Gift Suggestions, from the Other Half

...You might remember me writing about them earlier.  Apologies for the California bias: Healing with Medicinal Plants of the West, by Celia Garcia and James D. Adams, Jr., Abedus Press, 2009 Co-authored by a Chumash healer and a USC pharmacology prof., both of whom write for Wilderness Way magazine. A fascinating resource documenting both historical uses and current scientific opinion on our native plants. My post on it is here. Tending the...

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The Making of a Great Olive Oil

...privilege of tasting the freshly squeezed oil. I won’t soon forget that heavenly flavor. Matt told us that it takes around a ton of olives to make 25 to 30 gallons of oil. The olives come from a thousand trees that are tucked around the vineyards. If you’re ever in Northern California the Preston Vineyard is well worth a visit. We got to taste a Barbera wine that they make–quite amazing. They also bake a delicious sourdough bre...

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Creating a Moon Garden

...r gardens can provide habitat for night pollinators and other wildlife. Bornstein had a number of great tips for making a garden interesting at night: Consider color. White flowers, of course, will pop out under moonlight. But yellow flowers stand out even more. We’re lucky in Southern California to have a lot of native plants with silvery grey leaves (an evolutionary adaption of dry climate plants). Masses of silvery grey leaves stand out...

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Eight Things to Consider When Saving Vegetable Seeds

The directions for seed saving in our last book, Making It, almost got cut. Perhaps we should have just changed those directions to “Why it’s OK to buy seeds.” The fact is that it’s not easy to save the seeds of many vegetables thanks to the hard work of our bee friends. That being said, Shannon Carmody of Seed Saver’s Exchange gave a lecture at this year’s Heirloom Exposition with some tip...

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Mandrake!

...years ago, finally falling asleep during an endless video game inspired broom chase scene). Apparently wherever it appears in the world, mandrake (Atropa mandragora) has always inspired unusual beliefs. Buhner says, Though all indigenous cultures know that plants can speak with humankind, mandrake is almost the only plant from indigenous European practice about which this belief is still extant. Throughout its Christian European history, it has...

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Back on the Yogurt Train: How to Make Yogurt

...transforming. Milk, of course. Make sure your milk doesn’t say “Ultra Pasturized” or UP on the label. That stuff is just nasty. Otherwise, you can use whole, 2%, 1% — and even skim, I presume, though I’ve never tried it. How much milk? As much as you want. But it seems to me that for the trouble, a quart would be the minimum it would be worthwhile making. After all, it keeps a long time.  The procedure: Heat milk...

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Bees will love your Coyote Brush Hedge

...s Natural History Museum. Baccharis pilularis, called coyote brush, or chaparral bloom, is an unassuming Western native plant with a secret super-power: native and non-native pollinators love, love, love! its tiny little flowers. If you want to lavish affection and care on the pollinators in your garden, plant one of these babies, if you can. It really is one of the best plants for the purpose. (For more info on coyote brush, here’s a nice...

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Music to Grow Plants

From the The Secret Life of Plants era, New York dentist and horticulturalist Dr. George Milstein’s 1970 album Music to Grow Plants. Apparently it came with seeds. From the back cover, “As a result of present study, we were able to produce a sound which acts upon plant growth patterns. These sounds have been electronically embedded in this record. Every effort has been made to camouflage them, however, you may at times hear certain...

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Adventures in Gardening Series: Wrap up on the Hippie Heart: Growing lentils and flax

...d reason, since a lot of seeds we can buy in bulk bins may be hybrid, sterile or irradiated. But I wanted to try it anyway. This first season I planted the Heart with bulk bin flax seed and lentils from a boxed lentils. The results were mixed. Sort of interesting. Not super-productive, but not a failure, because I learned lots. First, both flax and lentils are very pretty plants. In its prime, the Heart was an attractive thing The flax grew stra...

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White Sage and Bees and our other sage friends

...f the principle inducements toward living in Southern California. I enjoy the aromatics of our Mediterranean and native chaparral plants as much as the bees do. Here’s what we’ve got going right now–and I think I’m going to add more this fall. Below is our native black sage, Salvia mellifera, just coming into flower. The bees like this sage, too. (They like all sages). This one arranges its flowers in little sipping cups f...

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