Tuesday, April 19, 2016


This is the view from our South facing sliding glass door.
 The mass of flowering Fringe Cups are splendid to behold
in the early morning sunlight.
Fringe Cups (Tellima grandiflora) flowers close up.

Weeding is a “close up and personal” activity which is simple but not easy. Weeds are what a gardener does not want in her or his garden, so the gardener considers the best way to get rid of them. For the Earth conscientious gardener the choice to weed, a simple but not easy activity, is a no brainer when one considers the alternative of spraying weeds with an herbicide. From where do herbicides spring? From factories that produced nerve gas used in World War II is the answer. If one is spraying with a chemical designed to kill a plant that is a living BEing, one might consider what else besides the weeds the spray will affect and realize that there is no such thing as a “safe” and/or “organic” herbicide.  In California now RoundUp must carry a warning that it can produce cancer.

This year with the several months of El Nino rains which meant warmer than usual temperatures for the rainy months here in Northern California there is now a plethora of weeds. Really we had only a month (December) during which we had frost or freezing temperatures. With the warm, abundant rains the seeds in their bank (aka soil) sprouted everywhere and roots of weeds not removed in previous seasons flourished.

Talking with a friend during our walk and his bike ride, he shared he goes out a couple hours in the morning because that is as long as his knees last then rests until after his midday meal then another couple of hours of weeding again on his knees which is followed by another rest until late afternoon when he spends another couple of hours amidst the weeds digging them out on his knees.

My daily weeding routine differs from our friend’s but is done on my knees nonetheless. In this position one is close to the soil and can clearly experience the soil as a living organism pulsating with life giving energy. In most areas of MuRefuge everything goes except the native plants. The most prevalent weeds seem to be an invasive geranium and an equally invasive salvia + of course, the invasive European grasses which crowd out the native bunch grasses.

Let me share: the carbon production from the weeds this season is huge!!!! Wheel barrows after wheel barrows laden with freshly dug out, not only weeds, but their entire root system as well,

are making their way to our very large, and growing every day, compost pile beneath a composting fleece blanket.

Last year all of MuRefuge’s weeds went into a green bin and were picked up by the “garbage company.” At the time all the green waste went to Sonoma Compost where it was composted and then could be purchased for use by anyone in the county wanting to feed their soil. Sonoma Compost has been closed by the Board of Supervisors. And now the green waste from the county is trucked some 300 miles. YIKES! was my reaction when I heard this, and I set out to find an alternative to green bins picked up weekly for MuRefuge’s “green waste.” In Permaculture’s way of viewing weeds, grass clippings, pruning remnants and the like, these are a rich carbon source for feeding the soil and her inhabitants. 

Thus weeding and mulching (this topic is for a later post) is once again in the forefront of activities here at MuRefuge. And for those interested in learning more about the process using the composting blanket here is a link to an article written by the owner of the company from whom we purchased our blankets.

And in the early morning as the sun rises when I am sitting, I often see a hummingbird sipping nectar from the diminutive flowers on this figwort. I have seen insect pollinators on the flowers but I had not observed hummingbirds. 

Bee Plant, so named because bees, native or nonnative, 
adore this vigorous native plant with small maroon flowers
or, in other arenas, called Figwort (Scrophularia californica).

During this glorious Spring may we all weed and 

Saturday, April 2, 2016


Five eggs from five MuRefuge's ducks.
Perhaps not impressive in numbers when each duck lays one eggs a day. However, it is impressive when one considers the age of the duck laying the egg. MuRefuge's oldest female Fawn and White Indian Runner was nine, yes nine, last month. The second oldest, a chocolate Indian Runner, will be seven in a few weeks. The blue Indian Runner will be four next month. And the youngest two, the Tootsie Rolls, were a year old early last month.

This is the second morning this week I have gathered five eggs from the nesting boxes when I let the ducks out of their house. I am grateful and astounded that The Crone, the oldest female, is producing an egg. 

Obviously, these residents of MuRefuge are not just surviving here but thriving. They all forage each day, scarfing up bugs or any other kind of creepy crawly from their duck yard then clamor at the veggie garden gate to be let out into the backyard. With Shasta safely inside they cover the entire expanse foraging for protein. The number of snails and slugs that can be found on the entire three quarters of an acre does not even cover the bottom of a yogurt container. When we first got ducks, I gathered a full container almost every morning, carrying the container to the flock and emptying it in front of them. In a nanosecond all the snails seemed to magically disappear.

As each of us identify what supports our individual thriving, may each of us