Roughing It – Week 3

November 11, 2019 – Monday

Today, was another foggy, cold, but beautiful day.  Yesterday (Sunday), our logger friend dug the trench for our power and water pipes, but since my travel trailer is on one side of the trench, and my car and truck are on the other side of the trench, he placed two logs next to each other to form a temporary bridge for me to cross on foot.  Let me tell you, walking across the logs, which I’ve named “The Bridge to Heaven”, at 5 AM in complete dark and a thick fog, was interesting to say the least.  But no worries, I am a rough and tough mountain man by now, right?

After crossing The Bridge to Heaven and walking down our long driveway with a backpack on my back, a flashlight in one hand, and my 9 mm in the other hand, I made it to where I had parked the truck and car.  Put my backpack in the car, and pulled the truck out of the driveway so our friend can finish the trench today (Monday).  Got in the car and headed to work without any issues.

Skip through the day and return home after work.  Right away I was greeted by the view of a completed trench, ready for me to lay the pipes and get things rolling as soon as possible.

But then the reality hit.  Let me explain.  The trench starts about 600 feet up, on the north side of our driveway, but since the power pole is at the street on the south side of the driveway, it has to cross the driveway in a way that will minimize the angle of bend for the pipes.  This means about 100 feet of trench going across the driveway at an angle.  The problem is, our logger friend didn’t make a second bridge for me. That meant I had to go up a hillside filled with blackberry bushes, and very uneven trail, in almost complete dark, in the clothes that I wear to work, and only with a flashlight to guide me.  Now you see why I was a bit… dismayed?

2019.11 Trench

It took me about 15 minutes, but I finally managed to get up the hill to the travel trailer.  After checking for any bugs and stickers and changing my clothes, I started the generators and looked around to see if I had any lumber that could be used for a bridge at the bottom of the driveway.  I did not want to repeat climbing the hill side again tomorrow.  I found a piece of 2×6 that looked long enough to go across our 4’ wide trench, so I grabbed it and headed down the hill like I was a rough and tough guy and owned the world.

Well, life has a way of putting you in your place.  As soon as I laid the 2×6 across the trench, I realized it was a bit short.  It bounced once and slipped into the ditch. I thought about retrieving it, but then I realized, there is no way for me to get out of the trench once I’m in it.  Back up to the top of the driveway I went to find a larger piece of lumber.  But this time I was smart about it.  Instead of pretending to be a tough guy, I started the tractor, put two longer pieces of lumber on the bucket loader and drive down to the planned bridge site.  I laid the lumber across, and did a test walk.  Success!

Fortunately, before I got back on the tractor, I remembered I was low on fresh water, so I turned on the water down at the road to let the fresh water tank fill up on top.  I drove the tractor up the road and parked it out of the way above the travel trailer’s pad.

After about 10 minutes, the tank was full and it was time to go down the hill, shut off the water, and empty the hose connecting the water meter to the fresh water tank.

Let me tell you, walking down the driveway with just a flashlight, in complete darkness, in our area is a bit unnerving.  Especially that a couple of days earlier we had a confirmed mountain lion paw print up our driveway and the ever present pray population for the mountain lions.

I wasn’t even halfway down the driveway when suddenly something jumped over the trench into the driveway and with one more jump was across the driveway and into the bushes.  Our driveway is at least 14’ wide, the trench is more than 4’ wide, and the pile of dirt running the length of the trench is at least 6’ wide.  To put it in perspective, this thing, with two jumps, cleared almost 24 feet.  Now you can understand why my heart stopped.  I quickly raised my gun and pointed it towards the bushes only two see a deer looking back at me through the bushes, trying to stay still so I don’t see her.  I lowered my gun, but kept the flashlight on her, enjoying the view.  I was about 20 feet from her and she just stood there looking back.  After a few seconds, she slowly walked away and I lost sight of her.

2019.10.11 Deer
(different deer, different day)

Turned off the water at the bottom of the road, and turned on the drain valve for the water to flow back out, then made my way back up the road, crossing the trench over my newly constructed heavy duty bridge (or so I keep telling myself).  By now, I was cold, tired, and in need of some food and a warm shower.  But the shower had to wait until my batteries were charged so the water heater could work long enough to get me the warm water I needed for the shower.

I guess all things considered, it was another beautiful day in paradise.  We’ll see what tomorrow has in store for us.  Until then….

November 13, 2019 – Wednesday

After working a full day, I returned home to a strange sight.  Right by the trench, next to where I had laid two pieces of 2×4 as my bridge across the trench, I could see there was a post stuck into the ground with a box stock to the top of the pole.  The writing on the post read “Be safe, A and L” (neighbors).  Then I realized there were two pieces of 2”x8”x10’ lumber put very neatly across the trench as a bridge for me.

I didn’t know what to say or think.  I lived in southern California for over 35 years.  In most places I lived, I barely knew any of my neighbors or even talked to them much.  But here I am, a completely new resident, and after a week the neighbors whom I had met only once, a couple who had no reason to care for my well-being, had taken the time to bring lumber from their home about ¼ mile away to make me a bridge across the trench so I can cross safely and make my way up the road.

I know most people in urban areas (including me) would think “what the heck were they doing in your driveway?”

Well, A and L had told us that ever since they knew we were preparing to move in they have been walking the property once or twice a week to get some exercise and to make sure everything is ok.  In the past, there have been occasions when trespassers had entered our property to hunt or to take some of the extra logs laying around. Our property was logged before we purchased it, so there are plenty of logs left behind to be used as firewood.  So I guess that’s how they came across my questionable little bridge made of a 2×6 and a 2×4 across the trench.

To say I was moved is an understatement.  This is one more reason we love being here. We are surrounded by beautiful nature and wonderful people who care for one another. I had heard of people in rural areas coming together to help each other in times of need, even when they were not asked, but I had never experienced it first-hand.  Let me tell you, it feels great.  I don’t know when or how, but I will definitely make sure I return the favor, or pay it forward when I get a chance.  Once again, life is wonderful in the country.

November 14, 2019 – Thursday

After talking to our PGE project manager and reviewing the drawings, I went online to check the price of the parts I needed to lay in the trench that will supply power to our house.  Our drawing specifies 36” sweeps at two different diameters.  The 2” pipe size for incoming power line from the pole to the transformer, and the larger 3” pipe from transformer to the meter and anything after the meter.

Found out the price for one 2” sweep, at 36” radius of sweep, is minimum $240.  For the 3” sweep of the same diameter, it is $420 each.  Needing 4 of the 2” and 5 of the 3” sweeps will cost me, just for the sweeps, $3060.  Add the pipes for another $1800 will cost me almost $4900 just to lay the power pipes.  In addition, I will need caps, meter base, circuit breaker box, and the pull rope in pipes, for another $700.  Add to that $4000 we paid for the 600’ trench, and almost $7000 we paid for the design, installation, and inspection of the power line in the pipes, and we reach a grand total of $16,560 for just the power to be installed, not including the labor of laying the pipes that will be supplied by me.

So, needless to say I sent an email to the PGE project manager to see if we can at least get some relief on the size of the pipes and the types of sweeps to be used. That could save me a couple of thousands.  I will keep you posted.

Autumn Vegetable Gardening in So Cal


Are you ready for fall season vegetable gardening yet?

Summer is almost over and in Southern California it’s time to think about your favorite cool weather crops.

For many gardeners, autumn means cutting back on the amount of gardening you do and getting your garden ready for cold weather, but for us, that is not the case. Instead, we get ready for another growing season filled with delicious vegetables and fruits.
Read more

Fall is Finally Here in Southern California


I know it doesn’t feel like it yet, but before you know it the air will cool and the time spent in the garden won’t be as exhausting as it has been over the last few months. The sun won’t be beating down on you with its full power and the smell of heated roof tops, and scorching pavements will be replaced with the aroma of dew on the grass and the freshly harvested fields nearby.
Read more

How to Approach Plant Problems


We all want perfectly happy and healthy plants, but there are times when we take a stroll in our garden and realize some are not doing as well as expected.

In such situations, some gardeners rush to correct the problem, spraying their plants with pesticides, fungicides, or other liquids, be it from a chemical company or made of natural ingredients, to make sure their plants look as good as the ones in the gardening books. If you are one of those gardeners, I have one word of advice for you. STOP.
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Autumn Garden Chores

It’s September and time to start thinking about autumn in Southern California.  The weather doesn’t really agree with that theory, but it’s inevitable – autumn is just around the corner.  Here’s a quick reminder of a few chores to take care of around the garden.

Charles M. Schulz /
snoopy in autumn


It’s just about time to pull out old veggie plants and spent annuals. I’m sad to see them go, but a clear veggie patch really does look nicer than a bunch of mostly dead plants that probably won’t produce any quality vegetables.  Trim branches that are too close to power lines or the house.  Keep in mind that some bushes (like ficus) will grow more if you prune them at the wrong time.  Many flowers are still blooming, so you can hold off trimming back roses and other bushes.

Soak trees, bushes, and perennials to encourage deep roots.  If you’re able to tell when the wind is about to pick up, soak them before. They’ll probably need it after, too.  It seemed like it was windy more often than not last year.

If you’re close to the grassy hills, make sure you clear dead bushes, branches and trees that are within 30′ of your home.  Cut annual grass to no higher than 4″.  To learn more about fire prevention, visit


Batten down the hatches, the winds are coming!  With any luck, we’ll have a good deal of rain in a few months, so you may as well get ready for that, too. One weather report claims we can expect an “ark storm” – meaning a bad winter that only comes around every 150 years. Another weather report claims that we’ll have a bad El Nino winter, but they don’t know if any of it will hit the US.  Either way, put away anything light that could be blown away to Oz.  Also put away anything you don’t want soaked, in case it does rain. If we have another mild and dry winter, you can enjoy a nice clean yard because you were prepared for the worst. Remember to take down your wind chimes, too. (I always forget till they wake me up at 2am)


Although we should keep our tools clean and well maintained throughout the year, but how many of us actually do it?  Since there isn’t a lot of gardening to tend to, now is a good time to clean and sharpen tools, and clean up lawn equipment and such.  Be sure to store everything out of the rain.


If you haven’t already started, plant your next crop of seeds. There’s still time to grow and harvest another crop of cucumbers, chard, basil, etc.  Lettuce is a wonderful winter crop for us, so plant away!

It reached 102° at CSUN yesterday and today wasn’t much cooler.  Around about the time you start thinking it’s time to turn on the heater in the house, it’s also time to wrap your greenhouse.  There’s no need to remove the shade cloth unless it’s ready to be replaced anyway.  Be sure to add 1”x2” boards at strategic points over the plastic to keep the wind from ripping it off in the middle of the night. (can you tell we tend to forget potentially noisy items till it’s the middle of the night?)


If you have any pets that spend the majority of their time outside, look around their area with fresh eyes – do they need new blankets in their house, a new food or water dish? Is their house out of the wind? Will they stay dry if it rains?  What if it rains heavy?  If you have free-range chickens, do they have a place to go to get out of the wind, rain, and mud?  Will water get into their house or their feed?

We used to wrap the aviary and rabbit cages in plastic when the temperature dropped (leaving a window for air flow). It wasn’t pretty to look at, but the finches and bunnies were much happier and that made us happy.

Local hummingbirds do not migrate, and neither do many of our wild birds.  If you feed in the summer, please remember to feed in the winter.  Keep birdbaths full and clean, and move feeders to an area that won’t be affected by wind or rain. It’s nice to keep planter dishes on the ground for lizards and other small critters that might wander into your yard.


It’s surprising how little water mosquitoes need in order to develop, and they do not need warm weather to thrive.  Last January, I found mosquito larvae in a cup that had blown into the yard and then collected a bit of water from the sprinklers.  Keep a constant look out for anything that can hold water. (This should be a year-round activity.)  Rinse out birdbaths and water bowls every few days, too.

Hope you have a wonderful, relaxing autumn!

Happy Gardening!


An Hour to Garden


Growing From Seed

Seed Tray Collage

I currently have 3 greenhouses in my backyard: the long house, the square house and the hoop house.  Now that the long house is built and planted, it’s time for the square house to be taken down.  Unfortunately (for my flower garden), Fred has discovered a super easy way to grown from seed.  We’ve collected a few of those black basket-like flats you can get from nurseries and Big-Box stores to carry your new 6-pack annuals home in.  Fred lined these with weed barrier, filled them with coconut fiber, scattered the seed, and put the flats in the hydroponics beds. The system is set to water twice a day and the greenhouse keeps the temperature fairly stable. Five days later and the seeds have sprouted and couldn’t be happier.

It’s important to point out that the coco fiber could gunk up a hydroponix/aquaponix system, which is why Fred used the weed barrier.

Share your method for growing from seed – even if it didn’t work out, it could plant an idea that others can try.

Happy gardening!


An Hour to Garden