Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Traveling A New Path

December afternoon scene in the Cienega
My husband and I now have a winter home in Arivaca, Arizona, and feel like the luckiest people on earth.  There are warm days filled with sunshine, cool nights filled with starlight, and it's so quiet you can identify birds just by the sound of their wing-beats.  Being far away from the commotion of city life, yet surrounded by community-minded people of all kinds, all these things make Arivaca a very special place.

Having visited this area repeatedly during the past 20+ years for birding vacations and feeling so at home here, it was easy for us to "say yes" when a home came up for sale that was on the edge of town and adjacent to the Cienega (desert marsh) area of the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge.

Buying this home seemed to immediately set the wheels in motion for other life changes:  within a year, I decided to retire from my Magnuson Nature Programs job, and Uno from his recording studio/record label, and we sold our Seattle home of 31 years.  Arivaca will now be our winter home and a sweet little apartment in Snohomish WA will be our summer home.   As many friends have advised us, it's taking time to get used to this much freedom, but we are thoroughly enjoying the process!

I dearly love Magnuson Park and miss "my kids" and friends there, so I look forward to continuing to volunteer there during summer as a member of the Magnuson Children's Garden Committee.  Hiking its trails through its wetlands, grasslands, and forests to look for birds, frogs, and other wildlife is on my "summer agenda" too!   I also look forward to continuing to teach sustainable gardening classes for municipalities, garden clubs, and nurseries throughout Puget Sound while in the northwest.

The newly-planted garden in December 2017
I definitely miss our cozy Seattle garden, with its lush beds and meandering paths, songbirds, and moss, but look forward to co-creating our Snohomish garden in deck containers and shared veggie beds!


Our newly-planted Arivaca garden is filled with native trees and shrubs, and it has been so much fun to build a brand new garden and learn more about desert plants.  Because our land is so close to the lush forest, wetland, and creek of Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, we already have over 65 species of birds hopping, flying, and soaring through, along with butterflies and bees, dragonflies, little lizards and toads.  Cous Deer and Javelina travel outside our gates at dawn and dusk, but Coyote and Gray Fox boldly jump over.  At least one wily coyote even climbed one of our large Mesquite trees up to the roof one night, to eat the Mesquite beans that had fallen there!

Sign in the Arivaca Libary


I am pinching myself every morning when I wake up in this unique ecosystem within the Sonoran Desert:  a high-elevation valley surrounded on all sides by small mountain ranges, with 20+ inches of rain each year (much of it during the "monsoons" of July and August).  I designed the pond in the center of the garden to "slow, spread, and sink" those heavy rains, to prevent erosion on our property and allow all the surface runoff to filter down into the aquifer below.  We also have a grey-water system that puts used laundry water into a smaller pond (off right side of photo) to percolate into the aquifer too.

Having an abundance of rainfall in mid-summer is such a change from Seattle.  It means not having to do as much watering during some of the hottest weather, and a great chance to store storm water for fall and winter, when rain is infrequent.  Cisterns on each side of our house currently store approx. 2600 gallons of rainwater from our roof, and we may add more.   We've also been building a "compost fence"around my art studio building, which I always wanted to do in Seattle but never got around to it.  It's slowly filling up with fallen Mesquite branches, dried grasses, and a few cones from our large Allepo Pine tree.

One of our cisterns
I'm loving the ability to grow veggies and herbs all winter long in raised beds and a small greenhouse too! Our raised beds are right next to the house, can easily be covered with cloches during cold nights, and we are now harvesting chard, spinach, carrots, lettuce, snow peas, and other cool-weather crops. The tomatoes growing in our new small greenhouse should be bearing soon. All of these projects are helping satisfy my love of researching and experimenting with sustainable gardening practices, and in learning more each day!

Our indoor kitties love the view too

The Arivaca farmer's market on "main street" every Saturday provides us with other organic crops to choose from, as well as local vendors with homemade tamales, jam, and all sorts of interesting items.  It's also a short stroll to the mercantile, gas station, post office, library, and cantina (with live music).

We've been made to feel very welcome in Arivaca by everyone we meet, have made a lot of new friends, and are looking forward to sharing this place with all our dear Seattle friends who come down to visit us (hint hint) over the next few years!

Arivaca is also the home of two outstanding non-profits that are providing humanitarian aid to migrants: People Helping People and No More Deaths.  I encourage you to visit their websites and learn more about what's really happening in our country's southern borderlands, because most of it is not being broadcast in any mainstream or alternative media.  It's not easy to know the details, but it's important to us all no matter where we live.

Though I haven't yet had time for resuming my love of painting, I've joined the Arivaca Artists Coop in anticipation of that, and I will soon be releasing two music CDs that will be sold in the coop in addition to being available on iTunes.   The first is a recording of songs I made years ago with some of my favorite musician friends in Seattle as a tribute to Hank Williams,  and the second is a recording I made with John Olufs, a fabulous guitarist and friend, of some of my favorite all-time songs.

I've also begun taping a monthly half-hour radio show called Magnuson Nature News for SPACE 101.FM, which now broadcasts out of Magnuson Park!  My show is on every Monday at 4pm, and you can also listen to it anytime 24/7 on the show's website!  Uno has a small recording setup in our living room, which has been working out perfectly.  The show is all about flora and fauna of Magnuson Park, and features fascinating facts, interviews with kids about their favorite nature memories, and news about upcoming events at Magnuson Children's Garden.  Tune in and enjoy!

Believe it or not, I am finally "coming down the home stretch" on the autobiography I've been writing with our dear friend Foday Musa Suso. 
Starting in 2014, we recorded over 150 hours of him telling me the amazing story of his life: growing up in a small village in Gambia, coming to the US in the late 1970s, forming a band, and subsequently recording and performing with some of the preeminent rock, world music, and jazz musicians on the planet, and much more!  Turning those recordings into a book has been a lot of work, but also a tremendous experience.  "Foday Musa Suso: A Village Griot Boy and the World" will be released as an e-Book, sometime later this year.

Even with all this, and various home and garden projects, we still have time for relaxation and fun, participating in the wonderful community events around here, and even reading some books!  I know it probably doesn't seem like I've actually retired, so maybe that's not the right word for what I'm doing... but no matter what it's called, it feels like the best vacation I've ever had!  

At the end of each day, we sit on the patio and watch the sun going down and the stars beginning to come out.  I'm so happy to have this chance to live a simple life, that is also more than I ever dreamed of.
View from the patio

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Thinking of Spring

 
Hybrid Witch Hazel 'Arnold Promise'

After a January full of rain in the lowlands (and thankfully plenty of snow in the mountains), I am definitely coming down with spring fever!  

However, adding the following winter-blooming, fragrant shrubs to my garden over the years has definitely "paid off" greatly for me, in soothing the winter blues and reminding me that spring is right around the corner no matter what the weather outside:  Vibernum 'Pink Dawn' and V. tinus, Sarcococca, Winter Daphne, Witch Hazel, Tall and Low Oregon Grape, and Evergreen Clematis.  When this parade of sights and smells begins, it makes a lovely view from my window and draws me outside between rainstorms for a sweet-smelling stroll.

I hope you and your garden are weathering whatever storms the winter has brought, and are enjoying the lengthening days of February that are leading closer and closer to the burst of lush green growth of spring.

If your 2016 plans include learning more about making good plant choices for your garden and carrying out other sustainable gardening practices, I hope to see you at one of my FREE workshops, listed belowAnd if you belong to a garden club or other group that would like me to speak at one of your meetings, please visit my website to see the full list of sustainable gardening topics I'll be delighted to present for you!



A Bird's Eye View
Sponsored by Molbak's
Saturday February 27th from 12noon-1:00pm
Location: Molbaks Nursery and Garden Store
13625 NE 175th Street, Woodinville, WA 98072
FREE, and no registration necessary
This class is tailored for kids and their parents!  I'll use hands-on activities, puppets, and colorful photos for a fun hour of learning about how a bird sees a garden, and the "who and why" of their favorite plants.  I'll also provide printed info on how to use plants and other garden features to attract and nurture birds all year round, and all kids will take home a fun factsheet about songbirds and hummingbirds! 
 
Wildlife-Friendly Gardening for Beauty and Sustainability
 
Sponsored by the Cascade Water Alliance and WSU/King Co Master Gardener Program
Saturday March 19th from 10:30am-12noon
Location: Master Gardener Demonstration Garden/Lake Hills Ranger Station
15500 SE 16th Street, Bellevue, WA 98007
FREE, but pre-registration is required via Brown Paper Tickets
Welcome songbirds, butterflies, and beneficial insects into your yard while conserving natural resources at the same time. Discover how urban wildlife can provide you with year-round natural pest and weed control and better pollination. Learn about design techniques and maintenance practices that can attract and nurture beneficial wildlife in your garden for years to come. 



Right Plant, Right Place: Choices for a Healthy Garden
Sponsored by the Saving Water Partnership and North City Water District
Wednesday March 23rd from 6:30- 8:00pm
Location:  North City Water District  
1519 NE 177th Street
Shoreline, WA 98155

FREE, but pre-registration is required.  Email dianep@northcitywater.org or call 206-362-8100
Knowing how to choose the right plants for your specific garden site, and how to plant and maintain them with good gardening practices are keys to creating a healthy garden.  With the recent increases in summer heat and drought, it’s extra important to give your plants the best chance to thrive no matter what Mother Nature brings our way, and without driving up your water use! This class will cover the step-by-step process to choosing plants that will thrive long-term in your garden site, how to spot healthy plants at the nursery, and how to examine and correct any root problems when planting. You will also learn tips on proper use of mulch and fertilizer, best watering and pruning practices, and more.  



Native Splendor in the Garden
Sponsored by the Cascade Water Alliance and the WSU/King Co. Master Gardener Program  
Thursday, March 24, 7:00 - 8:30 p.m.
Peter Kirk Community Center
352 Kirkland Ave, Kirkland
WA 98033
FREE, but Pre-registration is required via Brown Paper Tickets

Learn about Pacific Northwest native plants that are beautiful, easy to care for, and thrive in our unique climate and soil conditions. We’ll focus on plant selections for a variety of growing conditions including challenges such as dry sun and shade, how to use native plants as the foundation for a new landscape or incorporate them into an existing landscape, and maintenance practices that keep them healthy and growing strong.  



Incredible Edible Gardens: Increasing Your Success and Sustainability
Sponsored by the Saving Water Partnership and the Woodinville Water District 
Saturday April 2nd from 10- 11:30am
Location: Woodinville Water District
17238 NE Woodinville-Duvall Road, Woodinville,  WA  98072 
FREE, but pre-registration is required, and link to registration will be added here soon
Growing your own organic food is a delicious way to garden in the Pacific Northwest, but where do you start? Vegetables, berries, and fruit trees do need special care to thrive, but your time and energy will pay off in abundance, great taste, and nutrition. Best of all, food crops can be incorporated into your existing landscape, whether it is large enough for planting an “urban farm”, a small city lot, or a patio container garden! This class will cover what you need to know to grow a fabulous edible garden for years to come.  You’ll receive detailed tips on simple design techniques to maximize production, soil building, planting, attracting pollinators, crop rotation, and other strategies that you can use now to prepare for your next growing season. 


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Right Plant, Right Place: Choices for a Healthy Garden
Sponsored by the Saving Water Partnership and North Shore Utility District
Wednesday April 6th from 6:30- 8:00pm
Location:  Northshore Conference Room 
6830 NE 185th St. Kenmore, WA 98028
FREE, but pre-registration is required at conservation@nud.net or (425) 398-4417
Knowing how to choose the right plants for your specific garden site, and how to plant and maintain them with good gardening practices are keys to creating a healthy garden.  With the recent increases in summer heat and drought, it’s extra important to give your plants the best chance to thrive no matter what Mother Nature brings our way, and without driving up your water use! This class will cover the step-by-step process to choosing plants that will thrive long-term in your garden site, how to spot healthy plants at the nursery, and how to examine and correct any root problems when planting. You will also learn tips on proper use of mulch and fertilizer, best watering and pruning practices, and more. 



Incredible Edible Gardens: Increasing Your Success and Sustainability
Sponsored by the Saving Water Partnership and North Shore Utility District
Wednesday April 20th from 6:30- 8:00pm
Location:  Northshore Conference Room 
6830 NE 185th St. Kenmore, WA 98028
FREE, but pre-registration is required at conservation@nud.net or (425) 398-4417
Growing your own organic food is a delicious way to garden in the Pacific Northwest, but where do you start? Vegetables, berries, and fruit trees do need special care to thrive, but your time and energy will pay off in abundance, great taste, and nutrition. Best of all, food crops can be incorporated into your existing landscape, whether it is large enough for planting an “urban farm”, a small city lot, or a patio container garden! This class will cover what you need to know to grow a fabulous edible garden for years to come.  You’ll receive detailed tips on simple design techniques to maximize production, soil building, planting, attracting pollinators, crop rotation, and other strategies that you can use now to prepare for your next growing season.




Native Splendor in the Garden
Sponsored by Molbak's
Saturday April 23rd from 10- 11am
Location: Molbaks Nursery and Garden Store
13625 NE 175th Street, Woodinville, WA 98072
FREE, and no registration necessary
Learn about Pacific Northwest native plants that are beautiful, easy to care for, and thrive in our unique climate and soil conditions. We’ll focus on plant selections for a variety of growing conditions including challenges such as dry sun and shade, how to use native plants as the foundation for a new landscape or incorporate them into an existing landscape, and maintenance practices that keep them healthy and growing strong.  



Right Plant, Right Place: Choices for a Healthy Garden
Sponsored by the City of Federal Way
Wednesday June 8th from 6- 8:00pm
Location:  Federal Way City Hall
33325 8th Ave. South, Federal Way, WA 98003
FREE, but pre-registration is required, and link to registration will be added here soon Knowing how to choose the right plants for your specific garden site, and how to plant and maintain them with good gardening practices are keys to creating a healthy garden.  With the recent increases in summer heat and drought, it’s extra important to give your plants the best chance to thrive no matter what Mother Nature brings our way, and without driving up your water use! This class will cover the step-by-step process to choosing plants that will thrive long-term in your garden site, how to spot healthy plants at the nursery, and how to examine and correct any root problems when planting. You will also learn tips on proper use of mulch and fertilizer, best watering and pruning practices, and more.  



Rain Gardens and More: Managing Storm Water in the Landscape
Sponsored by the City of Federal Way
Wednesday August 10th from 6- 8:00pm
Location:  Federal Way City Hall
33325 8th Ave. South, Federal Way, WA 98003
FREE, but pre-registration is required, and link to registration will be added here soon
As the open space in the Puget Sound region has become more developed, problems with excessive storm water have also increased. You may have experienced this in your own yard and neighborhood, with seasonal flooding, erosion, or other problems. The good news is that you can add beautiful features to your garden that will be part of the solution! This class illustrates the benefits and methods of creating a rain garden, rock-lined swale, and other projects that you can do to incorporate storm water management into an existing garden.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Keeping my Eyes Open










It's the time of year again when the days are short and the skies are mostly gray, but the older I get, the more that seems to make the occasional blue sky days seem even more golden.  And despite today's rain, the sweet fragrance of winter-blooming Vibernum 'Pink Dawn' still wafts through the raindrops to my screened porch, and even the leaf-covered soil in the surrounding beds smells good to me.  However, I am well aware that my perspective is colored by being fortunate to have a warm and cozy house that makes winter's chill easy to escape.  With so many in our region struggling to keep any kind of roof over their head, I never want to take my luck for granted or be intolerant of a different view of things.

It's so easy for us humans to assume that we are seeing the whole picture at first glance, but time and again I am reminded to keep looking deeper. For instance, the other day when it was sunny and bright, I had the great fortune to look out the front window when a small flock of female Cedar Waxwings settled in for lunch in my Beautyberry bush (Callicarpa).  At first I was a little sad for them, as over the past week many Chickadees, Song Sparrows, Wrens, and other Waxwings had already been feasting, and it didn't look there was much left.  That feeling was short-lived though, as I watched this determined trio hopping to and fro, balancing perfectly to stretch out towards the iridescent purple clusters on the tiniest branch tips that no one else had been able to reach.  They continued meticulously until they had picked off each and every berry that was left, then flew to the top of the bush, fluffed up their feathers, and preened in the sun.  These beautiful little birds were just going about their daily lives, but to me it was another good lesson on keeping my eyes open, no matter what things look like at first glance.   To have "lunch with the Waxwings" was quite a gift, and one that I will treasure in my mind's eye for a long time too.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

CSI for Bees- FREE classes throughout Seattle this summer and fall!

If you'd like to learn more about how to identify, monitor, and help protect our native bees in your own yard, there is a good series of free classes happening now through a partnership between Seattle Parks, the NW Pollinator Initiative, Seattle Tilth, and myself!


Here is the official press release:

Seattle Parks and Recreation is pleased to announce a FREE citizen science course on pollinator and native bee identification. This course, taught by Elias Bloom, a WSU entomologist, and Emily Bishton, a local gardening and nature educator, will emphasize native bee monitoring, but will also include information on flies, wasps, true bugs, beetles, spiders, and butterflies. The goal of this course is to create a group of citizen scientists who will watch bees in their gardens and report to our online forum. You will receive hands-on tools during the course to identify pollinators, record, measure and track your pollinator observations over time!
Children age 8 and older are welcome to join their parents in the class too! You can sign up online at the Seattle Parks SPARC website or by contacting the individual community center by phone.  


Note from Emily: I am co-teaching all of the classes except for the Seattle-Tilth sponsored classes on June 13th and Sept 26th.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

PNW Native Plants: Beautiful and Sustainable!


The longer I garden here in the Puget Sound (37 years and counting...my how time flies), the more I have come to know and love plants that are native to this region.   So many of them have features that are beautiful in all 4 seasons of the year, thrive in multiple types of soil and sun conditions, and require little pruning to keep their structure pleasing and well-suited for a typical-size garden. Here are a few of my favorites:

Red-twig Dogwood thrives in so many different garden conditions, from sunny and dry to moist and partly-shaded. Here it is in my parking strip in early fall, as its leaves begin to turn brilliant colors while it's still in flower and fruit!


Evergreen Huckleberry also thrives in sun or part-shade, with a reddish tinge to it new leaves and winter foliage, plus tasty berries for you and the birds every fall!
Sword Fern is such an under-rated plant!  It thrives in multiple garden conditions too, and when it matures into its  4ft x 4ft glory, it gives an almost-tropical touch to your garden.  Fringe Cups (Tellima grandiflora) is one of our many native perennials that Hummingbirds love to visit!
Low Oregon Grape (Mahonia nervosa) is an evergreen that blooms each March with beautiful fragrant yellow spires, then produces berries for the birds.  Once its roots are established it will even grow in dry shade!
Wild Ginger (Asarum rubrum) thrives in moist shade (which I have a lot of in my garden), and its semi-evergreen foliage and deep red flowers smell just like tropical ginger
Want to learn more?  
Join me at my next class for the UW Botanic Garden: "Native Splendor in the Garden"

Class Description:
Many of our native plants have very ornamental branch structures, flowers, leaves, and berries, making them ideal for incorporating into an established landscape or using as the foundation for a new garden. Native plants are already adapted to our wet winter/dry summer climate and acidic soils, and do not require much fertilizer or supplemental water once established. Adding native plants to your landscape is a great way to increase its year-round beauty without increasing the amount of time and resources you use to maintain it.

This class will provide you with tips for determining which native plants will fit best into your landscape, which plants will also attract birds and beneficial insects to provide natural pest control in your garden, and planting methods for bare-root or containerized natives.

The class will include an indoor presentation with live plants and samples, plus an outdoor tour of mature native plants at the Center for Urban Horticulture!

When: Wednesday, May 13, 2015, 6:30 – 8pm
Where: UW Botanic Gardens - Center for Urban Horticulture, Douglas Classroom (3501 NE 41st St, Seattle, WA 98105)
Contact Information: 206.685.8033 or urbhort@uw.edu
Cost: $20.00

Register Online, or by phone (206-685-8033)