Monthly Archives: March 2018


I live in my own little world

Back in 1966 when I was under the tutelage of my wise old grandmother, I had a little cactus garden. Nothing but cactus. Little plants with spines and thorns. Lots of owees did I get. They were painful, but nothing that a teenager couldn’t handle. If I could handle grandmother whippings with an oleander switch, heck, I could handle just about anything.

Fast forward 50 years and the closest I get to those little plants with those spines and thorns is about four inches away but protected by the lens of my camera.

Last Friday I went to the Super Succulents Celebration hosted by Waterwise Botanicals in Bonsall, about 40 miles north of where I live.

Since waterwise plants include cactus, there were a lot of cactus on the grounds of this huge plant nursery comprising over twenty not-flat acres. Speaking from experience, don’t try to walk all those acres at one time.

Having been there before, I knew to take my Canon 760D camera and all three of my lenses, a Tamron 18-300m, a Tamron 90mm macro, and a Tamron 150-600mm. There were so many plants in bloom that all I used was my macro lens.

Here are four of my favorite cactus spine and thorn macro pictures:

Macro picture of cactus thorns

Macro picture of cactus thorns

Macro picture of cactus thorns

Macro picture of cactus thorns

If you look closely at the third picture, you can see a few translucent circles at the bottom of that spine. Those are raindrops. It had rained earlier that day, so I got lots of extraordinary macro pictures of raindrops on cactus and succulents. I will share them in my next post.

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Meet “Cactus Pete,” Joe, Nick, Sheen, Ryan, and Shaun

I live in my own little world

Yesterday I was out working in the gardens, something I try to do every day. Getting out of the house, out from behind the computer, and playing in the dirt with the worms, with bees and birds twittering about, is very therapeutic for me. Keeps me sane.

Two nine-year-old boys stopped by yesterday. They are expert skateboarders and came roaring down the steep street in front of my home, coming to a complete stop right at my driveway. I have watched them for eight months, since I moved in, and almost—almost, I say!—wished I was nine years old again without a care in the world other than being the best skateboarder in the neighborhood.

I was informed that their mom had given them permission to talk to me. That’s nice. It’s too bad that the world is in such bad shape that we have to be wary of anyone and everyone.

So they started talking. Asking questions. Brains and mouths going a hundred miles an hour. I was tired just talking with them.

They asked if I would give them a tour of my gardens. Absolutely! Of course, that would take them to the back and one side that were out of the parental eye of mom, so I waved at her as we were talking to let her know that things were alright. Hopefully.

They were intrigued with Wildlife Corner where we saw several ground squirrels, rabbits, and lizards, but what really got their attention was when I showed them how RR Bee Rescue Service rescued drowning bees from the Wildlife Corner pond. They asked if they could rescue some bees. Absolutely! I think the three of us rescued about twenty bees in fifteen minutes. They really had a good time, and hopefully I taught them the value of life, even the value of a little bee’s life.

We walked around my cactus & succulent gardens with them asking questions about individual plants that caught their attention, like this one, which was their favorite:

Euphorbia ferox

They asked me if I named my plants. Well, uh, no. I had never thought about naming them. They asked me if they could name some. Absolutely! So the little fellow above is officially “Cactus Pete.”

One of my latest creations is what I call my Cactus Condominium Complex (CCC). Looks like this:

Cactus Condominium Complex

Of course, they asked me about names, so I told them:

Front row – Stenocereus hollianus cristata, Espostoa guentheri
Middle – Mammilaria pitcayensis
Back row – Mammilaria elongata ‘Copper King’ cristata, Cereus peruvianus monstrose

“No, no, no! We mean real names.” I said that I had not named them and asked if they would like to. Well, you know the answer to that question, so here are their real names:

Front row – Joe, Nick
Middle – Sheen
Back row – Ryan, Shaun

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Zoey the Cool Cat has a visitor, but she’s not too happy about it

I live in my own little world

Jim’s brother had a stroke yesterday and is in the hospital, which meant that there was a lonely scared kitty up at his place.

Ergo, J&R Rescue Service went to work and rescued Ninja today.

Two pictures of Ninja in our laundry room chowing down.



Ninja will be staying with us for a while; not sure how long, though.

Zoey the Cool Cat was not too happy whereas Ninja was, like, oh, another cat. Ninja once was an outdoor cat so she’s probably seen lots of cats. Zoey the Cool Cat, on the other hand, has never been an outdoor cat, so at the age of 11½, this is her first up-close-and-personal experience with another feline.I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Euphorbia ferox

Did You Know?—I’m not seeing the similar features

Did you know?

I finally got around to repotting my spiny Euphorbia ferox into a larger pot with similar spines on the side:

Euphorbia ferox

Little itsy bitsy teeny tiny yellow flower buds are popping out all over.

If you’re thinking that you have heard “Euphorbia” before, well it’s possible. Your common Christmas poinsettia is Euphorbia pulcherrima.


The common “crown of thorns” also is a Euphorbia, Euphorbia milii.

Crown of Thorns

The genus Euphorbia is a very large and diverse genus of plants, as shown here. Who would think that the poinsettia was botanically related to those thorny cacti?

According to sources, it’s the result of convergent evolution where independent evolution results in similar features in species of different lineages.


I’m just not seeing the poinsettia’s “similar features” to those two thorny cacti?


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Picture of the Moment—Itty bitty

Picture of the Moment

It keeps raining.

This is not the San Diego that I’ve come to know and love.


It does make for some good macro pictures of itty bitty teeny tiny little raindrops on the plants in my gardens.

Following are my favorite two from today and yesterday.

Macro of a raindrop on a
Sprenger’s Asparagus Fern (Asparagus aethiopicus),
not a true fern:

Macro of a raindrop on a Sprenger's Asparagus Fern (Asparagus aethiopicus), not a true fern.

Itty bitty teeny tiny little raindrops
on an
itty bitty teeny tiny little succulent flower.

Itty bitty teeny tiny little raindrops on an itty bitty teeny tiny little succulent flower.

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Fight organized crime

Opinion—And now you know: They get to keep it!

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Back in Spring 1976 as a junior at Texas A&M University majoring in Forest Management, one of my required courses was Economics 301. My professor was Dr. Phil Gramm. A tenured professor making around $75,000 per year. For as long as he remained at Texas A&M University.

Some might remember him as the long-time (Jan. 3, 1985 – Nov. 30, 2002) United States Senator from Texas. A Republican Senator.

In 1976, Professor Gramm ran against U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen (D) in the Democratic primary. He lost.

In 1978, he was elected to the United States House of Representatives as a Democrat, and re-elected in 1980 and 1982. Gramm was a DINO (Democrat In Name Only) in every sense of that acronym. The American Conservative Union gave Gramm a score of 89 for his first four years in office.

Gramm had been on the House Budget Committee but had a falling out with leadership and was thrown off the Committee. In response, Gramm resigned as a United States Congressman on January 5, 1983. He ran as a Republican in the Texas special election to fill his vacated seat. He won. As a Republican. Gramm became the first Republican to represent the Texas 6th District since its creation in 1846.

That should tell you something about politics right there, both in terms of name recognition and in terms of party affiliation.

In 1984, Gramm ran for the United States Senate to replace the retiring John Tower. As a Republican. To replace a Republican.

Gramm won.

Gramm won re-election to the United States Senate three times, serving until his retirement on November 30, 2002.

When Gramm retired, newspapers throughout the world announced that he had $64 million in his campaign war chest. He got to keep that money. Did not have to turn it over to the State of Texas or the U.S. government. Did not have to return — indeed, DID NOT return — any of it to those who had donated to his campaigns throughout the years, or to his constituents as a “Thank you for your support all these years!”

One person who donated consistently to his campaigns was yours truly. I got not a single cent back. It was that $64 million that resulted in me having never ever ever contributed another cent to a political campaign. I have volunteered my time, but not a single politician at any level is getting a penny of my hard-earned cash.

I bring this up because of the special election in Pennsylvania held a couple of days ago in Pennsylvania’s 18th District, a reliably Republican District which President Twitler won by 20%. The two candidates were Conor Lamp, a Democrat, and Rick Saccone, Republican. Lamp won, making him the first Democrat to represent the District since 2001 and only the sixth Democrat in the District’s history, beginning in 1826.

Current news is reporting that as of February 21, Lamb had raised $3.9 million and spent $3 million, and that Saccone had raised $900,000 and spent $600,000.

For the sake of argument, let’s use those figures.

What do they mean?

Well, essentially it means that Saccone gets to keep $300,000. For losing. I want to be such a loser.

Fight organized crimeLamb would get to keep $900,000. The difference is that Saccone, having lost, can spend his $300,000 immediately. Lamb must retire or lose re-election before being able to spend his $900,000, so what currently-serving politicians typically do is keep any extra money in a “campaign war chest” for future campaigns.

So let’s take this back to Professor Phil Gramm and do the math using round numbers and simple formulas. We’ll presume that tenured professor Phil Gramm, 34 in 1976, would make $75,000 annually, continue teaching until age 65, and never get a raise. Note that such a presumption on its very face is false since Texas A&M University is a public university, and we all know just how generous government jobs are. Nevertheless, here’s the math.

65 – 34 = 31 years at $75,000 per year = $2,325,000

In 1985, when Gramm was elected to the Senate, a Senator’s salary was $75,100 annually. So that’s a wash if we presume no raises for Senators. However, here are the actual salaries for Senators since 1985:

1985 – $75,100
1986 – $75,100
1987 – $89,500
1988 – $89,500
1989 – $89,500
1990 – $98,400
1991 – $101,900
1992 – $129,500
1993 – $133,600
1994 – $133,600
1995 – $133,600
1996 – $133,600
1997 – $133,600
1998 – $136,700
1999 – $136,700
2000 – $141,300
2001 – $145,100
2002 – $150,000

Total – $2,126,300

It’s pretty much a wash in total actual salary, but the professorship covers 31 years whereas the senatorship covers only 18 years. I think I could handle an extra 13 years off!

So now that $64,000,000 comes into play. Does anyone really think that a teacher, even a tenured college professor, perhaps even a Nobel Prize winner, would retire with $64,000,000? (Note that the Nobel Prize in Economics for 2017 was awarded a mere $1,110,000.)

If we’re really generous with the professorship, perhaps Gramm would have written an Economics book that not only got published but was used as a textbook in Economics classes throughout the world. Let’s consider the annual salary totals a wash and be generous and give Gramm a Nobel Prize in Economics and an Economics textbook used as a standard in classes everywhere. Does one really think all of that would have added up to $64,000,000? Maybe if he wrote an Economics horror story. Wait. Gramm WAS an economics horror story…..

Now you know, though, why rich people like the Heinzes, duPonts, Kennedys, and even my own representative, Darrel Issa, a multimillionaire, go into politics. It’s not their desire to serve the public, IMHO. It’s their desire to get an easy job that pays well, has great medical benefits, has a great retirement salary that one can get after only a few terms in political office — certainly nothing like a commoner working until age 65, or later — and, of course, getting to keep everything left over in that ol’ campaign war chest.

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Macro of raindrops on a Black Rose Aeonium (Aeonium arboreum 'Zwartkop')

Picture of the Moment—That counts as a selfie, yes?

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

It rained almost all day and night on March 10.

I usually dislike the rain, intensely, but now that I have a 90mm macro lens, I still dislike the rain, intensely.

However, since Mother & Father Nature don’t really listen to me when it comes to rain, well, I deal with it.

In this case, I went out to my cactus & succulent gardens and started taking macro pictures of raindrops on the little plants.

As I was taking pictures, I was singing “raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.” I have the whiskers on kittens but I don’t have any roses. The police stopped and threatened to arrest me because I was singing “raindrops on roses” but didn’t have any roses. Who knew?


I was standing over a “black rose aeonium” (Aeonium arboreum ‘Swartkop’) with little raindrops on the leafies. As soon as I said “rose,” the rose police backed off and apologized.

Here’s the macro picture I got:

Macro of raindrops on a Black Rose Aeonium (Aeonium arboreum 'Zwartkop')

I like how the little raindrops act as magnifying glasses, and if you look very closely at the bottom of the largest raindrop at the front, you can see me with my digital camera in my face. That counts as a selfie, yes?

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A+R POTTERY logo and first two completed Designer Pots


My partner, Andrew, and I are moving full speed ahead. Our first completed pot, even over-completed since it included a plant, something we’re not going to do, was given to Andrew’s dad. It looked like this:

A+R POTTERY pot #7

That’s A+R POTTERY pot #7.

Andrew took the picture using his smart phone. Then I took the picture into Photoshop, converted it to line art, added color and the text, and voilà! Instant logo. (Instant. Ha! Took me two days!) Following is how we got from that picture to the logo.

First I removed the background:

I took that picture and created black & white line art:


The part that took the longest was applying green and brown to specific sections of the line art. Adding the text was the easiest part.


Now I have to create our tagline. Probably something like this:

for your small cactus & succulents 

Then I have to get shirts and business cards made.

Turns out that I don’t need a business license for where I live because I’m in an unincorporated area of San Diego County. Yahoooooo! Hundreds of dollars saved. Let’s hear it for living outside city limits.

Turns out that I also don’t need a sales tax license for doing Internet sales. However, I will need a state sales tax license because I’ll be selling at cactus and succulent shows throughout the ten counties of Southern California. I’ll also have to get business licenses for each city in which I want to sell. I’ll get those one by one so that the initial cost isn’t prohibitive.

My second designer pot that went out the door has a story behind it:

I have landscaped the new home that Jim, Zoey the Cool Cat, and I moved into in July 2017. I’m not finished but the front is almost done. Looked like this on February 23:

Landscaping on 02232017

After the hail and rain storm on February 27, I decided to put gutters and downspouts up. A roofing company just down the road came by on Friday, March 2, to take measurements and provide a quote. The lady loved my landscaping, as well as the Designer Pot that I was holding in my hand. It was the pot I made for Andrew’s dad, and I was taking it inside to water. She reduced the price of my gutters and downspouts by $39 if I would make her a Designer Pot.

The gutters were installed yesterday; downspouts to come.

I finished her Designer Pot today. Her company’s color is red (and I mean red, like you’ve never seen red before!), so I made a red Designer Pot and put a Spring Cactus with red flowers in it. It’s designated A+R POTTERY pot #18. Looks like this:

Designer Pot by A+R POTTERY

Designer Pot by A+R POTTERY

Designer Pot by A+R POTTERY

If the plant looks like a “Christmas Cactus,” well, it kind of is. First, though, the common Christmas Cactus is not a cactus. It is a succulent. All cactus are succulents, but not all succulents are cactus.

But it’s fixin’ to (fixin’ to is Texan for “about to”) bloom, and although Christmas is right around the corner, Christmas is not here yet. This one is a “Spring Cactus,” which means those little red buds should be in full bloom come March 20.

As with many things in today’s world, people either were not satisfied  or wanted more. Enter plant geneticists and breeders. Along with our standard Christmas Cactus which blooms at Christmas, we now have Halloween Cactus, Thanksgiving Cactus, Valentine’s Cactus, Spring Cactus, and Easter Cactus. All of them are Schlumbergera hybrids.

See if you can guess when they bloom!

Pots #1 through 6, and #8 through 17, are incomplete, either not having been grouted yet or missing their accent pieces (small rocks, pebbles, and wood).

Since the planter itself sits on flooring or pool tile, which are rough and can scratch or otherwise damage whatever the tile is sitting on, I have added those little spot cushions to the underside of each Designer Pot. Makes the pot easier to move around without scratching anything.

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