In a season of giving

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

"Hey Pilgrim!"

Happy Thanksgiving!

Some fruit to be thankful for at this time in late November.
Pomegranates at Jennifer and Mike's home
Giant Pomegranate from the same tree

Kiwi fruits in Lafayette.


Kiwis need a male and female vine to be fruitful
Avocados on a tree in the Southampton Hills district of Benicia. We might think it too windy up there on the ridge adjacent to the Carquinez Straight but this mature tree is having an exceptionally good year.
Hachiya Persimmon in Lafayette
The Fuyu is the rounder variety.


Wednesday, November 26th
Center Ave Community Garden
333 Center Ave. Martinez / Pacheco
6:15 trading starts at 6:30
Bonfire and Chocolate at 7:00

Please join us for our last Crop Swap of the season. We will be trading Veggies, ideas, plants, fruit, nuts, honey, eggs, seeds, home canned goods, recipes among other items. We will also be having a Bonfire and hot chocolate to celebrate all the season has to offer. As always no money exchanges hands. 
Please bring a chair and a mug for the chocolate. 

We will be collecting gently used tee shirts of all sizes from infant to adult in every size for the Huaorani in the Amazon. Please Tee Shirts only, thank you. 
Jennifer Brennan 925-360-4762

DVC Spring Classes

Here is a tentative guide to some very valuable classes offered at DVC
It's good to support our local college.

H110 3644 2:30-5:20PM  INTRO  M/W  (Steve Andrews) 
H110 8117 6:30-9:20PM  INTRO  M/W  (Bethallyn Black) 

H120 3648 3:00-5:50PM SOIL SCIENCE  T  (B.BLACK/S.ANDREWS) 
H120L 3650 3:00-5:50 SOIL SCIENCE LAB  R  (B.BLACK/S.ANDREWS) 

H135 8232 9:00AM-5:00PM ESTIMATE/CONTRACT  alt.Sat  (B.BLACK) 




H184 8289 6:30-9:20PM PLANTING DESIGN  M  (PAM WINTHER) 

DECEMBER 3RD Plug in Logs (Mushrooms) by Michelle 


DEC 6TH AND 7TH FUNGUS FAIR SF Hall of Flowers  10am-5pm $8 with student I.D. ($10 w o) 
FEB 12TH NORCAL SHOW in San Mateo 
Persimmon leaves in November
Happy Thanksgiving !

Friday, November 7, 2014

Permaculture in Benicia

On November 1st 2014 a new era began at the Avant Community Garden in Benicia.
An 8' x 16' plot was cleared and planted as a Permaculture demonstration garden. Small beginnings but a very important development in the history of this high profile community garden situated on a lot for sale in the middle of downtown Benicia. Positioned at the corner of 1st Street and E. D Street, for a decade this garden has long served and inspired local residents.
 More at:
The Benicia Sustainable Backyard program is an off shoot of Benicia Community Gardens, a non profit that manages two community gardens and an orchard along with other social enterprises supporting local sustainability. Our goal is to install at least 10 back yard food forests based on Permacuture principals. This includes vertical layers, plant guilds and the use of greywater.
Here is a recent Contra Costa Times article that explains more about the BSB Food Forest or Seed Plot plan for Benicia.

Food Forest Farm West

Jessica Bates is developing her business in El Sobrante. She specializes in Food Forest design and maintenance. I recently visited her home where she has an amazing variety of useful edible perennial plants in her nursery. She is almost complete on redesigning her front garden.
Jessica at home in her garden

Please visit Jessica's blog
Martinez: Curly Kale and Onions growing in a front yard barrel.

Miss November x 2 ?

Unprecedented, we have never seen the coveted "Chicken of the Month" title awarded to more than one hen. If brevity is indeed the soul of wit then the brief explanation is recognition of their join contribution to the 'Benicia Sustainable Backyard' program info sessions and the preparation of the demonstration garden at Avant. Both twins, Big Aeigchellski and Little Aeigchellski, equally contributed to the soil preparation, weed seed and pest control. They nobly demonstrated their valuable role in nature where everything is connected and everything serves more than one function.
Any worms, spiders or larvae?
Helping clean up a potato patch. Scratching for food and cultivating at the same time.

Systematically scouring other areas for nutritional potential
So we have two "Miss Novembers" who travel well and are easy to direct back into their travelling suite at the end of the day. Their breeding is White Crested Black Polish. Both are molting, which is a natural thing for them to do at this time of year. For them Nov.1 was certainly a wonderful banquet of a day to remember (if they do?).

Anika: Ardent admirer and food sponsor of the Aeigchellski Twins
Hope you enjoyed the beautiful full November Moon last night.
The November moon is sometimes called the Hunters Moon in the UK. The Beaver Moon in a native American lore. Other names include the Frost Moon and the Snow Moon. The last two not so much here in Martinez :))

Happy days of Fall,

925 286 7225

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Trick or Seat

Thanks to the Natural Building class at DVC our first cob bench at CACG is almost complete.
 If there is any "Trick" then this is the trickster!

Ms Bethallyn Black. Teacher of the Natural Building class at DVC
Here are some images of work on the back of the bench. The sticks act as strengthening and key the base and back together.

Because the cob has to dry it took several visits to the bench site to complete the process. Part of the learning was to gauge the moisture content of the mix. The art comes in the fact that depending on the part of the bench, and the chronological order of each particular batch, every mix needs to be slightly different.
Half finish coat applied

What Can I Plant in My Garden Now? 

In Late October it is getting risky to plant small seeds of beets, chard, kale, peas, radishes or lettuce. The nights are getting down to the forties and conditions are becoming too cool for a strong start before winter sets in.
It is possible to plant transplants of beets, cabbage, chard, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, garlic cloves.
It is possible to plant cover crops. UC Davis has a useful list. I have had trouble getting red clover started, as much as I like the idea of how beautiful that could be. Fava beans and mustard seeds are good choices to begin germination as the first rains begin.

From Ariana Notice of a Community Trade Event in Pleasant Hill

*Gregory Gardens Community Trade Event*
    WHEN: November 8th, 2014 from 10am-2pm
    WHERE: Gregory Gardens Elementary School
 Greetings Neighbors!
I’m inviting all families to join us for a very special event taking place on Saturday November 8th from 10am to 2pm. This will be our third community trade event and I hope you can be a part of it one way or another!
Gather your toys, clothes, games, tools, jewelry and anything else you have in mind to trade. This is a great way for us to come together in peace and meet new neighbors while having a great timing enjoying ourselves.
------- The intention of the event is to reduce money usage and introduce the concept of trading; this way we can feel connected and relieve stress! -------
Ø     In addition to the trading, I encourage those who play instruments to bring them down to the park and jam out during the event, which will be held in the field in the back of Gregory Gardens Elementary School.
Ø     If you do any form of art- poetry, painting, singing etc, come show your neighbors how you express yourself! If these are tradable items, feel free to include them with the community trade.
Ø     Bring along a snack as well if you can to help contribute to our feast!
Please be respectful of the area and your surroundings, so clean up after yourself!! Also, remember to bring back your belongings once you leave the event.
 Thank you, hope to see you there!
  If you have any questions or would like to help out,                                                  please contact  Ariana via email –
Collard Treat between 'Joy' and 'Freedom' raised beds at CACG

Building Swales above San Jose

Earlier this month I was able to create rainwater harvesting swales on a 3 acre site at Mt. Hamilton in the hills to the east of San Jose. In total there were several hundred feet of swale which will slow, spread and sink rainwater for a new orchard and natives planting. I very much enjoyed this creative and very useful project and hope to do something similar, closer to home, soon.

The soil was very dry clay. The aim is to create an effective capture of runoff without destroying the beauty and natural flow of the land. Swales are about 1foot deep and 4 to 5 feet across.

I found gopher snakes and spiders.

Gopher Snake
A tarantula?
Thank you all for the support of the Crop Swaps. Next one is on November 26th. The last one of the year. We can light the fire pit and have some hot chocolate afterwards.
Happy days of Fall,
925 286 7225 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Bench In The Making

A few photos, with thanks, for the Natural Building class students from Diablo Valley College (DVC).
The mix. Still 1 part clay to one and a half parts sand with a handful of straw

Late afternoon on Sunday September 28th the bench was uncovered, wetted down, scored a little then added to.
The sticks were added for strength as the bench back was added. It is a little more tricky to pack in the cob around the sticks.
The teacher Bethalyn Black on the left

Only two batches of mix could be added at this time. Drying time is necessary. Our playtime ended with the covering of the newly laid cob. There is an intention to continue, and perhaps complete, the back of the bench next Sunday afternoon October 5th at 4:00pm. Please feel free to come and watch or participate.
Until next week!

Next Saturday October 4th 2014 at CACG

Fall Crops.

At 9:00am we are going to do some cool season planting in the "Joy" raised bed.
Come and join us to learn about what can be planted in our area at this time of the year.
This a an informal sharing of information with a chance to get our hands dirty.
We will also talk about cover crops.

This is a photo of the "Freedom" raised bed at CACG
In it you can see: Squash flowers, Oregon Sugar Snap peas that needed picking yesterday, carrots and Tomatillo

Tractor Aid

We need a pro bono diesel mechanic, or a very discounted one.
Our Beloved Terry Murtha, pastor at the First Baptist Church of Pacheco, just happens to own a Ford 545A with a loader. Known as Mr Ford this helpful machine has been a tremendous help in moving tree chips and compost etc. at the garden. Last year, while moving tree chips, it had a fire around the started motor. Some hoses and electrical wires were damaged.
 Mr Ford is out of commission now and we miss him! Too much moving of materials by wheel barrow burns out volunteers quickly. It might well be that the damage is not too serious. We could fund parts. We just need an experienced eye to survey the damage and possibly make a repair.
This is Terry on Mr Ford during the early stages of CACG development in August 2010
If you are able to offer some Tractor Aid please call me at 925 286 7225
Thank You.


Monday, September 22, 2014

CAT Lover

On September 20th 2014 an enthusiastic group of 13 garden supporters and one Cat moved 70+ cu. yds. of tree chips to mulch the whole CACG.

It was no small feat the we were able to cover the whole garden.
Here is a typical "Before" photo

One area along Flame Drive "After"

Some areas were sheet mulched. Some of the perimeter will need plant replacements when the rain comes.

Cardboard thanks to Trader Joes on Concord Ave.

There was a pot luck lunch ...


As the afternoon went on we were able to clean out some of the vegetable beds that have been fallow over the summer.
It was uplifting and inspiring to see so many smiling, dusty faces working away on a Saturday morning. Many of the volunteers had come from a garden project at home, or were going back to one. Still they offered their time and energy to the enhancement and wellbeing of our community garden.
It was such a joy to witness and I hold much appreciation and gratitude for the day.
Amazed and Happy David

Thank you to:

My beloved partner Tess for calling many tree companies to ask for free tree chips. Also coordinating the food component.

Delivery of Tree Chips.
This is not a super busy time for tree companies. Tree chips are only available when they are working on trimming or removing trees. We did receive free chips from. Bartlett Tree Experts.  Hamilton Tree Service. C&W Tree Service and Traverso Tree Company. Thank you all!

Cresco Equipment Rentals in Pleasant Hill.
They created a huge discount for the CAT 226 skid steer loader that we rented for the day.
I've been working with them for years. They have a very knowledgeable and attentive staff that are courteous and friendly. They become like working partners. I could say much more but perhaps the best way to close is to add that I go out of my way to rent with them. I highly recommend them for equipment rentals.

If all this gifting and coming together of community was not enough ...

The skid steer loader was delivered, returned and paid for by Tim Shelton. Tim lives one block away from CACG and has been a major contributor to the garden this year. Thank you Tim for your generosity in the use of your truck, your financial support and your back in spreading chips all day.

Oh and one more!

Our water bill for CACG was $106 for the two month period ending Sept. 14th 2014.
Terry Murtha, pastor at the First Baptist Church of Pacheco, paid the whole amount. Thank you Terry and Triva.

Crop Swap

This Wednesday Sept 24th at CACG. Please see right side panel for more details.

You might also be interested in:


Toby Hemenway Talk in Benicia

TOBY HEMENWAY, the author of “Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture” is coming to Benicia!
This Friday, September 26, 6 pm, Benicia High School Auditorium
Toby will explain permaculture and how you can apply principles of permaculture to one backyard or to the entire community. He will both inform and inspire!. For more information on Toby Hemenway: The event is sponsored by Benicia Community Gardens.



Local Hands-on Water Harvesting Workshop

Saturday, October 11 - 10am - 3pm $45
Private Residence, Martinez/Pleasant Hill

Learn more and register (space is limited):
We can catch the rain!! The myth of California being too dry is gone.  There is an abundance of water and that water falls on your roof every winter.  It takes just 1" of rain on a 1000 sq ft house to catch over 600 gallons of water.  We'll teach you how.
Join Rootstock Permaculture, Sustainable Contra Costa & Pleasant Hill Green Team as we build a water harvesting system from BlueBarrel Rainwater Catchment Systems using recycled, food grade barrels. You'll learn what it takes to harvest water in small spaces, from sizing and placement to actually installing a water harvesting system.
In this workshop at a Martinez/Pleasant Hill, CA residence, participants will work together to build a 4-barrel (220 gallon!) BlueBarrel System.  Everyone will use their hands.   Everyone will have fun!!

Tina King Neuhausel, President & Co-Founder
Sustainable Contra Costa | 925.979-5053

Thank you for reading all the way down to here !

Happy Autumnal Equinox.