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My Mobile Home Gourmet Blog

Sunday 2021.6.13

No Regrets

A neighbor stopped by while I was working in the front of my yard on Friday morning. She said I probably regret doing all the stone work in my yard.

Are you kidding? For six years I've had no lawn to mow. There have been very few weeds to pull. Yes, the Dymondia needs trimming once or twice a year, but otherwise my space is low maintenance. And it has required very little water during this time of California drought. What I regret, sort of, is the gophers moving in.

Her yard is full of weeds. There is no grass, just weeds. I'm thankful I don't have her mess to clean up every time the park does a yard inspection.

A part of me actually appreciates the gophers now. Yes, they caused a lot of damage and therefore a lot of work, but they also inspired me to do something different with my yard — cement. Little by little all the spaces between the sandstone are being cleared of Dymondia and filled with mortar, and, occasionally, some pebbles are pressed into the grout to add a little decoration.

I've been outside every day, seven days a week, working on my yard since March 15th. But I'm going from low maintenance to no maintenance. By August I hope to have nothing to do but water and fertilize my potted citrus trees and herbs.

And there is something else I appreciate. I wrote about it before. During most of the past year of pandemic I got very little exercise. When I started working outside I wasn't able to do much. I tired to quickly. One bucket of pulled Dymondia or one 7-pound batch of mortar was enough to send me back inside to rest. Now I pull ground cover three buckets at a time and on a cement day I can easily do an entire 60-pound bag of mortar.

I know I'm not out of the woods yet. My concern will be the first rains of winter. Will the water wash tiny grass seeds into cracks between the stone and mortar? The wind blows them from my neighbors' yards. Will little green sprouts appear? I'm already prepared. I have a squirt bottle of herbicide ready to spray them.

Easement

I've written about it in the past. When I first moved into my home more than 25 years ago I had control of the easement. It's a strip of land between my space and that of my neighbor behind me. The easement is where all the utility lines are underground. I once had poppies in there, then I planted basil toward the back and other herbs toward the front. When the evil neighbors moved in about 20 years ago, they trampled down my herbs when they worked on their lawn and eventually tried to take the space from me. They even tried taking about three feet of my yard. The war was intense, but we reached a compromise, albeit one I did not like. Those neighbors moved away almost two years ago.

The new neighbors are really nice; so I took back the easement without saying anything. You've heard it said: "It's better to ask for forgiveness than for permission." If you ask, what if they say No? Do it and apologize later. You'll end up with something you want. On Friday I started working in the shade behind the shed, laying down stone. When all the easement is covered in stone, it will be fully mine again.

It's That Time of Year

It's going to be a doozy. The weather forecasts have not been encouraging for working outside. Heat is on its way. Tuesday is projected to be 97°F. They're never right. Yesterday the high was supposed to be 76°F. Before the day was done I saw 89° on my outdoor thermometer. I fully expect Tuesday to peak above 100° before this heat wave passes. Tomorrow evening a Fire Weather Watch begins. There is a wind advisory for tonight. The combination of wind, heat and drought gets the arsonists excited. It's time to prepare.

I put the exhaust insert in the window for the office air conditioner. The AC is hooked up, plugged in and ready to go. The possibility of a power outage is low; nonetheless, I brought in my storm lanterns from the shed and put fresh batteries in one of them. I also lit one of my oil lamps to burn off any wax that might have built up in the wick since the last time I used it.

As for the yard, I do what I can in the shade in the morning. Yesterday I started at 7:30 and worked two hours cleaning up an area for mortar. This morning I grouted part of the area with 60 pounds of mortar mix. A little each day.

Another Squirrel?

Friday I came home on my bike from shopping and there was a small squirrel in my yard. It dashed to the corner of my home and disappeared. There are no openings along the ground, but there was an opening in the corner molding that is part of the vinyl siding on my home. I assumed it ran in there. So I closed it off with bricks.

Evidently, it could get from there to under my home. Later, I heard a little chewing noise and carefully went to look. I could see a little of the squirrel biting at the vinyl siding around my utility hookups, trying to get out. So it was trapped, but for how long?

This morning I went to Home Depot and bought a humane squirrel trap. It doesn't kill the animal; it locks them in a cage where they can't get out. I baited it with peanut butter and set it under my home (there are a few access ports). Time will tell.

After I trap and dispose of the squirrel I'll fill that opening in the molding with some liquid rigid foam I bought. Then I'll reset the trap to see if there might be more.

Wednesday 2021.6.9

I Think I Chose Well

I've been reading more about tomatoes. The Early Girl variety I selected gets its early name because it produces fruit early. More important, it grows to a height of around nine feet (2.7 meters). That should give me enough plant to wrap around the tomato cage two to three times. I added another little bit of bending this week, slowly persuading it around the cage. The goal, obviously enough, is for all the fruit to be within easy reach for harvesting.

I also nipped off the end of one of the branches that developed early. If I understand my plant correctly, that will stunt the growth of that branch, allowing the plant to concentrate more on its main vine and its fruit.

Brussels Sprouts

In a recent blog I wrote about wanting to do a video about cooking ribs in my Instant Pot before finishing them in my air fryer. One issue is a side dish. Corn on the cob would look good on a plate. However, I saw an episode of America's Test Kitchen in which they pan cooked Brussels sprouts.

I know no one is indifferent to the them. You either love them or hate them. ATK mentioned a survey in which Brussels sprouts were determined to be America's most hated vegetable. I love them.

And so, equipped with a new idea for cooking Brussels sprouts, I think I'm prepared to do another cooking video. I don't know when. I'm busy working outside everyday. But, eventually.

Is My Life Boring?

Lately I feel like my only focus in life is finishing my landscaping project. A friend calls and asks how I'm doing. I answer with, "I did 90 pounds of mortar mix today."

I wouldn't say I'm consumed with it or obsessed, but I do really want to get it done. My birthday is at the end of July and I told a couple friends I want to complete the task while I'm still in my sixties.

And if that doesn't interest them, there is always the tomato plant, which has nine tomatoes on it and plenty of flowers.

Life is Not All Boring

Lego Masters is airing again. One of my friends collects Lego sets. I should ask him how many sets he has, or how much he has invested. He has bins and boxes of them. We will be having "lunch" together tomorrow, on the Internet. He and his wife live in Kentucky. The show will give us plenty to talk about. We also both watch the Taskmaster TV shows and talk about those too.

Sunday 2021.6.6

Weather Anyone?

I've been trying to think of something to write about. I supposed there is always the weather. Where I live, some people don't like the cloudiness of this time of year. We might go several days before seeing the sun. As I've mentioned before, we call it June Gloom. It causes some people to feel depressed.

The weather forecast is for "Patchy Fog" every day and night for most of the week.

We might see some sun later in the week, but for now this is excellent weather for working outdoors. I don't need to find a patch of shade in which to work. And it's cool — so cool in fact that I usually wear two shirts in the morning.

One Less Squirrel

It was odd. I was walking past my shed and I noticed a squirrel almost motionless on the ground next to my neighbor's home. I froze, thinking I might scare it away. I wanted to see if it would dash through a hole under the home. But it barely moved. It was obviously nearly dead. The neighbor said he had put some squirrel bait out.

I couldn't just leave it there. What if it crawled under his home and died there? How would that smell? And what if the local hawk found it? Would it feed its chicks fresh squirrel meat and kill them?

I went into my shed and got some long firewood tongs. The squirrel was alive enough to try to bite the tongs when I grabbed it. Thankfully, the trash bins were emptied yesterday; so I dropped it into my empty bin, closed the lid, and that was that.

Lest Anyone Worry

Some people have been asking me if I'm okay. They don't see any new cooking videos on YouTube and wonder why. There are a couple reasons for my lack of creativity lately.

1. I'm too tired. I've been pushing myself to get a lot done outside in the yard. I feel good about the progress, but at the end of the day I don't feel like doing a cooking video. However, I am considering very seriously of taking a day off from the landscaping to shoot a video about cooking pork spareribs in an Instant Pot.

2. This is the slowest time of year on YouTube anyway. People want to be outdoors in the pleasant weather, especially now that they are getting vaccinated against the coronavirus. They don't want to be indoors cooking or watching videos on YouTube. And besides which, very few people watch my newest videos anyway. My older videos are the most popular.

My health is good, certainly good enough to spend hours each day working outside. Yesterday I used another 60-pound bag of mortar mix, my last one. Today or tomorrow I'll go to Home Depot to buy more. Meanwhile, there is still plenty of Dymondia to dig up.

And, Finally, a Photograph

Several weeks ago I promised a photograph of my yard when enough of the work was done to really see some progress.

This was a wet morning after overnight drizzle; so the stones were damp enough to show off their color. You can also see the pebbles I'm using to decorate the grout in some areas. The area to the upper left is being worked, obviously enough. The area of dark mortar to the left was put down yesterday; so it hasn't fully cured to its lighter color. And the stones to the bottom were under the awning; so that's what they look like when they're dry. After everything is done and all the mortar has fully cured I'll give the stones a good pressure washing. They need it.

Wednesday 2021.6.2

A Little Taste of Success

Spareribs are a challenge for me. I've done videos about them and there are recipes here.

Braised Boneless Ribs (which are really only strips of pork shoulder)
Sous Vide Ribs
Air Fryer Marinated Ribs
Pork Spareribs

But what I am really searching for are ribs that are fall-off-the-bone tender rather than (as I told a friend) gnaw-off-the-bone tough. AND, I want them to be easy — no standing at the grill for six to eight hours while the ribs slowly cook over glowing coals. Where does one look?

YouTube, of course. In particular, I researched cooking ribs in an Instant Pot. I learned a lot. Probably the most important detail is to use the Pressure Cook function and cook for 25 minutes.

I did pan-in-pan. I put water in the bottom of the Pot, but I placed the ribs, which were seasoned with a dry pork rub, in a stainless steel bowl. That was arranged on a trivet before sealing the lid in place.

After the cooking time, plus 20 minutes of natural depressurize time, there was liquid in the bottom of the stainless bowl. It came from the ribs. I skimmed off most of the fat and poured the liquid into a skillet. I added a little honey and tomato paste. Then I reduced the liquid down to nearly a syrup. Call that a barbecue sauce.

I placed the ribs in my air fryer (after lining the basket with foil) and brushed some of the sauce on top. Cook for 30 minutes at 250°F (121°C). After cooking, mop again with sauce and let rest 5 minutes. Then plate and brush one more time with the remaining sauce.

The result was really tender and delicious pork spareribs. Now that I know to expect that liquid in the bottom of the bowl, I'd like to come up with a better formula for barbecue sauce. I'll try to do a video, maybe after I get my yard work done.

On Memorial Day a friend slow-grilled ribs all day. He invited me to dinner, but it was late in the afternoon. I had just stuffed myself with a late lunch; so there was no room for dinner. Maybe next time.

How About Some Updates?

Landscaping

If you follow my blog regularly, you know I've been re-doing the landscaping around my home. Dymondia is out; mortar is in. The project has been progressing so well, I feel confident I'll be done sooner than expected. I thought it might take all summer and maybe well into fall. I recently set a goal for myself, to be finished before my birthday at the end of July.

I started slow because, well, I was moving slowly. After a year of lethargy in front of the computer during the pandemic, I could barely pull my socks on without panting afterward. It took a while, but my stamina slowly returned. I started by doing no more than 15 pounds of dry mortar mix per day. Now 60 pounds is normal and more than once I did 90 pounds in a single day.

Some things are still slow, such as clearing the gaps to prepare for the grout. The Dymondia has been in place for six years and where the gophers didn't dig it up it was well rooted. The mortar work goes quickly and I can work outside for four to six hours if I work where there's shade or the day is cloudy.

Tomatoes

At last count, there were seven green tomatoes in various stages of development. I continue to train the plant around the cage. It has been growing more slowly. It either needs fertilizer or I need to cut off one of the branches that are also growing. Or maybe it's because we're in the weather period of mostly overcast days.

Basil

The basil plants I moved to a large planter outside continue to grow, if slowly. They're getting plenty of sunshine (on sunny days) and water.

One clipping in water has been growing roots well. I'm ready to move that to it's own growing cup to develop before moving it outside. A dozen seeds have sprouted so far. I might leave some of those under the grow light to compare their growth to the plants outside. One advantage to the grow light is there are never any cloudy days.

Other Herbs

I finished grouting the area where my herbs once resided. It was time to return them to their place, but I decided to move the citrus trees first, positioning them toward the back near the wall. The herb pots were arranged in front where they will get a little more sunlight.

I'll watch the area closely. If anyone drives over my stone or parks their car there (it has happened before), I'll move the trees out toward the road again. For those who might want to know, my herbs are sage, oregano, basil, thyme, mint, parsley, marjoram and rosemary. In the back between the two citrus trees is a pot of green onions.

Add One to the Orchard

It was sort of an impulse purchase, although I did walk around the store for a while before I put it in my shopping cart. Occasionally, Costco has citrus trees on sale. I've been wanting a lemon tree because my two sources are my neighbors. One has no fruit on his tree and the other, well, I'd simply prefer not to go over there. So I saw some "Improved Meyer Lemon" trees in the store and after thinking about it, I bought one. It cost $25, which was how much I had remaining on my stimlus VISA debit card. Thank you for the tree Mr. President.