The Cactus Patch
Volume 13       March 2010      Number 03

Valentines and Other Days
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

A lot of changes have occurred lately. Our “baby” sister Lora has moved into Anne’s along with her daughter Angela. (Husband Dave is still flying in Kwajalein.) She has bought a car and is working on a house just down the road. Anne, of course, is back from India.

On the 30th of January we went to the quilt show at the fairgrounds. There was very little on a succulent theme (I did note some cacti in one quit with a western scene and a T shirt from Ridgecrest had some as well), but there were lots of beautiful quilts. I especially liked one of an ostrich from Tehachapi.

That afternoon we saw the much touted film Avatar. I was going to avoid it as I hate the misuse of the term in video games, but I’m glad we went. The art and animation reach a new high and the story is one which needs telling over and over – the conquest of “primitive” peoples and the misuse of nature have been repeated too many times.

On the 4th of February we drove up to Fresno, stopping at Bravo Farms. It is amazing how much they have expanded, including a petting zoo. Their sign collection is outrageously huge. In Fresno we took Polly’s sister Martha shopping at Whole Foods since Martha has had her arm operated on and couldn’t take herself. The place is overpriced and sells some outrageous items, but it was interesting to see all the oddities. They had lots of “Teas”, including the enigmatic Green Rooibus (Rooibus means Red Bush). I bought some Quinoa (the seeds of Chenopodium, quinoa) from South America. We tried it and found it a bit bland. The only succulents were prickly pear (Nopales) and Agave drinks (mixed with the South American stimulant Mate from a plant related to Ivy).

We then went to the Mexican Restaurant Plaza Ventana where the Fresno Club took Woody Minnich to dinner. We had heard Woody’s talk before, but enjoyed it again. The wide selection of brag plants, sale plants and raffle plants also made it worthwhile. (I got two raffle plants and Anne took home four! Bakersfield is getting a reputation for this.)

The 7th, of course, was the Super Bowl. We ignored the game and played board games, but stopped to watch the ads. I did concede a little to the spirit of New Orleans by breaking out my licorice stick to play “The Saints go marching in”

Tuesday the 2nd we enjoyed another free breakfast at Denny’s. That evening we enjoyed the talk by Charles Spotts on Haworthias. He had an amazing number of them. I did not win anything in the raffle, but purchased the biggest Tiger Jaw I’ve ever seen. (It did not have a scientific name on it, but I assume from the size that it is Faucaria grandis. This species is, however said to have two inch long leaves and the one I bought has four inch ones! Perhaps it is polyploid. It is said to be from Grahamstown, South Africa where we went with Anne for the Indigenous Plant Use Forum in 2005.)

On the 11th we went to another Community Concert and took my mother (on Anne’s ticket since Anne and Lora and kids went to the Harlem Globetrotters next door). The concert featured Daniel Rodriquez who is a fantastic tenor, but we also heard his wife and her twin sister. (The sisters are from New Zealand.) The songs included a few appropriate to the coming Valentines Day. Mother was also pleased with the preconcert Strolling Strings from the Panama Buenavista School District. (She used to teach at Greenfield School.)

On Valentines Day we went to lunch at the new Old Hacienda (formerly Las Molcajetes, Que Pasa etc.). Despite the new name, it is much the same as always.

On the 15th I noted that fields are already orange and yellow with fiddlenecks and fruit trees are flowering. I hope this early spring doesn’t get nipped in the bud. On the 17th The Jan/Feb Cactus & Succulent Journal came. I have a few comments under Corrections. See if you can find the error in the corrections. The first spelling is the correct one.

Finally, some more from the Family of Whittier and Tufts. This month I’ll choose my grandfather, Asa Leonard Caulkins. He was born in Ohio in 1887. Eventually the family moved to Ceres and built the large house which is still there. Interestingly, they used plumbing purchased from leftovers after the World’s Fair in San Francisco. Grandfather went to UC Berkeley, obtaining an M.A. in 1917. He then settled in Stockton with my grandmother Lorena Pearl Moon (also from Ceres) and taught chemistry and math at Stockton High School. (I was born and raised in Stockton and went to Stockton Hi in the 7th grade, there being no Jr Hi at that time. Grandfather was by then a registrar there.)

To quote from the Family book, “His hobby was woodworking, of which he did a great deal. He also was a gardener, having lovely flowers all around his house.” I remember a lot of strange things in addition to the Century plant, including a strawberry bush and “cut” grass. The strangest things, though, were next door at “Uncle” Harry Snook’s house. (Although we called him uncle, he was not related. He taught biology at Stockton Hi.) The most outstanding plant was his jujube tree (Ziziphus jujuba). We loved eating them when they were ripe.

There are jujube relatives all over Africa, but most are small and hardly edible. I did find some large ones in the Zambesi Valley on a field trip with Aloe 88. We stopped for a road block and I got off the bus to purchase them. My rudimentary Chewa was good enough for the bargain and I passed around a hat full for the busload to eat. I learned, however, that they are usually brewed rather than eaten fresh.

Polly and Safari Stragglers by Corey Starkey

A giant Tiger Jaws

Kalanchoes at the Huntington

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