- Author: Betty Homer
- Author: Betsy Buxton
It's 99 degrees outside and I am pooped! The only chores on my list for today were moving and spraying the suckering growth around the base of my “olive tree” – a joke on a neighbor's wrong id of the African Sumac tree in my front yard. Ever since she asked me about the “olive tree” in the yard, that's how I've thought of that tree (Rhus lancea). A wonderful tree for bees in the WINTER when it blooms with the small yellow puffs, otherwise, for me, it's a pain! The survivor of 3 originally planted as a buffer between my house and the neighbors, it has stood up while one of its triplet trees started to lean due to the neighbor's unwieldy hacks and attempts to prune it. I actually began to measure the distance it leaned toward the fence until it was removed. Thanks to having no limbs left on the neighbor's side AND that it was growing on the edge of a drainage berm that he cut out on 1 side to put in a build-a-wall barrier, it was truly doomed! But back to its not so good traits: these trees sucker and I mean sucker! If left alone, there would be a thicket where it is planted; then there are the leaves – millions of them that yellow and fall leaving that side of the driveway in a permanent state of fall is here. The neighbor's wife complained when I politely advised I was NOT going over there to sweep them up because they (the leaves) were covering up the weeds between the houses.
Anyway, I've been cutting and snipping away filling a green waste tote with leaves and cuttings AND since I discovered the temperature was 99, I quit. The heat is too much even though I'm in the shade and Bruce has just announced that a trip to the box store to purchase decking is nigh.
We are in the process of replacing the decking on the higher of our 2 decks. After 25 years, the decking is just too rough and gone to merely take up the boards, flip them over, and put them back (haha, a great idea that never works. So much of the last few weeks were spent in discussing options – synthetic or real wood; taking the deck out entirely and replace with new concrete steps and a stone patio abutting the patio already there or WHAT?!
Naturally, the time used for discussion used up what spring we had and so the demolishing started in 90+ plus degree weather. Little by little the decking disappearing much to the dog's horror and dismay: we now have a 4 board wide (not fastened down) runway to get from the house to the patio and my beloved container plants. Moving plants isn't bad until you start counting them and realize that although 20 trips between the patio and the “back 40” have occurred, and figure there are another 20 trips to go. And don't ask me about having to divide the “sun” plants from the “shade” plants; some never made it out of the garden carts (I can water them just fine in there, thank you)!
A change of conversation here: did anyone else see the “cute” fuzzy caterpillar on the internet a few weeks ago? Called the Pussy Caterpillar because of its size and heavy “fur coat”, it's just the kind of insect that attracts the kiddies. Thank goodness it doesn't live around here because that adorable and cuddly looking thing has stingers in that fur coat which can really give a nasty rash and really hurts. The thing is the caterpillar of the Southern Flannel Moth (Megalopyge opercularis) and is as nasty an insect as they come. So glad it's back East or at least on the other side of the Rockies!
Come and visit with us on Saturdays from 9-2 at the Vallejo Farmers' Market on the corner of Marin and Georgia Streets. We love to talk plants and other related subjects with you! Hope to see you there!
- Author: Launa Herrmann
Recalling that ancient folklore saying — “cool as a cucumber” — I now wonder if there's some truth to it. Supposedly, science confirmed in 1970 that air temperature is 20 degrees cooler inside a cucumber field. All I know for sure is that one scalding hot July afternoon I picked and brought inside a couple handfuls of my harvest, rather surprised they weren't boiled to a mush but actually were quite cool to the touch of my very warm hand.
- Author: Brenda Altman
On Saturday, August 11th a New Sensory Garden and a bench in honor of Mary Bourguignon were dedicated at the Fairfield Civic Center Library on Kentucky Street.
Mary Bourguignon was a lifetime community activist and Fairfield library supporter. The bench is dedicated in her honor and features herself reading a favorite book to her son. Directly across the bench is a plaque honoring Mary B.
The sensory garden was the brainchild of supervising librarian Serena Enger and Teresa Lavell a literacy program assistant. The garden started off with a $1,000 staff innovation grant quickly followed by a $7,028 grant from the Solano Community Foundation. The grants were just the beginning as Serena and Teresa worked endlessly soliciting in-kind funds, materials, and labor from various community sources. Within 14 months the vision of a sensory garden, that vision became a reality with the first shovel of dirt being overturned by volunteer labor from the Master Gardeners (MG) of Solano County. Teresa Lavell herself a Master Gardener asked Jennifer Baumbach, program coordinator of UC Master Gardeners of Solano and Yolo Counties, to ask for volunteer help on the UCCE Master Gardener-Solano website.
The MGs who contributed their time were: Teresa Lavell, Jennifer Baumbach, Brenda Altman, Benita Brittain, Mollie Jarret, Amy Mason, Karen Metz, Kristina Moore, Sherry Richards, Melissa Sandoval, Kathy Tomko, and Beth Wells. The digging wasn't easy, the soil consisted of hard clay and rock but the group was able to plant over 80 plants in two-morning plantings. Follow up volunteer work on successive days included irrigation installation done by Teresa. A weeding and mulching party days before the Saturday dedication completed the garden. One library patron Ryan saw our mulch party and joined right in, he a grabbed a wheelbarrow and distributed mulch around the site, thank you, Ryan. Overall the MGs contributed about 60 hours of labor. It truly took a village to make this garden a reality.
Many thanks to the Landscape Architect Aimee Ruskewicz who donated her time and expertise to the planning of the garden. Her blueprints were easy to follow.
Thanks, are also in order to: Mija Berg (a former MG and owner of the Ranch Motel) who donated a truckload of compost, and Lemuria Nursery in Dixon who provided the plants at cost.
Wait there's more! Coming soon tree rounds that have been donated by MG Sterling Smith will be installed as seats for the story time area. The library is hoping to add signage and an information board to update visitors to look for in the garden as it develops.
The garden as it develops and grows will incorporate all the five human senses except for taste. The lambs' ear gets my vote for touch!
If you haven't seen the garden drop by next time you visit the library. In six months, the landscape will change as the plants mature and flower. Come springtime next year, take time to smell the flowers and touch the lambs' ear. Several local bees have already tasted the nectar and they give it two antennae up!
Beth Shedden commenting on the initial grant thanked the Solano Community Foundation, “We appreciate partners like the Solano Community Foundation who support our mission of literacy and lifelong learning. This is a gift that will keep giving to Fairfield families for years to come.”
This is your garden come by and enjoy it!
Garden site before bench and plantings!
Garden after planting
Mary B's Bench
Teresa Lavell presents a thank you gift to Landscape Architect Aimee Ruskewicz
MGs at the dedication
- Author: Michelle Davis
A few evenings back, driving into town, I saw a young woman park her minivan next to a field of sunflowers. She and a little girl got out of their car and walked up to the flowers. The little girl was about the same height as the shorter stalked variety, while the woman was towered over by the taller type. I have passed the fields of sunflowers each summer in our area for many years. I have always enjoyed looking at the tournesols, as the French call them, translated “turns towards the sun”. While some think of Provence when seeing sunflowers, they actually originated in North America. Of approximately 70 varieties only 3 originated in South America.
Sunflowers were first cultivated by Native Americans. The seeds were pounded into flour for bread or cracked and eaten raw or crushed for oil. Other parts of the plant were used for body ointment, dyes, medicine, building material and ceremonial use. The Spanish explorers took the seed to Europe in the 1500's, and it has flourished there since. In the early 1700s, an Englishman devised a way to squeeze the oil from the seed on a larger scale basis. Russia became the largest grower in the 1800s. Today Ukraine is Number 1 and Russia Number 2 as the top growers in the world. The US has about 3 million acres planted with sunflowers and about 90% is of the type used for making sunflower oil. The seed pulp that is left after crushing and squeezing for the oil is used for livestock feed. Whole seeds are used for human snack food and for birdseed.
Something you may not know about sunflowers is that they were planted at Chernobyl and Fukushima after the radiation accidents at each place. A researcher from the University of Virginia, Catie Kitrinos has found that some (not all) sunflower varieties can remove toxins (lead, zinc, uranium) from the soil while growing, a process called phytoremediation. The plants are safely destroyed (not eaten) after they have matured. This process is much less costly in taking care of radioactive or heavy metal-laden soil.
Sunflowers grow quickly reaching their full height in about 120 days. Their roots can be 9 feet deep. In the fall, after they have dried on the stalk, the sunflower heads are harvested. The larger black seeds are typically used for oil, the striped ones for human snack food, and the smaller black seeds for birdseed. Birds don't actually care if seeds are striped or black and will eat what they find. Since each sunflower head can produce up to 1000 seeds, there should be plenty to share.