Archive for November, 2010


Where the Heck have I Been?

November 29, 2010

In a house that refuses to communicate with the world.

In case you’re wondering why I haven’t posted any material lately, my landline has been out-of-order since November 20, which means I can’t go online to post articles, do research, or email friends and family. Communication with the outside world has been at the lowest degree during these past nine days. I have a cheap, emergency cellphone that I rarely turn on, so rare that I never gave out the number after purchasing it, so inexpensive it’s slow to turn on and to find the satellite, so cheap it doesn’t work inside the house.

During this time, I also experienced  power failure, an empty propane tank (yes, my bill was paid), and a broken-down car. This has been a costly November. Well over $2,000. Ouch!

And get this, I am still coughing. I’ve been through two prescriptions, and I am still coughing.

Although a rebellious house, inefficient equipment, and a neglectful propane company is frustrating, things eventually work out. The power is restored, the propane tank filled and the house and water are now warm, and the car’s immediate repairs are complete. The engine does need pulling  fix a less-urgent problem, but that will have to wait.  Employment has ceased and funds have shrunk.

The phone company comes this week. I’ll be watching the driveway for a Verizon vehicle to come into sight, and crossing my fingers that the problem is on the outside of the house. Otherwise, the repair fee is on me. Meanwhile, I’m typing this at the library on a public computer with a one-hour limitation use. As soon as my house opens its pores and allows me to communicate with the world, you’ll hear from me. Meanwhile, happy belated Thanksgiving Day, and just in case . . . Merry Christmas.


Chickens don’t like Brussels Sprouts

November 19, 2010

The first of September, I planted a dozen or more Brussels sprout seedlings. Although it would be 90 days before harvest, I made room in the freezer for a sizable yield that would compliment many meals, hopefully for a few months. Every week the stocks grew a little taller and the foliage grew bigger and wider. But as it sometimes happens with farmers, this week I had to take a loss and pull every plant out of the earth.

Unable to check on the vegetable garden during the three weeks that I was sick, hundreds of aphids attacked my beautiful Brussels sprout plants. The Brussels had just started to develop, but the number of aphids was so severe it would have taken a chemical pesticide to get rid of them. The idea of growing my own vegetables is to avoid harmful chemicals. If caught early, I could have washed the aphids off with the water hose, pruned off the infected parts, or used an insecticidal soap.

Thinking my hens would love the Brussels sprout foliage and the aphids I filled up the wheelbarrow and dumped the half-grown plants in the chicken pasture. Little did I know that chickens don’t like aphids or Brussels sprout plants, at least my hens don’t.

Usually, when I take raw vegetable scraps to the chickens, they attack the greens as if they haven’t eaten for days. But this time, they just looked at the foliage, the aphids, the turned-up wheelbarrow, and at me. Some of the hens didn’t even stick around to try a tiny bite.

“What?” I shouted at the chickens, throwing my arms in the air. “You don’t like Brussels sprout plants? Don’t you know they’re good for you?”

Yes, I know, there’s something wrong with a person who scolds chickens for not eating their greens.

When I returned that evening to put the chickens to bed, the pile of Brussels sprout plants, even the aphids, remained untouched. At that moment, as I looked down disgusted at the leafy greens, I decided to stick with winter vegetables that aren’t susceptible to aphids, to grow crops that the hens will eat if I ever have to take another loss. Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre


Budding Garden Thoughts

November 18, 2010 Registered & Protected



“Be mindful

of the underground.

It cares for your plants’ well-being.”

Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre 


Day 8 of forcing Narcissus Paperwhites Indoors

November 17, 2010

What a blast, watching the daily changes of eight little bulbs. As the stalks push toward the grand finale, my imagination shifts into high gear with visions of the world’s prettiest paperwhites. This is what every gardener wants on her kitchen windowsill, flourishing plants and pretty blossoms to cheer her along as she washes dirty dishes.

A pot of gold would be nice too.


How to Eliminate Lawn Mushrooms

November 16, 2010

It’s that time of year, when cute little mushrooms start popping up in the lawn. However, if left alone, they won’t stay little or cute, and they will spread.

Mushrooms are the fruit of a fungi growing on dead or decaying matter in the soil. Lawn mushrooms feed off rotting mulch or thatch, animal waste, tree stumps and dead or dying roots. If your lawn mushrooms are large, it’s because they are receiving a good amount of food. Although chemicals may get rid of any present mushrooms, the soil will remain infected with the fungus. In most cases, it would be impossible to replace the soil, which means the mushrooms will probably return. If you don’t want to use (or keep reapplying) chemicals, here are some organic methods to help eliminate or decrease lawn mushrooms:

  • De-thatch the lawn
  • Clean up pet waste
  • Remove rotting mulch
  • Remove old tree stumps and roots
  • Hand pick, rake, or mow over the mushrooms to reduce spores from spreading.

 Note:  Never consume wild mushrooms. Many are deadly to children and adults.


Ridge Road Garden Center

November 15, 2010


The sky was gray and light sprinkles appeared off-and-on most of the morning. Regardless, I wanted to check out Ridge Road Garden Center mentioned at many of the workshops sponsored by the Amador County Master Gardeners.

I drove on Highway 88 through the Sierra Nevada scenic route toward the nursery in Pine Grove. After I arrived, I parked my car, opened the door, and immediately felt the chilly mountain air. My breath was visible like steam from a cup of hot chocolate. Nevertheless, the cheery flowers on either side of the nursery’s sign told me this was going to be worth any discomfort I felt.

Sure enough, as I walked past winter vegetables, colorful annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees, a beautiful raised bed caught my attention. I checked it out for a few minutes, and then decided it was getting too cold and headed home. Impressed, though, with the raised bed, I returned a few days later to meet Salye LaBelle who manages the nursery for her parents, Bob and Libby Jones.

Salye eagerly shared that it was one of her employees, Stephanie Thomas, who came up with the idea of turning an existing 4 x 75-foot bare-root bin into a children’s garden. They started adding an organic blend of topsoil and compost over six-to-eight inches of sand. Next, a children’s tunnel was installed by using a row of hooped conduits for vegetables to grow on. At the west end of the bed, a teepee made of tall bamboo stakes provides a hiding place beneath trailing vegetables like peas, beans, or cucumbers.

To demonstrate how to sow winter seeds outdoors, and to protect seedlings from harsh weather, Salye and her crew decided to place a cold frame on top of the bed. Cold frames give plants a good start because the frame is bottomless and the roots have plenty of depth to grow before transplanting. Once the large items were in place, cedar steps were weaved throughout the bed. Then Stephanie and Salye launched a class to teach children how to plant winter vegetables.

“We tried to make it fun.” Salye said, “So they could check on the garden and it would be like a little play area and vegetable garden that they had a part in.”

Around twenty children (pre-school age to ten year-olds) arrived with their parents and little hand shovels. The children learned how to plant cabbage, Brussels sprouts, onions, garlic, flowers, and a variety of lettuces.

“Many of the children enjoyed the experience, and their parents bought vegetables to take home to start their own little garden, “Salye said. “We’re going to do another children’s planting day next spring. We’ll keep changing it with the seasons.”

Rain or sunshine, Salye also provides a variety of demonstration classes for grown ups. For information on these and other services, call Salye at 209-296-7210, or go to the Center’s website at

Salye’s Tips for Creating a Children’s Garden:

  • Make it fun; add interesting elements.
  • Use soil with good drainage; explain the importance of soil
  • Hoops are nice for playing under, frost protection, and for vines.
  • Teach children to get winter vegetables in early (before it’s to cold).
  • Use a cold frame to teach children about germination and protecting tender plants.

Budding Garden Thoughts

November 12, 2010 Registered & Protected


“Lay a path

 for which

your heart

has always



Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre

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