Rivenrock Gardens Cactus Blog

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What’cha doin’ workin’ in the heat?

With these days each getting waaaay over one hundred degrees, I stop all work, and melt in the house well before noon. I melt slower indoors than out in the sun.

   We were sitting indoors, when we heard a voice call me… ‘John’

   I looked outside, and there was a neighbor from a mile up the canyon. He’d gotten his crawler stuck in some mud while making adobe, and wanted someone to help pull him out.  He’d ridden his quad-runner to our gate, then had to walk nearly a half mile in the heat uphill to get to our place.


   I took my truck over, he was was so deep into the mud, we ended up digging it out.  And my winch wasn’t working… it’s been a few years since I’ve used it. Eh, something else for me to look at fixing. To possess is to be possessed.

  He takes a pile of clay soil, and makes a hole in the center like you might with mashed potatoes, then he climbs his machine into it, and works the treads to mach the clay, mixing it with the water, and he can then add the straw or other materials, and then go about making his walls or paving.


   He impresses the heck out of me with the amount of work he does. I asked him what he is doing working when the temperatures are over one hundred. He smiled and said ‘in his machine, he’s in the shade.’


Hot Enough For Ya?

There’s been some high temps here and there.

   Usually our temperatures are fairly mild… sure, most days are in the mid eighties to low nineties every single day for six months each summer.  But really, that’s nothing to complain about. I just have to make sure I start my work in the morning,  and I can also get some work done before it gets dark also.

   Usually we get cool nights, so the mornings are cool, and the cactus is crisp. That’s when I like to pick it, when it’s got the cold of the night still in it… but after it’s sat enough in the light and warmth of morning to lose any dew.

   But the last few nights we’ve not gotten cool. Each night the night time temperatures never got below 80 degrees. And the house was still 85 degrees in the morning.

   This photo show our indoor/outdoor thermometer. The right side is the outdoor sensor… which was on the sunny side of the house… it was reading 118 degrees…. I worried it would break off the top of the thermometer… I’ve seen it do that on TV.

   It was only 105 degrees on the shady side of the house.

  And it was 95 degrees indoors. This was at eleven AM.. by four PM it was over 100 degrees indoors.

   The cactus likes these temperatures. As long as Igive them some water to balance the heat of the sun, they grow strong and tender and fast.  But I have to keep them watered, otherwise they turn yellow trying to reflect the solar radiation off of them.  When well watered during high heat periods, they can remain healthy and happy and unstressed.


Hotter than July

Hotter than July


~Stevie Wonder~
‘Master Blaster’

Everyone’s feeling pretty
It’s hotter than July
Though the world’s full of problems
They couldn’t touch us even if they tried
From the park I hear rhythms
Marley’s hot on the box
Tonight there will be a party
On the corner at the end of the block

You ask me am I happy
Well as matter of fact
I can say that I’m ecstatic
‘Cause we all just made a pact
We’ve agreed to get together
Joined as children in Jah
When you’re moving in the positive
Your destination is the brightest star



Eggs florentine at the Santa Maria Inn


Eggs florentine at the Santa Maria Inn


   The Santa Maria Inn of Santa Maria California has a long and distinguished history.  Santa Maria is about half way between Los Angeles and Monterrey.  It used to serve in the twenties as a stop over point for William Randolph Hearst’s visitors while they were en route to his ‘Castle’ two hours north of here. In those days, travel was much slower, it would take most of the day to get here from Los Angels by road or rail… then they would take a private car from the rail head in San Luis Obispo. The cars would travel on mostly dirt roads along highway 1 to Hearst’s Castle.


   If ever you are in the Santa Maria area overnight, and want an historical place to stay, and they have great food too… do consider the Santa Maria Inn.

Lizard Boy Film Trailer

Lizard Boy Film Trailer

   A local film that I played a role in has released the trailer.

   The film was directed by Paul Della Pelle,
and the special effects were great and very well done.

  I’m the guy who’s getting strangled…..

   I’m not releasing any ‘spoilers’,
but I can say that I’ll probably not be in Part 2…
cause I’m dead.


How do I get rid of cactus?

How do I get rid of cactus?

Yeah, that’s one of the more common phrases used to find our site on search engines.

  We had a fellow e-mail us asking…

“need help getting rid of a florida cactus can i use chemicals to destroy the cactus first before i dig it up”

  I wrote back…

“I use a huge mattock-like hoe, with spikes on the other side. The flat blade will slice through the leaves, and I can poke them with the spikes to pick them up for the trash can.

  Once you kill them they might be more likely to drop spines, and might be harder than while alive.


   Have fun! LOL”

   An acting teacher used to tell me.. ‘Acting is simple, it’s just not easy”

   Removing cactus is like acting….

   Yeah, cactus is simple to take out.. but it’s not easy to do. You have to have extreme ‘situational awareness’… it’s like working around a nest of rattlers…. a plant might roll off your shovel impaling your hands to the handle…. be aware, and beware.

   There is a saying among the local cattlemen… “thirty years a cowboy, and ain’t stepped in cow$#!^ yet!”

   Be like that cowboy, work the cactus, but don’t let the cactus leave you scarred for life.

   We have another local saying… “as down-to-earth as horse$%!^ in a meadow”.

I don’t mind choppin’ wood


“The night They Drove Old Dixie Down’
~The Band~


In the winter of ’65
We were hungry
just barely alive
By May tenth
Richmond had fell
it’s a time I remember
oh so well


Now I don’t mind choppin’ wood
and I don’t care if the money’s no good.
Ya take what ya need, and ya leave the rest,
But they should never have taken the very best.

Like my father before me
I will work the land,
And like my brother above me
who took a rebel stand.
He was just eighteen
proud and brave
But a Yankee laid him in his grave,
And I swear by the mud below my feet,
You can’t raise a Caine back up when he’s in defeat 



Scorpions in Toys

   We have a pretty big Internet presence… links to animal sites, nature sites and produce sites mean we get a fair amount of e-mails trying to sell us anything from pots and pans to animals.  We don’t do any animal trading, but since we supply browse/feed materials to people in the animal trades business, we tend to follow it, and we get e-mails regarding aspects of that trade.

   Today I got an e-mail offering to sell us reptiles from Egypt. Now, while Egypt is interesting, and has a glorious history and environment,  I’m not interested in buying any animals from Egypt or anywhere else.  Regardless, I got an offer of animals today….

 Dear Sir,
 My Name (name withheld for posting) From Egypt,
We have best price, good quality of
 reptiles,mammals,scorpions and insects,tortoise,CITES…etc,
 We can give you shipments asap,
 if you interest please contact us,
 thank you very much
 Best regards,

   Well, he seems legit enough… he mentions CITES which is an endangered species agreement.  In general, people with the license are going to be pros (we possess CITES licenses that we use on occasion for plants).  So I wrote back that we don’t buy or sell animals nor trade in them, thanks anyway.

   He wrote another e-mail offering me scorpions….

Dear John,
How are you doing?If you are interested in scorpions ,
I can send you them in toys through post.
inform me about the numbers you need.
I send the scorpions in good
health and I hope to do business with you.
I wait for your reply.
we wait your answer.

   Well now, what part of “I don’t trade in animals” did he not understand?
   Then I got to thinking about the part where he says…. “I can send you them in toys through post”
   Eh, does this mean he will put the scorpions into dolls, balls and play cattle-calls? Huh? Anyone who’s shipping legally is going to put the animal into a proper container, with a hot or cold pack, shipped by overnight delivery and with proper documentation and permits. The shipping company must also be notified that they are transporting live animals, and any poisonous creature is covered under special requirements.

   No Virginia, you cannot just stuff a bunch of animals into toys and ship them… and anyone who is doing such needs to be stopped.  Any authorities who wish copies of the e-mails, can contact me…. upon proper verification, I am interested in passing them on.

  But yet… maybe there was a language barrier, maybe when he wrote it in English, it came out wrong… so I asked him if he sends them in toys,

 Hello,    Thanks for the offer. I do like scorpions but we don’t sell any
 animals… nor do we collect them. We have native scorpions here… not
 exotic like yours, although I suppose to you, ours would be exotic also.
 When you say you send them in toys… you mean,
it is a good way to get them
 through the Post without being confiscated?    Thanks,

   He wrote back….

Dear John,
this way has no problem .If you need ,inform me.I wait for your reply

  Yeah, usually I let others go about their own way, as long as they are not directly harming anyone or critters, leave it be….

   But this guy IS harming animals…. shipping animals in toys to the USA is not the proper way to go about this…. So in this instance, even though I feel a bit like a ‘snitch’, I can’t sit on this one…. this is wrong on so many levels. So I post this so folks will know that this does go on…. don’t participate in anything that hurts people or animals.

There’s another level of problems with shipping animals around without the licenses…. the licenses are to ensure that the animals are shipped humanely and with as little risk of injury as possible… but they are also to make sure we don’t have animals shipped around the world to be introduced into environments where they may have no natural predators and eventually take over an environment…. we have instances over the entire world where some introduced organism ends up causing all kinds of environmental destruction and has to be hunted down and killed at great cost before it displaces native species.

   Please, don’t buy animals or plants from unlicensed people. The licenses are hard to get and expensive, and the ‘under the table guys’ can supply cheaper, but we all pay when a species goes berserk in a  new environment.





Echo Park California

June 19, 2007
Echo Park Murals


These murals are both in Echo Park California



June 18, 2007
Echo Park

~Keith Barbour~
‘Echo Park’

It’s the morning soon he’ll rise
Find the glasses for his eyes
Aren’t what they used to be
Picks up the clothes he’s worn so long
On the bureau sits the picture of a lady
And the mural of a man who’s been gone for many years

The old man walks in Echo Park
From bench to bench he moves from morning ’til dark
For the ducks some bread he brings
Wonders if he’ll feed them this time next spring

Listening to the children play
Reminds him of other days
Many years ago
Thoughts of a child that he helped grow
And the memory of a letter saying “Dear Sir
We regret to inform you, your son will not be coming home”


   I had some business in Echo Park recently. This was the first time I ever went into this town, and I found it to be a charming bedroom community just between Hollywood and Los Angeles.


This road was paved with huge concrete pavers. 
I’d guess this road was probably paved this way some fifty years ago.



This road was so steep, I really have a hard time accepting the fact that any city government would allow building on such steep inclines. The roads are dangerous at this degree of slope, and the risks of landslide is high.



But still, I must admit that as a person who has lived most his life in hilly country, I prefer hillsides to flat land when it comes to interest and challenge in a landscape. The ability to build good and strong terraces is paramount when it comes to hillsides like this. Terraces will create a large amount of flat land while creating intrigue with plenty of little ‘secret’ gardens here and there. The gardens I saw were interesting and had an interest that is difficult to achieve on flat land.

All-In-All, I’d say this seems to be a pretty decent neighborhood. I liked the openness of the people, and folks seemed to be friendly and open, and they all told me it was a good neighborhood, when the locals are happy and proud of their neighborhood it shows that they will also exert pressure on the ‘neer-do-wells’ who try to cause trouble. This kind of community pressure is what it takes to keep a neighborhood tight and cohesive.



Asian citrus psyllid found in Los Angeles suburb

  Echo Park is a really nice little hilly spot just outside of L.A. I wrote about it in an article two years ago.

   Now it turns out that a noxious insect pest that has the potential to carry a deadly incurable disease to citrus fruits has been found in Echo Park. The Packer, a website dedicated to produce issues has the article on it.

   This brings to the fore the need for all people to be aware of the problems in moving produce on your own.  It is in human transportation that insects and diseases can travel from places in which their numbers are kept in check by natural predators and the environment, to places in which they may have no predators, allowing them to spread unchecked, destroying billions of dollars in crops, and keeping the people from having the good healthy food we need.

   Please, when you travel from one state to another, please declare any produce you may be carrying. And only buy plants from nurseries that are inspected by the government… don’t purchase from ‘backyard-gardeners’ who are likely not inspected, certified, and may indeed be passing noxious pests around the country. Almost every single non-native pest has been thought to originate from introduction by consumers who sent or transported fruits and produce without going through the declaration process.

Food and Fotos

   Dang, I love to eat… I love to look at the things I will eat (If I can’t stand the look of it, I don’t eat it), I love to take photographs of things, including some of the foods I eat.  Just as I like to travel, but when I can’t I am content looking at photos of the exotic places I’d like to visit… I also like to look at photos of the foods I’d like to eat.

  There are a few websites that specialize in displaying the pretty photographs of fine foods submitted by readers. A few are Foodgawker, Photograzing,  and Tastespotting… These sites will often be populated with foodies who enjoy making very professionally composed photographs…. lighting, composition, focus, all of the elements necessary for ‘proper and professional’ photography is utilized to make up the amazing photographs of the amazing foods.  Common folks like me can take the best photos we can of our foods and submit them to these sites, hoping to have our amazing photos displayed for the entire world to drool over….

   But then common folks like me, who can’t quite make the foods so pretty, the lighting so perfect, the focus as sharp…. we are denied the privilege of having our foods on the ‘premier’ sites listed above. OK, when we get denied the ‘fine’ sites… we always have ‘TasteStopping‘ to submit to! Yes, you can take your ‘off-focus, badly lit and cropped photos of your foods, and submit them to someplace that enjoys the food whether you know how to take good photos or not!


   While looking the sites over, I just had to do a search on each for ‘cactus’. Here’s my results…. sadly, none of the photos are mine…

  • TasteSpotting had a nice page of scrumptious cactus fruits and leaves…

  • Foodgawker had a pagewith six photos of cactus dishes… including a personal favorite, tripas con nopal

  • Photograzing and Tastestopping were both devoid of cactus photos…. oh the heartbreak!

   I submitted some photos of my cactus dishes to the three that accept fine foods photos….I have to wait until they decline them before I can submit them to Tastestoppers.  When submitted to tastestoppers, I have to send them the comments about them that were given as reasons for being declined at the top three sites.