i went down to the community garden this saturday morning with my dSLR camera to get some better photos of the praying mantises. there were 1-2 other gardeners, all outskirt plots, none of them i recognized, all just doing their own thing and not saying hello. the female mantis was hanging upside down on the white bitter melon. i took a bunch of photos of her from various angles and proximity. i looked for the male on the hyacinth beans, didn't see it right away, only spotted it on a second passing. he was in a more guarded position so i wasn't able to get as many photos of him.

mantises are in the same insect family as cockroaches, and i can see some similarities. particularly how the backwings don't have a protective shell like beetles, but are just folded up on their backs, the wings seemingly stacked on top of each other rather than side-to-side like some other insects.

i did some watering, figuring i won't be back again this labor day weekend. the male hid underneath some bean leaves so as to not get wet while the female seemed unperturbed, though i tried to avoid directly spraying the mantises.

afterwards i took some more photos. i noticed the female had a wet mandible, so it probably managed to get a drink of water. i was hoping to see either of them actually ambush some insect but that didn't happen. the female at one point faced me directly and did this wiggly side-to-side dance. later i learned mantises do this to get better depth perception. i also watched the female move across the top of the bitter melon trellis. mantises move very slowly, very deliberately. they don't seem to be fast insects, unless they're ambushing prey.

i noticed something i never knew before: i always thought the front two legs of a mantis were just claws for snatching insects, and just assumed they moved around with their back 2 pairs of legs. but actually there are feet appendages on the tips of the front claws, and when a mantis walks, it uses all 6 legs. it's just when they're in their "prayer" pose, the front feet are folded up. so the claws are actually modified upper and lower legs (the equivalent of thighs and calves), with walking feet at the ends.

i was in the garden for a full 40 minutes before i finally left by 11:30am. i picked up my things and left for belmont.

my parents had rice porridge prepared. i mixed a glass of ice cold half & half lemonade tea.

later in the afternoon there was some drama when i went to my curing garlic bin to pick out the largest ones for replanting. but i noticed all the larger garlics were gone, all that's left where medium and small garlics. i asked my parents if they ate them. my father said he just ate one, while me mother confessed she only picked the largest garlics for eating, the ones i've been growing for the past few years to get them to a big enough size so i could have even bigger garlics. i did say at one point i wasn't planning on growing anymore garlics next season, and my mother must've heard that and figured she could eat them all, even though later i'd changed my mind. she doesn't remember me mentioning later i was saving the largest garlics and she could have all the medium and small ones.

so it looks like i have to restart my garlic project. i went online looking for new sources of garlic bulbs but they're all around the $20 range not factoring in shipping cost. i got the garlics i currently have back in september 2018, just 3 years ago. i bought a pound of korean red garlic for $15 off of ebay. they're supposed to be extra spicy but in all the times i've been eating them, never once would i consider them extra spicy. so i've always wondered if there was some false advertising and they sold me some random hardneck garlics. a pound of garlic is about 11 bulbs, so i weighed out 11 of the larger medium garlics and it came out to be 0.96 lbs. so about a single pound. so the larger medium garlics i currently have are approximately the same size as the original bulbs 3 years ago. my mother also said at the cafe she has 2 of my larger garlics, so if i get them back, i might have enough large bulbs to be in a good position for replanting.

it's taken a while but i feel like i'm finally getting better at growing garlics. the first fall planting in october 2018 i didn't add any fertilizer, but i did add a whole 1.5 cu.ft of fresh garden soil into each of the beds. that summer 2019 when i harvested the garlics, they were disappointingly small. so in the fall of 2019 i got more strategic with my garlic growing. i went with a larger raised bed (RB4 instead of RB0) and mapped out how many cloves i can plant while still keeping them 6" apart. i planted them along with a combination of bone meal and blood meal.

the spring-summer of 2020 was a dry season and i didn't water enough. i also didn't know when to harvest the garlics and let their leaves turn completely yellow before pulling them out, which results in a lot of burst and dried bulbs. the garlics harvest were still disappointingly small. so when i replanted the garlics in fall 2020, i learned from my past mistakes. i'd moved to RB2, and this time i used a combination of bone meal and garden food pellets with each clove.

starting in early spring 2021, i side dressed the garlic bed with chicken manure every 2 weeks. i made sure to water often (not a problem, since this was a wet spring-summer). and finally i harvested on time (end of june 2021), when there were just 2 brown garlic leaves. and after they had over a month to cure, i trimmed off the roots and dead leaves. after 3 seasons, these bulbs were a lot bigger, but i was still disappointed, because there were just a handful of jumbo garlics, when i thought they'd all be massive in size. still, the smallest bulbs was about the same size as the largest ones from last season, so i was definitely on the right path. seeing the jumbo garlics persuaded me to grow them one more season, using just the largest ones.

the cherokee sunset rudbeckias are putting on a show. each plant has different patterns and colors, the flowers are big, and most importantly, they last for a long time, weeks going onto a month. chinese asters are doing well too, but i haven't removed some of the older blossoms because i want to collect the seeds. some of the white flowers are not entirely white but have pink tips, like the ones i have in my own community garden plot.

i noticed the container of bitter melon seeds had gone moldy. there was so much mold at first i couldn't even tell there were seeds. i quickly dumped them out and gave them a wash before drying again. we can collect seeds from every bitter melon but some of these seeds were from ripened orange bitter melons with red seeds.

my parents made some chunbing (春餅) and we ate them rolled up with some scallions, hoisin sauce, and braised beef.

my mother told me that their next door neighbor just bought a tesla. if i had to guess, it's the recent model 3, which is surprisingly affordable for a luxury electric car starting at $40k. my father and i watched some tesla driving videos, i realized i had no ideas how teslas actually operate. there's no dashboard, just a big touchscreen.

i left belmont late, after 8pm, when it was already dark. it's been a while since i've ridden at night, it's just another sign that summer is coming to a close.