Tag Archives: tip and tricks

Beetle devours San Diego County oaks — rest of state may be next

5 Sep


A hungry pest called the goldspotted oak borer is devouring enormous numbers of oak trees in San Diego County, and its devastation could spread to trees throughout California, according to researchers at UC Riverside.
More than 80,000 oak trees in the county have been killed in the past decade. Unless the march of the half-inch-long beetle is stopped, it could threaten 10 million acres of red oak woodlands in the state, researchers said.
“This may be the biggest oak mortality event since the Pleistocene (12,000 years ago),” UC Riverside natural resource specialist Tom Scott said in a report issued this week.
The goldspotted oak borer is native to Arizona but may have immigrated to California in a load of infested firewood, Scott said. Dead trees have been found from the backcountry communities of Descanso and Guatay to the seaside neighborhood of La Jolla.
So many trees have died in the Burnt Rancheria campground in the Cleveland National Forest that the U.S. Forest Service has erected shade structures for campers in lieu of what was once a canopy of coast live oaks.
The live oaks, black oaks and canyon live oaks seem defenseless against the goldspotted oak borer, and the beetle has no natural enemies to keep it in check.
The females lay eggs in the trees and the larvae burrow into the interior. Adults bore through the bark. The trees turn brown and die.
The UC Riverside researchers, the UC Cooperative Extension, UC Agricultural and Natural Resources, the Forest Service and other agencies are working with woodcutters, arborists and consumers to discourage the transportation of infected wood from San Diego County to other locations.
Firewood production is one of the least regulated industries in California, said the researchers, who have received $635,000 of a $1.5-million federal grant to study the sudden oak death.
— Tony Perry in San Diego
Photo: A goldspotted oak borer. Credit: UC Riverside

Beetle devours San Diego County oaks — rest of state may be next

Garden Update: Tomatoes and Basil Galore – The Bitten Word Blog

28 Aug

An Update on Our Backyard Garden (Repost)


We came in from the garden this morning with a handful of tomatoes. That, friends, is something to celebrate.

You see, the cycle of boom and bust continues in our garden. In the month since our last update, we’ve had substantial growth and a few losses, too.

Let’s start with the positive.

The good news is that we have tomato and basil plants galore. The basil is especially doing well — the plants are huge and no matter how much we pick, there always seems to be more. We have Thai, Genovese, Fine Herb and Purple varieties, and they’re all doing well. So now our challenge is to use it. We’ve been tossing it into all sorts of dishes, making vinaigrettes and pestos (or at least pesto-like sauces). Before long, we’ll likely harvest a bunch and freeze it for use this winter.

Purple(ish) basil

We have one sungold tomato plant that is doing amazingly well. It’s massive: If it was standing straight up, it would likely be at least seven feet tall. And it’s producing — we’ve already harvested at least a dozen tomatoes from the plant.


Three other tomato plants are doing well, all with green fruit that is beginning to ripen. But all these plants — including our sungold star — have leaves that have been yellowing and branches that have turned brittle. We’ve been removing these as it has happened. Perhaps the two remaining tomato plants are a sign of things to come – they’ve all but withered down to nothing and have very few leaves (though they, too, have some very small, green fruit). Hang in there, tomatoes!

We have four red okra plants, which have been interesting to watch. We started two of these plants indoors, and sowed the seeds for the other two directly in the ground more than a month later. Though the plants started indoors have a huge advantage over the direct-sow plants in terms of time, the direct-sow plants are at least a foot taller than those earlier plants. The plants that we started indoors, though, have been the first to produce. We’ve now harvested two okra and more are forming.

Grow, okra, grow!

Watching okra grow is especially exciting. (Yeah, we just said that sentence.) They’re massively quick! Each of the two okra we’ve already harvested were growing about an inch a day. We’re not sure what to expect from this point forward. But we’re hoping the plants produce, because we would love to make Pan Roasted Corn and Okra using this red okra variety. It would be stunning.

A struggling bean plant

Last month we shared that we had replanted beans after losing our first crop to disease, pests or some combination of both. We did and they eagerly sprang out of the ground. Aaaaaaand now they’re already dead, lasting even less time than the first crop.

The spray that we purchased seemed to have no effect whatsoever on the problems (unless its effect was to kill the beans). So we’re officially waving the white flag when it comes to beans. The Bitten Word Boys, it seems, are not destined to be bean farmers.

Let’s also have a moment of silence for our beets. The plants started off strong. We had beautiful beet greens in May, but then in June, it seemed that their growth just stopped. They remained healthy looking, but didn’t increase in size.

This weekend, Clay pulled a few of them to see how they were doing beneath the soil. The answer: pathetically. The beets were tiny — not even the size of a marble. We decided to just pull the rest of the plants and use the space for other veggies. We’ll spare you a photo of these sad beets.

Jalapeños, turning colors.

Peppers are a bright spot. We have two pepper plants that are thriving. One has three large jalapeños growing on it. They’re purple jalapeños, and they’re now in the process of turning darker.

Tomatoes on the left, okra in the back, and the rest is basil and peppers.

We haven’t talked about this much, but we do have a few things that are growing outside of the garden. Ever since we moved into our current apartment nearly six years ago, we had little window box gardens. There are three boxes, one with thyme and sage, and a second box with thyme, oregano and rosemary. All of these are plants from previous years that have returned and thrived.

IMG_4944 IMG_4946
Window boxes filled with herbs.

Because our basil is out in the garden and no longer in these boxes, we decided to fully turn over one of these boxes to mint. Mint is truly a weed that nearly refuses to die. Earlier this summer, we thought this plant in particular had died after it was left outside and not watered. Its leaves were crunchy and its life seemed over. But then we replanted it, watered it and now it’s huge.

IMG_4938Thriving mint.

So what’s next?

copied from: http://www.thebittenword.com/thebittenword/2011/07/garden-update-tomatoes-and-basil-galore.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheBittenWord+%28The+Bitten+Word%29

Well, we’ve gone ahead and planted a second crop of basil for this fall. We’re assuming that most of our plants won’t be around past August, but that there will still be plenty of time for basil to thrive. So we replanted seeds in the indoor greenhouse and already have little seedlings already popping out of the soil.

Once we get most of August behind us, we plan to return to some crops from this spring, like snow peas, that respond better to cooler weather.

Though our garden continues to have its struggles, we’re pretty pleased at this point with how it’s going. The success of the tomato plants is greater than we had expected, and the experience of growing items like okra has been a thrill in our little backyard.

So how about you? How’s your garden faring in this warm summer days?

Gardening since 1910, San Diego’s Oldest Retail Garden Center: Staghorn Fern

7 Aug

Gardening since 1910, San Diego’s Oldest Retail Garden Center: Staghorn Fern: “Staghorn ferns were at one time considered a very difficult plant to grow yet with just a little care you too can enjoy their beauty. Sta…”

10 Car-Friendly Foods to Pack on a Road Trip – via yumsugar

20 Jul
Click on photo for Slideshow

If hopping on a plane to an exotic destination isn’t in the cards for you this Summer, fret not. Road trips (especially to America’s top food cities and other culinary destinations, like food festivals) can be just as fun. Even if you can’t afford to take a massive vacation, you can still enjoy peak travel season by getting in a car and driving somewhere fun. But as the old adage goes, sometimes the journey is the destination, so if you’ve ultimately got your sights set on good eats, then don’t overlook the ever-important car snacks. Here are 10 road trip foods that are just as appetizing as they are portable and transport resistant.

Originally Posted July 15, 2011 8:59 am by Susannah Chen
Click here for article: “Car Snacks to Pack on a Road Trip”

>Time to buy a home? Now, says Barbara Corcoran

27 Jun


“What you have here are the good old days that we were all talking about for 20 years,” says real estate magnate Barbara Corcoran. “You have cheap money, 4.5 percent for a fixed-rate mortgage, and you have prices that are 40% cheaper than they were before.” Corcoran told MoneyWatch that the residential real estate market looks very attractive right now, but potential buyers are too pessimistic to take advantage.
A combination of pessimistic housing figures, the expiration of the home-buyer tax credit, and difficultly of securing credit have weighed on the market and consumer confidence, says CBS economic correspondent Rebecca Jarvis. According to the National Association of Realtors, there is a glut of housing: 3.72 millions houses are on the market, and that doesn’t include the “shadow inventory” of foreclosed homes that haven’t hit the market.
Corcoran, who parlayed s $1,000 loan into a $5 billion real estate business, says that we tend to focus on the bad news, while ignoring signs of recovery. “What happens in neighborhoods is that negative news grabs a headline, but nobody is talking about the 20 percent of the market that, despite all odds, is turning around and appreciated in price.”
To find a neighborhood on the verge of recovery, Corcoran says, pay attention to the little offbeat things that will give you an edge over the other buyers.
  • Less bad news: “You can take a drive and see if there are fewer than three foreclosure signs within a 10 block radius. The minute those foreclosure signs become less, you should be buying.”
  • Shiny subcompacts “Look for brand-new cheap cars. Because if you see them on the street, young people are moving in.”
  • Overachievers: “If SAT scores are going up in any local area, you can bet your bottom dollar that prices are starting to go up as well.”
As for advice to potential buyers, Corcoran advises against trying to nail the precise bottom of the market. 
“Everybody thinks that they’re going to time the market, they’re going to sharpshoot the market, and buy right at the bottom. The truth of the matter is that nobody is good at it. I’ve been in real estate for my whole life, I’ve been trying to sharpshoot the market with my investments, I’m never right. All you need to do is get near the bottom. That’s good enough. What we are in now is near the bottom.”
“A funny thing happens in real estate,” she adds with a grin, “when it comes back, it comes back up like gangbusters.”

Inside the UES home of Barbara Corcoran
The Corcoran Group founder shows her favorite spot to be “bossy as could be,” demonstrates planting in her stairwell and talks about a lack of sex in the bedroom  

Barbara Corcoran, founder of the Corcoran Group and an investor in the second season of ABC’s “Shark Tank,” gives The Real Deal a tour of her three-bedroom apartment on 94th Street and Park Avenue, that she bought for $3.5 million in 2000, in the first in a two-part series. Corcoran, a real estate investor and author of recently released “Shark Tales,” lives with her husband William Higgins and two children, 17-year-old Tommy and Kate, who the couple adopted five years ago. She shows us her favorite spot in the 3,500-square-foot apartment, talks about a lack of sex in the bedroom and demonstrates how her son wedges himself into his airplane-size bathroom to shave.

Inside the UES home of Barbara Corcoran | The Real Deal | New York Real Estate News

Queen of NY real estate lived in 4th floor walkup

NEW YORK (AP) — The queen of New York real estate once lived in a rent-controlled studio. Illegally.

Barbara Corcoran says the living arrangement was instrumental in helping free up cash for The Corcoran Group, which was still a struggling real estate firm at the time. The brokerage went on to become an industry powerhouse before she sold it in 2001 for $66 million.

Corcoran, 62, is now a contributor for NBC’s “Today” show, where she comments on real estate trends. She’s also an investor on ABC’s reality show, “Shark Tank.” She lives in a three-bedroom apartment on Park Avenue with her husband, their 17-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Corcoran shared her experiences as a renter and first-time homebuyer. She also shared some advice for today’s uncertain market. One tip for sellers? Your neighbors are your enemies.
Q: What was your most memorable renting experience in New York City?

A: I was renting a one-bedroom for $1,800 a month with my husband in the 1980s. It was after the stock market crash and my business was going through a tough period.

We moved out of our house and in to an illegal, rent-controlled studio that belonged to my husband’s cousin. It was a fourth-floor walk-up, $343 a month. I remember the exact rent.

It was painted all lavender. There was a large free-standing tub, and every night, a huge water bug would crawl out of the drain. I knew what I was doing was illegal. But we lived there for over two years, and it helped with cash flow until the business got back on its feet.

Q: How about the first time you bought a place. What was the most important lesson you learned?

A: I tried to buy in 1977 when prices were just beginning to go through the roof. I fell in love with this top story, one-bedroom apartment in Greenwich Village. The price was $35,000, and I had saved $4,000.

But I got scared and intentionally failed the co-op interview. I chickened out. I was just too frightened to make a commitment. They said they didn’t want me in the building and refused to return my ($3,500) deposit.

After that, the prices ran away from me. It took another eight long years to save enough money to buy my first New York City apartment.

That taught me an important lesson. The first home is the most important — it gets you into the game.

Q: So what advice would you give to first-time buyers given the state of the housing market?

A: Buy now. There’s so much negative publicity, and uncertainty is the worst thing for the industry. But you can’t sharp shoot the market and pinpoint when it might peak. If you do that, life will always get in the way.

You always have these cycles. And when it’s down it can stay down for a while. But when it decides to turn the corner, it always comes back like gangbusters. And then you’ll be waiting in line with all the other buyers.
Buyers have two great advantages right now — low, low prices and cheap money.

Q: What other essential tips should buyers keep in mind when shopping for a home?

A: Buy with your heart, not your head. You can look at all the aspects that make a purchase practical, but that kind of thinking makes it an investment rather than a home.

I’ve never seen anyone who bought leading with their heart ultimately regret it. If you love it, the next buyer is going to love it too.

Also make sure you go visit the neighborhood at night and on weekends. Most people return the same time of day, the same time of the week. Go on a Sunday and hang out at the local shops. See who your neighbors are. You’ll know right away if it’s a place you can see yourself and your kids living.

Q: Then there’s the negotiation over the price. What are some mistakes first-time buyers make?

A: Don’t pay attention to asking prices at all. What people ask for has nothing to do with the value of a property. You might see a listing for $300,000 and think you should make a $250,000 bid. But hyper-focus on what the house is worth. You should know what the house is worth by looking at comparable properties. Base your bid on that.

If a house is priced appropriately, make a bid 10 percent below that amount.

Q: On the other side of the equation, what should sellers be doing differently in today’s market?

A: They have to have a different attitude. They have to remember that their neighbor is their enemy— they’re the competition. When considering where to price it, it’s not the kind of market where you price high and see what bids come in. Because the question everyone asks besides the price is: “How long has it been on the market?”

You want to have a good answer to that.

Q: Beyond setting a reasonable price, what advice would you give sellers?

A: Think of it as a beauty competition. You may not like the idea of putting money into a home when you’re moving out. But it’s demanded by the market. You need to show it off.

You don’t have to rip out the kitchen and bathroom. But maybe replace the tiles or the countertops. Get professional advice. Maybe hire a professional home stager. It depends on the kind of budget you have. But there are many talented brokers out there who can give you advice too.

Q: Agents seem to have such glamorous head shots. Why is that?

A: Most people shop for a broker online. So the bio and photo are what hook people in. And buyers put a lot more stock in the photo than you think. It turns out people do judge a book by its cover.
In other professions, including a head shot is considered unprofessional. But for brokers, it’s such the norm now that if you got a business card without a face, you’d probably think there’s something wrong with the person.

That’s why at Corcoran, there’s never a shot taken without professional makeup and lighting.

Q: What else should someone do to vet prospective brokers?

A: Ask them what they’ve sold. The properties should be in your sweet spot in terms of your price point. Don’t work with a broker who sells fancy homes if that’s not what you’re looking for.

Also ask to speak with one of the broker’s past clients. Because once a deal is done, that’s when the truth comes out. So it’s a bad sign if the broker starts stuttering when you ask to speak with a past client. You might worry that making such a request will breed mistrust. But it will give you great peace of mind.

Q: What are other qualities are essential?

A: High energy is the number one trait. You want someone with wild enthusiasm for the business.
You also need someone with manners. Remember that brokers need the cooperation of other brokers. And brokers like to deal with other brokers who have good manners.

The ability to play the bad guy is important too, because ultimately you want the broker who gets the best deal for you. And that’s the broker who could be as mean as you. Or if you’re a sweetie-pie or pushover, then you really need your opposite.

And trust your gut. You end up spending much more time with your broker then you’d think, so you should like them. That’s going to take away a lot of the pain and anxiety from the process.