Dragonfly Summer

As the summer is moving into being, we are witnessing the awakening of the life that we invited during the slower months. The flowers are bursting all around us and the addition of the element of water in this dry land is beginning to show its value. There are lots of little ripples in the pond that show that life is moving in. We found the larvae of a drone fly wiggling around and researched it to find that it looks similar to a bee in its full form and is a beneficial pollinator. What an amazing discovery!

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The change from full spring blooms to the slow transition into summer, brings an energy that is hearty and full. The abundance of the native volunteers, both plants and insect life, opens the heart and creates a feeling of gratitude. That feeling is reflected as we observe each new plant blooming and every new buzzing insect that is working for us to fill the garden with food.

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Tub fountain

mini-fountain

Mini-fountain

Pool to stream

Pool to stream

From stream to pond

From stream to pond

The sound of water trickling through the various fountains, dripping down the rocks and dropping over the edge is music that inspires us all day long. In the dusk of evening, when we linger after a meal on the patio, we are able to enjoy the yellow-bellied finches tasting the early sunflowers, as the hummingbirds flit over to say “Hello”!

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One of our most exciting discoveries recently was the appearance of a large red dragonfly. At first we only saw it once in a while. Now, we see it every day and there have even been sightings of more than one. The favorite landing sight is a golden, dried up California poppy that I hadn’t taken out of the ground yet.

It is interesting to note that though there are a large variety of plants near the water, with flowers, without flowers, green and tall, short and dry…the dragonfly repeatedly chooses the dry California poppy. It’s satisfaction with this perch allowed for a photo session as it posed for me.

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The symbolism of the dragonfly is steeped deeply in a variety of traditions. Especially visible in Japanese and Native American lore, the dragonfly is a representation of the unconscious, the illusions that exist in life. Both wind and water are elements that are associated with dragonfly as it soars on the wind and listens for deeper meaning. Through water the dragonfly is born with the ability to perceive the underlying messages of the unconscious.

The dragonfly is often seen as an agent of change and the awakening from illusions. Adaptability, wisdom and transformation are essential qualities of the dragonfly, along with prosperity and good luck. So, dragonfly summer is a great time to tap into the potential that this totem represents. Take a moment when you are here to take a look around the pond and absorb some of the dragonfly’s energy for yourself!


Internally Blossoming

There’s something magical happening at our place. As the earth is allowed to design the garden’s landscape, we are finding more and more signs of life. Sometimes, the signs are large and noticeable, like the sound of more birds singing, larger and more frequent butterfly sightings, more robust plant growth. Other times, the signs are small and hard to notice. Tiny wildflowers blooming in the driveway, ladybugs on plant stems, mushrooms growing under the lower plant canopies, bulbs peeking up through the soil….

native pineapple chamomile

pineapple chamomile

flowering unknown native

flowering native

popping up

mushroom heads revealed

visible bulbs

visible bulbs

 

 

 

 

 

 

The garden is such a wonderful analogy for our human condition. In my early years as a gardener, I would rush out at the first sign of spring or in the last days of nice fall weather and put new plants into the ground. What inevitably happened was that the plants would die – because they weren’t strong enough to survive through the inconsistencies of the season, and I wasn’t aware enough of their needs to provide the nurturing they needed at this early phase of their lives. This is also something that’s easily done in our daily lives – jumping into action before an idea is fully formed often causes its immediate demise. When this happens it is because of our inability to perceive and care for the tiny bud that’s forming inside.

At the beginning stages of growth, it is good to go slowly, looking closely at the potential – is it strong, is it in balance, what does it need to nurture further growth? Underneath the surface is a continuous, minute process that is perceivable to those who develop the ability to sense deeply the changes that are happening internally. When we look closely, there are always tiny pieces of growth happening. At first, hidden deep inside, the hints of possibility can be invisible. Then, as the potential grows, visibility improves for those who are paying attention.  Much as the newly planted seed is beginning its germination deep underneath the soil, it is invisible to us above the soil, and then, suddenly, the first signs of life are revealed above ground! This new growth is vulnerable and requires regular attention to fully form. Sometimes it is possible to see the shell of the seed attached to the new growth. A clear indication of the newness of what is forming.

blackberry flowers

blackberry flowers

pepper flower

pepper flower

baby purple cabbage

baby purple cabbage

evening beans

evening beans

early grapes

early grapes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a process that happens inside us as well. Moving through life we are often unclear of the path we are walking with the wind blowing us to and fro. Many opportunities are presented, seeds are sown, yet only some of them take root and grow. These seeds are not always consciously planted. Many times, a seed is thrown out in our surroundings and an unidentifiable part of us swoops up the idea and stores it until the ground is fertile for germination. As the idea develops, we may forget the original seed that was – its origins, characteristics or purposes – to focus on what the seed is becoming.

We can consciously nurture those seeds, set them aside for later or ignore the possibilities and blindly follow the whim of the day. “Allowing nature to take its course” doesn’t mean that we wander aimlessly. A small amount of attention on a new direction or idea, when coupled with waiting time for the possibilities to form, opens up unexpected directions to act on as the next step. A clear goal may or may not be in sight. The process of following the subtle movements of change will reveal the ending eventually – even if it is only a pause as the chapter completes.

Bleeding Heart

Bleeding Heart

 

With practice, as each step unfolds, it is easier to feel and trust the endless process of internally blossoming.

 


A Naturalized Garden

During this time of drought, people are bringing their attention back to the amount of water taken by a suburban sized yard. By the way, drought is a natural state here in California. I remember moving here in 1982 and being in the middle of a seven year drought. The ebb and flow of water in the state of California is its natural condition. No need to panic when there is drought if we already have in place a natural garden.

Having grown up in the Midwest where our large yards were green with grasses, trees and bushes aplenty, I understand the expectation of green in the suburban landscape. What isn’t valued is the fall and winter landscapes of lighter greens, golds and tans. Winter white is exceptionally beautiful and full of potential.

There is an emotional component, as well as a social one, of green being wealth and abundance. This wonderful imagery doesn’t have to be changed when living in different areas – our view of beauty and what defines green, does. In the West, we  have a large variety of colors and hues all year round. If you take the time to look closely, the immense beauty lies in the subtlety.  The less vibrant colors are peaceful and serve as the perfect background to the patches of brilliance that pop out in front. The whole effect is intoxicating to the soul.

yarrow

yarrow

black sage & yellow blooming sage

black sage & yellow blooming sage

gorgeous sage

gorgeous sage

blooming cleavers

blooming cleavers

seeding miner's lettuce

seeding miner’s lettuce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the years, we have diligently created a garden that reflects the beauty, waterwise, and edible elements of a natural California landscape. Think about it, every spring you go up into the open space areas to absorb the lovely vistas of the native landscape at its best – full of spring foliage, bugs and life!

The naturalized garden has many advantages. One of them is the gorgeous, prolific green growth that appears each spring – without watering! People look around our garden admiringly and then ask, “Are you changing anything to cut back on water with the drought?” And we say emphatically, “No!” We have established a drought resistant garden many years ago. People just don’t recognize that it is drought tolerant.

feverfew, pacific pea, california poppy, lavendar

feverfew, pacific pea, california poppy, lavendar

green filled yard

green filled yard

mallow

mallow

mustard

mustard

wild fennel

wild fennel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we first moved onto our property 16 years ago, there was one lonely California Poppy, one small patch of Miner’s lettuce and one Feverfew plant way in the back. We started by getting rid of all of the grass; then, we brought in chickens to give us eggs, eat the weeds that we don’t want and fertilize the land. We have filled the garden with flowering natives that attract and feed the birds, bees and butterflies. We spread the seeds of mustard, cleavers, mallow, wild fennel and other natural herbals that fill our bellies with healthy greens each spring without watering or planting.

With the use of wood chips (see my previous blog for more info), the soil is happier every year and requires less water, too. The plants are healthier and more abundant, especially the beneficial volunteer natives, and it’s easy to remove whatever doesn’t belong.

Let them go to seed and they will come back each year in new areas with delightful abandon. As a result, every year there are more of them spread around the yard, providing green foliage to host all the wonderful insects and spiders that serve us in the garden. Not to mention the amazing health benefits for us when we make spring greens broths. Now, each spring we are greeted with an abundant sprinkling of all of them throughout the garden. Nature’s design is gorgeous!

fountain decor

fountain decor

pond island beauty

pond island beauty

yellow flowering native

yellow flowering native

orange flowering native

orange flowering native

flowering native

flowering native

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many of the wildflowers have simply volunteered to join us. Feverfew, California poppy, Pacific peas, Vetch, and others that we don’t know the names of have created a lush beauty around the yard and our new pond. Many of these, I have seen on hikes in our surrounding open space. How delightful it is to wander around there in the spring. After 16 years, I feel that walking through my garden gives me the same benefit. Native wildflowers are popping up everywhere, gorgeous butterflies (hard to catch on camera, but I saw a light yellow swallowtail this year that was 2″ long!) and each year more lizards, snakes and newts.

wild fennel blooms

wild fennel blooms

milkweed

milkweed

mugwort

mugwort

penstemon

penstemon

penstemon bud

penstemon bud

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve found that there are so many beautiful natives. During hikes in the area, I make a mental note of a plant I enjoy and then research it, find a local plant person to buy it from and put it in my garden. One of my favorite places to find natives is Morningsun Herb Farm in Vacaville. What have I planted? Yarrow, all kinds of sages, mugwort, milkweed (the monarch’s home plant), penstemons, and more! Some people worry about plants like mugwort that will spread when happy. Natives that are accustomed to a limited amount of water can definitely become difficult if given too much water. Some of them will actually die out because they don’t like it. Others will thrive and spread too much.

I find that if I give plenty of water until the plant is established, then nature will take care of the rest. Many natives I only water once a week or less even when the weather is hot.

sweet peas

sweet peas

native pineapple chamomile

native pineapple chamomile

borage

borage

Every year, I see new volunteers in the yard somewhere that I have seen while hiking in the hills around us. This year, I found the wonderful pineapple chamomile that sends up the loveliest scent when stepped on. It tends to grow on the trail and is impossible to avoid! It’s currently growing in my driveway. Who’d a thought?

 

 

Since eating our yard is a favorite activity, I am always on the lookout for edible natives. I’ve mentioned a few above, but one of my favorites is the Bay laurel tree. I keep mine in a pot so it doesn’t get huge. Of course, many herbs will naturalize in the garden, too.

bay laurel

bay laurel

blooming parsley

blooming parsley

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blooming borage

bolting chard

bolting chard

pacific peas, fennel

pacific peas, fennel

Plant them, let them go to seed and they will come back for you year after year! One of the herbs I like to allow to naturalize in my garden is Calendula.

calendula stages

calendula stages

Calendula provides winter color and will pop up in unexpected places to show its happy face. Even in the spring when it is starting to die back and go to seed, its beauty is out of this world! If we accustom ourselves to seeing all stages of the plant’s life as having a natural beauty, then the garden will look good in our eyes all year long. Green is not the only color in the palette of nature. The huge array of colors and their varying shades are apparent throughout the year. So, walk slowly through the world. Open your eyes and look closely to see and appreciate the wondrous hues of nature.


Garden Mushrooms

From the time I was an imaginative child immersed in my experience of the world as a magical place, I have been attracted to mushrooms. My love of Alice in Wonderland, though I didn’t understand the references at that time, endeared me even more to the mystical mushroom. I love their taste and unusual textures, their mind-altering potential, the danger of their potency and the hidden mystery of the way they grow.

Fairy Mushrooms

Fairy Mushrooms

When I became a home owner 16 years ago, I was enthralled with the first mushrooms I found popping up in the late winter. As I was crawling around on the ground, weeding the yard for the first time, I unexpectedly came across a patch of mushrooms. As with everything that I saw for the first time in my new garden, I was excited, exhilarated and ran for the camera and my family to document it.

It felt like I had stumbled upon a secret fairy garden. This hidden world that is not usually visible to the human eye was revealing itself to me. I felt honored to be privy to this secret place, my heart opened and accepted the privilege, and the responsibility, of caring for their well being.

 

The Mighty Mushroom_pr

The Mighty Mushroom

As the years have passed and the property has become richer in its effervescent life there have been more and more mushrooms popping up.  I realized recently that I have seen a wonderful variety of mushrooms all around the yard. Sometimes they are large, and other times they are tiny, and usually in between.

Mushrooms are a wonderful indication of the health of the soil. Plants and trees rely on the reproductive function of fungi to enliven the soil they live in. There are even soil amendments that are made from composted mushrooms.

button-head-mushroom

button-head-mushroom

round-head-mush

round-head-mush

mushroom

mushroom

 

 

 

 

 

 

All of this is interesting and valuable for the avid gardener like myself. Ultimately, though, my infatuation is more of an emotional one than a practical one. I don’t trust my knowledge of mushrooms well enough to actually identify them and eat them from the garden or the wild.

popping up

popping up

mushroom heads

mushroom heads

stems revealed

stems revealed

standing tall

standing tall

 

As you can see here, they happily grow in composting wood chips. In a happy garden, though, anywhere is just fine. When they appear, I know that the garden is becoming more alive.

 

 

spring-shroom

spring-shroom

upright-mushroom

upright-mushroom

top-view

top-view

 

 

Each one is unique. Their beauty is out of this world.

 

 

 

mystery-mushrooms

mystery-mushrooms

Garden Mushrooms

Garden Mushrooms

fairy grove

fairy grove

How can I not run for the camera and then observe them in awe.

mushroom forest

mushroom forest

forest canopy

forest canopy

 

 

 

 

 

Striped-black-and-white

Striped-black-and-white

delicate-black-and-white

delicate-black-and-white

black and-white-trio

black and-white-trio

striped-duo

striped-duo

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t know their scientific names, but it doesn’t matter. They speak to me in other ways. Every time a mushroom reveals itself in my garden, I am fed deeply in a place inside that is touched,

wooly mane, inky cap

wooly mane, inky cap

 

somehow,

wooly mane

wooly mane

 

 

wooly mane closeup

wooly mane closeup

 

by the truly wondrous world of nature.


The Sugi Way: Seasons

When I started acupressure school, I was introduced to a book called Staying Healthy with the Seasons by Elson Haas, M.D. This book discusses the Five Element theory of Chinese medicine and explores the influences of the natural world on our whole health. The quote at the beginning of the book still has a strong affect on me when I read it:

“Whoever wishes to investigate medicine should proceed thus:

In the first place,seasons banner color

consider the seasons of the year and

what effect each of them produces.”

Hippocrates

 

I was 25 years old, a budding gardener, an avid hiker, a newbie at meditation, a health conscious vegetarian, an enthusiastic martial artist and a young woman who was passionate and determined to live life differently. I had some professional accomplishments through my B.A. in Psychology and Oriental Studies and three years of work at Pima County mental health facilities (both in- and out-patient).

I had already discovered that I was in great need of personal healing and had begun pursuing that end. Recently introduced to A Course in Miracles, metaphysics and meditation, I understood that in order to change the world I needed to change myself. I had spent so many years learning to defend myself that the ideas of forgiveness and harmony were very enticing. I had learned through martial arts how to harm, now I was ready to learn how to heal.

Amy with baby colorGardening (and motherhood) became a great teacher for me. At the very beginning, I couldn’t even get a house plant to survive. Over the years, through trial and error, I found that as my heart healed and opened, the plants began to thrive, too. In the most stress-filled times of young motherhood, founding a school and running a business, the garden was my sanctuary. When people asked me “How do you do it?” I would tell them the secret of putting my hands in the soil, listening to the birds and watching the vegetables grow, flower and give me food.

 

summer garden 2013Sometimes, I just wander around with my camera and take pictures of the glorious life that reveals itself to me. It becomes a time of reflection and meditation, not of doing or list making. This type of observation allows me to see the seasons unfold. The budding plants that peek up over the soil in early spring, the leggy growth that leads into summer, the transition from flower to fruit in the summer, the slow wilting of the leaves as the fruit matures ready for harvest and the retreat underground for the contemplative and rejuvenating time of winter.

baby purple cabbagepepper flowerfeverfew trioborage closeupbasil beauty

 

 

 

 

Over a period of 40 years, I have watched the garden grow, sometimes to fail, and then grow again. I, too, have grown, faltered and grown again during that time. The symbiotic relationship that we have with the garden is reflected in the way our human lives unfold. The usual comparison with the seasons of nature lists the passages of life that occur sequentially over many years – birth, childhood, adolescence, adulthood and elder years. This approach denies the variance that occurs in our personal lives. Our actual experiences influence how we change and the process of maturing.

Ofer lifting Yo'el closeup. webIma and Yo'el.croppedAmy holding Yo'el.webbeckoning emailflowerchild01Yo'el with ducks

 

 

 

 

In the Sugi Way: Seasons, there is a deeper exploration of how we move through the seasons internally, not in any particular order, rather in a way that is fluent with our personalities and our life experiences. Sometimes, we are stuck in a deep winter even when it is summer outside. Or during the darkest days of winter, our sunny selves are shining brightly. Ultimately, we learn to match our rhythms to that of nature, while still respecting our internal process and allowing fluid movement between our inner seasons.

Our modern world has created a deep divide between humanity and the earth we live on. In order to reconnect with those natural rhythms, it is necessary to begin to feel and trust again. In truth, trust for me was found in the garden and the eyes of the young children in my life. Reclaiming our own innocence, finding the beauty of that hidden Self, and having safety to bring that person into the open in daily life is done gradually.  Just like the growth of a new plant, the beginning is vulnerable and fragile. As the seasons progress, that tenderness blossoms into prolific strength, resulting in fruits to share with the next generation.

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As I’ve come to understand these rhythms in my own life, I’ve found that it becomes easier to share with others, to articulate, to offer tools for self discovery and to create community with others. My current offering for you comes in the form of The Sugi Way: Seasons training program that begins March 29, 2015. Join me and discover the joy of living with the seasons.

 


Wood Chips as Forest Floor

For the last few years, we have been experimenting with wood chips in the garden. It’s been a gradual process of increasing use over many years. Here’s the story:

wood chip pile

wood chip pile

Originally, we were told by the previous owner of our house, that wood chips are a great ground cover or mulch. And they’re free! So, we started getting them delivered to cover areas of the side yard that tend to grow lots of weeds and to cover weed cloth that I put down to make weeding easier.

Fast forward a few years. I’m potting some plants and run out of soil to use. At that time, we were making our own soil – a mix of kitchen compost, horse manure and sand. I was desperate to finish my project, and didn’t want to pay for soil, so I started looking around for anything I could use in the yard. Ofer suggested that I take a peek under the silver maple (the large tree in the side yard). The wood chips had been sitting there for years, quietly composting. Well, imagine my joy, when I found beautiful composted soil right there in abundance! There was enough for me to finish my project and I was a happy camper.

Not long after, we visited the large Home and Garden show in Santa Monica. It was an interesting experience, but the most important thing we gained was an inspiration. There was a landscaper there who was demonstrating an instant garden idea – he put out straw bales, added a layer of soil and planted directly in the top soil layer. From that, we decided to create what we call instabed or layered gardening. I’ve also heard it referred to as lasagna gardening.

spring beds layered

spring beds layered

 

Good bye planter boxes, soil turning and double digging! This is what we did. We laid out 4 inches of wood chips, added a 2 inch layer of manure, and then repeated the wood chips. The final layer was our homemade soil, about 2 inches deep. We made long beds about 4 feet wide for easy weeding and harvesting. Remember our soil has so much clay that we were able to make a pond and not put in a liner. Take a look at the previous post for more info on our pond.

layered beds with seedlings

layered beds with seedlings

 

We’ve done this for a few years now and the soil is great. Our very clay soil is responding slowly. Then, we found out about the film Back to Eden. It features a man in the northwest who has been gardening solely with wood chips. And the results he has are astounding. The film gives amazing descriptions of how to do it, why it is beneficial and what results to expect. Wow!

Here’s the link to the filmBack to Eden.

So, we have now started to fill the yard with these glorious wood chips. Our insight many years before, which has been reinforced by the video, is that we have been creating an environment to mimic nature. The forest floor, as nature has created it, has purpose beyond a soft place to walk. The leaves and branches that fall underneath the mature and adolescent plants create the perfect environment for life to flourish. As it gently composts over a long period of time, it is providing the perfect combination to support life. As a result, new plants take root and grow on their own – what we call volunteers in the garden is actually the natural order of things in the wilderness.

wood chip beds

wood chip beds

fall potato sprouts

fall potato sprouts

fall garden

fall garden

Over the years, we have observed this phenomenon in our garden. The spontaneous growth that has resulted makes it feel more and more like we live in the country, in an environment that isn’t landscaped, wild. We see different mushrooms every year and mushrooms are a great indicator of healthy soil. (More on mushrooms another time.) Just don’t eat the ones you find unless you are an expert!

 

In addition, there are more birds, more “weeds” many of which are edible and have healing properties and more peace has entered the garden.

Already this fall, we have seen the spontaneous eruption of leftover potatoes in the garden. They are peeking their heads through the wood chips and showing us that they are growing the spring harvest for us to enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 


Filling Up for the New Year

The past year has been filled with explorations of new places, new relationships and new ways of being in the world. While I was wandering the pathway between the Sugi Garden and outside locales, my faithful husband and son were digging deeply into the hard, clay soil of our sideyard. This sideyard has been a conundrum for us in all the years we’ve lived here. After getting rid of the grass that was there when we moved in, we’ve tried planting flowers and vegetables and just leaving it alone to do what it wants. Our little fountain, happy roses and delightful daffodils have kept it company and not much else.

Spring fountain

Spring fountain

Finally, Ofer was inspired to dig a deep pond. At first, I thought it would be a moderate pond, with lots of room for   planting around it. But, as Ofer and Yo’el began digging, the months passed by and the hole kept getting deeper. The little fountain was moved to a wading pool as a temporary measure. So far, it is being kept to provide a place for the lovely little creatures that keep the water clean. I suppose, it will find it’s way into the bigger pond in time.

The old watering system was removed, the roots from the nearby trees were cut out. And still, it wanted to go deeper. It seemed like the project would never find a stopping place. My patience was being tested. I like things to happen quickly and wasn’t clear when it would be done. Until…there was a moment of truth and the pond was deep enough to hold fish. I guess that was the idea from the start. Don’t ask me why there is an island in the middle. It was just what Ofer felt should be there.

Ready pond

Ready pond

We decided to surround the pond with flat rocks we have around the property. And made plans to buy a liner so we could fill it up. Then, the order came down through the government that with the California drought we couldn’t fill the pond with hose water. Lucky us, we already had a gray water hose in place from the kitchen sink. A new arrangement was made to lead the duct for the roof water to also drain into the holding box for the gray water and we were ready for rain! We collected some barrels to be used for collecting from the other ducts, but haven’t managed to hook them up properly yet.

And then the waiting began in earnest. It’s an interesting process to create an opening and wait for it to be filled. The tendency, for many of us, is to look desperately around to fill any void that occurs in life. Filling the silence with unnecessary words, keeping busy doing and going, pushing further.  All I could do was stop, take a deep breath, be silent and wait.

sideyard pond

sideyard pond

Rain duct

Rain duct

Rain barrel

Rain barrel

We decided to forego the expensive liner to see what would happen without it. The amount of clay in our California soil is immense, so we thought it would be worth a try to see what would happen.

But the project didn’t seem quite complete. I started moving an old bench and table we had underneath the beautiful silver maple that graces the yard. When I did that, suddenly there was a possible extension available. We have always wanted to live on a property with a natural stream and, of course, a pond. So here we were with a natural place to put a streambed. It seems that this is a natural process in life, move a little something here and there, internally or externally, and a whole new opening is created for naturally flowing changes in life!

Dry Stream bed

Dry Stream bed

Stream bed

Stream bed

With a little bit of digging and arranging of the soil, we had a beautiful arrangement for a stream. The addition of more flat rocks creates a nice look, don’t you think?

Now, we were definitely ready for the rains to come. And, boy, did they. Just in time for my December birthday, the highest amount of rain we’ve had in California in one stretch came down and blessed us. Gradually, the pond began to fill. Each day, we looked at it to see if it was staying put. The water level would go up and then go down.

 

Filling pond

Filling pond

Full Pond

Full Pond

Full pond

Full pond

A small pump was added and a stump to lay the hose over to keep the water moving so it wouldn’t stagnate. Amazingly, the water has stayed, though now that the rain is having a break, we don’t know for how long.

Nature abhors a vacuum, so before you know it the emptiness will be filled. The difference is that it will be filled with wondrous, unimagined changes that will sweep you forward into an inspired life, rather than one filled with obligation and stress.

 

The next step is finishing the stream and adding fountains to keep things flowing smoothly. Stay tuned in the New Year!

 


Pool Gardening

Our garden is a place of discovery every season. Ofer and I both like to experiment with different ways of growing plants, and enjoy a large variety of edibles. In past years, Ofer has used child sized pools to keep tender plants happy during the heat of our California summers. He has used them for maintaining moisture during propagation and growth of new plants. Some plants are just happier sitting in a little water and it’s easier to have the pots sitting in a pool. He waters every few days, allowing the bottom to completely dry out in between to avoid mosquito development.

This process has served us well. Without a greenhouse, the pool provides a protected place for seedlings to grow to full strength for planting. This year, we had an empty pool after we had finished planting the vegetables in the beds. There were lots of little seedlings leftover and Ofer had a brilliant idea for an experiment. He filled the empty pool with  soil and planted all of the leftovers together, willy nilly.

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Beets, Kohlrabi, Tomatoes, Beans, Potatoes, Amaranth, Strawberries…

 

I spend a lot of time making sure to do companion planting in my beds to support the health and happiness of my veggies. Tomatoes near basil, nasturtiums and calendula near tomatoes, tansy by the berries, potatoes away from the beets, lovage all around to make everyone happy and fennel off on its own to avoid problems.

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Beans,Winter Squash, Melons, Kale, Basil, Bell Peppers, Sunflowers…

 

In Ofer’s experimental pool he planted everything, even a fennel plant, all together. There’s winter squash, chives, parsley, tomatoes, fennel, potatoes, amaranth ,beets and burdock. Some of these we sprouted intentionally, and some just volunteered.

As an experiment it went well. Most of the plants grew well and we had a beautiful harvest from the pool – tomatoes, parsley, delicata squash and more…

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Sunday Brunch

We would like to invite you to brunch in the Sugi Garden. Our menus include only the freshest ingredients, organically grown and sustainably raised. Eggs are from our own backyard chickens. We make everything ourselves, including some unusual items like marinated salmon (lox), red miso, yogurt, kombucha, and gluten-free baked goods. Menu items may be subject to change to guarantee the freshest ingredients.

Sundays, May 26, June 30, July 28,  

Sept. 1, and Oct.6 

11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

$20 each     

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Gluten Free Pancakes

Nori Omelette with Stir-fried Veggies

Nori Omelette with Stir-fried Veggies

Homemade Lox with capers

Gluten-free French Toast with fresh Tangerine juice

Gluten-free French Toast with fresh Tangerine juice

Eggs Hollandaise on a bed of Spinach with homemade Lox , fresh Avocado, and nitrate-free Bacon

Eggs Hollandaise on a bed of Spinach with homemade Lox , fresh Avocado, and nitrate-free Bacon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reservation: Each Brunch is limited to 8 people.

Send payment (cash preferred!) to Amy Erez, 2096 Hoover Ave., Pleasant Hill, CA 94523

Reservation deadlines are Fridays, May 17, June 14, July 12, August 16, and September 20.


Get 4 meals for $75 when paid in advance. Please identify which dates you are reserving for.

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Miso Soup course

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Between Courses

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Brunch Sushi

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Friends

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Menus:

May 26

Scrambled Eggs with Homemade Lox and Garden Chard

Steamed Asparagus with Lemon-Garlic-Dill Sauce

Roasted Potatoes with Mushrooms, Onions and Garden Herbs

Silky Lemon Pie with Fresh Strawberries

Fresh Orange Juice, Coffee, Garden Herb Tea, Homemade Green-Irish Tea Kombucha

 

June 30

Spinach, Mushroom, Avocado, Goat Cheese Omelette

Hash Browns

Fresh Peaches, Nectarines, Blueberries and Raspberries with Homemade Yogurt

Blueberry Corn Mini Muffins (GF)

GF Brownies with Pudding Top

Fresh Orange Juice, Coffee, Garden Herb Tea, Homemade Green-Irish Tea Kombucha

 

July 28

French Toast (GF brioche) with fresh mulberries and peaches and pure maple syrup

Caprese Eggs

Bacon/Turkey Bacon (Nitrate-free)

Kahlua Chocolate Mint Ice Cream

Fresh Watermelon Juice, Coffee, Garden Herb Tea, Homemade Green-Irish Tea Kombucha

 

Sept. 1

Homemade Miso Soup

Nori Omelette with Stir-Fried Vegetables

Sushi

Homemade Pickled Daikon and Cabbage

Fresh Fuyu Persimmon and Asian Pear slices

Green Tea, Roasted Barley Ice Creams

Fresh Apple/Pear Juice, Green and Roasted Barley Tea, Garden Herb Tea, Homemade Green-Irish Tea Kombucha

 

Oct.6

Carrot & Burdock Soup

Caramelized Onion, Fennel, Kale and Asiago Crustless Quiche

Roasted Potatoes

Orange Poppyseed Mini Muffins

Fruit Compote with Sweet Ginger Sauce (apples, pears, prune plums, raisins)

Tahini Moons and DF Fudge

Fresh Orange Juice, Coffee, Garden Herb Tea, Homemade Green-Irish Tea Kombucha

 


More Gluten Free Fun

My experiments with gluten free baking have been continuing for weeks. It is not as challenging as I would have thought, though, the hardest part is consistency of results. Using yeast has always been a tough one for me. I don’t understand it very well, and I find that the need for exacting measurements and temperatures can make it hard for me to succeed. I’m finding, though, that with a little patience and persistence, even gluten free baked goods with yeast are worthwhile.

After the pizza, I moved on to sweets. I love brownies and my husband made some wheat based brownies that smelled delicious. So, I pulled out my gluten free flours and had a stab at it myself. I started with a recipe I found online. It used a base of coconut flour, which, to my taste, was too strong. The coconut flavor overruled the brownie taste and I found that disappointing.

Next time around, I decided to replace the coconut flour with mochiko – sweet rice flour. I had a bunch in my cupboard from experimenting last summer with making ice cream mochi. In addition, I had some leftover silken tofu in the frig, and I know that makes a lovely pudding style topping.

Mixing brownies

Mixing brownie batter

silky chocolate pudding

Silky chocolate pudding top

The brownies are moist, a tiny bit cakey, and quite a deep chocolate flavor. I’m quite pleased with the result.

Gluten Free Brownies with Silky Chocolate Pudding Top

½ c. butter, melted

¾ c. cocoa powder

3 eggs

¼ c. water

½ c. maple syrup

½ tsp. sea salt

½ tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. Madagascar vanilla

½ c. mochiko (sweet rice flour)

GF brownie slice

GF brownie slice

pudding top brownies

Pudding top brownies

Silky Chocolate Pudding:

9 oz. silken tofu, firm

1 Tbsp. vanilla almond milk

½ tsp. Madagascar vanilla

1 Tbsp. honey

⅓ c. chocolate chips

1.     Preheat oven to 350ᵒ.

2.    Melt butter and stir in cocoa powder. Set aside.

3.     Beat eggs, maple syrup, salt, baking powder, water and vanilla.

4.     Add melted butter/ cocoa mix.

5.     Add flour and whisk until smooth.

6.     Spread evenly into an oiled 8×8” pan.

7.     Bake for 20 – 30 minutes. Cool.

8.    Prepare pudding by putting all ingredients, except chocolate in a mixing bowl. Blend thoroughly with a hand blender until silky smooth.

9.     Meanwhile, melt chocolate in a double boiler. Stir melted chocolate into tofu blend and mix thoroughly.

10.  Spread evenly onto cooled brownies.

The brownie success led me to “graham” crackers. I’ve been making real graham crackers for my pies and they are simply delicious. The gluten free pie crusts I make are good, but not the same style as a graham cracker crust. So, I thought, there’s got to be a way to get a similar quality with gluten free flours. And I succeeded! The secret is to use a little almond flour to get the texture of the graham flour. Now, I can offer a gluten free “graham” cracker crust for my pies.

GF graham dough

GF graham cracker dough

GF graham crackers

GF graham crackers

 

Another cracker that I like to make at home on occasion is one I found in the New Farm Cookbook, an old whole foods style cookbook from the ’70’s. There’s a Cheezy Cracker recipe that gets its cheesy flavor from nutritional yeast and they’re quite addictive! I didn’t think to take any pictures of these when I made the gluten free version, but I’ll have you know, that my family loved them so much I had to practically fight them off to get my share!

 

 

On the savory gluten free journey, I discovered that I could also make pasta. This seemed like a daunting task that actually was quite simple.  I found a recipe online again and made a few minor changes to the flour mix. A lot of these recipes use large amount of tapioca flour which doesn’t sit well in my stomach. It also ends up being too much like white bread, so I adjust the recipes to include other flours like teff, brown rice, millet or sorghum for a heartier flavor.

stroganoff sausage noodles

Stroganoff sausage with GF egg noodles

 

I didn’t roll the dough out thinly enough on the first try, but the flavor was good and made for a delicious meal with Sausage Beef Stroganoff Sauce with Gluten Free Egg Pasta. A side of steamed broccoli made it a perfect meal.

 

 

 

I’ve been making a melt in your mouth marinated salmon (gravlox). I love to have lox on bagels with cream cheese and tomatoes or blended into a spread. I make my own spread and enjoy it with rice crackers and salad for a healthy lunch, but really miss having bagels. So, I decided to have a go at making gluten free bagels.

homemade lox with capers

Homemade lox with capers

 

As before, I had trouble with the yeast activating properly, so these bagels didn’t turn out that well. They look pretty good, but instead of being a little fluffy with their chewiness, they turned out heavy and dense. That is because the yeast didn’t do it’s thing. They are edible, and even better with the lox spread.

Next time I will use a different mix of flours so they have a heartier quality. I may combine the two online recipes I have to get the best effect.

bagels before baking

GF bagels before baking

garlic onion asiago bagel

Garlic onion asiago bagel