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• African daisies
• California Poppy
• Calendula
• Calla Lily
• Narcissus
• Mexican Sage
• Ivy geranium
• Mexican Sage
• Pride of Madera
• Lantana
• Society garlic
• Wild geranium


• Baby arugula
• Onion and garlic greens
• Thyme
• Rhubarb

Wake up to roosters crowing

Gophers Live Underground

Gophers home with runs, nest, food storage and den beneath the soil.

Gophers home with runs, nest, food storage and den beneath the soil.

Ever wonder where pocket gophers go when they burrow underground? They have quite a complicated system of tunnels, runways, a nest for babies, a pantry for storing food, and even a toilet area for waste. Pretty civilized, if you ask me.

We normally don’t see the actual gopher, only the dirt mounds of soil that has been pushed up above the surface and an occasional hole which serves as their escape route. But as you can see from the diagram below, the pocket gopher has a pretty cozy abode.

Where do gophers go when it rains? In heavy flooding, they drown. On an ordinary rainy day, they simply hunker down and tolerate it.

Cambria’s Art and Wine Festival 2017

Friday, January 27, Saturday the 28, and Sunday January 29, 2017 

This year is the 15th Annual Cambria Art & Wine Festival sponsored by the Cambria Chamber of Commerce & Allied Arts Association.

Cambria Art and Wine Festival 2017 - Winning poster by Michael Ackerman

Cambria Art and Wine Festival 2017 – Winning poster by Michael Ackerman

Friday – January 27

The fun begins on Friday at 10:00 am with Special Shopping Deals and Entertainment throughout the Village.The “Art, Wine & All That Jazz”

Kick Off Party on Friday night from 6-10pm includes the Art Show Preview, Wine & food Pairing and Entertainment.

Saturday – January 28

More shopping deals, demonstrating artists throughout the village.

The Veterans’ Hall is open from 10am-4pm for the Art Show/Silent Auction.

Central Coast wine tasting for The Main Event is on Saturday from 1-4:30pm and includes the Art Show/Silent Auction (Veteran’s Hall), Wine Tasting, Gourmet Food and Demonstrating Artists at the Veterans’ Hall (West Village), the Cambria Historical Museum (East Village), and the Cambria Center for the Arts (mid-town).

Sunday – January 29

On Sunday, the shopping specials continue throughout the village. Enjoy the Artists’ Faire, Barbeque & Raffle Drawings at the Veterans’ Hall. Meet the Artists and enjoy their work/reproductions as you sip yet more wine from our local vineyards.

Tickets for the event are available at the Cambria Chamber, 767 Main Street. Visit http://www.CambriaArtWine.org for more information and to purchase tickets

Contact: Cambria Chamber of Commerce Phone: 927-3624 www.cambriaartwine.com


2017 Art & Wine Festival Poster Image Winner:


“I began painting as therapy. I call painting ‘suiting up and going in.’ I make things for one purpose. To be alive. I don’t care about the form or the line or the color. I want it raw like it really is. It’s a constant struggle to get out of the way. All of today’s accomplishments are tomorrow’s uselessness – for practical reasons, for political/social reasons, for spiritual reasons.”

Michael Ackerman





Aphids pesky suckers on plants


Aphid appear on a yellow dahlia in mid winter along the coast. More will appear in early spring.

Aphid appear on a yellow dahlia in mid winter along the coast. More will appear in early spring.

Wandering around the garden this morning in “after-rain moisture”, I found aphids on yellow dahlia blossoms that are already leafed out and blooming. They are confused by the rather warm winter we are having after a five-year drought and are at it early this year. Aphids are small, soft-bodied insects with long, slender mouthparts that pierce stems and leaves, sucking out plant juices. Aphids come in green, yellow, brown, red, or black depending on their species and food source. Some appear waxy or wooly. There are dozens of different kinds of aphids in California. Some have adapted to only one species of plant and are found only on that particular vegetation. They often leave behind curled, distorted leaves and sticky “honeydew” (or poop). Don’t let the name fool you. Honeydew is a “sweet” name for excrement.

Is this an early sign that we are going to have a lot of aphids in the spring? Best be prepared. Control of aphids can be difficult, partly because the females can give birth to up to 12 offspring a day without mating (don’t ask me how they do it!)  Some species of aphids mate and lay eggs in the fall and overwinter, attacking in the early spring. Biological control (letting predators like ladybugs control them) is best because insecticides wipe out natural predators such as parasitic wasps that lay eggs inside an adult aphid and leave their young to feast on aphid “innards”. If you spray and kill all the good bugs, you have nothing to fight the bad bugs when the insecticide no longer works. Insecticides last only a few weeks and I don’t believe in systemic insecticide as the soil becomes contaminated. The best plan of attack is to hose (gentle squirt) aphids off as soon as you see aphids and keep at it once a week. Insecticidal soap or a spray bottle filled with 1/8 cup of canola oil) can be helpful in reducing aphid population.This is my favorite home-made recipe for an insecticide.

If you look closely, you’ll see tiny ants around the aphids. The ants are gathering the “honeydew” from the aphids, eating it, and taking it back to their nests for food for their young. Ants take care of the aphids, moving them when necessary for fresh food. Try to reduce your ant population and you’ll reduce you aphid population.

If you are intent on reducing your aphid population with a commercial insecticide, then be wise about what you use and read my blog entry on Good bugs and Bad buds (beneficial insects). Insecticidal soaps and oils are the best choices for most situations. Oils may include petroleum-based horticultural oils or plant-derived oils such as neem or canola oil. These products kill primarily by smothering the aphid, so thorough coverage of infested foliage is required. Apply these materials with a high volume of water. Soaps, neem oil, and horticultural oil kill only aphids present on the day they are sprayed, so applications may need to be repeated. Although these materials can kill some natural enemies that are present on the plant and hit by the spray, they leave no toxic residue. They don’t kill natural enemies that migrate in after the spray so don’t significantly effect the natural balance of your garden.

A daily walk through your garden allows you to stay on top of insect infestations.  The best defense against insect pests is to keep a garden free of ants that nurture and protect these sucking insects. Gardens need to be kept in balance with good bugs controlling bad bugs. Encourage birds, frogs, spiders and beneficial insects. Healthy plants can tolerate a moderate number of sucking insects. Water plants appropriately and feed minimally as new, tender growth attract sucking insects. For more information on controlling aphids in your garden go to: UC Integrated Pest Management Website IPM. You’ll find out more than you ever wanted to know!


Resolutions to make gardening easier

Planting native plants that reseed themselves and are drought tolerant make gardening easier.

Planting native plants that reseed themselves and are drought tolerant make gardening easier.

Winter chores are nearly done. While you and your garden are at rest, you can take a break and think of the many ways to make gardening easier and more enjoyable in the coming year.

I’ve planned some changes. I’ve removed some plants that are high maintenance and always thirsty and I’m happy with the results. There are some other ways to simplify garden routines, making it easier on our bodies and less demanding on our time.

Here are a dozen resolutions that will make gardening easier and be kinder and gentler to the earth:

1. I will not be seduced into buying pretty plants that need constant deadheading. I WILL keep African daisies, that bloom year around, and lavender, which I love, and use hedge clippers to keep them shapely and in bloom.
2. I will divide and replant plants that give color with little care and water, like society garlic, coastal irises, and daylilies,


Drought tolerant plants save water and time to make gardening easier. Australian plants like the Kangaroo Paw are drought tolerant.

Drought tolerant plants save water and time to make gardening easier. Australian plants like the Kangaroo Paw are drought tolerant.

3. I will be more practical in growing edible plants. I’ll plant edible greens on a staggered schedule in my vegetable boxes, planting a small area each month. After all, how much lettuce, arugula, and spinach can two people eat?
4. I’ll NOT grow organic vegetables that I can buy at a reasonable price.
5. I’ll sprinkle wildflower seeds before each rainstorm. What am I saving them for?
6. When I feel the need for an upper body workout, I’ll get out my hula hoe and remove those tiny weeds in the pathways and beds before they get too big to pull.
7. I’ll remember that disturbing the soil when it is wet creates an unnatural environment for micro-organisms that are necessary for healthy plants.


8. I will mix compost into any soil in which I am working at a rate of 50/50. Native plants are best planted in native soil with no soil amendment.
9. I will not use fertilizer unless needed. Over-fertilizing is unhealthy for plants and the environment. I will establish a schedule for fertilizing and stick to it.
10. I’ll use minimal insecticides knowing that sprays and systemic insecticides impact the natural balance of my garden, and often kill as many beneficial insects as they do pests.


Wildflowers reseed themselves each year saving time and making gardening easier.

Wildflowers reseed themselves each year saving time and making gardening easier.

11. I will not buy plants solely because they are challenging to grow. I don’t need any more challenges, thank you!
12. I will leave deciduous leaves and pine needles that have fallen from trees to decompose and nourish the soil. I’ll clean up diseased leaves as soon as possible.

I’ve resolved to relax and enjoy the garden that I have. I’ll spend time each day appreciating my natural surroundings. I’ll resist the urge to pull weeds and be content during this down time to breathe in the fragrance and moist air.

Here’s wishing you all a lush and abundant coming year.




Plant winter greens now, the ugly way!

Yesterday I heard that a “bit of rain was coming” and I hurried to get some edible greens seeds planted. It’s mid-November in our coastal garden and if we get some rain, I’ll have some nice greens to add to our winter salads come late January.

Seeds of Arugula seeds are tiny.

Seeds of Arugula seeds are tiny.

As most of you have heard, we’ve had a drought in California and I’ve had to cut back on planting edibles. We have been allowed limited water, so laundry, household water, and water for the animals took priority. I used to raise all our fruits and vegetables but now am using just a few of my raised beds for edibles plants. Yesterday, I planted arugula, spinach, and Komatsuna (tendergreen mustard spinach). These are fast-growing, tasty bitter greens.

I prepared the bed for winter greens by just “raking in” some home-made compost. Nothing fancy. I also sprinkled the soil (before planting) with water to be sure it was moist. I used seeds I’d saved from last spring. They are tiny seeds so they need to be planted near the surface of the soil. The “rule of thumb” is the amount of dirt to cover the seeds should be equal to the size of the seed. When planting tiny seeds gardeners must either put dirt though a sieve or do it the lazy way, like I do, and sprinkle a bit of potting soil over them.

Vegetable box with cardboard covering newly planted greens.

Vegetable box with cardboard covering newly planted greens.

Now comes the “ugly” part. Because there is an issue in Cambria with water usage and keeping the soil moist, I tore up a few cardboard boxes, mostly recycled “Amazon boxes”, wet the pieces with the hose, and placed them on top of the freshly planted seeds. Now, those of you who know me know that I’m a bit of a “neatnik”. I think that even vegetable beds should be kept tidy and with a few flowers mixed in to make them pretty. But I’m willing for the freshly planted bed to look ugly for a week, covered with cardboard, rather than struggling to keep the seeds moist. I tell myself “It’s just for a couple of weeks”. When the seeds have sprouted, I’ll remove the cardboard on an overcast day, so they don’t get sunburned, and hope the upcoming rain will spur them on.

The seeds of greens are, this morning, being moistened with light rain. They are protected under cardboard. In a few days, I’ll check on them by lifting up a corner of the flattened “recycled Amazon boxes”. Magic!


Fall clean-up the easy way

Liquidamber tree turning red. Falling leaves can be left on ground to compost and feed tree in the spring.

Liquidamber tree turning red. Falling leaves can be left on ground to compost and feed tree in the spring.

Winter is approaching and it’s time to do our “fall clean-up” in the out-of-doors. This year I’m taking the easy route, changing some of my habits, and substituting some of the standard clean-up tasks for easier ones. Kinder to the back and more enjoyable.

We’ve been hand-watering our ½ acre to conserve water. This is time-consuming. Most of you who read my blog know that Cambria, as well as most of California has been experiencing a drought. I can let up on watering now as the days are shorter and the air moister, requiring little watering except for plants living in pots. If you have an automatic watering system be sure you change the time of day for watering and the number of times per week it needs to be in action.

Poppy and calendula seeds can be left on plant to reseed.

Poppy and calendula seeds can be left on plant to reseed.

Annual flowers are dying back or have already “bit the dust”.  Annuals come to the end of their lives and go to seed in the fall. Let annuals settle into their own pattern of survival. If you want them to reseed themselves, let them dry and scatter their own seeds. Plants such as poppies, calendula, sweet peas, nasturtiums, and alyssum are self-sowing. You’ll enjoy newly sprouted plants as soon as rains moisten the earth.

I’m letting Mother Nature do my work for me this year. Trust the old girl to break down leaves and create food for trees and shrubs. No need to be fastidious and remove every fallen leaf. After all, your garden is “out of doors”. Rake leaves of deciduous trees and put them over the roots of shrubs and trees. Or, make a pile in an inconspicuous place and let nature do its work. You’ll have compost in the spring.

I’m trying something different in my vegetable boxes this year. I usually fill the empty boxes with dry, dead leaves from the apple and pear trees, and let it compost over the winter. Then dig it into the soil. This year I’m layering the beds with a single layer of cardboard first, then putting the dead and dry leaves on top of it. Cardboard adds carbon to compost. This layering of compostable materials is sometimes called “lasagna gardening”. Sow bugs and worms will eat it over the winter and the soil will be enriched. Magically, I’ve fertilized without lifting a bag. Just remove any material that might not have broken down and the bed is ready to plant.

Cut off spent blossoms on Viburnum "snowball" or wait until winter and prune back branches.

Cut off spent blossoms on Viburnum “snowball” or wait until winter and prune back branches.

I’m waiting to cut back hydrangeas this year. I usually remove blossoms as they fade. In winter, when new leaves begin to emerge, I prune again. This year, I’m leaving the big “mop heads” and “lace caps“ on the plant until stems send out new leaves. I’ll be pruning and deadheading at the same time.


If you have a way to save time and your back on chores in the garden, please use the comment space to share. I’d like to have a few more tricks up my sleeve.







Cambria – Labor Day Weekend – Pinedorado

Clydesdale horse, raised on a nearby ranch, follow the Main Street path of the Cambria Pinedorado Parade.

Clydesdale horse, raised on a nearby ranch, follow the Main Street path of the Cambria Pinedorado Parade.

Cambria Garden Club members wear their hand-painted overalls for Pinedorado.

Cambria Garden Club members wear their hand-painted overalls for Pinedorado.

Before moving to Cambria in 2002, we would come to visit my parents each year in late summer. One of the “big” events for us was Pinedorado. Pinederado, a time-honored tradition will return to Cambria this Labor Day weekend. The 68th Annual Pinedorado Days celebration extends from September 2, through September 5, offering fun, for the whole family. Pinedorado Days has taken over Cambria on Labor Day weekend since 1949, bringing with it a parade, car and motorcycle show, barbecue, art show, kids’ games and more.

Saturday morning at the AFS-Pinedorado 25th Annual 5K Fun Run. The race starts at 7 a.m. at the Coast Union High School and follows the parade route. The entry fee is $15 and proceeds benefit the Coast Union’s American Field Service Program.


Handmade floats are artistic creations of Pinedorado Parade participants.

Handmade floats are artistic creations of Pinedorado Parade participants.

Joslyn Center’s Annual Waffle Breakfast. Start your morning off from 7 to 10 a.m. on Saturday, September 3 with a delicious breakfast featuring both regular and gluten-free waffles, pork or veggie sausage, organic strawberries and melon, and more! Tickets are available for $10 at the Joslyn Center office or the Cambria Chamber of Commerce.


Friend Jay ride an old classic motorcycle in Pinedorado Parade,

Friend Jay ride an old classic motorcycle in Pinedorado Parade,

The Pinedorado Parade begina at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, September 3. See Cambria’s artistic home-made floats  make their way along the parade’s route that winds down Main Street from East to West Villages.

After the parade, head to the Pinedorado Grounds off Main Street where the festivities continue throughout the weekend. Featuring food booths, beer & wine, carnival rides & kiddy cars, games for the kids, face painting, an art show, live music, and bar-b-que. Concessions open daily at 10:00 a.m. Saturday, September 3 through Monday, September 5.

Cambria Garden Club members sell potted plants and flowers.

Cambria Garden Club members sell potted plants and flowers.

The Cambria Garden Club, of which I am a member, will be selling hand-potted treasures and raffle tickets for handmade treasures for the home and hearth.
On Sunday, September 4, be sure to check out the 10th Annual Pinedorado Car Show. Featuring over 150 cars on display, from vintage muscle cars and motorcycles to stock cars from the early 1900s to “souped-up” street rods, car enthusiasts will love this showcase of classic cars and bikes. Located at the Veterans Hall and Cambria Drive, the car show runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For more about Pinedorado, 2016, go to http://www.pinedorado.com. The Cambria Lions Club works all year to sponsor this event. It is fun and funky, and quite charming. I don’t think there is anything like it in all of California.


Labradoodles watching parade from back of car.

Labradoodles watching parade from back of car.



Tomato Extravaganza in San Luis Obispo

Come to the "Tomato Extravaganza" and plant sale on Aug. 20, 2016.

Come to the “Tomato Extravaganza” and plant sale on Aug. 20, 2016.

If you haven’t been to the “Tomato Extravaganza” in San Luis Obispo before, you’re in for a treat. A treat for the senses. You can sample “real” homegrown tomatoes and basil, learn how to grow them and take some home to enjoy.

The Master Gardeners of San Luis Obispo County are a dedicated group of men and women who are there to “get the word out” about composting, managing gardens with “IPM” integrated pest management methods, and to teach you how to be a successful gardener.

Go and have fun!

Hens eating their eggs – think again

Don nailing new ¼' hardware wire over original 2" wire to keep out birds.

Don nailing new ¼’ hardware wire over original 2″ wire to keep out birds.

When we built our chicken coop 8 years ago, it never occurred to us that wild birds would fly into the coop each day and eat the chicken pellets. Nor did we know that rats from the adjoining open space would come in the night and help themselves. We use ¼” hardware wire around the bottom 3′ and 2″ square welded wire on the top.

I really didn’t mind that towhees and sparrows were eating the chicken food, but the numbers increased over the years, probably doubling the amount of feed we use and then the jays arrived.

Our little flock of 3 produce 2-3 eggs a day and that is perfect for our small family. We don’t however, have any extra eggs at this point. Suddenly, the eggs began being pecked, sometimes eaten, shell and all. Yes, hens DO eat eggs occasionally.  We believed our hens were pecking their eggs and eating them. When this happens, the only solution is to ‘dispatch’ the hen. In other words, kill her.

For a while, we blamed it on Daisy. But alas, we saw (on camera) her leaving the nest with the egg intact. A kind reader also notified me that he saw her leave the egg whole and that there had been a jay nearby waiting.   The indignity of having those 2 delicious, lovely, golden-yolked eggs being devoured each day by those pesky jays was enough to get my husband outside with a new roll of ¼ inch wire, hammer, and staples and spend a couple of afternoons sealing up that pretty little coop. Don covered the original 2″ welded wire (too much trouble to remove) with ¼” hardware wire,

Chicken coop has been reinforced with ¼' hardware wire to keep out wild birds.

Chicken coop has been reinforced with ¼’ hardware wire to keep out wild birds.

The coop is now bird-proof. Since  building  the coop, he has had to do little maintenance over the years. But considering the problem with wild birds we’ve had, I’d recommend to anyone building a coop to spend a few extra dollars and use hardware wire or aviary wire to exclude wild birds, rats, and critters that harass your hens.