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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

LOL, Opioid Crisis, Rats & Rattles By Cynthia Brian

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Empowerment
LOL, Opioid Crisis, Rats & Rattles By Cynthia Brian

If you are looking for upbeat, life-changing, and mind stretching information, you’ve come to the right place. Host Cynthia Brian takes you on a journey of exploration that will encourage, inspire, and motivate you to make positive changes that offer life enhancing results. It’s party time on StarStyle®-Be the Star You Are!®. And YOU are invited! Join us LIVE 4-5pm Pt on Wednesdays or tune in to the archives at your leisure. Come play in StarStyle Country.


Laughter could be the best medicine. Laughing makes you and everyone around you feel better. Instead of holding on to grudges, learn to laugh more.

The nation’s deadliest drug epidemic is hitting Americans of every age. Doctors have overprescribed painkillers for years not knowing the swiftness of addiction to opioids.  Find out what opioids are and how the Department of Health and Human Services is responding to the crisis.

Rodents are inundating homes and gardens this year in search of water and food.  Wherever rodents race, snakes that eat rodents follow. Take precautions when in your garden or hiking as poisonous snakes are lurking in the grass. Find out what you can do in case of an emergency as well as new ways to rid your rooms of rats.

Listen at Voice America Network, Empowerment Channel: https://www.voiceamerica.com/episode/100430/lol-opiod-crisis-rats-and-rattles

#StartWithaSmile at smile.amazon.com/ch/94-3333882 . Amazon donates to Be The Star You Are, Inc..

Read our BTSYA July Newsletter: http://hosted.verticalresponse.com/672296/ac040f0875/288055965/ac7221bc2f/

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Rats, Rattles, and Voles By Cynthia Brian

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Empowerment
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

Gimme’ Shelter By Cynthia Brian

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Empowerment
Gimme’ Shelter By Cynthia Brian

 

“Regardless of your lot in life,
build something beautiful on it.”~Zig Ziglar
flowers for Mom's funeral
I was working in my orchard when I heard the screams. Never in my life had I seen four grown men run so quickly. “Are you okay?” I yelled. “What’s the commotion?” The men had been dismantling an old hot tub in a deck when their saws had unsettled a family of skunks who had made the warm, dark environment their cozy home. If you’ve had your dog sprayed by a skunk, you’ll understand.

With winter on the horizon, the wild things are looking for shelter. Rats, skunks, mice, raccoons, possums, and other critters may decide that “su casa es me casa”.
Although we do want to attract birds and pollinators to our gardens by providing food, water, and habitats, but we don’t want to invite the vermin into our territory.

Rodents carry several diseases harmful to humans including salmonellosis, leptospirosis, haniavirus, and arenavirus.  They are not known to have rabies, but skunks can be carriers of rabies.

For prevention and control I consulted with vector control inspector, Joe Cleope, at the Contra Costa Mosquito and Vector Control District.  After a few hours of discussions and inspections, I came away with effective methods of management and control to share with you.

Here’s a short list of advice.

Eliminate the following plants that are considered “rat condos”:
⎫ Ivy
⎫ Bamboo
⎫ Blackberries
⎫ Juniper
⎫ Honeysuckle
⎫ Pampas grass
⎫ Yucca
⎫ Star Jasmine
sunflower seeds
Trim shrubbery and trees:
⎫ Keep palm tree fronds pruned or rats will nest in them.
⎫ Prune climbing vegetation on your house to discourage roof rats.
⎫ Store wood and lumber a foot away from structures and at least 18 inches above ground.
⎫ Install rodent barriers as a prevention to climbing.

Eliminate food and water sources that attract rodents:
⎫ Harvest your fruit and vegetables as they ripen.
⎫ Pick up any fruit or nuts that have fallen on the ground.
⎫ Fill pet bowls only with enough food that can be quickly consumed.
⎫ Rid your garden of “escargot “ aka snails, a favorite meal for vermin.
⎫ Keep birdseed and pet food in metal containers.
⎫ Repair leaky faucets.
⎫ Empty containers of standing water.
⎫ Secure garbage cans. Unfortunately rats will gnaw through bins and raccoons will open lids.
Skunk Trap
Rodent Proof your house:
⎫ Check for openings larger than ¼ inch in vents, screens, and foundation cracks. Patch the holes with 1/4inch galvanized hardware cloth.
⎫ Use sheet metal collars around pipe entrances on wooden walls and use cement patch around pipes in brick, stucco, or stone.
⎫ Seal all gaps around electrical conduit.

Where the Wild Things Are!
⎫ Varmint Control: The Merriam Webster Dictionary considers “varmint” to be any animal that is considered problematic-rats, mice, skunks, raccoons, prairie dogs, etc.
⎫ Skunks: Besides doing everything above to keep the varmint out of your home, if skunks are visiting your property you can buy skunk traps, which are specially made so that once a skunk has entered, it cannot spray. Docile skunks are great destroyers of yellow jacket nests and therefore helpful to your garden if not rabid. If rabid, Vector Control will come to euthanize the skunk. Once skunks have been to your property, they may return. Scatter mothballs in the area and add a radio playing music to deter them.

⎫ Rats and mice: Don’t use the old fashioned wooden snap traps. They are too dangerous to humans and small pets. Available at hardware stores, power spring traps or easy/quick set traps work best.  A great way to assure that only the rodents get trapped is to set the trap with a dab of peanut butter placed under a larger plastic container. Cut a small hole in the container. I use a recycled flower pot. Place the container over the trap. Add a brick or rock to the top to keep it from toppling. You will catch the vermin.

⎫ Raccoons: Follow all the instructions above. Add netting to ponds where raccoons will fish.

For unwanted animals, don’t use poisons as they will kill beneficial critters and harm the environment.
rat traps horizonatal
Cleaning the Mess:
The smells associated with skunks, mice, and rats are nauseating. Their feces and nests could be a danger to your health. When we see droppings our first impulse is to grab a broom or vacuum. DON’T!
Sweeping and vacuuming releases virus particles into the air.  Inhalation can result in infecting the person with the viruses.  Here’s how to clean the feces, nesting areas, and dead animals.
⎫ Wear gloves, a mask, and goggles.
⎫ Spray the area with Lysol or a disinfectant made with a strong solution of bleach.
⎫ After five or minutes, wipe up the area with paper towels or rags you will toss.
⎫ Pick up a dead rodent with a shovel.
⎫ Spray more of the bleach solution to sanitize the area.
⎫ Put all of the waste materials, rags, dead rodents, and paper towels in a plastic bag.
⎫ Seal the bag in another plastic bag and put in the outside garbage can.
⎫ Wash your gloved hands thoroughly.
⎫ Remove the gloves and mask, put in a plastic bag, seal, and put in the outside garbage can.
⎫ Wash your un-gloved hands and your goggles with soap and warm water.
⎫ NEVER vacuum, sweep, or blow out areas that harbor contaminates that could become airborne.

Getting Help:
If you have a problem with rodents or skunks, contact Vector Control at 925-771-6142. The service is free and you’ll be able to troubleshoot your issues.  They will also pick up skunks that have been trapped.

Also remember that encouraging owls and cats to scout your property will keep life in harmony.

There is nothing beautiful about pests finding shelter in our homes and gardens but this month does bring beauty to our doorsteps.
cotoneaster berries cu
Sheltering the Beautiful
⎫ With the rainfall our lawns and hillsides are green and growing.
⎫ Cyclamen abounds at nurseries and garden centers in an abundance of stunning colors-red, pink, white, burgundy. Plant these perennials to add glamour to the winter beds.
⎫ Sunflower seeds can be scattered for next summer’s glory.
⎫ A cover crop blend will choke out weeds, protect soil structure, and increase soil fertility. Sow seeds to over-winter for spring growth.
⎫ Cotoneaster, holly, and pyrancantha showcase red pomes or berries that are perfect for holiday décor.
⎫ Watch for the unexpected growing in your garden. Perhaps a prickly pear has taken root next to a pine tree!
⎫ A variety of mushrooms are sprouting throughout our landscapes. Unless you are an expert in mycotoxicology, enjoy these fairy houses, but don’t eat them!
⎫ The sounds and sights of fountains flowing are stress reducing and healing.

Wishing you a very healthy, happy, and beautiful December where the wild things aren’t!

Happy Gardening and Happy Growing!
Read more
cyn-nightime fountain
©2016
Cynthia Brian
The Goddess Gardener
StarStyle® Productions, llc
Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com
www.GoddessGardener.com
925-377-STAR
Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show at www.StarStyleRadio.net
I am available as a speaker, designer, and consultant.

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