Archive for August, 2011


Update: Naming the Toad & September Events

August 31, 2011

My Toad has a Name:

The poles are in and I’ve chosen the name Tobi the Toad, submitted by Dolores. Thanks everybody for your suggestions. I got a kick out of each. Valerie, what a good question:  “Can a toad be a she?” The word ‘toad’ certainly does sound masculine. But the term is not gender related. In fact, “Toad is a mystery word, with no known relatives in any other Indo-European language.”

Female toads deserve a better appellation as they lay between 1,000 and 5,000 eggs in a single clutch. Regardless of the toad’s sex, always handle with caution (we didn’t know this), and stop pets from putting them in their mouths. If a toad becomes frightened, it can ooze a poisonous milky juice from the skin glands. This poison has been known to kill pets and wildlife, so wash your hands thoroughly after handling one, and never put your hands near your eyes or in your mouth. Probably best to simply enjoy watching toads.

September is here:

September events are now posted (click on “Events’ on sidebar), full of nature and garden related activities many of them FREE. Tours, workshops, festivals, clinics! Take advantage and make this the month to go out and have some fun before  winter arrives.


The Kind of Gift a Woman Never Forgets

August 29, 2011

Some men give flowers or chocolates to their sweethearts. I received a toad!

I can’t complain though. Toads are beneficial in the garden. They consume thousands of harmful insects in one summer, some of which include slugs, snails, beetle larvae, cutworms, and much more. This toad (help me come up with a name) looks like he or she likes to eat – a living, thriving gift that will defend my garden.

Occasionally, I do receive flowers. And like the flowers, when this gift was presented I also received a kiss – from the prince not the toad! Now that’s a good fairytale. Don’t you think?


Saturday Morning: Prayers for East Coasters

August 27, 2011


Soulful Plotting

August 26, 2011


The plant crown is where the stem meets the roots. Most crowns are planted at soil level or a little above ground level. Burying the crown below the soil can lead to rot and eventually kill the plant.


Change: It’s happens, but I don’t have to like it.

August 24, 2011

This year, spring through summer, many changes have occurred throughout the seasons. One major, uninvited, alternation on our country property where we live was the removal of four beautiful trees. Now, at the threshold of autumn, the open rolling hills along our northern pasture are about to transform. The neighbors are putting in a vineyard.

In the following days and weeks, huge equipment will rip through the land. Dust will hover like low, lingering fog. Field workers will come and go. Parked cars will sit on the shoulders of our PRIVATE dead-end road. Voices and perhaps a little singing or whistling will drift over the foothills and into the valleys. After the plantings and later when the vines have grown, chemicals will contaminate the air, the land, and most likely on the volunteer oats where our beef cattle graze.

I know what to expect. Clements Vineyard is a few feet east of our property. During harvest season picking machines HOWL in the middle of the night. We don’t sleep. Yellow slow-moving headlights glow like dinosaur eyes and spook Ralphie. He runs from window to window barking repeatedly. I tell him, “It’s only headlights, Ralphie. Go to sleep.” Like a comedy portraying poor communication between characters, he doesn’t listen.

Staged for change at autumn’s oncoming approach, man is capsulizing my world into metamorphosis. I’m beginning to feel small, sandwiched in . . . overrun via alterations. Sooner or later I will adjust. So will Ralphie. Like my husband said, “It wouldn’t bother us if we were putting in the vineyard.” © 2011 Dianne Marie Andre


Benefits of Vegetable Gardening

August 22, 2011

My family has consumed the last of the homegrown, sweet melons and tender potatoes. Also gone from my garden are the green beans, crookneck squash, lettuce, and cucumber plants. The zucchini and tomatoes linger on and so is the self-satisfaction that comes from  cultivating vegetables.

There are many benefits to growing your own food, from goal setting to putting an extra buck in your pocketbook—something we all need these days—from bragging rights of flavorful, chemical-free meals to educating children.

Growing your own produce gives one something to look forward during difficult times. For sure, this winter I’ll miss the savings at the grocery store’s checkout counter, an estimated $50 per week. Like so many families, it hasn’t been easy stretching a budget on part-time work, wage and benefit cuts, increasing medical costs and raising food prices. Because of high-prices, many families are understandably making unhealthy choices. Let’s face it, healthy cuisine (especially organic) can cost more than cheaper processed food. However, when life gets tough it’s even more important to stay fit, physically and mentally.

Dani Federico, M.P.H. Masters of Public Health, UC Berkeley, personal trainer, nutritional counselor, and health blogger says, “Gardening can be a great stress reliever (even if you feel like some gardening flops have caused you some stress!). Spending time outside improves health by allowing us to breathe fresh air while the sun provides you with Vitamin D. Being responsible for another living thing gives us a sense of purpose which improves our overall happiness. While gardening is not vigorous enough to count as your exercise for the day, it is a great way to lead an active lifestyle.”

The tastes of homegrown flavors alone are enough to improve one’s health and habits. “I grow many vegetables because you can’t buy the flavor and freshness in any store,” says Master Gardener Glen Johnson. “As a result, we eat far more vegetables in our meals.”

Mike Spinetta, Staff Writer for The Gold Country Times, says he grows vegetables to “teach his daughter about how life works.” “Even this year, we planted tomatoes for some silly reason, and she sees how the plants are bearing no fruit. Aside from teaching her, it’s great to trade what fruit, veggies, and herbs I get for my neighbors’ various home crops.”

For those who garden, the reasons are as vast as vegetable varieties. Regardless of any “garden flops,” cultivating one’s own food brings a great deal of satisfaction to the soul. Vegetable gardening is a rich and varied experience that grows deeper than tomato roots while producing a healthier body and mind. © 2011 Dianne Marie Andre

PS:  If you’ve been thinking about growing your own vegetables, autumn is the perfect time to begin. Whether you’re a novice, you want to switch to raised beds, or you’ve relocated, I can help you get started. For consultation information, please contact Dianne at


Soulful Plotting

August 19, 2011


A bacterial or fungal disease on woody plants. Gradual death will occur in the cambium layer leaving sunken bark lesions.


Jumping Galls

August 17, 2011

I squatted down to look at what I thought were baby spiders jumping on the ground. Leaning in closer, I realized they didn’t have legs but instead appeared to be teeny seeds, a much smaller version of Mexican Jumping Beans. There were so many it sounded as if dew was drizzling all around me.

Afraid to touch them, I stood up and hollered at my husband, Joe, to come see. We squatted together, shoulder-to-shoulder, and watched dozens of them jumping in the perennial beds and on the slate steps where we hunkered down.

Joe touched a few and decided they were indeed seeds. I felt one with my index finger. It was as hard as a rock.

“I think it’s the heat that’s making them jump,” Joe said.

“It’s not that hot,” I replied as we both felt the slate step.”

I looked up into the oak tree above us. They couldn’t possibly be falling from the oak. Oak trees germinate from acorns, not seeds. But where are they coming from? Later that evening, sitting in front of my computer I typed in the only phrase I could think to Google:  Tiny jumping seeds. Surprisingly, there were several informational websites.

The seeds are actually Jumping Oak Galls also known as California Jumping Galls. Cynipid, non-stinging wasps (Neuroterus spp.) lay their eggs on the underside of leaves. Plant tissues develop, creating a protective gall around the lava. The jumping galls are only 1/25th of an inch in diameter, the head size of an old-fashioned straight pin. The larva moving within the gall causes the jumping.

California Jumping Galls usually drop by late summer to early fall and are considered harmless to trees. Metamorphosis changes the larva into a pupa which overwinters within the gall until spring. The emerging wasps are tiny, shiny black females, so small it’s unlikely anybody would see them. They lay eggs on oak shoots without male fertilization. The following generation is bisexual, winged males and females. Amazing! The reproductive cycle mysteriously continues. But who knows which generation of wasps will hatch in my garden, all females or bisexuals.

Nature never ceases to astound or entertain me. Teeny, jumping galls beneath the oak, making music that simulates drizzling dew, is one of many fascinating treasures. © 2011 Dianne Marie Andre


Corn on the Cob – A Summertime Treat Hard to Beat!

August 15, 2011 Registered & Protected

By Bernadine Chapman-Cruz

When thoughts of enjoying fresh produce come to mind, corn on the cob is an all-time favorite. Corn is the fruit of the Zea mays plant. Although technically classified as a grain, corn is more commonly associated with the vegetable family. Maize, another term for corn, has been cultivated in Mexico, North, Central and South America for over 8000 years. Corn is grown worldwide with the exception of Antarctica.

There are over 100 varieties of corn. Colors range from white and yellow to pink, red, blue, purple and black. Sweet white and yellow corn are the most common types sold for human consumption. Dent or field corn is used as animal feed. Dried multi-colored corn, known as Flint, is a popular addition to autumn holiday décor.

Generally, corn contains 18 rows and approximately 800 kernels. Calorie count ranges from 85 to 125 per ear, depending on size. Corn is high in antioxidants, vitamin C, fiber and sugar as well as other nutrients. Scientific studies have found corn a beneficial food in treating high blood pressure, certain types of cancer and helpful in regulating blood sugar levels associated with diabetes.

When selecting corn on the cob, look for plump ears with healthy, tight, fresh green husks hosting kernels in close fitting rows. Silk should be moist and free flowing. Corn can be prepared in a variety of ways. Methods include boiling, steaming, roasting, grilling and microwaving.

When using a wet cooking process like boiling or steaming, shuck corn by removing the husk and silk. Rinse corn and boil or steam in unsalted water for 5 to 7 minutes or until tender. The addition of salt tends to harden kernels and lessen flavor. For dry cooking methods including roasting, grilling, broiling or microwaving, corn can be cooked with or without the husk. Cooking time varies between five to ten minutes, with frequent turning. Soak ears for a few minutes prior to cooking to retain moisture, for both shucked and in-husk preparation. For optimal flavor cook and serve corn on the day of purchase. With the addition of a little butter, salt and pepper, corn on the cob is a delicious summertime treat. Copyright 2011 ©Bernadine Chapman-Cruz

No-Cook Corn Salad

(serves 4)

4 ears corn (uncooked)

1 large tomato (diced)

1 medium red or white onion (diced)

1 red or green bell pepper (diced)

1 cucumber (peeled and diced)

1 medium zucchini (unpeeled and diced)

1/4 – 1/2 cup Italian Dressing

Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Shuck and wash corn
  2. Cut kernels off cob and set aside in large bowl
  3. Dice tomato, onion, bell pepper, cucumber and zucchini and mix with corn
  4. Toss with salad dressing
  5. Season to taste
  6. Chill prior to serving
  7. Enjoy!

Soulful Plotting

August 12, 2011


Leaves, buds or shoots that occur singly at different heights on the stem, alternating between one side of the stem and the other.

%d bloggers like this: