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          • June 21, 2019 Tips to Help Pollinators
            Tips to Help Pollinators

            National Pollinator Week is a time to celebrate pollinators and spread the word about what you can do to protect them.

            Just like people, pollinators need food, water, shelter, and a safe and healthy environment to live in and raise their young. Here are some ideas for ways you can help pollinators in your schoolyard, community garden, or home landscape.

            Plant a pollinator-friendly garden with a variety of flowering plants to give a succession of bloom from spring to fall. This will provide pollinators with nectar and pollen to feed on all season long. Remember that many flowering trees and shrubs are important sources of food for pollinators early in the season. Especially when planting flowering annuals and perennials, try to group each kind of plant into clumps of three or more rather than dotting them individually throughout your garden. This makes it easier for pollinators to locate plants!

            Include lots of native plants in your garden. Native plants have evolved along with native pollinators, making them generally the most beneficial to these insects. Choose native plants that are adapted to the soil, light, and moisture conditions in your garden and you’ll help pollinators and make your garden care easier.

            Include plants to feed all stages of pollinators’ life cycle. There are no butterflies without caterpillars! Make sure you have plants that will feed both the immature as well as the adult stages of pollinators. For example, while adult monarch butterflies feed on many kinds of flowers, their caterpillars feed exclusively on milkweed plants. Similarly, the caterpillars of eastern black swallowtails feed on plants in the carrot family, like Queen Anne’s lace, carrots, parley, and dill. And accept that these caterpillar host plants will be chewed on – plant them in an inconspicuous spot if you don’t want to look at ragged leaves.

            Minimize the use of pesticides, even organic ones. Even pesticides approved for organic gardens may harm pollinators, so try to keep any pesticide use to a minimum. If you do use a one, choose a pesticide with the lowest risk to bees and other pollinators; check the label for bee hazard information. Spray in the evening after the pollinators have stopped flying.

            Go wild! If you can, let a corner of your schoolyard or backyard go “wild.” A wooded area, hedgerow, or unmowed “mini-meadow” will provide shelter, food, and nesting areas for many pollinators.

            Provide a source of water. A shallow basin of water set on the ground with some stones or piles of gravel in it on which insects can perch will help pollinators quench their thirst. Some insects, especially butterflies and some pollinator bees, prefer a mud puddle. Let a hose or faucet drip just a bit to form a damp, muddy sipping spot. Add a bit of sea salt or wood ashes to the mud to add micronutrients and minerals to their diet.

            Don’t be too tidy. Leave some leaf litter and plants standing over the winter to provide spots for pollinators to overwinter. If you can, leave some dead wood standing in an out-of-the-way area to provide nesting sites for native bees.

            Build bee housing. Make nesting blocks for pollinating bees that nest in wood, such as mason bees, by drilling at least 10 holes 4 to 8 inches deep and 5/16” in diameter in a block of untreated wood. Hang your bee “condo” with the holes set horizontally at least 3 feet off the ground and facing as close to southeast as possible.

            Enhance your lawn. Lawn “weeds” like white clover and dandelions provide a source of food for pollinators when they’re in bloom. Think of your lawn as pollinator habitat and embrace the idea of letting more than just turf grasses grow there.

            Spread the word. One pollinator-friendly garden is good; an entire neighborhood or community of them is even better! Share information with your school community, neighbors and others in your town or city about the importance of protecting and nurturing pollinators, and encourage them to make their gardens and landscapes welcoming to pollinators too.

            Tips procured from the 501c3, Kids Gardening

            Picture credit - Spoke and Blossom

          • June 17, 2019 There Are Signs
            There Are Signs

            You have to notice when the universe is cheering you on...

            As Jenny looked to follow her heart and instincts to create an ethical kitchen collection, signs from the universe were sometimes the only thing keeping her going (besides copious amounts of coffee and green tea).

            Be inspired by this talk from Tina Roth Eisenberg, founder of Tattly and Creative Mornings. And remember, it is our job to be present and grateful for omens, big and small, to help us keep the faith on this journey called life...

            Ps. Happy Full Moon! Our fave Mystic Mamma has you covered, if you want all the astral insights...

          • June 14, 2019 Fresh Out of the Oven
            Fresh Out of the Oven

            As you know, I strive for zen vibes and expressions like ‘never judge a situation - wait for the outcome’ sound stupendous, but is a concept that is difficult to practice in the heat of the moment. When facing down a less than desirable scenario, I usually go deaf momentarily as the ‘it’s not fair’ song plays full blast in my head. My senses did a full back flip into mania when last November, UPS lost a package full of expensive dress patterns, fabric yardage and samples. As I desperately called the tracking and claims departments for weeks, it became clear they were never going to locate it and really didn’t care about my problems. Poof, the new collection was gone. Usually, I would fly into troubleshooting mode and force things to happen, but this time around I felt paralyzed. And because I didn’t know what to do, I did nothing. I think it was a combo of resignation, disappointment and fatigue, but regardless, my non-action opened up a lot of space in my normally hyper-charged mind.

            As the months went by, I found myself not thinking about fashion, but the kitchen, my favorite room in any home. I thought about how much I love food and cooking, as well as all the chefs, writers, bloggers and culinary publications I admire. I mulled over how I would rather talk about recipes than what went down at the last fashion week. And so I began going through all my tear sheets and started a mood board of what my heart was telling me (see below). With a sense of calm, I stepped back and saw this undeniable instinct burning in my belly to create an ethical kitchen collection that was useful and sparked joy with all genders and age groups. I began waking up early to design and plot, the next thing I knew, I had a 4 month accelerated production calendar, serendipitous sparks were flying and very kind people were coming out of the woodwork to help me.

            I’m so proud to debut Loyale’s ethical kitchen essentials...each piece is crafted with care in downtown San Francisco and is made of the very best materials. We're donating 3% of our sales to La Cocina and Kitchen Table Advisors, two commendable and inspiring non-profits. The whole collection is now online and I couldn’t be happier to share it with you all. Sometimes unexpected happenstances lead to life changing plans...I judged my lost package situation as a disaster, but it’s clear now, that experience was just what I needed to pause, explore new avenues and pivot Loyale in a direction that makes me smile.

            I would like to shout out a huge thanks to Irene, Hannah, Hetal and Skyler, they are the beautiful, talented and generous women you see here and throughout our website...Happy June friends and as always, thank you for following along - this is one wild journey!

          • June 13, 2019 Coping with Storms
            Coping with Storms

            Many of you know that one of my favorite experiences of 2018 was participating in the Masumoto Family Farm Adopt-A-Tree about it here. Well, I'm all set to take part again and I've really been enjoying the Field Notes e-newsletters that keep me informed of farm life and how the trees are shaping up for 2019.

            Read below for a fascinating look at farm life and how nine minutes of bad weather can wreak utter havoc. Learning about the Masumoto's monthly ups and downs, really puts how delicate our food systems are in perspective for me...I'm sharing their latest update to give you a peek into their world and I hope you stay tuned for my personal field notes coming in August.

            Hello Adopt-A-Tree teams,

            Just a few weeks ago last month on Sunday, May 19th, I stood in my kitchen staring out the window. Rain poured from the sky in a fury, as if it was angry at the clouds and thus hurled itself recklessly towards the ground.

            Then the sound changed.

            The rain drops that once splat on the roof transitioned into thuds. My heart sank. I threw open the door and stood under our patio to verify what I feared: hail.

            I grabbed my phone to look at the time and called my dad. "Dad, it's hailing."

            Mas, "No."

            When I was about 9 years old, a hail storm descended upon our farm in June and destroyed nearly our entire crop for the year. I remember this distinctly. I saw my dad throw his hands up and yell at the sky, tormented with grief and helplessness. That hail storm lasted 7 minutes.

            The hail on Sunday, May 19th of this year lasted about 9 minutes.

            As soon as it passed, we rushed out to the fields to begin assessing damage. But the reality is: we won't know the extent of the damage until it is time to harvest.

            Our first varieties of the season have shown a lot of hail damage. In addition to the hail, we also had record-rainfall in May, leaving a prime climate for rot, especially after the hail sliced open some fruit. We have to do more calculations, but we're guessing we did not break even on our first two varieties of stone fruit. This season has tested our ability to remain positive in the face of losing 40-50% of our first three crops of the season.

            But, not all is lost. This is part of why we've diversified our varieties and grow fruit that ripens from May through your trees in late July and/or early August.

            So....How are your trees?

            The lucky part of it: when the hail hit, the fruit on your Adopted trees was still very small, hard, and green and had a fair amount of leaf cover to protect and shield from the hail. Your trees are still growing and the fruit appears mostly ok.

            Overall: it appears your fruit survived the hail with very little damage.

            (Unfortunately, our first 3 varieties of our season did get damaged by the hail. And as we now are closing our fourth variety, we realize the hail will haunt our entire season. Yet, we are also thankful it wasn't worse.)

            Moving forward: thinning

            After a big exhale, the work continued! A few weeks ago we thinned your trees.

            Thinning is a process through which we remove some of the green fruit from the branches (all by hand) in order to leave space and allow the tree's energy to focus on growing and ripening the remaining fruit.

            Some years, depending on the "set" ("set" is the term we use to describe the conversion of blossoms to fruit, a strong "set" means that the majority of the blossoms did indeed turn into fruit), we remove up to around 75 - 80 %.

            For the past few years: we have barely thinned.

            The Elberta peach trees have not had many blossoms and not set super well that past few seasons.

            The Le Grand nectarine trees similarly, have had fewer blossoms in the past few years than before.

            This year, most of the Elberta peach trees were loaded with fruit!! We sent our expert crew through and they thinned a healthy amount of fruit.

            The Le Grand nectarines were more inconsistent. Some trees had a nice set and needed some healthy thinning, while others, we thinned very little. We are able to do such specific thinning because our workers are awesome and so experienced they make adjustments depending on what the tree needs.

            We are delighted with the way the trees look so far --- hopeful for the flavors that will develop and humbled that we limp through hail damage and also are grateful for what could have been a total disastrous hailstorm.

            The question remains on our minds: if 9 minutes of hail can create such destruction on a farm, how do we plan for these kinds of disasters? How might we structure the risk of farming in the future? When and how do we ask for support from others? Most of all: what if we designed a food system with an intimate understanding of the risks inherent in growing food?

            For your trees, it remains to be discovered the extent to which the hail may have damaged any fruit. If there are scars, pock marks, or other signs of hail damage, the fruit is still edible, just not unblemished. We'll just have to wait and see!

            The good work continues, Nikiko