Finch Frolic Marketplace, Revisited

Wonderful, tasty winter squash of all kinds!

Wonderful, tasty winter squash of all kinds!

Due to popular demand, we’re having one more short Marketplace this Saturday, 9 – 1.

Join us on Saturday, November 29nd  from 9-1  for the annual Finch Frolic Marketplace, the Extended Version!  We’ll have for sale fresh and prepared foods straight from our permaculture gardens.  All are excellent gifts, or will grace your holiday table. We’ll have the much-desired Pomegranate Gelato again, and new this year, Passionfruit Gelato!   Squash, fruit, veg, preserves, passionfruit curd, baked goods, and much more.

Herbs, veggies, frozen juice, gelatos, curds, jams, preserves... and much more!

Herbs, veggies, frozen juice, gelatos, curds, jams, preserves… and much more!

Finch Frolic Garden is located at 390 Vista del Indio, Fallbrook, CA.


Finch Frolic Garden is open by appointment only for tours, lectures and other activities.  The address is 390 Vista del Indio, Fallbrook, CA  92028-2548.  Please call only if you are lost or delayed; we use our house phone only and are often not inside.  Please use the email above for any other communication.

From the North (Temecula and above): take 1-15 South to Exit 51 and turn right.  Make the next right onto E. Mission Rd/County Hwy-S13.  In .8 of a mile turn left onto E. Live Oak Park Rd.  In 1.6 miles turn right onto Alvarado St.  In .7 miles at the top of the hill turn left onto Vista Del Indio, at Roja’s Succulents.  Make the very first right; 390 is at the end to the left.

From the South (Escondido and below): take I-15 North to Exit 51 and turn left over the freeway.  Make the next right onto E. Mission Rd/County Hwy-S13.  In .8 of a mile turn left onto E. Live Oak Park Rd.  In 1.6 miles turn right onto Alvarado St.  In .7 miles at the top of the hill turn left onto Vista Del Indio, at Roja’s Succulents.  Make the very first right; 390 is at the end to the left.

From the West (I-5): take CA-76 East, Exit 54A and drive for 12.6 miles.  Turn left onto S. Mission Road/County Hwy S13 for 4.1 miles.  Turn right onto S. Stagecoach Lane (at the high school).  In 2.8 miles turn right onto Alvarado St.  At the top of the hill turn right onto Vista del Indio, at the Roja’s Succulents sign.  Make the very first right; 390 is at the end on the left.


Special Tours for Aug. and Sept., 2014

Come take a tour of a food forest!

Come take a tour of a food forest!

Normally tours of Finch Frolic Garden are held by appointment for groups of 5 – 15 people, Thursdays – Mondays.  Cost is $10 per person and the tour lasts about two hours.  By popular demand, for those who don’t have a group of five or more, we will be hosting Open Tour days for the first 15 people to sign up in August and September.   They will be Sunday, August 10 and 24, Sept. 7 and 21, and Thursdays August 7 and 28, and Sept. 11 and 25.  Tours begin promptly at 10 am.  The tours last about two hours and are classes on basic permaculture while we tour the food forest.  I ask $10 per person. Please reserve and receive directions through  Children under 10 are free; please, no pets.  Photos but no video are allowed. Thank you for coming to visit!  Diane and Miranda

San Diego Permaculture Convergence, Nov. 9 – 10, 2013

There is a fantastic, information-packed permaculture convergence coming up at the beautiful Sky Mountain Institute in Escondido. Converge_Flyer_1_It will be two days packed with great information for a very reasonable price; in fact, scholarships are available.  Check out the website at On that Sunday I’ll be teaching a workshop about why its so important to plant native plants, how to plant them in guilds using fishscale swales and mini-hugelkulturs.  Come to the convergence and be inspired!

Stinging Nettle and World Peace

One of my  very good friends asked me what to do about a proliferation of stinging nettle in her yard.  There is a creek running through the bottom of her property, and while once there had been Jimson weed and other natives growing there, now there is just nettle which is spreading to her lawn.  Her hand hurt for a day from inadvertently pulling some out bare-handed.  Her neighbor had told her that “nettle was bad” and would take over.  She was laying cardboard on some of it, but was afraid that wouldn’t be enough.

One of the main practices of permaculture is to take what is considered to be a problem and look at all sides of it, just as in Zen you must think like your enemy, or in some Native American beliefs you must walk a mile in another’s shoes.

Fortunately I knew some things about nettle, and told her that nettle was not only edible once the acid had been blanched away, but highly nutritious. Here is a good description of what it can do.  It is a superb compost enervator.   The disappearance of the other natives by the streambed was evidence that someone upstream had sprayed an herbicide that washed downstream and killed everything.  The prolific growth of stinging nettle, which is an indicator plant for high nitrogen in the soil, showed that someone’s high nitrogen lawn fertilizer came the same way.

Nettle’s acid is simply an excretion by the plant on the hairs along its stem to discourage browsing animals.  The sting is immediate and temporary, unlike poison oak which has an irritating oil that can spread with touch and takes a few days to cause a rash.  In nature often the cure grows near the problem, and therefore both the riparian plants mint and plantain can be rubbed onto the area to alliviate the sting, but soap and hot water works just as well.  Nettle reproduces only by seed, not by rhizomes or other invasive tactics.  It likes water therefore it takes root in lawns which are watered frequently and are fertilized with nitrogen.

My friend is always ready to embrace new information, especially where nutrition is concerned, and immediately stopped looking at nettle as a potentially dangerous invader of her property, to an indicator of other problems (stream pollution) and a health goldmine.   To control what she doesn’t use she knows she can cut it down before it seeds and it won’t spread (and the cut  plants will charge her soil), and if she wanted to restore the wetlands area she could continue to lay cardboard to cover most of the nettle, then top them with soil and straw, cut holes through to the dirt and transplant native riparian plants into the sheet mulch.  There are no invaders, no monsters in her yard.

While pulling ragweed out of the pathways at my place with another friend (I have become so rich in friends this last year!), I told her about the nettle.  Her reply was that while she worked in the garden she’d see things in a new perspective.  Knees to the earth, eyes choosing between ragweed and sprouting wildflowers, lungs full of the scent of good soil, permaculturalists steer away from the stereotypcial gardening approach and see benefits where others see problems.

And this is what this post is all about: applying permaculture practices to everyday living, from personal to global thinking.  In permaculture there are no invasives, no bad guys.  Even my hated Bermuda grass is a plant in the wrong place, spread because people insist on seeding lawns with the stuff.  Its function is to hold soil and moisture and break up hardpack. It does this admirably well, only I don’t want it in my garden.  In permaculture, problems are like little moons where you see nothing but black on the dark side until you turn it to see the incredible sunlit topography on the other side, and understand that all those details are there on the dark side as well.  A problem is just an opportunity for creative thinking; a resource whose purpose isn’t clear as yet.  Therefore there are no ‘weeds’, no stereotypes.

So take these phrases and look at them with the eyes of permaculture: Teens are irresponsible.  Old people are antiquated.  Dark-skinned people are dangerous.  Light-skinned people are dangerous.  The government is out to get us.  All businesses are bad.  All politicians are corrupt.  Men are incompetent.  Women are hysterical.

Imagine these phrases as balls you can turn in your hand, like little moons. Examine, understand, see that anger and violence all stems from fear.  Look at all sides of the phrases and see that they cannot be true.  Just as stinging nettle isn’t an invasive plant out to get people, but a plant rich in potentials doing its job, then any potential imagined threat to our safety can be understood and appreciated until we no longer face it with fear.  We hire and train youths.  We listen to the life experience of the old.  We vote to change the government.  We support small businesses.  We offer training and workshops to teach.  We offer safe, sane gardens in which to meditate.  We produce good organic food to nourish brains and bodies and activate good health.

By gardening with permaculture in mind we can so easily imagine a more peaceful world, both for our small personal worlds and on a global scale.  Therefore it is imperative that we introduce others to permaculture, for the saving of the earth and of ourselves.

The Life of Di, or Fall At My House

“And here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into!”

I like to be involved with many projects at once.  I picture my life as an opal, my birthstone, full of swirled colors and hues.  I have several books going at once, projects chipped away at around the house, volunteer responsibilities strewn across my week, and far too many animals and acres to care for.  When I’m exhausted I can spend a day on the couch reading with no trouble at all being the picture of laziness.  Prior to Thanksgiving I underwent a skin cancer preventative treatment on my face and hands, which required applying a topical cream twice a day that brings suspicious cells to the surface and burns them off.  By the end of the second week I was quite a mess, and then took another week to heal enough to be seen in public without alerting the zombie hunters.  The treatment, needless to say, kept me from being in sunlight, therefore housebound.  Always loving a clean, organized house but never actually completely cleaning or organizing, I figured I’d get some work done.  I tried sorting about 15 boxes of photo albums left by my mother and grandmother… and got through one box before I had to stop.  I wanted to bake bread, and I wanted to find something to do with the small amount of hops we harvested, so I experimented with a recipe that had a starter, sponge and rising that altogether took five days.  The Turnipseed Sisters’ White Bread from the classic Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads .

Turnipseed Sisters’ White Loaf starter made with hops.

The starter really smelled like beer. Not in a pleasant way, either.  However the bread was good, and baking was fun.

Good sandwich and toast bread.

Just the extra carbs I needed for sitting on my butt for two weeks, right?  Then I wanted to thin, clean and alphabetize the fiction section in my living room.

Books piled alphabetically… a little later there was a small avalanche.

Yes, I have enough books in my house that they are in sections.  Former school librarian and bookstore worker here.  I haven’t done the non-fiction section as yet, which extends to most of the other rooms in the house.  Maybe next year?  I did a little writing, a lot of reading, surrounded by my elderly dog Sophie

Sophie enjoying good sleeps.

who keeps returning from the brink of death to sleep about 23 hours a day, and one of my hens, Viola, who suddenly went lame in one leg.

Viola on a healing vacation.

All advice was to cull her, but I thought that she pulled a muscle and hadn’t broken her leg, and being vegetarian I don’t eat my pets.  Viola has been recuperating in a cage in the dining room, gaining strength in that leg, laying regular eggs, having full rein of the front yard, and crooning wonderfully. As I count wild birds for Cornell University’s Project Feederwatch, I keep an eye on the hen.  The cats ignore her, thank goodness.  I’ve quite enjoyed having a chicken in the house.  Yep, I’m starting to be one of those kinds of aging ladies.

In between I’d spend time crawling under bushes to push and shove my 100-pound African spur thigh tortoise out of his hiding spot and into the heatlamp-warmed Rubbermaid house he shuns so that he wouldn’t catch cold in the chill damp nights.  I always come out victorious, with him angry and begrudgingly warm, and with me wet, muddy, hair full of sticks and hands full of scratches.  Does anyone have a life like this?

“I’m performing advanced trigonometry in my head, don’t bother me, Woman!”

Finally my skin healed enough so that I was able to venture outdoors.

Garlic and seed sprouts guarded from birds by a rubber snake.

I planted seeds of winter crops: collards, kale, garlic, onions, carrots, Brussels sprouts and broccoli rabe, and prepared raised beds for more.

Yellow perfection tomatoes still ripening, as are the green zebra.

I ordered organic pea, lupine and sweet pea seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds , all nitrogen-fixers to plant around the plant guilds.

Pepperoncini still producing.

On Thanksgiving I hiked 1200 feet up Monserate Mountain in a record slow time; all that sitting and all that bread causing me to often stop and watch the slow holiday traffic on Hwy. 15, and be very glad that I was on a hike instead.

The neighbors had their annual tree butchering, paying exorbitant sums to have the same so-called landscapers come in and top their trees (shudder!) and thin others… for what reason I have no idea.  Because being retired Orange County professionals they believe that trees need to be hacked back, contorted, and ruined?  Possibly.

Please, please, please, friends don’t let friends top trees!  Find an arborist who trims trees with an eye to their health and long-term growth and immediate beauty.  A well-pruned tree is lovely, even just after pruning.  A topped tree is brutal and ugly.

A topped coral tree. Ugh!

Anyway, the upside is that I claimed all the chips, giving new life to the ravaged trees as mulch for my pathways.  Two truckloads were delivered.  I think I have enough for the whole property.

“The bear went over the mountain to see what he could see. He saw another mountain…”

How to spread it?  Yep, one wheelbarrow full at a time.

One wheelbarrow at a time.

I can now condition myself for more hiking and weight lifting without leaving the property.  The heaps have a lot of pine in them (they thinned the pine trees!???) so there is a pleasant Christmassy smell emanating from the heaps.

Hot steamy mulch.

They are also very high nitrogen and were hot in the center on the second day and this morning were steaming right after our brief rain shower.  Mulch piles can catch fire; when I worked for San Diego County Parks we rangers would joke about who had been called out by the fire department when their newly delivered mulch pile had caught fire in the  night.

Steam from the mulch mountains. I stood on it just now and steam went up my pant legs and warmed me up!

I also received a gift of seven 15-gallon nursery containers of llama poo!

The wealth of llama poo.

Hot diggity!  Early Christmas: My diamonds are round and brown, thank-you.  I layered them in the compost heap and am ready for more.

I also wholeheartedly participated in Small Business Saturday, finding happy locals and crossing paths with friends and aquaintences at several stores.  I received my first Merry Christmas from a man at Myrtle Creek Nursery’s parking lot as he waited for his son’s family to pick out a Christmas tree.  I do love this town.

Sweet potatoes ready to harvest for Christmas dinner.

That catches me up.  Lots of projects, lots of volunteering, lots of cleaning up to do before my daughter comes home for the holidays and despairs at my bachelorette living.  Lots of mulch to move. Lots of really great friends.  Lots of sunscreen to wear.  Lots to be thankful for.

Edible Food Forest

This is a cheat blog, because I’m simply going to give you a link to a newspaper article.  This is about land that has been dedicated to an edible food forest, which the public may enjoy.  I hope it is the beginning of a new government trend to help feed the hungry.  It also has a nice diagram about what a food forest may look like.  Here it is: .

Giving Back


Assortment of edible pumpkins and squashes on their way to the Food Pantry

If you have extra fresh fruit or vegetables from your yard or garden, or canned goods, please keep the Fallbrook Food Pantry in mind.  They need fresh food as well as canned, all the time.  The people who pick up weekly supplemental food are screened, given an ID card, and must prove that their income is below the Federal Poverty Level.  These people are single parents, people with injuries, the elderly, school children and babies, and they all must have food to live.  Instead of sending money and effort to people in other countries, why not help your neighbors?  Pick your limes, lemons, oranges, gather your squash and donate to the Pantry.  It is quick, easy, and helps people stay healthy and focused on getting through their day.  With Thanksgiving feasting upon us, please think of those who just want to eat.