- Author: Jenni Dodini
You know how it's really nice to have a story to tell about something? Well, here's the story of Doris's dogwood tree....
We have known Doris's son, Tom, for nearly forever. Steve and Tom played basketball together in high school. We have lived together a couple times since Tom stood up with us when we got married. We lost touch when Tom moved away. We got back in touch a couple times when Tom was home to visit his folks, things like that. Well, I got to know Doris a little bit way back then, but after Tom moved away, I never saw her. Doris is an amazing gardener. When the horticulture program was started at the college, Doris was there and took all the classes. Way back then, she had a new home with views of her yard from every window of the house, even the master bath. She could sit in the tub and it was like being outside! (This was before everyone had hot tubs.). She planned and planted and planted and planted. It was wonderful to see. I was a little jealous because I wanted something like that if I ever grew up.
Anyway, Doris had a hip replaced and Tom was up to help her afterwards. We re-connected again and Steve helped him clean up around the house and yard so she could safely go back home independently. The yard had gotten out of control and they did some work out there also. So, Steve came home one day and said that Doris had a dogwood tree in a pot and it needed to go into the ground, but she didn't have space for it, did I want it? I have always wanted a dogwood tree, but I didn't think they could tolerate our climate, so I never really actively tried to have one. Anyway, he brought it home in the fall, and we got it planted out behind the gazebo after the fire came and went. She said it had been in the pot for at least 10 - 12 years, so I was worried that it might not survive, but as you can see from the picture, it did.
Doris invited me to come to the house a couple weeks ago. Mind you, I hadn't been out there in a good 30 years, so I was hopeful yet leery of what I would find when I got there. Doris took me all around the house and we had a great visit. She must have 10 dogwood trees in the very large front part of the property. She started many of them from the original tree that she put in. They were all in bloom. She proudly told me that she will be 92 on her birthday this month, but lamented that she can no longer get out in the yard the way she used to. Her mind is still sharp and she could name almost every plant out there, and there are MANY. Even though she hasn't been able to get out and work the way she wants to, the plants are in great shape. So, there's the story.
Now for the info, just in case you are interested. Dogwood is of the Cornaceae family, the most common being Cornus florida. There 6 species and they are native to Europe, Asia and America, primarily the eastern U.S., and can be found in zones 5 through 9. They are fast growing, as much as a foot a year. They like to be in partial shade, protected by larger trees, in slightly acidic soil, but they adapt well to all soil types. They are also drought tolerant, but like slightly moist soil. They will take full sun, but need more frequent watering during the hot weather if they are in full sun. Pruning is rarely necessary. However, if they need pruning, they are known to "bleed" sap profusely, so prune in early spring or summer. (I found different info from different sources). They flower from mid-March through May. There were only a few flowers on mine, but Doris's were in full bloom. The flowers can be large and fragrant and vary in color from white to pink to red. Doris only had 1 pink blooming tree, and it was BEAUTIFUL! Then the leaves come out and are rich green in color. One species has variegated leaves. In autumn, the foliage reddens. Then in the winter, the berries form and are white, red or bluish in color and about the size of raspberries. The bark also gets scaly looking and grayish in color during the winter. The pests associated with the dogwood tree are aphids, powdery mildew, anthracnose fungus and dogwood borers.
Just a little history and folklore..... The dogwood is the state tree of Missouri and the state flower of Virginia. Thomas Jefferson lobbied for the state flower designation, and planted the dogwoods at Monticello. George Washington planted dogwood trees at his Mt. Vernon estate. This made the dogwood popular as an ornamental tree.
In the 1500s, it was called "Dagwood" because the slender stems were used to make daggers, arrows and skewers - "Dags". Then it morphed to "Dogwood" because many thought that the sounds of the limbs knocking together on windy nights was like a dog barking OR because is was a popular treatment for mange by boiling the wood then washing the dog in the water.
The American Indians also used the dogwood branches to make toothbrushes! They used the bark and roots for medicines and dyes. The berries were used in religious ceremonies. The flowering was the sign that spring had come and it was time to start planting the corn. As the sap is poisonous, there were nefarious uses for the sap as well.
Last fun fact. The dogwood was used in making the first tennis racquets in Europe.
References: (all on-line)
Gardening Know how
Fast Growing Trees
Garden Design Magazine
- Author: Betsy Buxton
As I sit here at the computer, there is a neighborhood confab going on across the street between three men and a single woman. They are earnestly discussing the latest scourge to hit the neighborhood! I watch as there is much gesturing here and there in the side and backyard of the house there. What could it be? Vandalism or trespassing at night? What could be the reason for the 20 minute meeting? I ask him when he returns to grab a flashlight and prepares to journey back across the street to rejoin the fray. “It's a skunk”, he replies. Apparently a skunk has taken up residence somewhere in the backyard and is “going off” nightly. What will the committee do, I wonder. . .
A little lesson in skunkology is in order here. There are 2 varieties of skunks in our area, the Spilogale gracilis or Spotted skunk and the Mephitis mephitis or Striped skunk. Some folks in Vallejo have had the spotted variety stop by, but in Suisun City, I've only had the dubious honor of meeting the striped variety. Both varieties are most active at dawn, dusk and at night BUT can be seen during the day especially in areas that humans use also. They have a diverse diet which included insects, grubs (they will dig up the lawn), earthworms, small rodents, snakes, lizards, frogs, mushrooms, berries and fruit, PET FOOD, and garbage left out and about. Unfortunately, skunks will also eat eggs from nests on the ground or in low growing shrubs.
February and March are the breeding time for the striped skunks – when the smell around my neighborhood is an almost constant! Living quarters are burrows which have been dug and abandoned by ground squirrels, foxes or coyotes. If a ready-made den isn't available, then culverts, brush piles or hollow logs will do quite nicely; that includes under decks, porches, or beneath buildings and houses (I had squatters under the house for several breeding seasons). A last resort for housing will be self-dug burrows where skunks can congregate in communal dens over winter!
Okay, you say, I've got them living with me, how to make them move? One thing you must check BEFORE trying to get rid of varmints is to check the California Fish and Game Code to see how the varmint is classified; skunks are classified as non-game animals which basically gives permission to remove them in any legal manner. However, note THAT THE CODE ALSO STATES THAT SKUNKS AND OTHER WILDLIFE CANNOT BE RELOCATED WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION OF FISH & GAME. Thus the best way is to hire a pest control company to do the job!
You can however modify your living space to keep them from re-entering under decks and porches by waiting until you are sure the nesting animals are gone and block all entryways to the desired area. Plug all spaces under fences to deny entry; use wood, big rocks that the skunks can't move, put up an electric fence at the base of your fence, or use wire screening to achieve the same purpose. Skunks like other wild animals go where the food is, so make sure not to leave dog or cat food out as tasty snacks or even just water bowls. Be sure to ask the neighbors to do the same and soon the skunks won't be coming for food. Be sure to clean up spilled bird seed and fruit that have fallen from trees in the yard. Place garbage in to containers with tight fitting lids and use the “hot” composting method instead of the “cold” method to discourage skunks.
Remember that although skunks are cute, they are still wild animals and feeding them is a dangerous practice for them; they may be trapped and/or killed if they go to other yards looking for the treats you left out.
The upshot of the discussion today, was the neighbor is welcome to the skunk and smell – nobody else wants it! Read an old blog (poem) Ode to a Skunk
The information I used and more on skunks is available online at -http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn74118.html
- Author: Trisha E Rose
- Author: Martha White
Do you remember where you got your most recent drink of water? Your kitchen faucet? A public drinking fountain at work or school? Maybe a personal water bottle you filled at home? In the late 1800's, people found it hard to believe that invisible germs and bacteria in water caused germs. If the water looked clean, it must be clean, they thought! An amazing chemist, Ellen Swallows Richards, set out to teach people how to live healthier lives. I'd like to tell you about this early pioneer in public health.
As a child, Ellen wanted to learn all she could about math and science. She loved to measure things! She would even sneak into the cellar in her home to weigh herself. Most people then believed that girls had smaller brains than boys. Ellen's parents feared she would not be successful if she did not learn more traditional subjects. In high school, Ellen saved money for college by tutoring math at a rate of $5/month. She applied to MIT, and was the first woman to be admitted. The college admitted her for free, because the board did not believe she would be successful in their program. They did not want her poor scores to reflect badly on their records. In June, 1873, Ellen became the first woman in America to earn a degree in chemistry.
After graduation, a fellow scientist, Robert Hallowell Richards, asked Ellen to marry. She said he must quit smoking first. It took two years, but they finally married. Ellen put her ideas for healthy living into practice in their first home. She put living green plants in their windows, rather than fashionable heavy drapes. She pulled up the heavy dusty carpets, saying they were harmful to one's health, full of dust and germs. Ellen designed a hood for their stove, to pull polluted air out of their house. She had a gas meter installed in her home, because she wanted to know how much energy was needed to cook different foods. Once, Ellen decided to analyze a sack of groceries. She found that the package of sugar was loaded with sand, and that yellow dye was added to the container of milk to make it look like it had more cream. There were no laws to stop people from doing this!
Ellen's specialty became improving people's lives by using chemistry. In 1884, she became an instructor at MIT's new sanitary chemistry lab. The Massachusetts Board of Health wanted to test all the water in their state. This was the first statewide study of water pollution in the United States. The board needed a scale or way to judge water against a standard of purity. The old method was to inject a sample of water under the skin of a rabbit. If the water was infected, the rabbit got sick! Ellen wanted to analyze water chemically, and came up with a chart using chlorine. She tested water from every lake and river in Massachusetts, analyzing over 40,000 samples. Her testing produced the “Normal Chlorine Map”, the first standard for fresh water anywhere.
Ellen had become one of the top chemists in the country. She tested water at schools, orphanages, and factories. In 1885, Boston asked her to plan a balanced, healthy meal for all students in Boston. Her motto was,”You are what you eat!” After the first year, over 5,000 students were eating a healthy, filling meal at school, replacing the cakes and candies that the school janitors had been selling.
During her entire life, Ellen worked for the public good, encouraging clean water, fresh air, and pure food. Every letter she wrote ended with the words,”keep thinking”! In 1908, Ellen was elected the first President of the American Home Economics Association. She is credited with founding the home economics movement, characterized by applying chemistry to study nutrition.
As I return to my question to you from earlier, about drinking water, I am struck by the creative intelligence of Ellen Swallow Richards, so many years ago. She offered the public a completely new way of thinking about healthy living, healthy foods, and fresh air. Will you join me and enjoy a big drink of clean, cold water? I am grateful that Ellen Swallow Richards persevered with her interest in math and science, helping all of us to lead happier, healthier lives.
- Author: Karen Metz