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The Grape Escape

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Empowerment
The Grape Escape

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By Cynthia Brian

“Wine is the most healthful and most hygienic of beverages.” Louis Pasteur

Wherever you travel in California, you’ll witness miles and miles of beautiful vineyards. Over 90% of all the wine made in America is produced in our golden state. The cultivation of Vitis vinefera dates back to the Neolithic period, more than 7,000 years ago. Grape growing and the making of wine are as old as civilization itself.

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In California, Father Junipero Serra planted the first vineyard at Mission San Diego Alcala in 1779 and the Spanish continued planting grapes at each mission they founded to provide wine for the Mass and the masses. The Gold Rush ushered in a time of great demand for wine as prospectors and settlers increased the population of California.

Lamorinda became a wine region in 1880 when the Trelut brothers became squatters at the top of Bollinger Canyon in Moraga, cultivated grapes, and readied the wine. In 1887 Theodore Wagner (Wagner Ranch in Orinda) supplied grapes to immigrant Italians in San Francisco’s North Beach. By 1907, Serafino Rossi made the four to five hour trek to Oakland over Fish Ranch Road from Lafayette to sell his grapes and produce. In the late 19th century a parasite that feeds on and destroys the roots of vines, Phylloxera infested vineyards.  The national Prohibition Act of 1919 uprooted vineyards, destroyed cellars, and outlawed the sale and consumption of alcohol. Between these two major calamities, the wine industry in America collapsed.

The resurgence for demand of California wines didn’t occur until after 1976 when California wines won top awards for both red and white varietals in a blind tasting at the historic upheaval competition against the best of Bordeaux vintages known as The Judgment of Paris. The renaissance of viticulture in California began anew.

Here in Lamorinda, amateur farmers were experimenting with growing grapes again, too. The climates and micro-climates are protected from coastal cooling, the slopes are carved from young sedimentary rock, the soil’s content is mostly clay, sunshine is abundant, and drainage is satisfactory. With homes built on large lots, small vineyards began to flourish.

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Having grown up in the vineyards of Napa county, when I first heard about Captain Vineyards, I thought the name was a charming play of viticulture publicity. Then, I learned that “Captain” was the surname of the owners, Sal and Susan Captain who moved to Moraga in 1989 to raise their four children.  Sal was a Vice President, engineer, and researcher at a multinational medical device company, while Susan spent her days carpooling, volunteering, and juggling kids as a hands-on mom. Being wine aficionados, they had traveled extensively to many wine regions of the world and realized that their hillside in Moraga possessed the perfect terroir, soil, slope, and climate to grow grapes. Susan, with a B. S. in Statistics, especially admired the farming culture and went to work to learn as much as possible about enology and viticulture, taking classes at UC Davis, Sonoma City College, Napa Community College as well as attending symposiums and conferences in related subjects. By forming friendships with vintners from many states and countries, the Captain’s learned quickly.

Following cultivating techniques from Tuscany, the French Rhone Valley, and the German Heidelberg region as well as Napa Valley their hillside acreage was planted on their 20-35% slopes ensuring ten hours of summer sunlight, excellent drainage, and soil erosion prevention. The vines and rows of their six red varietals––Pinot Noir, Petite Sirah, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, and Cab Franc––are established in a 3’ x 5’ matrix with vines spur trained to limit production to less than five pounds per vine resulting in a complexity of flavor and body. As dry farmers, the grapes rely on rainfall or minimal watering only to keep the vines alive, not to increase production. Dry farming results in bolder body, richness, and character.Grapes-Refractomeeter-petite sirah-Captain vineyards.jpg

When Sal retired in 2008, he devoted himself to becoming a winemaker with a bonded winery. Captain Vineyards was the first green winery in Contra Costa County dedicated to utilizing sustainable vineyard practices. Sal and Susan have designed and established twelve vineyards for other landowners ranging in size from 35 vines to over 3000 vines.

Sal’s “grape escape” hasn’t allowed him to desert his engineering background. He orients vineyards to the topography while maintaining aesthetics. Soils characteristics are never adjusted with chemicals. Synthetic pesticides or herbicides are not used or recommended. Instead all vineyard and winery waste and output is recycled back to the soil. Although his expertise is in demand, he says that he talks more people out of planting a vineyard than planting one!

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In 2005, The Lamorinda Winegrower’s Association (LWGA) was established to create a community of people who share a passion for grape growing and wine making. One of the stated missions of the LWGA was to establish an AVA (American Viticultural Area) for Lamorinda. With Susan as President of LWGA,with the help of Dave Rey, AVA committee leader, and all of the members of LWGA, that goal was accomplished on March 25, 2016. At application 139 acres of planted vines and future planned plantings were recorded. The AVA for Lamorinda covers 29,369 acres making Lafayette, Orinda, and Moraga an official wine country destination.

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There are currently 76 members of the LWGA although there are many households who grow grapes but have not joined the group. By federal law, for a winery to post the “Lamorinda” AVA on a bottle, 85% of the grapes must be grown in Lafayette, Moraga, or Orinda. If a winery needs other grapes to blend with their wine, it is allowed as long as the outside grape content is less than 15%. This protects the unique qualities and individuality of a region.

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Two other intriguing local growers that I interviewed for Digging Deep, both members of the LWGA, have vineyards planted and managed by Sal and Susan. NOET Vineyard, owned by Kristiina and Eero Teerikorpi, grows solely Cabernet Sauvignon. Eero and Tiina continue the great tradition of excellent California Cabs grown by immigrants from Finland, started by a sea captain and an entrepreneur Gustave Niebaum. In the late 1800s, Gustave was one of the early premier wine growers in California on his Inglenook winery. (As an interesting side note, my Mother was born across the street in Rutherford from Inglenook on the property of Beaulieu Winery.) To fully close the circle, Eero is also an entrepreneur, navy officer and avid sailor. After 15 years living in London and commuting to Milan working in the fashion industry, Michel Smith, with her husband David Ledesma escaped to Northern California where they discovered a hidden gem of a mid century home complete with a vineyard planted with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot on an Orinda hillside. They credit the Captains with passionately training, teaching, and managing the vineyard while making the wine that comes from their grapes.

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When to harvest is a combination of science and taste. Now that the grape skins are soft, the seeds are brown and crunchy, the berries exude that elusive bouquet of blackberry, plum, and blueberry. Once the sugar content or Brix has been measured (never more than 24 Brix or the alcohol buzz is overpowering), the harvest commences with clusters picked by hand. In recent years it’s been challenging finding reliable and knowledgeable pickers for hire. Families, friends, and wine members assist in this time-consuming, centuries old ritual.

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After the grapes are picked, the artistry begins. Grapes are the only fruit that possess the necessary esters, acids, and tannins to make a consistent and stable wine. The acidity, flavor, and sweetness need to be perfectly balanced. Although every wine master varies the technique, the five basic steps to the wine making process are harvesting, crushing and pressing, fermentation, clarification, and aging and bottling. Sal likes to use new French oak barrels for the first 12 months. Het hen transfers the juice to older barrels for 36-50 months for his Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, and Cabernet. The Pinot Noir is aged for 24 to 30 months.

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The 2017 vintage will produce excellent wines as the bloom was fantastic and the berries are spectacular. How privileged we are to have dedicated grape growers who share their talents and time to bring us the gift of wines from the vines.

Dionysus, the Greek god of grapes, wine, and winemaking and his Roman counterpart, Bacchus raise their mutual glasses in admiration after a visit to the vineyards of Lamorinda.

Salute!

“The discovery of a wine is of greater moment than the discovery of a constellation. The universe is too full of stars.” Benjamin Franklin

Read more: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1115/Digging-Deep-with-Cynthia-Brian-Lamorinda-winegrowers-join-a-long-distinguished-line-of-grape-cultivation.html

Happy Gardening and Happy Growing!

Cynthia Brian

Cynthia Brian, The Goddess Gardener, raised in the vineyards of Napa County, is a New York Times best selling author, actor, radio personality, speaker, media and writing coach as well as the Founder and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are1® 501 c3. Please make a donation to help with hurricane disaster relief at www.BetheStarYouAre.org.  

Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show and order her books at www.StarStyleRadio.com. The new book, Growing with the Goddess Gardener, is delayed. Thanks for your patience.

Available for hire for any gardening project.  

Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com

www.GoddessGardener.com

Captain Vineyards offers tours and tasting by appointment only.  Call us 925-330-2440, or visit our http://captainvineyards.com for bookings.

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Outside-Inside

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Empowerment
Outside-Inside

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“I went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” John Muir

As summer draws to a close, it’s natural to want to grab the last rays of outdoor living. With temperatures in the three digits, however, unless we are splashing in a pool, many people are staying indoors with the air conditioner turned on high. I tend to march to a different drum, preferring to sweat through the heat to enjoy the hazy, hot days of the season al fresco.

Since harvest time is quickly approaching, I tromped through the hills with Andrea Wood, a former financial broker turned entrepreneur who in 2010 purchased twenty-two acres above Campolindo High School with the dream of planting a vineyard, olive orchard, and building a local winery. A few years ago, she planted 125 olive trees but, alas, in June, a fire blazed to the top of her property burning many of her young trees. As we hiked her hills, we were surprised to witness the resiliency of the olive as new shoots sprouted from the trunks of the scorched trees. Three cheers for Mother Nature’s ability to rebound from devastation. Trees that were untouched are filled with fruit which will ripen and be harvested in November by her family. From the top of the drive, olive trees sway in the wind with views of Mt. Diablo in the background. In May of 2018, she will plant her southern facing hillside with Cabernet Sauvignon in a manner reminiscent of Tuscan vineyards. Plans for her winery are forthcoming. In the meantime, deer and turkeys call her hillsides home. close up of olives.jpg

With this hot and dry weather, there is a high danger of fire. Be proactive and remove flammable objects, debris, brush, and wood from around the perimeter of your dwelling. The National Weather Service has been issuing red flag and heat wave warnings projected to continue through the month of September. Stay hydrated, wear a hat when outdoors, provide plenty of water to your pets, and watch your plants for signs of stress.

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It’s been extremely enjoyable watching the colorful sunsets from the comfort of my patio chairs.  Although I maintain my distance, observing the plethora of wildlife that prance and glide through my own landscape is mesmerizing. Deer, turkeys, skunks, raccoons, lizards, snakes, hawks, hummingbirds, and even coyotes and foxes are constant visitors, not all welcome.

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Striped skunks have been increasingly bold, coming right up to my back door. These nocturnal mammals, although adorably cute from afar, should not be approached as they can spray as a defense mechanism their strong musk several times with an accuracy of twelve feet. In addition, skunks are carriers of rabies. As much as their smell is disgusting, skunks are beneficial for reducing rodents and pesky insects. However, once they take up residence in your yard, garage, shed, or deck, they are problematic. Do your best to secure entry holes in and under buildings and decks. Skunks can burrow as they forage to go from outside to in. If skunks are bothering you, call Vector Control at 925-771-6190 to request a skunk inspection.

 

In case your pet is sprayed, try this homemade neutralizer recipe:

STINK REMOVER RECIPE

1 quart 3% hydrogen peroxide

¼ cup baking soda

1 teaspoon dishwashing detergent

Mix together and wash your pet keeping the concoction out of the eyes, nose, and mouth. Rinse with water. If necessary, wash again. Do not bottle or store this solution as a chemical reaction could cause an explosion.

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Blue tailed lizards, also known as skinks, have provided hours of entertainment as the sprint from rock to rock. Some veterinarians state that skinks may be poisonous to pets, specifically cats, although there are no concrete published studies. Having bright coloring on the skin often indicates that an animal is venomous or unpalatable but in the case of the blue tailed skink this quality is a useful decoy inviting birds to attack the tail and not its vital organs. Lizard tails regenerate. Lizards are excellent garden protectors eating many of the bothersome insects that plaque our landscapes. Welcome them.

Grapes are ripening on the vine as the sun kisses the clusters. Bunches resemble still life paintings with their colors of blue, purple, absinthe, and rose. (Next month be on the look out for my article on our Lamorinda grape harvest!) Hydrangeas that were originally a deep vermillion are showing florets of lime green mottled with pink. Green is the most prevalent color in nature.  It’s enlightening to take time to truly immerse your senses in the multitude of shades and hues before the leaves turn amber, gold, crimson, and red.

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When the weather allows, get outside to enjoy the call of the wild. Bring the breath of the earth into our souls by soaking in nature outside. Out is in. Inhale deeply.

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Cynthia Brian’s Gardening Guide Tips for September

FEED Monarchs with enriching nectar for both the caterpillars and butterflies by planting Swamp Milkweed, Pink Common Milkweed, Asters, and Liatris.

EAT ugly and imperfect fruits and vegetables. About one-third of all food produced worldwide, worth around $1 trillion, gets lost or wasted in food production and consumption systems. Deformed produce tastes the same and is as nutritionally viable as perfect pieces. For bruised fruit or vegetables, cut off the bad bits, make a sauce, or a soup.

WATER deeply when your garden is thirsty in the early morning or evening. Do not water during the heat of the day or you’ll be wasting H20 and may burn your plants.

TAKE 20% off new season vegetable seeds from Renee’s Garden. Enter code 18INTRO at checkout. Offer ends 9/15/17. Receive 50% off 2017 seeds.  www.reneesgarden.com

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USE vegetable stems and trimmings for sauces, sautés, and soups. Broccoli stalks can be shaved for a salad, potato peels baked for chips, carrot and cilantro tops made into a pesto. Get creative and don’t waste any part of an edible vegetable. Note, do not eat the leaves of rhubarb as they are toxic.

AVOID aches and pains while gardening by stretching before and after your work.

CHOOSE plants for color, shape, size, visual texture, and foliage when planning your garden.

VISIT the Pear and Wine Festival on September 23 at the Moraga Commons. Make sure to stop by the Be the Star You Are!® booth for fun activities for the kids. Thanks to Michael VerBrugge Construction, The Lamorinda Weekly, and MB Jessee painting for making the booth possible. Consider making a donation to Operation Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief to help the displaced in Texas. http://www.bethestaryouare.org/events

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DIVIDE crowded perennials once they have finished blooming. This includes Naked Ladies.

 

FERTILIZE your acid loving plants including roses, rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, fuchsias, ferns, and begonias.

PICK Asian pears and apples that are ripe.

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The best way to get in contact with me is via email at Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com. As much as I appreciate your questions and concerns, I am unable to respond to the numerous phone calls. Thanks for understanding!

Happy Gardening and Happy Growing!

Read More: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1114/Digging-Deep-with-Cynthia-Brian-Outside-in.html

Cynthia Brian

Cynthia Brian, The Goddess Gardener, is a New York Times best selling author, actor, radio personality, speaker, media and writing coach as well as the Founder and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are1® 501 c3.

Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show and order her books at www.StarStyleRadio.com

Available for hire for any project.

Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com

www.GoddessGardener.com

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Dancing Naked Ladies & Wild Things in the Garden

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Dancing Naked Ladies & Wild Things in the Garden

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“Those who danced were thought insane 

by those who could not hear the music.”

~Unknown

Can you hear the music? Or are you insane?

Dancing in the breeze, Naked Ladies are South African natives in the Amaryllis belladonna family with bare, unadorned stems that turn their faces to the sunshine.

The long straight necks and the perfect pink throats of the Naked Ladies brighten every late summer landscape. In our climate they bloom at the same time as agapanthus, making for a lovely yin yang interaction of pinks and blues. When little else is blooming in the blazing summer sun, and the deer have dined on garden delicacies, the toxic bulbs of Naked Ladies can always be counted on to put on a brilliant ballet.

In winter and spring the bulbs grow leaves that are glossy and spear shaped, often mistaken for agapanthus. By summer the leaves have died back and only the heads of the bulbs can be seen. Miraculously one morning you’ll walk into your garden to witness a sprouted leafless stem, soon followed by a pretty pink face.  Naked Ladies will bloom for four to six weeks, swaying to the music of the wind. As soon as the blooms fade, cut the stalk back to the ground. Since the plant is now dormant, this is the time to divide the clumps to replant bulbs wherever you want a patch of Naked Ladies for the next year. If you scatter the fresh seeds from the dried flowers, they may germinate in as little as two weeks, but will take as many as six years to flower.

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Naked Ladies are not fussy at all. They can be planted in gravel, dirt, or enriched soil as long as they are planted in the sunshine. They will last for many years with little to no care. Once established they require minimal water, thus, they are a great flowering solution to drought inclined climates. A single bulb will multiply into a clump of bulbs, yet the clumps don’t travel far. When the clumps are bare, they resemble a turtle’s back. It is best to plant in groups. If you plant in rows, they will remain in rows until you transplant the bulbs elsewhere.  Amaryllis belladonna are also spectacular long lasting cut flowers.

Naked Ladies are not the only specimens strutting their stuff in our yards. Raccoons, deer, skunks, coyotes, squirrels, and turkeys are in unafraid abundance this August. As I approached my home driving from work, a family of three deer polished off my gladioli on my driveway.

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I see them daily roaming the neighborhood munching on every edible while coyotes provide a nightly chorus of howling from the hills. Outside my back door, a skunk sniffed in search of food.  No sooner had the skunk slinked away empty handed than a huge raccoon pranced onto the patio, also seeking dinner. Both nocturnal creatures are gorgeous to admire from behind glass but are not to be approached as they dance in the dark. (I snapped photos instead.)skunk on patio.jpg

Make sure to remove any pet food from outside and tighten garbage can lids to avert their nightly invasions.  The squirrels have been ravaging the grapevines. The grapes are not quite ripe but are certainly sweet and delicious to those bushy tailed rodents.

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Since I can’t control the parade of turkeys flying into my garden, I’ve learned to admire their dances. Sometimes two or more families with two-dozen chicks will trot across the plot, scratching, clucking, yelping, purring, flapping, and gobbling. My reward for allowing them into my space is a collection of beautiful feathers to adorn my creations.turkeys trotting.jpg

Take a peak outside and listen to the music. Nature is dancing.

“Great dancers are not great because of their technique – they are great because of their passion.'” Martha Graham

Cynthia Brian’s Mid Month Gardening Guide

MOSQUITO WATCH: Did you know that mosquitoes are the most deadly creatures on the planet? Except for Maine, West Nile Virus transmitted by mosquitoes has been reported in all the states of the continental United States. Zika is the most recent mosquito-borne disease to infect humans and cause birth defects. In Asia, Japanese Encephalitis is deadly and malaria has been a global killer for centuries. As vectors for diseases they also transmit Dengue Fever, Chikungunya, and Dog Heartworm. Mosquitoes are attracted to carbon dioxide. People with high metabolisms create more CO2 and attract more mosquitoes. What can you do to keep these pesky, biting, disease filled flyers away?

  • ⎫ Empty all standing water from any vessel.
  • ⎫ Add DUNKS to ponds or fountains. Vector Control gives free mosquito fish to pond owners. Call 925-771-6192.
  • ⎫ Apply DEET to all exposed skin. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that oil of lemon eucalyptus can be as effective as low doses of DEET, however, it needs to be reapplied every fifteen to twenty minutes.
  • ⎫ Sunscreen/repellent combinations are not as effective and are not recommended.
  • ⎫ Repellent clothing such as Insect Shield is worthwhile. (www.insectshield.com)

If you are planning a trip and you’d like to know how to protect yourself from these pests visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Traveler Health page. https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel

PINCH back annuals and perennials to increase continual blooms until winter.

DEADHEAD roses and dahlias.

HANG a basket of yellow and red petunias on your patio for instant dazzle.

PHOTOGRAPH the crape myrtle trees that are in their full flush of blooms this month.

DEEP-SOAK redwood and magnolia trees, especially during hot weather.

CALL Vector Control before 7 am Monday-Friday at 925-771-6192 if you trap or need to trap a skunk.  Along with rats, voles, moles, gophers, and raccoons, skunks are in abundance this year. Vector Control can advise you about all of these creatures but it only offers removal services for skunks and yellow jackets.

Happy Gardening and Happy Growing!cu naked lady.jpg

Read more: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1113/Digging-Deep-with-Cynthia-Brian-Dancing-Naked-Ladies-and-strutting-wildlife.html

Cynthia Brian

Cynthia Brian, The Goddess Gardener, is a New York Times best selling author, actor, radio personality, speaker, media and writing coach as well as the Founder and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are1® 501 c3.

Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show and order her books at www.StarStyleRadio.com

Available for hire for any project.  

Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com

www.GoddessGardener.com

925-377-STAR

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In Praise of Farmers By Cynthia Brian

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Empowerment
In Praise of Farmers By Cynthia Brian

“Let us never forget that the cultivation of the earth is the most important labor of man. When tillage begins, other arts follow. The farmers, therefore, are the founders of civilization.” Daniel Webster

With so many luscious fruits and vegetables at their peak of perfection in August, the prospect of the perfect meal awaits! Ripe and juicy nectarines, peaches, apricots, Asian pears are devoured right off the tree, or drizzled with olive oil to be grilled on the barbecue. Tomatoes, peppers, corn, cucumbers, zucchini, eggplant, blackberries, melons, and beans offer the promise of culinary creativity as we harvest yet another bushel. Farmer’s Markets tender the very best of the season, a good reason to stock up on freshness and quality to freeze or can for the winter months.

But have you ever pondered the labor involved from the farmers behind the superior produce you discover at the Farmer’s Markets or in your local grocery aisle?

Throughout my teen years, I worked in the fruit cutting sheds along with my two sisters where we would half and pit apricots, peaches, and pears, laying them on wooden flats to be sun dried, packaged, and sold. For years afterwards I couldn’t eat any of these three fruits because of the memories of the dirty, exhausting work in the hot summer sun. We were paid by the fifty pound lug of fruit cut, with apricots earning us about twenty cents a box containing two hundred or more “cots”. Peaches and pears paid half as much because they were bigger and therefore, less fruit was packed in a lug. Cutting peaches was the nastier job. The peach fuzz stuck to our skin as the juice ran from the peach pit to our armpits. When the gong rang at 4:30pm indicating that our nine-hour shift was terminated, our itching bodies would dash home for a shower. If we had earned $20 for a full day’s work, we were considered in the top one percent of farm employees.

Although the work was tough, when I reminisce about those farm day experiences, I am grateful for the manual labor of my youth. Whenever I purchase a fruit or vegetable that hasn’t grown in my personal garden, I am filled with appreciation for the toil of the farmers and the laborers who have worked rain or shine for many seasons to bring these crops to market. These hard working people are the unsung heroes of our lives.

My Daddy was one of those men. Farming was a career that demanded attention 365 days a year. He could work for several months only to have a complete crop and his one annual paycheck devastated by rain or pests or drought.  When he was asked why he didn’t like to gamble he’d retort that being a farmer meant that every day was a gambling day. He didn’t have to go to the tables to wrestle with Lady Luck.

From the time my siblings and I could toddle, we worked the fields. As our age and abilities grew, we were given more responsibilities. By eight years of age, we all drove tractor, plowed the vineyards, picked fruit, and worked the harvest. We always new where our food came from because as farmers, we planted, weeded, watered, tilled, mowed, hauled, mulched, fertilized, pruned, sprayed, protected, harvested, then started the process all over again prepping for the next season of crops.

There have been surveys done around the world asking children to explain from where their food came. Responses in the United States included that cucumbers come wrapped in plastic, eggs come from cartons, peas are found in the freezer, and chocolate milk is from brown cows. Recently, twenty-seven percent of Australian kids in their final year of primary school believed that yogurt grew on trees while seventy-five percent thought cotton socks came from animals. In England, 1/3 of the country’s children thought fish sticks came from pigs or chickens, tomatoes grew underground, potatoes grew on bushes, and cheese was raised on plants. More disturbing was the majority of children stated that everything originates in the supermarket.  Unfortunately adults didn’t fair much better in surveys. These statistics reflect poorly on the intelligence of citizens in first world countries.  We need to do better with educating our public of where our food is grown, how long it takes to grow, and the hazards that farmers face.

America was an agrarian society until the early 1900’s. Now we are a technology focused country. As of the last census, only one percent of Americans are farmers. I commend the schools where gardening is part of the curriculum.  We can all become more appreciative of the growing cycles when we become knowledgeable and even more so when we become home farmers ourselves. We have the responsibility to involve our children in the growing process by giving them the opportunity to plant, water, and tend to fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Besides being a superb science lesson, children will develop an appreciation for farm freshness and feel a sense of achievement and accomplishment. An added benefit is children enjoy eating what they grew. Thankfully, there has been a renaissance in learning the skills of canning. Baking pies from scratch is becoming fashionable again. As a child, “putting up” our fruits and vegetables for winter consumption was a fun family affair, one I passed on to my children, and hope that one day they will pass it on to their progeny.

The next time you bite into a peach–fresh, dried, or canned, say a little prayer of thanks for the extraordinary efforts that went into its development. Farmers are the foundation of our civilization and we need to honor and respect their art. It’s time we get back to our roots.

Cynthia Brian’s Mid Month Nature Guide

Allow Asian Pears to ripen on the tree. When the skin color changes from green to yellow they are ready for picking. Fruit can be stored at room temperature for two to three weeks and up to six months in refrigeration.

Super Star Vegetables: Kale has been on the popular healthy vegetable list for several years. In the near future, you’ll start seeing more publicity around beets and cauliflower. Packed with vitamins C, K, and B 6, cauliflower can be roasted, mashed, steamed, or eaten raw. Beets have anti-inflammatory properties, lower blood glucose, improve muscle power, and aid heart health. Plan on planting all three this autumn.

Order or be on the look out for bulbs of garlic, shallots, and onions for fall planting.

Warning: Coyotes are getting bolder. In less than a week, I came within ten feet of a coyote on my driveway at 9 am and another ambling down Camino Pablo near the school around 3:30pm. Neither of these large carnivores were frightened by me. Keep your small animals and children safe. My article “Rats, Rattles, and Voles” (https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1111/Gardening-Guide-for-August-Rats-rattles-and-voles.html) increased the conversation concerning wild animals around our homes. Readers reported an increase in skunks, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, deer, moles, voles, rats, mice, and snakes around homes. Although these critters were here before we settled, we do need to be vigilant to protect ourselves.

Win $50,000 for your Garden:  Enter America’s Best Gardener Contest. Grand prize is $50,000.  I am honored to have been chosen as a judge. Show the world that your thumb is the greenest. http://www.americasbestgardener.com

Pre-Order my forthcoming garden book, Growing with the Goddess Gardener, Book I in the Garden Shorts Series. Publishing was greatly delayed but copies of the book will be shipped by September.  All pre-orders will receive extra goodies such as heirloom seeds, bookmarks, and more. Book is $14.95 for black/white interior. Price for color interior photos has not been determined yet. Email me for details, Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com. 25% of the proceeds benefit the 501c3 Be the Star You Are!® charity. http://www.GoddessGardener.com/

Happy Gardening and Happy Growing!
Read more: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1112/Digging-Deep-Gardening-with-Cynthia-Brian-In-Praise-of-Farmers.html

Cynthia Brian

Cynthia Brian, The Goddess Gardener, is a New York Times best selling author, actor, radio personality, speaker, media and writing coach as well as the Founder and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are1® 501 c3.
Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show and order her books at www.StarStyleRadio.com
Available for hire for any project.
Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com
www.GoddessGardener.com
925-377-STAR

Rats, Rattles, and Voles By Cynthia Brian

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Rats, Rattles, and Voles By Cynthia Brian

“There’s a snake lurking in the grass.” Virgil


10 rattles! Diamond pattern on the skin. This was no gopher snake!

I was checking my orchard on the hill agonizing over the gopher mounds when I saw the slithering snake. Excited to know that I had a friend in the rodent business, I quickly ran to get a closer look.  Dang! Not a gopher snake but crotalus oreganus oreganus-northern Pacific rattlesnake. I was wearing my normal summer gardening gear-shorts, bathing suit top, cowboy hat, and boots.  Not exactly the suggested outfit for wrangling a rattler.  As I was counting the number of rattles, he/she slinked into the rosemary bush bordering my vegetable garden.

It’s been over five years since I’ve witnessed a rattlesnake on my property.  According to the experts, because of the wet winter and now the dry summer, rats, mice, gophers, and voles are ubiquitous, which means that their hunters are in abundance as well. This season I’ve had several gopher, garter, and king snakes as wanted guests. Rattlesnakes give me the shivers.

Every summer growing up on our ranch in Napa County meant a meeting with at least fifty or more rattlers. I’ve stepped on a few in the past and a couple snaked over the top of my boots. Fortunately neither I, nor anyone in my family has ever suffered a bite. Rattlesnakes are the only pit viper found in California.  All are poisonous and potentially dangerous.  They kill their prey with their venom as opposed to constriction. Babies are born fully developed with one rattle and are even more potent than adults.  The rattles on the end of the snake’s tail are used as a warning system, alerting predators or humans to stay away. Every time the snake sheds, a new rattle is grown. Rattles can break off, and to the unaccustomed bystander, a snake without rattles may resemble a gopher snake. Without proper identification, never handle a snake in the grass. Rattlesnakes are not aggressive and don’t usually strike unless provoked, however, since they seek warm-blooded prey, a human could be mistaken as food.

Rodents are inundating homes and gardens this year in search of water and food.  Wherever rodents race, snakes that eat rodents follow.  I discovered a terrific trap that zaps rats and mice dead. It’s called The Rat Zapper and it works like a charm.
For gophers, box traps and black hole traps work best. The moles are normally looking for grubs in a lawn and don’t do much damage. I just stomp down on their ridges.  Voles, also called “field mice” or meadow mice” are bad news as they target the root systems of vegetable gardens, lawns, and fruit orchards. They will gnaw at the trunks of trees and shrubs, chew blades and stems of grass, and eat bulbs. They often use empty mole or gopher burrows as their runways.  Voles reproduce rapidly leading to mass destructions of landscapes. Snap traps are best to catch these critters when they exit their holes.

The best protection to minimize the rodent infestation is to invite their natural predators– owls, hawks, and yes, snakes.  A family of barn owls will hunt and eat up to a thousand rodents a year. Consider installing a nesting box for owls. The hawks fly with the wind currents to find the rodent restaurant. Most snakes to visit our gardens are not venomous, yet, all snakes can bite and should not be handled. King snakes are my very favorite snake to have in a garden because they kill rattlesnakes.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife suggests the following precautions since rattlesnakes do not just reside in rural areas. We live in hill country with plenty of open space, creeks, and trails. Rattlesnakes are here. Pay attention.

⎫ Be alert when walking in a park, golf course, or riverbank.

⎫ Wear sturdy boots and don’t wear flip flops when hiking. Stay on the trail and don’t wander into the brush. Inform your children to stay with you.

⎫ Avoid tall brush, woodpiles, and underbrush. Snakes often hide during the heat of the day, then, come out at dusk and dawn to hunt.

⎫ Check your sleeping bag when camping, step on rocks and logs instead of climbing over them.

⎫ Watch where you step when leaving your house or a building. Rattlesnakes often stretch out at door thresholds.

⎫ Rattlesnakes swim. Don’t grab onto floating sticks or branches when swimming anywhere, including your swimming pool.

⎫ Don’t put your hand into a place you can’t see. Don’t weed under bushes unless you’ve rattled the area.

⎫ A dead rattlesnake is still venomous. The head needs to be buried.

⎫ If you have a dog, talk to your veterinarian about getting the canine rattlesnake vaccine. For small dogs, it doesn’t always work, but for a large dog, it could be life saving.

⎫ Hire a snake wrangler if you find an unwanted snake. Check online.

In case of a rattlesnake bite, call Poison Control immediately at 800-222-1222 and get to the nearest emergency room. Stay calm, remove rings, and don’t try to suck the venom, cut the wound, tourniquet the bite or ice it.  Most rattlesnake bites are accidental, but all are very dangerous, and can be fatal.

I still haven’t found my rattlesnake but I am being extra cautious, especially when weeding, wearing my boots, gloves, and carrying a sharp shovel.  As much as I despise rats and other rodents, a rattlesnake is not a welcome serpent in my summer paradise where I prefer to be barefoot and bikini clad!

Enjoy the summer and join me in my dance to stay clear of the rats, rattles, and voles!

Cynthia Brian’s Summer Tips:

The following plants are repellents to gophers and moles. Plant them in areas of infestation.
Rosemary
Marigold
Oleander
Penstemon
Catmint
Salvia
Strawberry
Daffodil
Castor Bean

Garden Events

⎫ If you will be in Europe in September you may want to visit the spoga+gafa, the world’s leading garden trade fair September 3-5 in Cologne, Germany with over 2000 exhibitors from 60 countries. http://ow.ly/pBxP30dA88D

⎫ The World’s Pure Food Fair and National Heirloom Expo happens in Santa Rosa September 5, 6,and 7 with three day tickets only $25. Heritage poultry, music, seeds, fruit tastings, dahlia show, colossal pumpkins, and more. http://www.theheirloomexpo.com

⎫ Closer to home, Moraga Gardens Farm, a non-profit volunteer membership garden, 1290 Moraga Way, Moraga between the fire station and School Street grows many varieties of pesticide free, organic vegetables including tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, cucumbers, chard, fruits, and herbs. Watch for demonstrations, lectures, and sales. https://moragagardensfarm.org

Blooming Beautiful!
Roses
Gladioli
Firecracker Plants
Snapdragons
Magnolias
Petunias
Pelargoniums
Geraniums
Daisies
Yarrow
Hollyhocks
Osteospermums

Happy Gardening and Happy Growing!

Read More: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1111/Gardening-Guide-for-August-Rats-rattles-and-voles.html

Cynthia Brian, The Goddess Gardener, is a New York Times best selling author, actor, radio personality, speaker, media and writing coach as well as the Founder and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are1® 501 c3.
Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show at www.StarStyleRadio.com
Her new book, Growing with the Goddess Gardener will be available this month!
Hire Cynthia for your next project.
Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com
www.GoddessGardener.com
925-377-STAR

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