- Author: Kathy DeRouen
BY KATHY DEROUEN -
Not so long ago, my husband and I - discovered - the forty acres of Mojave Desert that was to become our - Desert Disneyland - and home.
1978 was an El Nino year, and Dry Morongo Creek flowed bank to bank past the highway connecting San Bernardino and Riverside counties. Perry and I set off to explore the canyon formed by the creek and the effects of the flood.
Perry was born and raised in the Coachella Valley and lived most of his life on farms and ranches. He grew up exploring the Ancient Salton Sea, earthquake and flood created canyons, and surrounding environments on his horse Bucky. I grew up in Phoenix, unaware of an environment beyond my home, school, shopping center within walking distance, high school and college campuses. Two less likely life partners and soul mates could not have been imagined. But, life has a way of happening while we’re making other plans, and we found each other.
As we explored Dry Morongo Creek, we marveled at the power of the flood, the beauty of the canyon, sudden springs and riparian zones, and the signs of wildlife Perry pointed out to me: deer tracks, wildlife spoor, and the hummingbirds that had enchanted me since I moved to the desert after college.
We came upon a labyrinth of unpaved roads. “Someone owns this land; let’s buy it,” Perry declared. I couldn’t imagine how he knew the land was privately owned; I had seen no “For Sale” signs. “Because someone cut these roads with their tractor….” Sure enough, a visit to the 29Palms County Assessor’s office verified private ownership of a previously homesteaded 160-acre parcel; it was now divided into 40-acre parcels. We tracked down the owner, made a down payment and began dreaming of our own Little House in the Desert. “But how can we live without electricity?” “No problem, we’ll have a solar home, and you won’t know the difference,” Perry assured me.
And so we began dreaming of our own nature preserve in the Mojave Desert wilderness. Thirty-five years later, through winds, weather, fire and other man- and nature-made events, we still marvel at the beauty of our surroundings. Hummingbirds, rabbits, bobcats, coyotes, resident and migrant birds, and occasional deer, bear, and mountain lion have never ceased to captivate and thrill us. And, almost always, the lights have shone brightly.
Next: Designing and building an off-grid solar home
- Author: Vikki S. Gerdes
BY VIKKI GERDES -
Just wanted to share my good news. I entered the Cucamonga Valley Water District 7th annual Water Savvy Landscape Contest this year due to results of a water audit (and re-do of our irrigation), taking Debby Figoni's excellent workshops, and a lot of hard work with my husband to reduce our water use by 65% on our 1/2 acre lot since the start of the project(a few years ago).
All the best,
San Bernardino Certified Master Gardener
- Author: Carol Constantine
BY CAROL CONSTANTINE -
Nothing says - holiday season - as much as the sight and scent of plants that we bring into homes at this time of year. Our botanic allies help raise our spirits and make us cheerful.
Another popular holiday plant is the Poinsettia, Euphorbia pulcherrina. It has very tiny flowers, but we like its spectacular red or cream or green bracts. Poinsettia will also grow outdoors in our warm climate and may reach 10 to 13 feet, although it may become leggy. If you want that great color for next year, the plant must have bright sunlight each day, plus 12 hours of total darkness for five consecutive nights.
- Author: Deirdre Shore
BY DEIRDRE SHORE -
A bit of history -
My gardening experience began as a child, helping my parents in the family garden. My love of gardening was nurtured as I grew to include not only flowers, shrubs and trees, but also vegetable gardening.
I attended Victor Valley Community College and then Cal Poly Pomona where I was able to learn more about what I love. Earning my AS in Horticulture and my BS in Agronomy - Gardening, next to family and horses it's my favorite thing to do.
Hubby and I moved to the High Desert, close to the Victor Valley, in the early 80's making Hesperia and then Phelan our home. Then we moved to North Carolina for a year. We missed our family so much we returned to the land of Sunshine and Blue skies. Recently making our home in Lucerne Valley, California.
Our home is located on what one might call a five acre blank canvas, as it has no landscape. The front half of the property was void of any plants except a few Russian Thistles (aka tumble weeds) and a Creosote bush or two. The back half has many more Creosote bushes and lots of tumble weeds. There is a small back yard consisting of two Ornamental Plum trees. One which was chewed off at the trunk at about 2 foot. Both looked sickly and really should have been removed. However, they are improving and seem to be doing better.
Our first project was to establish our wish list. Wish list meant Pine trees around the entire acreage as a wind break, with some shade trees and of course fruit trees. Roses, honey suckle, jasmine as well as some grape vines, black and raspberry bushes, a flower bed, ornamental bushes, and last but not least a vegetable garden. Oh I almost forgot ~ a small patch of grass in the back yard.
However, our reality list will be so much more conservative. Will will be concentrating on the front half of our property for now. Our property is surrounded on three sides by dirt roads and one really nice neighbor to the west. So that adds another dilemma to overcome. Although, we want to use drought tolerant plants as much as possible in our landscaping. Our goal is to be able to dual purpose our plants too.
- Author: Christine M. Lampe
By Christine Lampe -
I planted Florence Fennel (aka finnochio) last winter. This is the kind that is supposed to form a large edible bulb-like stem at the base that is eaten as a vegetable. I also planted it the previous year. Neither year has the fennel formed the bulb for me. Not sure what I need to do differently to get the bulb. But meanwhile, I am still getting a lot of value out of my fennel.
There are other parts of the fennel that are useful.
The leaves or seeds can be used in an herbal infusion (tea). I found a recipe for Pomegranate-Fennel iced tea. Since I had several seeds collected from the previous year, I tried this recipe, and found it quite refreshing, with a very different taste. [See recipe below.]
The feathery fronds have a dill-like flavor with a hint of licorice. They can be used in salads, sauces, and dressings. You can mix finely chopped fennel leaves with cream cheese to use as a spread. The leaves go well with fish and chicken. Or you can braise fish over a bed of dried fennel stems.
The pollen is used as a poor-man’s saffron. Just tap the clusters of yellow flowers onto a plate or bowl to gather the pollen. Use it as you would saffron, to flavor rice, or in Indian-type dishes. I found where you can buy the pollen for $20 per ounce (not so poor-man’s to me), so collecting your own seems worth the bother, though you don’t get much.
Seeds can be used either green or dried. The green seeds are candied to use like after-dinner mints for Indian meals. You can buy them at Indian groceries. I found a recipe for making this candied snack but it involved a lot of exotic ingredients. So I just tried eating the plain green seeds. They have a surprising little burst of sweetness, and just a subtle hint of licorice flavor.
In additional to its culinary uses, fennel makes a great beneficial plant for the garden. It attracts a lot of beneficials. And boy, has it even done so this year. First it attracted a lot of aphids (not beneficial of course, but at least they were attracted away from the other vegetables). I didn’t panic at the sight of all those aphids for usually there is a lag time between them and their predators showing up. And true to expectations, a week or so later, the lady beetles came (first larvae, pupae, and then adults). Assassin bugs, and lacewing eggs followed them. Black swallowtail butterflies are supposed to lay their eggs in fennel, but I haven’t seen any of them yet.
Iced Pomegranate-Fennel Green Tea
SERVINGS: Makes 3 quarts
8 cups water
1/4 cup fennel seeds (green or dried)
8 green-tea bags
1/3 cup honey
1 quart pure pomegranate juice
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1 navel orange, thinly sliced
Bring the water and fennel seeds to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, and add the tea bags. Steep for 10 minutes. Strain the tea into a pitcher. Stir in the honey. Let cool, then add juices and citrus slices. Serve over ice.
Click on the small photos below to see the full-size photos.