.  A funny story, the lady at the cash register tried to tell me $1 for the Duvalin, and I thought that was unusually expensive.  What she was trying to say is that you can get 4 for $1.  The man behind the register knew enough English to say 4 for a $1.  I had Nicole go back and pick up a few more.  Of course some of the Duvalin were ate on the way home.

Vero Mango took me back to my childhood.  We used to eat pico like crack cocaine, and as a child, I was really addicted to pico. Vero Mango is basically a mango lollipop that is covered with a spice tamarind based flavoring.  The tamarind is a little bit spicy and it is also rough in the mouth.  For someone that is not used to unprocessed sugars, this sweet might start off a little unsettling.  Once the layer of tamarind is gone, the center of the lollipop is satisfyingly sweet.

This is the back of Vera Mango.  It is brown from the tamarind powder.  It's shaped a little fruity.  Believe me, this will be a little spicy and rough on the outside and smooth and sweet on the inside.  These are a must have experience.  I strongly recommend them.

This Limonazo is in the form of a powder or a salt.  It's a salty sour candy.  What a person will do is push the safety top open and pour it into the palm of the hand and lick it off (that's the best way).  It's extremely tart.  I could not bring myself to like this.  I don't recommend it at all.  You must really and truly embrace sour to like Limonazo.

This one is Olla Picocha and it is enchilada flavored.  It won all kinds of awards.  It has the very popular tamarind flavor with a whole lot of sweetness. I really do like this one.  Most Mexican cooking is very bland.  I expect anything from Mexico to have a blandness.  This candy defies what is regular.  Olla Picocha is spicy and sweet.  It comes in a little jar, and it lasts a long time.  This is most definitely the Mexican candy to buy.

Olla Picocha comes in a little plastic wrapper.  Once the wrapper is removed, the jar can be opened.  That's how this product is packaged.  I'm impressed with this particular candy.

I think one of the neighbor kids stole one of the candies.  The little chocolate one somehow disappeared.  I was a little bit mad, freakin' kids... I picked up one of the Pulparindo candies and it was the Chamoy flavor.  When I think of chamoy, I think of jalapeno peppers and hot and spicy substances.  This chamoy candy didn't taste like chamoy; it tasted to me like coffee.  I realize that chamoy is Latin American/Caribbean origin so I expect that, but I did not expect coffee flavor.  It was fabulous, my favorite.  The chamoy tasted rich, and I liked it.  I will be buying more of those chamoy candies in the near future.  The last candy was watermelon and it was just nasty, enough said.  The best thing about Mexican candy is that you never know what to expect.  I encourage everyone to try this at least once.  It takes me back to my childhood.  I was then and am now still truly addicted to the Mexican candy.

Nicole's New Side Bang

I can't keep up with fads these days.  I hardly know what's "cool" anymore.  I mean all the kids are watching "Uncle Grandpa" and I'm thinking, "Uncle What? Is that even possible?"  I've never watched that show, but I hear it's very popular.  They are watching "Lab Rats" on Disney XD and it's not even about rats.  Lab Rats is about high school kids.  This Generation X stuff just doesn't make sense to me.  It makes me feel like I was born in the stone age.  The way things are changing defies my logic.

The kids are telling me that I'm too old to be saying OMG... LMAFO... TY... IDK... TTYL... Yes, I can text.  Is there an age where someone becomes too old to text?  According to them there is an age where a person is too old to text, and I am that age.  I should put the cell phone away and crawl back under a rock.   I've been classified as "uncool."

Hairstyles, what would I know about hairstyles?  All I knew is that Nicole needed to get her hair fixed.  All of the kids are getting a side bang.  Nicole has not had any bangs since she was three years old.  She usually has her hair in little girl braids or pigtails, but she is maturing and needs a new look.  Nicole kept pulling her bangs to the side and dreaming if only she could have a side bang she would be so much prettier.  So we decided to go to the salon and let the girls work their magic.  I'm going to give the full before and after.


Nicole had her hair washed and combed out.  It was very snarly.  I felt bad for Abbey, the hairstylist.  In no time at all Nicole's side bang was cut.  First Abbey parted the bang, and next, she separated some of the strands.  She cut at a 45 degree angle downward away from the face.  Then she went back and evened it up.  It didn't take but a few minutes and Nicole was a whole new little woman.

Nicole also wanted her hair styled so Abbey had to spend some more time curling Nicole's hair.  She started from the bottom, and curled the bottom in ringlets, and then she worked her way up sectioning out different levels and curling each level all the way up to the crown.


Nicole is 10 years old and going on Sweet 16.  I have every reason in the world to want to own a shotgun.  I think she turned out beautiful.  She is not just turning heads -- she is breaking necks. I'm really proud of the way that she is growing up.  She is just gorgeous.

Logandale and the Valley of Fire

Rhino rides through this area are common in Spring.  Easter break the dunes are packed with families on vacation.  We happened to go the weekend before the vacation break so that we would not have to deal with the crowds.  It's hard to think there could be a crowd in the Valley of Fire, but there is.  It's highly popular for the ATV crowds.  The geological formations of the land that formed from lava and being in a prehistoric ocean, there are so many colors and textures to the sandstone landforms.  For being in the heat and sand, the colors of the desert flora are vibrant and alive.

The photos that I took were from the top of a mountainside.  There was about a 200 foot drop at the edge of this cliff.  If you can see where the cliff ends, you can see how the landscape continues on.  All of the different colored sediments and shapes were formed by water.  One of the areas has a little wishbone of white which is a natural salt deposit. 

There are numerous ATV tracks.  This area is popular for quads, motorcycles, rhinos, and dune buggies.  Though it seems sandy and safe, it is important to wear helmets and if there are seat belts, it's important to buckle up.  So many times the sand will lock up wheels and send vehicles rolling.  Rocks can get caught into the undercarriage of a vehicle and cause major problems.  We watched some of the quads do it.  Know your vehicle.  Shift appropriately.  Don't try to hot dog it or take on any risky climbs.  Many of the vehicles that try to climb too steeply end up rolling backwards.  Some jeeps had lost their spider gear and were broken down on the trail.  Some of the ATV that were going too fast hit rocks or dips and peeled out.  Some that were going to fast also ran head first into the brush.  Some riders might think that's the fun of it, getting that adrenaline rush from hitting a ditch hard, peeling out on rocks or charging up a hill that seems like an impossible climb.  It's a great get away for thrill seekers.  That's the fun of it, but it can be dangerous too.

Here is our pit bull, Ellie.  She was a sweet dog and sat on the seat the whole time.  She didn't bark or complain.  She stayed calm and was a great passenger on the ride.

Here is Rooster.  He is an AKC Blue Healer, Australian Cattle Dog.  A dog with Rooster's show quality background and bloodlines, they go for $4,000 and up.  Rooster is only a year or two old.  He is still a puppy.  Rooster, the dog, did not handle this ride well.  He whined and stepped on everyone in the rhino.  He had sharp claws and he constantly clawed legs and arms and clawed stomachs as he stepped across the seats.  He tried to put his face in the wind, and he liked to go from one side to the other.  He could not sit still.  He wanted to jump out of the rhino, but we wouldn't let him.  Every time he saw another male dog, he wanted to jump off the rhino and fight.  Rooster had to be held back.  He drooled, and he tried to sit by the pit bull, Ellie, but she snarled at him.  He had too much energy and was very jittery on the ride.

We came across a jeep club.  The were having their own rock crawl.  There were six jeeps total, and every one of them made it up this hill.  The smaller jeeps were the ones that had more difficulty.  The small jeeps kept slipping backward on the rocks, but the larger, heavier jeeps just plowed right up the hill.  (Note to self -- Buy a BIG Jeep).  Part of getting up these steeper hills all has to do with the angle of approach and the speed.  Some might say that you're only as good as your spotter.  The spotter is the one that angles the jeep.  The men on the top that got to the top first walked back down the canyon to help get the other jeeps angled right.

The smaller jeeps struggled.  A couple had a baby that was about a year old.  They did not take their baby on this jeep crawl.  The dad got out and walked with the son, and the mom successfully drove the jeep uphill.  Really, any of these jeeps could have turned back, but none of them did.  They all made it up the canyon.  I have a whole higher level of respect for Jeeps.

All six jeeps made it to the top.  That's freakin' crazy!

One thing that happens when you ride rhinos through sand and dirt is that a person can get extremely dirty.  By the end of the ride, I was filthy.  My clothes were covered with dust.  My legs, arms and face were sunburned. There was a thick film of sweat and dirt, and if there's one thing I can't stand, it's getting dirty.  I wore water proof mascara, and it worked fine for the ride, but after the shower, it turned to lines of smear.  I had to find some emergency make up remover.  I can't imagine the people that camp in Valley of Fire for weeks on end, living in the dirt.  I would never make last for the whole week.  When you're riding around on an ATV, a daily shower is a must.

Here are some more pictures of the dogs.  Rooster is such a pretty puppy.  He has the prettiest blue gray fur, and Ellie always has a smile on her face.  She is a great dog.

Rooster is sure glad to be back from riding over the dunes.  Rooster didn't handle the ride very well.  When he's not nervous, he is a really sweet puppy dog.  This was the best ending to the day.  Rooster comes right up and rests his head on my legs, puppy love. Awe.