Archive for December, 2010


Sunshine in 2011

December 31, 2010 Registered & Protected

Journal entry December 17, 2010:  The leaves of five weeping willows, now bright yellow, still cling to stems in the sweep of long, hanging boughs. This is where Ralphie and I run too when gray days become too depressing and I need sunlight. The trees, in the last stage of dormancy, can’t infect me with a dose of vitamin B, but the golden park lifts my spirit, and Ralphie . . . well, he’s just happy to run around outdoors, nose to the ground.

My husband and I have made it a practice to keep the Willow Grove natural. As a result, there’s a good twelve inches of leaf mulch on the ground. This is one place we don’t have to hoe or spray weeds. It doesn’t take long for the fallen leaves to change. By the end of December, before the New Year begins, they’ll turn into a brown mat.

It rained last night, so I stand beneath the stringy willow skirts on a leafy sponge. Ralphie’s shaggy legs are wet and no longer white as he runs after a phoebe on the fence post. Smells of decay, mud, and moss rush together. The air is damp; pasture green, the sky a dull statue gray.

Having lived here for years, I know this scene well, how nature binds together layer-upon-layer in 3-D.  I study however many details my eyes will allow me to discover:  fence boards spackled with rust and moss, old manure spreader rims partly buried in leaves, a tiny mushroom peering out from the thick soggy sponge-of-a-ground, and an old willow stump that Ralphie just leaped from, awkwardly dragging a twig alongside his short frame. Ralphie brings the twig to me, tail twitching. Then he runs away. I chase after him because that’s how we play before I grow breathless and call timeout.

The willows take their own timeout. Soon the golden park will be brown. Skinny, dead boughs will drop and land willy-nilly, many like hand-stitched Xs on a crazy quilt. Once this happens, on days when the sky is gray, Ralphie and I will run to the backyard. Here, Chinese maple leaves dot the lawn and patio with bright yellow leaves. The surface isn’t a spongy mat though. When the grass isn’t too wet, my husband trims the lawn sucking up sunny-colored leaves. Between maintenance, more will drop. Well into the New Year, there’ll be a bright spot to lift my spirit. It will be a good year. Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre

Thank you for letting me share my world with you in 2010. I hope your year, in 2011, is filled with all things grand and special.


How to Dispose of Christmas Trees

December 29, 2010

After the holidays, it’s best to remove your Christmas tree from your house as early as possible. Never burn your tree in the fireplace or outside. Christmas trees ignite rapidly, pop, spark, and can cause a fire and the loss of homes or worse, lives.

If you have a mulching machine, or you plan to rent one, get the job done right away. Dry Christmas trees are just as dangerous when left outdoors.  

Most towns offer curbside pickup after Christmas. Contact your municipal office by telephone or Google their website for information on proper disposal, pickup schedules, or locations of the nearest drop-off recycling center. Nonprofit organizations, such as The Boy Scouts, also offer pickup service for a small donation fee.


January 2011 Events

December 27, 2010

January Events is now posted for family recreation and learning opportunities.


Christmas Greeting

December 22, 2010


Vertical Habitats

December 20, 2010

Only one tree fell during the weekend’s storm. I’m crossing my fingers that the trees throughout our property will stay grounded, limbs in tact, during the remainder of this, and other winter tempests. I hate the thought of losing any of my husband’s trees. They are, after all, earth’s great big, green friends, and ours.

Joe is the one who designed, bought, and planted (with our sons’ help and mine) more than one thousand trees. Over the years, we’ve watched them grow from seedlings and five-gallon-sized adolescents into maturity. My husband has fussed over their need for water, weeding, staking, and pruning. A great deal of forethought and labor has gone into the continued nurturing of Joe’s trees.

We’ve received enormous pleasure from his vertical habitats. The trees have added value and beauty to our land, shaped a welcoming entrance to our home, purified the atmosphere, formed windbreaks and screens to hide junk piles and farm equipment, and provided quarters and refuges for critters.

We’ve lost several trees over the years. Seven weeping willows were removed, evergreens, birch, mulberry, locusts, cherries, and an orange tree. To this day, large voids remain where they once stood. When I squint, I can see their ghostly figures. Losing trees isn’t the end of the world. It’s the end of a big, beautiful, green friend. I can’t help feeling a tad sad when this happens.

This is one of the weeping willow trees we had to remove.


Budding Garden Thought

December 17, 2010 Registered & Protected



“White flakes of snow

remind me of my rose.

A warm garnish beneath my nose.”

Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre


Bare-Root Roses

December 16, 2010

It’s time for bare-root roses. Shop now at your local nursery for old-time favorites as well as the new 2011 varieties such as Dick Clark.

To view some of these beauties go to:

Tell them In and Around the Garden sent you!



How to Thin Root Vegetables

December 15, 2010

Thinning root-vegetable seedlings is important for good growth development. Proper spacing between plants reduces an underground battle for water, nutrients, room to expand, and air circulation. As you can see in the photo above, these carrots are too thick. One can avoid this by spacing seeds correctly when planting, but that is tedious work, especially with fine seeds. Although sowing fine, tiny seeds mixed with sand does help with better distribution and spacing, you will still need to do some thinning.

Here are some tips to make thinning root seedlings easier: 

  • Thin when seedlings have 1-2 sets of true leaves or reach a height of 2-3 inches.
  • Soil should be damp not soggy. Damp soil will make it easier to extract only those seedlings you want to remove. Soggy soil acts like glue making it difficult for roots to separate from one another.
  • Remove the smaller, thinner, weak seedlings.
  • Before thinning, use your thumb and forefinger to secure the good seedling, then gently pull up the undesirable plant.
  • Mound soil around wobbly seedlings to secure them.
  • You can do two thinnings, three or four weeks apart.
  • Work discarded seedlings into the soil or toss into the compost pile. (Lettuce, beets, and spinach can be used in salads.)


Spacing between root vegetables varies according to varieties. Refer to your seed packet or use these basic guidelines:

  • Beets: 3-6″ apart
  • Carrots:  2-3″ apart**
  • Lettuce:  18-24″ apart
  • Onions:  3-5″ apart
  • Parsnips:  3-6″ apart
  • Radishes:  2-3″ apart
  • Rutabagas:  8″ apart
  • Spinach:  2-6″ apart
  • Turnips:  2-4″ apart**


**When thinning carrots and turnips, carefully remove one plant at a time. Disturbing the roots of these vegetables can cause deformities.   Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre


Discovering a new Passion

December 14, 2010

Dianne Poinski

The work area consisted of two tables covered in white butcher paper, neatly set with art supplies like an élite dinner party for honored guests. This was serious stuff, and like Julie Roberts in the restaurant scene of Pretty Woman, I was nervous about the proper use of each utensil. After walking around the studio, though, I couldn’t help relax. Dianne’s photography combined with a unique talent for hand coloring drew me into a world of harmony and peace.  

Our first assignment involved hand coloring a black-and-white country scene with mountains, grass, and sky. I sat at the table like a kindergartener on her first day of school, pleased with the familiarity in the photo, but unsure what to do first. Dianne gave a through demonstration, and afterwards the other three ladies at my table immediately began coloring. I hesitated. I wanted little paint-by-numbers to magically appear on my print. Realizing this wasn’t going to happen, I picked up a wooden-handled sponge, dipped the tip into a light-green tint, and gave my photo some color.

The moment my sponge touched the mountaintop, I fell in love with the process of colorizing black and white photos. The more shades I experimented with the more I felt connected to the country scene resembling home. I can do this, I thought. The benefit of creating something that didn’t require electricity, a mouse, a monitor, or a clicking keyboard was downright liberating.

By the end of the day I had colored four black and white prints, two of Dianne’s and two that I had emailed to her prior to the workshop. Here’s one of my finished photographs.


Dianne Poinski’s images are available worldwide as prints published by Portal Publishing and Bentley Publishing Group. For more information go to or visit Dianne at her studio the second Saturday each month at 1021 R Street, 2nd floor, Sacramento. Dianne can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.


Ralphie’s Gift-Giving Book List for Pet Lovers

December 13, 2010

Ralphie and I love a good book about furry companions. Often, around mid-day, we’ll stretch out on the sofa where I read to Ralphie until he falls asleep. Together, we’ve enjoyed the lives of dogs and cats, and the many surprising details about farm animals, humming birds, bees, and more. Our favorite books, of course are about dogs.

Since this is gift-giving season, Ralphie and I want to encourage you to give books to your pals and their furry buddies, so we came up with a list of books that we’ve enjoyed together. “Ruff.”

 PS:  Tell us what your favorite books are.




 New York Times Bestseller Dewey: The Small Town Library Cat Who Touched the World By Vicki Myron. | This is a heartwarming story about an internationally famous cat’s life at the Spencer Public Library in Iowa, and the librarian who raised him.


A Field Guide to Cows by John Pukite | Informative, amazing, and amusing, A Field Guide to Cows is the indispensable companion for would-be cow tippers, farmers, city folk, agriculturalists, interstate drivers, 4-H’ers, vacationing families, and everyone who likes to moo at cows.



Chickens:  Tending a Small-Scale Flock for Pleasure and Profit by Sue Weaver | From hens to roosters, from layers to broilers, Weaver covers the essentials in a straight forward style. You won’t need to worry about your chickens flying the coop with this resource in hand.




Izzy & Lenore by Jon Katz | If you enjoy good dog stories, this book will touch your heart. The book really is uplifting and once again points out the amazing effects that pets can have on the lives of human beings. Izzy is a marvel of a dog. Katz is a wonderful author.

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