Book Notes: Reimagining the California Lawn

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A recent visit to a local gardening club allowed me to meet someone from the local chapter of a group dedicated to encouraging the planting of native plants. Among their materials was a book I was drawn to immediately, Reimagining the California Lawn: Water Conserving Plants, Practices and Designs (Cachuma Press) authored by Carol Bornstein, David Fross and Bart O’Brien. As I’m sure you know, Californians statewide are grappling with reduced water resources and alternatives are being sought out by landscapers and home gardeners alike.
Now entering our fifth year of reduced rain and snowfall, pouring water out onto our long held practice of lush green lawns is no longer feasible, or even acceptable. Gardeners everywhere are turning to practical alternatives, and the results are often a delight. And Reimagining the California Lawn is helping to light the way! The book is graced with the exquisite photos of well known and highly regarded gardening photographer Saxon Holt, as well as editor/photographer John Evarts. I found all the photos invaluable, as they truly do highlight the many possibilities of a lawn reimagined. This shift in rethinking how we plan and use our gardens is nothing short of a sea change, and I think we all need all the help we can get, don’t you?

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Reimagining the California Lawn is structured around three primary chapters: Garden Designs for Lawn Replacement; How to Manage, Reduce, or Remove Your Lawn; and a very extensive and helpful third chapter, called Plant Profiles, which readers will very much appreciate. These three sections are followed by a Recommended Plant Selections, listing choices for these considerations: Aggressive, Aromatic Foliage, Attractive to Bees, Bulletproof, Deer Resistant, Dried Arrangements, Dry Shade, Dry Wind, Fast Growing, Frost Tender, Hummingbirds, Poisonous/Allergenic, Poor Drainage, Seashore Conditions, Silver,Gray, White or Blue Foliage, Slow Growing, Spiny or Prickly. Isn’t that a resource-rich list? It makes me want to look plants up right away!

Here are some more visual suggestions taken from Reimagining the California Lawn:

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Barrel cactus

Carex praegracillis-Lawn substitute Carex praegracillis

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Artichoke agave with blue fescue

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Canyon Prince wild rye and autumn moor grass

While Californians and other westerly states might best benefit from this book, I believe there is a bit of something for everyone. And the photos alone are worth the price of the book. It’s that beautiful and inspiring. I’m very happy to have it in my library. Highly recommended!

Love and garden blessings,
Kathryn xoxo

Book News: Pleased to announce an excerpt from Plant Whatever Brings You Joy: Blessed Wisdom from the Garden will be included in the fall issue of GreenPrints magazine! Also, this blog, Plant Whatever Brings You Joy was recently named Gardening Blog of the Week by Nature Hills Nursery, America’s Largest Online Plant Nursery! We are honored!


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Know and Include a Wide Variety of Species in Your Garden

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Dearest Readers,

Amazingly, it has been six years since the publication of my book Plant Whatever Brings You Joy: Blessed Wisdom from the Garden! In honor of this anniversary I am sharing the final chapter of my book with you today. It will not go unnoticed that this chapter speaks to diversity, which I cherish, as do all gardeners and travelers, alike. I hope you will enjoy.

In addition, Goodreads is hosting a Giveaway of three copies of my book. There are five days left to enter. Please enter and good luck!

Love and garden blessings,
Kathryn xoxxo

Know and Include a Wide Variety of Species in Your Garden

I don’t know where the expression Pig Heaven comes from, but whenever
I have lived in the country, that’s where I’ve been. In Pig Heaven.
One of the greatest joys of having lived at the end of a dirt road on four
acres of property in the woods was that I really could have as many animals
as I wanted — and was surrounded by other people’s animals, as
well as the ones who lived there in their natural habitat. We lived among
them, I often reminded myself. They arrived first, and I tried to abide
respectfully with that in the front of my mind.
My own extended creature tribe grew to include that gorgeous Bantam
rooster, Chanticleer, whom you will recall I found camped out bravely
in the woods, wisely next to a stream, and his girlfriend, Henny Penny;
two English budgies; the 23 canaries; the cats: spunky old Amelia and
my precious Honeypot, and later, Luna, the Maine Coon showcat and
my beloved Border Collies, Moxie and Peaches.
Adding to my joy were my neighbors’ animals with whom I shared
various fences. I fondly visited Cheyenne the donkey, whose pasture
butted up against my apple orchard near the entrance to my property.
Handy for her. And how I treasured the 32-year-old sway back horse
belonging to my German neighbors who lived just below, all without the
direct and daily responsibilities of taking care of either of them. I was
like the auntie, who called friendly greetings and offered the occasional
apple, allowing them to munch their way to their own Pig Heaven.
One of my very favorite adventures with Cheyenne was the day I
decided to include her in a photo shoot I did for a visiting Mexican
mariachi band in exchange for their playing their lively music at my
daughter’s 30th birthday party. The band returned a week later in full
costume, complete with black embroidered jackets and wide matching
sombreros and I marched them all down to the orchard in the hot sun
and lined them up along the fence, with Cheyenne occupying the center
of the photos. I take great delight knowing she is likely now gracing
the cover of this mariachi band’s latest CD somewhere in Guadalajara,
unbeknownst to her owners.
Not limited to domestic animals, my kingdom included a restless fox
who arrived on Christmas Eve only to pace up and down the dirt drive
that ran before my front door for a full ten minutes. I don’t know why.
Deer traipsed through almost daily, including a spectacular young buck
with large proud points who allowed me to photograph him one bright
spring afternoon as he stood alertly facing me in the garden in front of
my guest cabin. Wild turkeys came often and voraciously cleaned up
the corn spill from Chanti and Henny Penny’s pens. They would surround
the pens in a scarf of feathers and give new meaning to the word
gobble, and having eaten the last crumb, would depart, only to return
to scavenge another day. Coyotes threaded their way through the warp
and woof of daily life in the woods. Each bore different energies, and
different agendas, a good lesson. Some could be trusted. Others certainly
could not and I would protectively draw the cats closer to the hearth.
As each animal crossed my path I researched. I hit the Net. I looked
them up. I read about each one, expanding my knowledge of their habits,
their lives, their inclinations. I dispelled wives’ tales I’d heard as a child.
I educated neighbors who eyed their guns when the coyotes and wild
turkeys passed through. I learned to better trust my own instincts. This
coyote is here for apples. That one is here for cats or anything else it can
churn into energy to survive.
Sitting on the bank one afternoon just out of reach beyond the flimsy
wire fence sat, what? A cat? No. A grey fox. Staring at me. I retired to the
house, somewhat shaken. Still, the frame of the sighting was precious.
Strangers’ cats crossed the land. Neighbors’ cows drifted in. And out.
A mouse in the toilet at 2:00 AM. Really. I had almost sat down but
noticed an unfamiliar shadow in the bowl, illuminated by the nightlight
and turned on the overhead light just in time. What to do? Call the
dogs. Sleepily the dogs peek into the toilet bowl. What do you want us
to do? Do something! They try to rouse from their slumber, eyes barely
open. It’s a mouse. Yes, I know it’s a mouse. In my toilet. Help me out.
They try to respond but it’s beyond their comprehension at this hour.
A simple mouse. In the toilet. They go back to bed. In sleepy desperation,
I flush the toilet. Twice. It’s gone. Sometimes the most expedient
and obvious solution is not what you really would want to have chosen
under other conditions.
These adventures are now a firm part of my world, richly included
among the many joys of my life. I deeply treasure having lived in the
woods on the edge of the unknown, sharing my life, my chapters within
the natural habitat of other creatures, my heart expanding with each
interaction, as each lovely one entered the stage of my life, sharing with
me, gracing me with their exquisite presence.
Each and every adventure I have chosen, dear readers, held within it
the power to expand, to teach. The more I risked, the wider and more
diversely I chose, the richer my experience and the more precious the
gift. I have been so blessed. Aren’t we all?

Moxie:Peaches
Moxie and Peaches in the garden

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Plant Whatever Brings You Joy by Kathryn  Hall

Plant Whatever Brings You Joy

by Kathryn Hall

Giveaway ends July 17, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway


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The Lemon Curd Club

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blossom in my lemon tree

It was my dearest friend Maloah who introduced me to lemon curd, which was apparently a tradition in her family–she used to make it with her mother. And so she continues to spread the joy, gifting bottles on special occasions. In my case, it was a birthday. She had put the curd in a glass bottle, and covered it with a lid, over which she put a small circle of colorful cloth, secured with a ribbon. “That cloth is from Maui!” she beamed. She loves Maui.

While I was grateful for the lemon curd, I honestly didn’t really know what to do with it. It felt like something I ought to know, but lemon curd was not a part of my upbringing, nor were hippies making it when I was exploring healthy foods in San Francisco, and later Amsterdam. Macrobiotic folks would not have approved. Pretty sure.

But those days are over. And lemon curd is a lovely new adventure. So I asked. “Put them on scones!” everyone said on Facebook, knowing I make scones every week or so. I’m not inclined to put anything on a scone, so I continued to explore my lemon curd preferences. What I did discover, that delighted me no end, was that my dear friend Liz in the UK makes lemon curd with some regularity for her family (and they do put it on scones, I think) and they call it lemon cheese. Well, I adore it when I discover that someone I know through social media has something in common in the kitchen–or the garden. You look for connection where you find it. So that was acknowledged. Liz and I and Maloah all make lemon curd (or cheese, depending on your regional preferences). Then Liz posted her recipe for someone, and somewhere about that time the idea for The Lemon Curd Club was born.

What is The Lemon Curd Club? I’m still not entirely sure where it will go. But initially, I’ve been thinking, you simply follow the recipe that I’m about to post below, and send a pic to prove you did it (ha). And you are in. You will officially be part of The Lemon Curd Club. Voila and congratulations! So my early thoughts about this are that it might be refreshing to be able to join a club that does nothing beyond simply being a group of women and men who have made lemon curd. And no, it doesn’t count if you have once upon a time made lemon curd. You needn’t follow this particular recipe–though I encourage you to as it is simply delicious! But to belong to The Lemon Curd Club you have to make a batch starting now, and send us a pic in the comments section. Take your time. 😉 And I have this notion that it might be just fun to belong simply because of that. And maybe we never do another thing together again. Or maybe we do. But this is the start. It makes me happy. It rings with joy. If you are resonating with something so silly and simple and delicious (and who knows how it might change your life?), join us. Oh, yes, and Maloah and Liz are Official Honorary Members, since they basically spurred this on, though they knew not. That’s fine.

So here is this exquisite recipe which I found and then tweaked a bit. And it is heavenly, dear friends. I promise.

Lemon Curd Recipe from the Lemon Curd Club

3-4 lemons
1 1/2 C. sugar
1/4 lb. sweet butter
1/2 C. freshly squeezed lemon juice
pinch of salt

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Noteworthy: While you may begin with whatever grater you have on hand, if you want an excellent result, please do invest in a fine grade microplane zester. You will be so glad you did. It’s a breeze to use and there’s no comparison in quality. Also, you don’t really want to include the white fibre underneath the skin, so this is a sure and easy way to make sure you only skim the outside of the lemon.

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OK, so shave off the zest of 3-4 lemons. Then place the zest in your Cuisinart or food processor with the sugar.

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Then pulse a few times until it looks like this.

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Easy, right?

Now in a large bowl, cream the sweet butter. [Folks in the UK or EU: in America we actually most commonly sell salted butter. I always use sweet (unsalted) butter, unless I’m making garlic bread…] Add the sugar/lemon zest mix. Then add four eggs, one at a time. Please use large organic eggs. The better the ingredients, the better the result. Always. Then add the 1/2 C. lemon juice, making sure no seed bits made their way into the juice. And the pinch of salt. Mix it up. You should now have this:

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Now. Warning. This is the single thing that could go horribly wrong and I don’t want you to learn this the hard way, like I did. Sort of. (I salvaged it, but it was a disappointment.) For what you now do is to transfer the above mixture into a thick 2-quart pan and you put the heat on low, and you stir and stir and stir and stir until it thickens. If you think you can do the washing up or let the cat out or whatever, rather than to keep stirring, you are flirting with disaster and you will be sooo annoyed with yourself. (And I promise not to say I told you so.) But really, this is where a bit of patience is required. Probably about 10 minutes worth. And the results are just scrumptious (or scrummy as they say in the UK!).

And then what I do is to put the lemon curd is several small bottles, as I always end up giving some away and it’s such a lovely gift for a neighbor, or a friend who stops by. So here is my batch from today, cooling in jars.

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When they are cool, place a thin layer of plastic wrap over the jar, and place in frig. Or you can add a traditional canning lid.

Let us know when you’ve made a batch of lemon curd and join The Lemon Curd Club! And please let us know how you use it! I’m envisioning friends from near and far! All joined together by a yummy recipe! Who knows where this will lead??

Love and kitchen blessings,
Kathryn xoxox

PS: You can always eat it directly out of the jar…And I bet you do!! Haha! 😉

Book News: Many thanks to those who came to my book event at Copperfield’s Books in Healdsburg last weekend! It truly was fun! Also, just learned that GreenPrints magazine–highly recommended–will be publishing another excerpt from Plant Whatever Brings You Joy in the fall. Wonderful! Thanks also to those who have recently subscribed to this blog–and to those who have taken time to write reviews of my book on Amazon. Each one is a treasure beyond measure. THANK YOU!!


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