Friday, June 29, 2012

Mosquito madness

The bad news:  Anyone with a pulse in Galveston County realizes that we are now into the worst mosquito outbreak that we've had in months.
Here's how bad it is right now:
We keep a dedicated can of repellant at the door.  The procedure is to first crack the door open about three inches.  Grab can, stick arm outside, spray liberally, then slam door shut again and wait inside for about 30 more seconds.  Then open door, exit, and run like hell to wherever it is you need to go (your car, shed, dog kennel, trash cans, etc), taking the repellant can with you.  Repeat door spray-down procedure before re-entering your house, or else you will drag two dozen mosquitoes in with you each time you enter. 

Note that if you have a really nice door, you might want to be careful about the application of spray because the chemicals in some sprays might damage a door's finish.
The good newsGalveston County Mosquito Control is aware of the severity of the problem.
Homepage screengrab from this morning, courtesy of
Here's a cartoon screengrab of one of their
maniacal little animated bloodsuckers,
just to enhance this blog post mood.
The other good news is that Mosquito Control has a pretty sophisticated website and is very good about keeping folks up-to-date on their activities.  Given the spray distribution that I see on their current set of maps, I bet they will be spraying east League City (i.e., our area) within the next couple of days. 
The other bad news:  Centerpointe has more than one issue with mosquitoes right now.  The primary issue is that a large hatch-out did occur due to recent rain and tides.  But an aggravating factor is that we are currently surrounded by un-mowed weed fields.  As I noted in a post about four months ago, mosquitoes do not breed in high grass, but various references on the internet suggest that high grass allows them to attain good protective cover.  High grass provides them with a home that encourages them to congregate in an area, especially allowing them to take shelter during the heat of the day.  If anyone has information to the contrary on this point, please email me, but that's the understanding that I have.
Here's a screengrab from that previous post.
Current cases in point for us:
South of Centerpointe Section 9, next to the new Shell gas station that's being built.  Grass, grass, and more grass.
Adjacent east of Centerpointe.  Not as high as the area to our south, but getting there.
Also adjacent east of Centerpointe.
Note that, for two of those shots above, I included the sales signs so that you can call those sellers' realtors and encourage them to ask their clients to cut the grass on their properties.  I didn't get out and measure it, but we have a 12-inch weed ordinance in this city, and it looks like these properties are bumping up against that.  For sure the tract of land south of Section 9, and these eastern tracts are getting up there, too. 
If I manage to get a contact phone number for the south property owner, I'll follow up with a comment here.  And I'll also forward this post link to the POA for their consideration.  As always, thanks for reading. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

If a tree is felled in the forest...

...would the current claimant of the land upon which it sat even be aware of the noise it was capable of making?!

This is one of those rare times when I feel the need to depart from my passive "lifestyle" blog format in order to make comment on a controversial public development.   Please excuse my terse tone in this post below, but I get really, really tired of seeing people publicly belittled as "activists" for simply drawing attention to the laws that are on the books.

I think it's worth reading this Galveston County Daily News article about Star Toyota's allegedly-unauthorized removal of those oak trees from the location near the IH-45 and League City Parkway intersection.  Worth reading because this issue contains opportunity for good lesson-learning from a number of different perspectives. 
Aerial view of the north side of the dealership, while the trees were still in place, with most of them having been north of the existing parking areas.  Centerpointe is located a bit beyond the photo frame to the north.
Screengrabbed from Googlemaps.
The ugly evidence, partial screengrab courtesy of Galveston County Daily News.
For the record, nobody in my family was the "activist in the community" (to quote GCDN) who called the City to report this activity.  But being one of the local people who drive by this dealership almost daily, my mouth hung open in disbelief when I saw those trees being cut down.  How on earth did they get permission to do that?! I wondered.  They got permission to simply destroy those things right at the very point when greater Houston in its entirety was following the story of the City spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to move the Ghirardi oak?!  I mean, that event wasn't just covered in our smaller local rags such as GCDN and Bay Area News - Houston Chronicle ran progress updates for days!  And so did KTRK and KHOU and Channel 2 and local bloggers and who knows who else - the story probably showed up on some news wire in China.
As the entire local area watched:
Screengrab from a Google search, showing some of the successive entries for GCDN.
And then - this just boggles my imagination even further - Star Toyota makes a bad situation worse by completely blowing the entire concept of public relations (PR) straight out of the water. 

PR is that kind of activity that you do when you've screwed up and you're making your best effort to set things right again, but - let's also look at the practical side - you also engage in PR to save your own face in the process. 

Rule number one of PR:  Be aware of your larger public contexts - all of them. 
Rule number two of PR:  Don't ever let anyone else represent you in the PR process unless they are verifiably trained and competent. 

Rather than being sensitive to their appearances within the context of the simultaneous high-profile Ghirardi proceedings, and rather deploying proper PR in the context of their own behalves, what kind of a retort gets issued by representatives of Star Toyota to the press because of this allegedly-unpermitted tree-cutting??

Leblanc [a contractor representative responsible for the removals] said he felt the city was trying to exercise too much control.


"I don’t understand why the city can tell you what to do on your own property,” Leblanc said. 

(excerpted from

Mr. Leblanc, for crying out loud - were you born under a rock?!  YES, as a matter of fact, they CAN tell your clients what to do!  Big newsflash here: operators need environmental permits to conduct business on their own property!  It doesn't matter whether those permits are municipal (city) environmental permits, or state environmental permits, or federal spill prevention plans that address operational contingencies for devices such as aboveground fuel storage tanks - an operator can't undertake lawful commerce without getting those permits, registrations, and plans and then abiding by them. 

In case anyone is still unconvinced of this basic fact, here is a screengrab of Star Toyota's partial current state environmental permit and registration roster as reflected in the database maintained by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). This is information which is immediately accessible to any member of the public with an internet connection:
Two screengrabs from the TCEQ Central Registry.  If you'd like to see this entry online, you can try this link or, if that fails because of the dynamic nature of the database, go to the main Central Registry search page and input Star Toyota as the search term.
Take a look at all those different permissions for activites conducted on this property!  And that isn't even a complete list as far as environmental issues go - that's just one agency and one database! 

If anyone does not like any of these existing laws, state, federal, or municipal, here's the best recourse: exercise your right to vote. 


Anyway, in sum, I do hope that this improper tree removal allegation can be resolved promptly, correctly, and in a way that reflects the best interest of the public. 

And I do hope that, one day, we can vacate this nasty polarizing practice of referring to lawfully-minded individuals as "activists".  There's simply nothing useful to be gained by trying to shoot the messenger and shooting yourself in the foot all in one tree-felling swoop.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Chinch are never a cinch

In case there was any doubt in your mind, no, I never do tire of insipid blog post titles.

I wish I knew what fool originally decided that St. Augustine would be a good lawn grass for greater Houston.  Wiki describes it as "a medium to high maintenance grass that forms a thick, carpetlike lawn, crowding out most weeds and other grasses".

They got the "medium to high maintenance" part correct, at least.  Most people would argue the "crowding out" part, as it allows plenty of weeds.

We had a little weather pattern recently that may have gone unnoticed to you at the time, but which had dire lawn consequences.
Screengrab from Station MD6282 (APRSWXNET) which is a weather station that someone here in Centerpointe is actively running.
That graph above summarizes rainfall for the first six months (approx) of 2012.  What is shows is nicely-spaced rain events early in the year (which stimulated lawn grasses to grow) followed by a complete lack of rainfall between approximately the second week of May into the month of June. 

What happens is that these types of rain patterns can conspire to create good reproductive conditions for these:
Houston's definition of Lawn Hell.
Who knew that St. Augustine is considered to be a "cereal grass"?
Courtesy of
The typical result of chinch bugs is this familiar sight:
Apparently my high maintenance was not high enough.
Somebody shoot me.
Here's what's particularly frustrating for me regarding this current infestation:  We are planning to rip out our front lawn in a couple of months anyway.  I already got architectural control committee (POA) approval of my largely lawn-less front yard design, but the price of building materials spiked in the spring plus time slipped away from me, and so I decided to wait until September/October timeframe to do the work.

I'm a big fan of the "lawn alternatives" that are currently all the rage, especially after last year's drought.  This movement has been popularized in part by Austin landscape guru Pam Penick (if you have time to kill, surf through her blog, because her photos are so beautiful that they are worth seeing even if you're not that interested in gardening... she won's "Best Garden Blog" award recently and she's also got a book coming out called "Lawn Gone!" which is available for pre-order on Amazon). 
Here's a random example of a lawnless front yard from the California Native Plant Society webpage.  Basically you replace your grass with low-maintenance shrubs, trees, flowers, rocks, mulch beds, rock beds, courtyards, etc.
You may look at that photo above and think, "That looks expensive."  But have you calculated what your existing St. Augustine atrocity is actually costing you??
  1. $25.00 every week or ten days if you're paying for mowing; cost of your own time, gasoline, and equipment if you're doing it yourself.
  2. $100.00 per month to water just the front yard during the summer season, if you want to keep it healthy and free of chinch bugs (I was shocked to see our water bill being about $150 per month last year during the months and months of drought, but one of our neighbors said his was exactly the same - and it was mostly because of the front lawn watering that we were both doing).
  3. Cost of fertilizer.
  4. Cost of treating chinch bugs regularly.
  5. Cost of treating fungus.
  6. Cost of replacing sod patches when portions inevitably die.
Start adding up those numbers over the course of a year or two and suddenly St. Augustine doesn't seem like such a good deal afterall.  And remember - you get no incremental value or propery enhancement for all that money spent, as you would get if you were instead using the same money to add new lawnless landscaping elements.  Those are just routine maintenance costs for a high-maintenance item.

But back to my chinch bug story.  My husband (a consummate native Houstonian with little tolerance for lawn pests) experienced a minor melt-down and wanted to bomb the hell out of them with pyrethroids.
HOLY CRAP - can you believe how many synthetic chemical pesticides there are in big-box hardware stores?!  I actually measured the length of the shelves in Home Depot the other night - a 65-foot shelf run five shelves tall equals about 325 linear feet of pesticide products!!! 
Is this really necessary?!?!?
And about 99.9% of them are not compatible with organic growing.
Meltdown aside, I decided to try an organic approach as a first measure, to see if I could get the darned things under control that way.  We have a unique situation here in Centerpointe and I don't want to forfeit it without a fight.  For most of history, this place was either forested or largely used as grazing land prior to being developed into a subdivision.  Remember Centerpointethemovie?  It tells the tale:

Our soil is probably fairly close to being virgin because of this history (as close as much of anything gets on the upper Texas coast, anyway).  Once virginity is lost, it's lost forever.  I don't want to use synthetic organic chemicals on our property unless it is first proven that I clearly have no choice but to proceed with that approach.

So the other night I started the the organic onslaught instead:
STEP 1:  Diatomaceous earth, a natural product.
Look low down on the shelves in Home Depot if you're buying it there.
Look for this symbol on the products you use, when judging whether they are suitable for organic applications.
Sprinkle it ALL OVER the lawn - not just in the damaged parts.  Sort of brush it down toward the root zone with your hands, feet, or a broom.  Chinch bugs hang out near the roots. 
Oops.  Diatomaceous Earth is very powdery by design.  You're going to get it all over yourself as you spread it, unless you use some kind of protective measures. 
STEP 2:  Neem oil.  It's very expensive, but so is cancer.  The GOOD news is that the League City Home Depot DOES carry Neem oil.  The BAD news is that I bought the last in-stock bottle the other night. 

Incidentally, this is the best stuff I've ever used on fire ants.  It will not kill them, but it interferes with their sense of smell, and smell is everything to fire ants - that's how they communicate, so they cannot tolerate it.  Neem drives fire ants out of our yard with an efficiency that no organochlorine pesticide could ever match. 
Neem oil has to be diluted way down before it can be used on plants (one or two tablespoons of the store-bought product per gallon of water).  A little hand-held sprayer is good for applying it, and not expensive.
Labeling is king. 
Label it so no other chemicals will get put into it by mistake. 
So a few nights ago I laid down a sprinkling of diatomaceous earth, and then this morning I followed up with a Neem spraying. 

The other substance that chinch bugs do not like is WATER.  June's rains will help keep them in check, but unfortunately for us, damage had already been done by the time the rains returned.  If you routinely soak your lawn, you will also greatly discourage chinch bugs.  But of course, soaking costs a lot of money, too. 

I'll report back on how effective this organic approach turns out to be, this expensive and time-consuming effort spent on the lawn that'll hopefully be mostly ripped out in a few more months (but we need something to keep covering the ground between now and then, obviously).

Friday, June 22, 2012

Water fight

So, great, we finally get breaking news happening here, and what form does it take? 

Crumbling public infrastructure in the form of a 30-year-old breaching water line (this is pretty much League City's only major transmission line, by the way), complete with a Centerpointe backdrop for the photo-ops. 

Immortalized (screengrabbed) from
Galveston County Daily News
The water main break isn't actually at Centerpointe Drive as the news coverage makes it appear - it's a bit farther south.  But in order to work on it with a minimum of disruption, the City closed Calder between Centerpointe and Link Road.  All southbound Calder traffic is being diverted onto Centerpointe, which explains the current greater-than-normal amount of traffic through the neighborhood. 
Looking north on Calder, this morning.  Several news media outlets stopped in front of the barrier and shot footage with Centerpointe as the backdrop.

Of course, going around the barrier via the sidewalk was also an option for some...
If you've run your water at all today, I'm sure you've noticed the lack of tap pressure.  Pretty sobering that the City seems to have relatively little in the way of a Plan B for water service, whilst relying on a failing main line. 

This situation is expected to be resolved within the next 48 hours, according to KTRK.  Meanwhile, we are under emergency water restrictions which means NO landscape watering whatsoever until the repairs are completed and service restored. 
See the League City announcement at this site for further info:

Hustle, guys. 
This was the jobsite as of about 10 a.m. this morning. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


I first became aware of the growing phenomenon of pickers (as of this post, Wiki didn't even have a page describing this activity yet) several years back when my husband and I were consolidating our houses.  We had two houses full of stuff that we had to skinny down into one house.  Much of it we gave to friends or charity, but some furniture and tools and other items just did not seem worth the time to drag down to the local Goodwill donation center, and so we'd just set it out by the curb for heavy trash day, which in our area is Saturday.

Lo and behold, a steady stream of people would materialize to collect this stuff in the early morning before the trash collectors arrived.  These people were as methodical and as objective as a marching stream of fire ants.  Some wanted only scrap metal.  Some wanted only furniture.  Some wanted only old tools (as I found out, there are many tools that Goodwill won't accept).  Some wanted only building materials (to the point where one of them actually accepted a bunch of old railroad ties from us so he could use them in his landscaping). 

We learned that a true picker wants no trouble and will not steal from you - a picker is much closer to being a mobile freecycler-of-opportunity than a thief (see the Clear Lake Freecycle group if you'd like more info on that).  If an item is even one foot onto your property, they will not touch it - they only take what's at the curb.  If they had doubts about what was legitimately available for picking, they would simply knock on our door and introduce themselves in order to get permission from us.  It was not uncommon for us to see pickers driving $50,000 customized pickup trucks.  Probably some of them were compulsive hoarders, but none of them appeared to be living in poverty or criminally-inclined. 

Fast forward a couple of years and the competition among pickers has apparently picked up significantly.  As we recently learned here in Centerpointe, they don't come in the early sun-shiny morning any more.  They come in the middle of the night to ensure that they get there before any other pickers do, such as this couple who recently came to our house:
This is a screengrab from one of our security cameras.  I had to downsample (image-degrade) and crop it in order to disguise certain features of our system, but you can clearly see a dude loading some of our trash into the back of a rather fancy (low-rider?) extended-cab pickup truck.  It appeared to be a man and a woman working together.
Watching the tape, we were amazed at how laid back they were about this whole business.  They took their time in front of our house, methodically and carefully loaded up a few larger recyclables, and then flipped open our main trash can to see if there were any additional goodies in it. 

In true picker style, they did not enter our property, did not touch anything that was left on the lawn (I sometimes forget my gardening tools out there), and did not go through individual trash bags the way a dumpster-diver would if looking for an identity theft opportunity (such as discarded and un-shredded personal papers... remember to always shred your papers).  They just wanted saleable or useable items. 

Anyway, there you have a fascinating commentary on a rapidly-evolving facet of our suburban sub-culture.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Crime: March 28 - June 18

Fairly quiet here during the past couple of months, as this picture shows (but remember that these stats are not necessarily comprehensive, as I discussed in a previous post):
Two thefts from vehicles along Walnut Pointe.
Screengrabbed from
for the period March 28 - June 18, 2012.
Legendarily, Willie Sutton, when asked why he robs banks, replied,
"Because that's where the money is."

Correspondingly, if one were to ask these theft-from-motor-vehicle perps why they chose targets along Walnut Pointe, they might be inclined to respond,
"Because that's where the cars are."

I've blogged about this before - the unusually high number of un-garaged cars on Walnut Pointe.
In this post from which the above screengrab was reproduced, a post in which I described how and why it is illegal (not to mention a rude disservice to your neighbors) to use cars to block sidewalks in Centerpointe, I noted the remarkable concentration of cars along Walnut Pointe.
As the old saying goes, karma is a bitch.  Apparently car-ma is also a bitch: there are often so many cars clogging up Walnut Pointe that the resulting physical conditions provide good opportunity for concealment for thieves moving through the area on foot.  It's the car-analog of a densely-wooded forest that provides good cover to predators.  It does not surprise me that Walnut Pointe appears to be seeing a bit more than the neighborhood-average amount of this kind of criminal activity (there have been other incidents there in the past). 

One of the local FM radio personalities, and I would credit him if I only I could remember which one, is well-known for repeatedly making the observation, "Houstonians keep three thousand dollars' worth of their unwanted crap piled in their garages, while simultaneously leaving their thirty-thousand-dollar cars out to rot in the sun!"  His argument, of course, is that this is a penny-wise-pound-foolish asset management strategy.  I wholeheartedly agree.  If you'd like to kill multiple birds with one stone, donate some of your unwanted crap to charity (if it's in the garage to start with, it can't be that valuable to you).  That'll help poor people, and it will also help protect your second-largest investment, and will also help clear the sidewalks for their legitimate use by residents, and it will also help to discourage vehicle break-ins.  Talk about a win-win-win-win scenario!  Much better karma in that approach. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The mystery of the rank Reggiano

Find a person who has tasted really good Parmigiano-Reggiano (P-R), and you will have found a person who will tell you that there is no substitute for P-R.  It's a high-class cheese with a high-class price to match. 

From Wikipedia.
Given the legendary quality of this stuff, imagine my surprise when I brought one of these little expensive grated P-R tubs home from a League City grocery store the other day, only to find that it smelled overwhelmingly of the chemical solvent acetone
One of these things. 
You can find them in the deli section.
Cheese can, indeed, smell like many pungent things, but in my experience, acetone is not one of them.  I thought it must have been a freak occurrence of some kind, so I went back tothe store for a replacement today.  To confirm the quality, I discretely cracked open the lid of a new tub and took a whiff.
  • Acetone.  Big time. 
So I reached all the way to the back of the cold case and yanked out another.
  • No acetone whatsoever.  Smelled completely normal and fresh.
Huh??  Time to consult the all-seeing, all-knowing internet.  I gleaned a very concise explanation from this URL

To deter any off flavors, either grate Parmigiano-Reggiano and refrigerate or grate and keep it at room temperature. These two methods should never be mixed. Exposing the grated cheese to a combination of cold and then room temperatures can create an off acetone-like aroma in the cheese.

Upon reflection I realized, yes, this makes perfect sense.  That grocery store had been storing its grated P-R at room temperature in a center display aisle, and then they moved it all to the cold case, thereby apparently ruining most of their stock - all except for the brand new stock at the very back of the display case.

So file this little tidbit in your "learned something new today" category, and remember to sniff your P-R before you pay for it.  Those little tubs cost about ten bucks apiece, so you don't want to take home a dud that has been mis-handled by grocery store personnel.  And then once you get it home, maintain the temperature at which you found it in the store. 

Sidewalk surprise

In case you haven't noticed, there are new sidewalk segments currently being installed around our part of League City.
SH 96 WB at Hwy 3, yesterday evening.
My teenaged daughter looked at these things rather quizzically and asked, "But how are people going to use them?  They don't seem to go anywhere."

My response was, "At this point, I don't know, and I don't care - all I know is that we have to start somewhere if we are every going to improve the cohesion and connectivity of this city.  Almost anything they do in this regard is better than nothing.  We've got nowhere to go but up."

Simultaneously with this construction effort, Houston Tomorrow released this article stating the obvious:
Wish they wouldn't use that funky title font.  It's difficult to read.
Screengrabbed this morning from:
Yes.  Among other observations, when you can move freely from Point A (your house) to Point B (a target venue), you tend to spend your money at Point B because it becomes an alternate path of least resistance.  If I have to go to the trouble to get in my car, I might as well keep on going right on out of League City to some other venue - they all become more-or-less equivalent at that point.  But if I could instead walk my dog to conduct the same activity, I'd rather kill two birds with one stone.  But for that, I need a safe place to actually set down my feet in the act of walking.  A sidewalk fits that elusive description perfectly. 

Anyway, I like the juxtaposition of the sign with this new amenity, and with that, I shall close.

ONE WAY to increase property values and foster economic activity is to add sidewalks such that people can then move freely around the area.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Backyard bonanza

You know the old saying:  "It ain't what you've got - it's what you DO with it!"

Nowhere could this be more true than for those of us who have microscopic back yards.  I've blogged about this before - the difficulty in developing landscaping and other outdoor amenities when all there is to work with is an afterthought in the way of a space.  I estimate our back yard at about eighteen hundred square feet - a small fraction of our indoor square footage.

But that doesn't mean it can't be put to productive use, and I've also blogged about that before.  In January of 2011, I published this post describing our use of stock tanks as garden implements.  Stock tanks work well in small spaces because they have such a tiny footprint and because they protect their contents from damage and contamination in an intensively-used small outdoor space.

We are now about eighteen months into our backyard gardening experiment, and I was surprised yesterday to discover that we have already produced about four hundred dollars worth of our own food just from this small effort.
Organic onions, organic tomatoes, organic basil and organic oregano, all harvested about a week ago.  This stuff became part of some a-mazing spaghetti sauce.  Sauces freeze very well, so if you produce them in quantity due to a large backyard harvest, they will not lose quality with freezing. 
Most hobbies positively eat cash.  It's nice to have a hobby that YOU can eat rather than the other way around, a hobby that actually PAYS in return for the effort put into it.  Plus if you are a foodie (as we are), you know that you simply cannot cook effectively without top-quality fresh ingredients.  Once we got used to the superior taste of our own herbs, fruit and vegetables, we had no problem motivating ourselves to keep up with the gardening effort.  We simply cannot buy stuff that tastes this good, not for any amount of money.  In sooth, we're now spoiled, and slaves to our stock tanks.

Anyway, my point here is to re-emphasize that, just because most back yards are tiny in Centerpointe, it doesn't mean that you are shut out of productive activities like this, if that's your interest.  A small space should not be a discouragement.  You have to actually put some work into a hobby of this type, sure, but it can be rewarding both financially and in terms of quality of life.  Houston has many things working against it in terms of quality of life: it's not pretty, it's hot, it's humid, there aren't many outdoor recreational opportunities.  But one thing it DOES have going for it is a spectacular climate for growing food year-round. 

I'll close with a few other pics of our recent gardening fun. 
This is what the winter onion crop looked like just before harvest in late April 2012.  It was not a good year for onions, and I think that was because the La Nina weather effect produced warmer-than-normal temperatures, which caused these onions to stop growing before they got really large.  Even with that, we harvested about sixteen pounds of really tasty organic Texas 1015 onions. 
Here is one of our two "tomato factories", also in late April 2012.  Another benefit of using stock tanks is that they help to ensure hygiene by isolating the crops from contaminants.  This tiny back yard also must serve as our dog's potty and, given the space restrictions, we simply could not have a "regular" garden in the ground. 
This season for the first time, I decided to keep a tally of the organic cherry tomatoes that we harvested.  As of yesterday, the running total exceeded two thousand tomatoes.  We used all of them in fresh meals as well as future meals that now pack our freezer.  In just one season, the tomato harvest saved an amount of grocery money equivalent to what we paid for one of the two oblong stock tanks in which we grow them.
This year for the first time, we are learning to grow cantaloupes.  I went out this morning to find that this guy had ripened to the point where he slipped off the vine.  Because of the space restrictions we have, we grow the cantaloupes upward on a trellis rather than sitting on the ground.
My first cantaloupes have been decent but not wonderful.  I made the mistake of watering them too much too close to the point of harvest, so their taste is diluted.  No problem - I'll chop and freeze most of them for use as ingredients in future fruit smoothies. 
Sweet potato plants in progress.  Whereas onions and tomatoes are cold-weather crops, sweet potatoes do well growing in our hot summers. 
I'm also now trying my hand at highbush blueberries for the first time.  These require a specific acidic soil composition and cannot be put directly into our alkaline coastal soils.  I've planted these in mega-containers so that I can control the soil pH more effectively.