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Category: Off the Beaten Path

  • Views of Napa in Spring

    March 26, 2013

    Following the San Francisco Garden Show, I took off on a quick vacation to Napa where spring is in full swing. In the morning of our one full day there,  I walked to the coffee shop to order a morning latte. Outside, the warming air was filled with the fragrance of my Northern California childhood in summer — something indescribable and distinctive and evocative of times gone by. With one whiff, I closed my eyes and let my mind travel back in time to cool, early summer mornings tramping through the fields to bridle my pony and spend the entire day riding through fields of weedy wildflowers and lonely oak trees. Traveling through time on in aromatic dream was the perfect way to begin our day of rejuvenation.

    Before we parked ourselves beside the pool to soak up the sun, we enjoyed a brief hike through the resort’s adjacent vineyard where I captured a few shots of the season to share:

    Vineyard Grapes in Spring

    Vineyard Grapes breaking bud in the Spring Sunshine in Napa

    Barbed Wire Fence

    Rusty Barbed Wire in the fields filled with wildflowers, clover & grasses

    Wild Mustard Flowers

    Wild Mustard blooming yellow brightens the fields

    Lady Beetle Adult & Larvae

    A hatch of lady beetles in the field below aphid-filled mustard

  • Everything Old is New Again – Garden Mentors® 2.0

    February 17, 2013
    New Life Emerges on Perennial

    From the Old Emerges the New

    Welcome to the new & vastly improved Garden Mentors® website. We’ve been cultivating this seedling project for several months, and today we’re thrilled to share it — shoots, roots, leaves, blooms, fruits and all!

    Briefly, here are a few of the newer features you’ll find on our site:

    • Garden Help Blog integrated seamlessly into Garden Mentors®
    • Twitter & Blog headlines from our homepage
    • Mailing list sign up at the bottom of every page
    • News & Events sidebars to let you know where we’re speaking next
    • Social networking & RSS links at the bottom of every page
    • Free gardening tips on the top of almost every page
    • A larger, updated & more refined store
    • An updated Portfolio
    • FAQ
    • and so much more!

    Where our old website was hand-coded HTML (dating back a decade) with an ancillary six year old WordPress blog, today’s site is an all-in-one modernized WordPress wonderland that wouldn’t have been possible without the brand and design guidance of Pixelube‘s Vince Dean and the WordPress wizardy of our own Bob Albert. Too, we received quite a bit of priceless feedback from several friends and colleagues that really helped us refine some of the bumpier spots.

    We hope you enjoy the new site, and we welcome your questions and feedback via the comments section below, or if you prefer, send us a private message. We look forward to getting back to posting more regularly now that this project has rooted in and is growing strong. Today, however, a hike in nature far from a computer screen and potting up a bunch of crowded cool season crop seedlings is our next order of business!

  • Tricks for Turning Halloween Handouts into Local, Organically Grown Treats

    November 05, 2012
    Trick or Treat Change

    Leftover change from Halloween grab bag of money

    This year I refused to buy corn syrup candy to hand out to trick or treaters on Halloween. We’ve been working to eliminate highly sugared processed foods from our diet. So, why would I buy into the same to hand out to others?

    We gathered input from friends and looked at a variety of other options for what to give out for Halloween instead of candy:

    • Glow Sticks: Too pricey, rejected.
    • Stickers: Yeah maybe, but teens wouldn’t be thrilled. And those are the kids that TP & egg houses.
    • Local, Dark chocolate: Again, too pricey.
    • Seeds to plant: Again, too pricey.

    Usually, we have a lot of kids come to our door, so looking at handouts that might cost over $.50/piece wasn’t in our budget. And, each of the pricey options above fell into that price range. So when another friend said she had filled a bowl with pennies and told each kid to grab as much as they could with one hand, I thought that might be for us.

    But, just pennies sounded kind of dull, so I decided to do mostly pennies with a few nickels, dimes and quarters thrown in as well. Starting with a budget of $40, that gave us quite a lot of change to work with. (more…)

  • Some Things Really Do Get Better with Age

    January 19, 2012
    45 MPH

    I'm Driven to Age Well!

    Whether I like it or not, I’m going to turn 45 this year. I can’t turn back the clock or erase the wrinkles. But, I can celebrate the fact that I’ve been blessed with over four decades of a relatively healthy & happy life. In general, my life has improved with age. And, it would seem the same is true of a fantastic tool that came to life the same year I did.

    Today Fiskars tool company reminded me that their iconic, lightweight, ground-breaking Original Orange-Handed Scissors are celebrating their 45th birthday just like me!

    To celebrate, Fiskars is offering a number of events, drawings and some pretty cool give-away’s, including one with us detailed at the end of this post. As for the events, personally, I can’t wait to see the guest spot they’ve lined up with outstanding topiary gardener Pearl Fryar slated for February 27, 2012!

    I grew up in a house where these special scissors were off-limits to the likes of me — a kid with a penchant for digging holes in the garden or grooming my pet goat with mom’s best sewing scissors. Although I wasn’t allowed to ruin Mom’s shears, I can’t remember a time before those orange handled tools existed.  Once I graduated from the round-tipped, useless preschooler-friendly kid scissors that can’t even cut paste, I was relegated to using Mom’s old, dull, clunky, heavy shears to do my cutting damage. How I pined for the light, sharp ones. When I grew up, these were the ones I bought.

    45 Year Anniversary of DesignAnd I loved using them for much more grown-up endeavors. At least until my hands became more and more debilitated over the years.

    Using traditional scissors, even lightweight, sharp ones, can be awkward for me these days. My hands are somewhat damaged from years of heavy, thoughtless use. Fortunately, Fiskars has never stopped thinking, innovating and developing for people struggling with arthritis and other limitations like mine,  which make traditional tools tough to use.

    Their line of Easy-Action shears shows that even the best products can be improved upon. By no means do I wish to say that the original is any less good than this line, which has been awarded the Arthritis Foundation Easy-of-Use Commendation. What I do mean to say is that even if we have broken new ground, redefined an industry, and created a world-class product, there’s no excuse for resting on our laurels.

    And, fortunately, Fiskars has created these scissors that enable my rhematoid arthritis-suffering Mom to easily open bags of potting soil and snip bouquets. Heck! She’s the one who told me how rockin’ these tools are. When I got a pair, I knew she was right. As Mom had put it:  “When I try to use regular scissors, it?s like trying to write with the wrong hand.” With these newer styles, that’s never a problem!

    Sometimes reinventing ourselves & avoiding stagnation really does ensure we get better with age.

    To celebrate our shared 1967 birth and 45 years of scissor innovation, I’m teaming with Fiskars to offer you a chance to win a pair of the Original Orange-Handed Scissors or a pair of my favorite Easy Action Scissors.

    Here’s how to enter & how a winner will be chosen: (don’t forget to sign up here for additional chances to win directly from Fiskars.) (more…)

  • Blame Me for the Freeze

    January 11, 2012
    Winter Blooming Garrya

    Garrya elliptica beginning to break bud

    Yesterday flurries. Today frozen lawns. And, by Sunday, we may have real snow.

    This on the heels of a very mild winter. So mild  that bud casings are expanding, loosening and breaking open weeks early on many winter bloomers, leaving these otherwise hearty plants susceptible to any big weather fluxes — like the cold and snow the forecasters are predicting.

    So, why blame me? I can’t really control the weather right?

    Well, I got way behind on my fall gardening chores. My biggest regret? Not getting my garlic in the ground before November.

    Yep, not practicing what I preach.

    Garlic planting

    Late Planted Garlic

    But, because my seed garlic was still firm and the weather has been so mild, I put it in the ground last weekend. Why let it go to waste? Might as well get any of those last bulbs planted, right?

    Sure…unless it freezes and gets super soggy and everything rots before it can set root.

    So, yep, you can blame me for the change in weather. I took a risk, and it looks like Mother Nature decided she’d throw a wrench into my late throw of the gardening dice.

    Maybe all that garlic will rot. Maybe it will perform great and just come in a little late. Some is planted directly in the garden beds. Another bunch is in a big pot, which I’ll move into the greenhouse today to give it a little protective edge. I’ll be kicking myself come spring and summer (and all the way through next winter) if I don’t get any garlic.

    And we’ll see. Maybe it won’t snow. Those forecasters have certainly been wrong before.

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