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RX for Health

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Empowerment
RX for Health

“Hope and faith flower from the cheerful seeds of the old year to the sprouting garden of the New Year’s dawn.”
~Terri Guillemets

For the past few weeks it seems that everyone I encounter has been sick with a cold or flu or has been nursing a loved one who is suffering from such malaise. The drastic change in weather conditions plus the excitement and multiple engagements of the holiday season have exacerbated this season of illnesses. To help aid in the symptoms that are bothering you, the closest pharmacy may be your garden.

Food has always been the best medicine. What we eat and how we eat it determines our vitality and our health. Culinary herbs and spices such as basil, mustard, oregano, and thyme enjoy both flavor enhancing and digestive benefits. Using echinacea or goldenseal, both bitter herbs, can be helpful in clearing congestion and boosting your immune system. Chamomile or passionflower tea helps you relax and unwind, quieting your body and your mind.

A natural remedy to soothe a sore throat and still a cough that I have been using for decades in my work as an actor is a hot tea brewed with a combination of grated ginger, torn mint leaves, the juice, rind, and leaves of a Meyer lemon mixed with honey. (If you are fortunate to be a beekeeper as our Lamorinda Weekly publishers are, the most valuable honey in the world is derived from the bees in your garden!) This herbal tea tastes delicious and really helps with clearing my sinuses. For an extra boost of vitamin C, add the juice and rind of a naval orange to the concoction. Pair almost any herb with ginger and lemon for an extra healing enhancer. If you have an upset stomach, motion sickness, or feel nauseous, chewing on a slice of ginger root relieves the symptoms rapidly.

Herbal medicine, herbalism, or phytotherapy has been utilized for centuries around the globe in many cultures for the prevention and treatment of illness. Contained in many plants are powerful chemicals that can assist with natural healing. However, before ingesting or using any plant as a medication, make sure you are certain of its identity and be aware that allergic reactions can occur. If in doubt, leave it out. Always consult your physician for any ailments that worsen. Pregnant and breast feeding women need to err on the side of caution by always discussing any new remedies or herbal concoctions with their doctor before using,

Here are a few of the botanical medicinal plants that many people already grow in their gardens that I have safely used as a natural prescription for illness.

Basil: Besides being extraordinarily flavorful in just about everything, adding basil leaves or flowers to your salads, sauces, and stews aids digestion, alleviates anxiety, and reduces gas.
As an annual herb, basil grows vigorously in the warm weather and is slowly dying back at this time of the year. Harvest the leaves now to freeze or dry.

Bee Balm is a bergamot with edible flowers. The leaves are spicy and the shoots can be made into a pesto just like mint or basil. Dry the bergamot leaves and flowers to use in a steam bath to loosen phlegm and coughing. Make an herbal compress of the plant to treat bacterial or fungal infections. Bee balm spreads vigorously by runners just like mint. It is a pollinator attractor and can be harvested all year long.

Calendula has been used for centuries to heal burns, wounds, and rashes. It can be used topically or ingested. The edible flowers are filled with antioxidants and I love adding them to salads and frittatas. Dried flowers can be added to stews and soups to enhance your immune system. Calendula spreads by seeds and in my garden, it flourishes year around because as a plant dies I scatter the seeds elsewhere and within a short time new plants emerge that flower quickly.

Lemongrass is not a very pretty plant but it is popular in Asian dishes and is used throughout the world as a tea to soothe many health issues including headaches, indigestion, anxiety, coughs, colds, flu, and insomnia. For motion sickness or flu, make a tea of lemon juice, catnip or mint, ginger, and basil. Like many herbal teas, lemongrass is best combined with ginger for swifter results.

Passionflower is used in teas to alleviate pain such as headaches, earaches, or cramps. It also promotes better sleep. In winter this vibrant vine dies back but will return in the spring, preferring a full sunshine location. It is a short-lived perennial, producing flowers for a few years before dying. The Cherokee Native Americans were known to use passionflowers to decrease inflammation from thorn wounds, although I haven’t used passionflower for this purpose…yet.

Mint is a beautiful and functional botanical herb. Mint leaves will root in a glass of water so when you find a mint that delights you, take a snip and start growing your mint garden. All mints are invasive and will take over your landscape. It’s best to keep mint in a container. Spearmint, peppermint, pineapple mint, and catnip all make excellent teas that will help ease the effects of the common cold, comfort a queasy stomach, and promote sounder sleep. As a culinary herb, it is stimulating chopped into a salad, soup, or made into a jelly.

May you benefit with wellness by visiting your garden pharmacy, Wishing you a very healthy and happy 2018.

Happy Gardening. Happy Growing,

Cynthia Brian

Not To Be Missed:
⎫ Tune in to my live radio broadcast on Wednesday, January 24 from 4-5pm PT when I’ll be interviewing renowned rosarian, Michael Marriott of David Austin Roses in England. He’ll give us the tips we need to prune as well as how to plant bare root heirlooms. http://www.voiceamerica.com/show/2206/be-the-star-you-are

Read more, see photos: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1123/Digging-Deep-with-Cynthia-Brian-Garden-pharmacy.html

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.
Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show and order her books at www.StarStyleRadio.com.
Her new book, Growing with the Goddess Gardener, is available at www.cynthiabrian.com/online-store.
Available for hire.
Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com
www.GoddessGardener.com

Light the Night

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Empowerment
Light the Night

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“Moon and stars are giving light.

With gifts of nature’s giving, we complete the cycle of living.

Let us give from our mind, hands, and heart to the world.” Chitrabhanu

It was a holiday tradition for our family of seven to pile into our old station wagon to head to the hills of San Francisco to experience the beauty of the decorated homes in Pacific Heights. We called our favorite street, Teddy Bear Lane, and, since we were so young we didn’t know it’s real name. (And I still don’t know where it was!) It was spectacular with a full block of beautiful Victorians lit up with teddy bears flanked by  flickering candles in every window. Another street boasted sparkling reindeer, glistening snowmen, serene nativity scenes, and some even showcased Santa and his sleigh on the steep rooftops. Gardens twinkled with illumination making the night merry and bright.

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After all the “oohing and ahhing”, we’d head to Fisherman’s Wharf to pick up fresh crabs for our Christmas Eve meal, then wander down to Ghiradelli for a cup of hot cocoa.  The coins we had been saving all year to help children enjoy a festive celebration were deposited into the bucket of the man ringing the bell from the Salvation Army. We kids dreamt of sugarplums, teddy bears, star-studded skies, and busy elves on the two-hour drive back to the ranch as we anxiously anticipated the excitement of the season.  It was a deeply satisfying annual excursion, the kind that etches itself into one’s memory forever.

Since we lived in the middle of nowhere, down a mile long lane with no street lamps to light the night, our fear was that Santa wouldn’t be able to find our farmhouse, much less our chimney. To ease our worries, our parents lit two acres of our fields, orchards, and gardens, creating a virtual runway as a navigational guide to steer Rudolph to the right place. We pulled carrots from the vegetable garden to nourish the tired reindeer.  Naturally we baked gingerbread cookies as a treat for Jolly St Nick accompanied by a big glass of milk and a note of gratitude for his generosity. We hoped his list had checked us off as “nice” instead of “naughty”.

This December as I drive around local neighborhoods, I am reliving the joyfulness of my youth without having to drive to Teddy Bear Lane in San Francisco. Residents who celebrate Christmas adorn their houses, trees, shrubs, and gardens with garlands, wreaths, ornaments, and twinkling lights of every color.  The décor is rich, festive, and fun.  It takes time and patience to unravel a string of lights, especially if they are from a previous year, but the rewards are worth the trouble.

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Aside from raking leaves, mulching, planting cover crops, and transplanting cuttings, there isn’t too much work to do in a December garden. Across the country, most landscapes are setting in for their winter slumber. With less chores to accomplish, I champion a different decorating challenge every day with the final goal of having the crape myrtle trees on my driveway shimmer under the glinting moonlight.  I’ll be snipping fresh redwood, cypress, and pine boughs for their fresh forest scent to add to doors and windows adorned with holly and pistache berries. Poinsettias are already on the porch and vases of blooming narcissci perfume the bathrooms.  Amaryllis is budding in anticipation of a December 25th appearance.

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This is an enchanted time of year. Take time to savor the seconds with family and friends as you watch the lights of the nights.  Offer your heart.  Bequeth your soul. Gift suggestions that cost you nothing include forgiving someone who has inured you, being a role model to young people, providing kindness to all, while respecting and loving yourself.

As Norman Vincent Peale wrote, “Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.”  May the magic of this blessed time shine a light on you and your loved ones. Merry Christmas from my home to yours.

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Cynthia Brian’s Mid Month Garden Guide

CLEAN the dead leaves from bearded iris to prevent rot and insect hideouts.

CUT boughs of evergreens to mold into wreaths and garlands.

PLANT a cover crop to increase nitrogen and protect again winter erosion. Fava beans, clover, vetch, and mustard are excellent choices. To find seeds visit www.rareseeds.com or www.sowtrueseed.com.

GIVE the gift of my new book, Growing with the Goddess Gardener, twelve months of inspiration and gardening tips to sustain your inner gardener with a full year of kindness and happiness in nature. Buy directly from www.cynthiabrian.com/online-store and 25% is a donation to Be the Star You Are!® charity PLUS you’ll receive extra goodies and an autographed copy.

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FEED the birds. Baby, it’s cold outside and our birds need food and shelter. Make sure to clean your birdhouses and feeders regularly.

WATCH for rats and mice. As the cold weather begins, vermin seek a warm bed and easy to find food.

CHECK plants that you’ve brought inside for the winter for any insect infestation.

WATER your Christmas trees. If you purchased a cut tree, make sure it has plenty of water throughout the month as indoor heat will quickly dry out any conifer.

COVER frost tender plants with burlap, sheets, newspaper, or straw. Be on the alert for swift temperature swings.

REMOVE the longer canes from wisteria.

PRUNE crape myrtles and fruit trees once all the leaves have dropped.

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RAKE leaves as they fall and add to compost pile. Allow ½ inch to an inch of leaves to remain on the soil.  Compost the rest.

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PERUSE garden catalogues and read books about landscaping as you curl up with s cup of hot chocolate or licorice cinnamon tea.

PREVENT snails and slugs from devouring your plants by adding copper strips or bowls of stale beer to the perimeter of your garden.

PICK UP guavas that fall and use for jams or juices.

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ADD a bow of freshly picked Meyer lemons to your countertop as a useful culinary display.

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FILL your Christmas tree or Hannukah bush with every family ornament that you’ve been saving for years! Nostalgia reigns supreme.

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BUY a small living cypress tree to use as an inexpensive Christmas tree in lieu of a cut fir. Some stores have been selling three-four feet specimens for less than $8.00.

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VISIT an Asian market to buy the delicious exotic Dragon fruit.

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SELECT colorful and easy to grow crotons or ginger plants to add a fantasy island fling to your festivities.

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WATCH for snow plants to sprout in the Sierras.

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MAKE a tax-deductible donation to help with hurricanes & California fires disaster relief at www.BetheStarYouAre.org.  Every dollar counts. Be the Star You Are!® cares.

It is the season of giving and sharing. Have yourselves a very Merry Christmas.

Read more: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1121/Digging-Deep-with-Cynthia-Brian-Light-the-night.html

Happy Gardening and Happy Growing!

Cynthia Brian

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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. 

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

My new book, Growing with the Goddess Gardener, is available at www.cynthiabrian.com/online-store

Available for hire.

Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com

www.GoddessGardener.com

Garden Holly Jolly

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Empowerment
Garden Holly Jolly

“As the rain falls equally on the just and the unjust, do not burden your heart with judgments but rain your kindness equally on all.” Gautama Buddha

The month of December ushers in a time of joyfulness and giving with gardeners being the most generous givers of all! Harvests of persimmons, walnuts, and pomegranates make for baskets of nutritious and delicious gifts. Root cuttings, potted plants, and arrangements made from bark, branches, and pinecones are natural reminders of the wonders of a pre-winter season. The final flush of rose blooms mixed with orchids create a lush yet simple table display when a few glittering candles are added. With the colder weather, trees are ablaze with their final cloak of autumn hues as an array of colorful leaves litters the ground.
Chrysanthemums are thick with blossoms adding a brightness and lightness to the darkening sky.

We encourage the rain and the intermittent sunshine.

Soon our landscapes will boast sparkling lights and festive decorations to welcome family and friends to enjoy holiday treats. Children of all ages are excited for the surprises that await them for Hanukkah and Christmas.

I’m excited to announce that my much anticipated garden book, Growing with the Goddess Gardener, Book I in the Garden Shorts series is now available in both color and black and white. Buy directly from www.cynthiabrian.com/online-store for the best price and autographed copies. 25% of your purchase is a donation to Be the Star You Are!® 501 c3 charity (www.BetheStarYouAre.org). With every order placed directly at our store, you’ll receive seeds and extra goodies. This book is a great gift for all the gardeners and nature lovers on your holiday list.

Have a holly jolly December and remember to give yourself the gift of rest and relaxation as there are only minimal garden gardening tasks while Nature takes her annual nap.

Cynthia Brian’s December Gardening Guide

DISCOVER a living conifer at your favorite nursery that can remain in a container for a few years of Christmas decorating.

RAKE fallen leaves to add to the compost pile. Leave a layer of leaves on the ground, however, too many leaves remaining in the garden encourage disease and block the sunshine.

APPLY dormant spray to deciduous fruit trees and roses to smother insects and eggs.

REMOVE dead or dying branches from trees, bushes, and shrubs.

APPLY a layer of mulch (about three inches) to your landscape to keep the heat in and prevent soil erosion.

CONTROL peach blight and peach curl by spraying trees on a windless day with sulfur mixed with dormant oil. Two other applications will be necessary in January and February.

WRAP frost tender plants such as bougainvillea, banana, and bird of paradise in burlap to prevent damage.

GATHER an array of fresh vegetables as you design your holiday menus.

GIVE the gift of my new book, Growing with the Goddess Gardener, twelve months of inspiration and gardening tips to sustain your inner gardener with a full year of kindness and happiness in nature. Buy directly from www.cynthiabrian.com/online-store and 25% is a donation to Be the Star You Are!® charity PLUS you’ll receive extra goodies and an autographed copy.

CONTINUE planting spring blooming bulbs through the end of January. You’ll enjoy a long lasting parade of flowers throughout the spring.

HANG a spray of magnolia leaves sprayed gold and silver on your front door or mailbox.

ADD merry pink berries to garlands of redwood branches to decorate a mantel or staircase.

FILL a bowl with grapes for nibbling.

SLICE orange Fuyu persimmons or seeds of bright red pomegranates into a salad for a delicious and nutritious treat drizzled with olive oil and homemade vinaigrette.

TIE a gossamer ribbon around a cyclamen, geranium, orchid, or rose to give as a festive hostess gift.

USE the bark of eucalyptus or a lichen covered branch in your holiday décor.

RAIN kindness and gentleness on everyone you encounter.

VISIT with Santa at 5A Rent-A-Space on Saturday, December 2nd from 11-4pm. Be the Star You Are!® volunteers will be present to help kids write letters to Santa. Free event with refreshments and a photo with Santa. 455 Moraga Rd. #F, Moraga. www.bethestaryouare.org/events

REST, relax, and enjoy this season of holly jolly!

Happy Gardening and Happy Growing!

READ MORE AT: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1120/Cynthia-Brians-Gardening-Guide-for-December-A-holly-jolly-garden.html

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 & fire disaster relief at www.BetheStarYouAre.org.
Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show and order her books at www.StarStyleRadio.com.
My new book, Growing with the Goddess Gardener, is available at www.cynthiabrian.com/online-store.
Available for hire for any gardening project.
Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com
www.GoddessGardener.com

Where there is smoke…

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Empowerment
Where there is smoke…

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By Cynthia Brian

“Count the fires by glowing flames, never by the ashes that fall.

Count your days by the golden hours, don’t remember clouds at all.

Count the nights by stars, not shadows.

Count your life by smiles, not tears.

And with joy on every day, count your age by friends, not years.” 

Hello November!  We are grateful to welcome you.

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With the devastating fires of the past month throughout California, our atmosphere has been filled with smoke and ash.  The air quality has been so poor that we have been warned to stay indoors or wear N-95 rated masks when walking outside.  Wildfire smoke and soot irritates eyes, skin, throat, nose, and lungs, and is especially dangerous for anyone with asthma or other respiratory illnesses.

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But what effect does the smoke and debris have on our gardens?

Surprisingly, healthy plants have the ability to absorb the dangerous carbon dioxide and turn it into oxygen. Some landscapes may actually benefit from smoke as it diffuses the light allowing the shadows to be less intense under the top leaves of plants.  The lower leaves then produce more food for the plant. Plants use carbon dioxide as a fertilizer, cleaning the chemicals and toxic particles in the air while restoring and cleansing our atmosphere.

Houseplants are extremely beneficial in cleaning our indoor air quality. They have the ability to reduce the effects of mold, dust, microbes, and VOC’s (volatile organic compounds).  Spider plants, pothos, snake plant, spathiphyllum, philodendron, palms, and ficus benjamina are all easy to grow and work overtime to keep us breathing clean, fresh air.

Scientists are discovering the dire consequences of climate change not only on our physical well-being but on our mental fitness. Disasters such as the catastrophic hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and fires have a dramatic negative impact on our health. We can help the environment as well as our families by maintaining a positive outlook and putting a smile on our face while we work together diligently to reduce our carbon footprint.

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Cynthia Brian’s Gardening Guide for November

Want to protect your valuable plants from any negative effects from the smoke?

Here are a few simple tasks to undertake.

  1. 1. Any vegetable or fruit still in the orchard or garden needs to be washed thoroughly before consuming.  A solution of vinegar and water is a time- tested cleanser.
  2. 2. Compost any damaged bush, flower, fruit, or vegetable.
  3. 3. Spray your plants with a hose to remove any clogged particles. Continue to do this until you see a difference.
  4. 4. Fertilize the landscape now, including your grass and lawn.
  5. 5. Add three inches of mulch to your garden if you didn’t already do it last month.
  6. 6. Any bare earth needs a cover crop. Clover, alfalfa, wildflowers, fava beans, vetch, and mustard will add nitrogen to the soil.
  7. 7. Remove any dead or dying trees or shrubs. When planting new trees, space them at least 10 feet apart.
  8. 8. Be fire-wise by clearing your roof, gutters, eaves, decks, and patios of debris.
  9. 9. Mow your lawns and keep them green. Lawns clean the air we breathe, absorb smoke and pollutants, and change sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide into oxygen. A swath of green offers a healthy filtration system while being a flame retardant safety zone. Green lawn lawn2.jpg

Make fire prevention a top priority by creating a defensible space around your home and garden. Fires burn only when fuel is present and a dry landscape is fuel for the fire.

Other Tips for your November To-Do List:

  • WINTERIZE your garden. Cover frost prone plants and shrubs with blankets or burlap. Wash patio furniture before storing or covering. Move fragile container plants under an eave or away from harsh winds.
  • PRUNE your fruit trees and crape myrtles once all the leaves have fallen. Keep branches a minimum of 6 feet from the ground.
  • RAKE leaves to add to the compost pile. It is especially important to rake redwood and pine needles as they tend to blanket an area suffocating any other living things.
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  • PLANT bulbs for spring blooms. (You have been refrigerating your tulips and crocuses, right?)
  • CLEAN gutters of all debris to prevent clogging when the rains come.
  • SOW lawn seed and keep the seed watered until it sprouts.
  • PICK guavas and bananas as they ripen.
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  • WAIT another month before harvesting persimmons. If you are having problems with the birds and squirrels eating your unripe fruit, pick early, and refrigerate.
  • PLANT garlic and shallots before the weather turns cold. Easy to grow, they will over-winter to supply you with big savory bulbs for a summer harvest.
  • ARRANGE roses, clivia, euphorbia, and branches for a beautiful fall display.
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  • GROW chrysanthemums. These long blooming flowers are available in a variety of colors and textures adding a smile to any visitor.
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  • PROVIDE food and water for the birds, especially since many are migrating.
  • HARVEST cruciferous vegetables including cauliflower, broccoli, kale, carrots, beets, Swiss Chard, Brussels  Sprouts as well as arugula and nasturtiums for your healthy meals. These foods are high in antioxidants which support the body’s ability to fight off toxins and reduce chronic inflammation.
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  • AERATE your lawns. For more information on grass selections and the benefits of planting grass see www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1117/Digging-Deep-with-Cynthia-Brian-The-grass-is-always-greener.html
  • MARVEL at the changing colors of the leaves on trees, specifically Japanese maple, pistache, liquid amber, and crape myrtle.
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  • CHECK out the glorious bark of the eucalyptus tree and the hanging trumpets of the Angel trumpet vine.
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  • CUT a few branches from grapevines to use as table décor for an autumn gathering.
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  • BRING houseplants outside for a shower and day in the cooler sunshine. They’ll be ready for a winter of air freshening back inside.
  • ADD a peaceful, quiet element to a container by planting a white mandevilla. If you protect it from frost, you’ll get an annual display of florets.
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  • PACK  “To Go emergency bags” and keep one in your home and in your car. In case of a disaster, every second counts.
  • TAKE a break and head to the beach. The sea air will refresh and reawaken your joyful spirit. (It works every time for me!)
  • GET ready for Thanksgiving with a garden display of mixed pumpkins, gourds, and scarecrows.
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Gratitude is the theme for November. The days are short. The soil is warm. The nights are cool. We pray for rain and for peace on our planet. Our thoughts and prayers go to all of those who have suffered in the recent natural disasters.  It’s been a challenging few months for our country and our world, yet despite the tragedies, let us all count our star blessings and keep on smiling.

Happy Gardening and Happy Growing!

Read more at Lamorinda Weekly: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1118/Cynthia-Brians-Gardening-Guide-for-November-Where-there-is-smoke.html

Cynthia Brian

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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 & fire disaster relief at www.BetheStarYouAre.org.  

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

My new book, Growing with the Goddess Gardener, is available at www.cynthiabrian.com/online-store. Will ship end of November.

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Available for hire for any gardening project.  

Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com

www.GoddessGardener.com

The Grass is Always Greener…

Posted by Editor on
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Empowerment
The Grass is Always Greener…

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By Cynthia Brian

“Society is like a lawn where every roughness is smoothed, every bramble eradicated, and where the eye is delighted by the smiling verdure of a velvet surface.” Washington Irving

The cool evenings, warm days, and majestic orange sunsets signal the season of fall. While children will be preparing for the festivities of Halloween, gardeners need to be thinking about greening their lawn costumes. Much to my dismay, throughout the drought our water company encouraged homeowners to dispense with growing grass and either let lawns die or replant with succulents and other drought resistant species. In my humble opinion, this was terrible advice as a healthy lawn offers so many benefits not only to the environment but also to our health and wellbeing. It is also much more expensive to revamp a landscape than it is to maintain it, even minimally. With the drought in our rearview mirror, my email has been blowing up with requests on how to re-install a green lawn.

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Thankfully all is not lost as autumn is the perfect time to plant a new lawn or reseed an existing one. Most grass seeds that you scatter in late October or early November will thicken and be well established by spring. Over-seeding a healthy existing lawn works wonders but if you have multiple bare spots, using a grass patch is a super alternative.

“What type of grass should I plant?” you may be thinking. Several readers have asked about UC Verde buffalograss. Although I have never set out plugs of this buffalograss, it is my understanding that this particular grass must be planted in the spring as it goes dormant in the winter, allowing for more weeds to take hold. It is also work intensive as you cannot just toss seeds or plant sod.  Plugs need to be planted on a twelve-inch center. Once established, it is resistant to most turf damaging insects and diseases and requires less water than other grasses.  Since it is seedless, it produces less seed heads resulting in less pollen, which may be of interest to allergy sufferers.

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My personal preferences to obtaining a greener grass is to use seeds from Pearl’s Premium (www.PearlsPremium.com), red or white clover, or plant plugs of isotoma, also known as blue star creeper. Full disclosure, I do not work for, nor have I any affiliation with any of these three favorite lawn alternatives. I recommend them because they work. You can plant just one species for a clean, fresh, green blanket of tactile grass, or you can mix and match as long as you realize that your lawn will resemble a patchwork quilt.

Here’s a run down on my three preferred lawns:

Pearl’s Premium: www.PearlsPremium.com

Although you can start from scratch, I really appreciate being able to over seed my existing lawn with grass seed that grows roots to 20 inches deep, starves out the weeds, and is easy to maintain. Pearl’s Premium is constantly upgrading its seed to be the most effective for creating a beautiful lawn. This past year it added a thin white coating to the seed to help gardeners know where exactly the seed has been tossed. The coating also thwarts our feathered diners, although I suggest putting screens over areas with new lawn seed if you witness birds pecking at the ground. Spread the lawn seed at a rate of 10 pounds per 1000 square feet right over your existing lawn. Add organic fertilizer and top dress with ¼ inch of organic compost.  I like to spread the seed right before a rain, but otherwise water twice a day until the grass sprouts then, be attentive to watering needs. In our warmer climate, to maintain the greenest color, you may have to water deeply twice a week, but it will be less than using other grass seeds. Once established, the lawn gets so lush and thick that you may need to adjust your sprinkler heads. Although many people have indicated that they mow once a month, I have found that for the most manicured look, it is necessary to mow at least twice a month, or ideally, once a week at a mower height of 3.5 inches.

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Clover

At one time clover was systematically eradicated from lawns using pesticides. But as gardeners now realize the importance of organic living, more homeowners are including clover in their grass. As a legume, clover has ability to turn nitrogen into fertilizer using the bacteria in its root system. It stays green all year, even when it is not watered on a regular basis. I love it because it thrives in conditions where other grass seeds struggle. It does fine in the sun or the shade and even in poorly drained soil. My favorite parts of growing clover besides its self-fertilizing system, are the beautiful pink or white flowers that crown the tops of the clover when it is left uncut. Butterflies, bees, and beneficial insects flock to clover. Don’t be afraid of the honeybees as they usually don’t sting when away from their hives. Clover does best when it is mixed with grass seed. I mix mine with Pearl’s Premium. Try incorporating 2 ounces of clover for 1000 square feet of lawn.

By planting the two together, you’ll have a minimum care green lawn.

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Isotoma—Blue Star Creeper

This lawn substitute is best used in small areas or between stepping stones. I like it for its tiny blue star flowers that surface and shine brightly spring through summer.  I would only use it in combination with clover and Pearl’s Premium because I have found that in the cold months it has a tendency to look brown and ragged. It likes full sunshine, doesn’t require much water, and sustains immense foot traffic, both human and animal, without damage. It sends out runners and creeps along and is especially good as a ground cover. If you like the idea of a patchwork lawn, buy a flat or two of isotoma and plant the plugs randomly throughout your existing grass as a filler and thriller.

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For homeowners who want instant gratification, sod is the answer. The caveat with planting sod is that the roots don’t grow deeply enough and sod has a shorter lifespan. You can lengthen the longevity by over-seeding when bare spots begin appearing. By throwing seed on top of the sod, keeping the grass watered and fed, you’ll be able to have a long lasting green oasis.

Benefits of Maintaining a Lawn

Although many people tend to discourage lawns in landscapes as a water conservation method, I am a firm believer that the humble grass shoot offers benefits to our health and wellbeing.  Besides the fact that children and animals enjoy a safe, comfortable place to tumble and toss, lawns contribute to better air quality by trapping dust and smoke particles while cooling the air from the ground up. Our environments are made more habitable by the generation of oxygen absorbing the pollutants of carbon and sulfur dioxide. Lawns clean the air we breathe. Erosion is controlled because water can’t carve deep recesses in a thickly planted lawn. Water filters through turf grass making our ground waters safer and cleaner for the environment. A patch of green soothes the eye in viewing a landscape, offering a resting space between the color explosions of flowers and shrubs. And a huge plus in our fire prone communities, lawns offer a buffer zone for fire prevention.

The grass will only be greener if you maintain it. You’ll be rewarded with better health for you and the environment. Your green grass is your safety zone. May all your roughness be smoothed as you delight in your velvet verdure.

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Cynthia Brian’s Mid Month Garden Guide

  • FIRE danger is at a high point this month. Be alert. Remove brush, wood, dry grass, and all other flammable materials from around the perimeter of your home.  Clear your roof and gutters of leaves. Create 100 feet of defensible space around your home and structures.
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  • SIGN up for emergency notifications at www.nixle.us. The easiest way is to do it through text messaging on your smart phone. Text 888777.  In the message area, type in your zip code. You will get an alert in case of any impending emergency.
  • APPLY deer repellent to young trees and shrubs. As winter nears the deer are hungrier and will do damage to saplings causing branch injury and even inviting diseases.
  • EAT fresh locally grown figs and grapes.
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  • CHECK for decay or damage to trees to thwart injury or downing of trees when storms arrive.
  • MULCH your landscape to prevent erosion in winter and protect plants from a freeze.
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  • SWIM a few laps in a garden pool before the cold weather begins.
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  • ORDER my new gardening book, Growing with the Goddess Gardener, from my on-line store and receive extra goodies. 25 % of the sales will benefit Be the Star You Are!® 501c3 helping in disaster relief. http://www.cynthiabrian.com/online-store

PRAY for the firefighters, first responders, evacuees, shelter volunteers and everyone that is affected by this most disastrous fire in California history. Napa County is my birthplace and the home of my family, our ranch, and vineyards. We will rise again! front cover-Growing with the goddess gardener book copy.jpg

Happy Gardening and Happy Growing!

Read more in the Lamorinda Weekly:https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1117/Digging-Deep-with-Cynthia-Brian-The-grass-is-always-greener.html

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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.  

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

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My new book, Growing with the Goddess Gardener, is available at www.cynthiabrian.com/online-store.

Available for hire for any gardening project.  

Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com

www.GoddessGardener.com

Hanging Out!

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Empowerment
Hanging Out!

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By Cynthia Brian

“Delicious autumn!”  George Elliot

The harvest of grapes, pears, figs, and apples is in full swing. My Ribier grape vine has twined its way into my crabapple tree and I now have a “grape tree” with succulent bunches hanging from branches. If we can keep the squirrels, rats, raccoons, rabbits, and birds away, we will be picking pumpkins, winter squash, walnuts, olives, persimmons, and pomegranates soon. The season of delicious and nutritious has arrived.

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Besides the delectable edibles on the trees, vines, and in the garden, I find myself falling for hanging baskets of spectacular beauty. From the vineyards of Temecula in Southern California to the coastline towns on the Oregon coast, everywhere I travel I’ve witnessed glorious displays of cascading flowers.  Hanging from pergolas, lampposts, balconies, porches, and patios, these bloom filled tubs trump the fern and Spider plant baskets of by-gone days.  The prolific blooms of petunias, fuchsias, impatiens, and verbena extend the flowering season with a myriad of bright colors in purple, pink, white, blue, and yellow. As long as the flowers are deadheaded when they are spent, the masses of blooms will continue to be stunning show stoppers until the first frost.  Contrasting colors, bright foliage, and appealing textures highlight these artistic, fashionable forms.

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Even edibles work well in hanging baskets.  Peas, strawberries, cherry tomatoes, nasturtiums, and any herbs are great contributors. You can even mix and match with vegetables, flowers, and herbs. Butterflies and hummingbirds will be constant visitors. For a no-care container, fill it with succulents. Hanging baskets are especially perfect for brightening small areas.

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Creating a hanging masterpiece is quite simple and you can enjoy the beauty from spring until winter.

Suggested Bold Statements for PlantingVerbena

Calibrachoa

Cascading petunia

Fuchsia

Impatiens

Lobelia

Cyclamen

Geranium

Ivy

Marigold

Asparagus fern

Sweet potato vine

Begonia

Vinca

Heliotrope

Schizanthus

Viola

Dianthus

Osteospermum

Coleus

Sweet alyssum

Bacopa

Snapdragon

New Guinea impatiens

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How to Make a Hanging Basket

  1. 1. Any sturdy container that has a hole in the bottom can work including buckets, colanders, or old boots. Plastic planters are the least expensive, however they are also the least attractive. Once the plantings are mature, the container could be covered with greenery, but I prefer to use a wire basket.  Line the wire basket with sphagnum moss, coco-fiber, burlap, or even discarded fabric and soak the liner overnight.
  2. 2. Add a lightweight potting soil to cover a few inches of the bottom. Don’t use garden soil as it is too heavy. The goal is to have a lightweight soil that doesn’t compact to promote proper drainage.
  3. 3. Plant the flowers, herbs, vegetables you wish and cover with soil.
  4. 4. Water thoroughly, making sure that the soil doesn’t wash away.
  5. 5. Fill with more soil.
  6. 6. Water again.
  7. 7. Add moss top layer to help with water retention.
  8. 8. If you are using a wire basket, poke holes in various places and plant your specimens to exhibit a full, rounded globe.
  9. 9. Anchor hooks securely to an area that receives ample sunlight.  Keep in mind these baskets can become very heavy.
  10. 10. Water daily, or check if the basket needs water by inserting a stick into the soil. If it comes at dry, you need to water. Never let the soil get soggy or the roots will drown and the plants will die.
  11. 11. Feed monthly with a water-soluble fertilizer or use plant spikes or slow-release fertilizers.

Hanging baskets add the “wow” to any landscape and provide instant curb appeal.  When edibles are included, you’ll be able to have a meal from a wheel. Fill, spill, and thrill. This is a delicious autumn!

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Cynthia Brian’s October Gardening Guide

  • CLEAR brush, debris, wood, and other flammables from around the perimeter of your house. Fire season is most dangerous in October as everything is so dry. For more information or assistance visit http://www.fire.ca.gov/
  • PREPARE soil for reseeding or sowing lawn or adding sod. Next issue I’ll be discussing planting lawns in more detail.
  • DEADHEAD annuals and perennials for continuous blooming until frost.
  • CUT off spent rose blossoms to get another flush of blooms through Christmas.
  • TAKE photos of your trees as they begin their autumn wardrobe change.
  • PLANT garlic bulbs and cool season vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Swiss chard,
  • REFRIGERATE spring blooming bulbs including crocus, hyacinth, and tulip. Mark paper bags and keep cold until planting time in mid November through January.
  • VISIT your favorite nursery to find trees for fall planting. This next month is a prime time for planting trees and shrubs.
  • BEWARE of the danger of creosote poisoning if railroad ties were used in your landscape. The EPA has stated that humans should not use creosote treated railroad ties where frequent or prolonged bare skin contact can occur.
  • EXPERIMENT with designing hanging baskets for your landscape.
  • BE vigilant of deterring skunks, rats, and other rodents from your property. As the weather turns inclement, they will be looking for shelter.
  • VISIT a petting zoo of rescued and adopted animals. Zeus, the camel, became my buddy.
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  • PLUNGE into a swimming pool, then share a glass of local vino with a friend.
  • ENJOY an Indian summer of warm days and cool nights. Get outside for a bit of forest bathing to savor the deliciousness of fall.

Just hang around! We are so blessed to live with four glorious seasons.

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Happy Gardening and Happy Growing!

read more: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1116/Cynthia-Brians-Gardening-Guide-for-October-Just-hanging-around.html

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.

My new book, Growing with the Goddess Gardener, will be available by mid month. HURRAY! Thanks for your patience.

Available for hire for any gardening project.  

Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com

www.GoddessGardener.com

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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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Categories
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

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