The Cactus Patch
Volume 11       May 2008      Number 5

A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

March was another busy month. On the 6th we visited Old Town Clovis. I found a bottle of “Gaumbault’s Caustic Balsam” in an antique store. This is supposed to be rubbed into sores, both for veterinary and human use. The caustic part of the name is right! It contains both Euphorbia gum and Cantharides (blister beetle). Unfortunately it does not say which euphorbia. After that we went over to Fresno for the cactus meeting and came out with a box of plants. Next day Anne took the plants on the train back to Bakersfield. Polly and I continued on north to Sacramento and met up with our son John. Incidentally, I noted that 99 is planted with South African daisies and snapdragons. Whatever happened to local wildflowers?

Next day we went to a breakfast with green pancakes (for St Patrick’s Day, though it was at a Protestant church) and then drove to Los Gatos for a reunion of the caving bunch that came to Botswana in 2006. On the way we saw pelicans at the Yolo Causeway near Davis. The reunion involved lots of pictures and a feast that looked like a combined Christmas and Thanksgiving. Polly and I showed pictures of Gcwihaba in 2007, the cave which we failed to reach in 2006. We came away with two more boxes of plants!

On the 9th we drove back to Sacramento and left John. We traveled via Gilroy to see the botanic garden there, but it was closed for the season. We did see a large flock of Buffleheads (aka Butterballs), a weird duck. At the San Luis Reservoir there were lots of poppies and some bush lupines. We also found tiny crassulas. On the 10th Polly and I went on up to Quincy to see our grandson Michael. Along the Feather River we collected serpentine and jade which we found in abundance. Great rocks for a garden! The canyon walls had paintbrush on the sunnyside and white-flowered poppies in the shade. Everyone was in good health this time. Next day we toured Quincy and rescued a large box of books being thrown out at a local thrift shop. We also saw Canada geese and herons.

Next day we drove over to Portola, but found the Train

Museum was closed. Fortunately the bookstore wasn’t and it had a copy of “Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West” (Michael Moore, 1993, Red Crane Books, Santa Fe, $22.50). I had seen this at our host’s house in Los Gatos and was dieing to get it. Unfortunately it has almost no mention of succulents. It does list prickly pears (Opuntia basilaris etc.)and says the juice is good in treating type II diabetes. We went back to Quincy and joined a community dinner at the Methodist Church. On the 13th we drove back to Sacramento and on the 14th we arrived in Fresno and watched a very amateur production called “The cry of the Banshee” directed by Polly’s sister Nancy and featuring our niece Margaret. On the 14th we finally returned to Bakersfield.

On the 17th we went to a book sale at the Beale Library and found the books were half price as it was the last day. On the 30th we had a birthday celebration for our grandnephew Joey who is an unbelievable 21!

But enough for now. Last July we left England on the 22nd at 5:20 p.m. and arrived in Boston at 7:06. It was actually the usual seven hour and 46 minute flight, but time zones ate up the day. We were quite tired when we finally got to the Ramada Inn (after being turned away by two of their transports which had no room). Next morning we had a delightful buffet breakfast and

phoned Greyhound for information on getting to Nova Scotia. (Remember, Botswana Government would not fly us there as Air Botswana does not have any agreement with Air Canada.) We were told it was a 17 hour bus ride! We had lunch at the Freeport Inn (next to the Ramada) while thinking about a better plan.

Fortunately when I went across the highway to cash travelers’ checks, we found Puritan Travel which booked us on to a Ferry from Portland, Main to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.

Along the highway we found milkweeds in fruit and some orpines (Sedum telephium). According to Euell Gibbons in his oddly titled book “Stalking the Blue-eyed Scallop” (1964, David McKay Co., N.Y. ) , the common orpine (also Live-forever, Aaron’s rod and Frog plant) was brought to America from Europe and has leaves which are tender, mild and tasty. The crisp tubers may also be eaten. In the afternoon we visited Philips Candy House and bought chocolate turtles. That evening we had pizza and watched bowling at the Alley next to the Ramada. Returning to our room we watched the first Democratic Party debate for the presidential campaign. What a plethora of candidates (many of whom I still don’t know.)

On the 24th we took the bus thru rocks and evergreens to Portland, Maine and checked into a Super 8 Motel. We had a Sr. meal at Friendly’s which (unknown to us) came with dessert, so we were stuffed. On the way back to the hotel we noted that the milkweeds in Maine were still blooming. On the 25th we went back into town and ate at DiMillo’s Floating Restaurant. Naturally we had lobster. (Back in the 70’s a friend took us to Maine for lobster, but it was out of season!) We then took a tour which led us past the birthplace of Nathaniel Hawthorn to the lighthouse at

Portland Head. I noted thrift (Armeria maritima) on the rocks there. (We had seen it at Plymouth, England). On the way back the driver asked which state has the most lighthouses and I won a can of baked beans for correctly stating Michigan. (I admitted this was unfair as Polly’s sister Kathy lives in Detroit and collected lighthouses.) That evening we ate at Horton’s, a chain I do not recommend.

On the 26th we took the Cat to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, but I’ll tell about that next month.

Bruce at the Lighthouse

Polly at the Floating Restaurant

If you have any comments or questions or would like to
submit a photograph or article, contact

Material in The Cactus Patch may be reprinted by non-profit organizations (unless such permission is expressly denied in a note accompanying the material) provided that the proper credit is given to the BCSS & the author and that one copy of the publication containing the reprinted material is sent to the editor. Reproduction in whole or part by any other organization without the permission of the BCSS editor is prohibited.

PREVIOUS LETTER               Bruce's Letters               NEXT LETTER

The Cactus Patch HOME      HOME