First day of the New Year, and happy gardening to us all in 2018

Sorry for the long absence. No, I’m not quite dead yet. My last post was in March, 2017, when I was trying to get over a number of physical challenges, including constant tiredness. Well, no wonder I was tired and constantly sick. In June, I found a lump in my breast that turned out to be cancer. YIKES!

The biopsy showed that it was triple negative breast cancer, the hardest type to cure. My oncologist ordered what is called neo-adjuvant chemo, which is chemo before surgery. I don’t want to go into the gruesome details, but the past six months have been the worst of my life. Chemo SUCKS! I still have surgery and radiation ahead of me. But my last MRI shows that the cancer is GONE. And my body concurs. I am only three weeks out from my last chemo session, but my energy bounced back before I was hardly finished. I am once again bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, having beat cancer’s ass. Surgery to remove the tumor markers is scheduled for Jan 19, just before my 75th birthday. I will be getting radiation from late February into early April, and then it will be “just” years of monitoring for recurrence.

During this ordeal, my loving hubby took over composting and chicken chores, plus doing most of the cooking and some of the grocery shopping. That was in addition to his teaching job AND his duties as an environmental activist with our local and state Audubon organizations. My poor garden went fallow.

Nevertheless, I did manage to plant and maintain my little garden box, The Garden of Joyous Anticipation. I built it in 2016, six weeks after recovering from surgery for endometrial cancer, which was unrelated to the breast cancer. How lucky can one person get, huh? But weighing and recording my meager harvests fell by the wayside, as did recording the number of eggs our four hens laid. I estimate that we got 600-700 eggs in 2017. I have absolutely no clue about produce, except we had decent apple, apricot, and peach crops. The persimmon and pomegranate trees flowered, but they are still too young to produce.

Let’s take a look at where my yard garden stood yesterday, on New Year’s Eve, and hope for a better 2018.


Our two Liquid Amber trees in front turn a gorgeous color in December, with leaves remaining on the trees into January.


This was all the garden I could manage to plant and maintain for the past six months. Watching these plants sprout and grow gave me hope and courage. As well as some tasty organic produce! Can you identify the crops? Green bunching onions, Redhead radishes, garlic, a red lettuce of some kind, chard, beets (Detroit Red and Chioggia), baby bok choy, and two overwintering bell pepper plants (a Giant Red Marconi, and I forget). We have been harvesting green onions, lettuce and radishes.


Crazy weather. We have an iris in bloom in January. Southern California plus global warming equals unpredictability. I call it global weirding.


My artichoke patch survived. Somehow I managed to keep it watered, and we have four artichoke plants promising a nice spring crop.


My three raised beds in the back yard are utterly neglected. Our watering system is me with a hose. And yet somehow a few dwarf blue curly kale and a couple of collard green plants have managed to hang on. Rejuvenating these poor neglected beds is high on my priority list for 2018. Right after finally sending out our Christmas cards. Hahaha. Yeah, I am WAY behind on a lot of stuff.


Our semi-dwarf navel orange tree has a very nice crop of huge oranges on it. I think there are about 4 dozen oranges, and they are the biggest ever, weighing nearly a pound apiece. Joy, joy.


Our Bearss lime tree has a decent crop on it. We squeeze and freeze the juice in ice cube trays, and store the cubes in ziplock freezer baggies for year-round use. Vic does most of that squeezing and freezing. I have been using the juice lately to make a powdered sugar glaze for homemade cranberry-pecan scones.


Our dwarf Meyer lemon isn’t looking too good, and neither are the dozen lemons on it. I hope I can rejuvenate that poor little tree.


Our Littlecado avocado tree is infested with invasive non-native shot hole borers. It produced only three avocados this season. I hope that it can successfully fight off the infestation as several of our other trees have done. At least it didn’t die like our plum tree and one of the nectarine trees did.


Our three Asian pear trees produced a number of small pears this year, but the rats got them all. At least the trees make pretty fall foliage.


This is a winter view of our chicken coop and run, as seen from our recently pruned apple tree orchard. I have a dwarf Granny Smith, a semi-dwarf Fuji, a full-sized Gala that I mistakenly thought was a semi-dwarf when I bought it, and a semi-dwarf Florida Prince peach tree, all growing in this tiny space. Vic and I cut the trees back to a decent height a couple of days ago. I have hopes of reaching the fruit from 2018 more easily now. This is assuming that I get to it before the rats, squirrels and possums do. Urban gardening is a real challenge.


This is Princess Aurora, a nice Black Sex-linked hen, and a prolific layer. See how pale her comb is? She is in her winter rest period and not laying right now.


Contrast the size and color of Princess Aurora’s comb and wattles with Princess Ariel, our Light Sussex hen. She is laying again after her fall molt. Sadly, Dino-peep (the nasty-tempered Barred Rock shown in the header photo) picks on her and has pecked off her neck feathers.


Poor old Chicken Little is about 10 years old now. She is doing good to lay 10-20 eggs a year these days, in contrast to the 300/yr that she produced in her prime. My husband keeps threatening to review her vacation and retirement benefits package, but I think she is pretty secure. She has become a nice pet in her old age. She is too feeble to get away from being petted now.


Look, somebody laid an egg! We are getting an egg every second or third day. Meanwhile, we have eggs frozen down to make scrambled eggs during the winter egg dearth.

And that concludes yesterday’s photo tour of my tiny urban farmlet. Here is hoping for a healthy 2018, and a MUCH better year than 2017 was. Please leave a comment.

About Lou Murray, Ph.D.

I'm a retired medical researcher, retired professional writer/photographer, avid gardener, and active environmentalist living in southern California. I wrote a weekly newspaper column on environmental topics in the Huntington Beach Independent for many years. I also supervised environmental restoration projects and taught at the Orange County Conservation Corps before retiring in the summer of 2016. This blog chronicles my efforts to live a green life growing as much food as possible for my husband and myself on a 4,500 sq ft yard that is covered mainly by house, garage, driveway, and sidewalks. I am also dedicated to combatting global climate change.
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4 Responses to First day of the New Year, and happy gardening to us all in 2018

  1. Mary Mueller says:

    You are marvelous!!! This will be a great year!!!


  2. Scott says:

    Welcome back! Nice progress quickly.


  3. linda konrad says:

    We all missed you Lou, keep up the good work on your health, you’re delightful to read


  4. Linda Scotton says:

    Best to you for a healthy 2018!! Thank you for your post and inspiration.


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