Rivenrock Gardens Cactus Blog

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Local Produce

Local-grown produce... all from our neighbors

Local-grown produce... all from our neighbors

   Some of us neighbors get together and exchange veggies. Even though most of us are from inside the canyon, there are many local micro-climates that favor one fruit/vegetable over another and enable that family to grow something that might be difficult for some of the other folks.
   Here’s some of the veggies we got last week. All grown by neighbors.
   The real find is those Palestine sweet limes…. they are not limey at all.. they have a very delicate flavor….. I want to grow some for myself.


Local produce grown by the neighbors
 Clockwise from High noon… avocado, tomatoes, Palestine sweet lime, squash and portobello mushrooms.


Roasting peppers

Roasting peppers

    We roasted some Anaheim peppers for supper…
first you have to remove the skin….
you roast them to boil and blister the skin…..

Scraping roasted peppers

Scraping roasted peppers

 Let them cool enough so you can handle them easily….
and the skin will then peel easily from the fruit with a butter knife.
You then have to split them open, and scrape out the seeds inside…
then chop ‘em up and set them into the bowl to finish cooking…


cactus, mushrooms and peppers in skillet
cactus, mushrooms and peppers in skillet

In the end we fried the peppers, some cactus, onions, and mushrooms all together in olive oil.
Add some spices… and you’ve got a pretty decent meal that’s really nutritious.
   Something like this is good over rice…

Aspidoscelis tigris stejnegeri - Coastal Whiptail

Aspidoscelis tigris stejnegeri - Coastal Whiptail

  Vickie came by this little guy in the garden today. We admired him for a bit, and then let him go. He took off like a bolt of lightening.

   A very pretty animal it is for sure.

Aspidoscelis tigris stejnegeri. Coastal Whiptail Lizard

Aspidoscelis tigris stejnegeri. Coastal Whiptail Lizard


This Most Barren Hill

“My thoughts expand and flourish on this most barren hill…”


   In the summertime we get a regular weather phenomenon known as a ‘marine layer’  that appears in the later afternoon. This brings in a layer of moist wet foggy low-clouds that roll in from the sea. By late afternoon the fog has reached inland enough to blot out the sun. While this might seem a disadvantage… actually, when other places are broiling in the summertime, our coastal areas can have very nice and cool temperatures. And in wintertime, we often have much sunnier weather than we do in the summertime…. go figure!

   At any rate…. the spread of this fog layer normally extends only to the first row of hills that are a prominent feature of the landscape along much of the California coast.  The relatively flat areas between the hills and the sea are known as a ‘Coastal Plain’.  The Coastal Plain is heavily influenced by the moderating of the sea. In the winter time, the relatively warm waters keep the coastal plain a bit warmer than the hill areas and inland deserts. In the summertime, the relatively cool waters will keep the coastal plain area from being too hot.

   We live inland beyond the coastal range of hills. So while we have clear skies in general, we can often look at the hills along the coast and see the fog backed up on the coastal side..  trying to reach over the hills. When it does, it slides down the low spots (saddles) and drifts down like a stream… slowly the warmer drier inland environment will break up the mist and vaporize it… you can watch as it slowly dissipates and turns into a vapor and drifts off into the air…. vaporizing and disappearing as it drifts….

   They say that each Hydrogen and each Nitrogen, and each Oxygen molecule has been around the world a number of times…. been breathed into and out of the lungs of great numbers of people and animals in the last billion or so years….. each of these molecules is something that is, was, and will be. Eternal as matter can be.


   The importance of this fog layer cannot be discounted. The fog keeps the local dry environment cool enough so plants transpire less, it reduces soil moisture loss, and as a great bonus, the fog often leaves the plants wet with dew by morning. This dew and fog being caught by the plants and dropping to the ground gives the local environment a bit of moisture in the heart of an otherwise dry summer.

Paruroctonus silvestrii

‘The Scorpion’
~Hilaire Belloc~

The Scorpion is as black as soot,
He dearly loves to bite;
He is a most unpleasant brute
To find in bed at night.

   I found this fellow running across my desk in the house today.
Luckily I had my mug to trap him, so I could take him outside.

Scorpion, Paruroctonus silvestrii


  Paruroctonus silvestrii
…. These are the common little scorpions here in California.
They are not terribly poisonous… I’ve been stung by one once….
It feels like a nail has been driven into your skin. It really hurts….
The local site of my strike suffered a necrosis…
in ten days I had a small half pea-sized chunk of  skin and meat slough off, leaving  a half-healed crater in my finger.  But it grew back in OK.
   I got stung while digging a hole and not wearing gloves..
always wear your protective gear… if I’d had strong gloves on, I’d not have been stung….
just like when the tarantula or the Black Widow bit me… gloves would have been nice then too! LOL



Click to embiggen,
you can see the hairs on this dude.



A Scorpion, Paruroctonus silvestrii

A Scorpion, Paruroctonus silvestrii

I let him go in the front yard… which is just a weed-whacked wilderness really.
We have deer and quail wandering daily in the front yard….
We see tarantulas and scorpions and rattlesnakes here often enough….
there’s no need to run this guy a mile away to ‘release’ him….

but when I got close to take his picture… he got shy and curled up, all scared
when I backed the camera off he’d jump up and start to run away.


A Scorpion

A Scorpion

Yeah, he’s a pretty nice looking little animal.
He reminds me of a lobster
Our lobsters here in California don’t have big claws….
These guys hold their prey with their claws.. and their stinging tail comes up and over their head… they will push the spike into their prey… it pushes in and holds there… you can see they will often make several little pushes to fully embed the stinger.
When I got stung, it happened very quickly….
I think in my case it just wanted to give me a ‘short, sharp shock’ so I’d know I was crushing it while digging bare-handed in the soil. In the case of a bug that it captures, it has the ability to hold and restrain the prey animal while it very deliberately injects its poison to maximum effect.


Cactus Plantation Panorama

Rivenrock Panorama

Rivenrock Panorama


 I took a panorama photo of the cactus plantation.
The perspective and aspect are skewed….
But it makes for an interesting photo.

A Walk In The Cactus

   I took a walk about the place this morning, taking photos of some of the cactus growing here.
   We don’t actively sell all of the plants in our collection… but we’re always willing to negotiate the purchase of a plant or more if someone wants to explore the possibilities.

    Not all states allow cactus into them without a special inspection for which the state of California charges dearly.
   Some states allow cactus that has no roots… so for those states we can take cuttings of some of the plants… this may make it easier, or more possible, and cheaper to ship.
   Some of our plants, such as the agave and aloe have to be sent with roots, so we wash them, and prepare them for shipment carefully.

   You can see our cactus plant catalog at http://www.rivenrock.com/catalog2.html

   The National Plant Board Rules and Regulations is also a good place to check on importation info for your state.

   You can see that this section of our garden is very wild and rangy. we water a few times a year only, and we don’t worry too much about annual grasses and forbs.   I think that a mono-culture is in essence a bad thing… it leads to soil-chemical/nutrient imbalances, easy pest-proliferation and a less diverse plant community that helps shield against these things. So we allow the weeds to grow… we mow and weedwack,  the chickens eat much also, and scratch the ground killing many of the weeds. By winter-time the weeds have been trimmed or knocked down to where they are by then only a mulch on the ground. As the winter rains fall and stimulate the new weed seeds to growth, the mulch will help to shield them from the elements… it will then rot into the soil in the next year or so. This continual recycling of nutrients is a good thing for your soil.

Beach-Time Is....

I’ve been spending a lot of time in Pismo this year.
Usually I just drove through it on the way to the beach….
I never realized just how much of a resort town it is…
And as I explored the back roads and small narrow streets…
I was often reminded of the Iberian Peninsula.

Nice….. I like.

The Year of the Cat

  Some songs.. some poetry… some words are so full of images…. close your eyes and listen to beautiful prose… if the scene does not unfold in your mind, and play out in your imagination the words were not properly connected.

   Al Stewart made a masterpiece with his ‘The Year of the Cat’ song in the seventies.   This one comes across as a movie set in Morocco to me… beautiful…. stuning… awesome… certain to be listened to for many centuries.

On a morning from a Bogart movie
In a country where they turned back time
You go strolling through the crowd like Peter Lorre
Contemplating a crime
She comes out of the sun in a silk dress running
Like a watercolour in the rain
Don’t bother asking for explanations
She’ll just tell you that she came
In the year of the cat.

She doesn’t give you time for questions
As she locks up your arm in hers
And you follow ’till your sense of which direction
Completely disappears
By the blue-tiled walls near the market stalls
There’s a hidden door she leads you to
“These days,” she says, “I feel my life
Just like a river running through
The year of the cat”

She looks at you so cooly
And her eyes shine like the moon in the sea
She comes in incense and patchouli
So you take her, to find what’s waiting inside
The year of the cat.

Well morning comes and you’re still with her
And the bus and the tourists are gone
And you’ve thrown away the choice and lost your ticket
So you have to stay on
But the drum-beat strains of the night remain
In the rhythm of the new-born day
You know sometime you’re bound to lose her
But for now you’re going to stay
In the year of the cat.



Dinosaur Caves from the sea


 Dinosaur Caves is a small little section of beach-cliff in the Shell Beach/Pismo Beach area of the Central Coast of California.

   If you’ve ever been to Lagos Portugal… you’ll recognize similar features… but Portugal has warmer and clearer water.

   The rock strata and the waves have created an ever-changing landscape of eroded cliffs and caves and holes underneath them.
Caves and arches can be seen aplenty.. but since it is so difficult and precarious to navigate on the rocks, one does not see the full beauty of the cliffs from above them, looking down.
   We rented some kayaks from Central Coat Kayaks in Shell Beach.  They have a full range of various types and sizes of kayaks and paddleboards.  They like to get people started early in the mornings to avoid the wind.  We tend to get very windy in the afternoons.

   The caves are interesting, beautiful. It seems like you’re in another world… one of National Geographic explorers, and strange exotic animals….. it’s really pretty cool to just drift like a piece of wood, right up near nesting colonies of birds, seeing seals and sea otters.
   You have to be careful not to get so close that you disturb them… but they seem to be used to people drifting about in quiet boats….

   The rocky cliff-side is pockmarked with caves of various sizes and depths.  As you go along, you can envision how the coastline has changed through the millenia… some areas were obviously caves, but are now just narrow arches… soon to fall into the sea leaving only the posts on either side. 


   The Big Cave is really something to see. From shore you can see only the small hole that comes through to the land-side…
We all went through the cave…. you have to time it with the ocean swell so that the wave will pick your boat up and carry you over the rocks…. then you have to stop yourself and turn when the wave carries you through… because it crashes against the cliff on the other side…. it’s totally awesome and rad Dude!
   One of the fellows even worked back against the tide through the big cave.. seemed like quite  a feat to me..

   We paddled into one of the caves that has two holes… most of the waves go into one hole, and with a great rushing and swirling turbulence, it rushes out the other hole…. it was really easy to get into the cave…. but getting out was a bit of a challenge…. I pushed the other fellow out, helping to guide his boat through the crashing surf…. helping to guide it in the narrow channel filled with rushing waters going every direction, and trying to carry the boat sideways to hang bow and stern on the rocks…. we got him started, and like a sluice… once he got to a certain spot, he was able to just zip right on through…. then I was next… alone.. it took three tries.. but third time’s the charm… like a dream the boat found its own way through the channel, and it looked like I knew what I was doing!

  Kayaks are surprisingly easy to learn…. they are a pretty safe way to boat… much more stable than you’d imagine due to the low profile…. VERY shallow draft…. and Central Coat Kayaks will even give you lessons at their clinics and one-on-one lessons.

  Get out there and have some fun.. and good clean water-sports are one of the best ways to experience life and maintain fitness.

Avila California, San Luis Bay

Some photos I took of the creek that runs through Avila and leads to San Luis Bay California.
Also, boats floating out in the bay.