Category: Altamira/Julian/CuyamacaWoods

Remember back in August, I saved a pair of fat green caterpillars to raise? Well, they happily crawled around and ate tomatoes and tomato leaves for around 3-4 weeks. Eventually they stopped eating, and their activity went to almost zero. Then they both buried themselves in the leaf litter. One was visible at the bottom of the jar; the other not visible at all.

Well, last night, I noticed the not-visible one had emerged and was hanging upside-down from the top of the jar!


Took it outside, and it immediately climbed out and hung itself on the side of the porch railing. It was sort of a mottled brown color. By morning, it was gone.


Tarantula hawks use live tarantulas to impregnate with their young. The tarantula is paralyzed from the hawk’s sting, while the hawk lays its eggs inside the tarantula’s body cavity. The young hatch and eat the poor tarantula from the inside out. There’s been a lot of them flying around lately. This one was trying to drag its host under the house.


So, I’ve been finding big fat green caterpillars destroying my tomato plants. I’m pretty sure they are either sphinx drupiferarum or manduca sexta. Instead of just smishing them, I decided to try and get a pair of them to pupate into moths. Put them into mason jars with a damp paper towel at the bottom, a layer of leaf litter, then a dry paper towel, and bits of greenery for them to eat. I cut off bits of the decimated tomato branches and leaves, plus some wild cherry leaves (which we happen to have here on the property), which they apparently love. They’re even called “Wild Cherry Sphinx.”



The others got relocated to the lilac bushes. Also cut one of the ruined tomatoes in half and put those in. This guy in the video is chomping down on one them. Today is day three, and they’ve climbed up onto their sticks. One is still eating as I type this.

Home-grown cherries from trees that grew back from the roots after the Cedar Fire. What should I make? Clafoutis?


Mini being a nutball. I missed the best parts, where he was up on the arm of the couch, but under the afghan. Getting all medieval on the poor thing. Lucky it’s a piece of crap. We were actually *this* close to buying a new one when we adopted Mini. We decided we’d better wait, at least until he’s out of the crazy kitten stage.

Crabcakes Benedict is so pretty to look at, they’re like little works of art. DELICIOUS works of art.

Garnished with home-grown lemon thyme. YUM.

Garnished with home-grown lemon thyme. YUM.

Aaron Brothers does excellent work in their framing department, at least at the one I go to (Fletcher Pkwy in La Mesa, for the SD peeps), and excellent work demands excellent prices. I’ve had a couple of largish pieces framed there before, and the cost is shocking, but the final product is so well-crafted, it’s worth the price.

So I went there, wanting to frame the $10 print I picked up in San Francisco. It already had matting, signed by the artist no less. So I went in and explained that I wanted to see what would be the least expensive option possible. I mentioned that we could even crop off a bit of the top and bottom excess matting, but that I really wanted to save the signature. The saleslady said, Oh really? and measured the matting again. She went away for a minute and came back with a pre-made frame that, if we cropped an inch off the top and bottom, would fit perfectly. $25.99, and they were having a half off Memorial Day sale. WOOT!

It looks perfect. I actually took a bit more off the top and a bit less off the bottom, just to save as much of the signature as possible. It came with a wood back, hanging hardware, and clear rubber bumpers for the bottom corners. We hung it under our wedding photo, next to the curio cabinet with all the miniature hats. When the cabinet’s light is on, both are lit beautifully.


Rich and I were both gobsmacked by how good the crabcakes benedict were, so I made them again. Perfecting my technique. They came out brilliantly, again. SO good.


Finally, we had a number of days with thick, high marine layers. Makes for lovely sunsets.



There’s a house in the center with its light on. Looks like a ship at sea.

My friend Tim makes his dog Moby’s food from scratch. During last year’s trip to San Francisco, I helped out with the process, and it was an experience. I’m not about to do all this myself, but we did start giving Cisco a raw egg maybe twice a week. Makes his coat even softer.

But Rich will take Cisco out around our property most afternoons, and he sniffs out the wildest food you could imagine. I’m usually not along on these excursions, and I really don’t want to see what he finds anyway.

No pictures (you’re welcome), but here’s a running list of the things Cisco has found to feast upon around our land:

  • Deer spines. Frequently. He chews on the cartilage.
  • A maggoty rat’s hind end. (I would have NEVER let him near that, but Rich is more liberal)

And here’s a running list of things where Cisco has dug out their holes and dragged out and eaten:

  • 3 mole pinkies. Hauled out their nest and ate them one by one. Hardly even chewed.
  • A fully-grown mouse. He held it down with his paw and ripped its head off. Then he ate the rest. At least he’s quick about it.
  • 2 baby rabbits. Each around 4-5 inches long. Ate them all. He needed some serious digestion time after that.

So, Tim, beat that!

Finally went to the nursery and got my container garden going for the year. I don’t dare start earlier than mid-May, because we’ve gotten snow as late as Mother’s Day before. From left to right, we’ve got some green beans, Lemon cherry and Juliet cherry tomatoes, Millionaire eggplant, and Habanero pepper:

Cisco supervised. He loves looking for lizards behind the pots.

Cisco supervised. He loves looking for lizards behind the pots.

Last year’s Italian flat-leaf parsley and English thyme both survived through the winter, so they got replanted to new pots:

container garden-last years survivors

The galvanized tin tub with lemon thyme, basil, and more Italian parsley. I love that stuff:

container garden-herbs

And last but not least, a mint plant:

container garden-mint

San Diego gets regular marine inversion layers in May and June, aka “May Grey” and “June Gloom.” But up here at altitude, we’re usually (but not always) above it. Makes for spectacular sunsets:


We have regular braided tug toys for Cisco, but by far, he prefers this scrap of microfleece. When he feels the need for some play, he goes to where we keep it and he pulls it out by himself. On a related note, is it possible to play tug with a dog and *not* make growly sounds?

It’s been about a year since I got the bonsai tree. I removed last year’s wiring around November, and it’s gotten a lot of new growth. I cut out the only patch of moss that took hold. Let’s hope it takes here. First I used a chopstick to gently coax the old dirt away from the roots, and trimmed the root ball. Then it got re-potted in good bonsai soil. Then a good soak in some fertilizer water. Then, new wiring and shaping. Then, trimming. Finally, re-setting the decorations and the patch of moss, plus a bit of that invasive greenery I saved. Here’s before:

The only moss that took hold was (interestingly) the patch surrounding the Japanese kodama tree spirit.

The only moss that took hold was (interestingly) the patch surrounding the Japanese kodama tree spirit.

And after:


The kodama got a new rock to sit on, and I added this really old-looking metal “monolith” I found in the woods. It’s set with JB weld onto a cool red-and-blue striped rock.


Rear view.

More flowers. Irises, cactus blooms, some wildflower…

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Mini loves to give up his belly. It’s his fave place for rubs.

curly mini

There must have been half a dozen birds all sharing the feeder at once. This was so unusual, I had to sneak up on them and take a video.

Rich has been asking me to make Hungarian Goulash for him. Said it was really easy and he used to make it all the time. Then he looked up actual recipes and realized that what he’d been making wasn’t Hungarian Goulash at all. What he did was combine some browned ground beef (good grass-fed Angus with 15% fat) with some cooked pasta, marinara sauce, garlic, and oregano in a casserole dish, topped with some Parmesan cheese, and baked it all in the oven. It was good:

"Hungarian" "Goulash"

“Hungarian” “Goulash” aka “Bachelor Food”

hungarian gulash1



The arrival of spring has brought wildflowers with it. This stuff is called Scotch Broom, and it’s highly invasive. We tear it out every chance we get. But sometimes we miss one, at least until it goes into bloom. Lovely sprays of honey/citrus-scented yellow blooms, but left alone, those blooms will turn into bean pods that will further propagate your property. So they get cut.


We also have these purple lupines growing all over the place. They look amazing, and smell exactly like artificially-flavored grape soda.


Put them both into nice art glass vases.

lupines and broom

And finally, our African Queen Irises are blooming again after three or four years of dormancy! YAY!


iris closeup




First I cut a few purple wildflowers from our yard:

purple flowers

Then I met up with some friends in Julian for some walking, then after my friend Lynn and I went for brunch at the Candied Apple Pastry Company. I’d heard they were serving proper food now, instead of just sweets. And boy did they deliver. A number of savory crepes stuffed with all sorts of goodness, and also paninni sandwiches, plus breakfasts. I got the “Califoronion” crepe, with smoked ham, brie cheese, and caramelized onions inside, and topped with sliced avocado, a perfectly poached egg, and hollandaise sauce. It was to die for.

You can see Lynn's "Le Vegetarien" crepe, filled with spinach, cherry tomatoes, portobello mushrooms, brie cheese, and topped with Bechamel sauce.

In the back you can see Lynn’s “Le Vegetarien” crepe, filled with spinach, cherry tomatoes, portobello mushrooms, brie cheese, and Bechamel sauce.

Later Rich and I enjoyed a killer sunset…

160420 sunset

While Mini practiced his stretching skillz…

mini stretching

Then we shared a treat I brought home from the bakery: a Chocolate Bomb. Again, it was to die for.

Death by chocolate.

Death by chocolate.

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