Protect your plants from Jack Frost’s bite


Moorten Botanical Garden, Palm Springs

With near-freezing temperatures heading our way this evening, a local plant expert offers suggestions on how to protect your plants from frost damage.

A strong cold front from the Gulf of Alaska is expected to drop temperatures into the mid-30s – dipping into the low 30s by Friday evening.

“If it’s going to be in the 30s, I cover the plants with old bed sheets,” said Clark Moorten, owner of Moorten’s Botanical Garden in Palm Springs.

He was already hanging sheets and blankets on his greenery Thursday afternoon.

“It looks like my garden’s tucked in for the night,” he said, laughing.

He recommends using a cloth to cover plants – not plastic. Newspapers can also be used, he said.

Read Maureen Gilmer’s story: Chill may kill, but plants are resistant

Moorten said temperatures are taken about 5 feet above ground level, so, “If it’s 36 degrees, it might be 30 at the ground,” he said.

Bougainvilleas are one of the most frost-sensitive plants. Soft succulents, including Aloes, are also susceptible to damage from extreme cold.

“If they’re planted right up against the house, they’ll probably be OK because a house gives off heat.”

Plants that are under the cover of trees, or a canopy of shrubs or bushes should be fairly well protected, he said.

Potted plants can be moved under trees, or other areas in the yard that provides shelter.

But it doesn’t hurt to err on the side of caution, he added.

“Frost cuts like a knife,” he said. “If you’re worried, cover them up as a precaution.”

U.S. Army veteran Jim Roberson served as combat platoon leader during Vietnam War

U.S. Army veteran Jim Roberson

U.S. Army veteran Jim Roberson, a 1st Lieutenant with the 9th Infantry Division, was a combat platoon leader during the Vietnam War.

Roberson got an early start on his military career. When he was 14, his parents sent him off to Wentworth Military Academy in Lexington, Mo. — a 4-year college preparatory high school and military junior college.

“I was always getting into fights … and I think my parents wanted to keep me away from girls and beer,” he said laughing.

Roberson was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant and trained at Fort Benning, Ga., where the 20-year-old completed a 4-month combat platoon leaders course.

“I became proficient in how to blow up bridges,” he said.

Most of his platoon’s action took place near the Mekong Delta area of South Vietnam.

While he was still a 2nd Lieutenant, he was assigned to Graves Registration duty. It was his job to go back after every battle to identify those who were killed in action.

The soldiers were collected from the battlefield and were brought to a Quonset hut where they were ID’d.

“The first time I didn’t believe what I was seeing. There were literally hundreds of guys.”’

“Another Quonset was the ‘quiet hut.’ Men who had wounds who wouldn’t make it another hour.”

Roberson said his men were under fire for most of the day while they were on missions.

“They’d pick us up in the morning, then we’d come back and ‘reload,’ then off we would go for an afternoon operation. We’d come back, then go out overnight. We got one day of break a week. We were busy.”

Sometimes the intel wasn’t always accurate.

“We’d get the wrong information. They’d tell us there were 20 people at a village, and we’d get up there and there’d be 200. We’d pull back a little, call headquarters and start calling in a lot of artillery. If they wouldn’t leave with the artillery, we’d ask for air strikes.”

Somtimes they’d bring in a massive gunship, nicknamed “Puff” to finish the job.

“The C-130. Puff the Magic Dragon. Quad 50-calibers – 6,000 rounds a minute and a whole house would be gone.”

Sometimes the men would come across the Viet Cong’s well-camoflauged tunnels.

Headquarters might call in B-52 bombers to pummel the area, “Or they’d say, ‘go on down and get what you can.’ That was so scary. It was pitch black dark.”

To get an idea of what they’d encounter once they got below the surface – where the Viet Cong built rooms that could be as big as houses, Roberson said – they’d throw a grenade down and listen to the sound.

“If it was less noisy, it meant it rolled down a long way. A guy crawled down on his stomach and would have to shoot his sidearm from that position.”

The loud sound of gunfire in such a confined space meant oftentimes, the soldier’s ears would be be bloody when he returned to the surface.

They took no prisoners — but they did gather whatever intelligence was available.

The enemy’s plans were etched on the walls of some of the rooms, he said.

Roberson had his share of close calls during his tour of duty in Vietnam.

While walking across a bamboo bridge, a spray of bullets crashed into the thick wood. The gunfire was heading his way, and Roberson, frozen in his tracks, watched as bamboo shattered closer and closer to his position.

“It stopped in front of me,” he said. “It came within inches. I think the guy ran out of ammunition.”

Another time, he jumped over a patty dike and when he landed, he felt a series of sharp pains jolt across his torso.

“The medic came running though a hail of bullets. He pulled me out, ripped off my fatigues, and started laughing. I said, ‘I’m dying here, what’s so funny?’”

The medic explained that Roberson had jumped into a huge ground nest of wasps.

The poison of the stings was painful, but Roberson got himself up, got the platoon out of harm’s way, and “salvaged the situation,” he said.

Roberson was hit by shrapnel on more than one occasion, but said he was fortunate and that he suffered little compared to other men who were severely wounded.

One piece of shrapnel — from a rocket propelled grenade — struck the base of his spine and sidelined the soldier for a couple of weeks.

He was sent to a hospital in Cam Ranh Bay – “It was beautiful there,” he said – where he rehabilitated.

Nurses took the soldiers on the beach to walk, which he had to relearn after his injury.

“I was rubber legged for a little while,” he said.

U.S. Army veteran Jim Roberson's dog tags and a military issue can opener, known as a P38, Roberson used during the Vietnam War.

Jim Roberson

Age: 66

Born: Nov. 22, 1946

Hometown: Arkansas City, Kansas

Residence: Palm Desert

Branch of service: U.S. Army; 9th Infantry Division; 2/39th

Years served: April 9, 1967 – March 4, 1969 (active duty)

Rank: 1st Lieutenant

Family: Wife Elizabeth; two children from a previous marriage; one grandchild

Palm Desert girls should still smile despite rugged final tournament

It’s pretty safe to say that the ride home from the CIF girls state championship in Rancho Cucamonga was a quiet one for the Palm Desert High School team. Entering the tournament with some hope of winning the state title at Red Hill Country Club, the Aztecs instead produced one of their worst days of the year to finish fourth in the event. The 440 total team score was actually kind of shocking in how uncharacteristic it was of the team.

Looking back on the day, the players and coaches, head coach Jack Stewart and assistant Debbie Koyama,  are sure to feel like they let an opportunity slip through their golf gloves. They finished 39 shots out of first place and 20 shots out of second place and one shot out of third, but the team has to know that there were 30 more more shots that logically could have been shaved off the team’s score. Surprisingly high scores from some of the team’s players seemed unexplainable, even if you know the Red Hill course had amazingly fast greens that even had coaches shaking their heads, lots of trees and lots of elevation changes, things that aren’t usually found in the desert.

Junior Mackenzie Raim, left, and freshman Jiyoon Jang of the Palm Desert High School girls golf team on a happier day earlier this season (Wade Byers,/The Desert Sun)

But hopefully after the depression of the day disappears in a few days, the Palm Desert girls will be able to focus on the positives of the year. Like another undefeated season in the Desert Valley League. Or the fact that the team reached the state tournament for the third year in a row in a year that was supposed to be about rebuilding after losing three solid seniors from last year’s team.

And there is the fact that the Aztecs finished as the fourth-best team in the state of California. That’s alone is a remarkable statistic.

Oh, and there is this: The six players the Aztecs played in the state tournament Tuesday are all back next year. That would be four juniors and two freshmen. Not to get too far ahead of ourselves here, but some opposing coaches Tuesday (after the Aztecs had packed up and left) were talking about just how tough Palm Desert could be next year.

So for the moment there is some pain and a lot of self-questioning among the Aztecs for sure. But in the coming days and weeks, hopefully the players and coaches will understand what a special year they had, even if it ended on the wrong note.



Palm Springs can’t master tough task in CIF playoff game

There might be nothing tougher for a high school football team than to have just one week to prepare for an option offense that actually runs the option well. But that was the task for Palm Springs Friday night as they hosted Temescal Canyon.

In the end, Temescal Canyon executed its offense too well for Palm Springs to contain, and the Indians fell 21-3 to end what had been a successful season that included an 5-0 record in the Desert Valley League.

The option offense requires a solid quarterback with good running and decision-making skills, and Temescal Canyon had that Friday night in Sean Trimble. Not only did Trimble run for 85 yards himself with also throw a touchdown, he did a strong job of distributing the ball in the option.

The result for Palm Springs was trying to play catch-up most of the second half. The Indians threw the ball 43 times Friday night, something head coach Dan Murphy admits was not in the original game play. Palm Springs was able to pile up yards with a short passing game, but it never could put the ball in the end zone and made just one of two field goal attempt. The closest the Indians came to a score was when quarterback Riley Hagar had a pass intercepted in the end zone in the third quarter.

Palm Springs intercepted a pass deep in their own territory on the next drive, one of three turnovers the Titans had on the night. Option teams will turn the ball over, but Palm Springs never took advantage of the Temescal Canyon mistakes.

So the Indians are out of the Central Division playoffs after one game, and that will be disappointing to the players and fans for a day or two. After that, though, they have to think about the successes of the season, an 8-3 mark and a DVL championship in Murphy’s first season as head coach. It was a good season for a young team to build on next season.


Economic indicators up on Election Day 2008, 2012

20121106-161038.jpgI like numbers – who doesn’t, right? ;) – so, just for fun, I checked out some of the leading economic indicators on the day of the Nov. 4, 2008 election and posted those along with today’s closing numbers. All stock numbers are rounded to the dollar.

2012Dow Jones close: 13,246 (up 133)
Nasdaq close: 3,012 (up 12)
S&P 500 close: 1,428 (up 11)

Gold: $1,715
Oil: $88.71
Natural gas: $3.34


Dow Jones close: 9,625 (up 305)
Nasdaq close: 1,780 (up 54)
S&P 500 close: 1006 (up 39)

Gold $766
Oil: $69.95
Natural gas: $7.25


Virginian has ‘gut feeling’ Obama will win

20121106-151042.jpgJerry, who declined to give his last name, was sitting at the Starbucks on Vista Chino in Cathedral City waiting for a freshly brewed grande decaf coffee.

The 71-year-old – who also declined to say who he voted for – admitted that he and his wife’s vote canceled each other’s out.

The couple winters in Cathedral City, but their permanent residence is in the swing state of Virginia. He said he voted by mail three weeks ago.

His children’s votes also cancel each other out, he added. His daughter, who lives in Santa Barbara, voted for Obama. His son, who lives in Virginia, cast his vote for Romney.

“I think Obama is going to win,” Jerry said. “My wife doesn’t think he will. It’s just a gut feeling I have. I think he’s going to take Virginia.”


Two gay men want Romney

20121106-142803.jpgLarry Kirchner and Bruce Tominello of Palm Springs are staunch Romney supporters.

“Because Obama has done absolutely nothing in four years,” Kirchner said, calling the President’s handling of Benghazi “inept.”

“We’re both gay and we’re still voting for Romney all the way,” he said.



Premonition guides woman to vote for Romney

20121106-141701.jpgJudith, who declined to give her last name, said she had a “last minute premonition” when she stepped in front of the voting booth at Palm Springs Baptist Church Tuesday morning.

She said she saw Mitt Romney and wife Ann, who she said was, “subdued.” “She behaved like a lady,” Judith said. And as much as she wanted Mitt to win it, she would be OK if he didn’t, Judith said.

Judith said she has her doubts about Barack Obama. “He enjoys publicity too much – and he enjoys the presidential jet too much.”

Then she leaned in close and said quietly, “I do believe he was born in Hawaii. Anyone who says he wasn’t is not nice.”


Small business owner votes for Romney

20121106-100423.jpgYousef Sobhy owns four gas stations in the Coachella Valley and one in Banning. The past four years have been the worst for his business, he said.

He was at Palm Springs Baptist Church on Tuesday morning where he cast his vote for Mitt Romney.

“We need a change and he seems like he can help the economy better than Mr. Obama.”

Sobhy on gas: He predicts prices will continue to fall, but won’t get much lower than $3.50 a gallon.

Sobhy said “Everyone is nervous about the election,” but whether his man wins or loses, tomorrow will be a better day.

“Getting the election over with is going to help everything.”

“It’s the worst four years for my business,” he said.


A big loss, but signs of life for PD Aztecs football

The scoreboard said Damien High School beat Palm Desert High School by four touchdowns Friday night, and honestly Damien was the better team in the game played at Palm Desert.

But during and after the game the feeling around the Palm Desert team was that the Aztecs had played better than a 28-point loss would indicate. And if you think about it, there is some logic to that thinking.

Two plays could have changed the game entirely, and both plays went against Palm Desert. First was a fumble by Palm Desert quarterback Joseph Castelli that was turned into a 62-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Damien and a 14-0 lead. Hold onto that ball and the game could have been at least one touchdown closer.

Then there was the Castelli pass that was tipped by a charging a relentless defensive line for Damien. Instead of a Palm Desert touchdown pass, the ball fluttered into the hands of a Damien defender at the goal line. Four plays later, Damien scored itself.

So, two plays could have been a 14-point or maybe a 21-point swing in the game.

Okay, in all Palm Desert turned the ball over too many times (two intercepton, two fumbles) and the Aztecs were no match for the speed of the Spartans.

But the score looks perhaps a little worse than the reality of the Aztecs performance. Still, Palm Desert will have to improve to play compeitively with Redland next week.