How to Keep Skunks Out of the Yard

wireskunkSkunks love to dig up our vegetables in search of grubs. Our late Doberman used to enjoy late night backyard skunk hunting expeditions which never ended well for him. For years I’ve used bird netting to keep them out of my vegetable beds. The problem with bird netting is that it’s a pain to work with–it catches on things, tangles up, and occasionally traps a bird. I hate the stuff. It took me 16 years to realize that I could exclude skunks from the entire backyard.  All it takes is a simple strategy: know thy enemy.

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Natural Products Expo West: The Good and the Ugly

expo

The Natural Products Expo West, which took place this past week, is one of the largest conventions in the US. It’s a high stakes dating game between retailers and food, cosmetic and supplement producers. This year I promised myself that I would not sample every power bar and gluten free pizza thrust into my hands. I failed and paid unmentionable consequences later. Imagine the center snack aisles of Whole Foods dumped into a funnel and shoved down your throat.

It will be no surprise to most readers of this blog that the “natural” (whatever that means) food industry suffers from the same problems that plague our food system as a whole. Most of the products at the expo are highly processed and high in sugar. Just because something is labeled “gluten free” or “GMO free” does not make it healthy. Getting beyond the nutrition issues most of these “natural” processed foods also taste, frankly, terrible.

Out of the hundreds of products I tasted and reviewed at the expo there were a only a few interesting items–literally one out of a thousand. Most were made by small independent entrepreneurs willing to take a risk on something new.

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Saturday Linkages: Crimean Ovens, Ikea Distillery and Pallet Wood

Crtk oven. Image:

Crimean oven. Image: No Tech Magazine.

Crimean Ovens http://bit.ly/1kvPJrr

The brand that dares not speak its name | Garden Rant http://gardenrant.com/2014/03/the-brand-that-dares-not-speak-its-name.html …

Ikea distillery design – IKEA Hackers http://po.st/s3JdPL 

Pallet Wood Kitchen Cabinets http://www.naturalbuildingblog.com/pallet-wood-kitchen-cabinets/ …

Bees in Danger: California DFA Plans Pesticide Application in Carpinteria, Summerland http://www.noozhawk.com/article/bees_in_danger_california_dfa_plans_pesticide_application_20140303#.UxdqUKHYm88.twitter …

How Dangerous Streets Limit People’s Experience of Their Neighborhood http://streetsblog.net/2014/02/28/how-dangerous-streets-limit-peoples-experience-of-their-neighborhood/#.UxNk2ZGXsis.twitter …

Streets and Creeks, Part 1: Why Fish Need Bicycles http://la.streetsblog.org/2014/02/28/streets-and-creeks-part-1-why-fish-need-bicycles/#.UxNkmhN4LZ0.twitter …

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Dudley brittonii “Giant Chalk Dudleya”

dudleya brittonii

Image: Annie’s Annuals.

The Annie’s Annuals and Perennials catalog has, as the hip kids say, “dropped.” and I’m wishing we had more space for some of the amazing plants shown on all those glossy pages. One, in particular, caught my eye: Dudley brittonii “Giant Chalk Dudleya.” Just imagine spotting this plant under the light of a full moon.

Annie notes that Dudley brittonii requires excellent drainage, can be grown in pots and is suited to USDA zones 9 to 11. Given our Arrakis like conditions here in California, an excellent bonus is that this plant does well with only monthly water. It also thrives in a pot. Mature, it’s around 18 inches across.

Annie’s does mail order and we’ve had a lot of luck with their plants. I visited the nursery on a blogger junket last year and was very impressed with the variety and quality of the seedlings–no root bound plants!

Now I’ve got to remind myself that a garden needs to be viewed from an overall design perspective, not as collection of pretty plants. Maybe there’s a place for Dudley brittonii  in our garden but it will have to work with what is already there before we, as the hip kids also say, “swoop” one.

Protected Bike Lanes

It’s well past time to begin the conversation in this country about fully protected bike lanes like they have in Europe. Far too many bikes languish in the garage because our cities feel like a game of Frogger.

Right hooks–what happens when a distracted motorist turns right and hits a cyclist going straight–are one of the main objections to protected bike lanes. This proposal from the George Mason University 2014 Cameron Rian Hays Outside the Box Competition addresses the right hook problem.

This type of infrastructure will make intersections safer for all including motorists.

Beekeeping Class at the Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano

bees poppy

I’ll be teaching a two hour introduction to natural no-treatment beekeeping at the Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano this Saturday at 1 pm. To sign up buzz over here. Here’s the class description:

Become a backyard beekeeper and enjoy a healthy garden full of pollinators. Understand beekeeping tools, materials, and techniques to get started.

Beekeeping, or apiculture, is said to have begun with the Egyptians who used logs, boxes, and pottery vessels to make hives. Today, with bees dissapearing at rapid and never before seen rate, the practice of caring for bees is needed now more than ever.

Join us for this workshop on all natural, no treatment beekeeping. Learn the basics of beekeeping including makeup of the hive, equipement, types of hives, where to get bees, and reasons for beekeeping.

Learn how you can support bees in return and join us for this special workshop!

The Ecology Center is located at 32701 Alipaz St in San Juan Capistrano. Phone: (949) 443-4223