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Wood Fired Pizza Ovens. That’s Amore!

Posted May 24th, 2012
Belgard Pizza Oven

Wood Fired Pizza Oven

It seems Californians love their pizzas baked in wood-fired ovens as much as pizza’s original creators – the chefs from Naples – do!  Becoming a fixture in many Californian backyards,  trimmings on a pizza oven can be as variable as those on a pizza itself.  With the inner framework of these ovens now standardized and optimized, both do-it-yourself homeowners and contractors can build a backyard pizza oven that keeps the family coming home for supper.  Recent clients wanted to know:  How Big, How Fast, How Hot, How To and How Much? So, Green Life Studios’ designers investigated, and came up with these answers.

How Big?

Wood Fired Pizza Ovens should be big enough to hold both burning embers and the baking pizzas at once.

Round Pizza Oven

Round Wood Fired Pizza Oven

For the typical homeowner, an overall oven footprint of 4 feet deep and 4 feet wide will bake up to 3 pizzas at once; 5 feet deep and almost as wide will cook 5 pizzas; 6 feet deep and almost as wide produces 6 pizzas, and so on.  The most popular styles stand about 6 feet tall, chimney included, which puts the oven chamber at about elbow height over a vestibule for stacked wood, or stored ashes, below.  There is little additional cost to building a bigger pizza oven, so you should build as big a pizza oven as your available space (or appetite!) allows.

How Fast?

Baking a pizza takes anywhere from 60 seconds to 3 minutes in a 700 degree oven, up to 20 minutes at 500 degrees.

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8 Ways to Get Rid of Snails and Slugs in Your Garden

Posted May 20th, 2012
Brown Garden Snail

Brown Garden Snail

Do you have legions of snails marching into your garden?

White snail

White Snail (common in San Diego)

Snails prey on garden plants mostly at night, especially during cloudy or foggy weather.  Consuming leaves mainly, but sometimes new bark, fruit and flowers as well, snails and slugs are an unwelcome nuisance and “nerve-crunching surprise”, causing unsightly damage to plants no matter what kind of gardener you are.  Even if you don’t see them during the day, their slime trails and irregular holes cut with smooth edges give their presence away.  Assuming you’re not fond of eating “escargot” and you can’t keep up with the refilling chore of the “beer trap” — here are the 8 best ways to launch a successful counter attack on the snails and slugs in your garden:

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East Bay CLCA Chapter Breaks Old Mold with Participation

Posted December 16th, 2011
The Ewing Team

Ewing Teammembers Stacy Nordahl & Christine Hawkins

Lo and behold, every chapter event this year exceeded attendance expectations and made money for the East Bay Chapter.  To blame:  the unrivaled competence in our Executive Assistant Laura Leuer’s execution of duties, the energetic board players at our last year’s planning session, our new “No-Member-Left-Behind” RSVP procedures, the cherished support of our enthusiastic sponsors – all 10 of them, and the fast acting, time-challenged members of our board.  As all chapter members head into their busiest season, our board will take a rest from a few meetings, concentrating their efforts on a second annual planning retreat in July and joining members for much needed R&R at our A’s game, Awards Banquet and Bocce Ball Night.

CLCA Chapter Sports Fans

CLCA Baseball Fans Tim Hendricks and Tailor Taylor

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Governor Vows to Prepare California for Climate Change

Posted December 16th, 2011

Gov. Jerry Brown

Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at conference Dec 15

By JASON DEAREN
Dec. 16, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The United Nations’ top climate official joined California Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday to call for renewed efforts in the state to more quickly adapt to the risks that extreme weather and a rising sea pose to agriculture and the coastline.

Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, joined Brown, scientists, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and billionaire Sir Richard Branson at a conference at the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park.

Richard Branson

Richard Branson at global warming conference (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

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Blooming Now! In San Diego

Posted December 10th, 2011

All things Mexican are blooming brilliantly in our San Diego garden.

Mexican Marigold

Mexican Marigold

Citrus-scented Mexican Marigold, furry purple blossomed stalks of Mexican Bush Sage, and dangling clusters of bright purple-magenta, papery bracts of Bougainvillea form a kind audience on my morning walks.

It feels as if our garden is enjoying a second spring…heading into December!

Foxtail Agave

Foxtail Agave

Without invitation, several blue-green Foxtail Agaves have sent up towering flower stalks — feigning treehood.

Christmas Cactus

Christmas Cactus

On our porch, the pendant red blossoms that exploded a couple weeks ago on our Christmas Cactus still mimic a mini fireworks display.

Paperwhites

Paperwhites

Slender, proud blue-green stalks and leaves of fragrant Paperwhites rise triumphant from containers grouped in threes.

Candelabra Aloe

Candelabra Aloe

At the top of our driveway, a dozen or more coral orange spikes on our Candelabra Aloe keep celebrating something, as they greet newcomers just ahead of our dogs.

Nary a plant here receives supplemental watering, unless it’s edible, or new.  No fertilizer.  No mulch.  In fact, these beauties have reached a size to where they self-mulch, or shade weeds out.  Mostly, there’s just not enough water and nutrients for the weeds to grow.  Low maintenance California gardening at its best.  And blooming!  Who needs a partridge or a pear tree?

Crown of Thorns and Chalk Dudleya

Crown of Thorns, Chalk Dudleya

Finger Limes – California’s New Caviar

Posted October 10th, 2011

By DeeAnn Schuttish – Designer and Owner, Green Life Studios

Finger Lime and Oyster

Finger Lime and Oyster

Hopefully not the next açai berry, but sure to be the next fun foodie fad, are Finger Limes.  Discovered in the back yard of a neighbor’s house is this miniature citrus, wearing miniature leaves, and limes the size of long olives.  Squeeze the middle and out pop the crystal-like, crunchy beads that are the lime’s pulp, ready to sprinkle on salads and oysters, substitute for caviar on canapés, zest a salsa, top sushi or perhaps “spike” a punch bowl.

Native to the Australian rainforest, this curious fruit was introduced to Californians by UC Riverside, coming to the university as a gift many years ago, and released to the nursery trade only 8 years ago.  The very small fruit comes in a variety of pulp colors. While the one I tasted sported clear lime green beads, others can be pink, or even red.

Finger Limes Come in Many Colors

Finger Limes Come in Many Colors

Some folks describe the pulp’s texture as “pop rocks”.

The Finger Lime I tasted was found here in San Diego in early October, however,  November to January is peak season for Finger Limes.  Look for these curious fruits at the Santa Monica Farmers Market and Whole Foods at stores in Southern California.

~ DeeAnn Schuttish, Owner, Green Life Studios

The Drought is Over! Or Is It?

Posted October 10th, 2011

By Ed Laivo – Sales and Marketing Director, Devil Mountain Wholesale Nursery

California snow pack 2011

Measuring Snow Sample

In the final weeks of March 2011 the Sierra snowpack survey was released, this year is 160% water content and, with that, Governor Brown proclaimed the 3 year old drought declaration ended.  I suppose a celebration of sorts is in line for the farmers, they have struggled with as little a water allotment as 45% of normal in the last 3 to 5 years.  Many have suffered heavy financial losses.  Even with all the celebrating we could do, I would suggest caution as history tells us the next drought is just around the corner.

Since the turn of the century, there have been many drought periods in California.  Most are minor 2 to 3 year periods of low rain that end with either a more regular rain pattern or with an extreme wet year.  Since 1990, there are also recorded 6 extreme drought where rainfall and snow pack were critically low.  They are 1928-37, 1943-51, 1959-62, 1976-78, 1987-89 and most recently 2007-2010.  One other curious note is that all the recorded extreme droughts have ended with an extreme wet year along with catastrophic damage to some part of the state.  In 1938 the great San Luis to San Diego Coastal floods ended the drought of 1928 to The floods of 1955 which affected most of the state were the end of the drought of the late 40’s and 50’s.  The severe rains of 80-81 (the pineapple express) put an end to the late 70’s extreme dryness.  The point is that within 2 to 5 years of the end of the last dry period we are in a new dry period.  Drought is a common occurrence in this state.

Kern County Bridge

Kern County Bridge

The fact that a dry period or extreme drought occurs regularly seems only relevant if it impacts the average daily citizen.  Historically, California drought impacts have been felt most severely by the farmer.  The wet periods have been far more impacting and inconvenient to the general public.  The farmer has made adjustments to better endure the extended dry periods and farming has become more stable during these occurrences.  The general public has only been moderately inconvenienced during the last 30 years as a result of metering and somewhat higher water bills.  The next drought will arrive quicker than the last and the reason will have more to do with greater demand.  One can imagine the impact by just looking at population growth relative to dry periods.  The population of California during the 1928-37 drought was 5 million+, the drought of 1943-51 the population was 10 million, 1959-62 was 16 million, 76-78 was 23 million and as of the 2007-2010 the water consuming population is 37 million.  14 million more people than in 1978 with only 2 million acre feet of water collection capabilities added during that same time period.  The US water management uses .025 to 1 acre foot per average home as calculated yearly consumption.  At that rate of growth, the time to the inevitable next drought will only get shorter.

The question has to be: is the drought really over or is this just a lull until we are hoping for the next ‘March Miracle’.  Entering March 1991, the snow-water equivalent for the snow ear was just 15 percent of average.  If not for the Miracle March, “it would have been curains,” Barbato said.  “Somebody up there was looking out for us.”  (Tahoe Daily Tribune 2008).

Keeping responsible water use issues in the forefront ofdesign is a must for our industries’ future.

About Devil Mountain Nursery

Devil Mountain is a wholesale nursery and brokerage located in San Ramon, California.  Devil Mountain Growers is a  premium grower in Clements, California.  To learn more about Devil Mountain’s plants please visit devilmountainnursery.com or call us at (925) 829-6006.

Prepare for Rain with Walkable Wood Mulch

Posted October 10th, 2011
Landscape Mulch

Landscape Mulch

By Sharon May – Sales & Marketing Director, AgriService, Inc.

As the rainy season approaches, pathways and unplanted areas can quickly become a muddy quagmire. Wood mulches, especially Landscape Mulch and Trail Mulch, allow water to run easily through the wood chunks, creating a walkable surface at a fraction of the cost of imported bark.

Keep your pathways and parking strips clean and clear for pedestrians during wet weather and prevent muddy feet! Freshen up dog runs and prevent muddy paws!  Made from recycled, clean construction wood and palettes, wood mulch will help keep dirt and weeds under control.  Because this mulch takes longer to decompose than other recycled organic mulches, it won’t need to be replenished as soon.  The slow decomposition and high carbon content means that wood mulch won’t be feeding your soil or your plants, which makes it especially useful for unplanted areas like pathways.   After the rains have subsided, the mulch will still be there, helping to prevent evaporation of moisture from the soil.

While all that may not be news, what is new is that we’ve made special arrangements to have wood mulch available for your use when you need it … NOW!  Call our office today at 800-262-4167 or email smay@agriserviceinc.com to make arrangements for Landscape Mulch (large size), Trail Mulch (medium size), or Bedding Mulch (small size) while it’s still in stock! To see current prices visit www.AgriServiceInc.com.

The Plight of the Rockrose, or “What Would Richard Branson Do?”

Posted October 5th, 2011

By DeeAnn Schuttish, Designer/Owner, Green Life Studios

Like good brakes to a truck driver, so is water to landscapers, right?  Without it, we’re toast!  Right? Score!

Wait a minute.  Right now, most of our company’s business is coming from people seeking low water plants for their landscape.  Is less water becoming the next wave of profitability?  Does the reason my friend Patrick Crais named his irrigation company Blue Watchdog escape you?

Purple Rockrose Blossom

Purple Rockrose

When I contemplate –from any angle– this low-water plant “demand vs. supply” phenomenon, I wonder why it is that one of my beloved contractor friends pulled the Purple Rockrose out of my design before installing it?  He says he’s never had any luck with it.  It always dies.  And it’s expensive to go back and replace a plant.  Of course!  If not just for the cost of the plant, but for the time to go out and replace it, the cost of the gas to get there, and the loss of credibility with a customer who might bring you a new referral.

Could it be that lower water is Rockrose’s meal ticket?  Could it be the landscaper’s as well?  San Diegans seem to have lost their love affair with palms and the tropical landscape.  Palms are so numerous there, every 10th exurb dwelling seems to have a palm nursery in the backyard. There are (no lie) 100’s of mini-plantations filled with unsold palms, while every 20th commercial business boasts a palm on its logo.  But most of our landscape customers in San Diego are yanking palms out.  It’s their idea. Is this trend occurring in South Spain too?  Is there anyone in Marbella reading this who can tell me?

Driving back to Oakland from San Diego, I witness a long parade of tall yellow daisies lining Highway 78. Next, California poppies and blue lupine greet me while passing through Oceanside.  Just beyond that, blooming Monkey Flower Bushes dot the bankside, like observant dogs sitting quietly on their haunches. Then, guess what?  Purple Rockrose gently waving their pink-purple faces at me with cheerful abandon, same as they did last year, at the Border Patrol station near Camp Pendleton.

If British entrepreneur, Richard Branson –the Baby Boomer who started his career as a boot-strapped owner of a record shop, and now CEO of more than 400 companies, including Virgin Mobile, Virgin Records and Virgin Airways—if he were a landscaper, what would he do?   Imagine:  Plant Rockrose everywhere, adapt his amendment and irrigation practices, and sell the features and benefits of Purple Rockrose like he were the only landscaper able to do it.

Now maybe it’s time for landscapers to rock the low-water world in their own backyards, learn what works and what doesn’t in this new era of profitability.  Once you own a working low water, or native, landscape, aren’t you as good a salesperson as that happy customer?

Okay.  It’s time for me to go plant a few Rockrose.

April 2011