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Natural Perspectives: A blue-ribbon beet and radiant radishes

August 06, 2012|By Vic Leipzig and Lou Murray

Vic and I had a great week of agricultural and biological adventures with relatives and friends. Last Tuesday, I took my last large beet to the Orange County Fair to enter in the giant beet contest. Mighty Max wasn't the biggest beet that I've ever grown, but at five pounds, it was respectable.

I also entered three radishes that our granddaughter Megan had grown. She had planted the radish seeds as a preschool project.

Megan was the only child in her class who still had radishes surviving at the end of two weeks. I transplanted them for her into a large pot with potting soil, and she took care of them after that. Every morning on her way to preschool, she stopped by the pot to talk to them. After about two months, they were ready to harvest.

Her mother thought that Megan would want to eat them, but no. Megan wanted to enter her radishes in the Orange County Fair to win a ribbon. She had seen me win ribbons last year, and she wanted to do the same thing.

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I hurried back from the fair because we were expecting a houseguest. Katie Hertzog, 18-year-old daughter of Vic's college buddy Paul Hertzog and his British-born wife Sue, is going away to college at Sonoma State next week to major in environmental science. Katie, who is like a niece to us, came to stay with us for a few days for a crash course in practical environmental biology.

First, Vic took Katie to the Bolsa Chica Conservancy, where she watched the snakes being fed dead baby mice. She correctly assessed that one snake was getting ready to shed its skin, which was why its eyes were clouded over. It turned out that Katie already knew a great deal about wildlife and environmental issues. It was clear that she'd had a good high school education.

I took Katie to my community garden plot, where she watered and planted beans for me. Katie also fed our chickens, gathered eggs and helped release an opossum that we live-trapped in our back yard. She was not only well educated, she was a big help.

One day, we went to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park near Escondido. After seeing elephants, tigers, giraffes, rhinos and a lot of birds, we drove the short distance to our son Scott's house. Katie hadn't seen the twins since they were toddlers, and had never seen Megan and baby Mike. She was eager to meet them. We went to swim class with the three little girls and then out to eat at a sushi bar.

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