Garden Work- January in Northern California

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I always want to shout out to everyone- This is the time ! These are the moments to create everything you want in your garden for spring, right NOW ! What you do right now determines how your garden will do and look all year.

It is time to plant, and transplant new shrubs and bare root trees and roses. It’s also when balled and burlap conifers get shipped from Oregon and Washington. They are available right now in your nurseries. Think hard about how you want your garden to look this year. Are there plants you want to add ? Divide ? Is the winter form and structure pleasing in your garden ? Do you want more evergreens ? Are you happy with the shapes and heights of your plants ? Do you need help pruning ?

It’s time to cut back, prune, fruit trees, roses, all deciduous shrubs and trees. I’m planting and dividing perennials for spring and summer color and bloom. In our Northern California climate, growth usually begins in early February, seeds can be ordered for planting then. Mulching all the beds with a thick layer of compost ( amending the soil should be done at least once a year). I often put chips all over the perennial beds and this thick mulch, now too. Or if I have spring annuals in place mulch those beds too. Fruit trees benefit from a thick layer of compost, then chips just make sure the base is not covered. The compost helps decompose any fungus trapped in leaves on the ground. I also start putting out an organic all purpose fertilizer now. I like the California Organics 7-10-7 . I only need to apply it once a year because of all the compost I also add.
You might want to put in irrigation under the chips, so you don’t have to see the unsightly lines, that has to be done now too. If you’re really on top of it you can check irrigation, but I usually wait till March for that.

On our homestead, we do a lot of cleaning up with fires now. Areas where we fell trees for firewood, or trees just fell, can be handled easily this way.

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Local small farms are important

Good Farm Fund awards grants to 14 Mendocino County farms

By: Erick O’Donnell

The Good Farm Fund, an agricultural grant program sponsored by North Coast Opportunities, awarded $20,000 worth of grants this week to 14 small farms throughout Mendocino County.

The grants will fund small infrastructure projects that will allow farmers to increase food production and, hence, revenue and profit, helping them to overcome steep economic obstacles on their way to self-sufficiency, said Caroline Radice, who sits on the program’s steering and grant committees.

With high land prices, farmers face a high barrier to entry, and the cost of investing in capacity-building projects can further impede the ability of small farmers to establish themselves in the capital-intensive business of agriculture, she said.

The Good Farm Fund will fully bankroll some projects and partially fund others, with matching grants or financing from other sources, she said.

Members of the grant committee were reluctant to let any projects go without financial support, so they decided to spread funds over as many projects as they could while ensuring other funding sources would cover the shortfalls, ultimately approving grants for 14 out of the 16 projects, she said.

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Life

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles roll
ed into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full.. The students responded with a unanimous ‘yes.’

The professor then produced two Beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand.The students laughed..

‘Now,’ said the professor as the laughter subsided, ‘I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things—-your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions—-and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car.. The sand is everything else—-the small stuff.

‘If you put the sand into the jar first,’ he continued, ‘there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life.

If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.

Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and mow the lawn.

Take care of the golf balls first—-the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the Beer represented. The professor smiled and said, ‘I’m glad you asked.’ The Beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of Beers with a friend.

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Organic Garden Maintenance

Organic Garden Maintenance

If you are having a maintenance service maintain your grounds and gardens, pay attention to whether or not they are routinely using Round Up. If you have a gravel driveway and it has not been recently replaced, you are likely to be getting weeds there. If the drive is brown and there’s no green at this time of the year, the gardeners are probably spraying it monthly with round up. Also the area near your house, the first two feet around the building is it brown ? This is also a typical place to spray Round up. Pathways, rock areas, even weeds in garden beds are also commonly addressed by this herbicide
When Round Up, glyphosate, first hit the market, it was advertised to be out of the soil within twenty four hours of application. This has been disproved, but many still believe the original claims. Round Up has been declared a carcinogen and is very toxic. We don’t want to use this here, do we ?
I believe after thirty seven years of estate gardening that Round Up is not the way to go. I have been maintaining large and small gardens for more than ten years without any chemicals. It takes slightly more time, but it is so worth it, for the homeowner and the gardeners health, as well as the earth.
When the ground is covered with plants or wood chips, this helps to keep the garden weed free. Drip systems watering only the area around the plant helps too. Adjusting your view to realize you will have a mowed gravel driveway, not just rock. Some other expectations might have to be adjusted, but it can still look great and the cost doesn’t need to be more.

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/05/20/glyphosate-roundup-levels.aspx

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New Local Blog Mark Gross

My friend Mark Gross, a long time writer for the Washington Post has started a local blog. He is excited and ever so curious about the area, so he’s finding the inner sanctum and writing about it.

He told me he would help me host a local party. I have a hard time throwing planned parties and I hadn’t had one in years. I can do spontaneous parties and baking days were often like parties here.

Anyway, it ended up being one of the worst storm nights of the year. Power out everywhere, trees down, Hwy 1 closed. But everyone came ! We managed to fit almost thirty people in here comfortably, while Dennis baked roasted lamb in the brick oven.

Check out his new blog.
https://marksanfordgross.wordpress.com/2016/05/05/discovering-oz-without-a-tornado-taking-me-there/

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Developing Land in Mendocino Coastal Area- categorical exemptions

Now I’m no expert, but I have gone through developing two properties, bought as bare land in the Mendocino Coastal Area. I can say I was shocked and surprised each time by how difficult and challenging this was. I’am in no way a legal representative of these building laws, but having dodged through this I’d like to help some others if I can with my experience only.

If you are up for a more moderate challenge, buy a property that has an existing building, septic, well and power on it. Remodeling and adding on to an existing building is much cheaper and easier.
But if you are like me and are up for a bigger challenge, or you just can’t find what you are looking for out there, you might be thinking of buying bare land.
If you buy land in coastal commission jurisdiction, you are looking at a minimum of three years to be able to break ground and start to build. Before you can apply for a Coastal Development Permit you must have a site plan with almost all of the development you want to do on this plan. Then you need house elevations and floor plans, a septic system design, botanical study- which is only possible a few months of the year. Then forestry dept. permit with all access roadways figured in. Possibly geological studies and archeological studies. Solar power design or a engineered design from the utility company for electrical service. Whew, are you overwhelmed yet ?

But, there are many properties that have exemption areas in our Coastal Area. This is a link to a map of parcels on the south coast http://www.co.mendocino.ca.us/planning/pdf/Coastal_Zone_South.pdf
The shaded areas on this map show parcels that have Categorical Exemption Areas. If you want to build a regular single family dwelling, including a barn, garage, wells, septic and appurtenant structures. You can do this WITHOUT going through a Coastal Development Permit if the improvements are all going within the exemption area. There is an application that the county has to approve the verify the Categorical Exemption that it is not within I think, 100′ of a waterway, and that it does not have more than a 20 degree slope. Here is the link http://www.co.mendocino.ca.us/planning/pdf/CatEx_Conds_-_08-28-92.pdf. I think you could ask a planner before you purchase a piece of land to verify the Categorical Exemption. Once you fill out this form, it is only good for three years. You have to at least have obtained a permit for the work within this time. If you want to build a second residential unit, guest house or family care unit ( granny unit 1000 sq. ft. and a kitchen, certain requirements are necessary for this temporary permit ) you need to go through the Coastal Development permit process.

I do not speak as any expert here and I’m only trying to be helpful, please double check every thing you do with the county. But maybe this can help people to swim through this complicated system and develop beautiful properties in this wonderful area.

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Class K Mendocino County

Navigating class K , or Rural Residential permits is a bit complicated, yet well worth it. A very well written law, Class K allows you to build using recycled, upcycled building materials and alternative methods of construction http://www.co.mendocino.ca.us/planning/pdf/Class_K_Ordinance.pdf . Including milling your own wood and not needing to have it graded. Possibly being able to avoid having to do the energy calculations, if you are heating only with renewable energy, solar or wood heat. Modify you plans as you build, with written notification . Live in the structure as its being built. Most structures can be drawn by the owner, and don’t need to be engineered. Only one inspection at the end if you want, or you can still get multiple inspections. It’s a law based on safety as the criteria, safety for the occupants. So handrails, fire and co2 detectors, legal GFI protected electrical circuits in the kitchen and bathroom still need to be to code. A lot of the building code goes back to 1976, so has more leeway than the current National Building code.
You have to live in an unincorporated area of Mendocino county. It’s meant to be for an owner builder’s primary residence, so it can not be built to sell, or to rent for the first few years anyway. Class K can also be used for additional structures on the property as well, within zoning restrictions.

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This building we are building using logs . Cut and peeled on our property here. We were also able to use recycled windows making our building cost substantially lower.

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