Saturday, December 29, 2012

Full Moon Party

Bryan Tedrick invited us to his end of the year Full Moon Party at his studio in Glen Ellen, CA.  Reggae inspired beats pulsing from the speakers and small plates served by Rob Larman of Cochon Volant set the mood for festive evening.

The visual feast was the life of the party. Bryan had a sampling of work from throughout his career on display. He also had sketches and pieces in progress that preview what we can expect in 2013.  As far as sculpture, Minaret and Orgasm were the real showstoppers.  If you’ve been to burning man, they might look familiar.  Lit up and pushing 50 feet, both pieces are quite a sight.  Belly dancing performances by Natalie Tedrick and friends – think sword balancing and fire – added to the mystique.

One of Tedrick’s kinetic metal butterflies perches in a sea of green cypress at Wildwood Farm.  The 6’ butterfly gently rotates in the breeze flowing through the Valley.  The powder coated red wings positively glow against their green backdrop.  No wonder it’s a favorite of both adults and kindergarteners.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Chicken Tale For Raina

Every week, Raina from Wise Acre Farm delivers fresh eggs to Wildwood Farm.  For Christmas dinner, she brought us a five pound chicken from a friend's farm to cook.  To show our appreciation, I wrote a short story for her called, A Chicken Tale for Raina.

Once upon a time, there was a chicken lost in the forest.

His mama had left him there.  There were too many other chickens in the coop.  As he was the smallest, he was the first to go.

He had awakened from a troublesome dream and he could not believe what he saw.  He was lost in the woods.

Where is my mama?
Where am I?

These worrisome questions occupied his little head.  As the day grew sunnier, the surroundings seemed to become friendly.

So, he pecked here and he pecked there.  He was pecking happily when he heard a forelone squeak.  Under a group of large leaves he found two baby squirrels.  They looked at each other trying to decide what was going to happen.  The baby squirrels hugged him.  They became companions.

As the days went by, the chicken pecked and the squirrels cracked nuts.  They sang all day long.

It so happens a Hollywood producer was in the woods searching for mushrooms.  He heard the singing.  The singing was so delightful.  He followed it to the source.  He found the chicken - now grown - and the two squirrels - now grown.

He thought they could compete on American Idol for Animals.  He talked to them and they said 'why not'.

The chicken acquired the name of Chicklet a Boom and the squirrels were known as Handy and Dandy.

They went on to become famous after the record Chicken Do Bye went multi platinum.

They lived happily ever after, to a ripe old age.

Moral: sing in the forest, you never know who will hear you.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Signs of Life

This time of year you have to look closely [to the ground] to see signs of life.  Between rainstorms, it's fun to see what's peeking through the soil.  The narcissus have already sent up sturdy green shoots at Wildwood Farm.  A few even have blooms on them!  Their refreshing perfume is the perfect scent for crisp clear winter afternoons.  The real show will be a bit later when the big boys - the large yellow and orange flowers - make an appearance.

Between rainstorms it's also a window to do some light transplanting.  Digging up a big bundle of roots is easy right now.  The shovel slices right through the soil.  Keeping all the roots on drought tolerant plants like lavender and euphorbia helps them through next summer - they already have their network to withstand long dry spells.

And there's peonies to think about.   These guys are awfully picky about being moved.  Dislodging an eye or a shoot could spoil next year's blooms.  It's worth the risk to get them in prime real estate for the early spring show though.  Before we know it, those swelling buds will be gigantic flowers that light up the garden.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Drama in the 60's

1960 entered the atmosphere – no where to begin.  I returned to hard labor – I didn’t realize how enjoyable it was – sweating in the sun, digging in the earth.  It was peaceful but I needed more money to survive.  One day my career fell into my lap.  I was in Oakland, CA and walked past a beauty school – hairdressing – I can do that.  I walked in and started my ten year career.

1960, the beginning of rock and roll - San Francisco was bursting at its seams.  Across the bay, I was loving the hairstyling classes.  To take a wet head of hair and roll it and dry it and comb it out.  It was a new avenue that I couldn’t believe I was doing.  Graduation time came and I went into a real life of finally working.  I spent a year at some fast paced salons.  I decided to go to NYC  Paris where the big boys were.

Of course, I didn’t speak French and since the French are very fluffy they didn’t like me.  NYC was another planet – people racing from corner to corner.  I worked in a 24 hour salon on 42nd St in Manhattan.  A real eye opener.  I stayed about six months and returned home.  I found work quickly.  The best thing about hairstyling is you don’t need references or a resume to find a job.  You do a comb out and if you’re good, you’re hired.  Within a year, I had my own salon.

While at hairstyling school, I met Harland Hand.  He was finishing his home and garden.  I rented a room from him and worked in his garden i.e. I was in charge of backpacking 80lb sacks of redimix concrete and 4cu ft bags of topsoil down the hill.  It was a long way down and back up.  He didn’t have any paper plans – he just put things together and it worked out.  Upon his death, I believe the city of El Cerrito took over the grounds and made it a public garden.

Meanwhile, in my salon I was on a tear...

Monday, December 17, 2012

Golden Gate Parks Party

On Saturday, the Parks Conservancy said thanks to all the volunteers that supported the many projects in San Francisco’s Presidio.  With great food, a national parks version of the 12 days of Christmas [as in five irrigation rings…], and a slide show with highlights from the year, it was a great occasion for everyone to reflect on accomplishments.

The Presidio is a unique location and entity.  The US Congress created the Presidio Trust and mandated that all operations in the Presidio be self sufficient.   With the help of volunteers, the NPS manages a massive education and restoration effort on the grounds.  This effort happens at many levels as high school and college age interns often supervise volunteer projects.

I spent a few weekends at one of the native plant nurseries in the Presidio.  Volunteers collect seeds from plants in the presidio, record their location, propagate new plants, and replant areas that are being restored.  I’ve never divided so many sedums in my life. 

Countless small projects, like growing baby sedums, make the Presidio a great place.  They also make great excuses to have a party.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Mulch Mulch Mulch

This time of year, Mother Nature blankets deciduous forests with mulch.  Wildwood Farm sits in a Valley that is mostly oak woodlands and meadows.  It seems like each leaf from a valley oak is big enough to singlehandedly mulch a one gallon plant.  With several heritage oaks on the property, we have thousands of leaves on our grounds.  Combine that with the Maple and Dogwood leaves and we have a huge supply of mulch.

If you’ve planted trees in your yard, chances are you’re debating about getting the rake out of the shed or leaving the leaves on the ground.  If they’re left on the ground, they’ll quickly break down.  This builds soil health in countless ways.  It is also something weeds love. 

Another option is to use the leaves against the weeds.  This means raking everyone up and stockpiling them in an area of your yard.  Piled on top of each other, the leaves tend to stay dry and don’t break down as quickly. 

In a few months, there will be a carpet of weeds in the backyard.  A quick pass with a hula hoe will knock them down.  Then, redistributing a thick layer of mulch will block their sun and kill them.  The extra bonus is the soil still benefits from the layer of organic mulch!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Are You Ready to Rock?

At Wildwood Farm, we're taking advantage of bare branches and better sight lines to rethink the hardscape along our entranceway.  Now is a good time to think about the hardscape in your garden too.  The hardscape is anything made out of rock, wood, or concrete such as paths, fences, walls, and accent pieces.

Rocks are one of the few elements that can serve both a functional and aesthetic purpose in a garden. Standing alone, boulders can anchor a space and provide balance to graceful arching plantings.  A dry stacked rock wall will be a sturdy, natural looking addition to  any slope that needs terracing.

The key to a great looking rock installation is the craftsmanship.  Burying at least 1/3 of a stand alone rock is important so it doesn't look like a human plunked it on the ground.  Burying the first course of a rock wall helps anchor the entire stack.  The fun part is fitting together the pieces [rocks] of the puzzle to achieve a beautiful pattern of different shapes and sizes along the face of the wall.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Wreath Wrap Up

One lady who participated in our wreath making classes said she had never heard the word bundle so many times.  Bundle is a key word when you’re talking wreaths.  Every wreath is made up of small clusters of foliage wrapped around a metal ring.  Combining conifers with foliage or different types of conifers creates the pieces that make up the wreath.

For Wildwood Farm’s two wreath making classes, there was an assortment of boughs for the participants to choose from.  It’s always impressive to see first timers reduce the branches of large trees into a festive 12” ring of holiday cheer.  California bay, eucalyptus, fir, assorted chamaecyparis, and cypress were the ingredients of the various wreaths.  Some of the best combinations were cypress, bay and fir, chamaecyparis, bay.  Each one had its own personality and a story behind it.

Everyone, even the eight year olds, walked away eager to hang their wreath on their door for all to see.