Welcome to my Garden Blog

Nature. Wild & untouched. Photographing it, preserving it, taking walks & drinking in the landscapes as they unfold.

Gardens. Touched by loving hands. Cultivated, nurtured. Drinking in those landscapes is wonderful, as well.

In my garden one enjoys some of both. Generally unpruned & wild, my plants reshape the garden as they grow. Beyond its borders, natives from the Santa Monica Mtns. await. Oaks with their shady canopies. Cactus & Sage in the sun.

And always there are animal creatures to join in the fun.

I look forward to sharing some of my experiences with you as they unfold.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Book Review: Wheat Belly

Okay, this is a departure from what you usually see on my Native Gardener blog.  But this is important stuff.  Learning about what goes on in your own body, paying attention to your nutrition and health ---- got to be healthy before you can create a healthy garden!

A Book Review: Wheat Belly, by William Davis, M.D.

A look at the book’s cover, and you might think this is just a book about losing weight. This book is about so much more!  Wheat Belly takes us on a journey toward understanding: what wheat is, how it interacts with our bodies, and just why wheat is such a pervasive problem in today’s diets.  

Since the 1970’s, the “healthy grain” has gone viral.  Cereal replaced eggs & bacon as a “healthy” breakfast, and boxed/frozen “convenience” foods became the normal staple of the kitchen pantry.  Wheat can be found in all processed “convenience” foods; you do not have to buy wheat bread to get wheat in your diet. And today’s waistlines are a telling sign.  Wheat is a complex carbohydrate that breaks down into sugar in our bodies. Did you know, for example that two slices of wheat bread have more sugar than two tablespoons of white table sugar?

Wheat Belly is also a book for people with gluten sensitivities and those with Celiac disease.  In that regard, I was gratified to see the book started out right up front with the answer to the questions: “What is gluten? And why isn’t wheat the healthy grain my grandma told me to eat?”

Wheat, as modified in the past 50 years, takes a destructive toll on our bodies in so many ways --- as Dr. Davis explains.  Some people have detrimental health effects from consuming wheat even without being gluten sensitive, including diabetics. Wheat affects the way our skin ages, our mental clarity, and so much more.  Having done considerable research on the gluten issue myself, I was happy with the sound and sane foundation this author puts out there. The information is clear and easy to understand even if you have never researched wheat before.

In Wheat Belly, Dr. Davis suggests a wheat free diet would make Americans healthier and almost disease free.  He backs up his ideas with years of research and includes a formidable list of resources for further investigation by those who want to continue studying food and health.

Dr. Davis suggests an optimal diet plan and includes recipes that make it easy to get started living wheat-free.  Obviously, individuals will have to make adjustments to the plan --- vegetarians will want to avoid recipes containing meat; diabetics will want to carefully monitor their sugar, etc. I would tweak some of the dietary suggestions, including the subject of raw nuts (they need to be soaked to avoid belly aches), high sugar content in fruit (taking into account glycemic load rather than glycemic index), making a distinction between simple (good) carbs and complex (bad) carbs, and encouraging portion control when it comes to meat, rather than “all you can eat.”

Most Americans cannot imagine living without the “healthy grain” known as wheat. “If I can’t have bread or pasta, what will I do?”  Wheat Belly does an excellent job of clearing up the confusion of how it can be possible to eat healthy and without our “daily bread.” Wheat Belly is easy to understand, very readable, with a nice dose of humor added in.

What is wheat?  Where is it found in my food?  What does it do to my body?  How is it able to change me, what is the science behind it?  Why isn’t it the same good grain my grandmother ate?  How can I “get off” this addictive grain and still eat delicious meals?  Will I suffer nutritional deficits?   All of these questions and more are answered, as Dr. Davis guides us away from the colorful-boxed aisles that make up the center of our supermarkets and introduces us the healthful world of real food.

An excellent read I think everyone should pick up, Wheat Belly is guaranteed to change the way you look at your “daily bread.”

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Early Autumn, the Fifth Season~

Sycamore Leaf with Purple Sage (Salvia) Seedheads, Santa Monica Mtns, Photo by Kathy Vilim

In California autumn comes slowly, taking her time after a start that might be called “Indian Summer” in other parts of the country. Flowers fade and turn to seedheads; berries open on bushes; Sycamores, Cottonwoods and Willows begin to turn yellow; even Poison Oak puts on a display of red autumn colors. Yet, it is not fully autumn because there is no rain.  Where is the rain?  Southern California gardeners wait for the first rain to initiate autumn.  The plants, the birds, indeed all the wildlife wait expectantly. The Fifth Season then is that season between summer and late autumn, it is the early autumn which is still dry.

In the chaparral of Southern California’s Santa Monica Mountains, there is an unique display of seedheads at this time. The bronze-colored seedheads of Buckwheat  (Fagopyrum esculentum) create a spectacular display when growing en masse on hillsides, a sight that is uniquely Californian.  Buckwheat is such a valuable plant in the wildlife garden year round, attracting native bees and butterflies.  Buckwheat pollen makes a delicious, nutritious honey that local bee keepers take advantage of, as well.

Grasses are a pale brown-to-gray now and lay down in swaths, pressed down by animals and winds.  Seedheads on native chaparral plants stand out against their backdrop, artful in their own way, each lending a delicate independent beauty in the wildlife garden.
Sages (Salvia) are an example of an artful form of seedheads, and their open arrangement on the stem makes them easy to collect.  Sages: black, white or purple, all give so much to pollinators throughout the year, and still in this early autumn without rain they are giving, giving up their seed.
Yellow Squirrel Cover (Hazardia squarrosus), a butterfly favorite, photo by Kathy Vilim
One of the many birds that eat early autumn seed is the California Quail (Callipepla californica). I delight in seeing them pecking & scratching around in my garden this time of year.  Traveling in good-sized groups, whole families will jump over fences  to get at a good batch of seeds, whether in your garden or your neighbor’s.. Quail know no boundary lines.  Though they can fly, they don’t usually bother to take flight unless something startles them, like me opening my back screen door to have a better look!
Much has been written about cleaning up the garden in autumn, getting it ready for winter.  But for the native gardener who welcomes wildlife, there is really not much to do. When the perennials of the chaparral go to seed, the plants take on a completely different appearance, and seedheads are lovely left on the plant, as well as useful to wildlife.  In fact, overdoing, making your garden all picture perfect and tidy can be very detrimental to the relationship of plants to wildlife in this fifth season of early autumn.  No, this season is not so much for doing as it is for watching, enjoying the goings on around you quietly without interference.
This dry fifth season of California’s early autumn is a good time for gathering seeds, while you wait expectantly for the first sign of rain to cast them out~