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.

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