The Great Cover Up
Rest and rejuvenation for your weary soil, green manure gives back
by Bruce Willey
The transition between summer and fall has always been an especially acute time for vegetable gardeners. Not only must we reacquaint ourselves with store-bought tomatoes that taste like gopher fur dipped in wood shavings, but we must also adapt to all the extra time on our hands as our garden beds lie fallow. There is, after all, nothing worse than a gaggle of gardeners wearing overalls and floppy hats, fondling their hoes outside a 7-Eleven and asking strangers for a spare heirloom tomato.
But as any good organic gardener knows, late summer/early fall is time to sow the cover crop. Often called green manure, cover crops have been around before the invention of the “green” light bulb, or for that matter, before “green” meant something other than the color of plants, grass and trees. Organic gardeners have long touted the benefits of green manure with the same zeal of growing their own vegetables. And they know that the two have a symbiosis that works magic in the garden.
But your average vegetable gardener—myself included—took longer to make the connection. Why grow something that you’re not going to eat or pick? Instead, I’d pull the last of the summer’s cornucopia from the garden and leave the garden to the weeds for next season. My soil hated me for it and over time, repaid me with ever-dwindling crops. Reap what you shall sow.
Green manure, then, is nothing short of a philanthropic uncle that invests in your garden’s future. Cover crops—especially plants in the pea and bean family—fix valuable nutrients like nitrogen that your vegetables were all too happy to consume. Additionally, they act like a living mulch, enthusiastically competing with weeds for space and sunlight while they’re alive, suppressing weeds when they’re dead—which goes by the militant-sounding term “crop cover smother effect.” Green manure also protects from erosion when it rains, providing an umbrella over the soil and allowing the rain to seep slowly into the dirt. Making the soil more drought resistant, cover crop roots also increase the water retention capacity of soil.
Much in the way cover crops suppress weeds, they stop disease cycles in their tracks by reducing bacterial and fungal diseases that eventually make their way to the summer crops. Mustards are particularly good contenders for this, and along with vetch and clover, attract beneficial insects to the garden. Cover crops also break up the soil with their roots making them a spade-free gardening method that any lazy gardener (like myself) will appreciate.
On the Central Coast, cover crops are best planted at least a month before the first threat of frost. In other words, right now. If you still have vestiges of the summer garden, plant between the rows. Though cover crops prefer a cool season, there must be enough warmth for the seeds to germinate.
For best results combine various cover crops. A brawny combo for a soil workout includes a mix of purple vetch, fava beans, winter wheat and cereal rye. Vetch and fava beans pour nitrogen into the soil and create a huge amount of biomass that can either be composted or tilled right into the beds. Be sure to harvest both before they go to seed otherwise nitrogen drains from their root nodules. Rye and wheat on the other hand create super fine root mass which aerates the soil nicely and dumps nutrients in time for spring planting.
With the cover crop safely in the ground, a gardener can finally relax and peruse a seed catalog by the fire, dreaming fondly of next summer’s fresh vegetables. All this time, outside, in the cold winter ground, the soil is in good hands, being nourished and protected by nature’s own green cover up.
LMNO Arts: Landscape art to fit your lifestyle
by Elizabeth Limbach
There are several things that set LMNO Arts apart from the run-of-the-mill landscape or art business. Exclusivity is one of them. Scott Lindberg and Cristie Thomas, the artistic power couple who are LMNO, run their company more like a private art club than a public business—relying mostly on word of mouth for business, and then scrupulously screening clients before working with them.
They are not open to the public; rather, their large gallery of architectural and sculptural home and garden ornaments, which is also the backyard of their Aptos home, is viewable by appointment only for potential clients. Lindberg and Thomas require that these visitors come prepared. “We give them some homework to do to make sure they are actually ready to sit down and design,” says Thomas. “We ask them to bring photographs of the site from all directions, and any photographs or ideas of other things they like to give us an idea of who they are and of their style.” This preliminary process may seem arduous at first, but it is the special ingredient to LMNO’s success: working with clients who are “the right fit” allows the artists to create a truly customized, perfect piece.
The two have become experts at determining people’s styles in order to achieve this. They use the photographs the client brings in (of anything from their personal art collection or interior decorating to quilts or magazine cut-outs) and take in their style of dress, the car they drive, and whatever other hints they can. After drawing a plan with the client, they then ask for complete trust and go from there—using metal, wood, concrete and glass to create a one-of-a-kind bench, arbor, railing, awning, birdbath or any number of items from their repertoire. “We want to make something that fits their lifestyle and also the architecture of their surroundings,” says Lindberg.
Though they say they have never made the same thing twice (even with fences and gates, which are their most frequent requests), some jobs are more adventurous than others. Their last project was a 50-by-2-foot “house necklace” for a woman who wanted a decorative, exterior piece to go between the first and second stories of her home. Not only was it an unconventional artistic endeavour, but the woman was also a perfect client to work with, helping Lindberg and Thomas to reach the best outcome. “The house necklace client was ideal: adventuresome, creative, trusting,” says Lindberg. “She had no problem telling us, ‘I don’t like that, I like that.’”
“Trusting, that was huge,” adds Thomas, finishing her partner’s thought. “She was also really positive and excited about everything.” Lindberg and Thomas consider themselves artists first, and a business second. They started out as artists working in separate mediums, and moved into pottery after meeting. They operated in the realm of ceramics from the ’70s until the early ’90s, when the itch for a career change became an inescapable pull, leading to the formation of LMNO Arts.
Although the physical intensity of working with metal (and sometimes large-scale structures) can be wearing, they have found happiness in working on a personal level with clients on a project-to-project basis. “It’s fun to give people something special, and help them realize a dream they’ve had, sometimes, for a long time,” says Thomas. “It personalizes the home, and takes it to a whole other level of interest.”
LMNO Arts will be participating in Open Studios this fall, open to the public for the only time this year. For more information on the company, visit lmnoarts.com.
How Does Your Garden Grow?
by Leslie Patrick
Traditionally, autumn may not be the time of year when gardening comes to mind. Besides planting a few bulbs in the backyard, many of those in possession of a green thumb may choose to make like a bear and hibernate until spring. But, according to Bryan Tabler, sales lead at Far West Nursery in Santa Cruz, avid gardeners should be doing exactly the opposite. “The best time to plant native plants is in the fall so they can be weaned off the water that we give them and be supported only by rainwater,” Tabler says. “This way, when the rains dry out in the spring and the plants dry out, they get more acclimated to where they are.”
Not only do native plants make sense ecologically and visually, but in our arid California climate the sustainability issue comes into play. Low rainfall and the continual threat of water rationing have forced many local gardeners to consider drought-tolerant plants. “Everyone is aware that water is in short supply in Santa Cruz, and the direction that people want to go is to conserve water by removing heavy water-using plants and installing drought-tolerant things,” Tabler says. “We have quite a lot of ground heat still in the earth, and, combined with cooler evenings and perhaps cooler days now, it’s a good time to plant so roots will begin to grow but not take up a lot of water,” he continues.
As well as being a nursery and gardening center, Far West Nursery actually grows many of the plants it purveys. According to Tabler, this unique process allows the plants to become accustomed to the same natural conditions—such as water and soil—that the plant will eventually be placed in by its new owner. “If the plant was established around here and you buy it from a local gardener, it has a better chance of thriving,” Tabler says. “We do a pretty good job of thinning out the plants that shouldn’t be growing here, like the ones that would need too many pesticides or special fertilizer to grow in this area,” he says. Add to Far West Nursery a staff that is exceptionally knowledgeable about gardening and you’ve got yourself exactly the opposite of big box garden stores. “Everybody who works here is involved with the plants,” Tabler says. “That’s what I have come to realize about Far West. We’re better at getting you what you want that will actually work for you.”
Far West Nursery, 2669 Mattison Lane, Santa Cruz. 476-8866.
West Coast Weather Vanes
Decorating the very air around you
by Nick Veronin
You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, but a weather vane might help. In the absence of a licked finger or a handful of dust, a whirling rooster fixed atop the chimney, or a spinning horse planted in the flowerbed, is a great way to stay in tune with the ever-changing winds. Plus, it will add an element of authentic American folk art to your home or garden.
Weathervanes trace their origins as far back as ancient Greece and served as an early meteorological instrument. These days, while they can still be used to forecast storms or fair skies, weathervanes serve a more aesthetic purpose.
Ken and LizAnne Jensen of West Coast Weather Vanes are steeped in the both the function and fashion of weather vanes. The couple lives and works in Bonny Doon, crafting custom, one-of-a-kind weather vanes in a variety of styles. They employ four weather vane makers, in addition to Ken, and have been in business for 21 years.
LizAnne loves the collaborative nature of creating weathervanes with her clientele. “Our customers come to us with great ideas, sometimes things we’d never think of ourselves,” she says. “The end result is always something new and interesting. It keeps it fresh.”
Customers can either purchase complete weather vanes or commission a piece. But no matter which option you go with, you can be sure that each creation is unlike any other. Ken and LizAnne do not use any molds, preferring to hammer each brass weather vane by hand.
Patterns are traced onto copper or brass sheets and cut out using metal shears. Patterns are then hammered into the metal’s surface. Three-dimensional shaping is done using rawhide hammers over leather sand pillows, anvils or wooden blocks, ensuring that no two pieces are ever the same. Each design has two halves, which, once molded, are soldered together. The design is fixed to a rod upon which it will rotate in the wind.
“The way we make them is probably the most handmade way of making a weather vane without going out and mining the copper yourself,” LizAnne says.
LizAnne says her favorite weather vane tradition is one started during the Victorian era. During the 19th century, United States weather vane makers started sealing pennies inside their pieces. The coins would always be dated the same year a particular weather vane was completed. In fact, auctioneers will often shake weather vanes from this era when presenting them at auction to allow prospective buyers a chance to hear the rattling Indian-head penny inside.
In keeping with this tradition, “we’ve collected pennies for almost every year dating back to 1900,” she says. Customers can ask to have a penny for the year a given piece was completed or put pennies in representing memorable years in their lives—a birth, a death or a wedding anniversary. One regular West Coast Weather Vane customer has commissioned 17 pieces from the company—many of which are used only one day out of the year to mark holidays and other special occasions.
“They’re very personal,” LizAnne says, noting that in New England there are weather vanes that have stayed in families for six or seven generations—some predating the American Revolution. She hopes the weather vanes her company produces will be passed through many generations.
West Coast Weather Vanes owes its name to the fact that at the time of the company’s founding there were very few people—if any—making weathervanes on the West Coast. In order to differentiate themselves from their more traditional counterparts in New England, Ken and LizAnne experiment with a wider variety of materials—such as glass, brass and German silver—than were traditionally used in weather vane production.
“We’re a little more open to experimenting,” LizAnne says.
Learn more by visiting westcoastweathervanes.com.
Make Your Home a Haven
by Linda Koffman
When Anne Richardson decided to renovate her Santa Cruz home and garden in 2006, the result not only garnered her a spread in Sunset magazine, it led to the start of a whole new business.
It seems the local graphic designer loved the experience of creating a fun and lively space for herself and her family so much, it inspired her to open a store that helps others do the same. Storefront and Studio, a new Westside shop about to celebrate its first birthday this December, offers a bright array of home décor, greenery, furniture and personal accessories—all procured with a motto based around three words: useful, playful, beautiful.
According to Richardson, the keys to a successful sanctuary are unification and experimentation. “It’s all your space, your inside and your outside garden, so it’s nice to have those things flow together with a holistic approach,” she says. “Tie it together and don’t worry about trends. Don’t be afraid to do what you want to do and find things that just make you happy.”
What makes Richardson happy, as is evident upon entrance to her store, are color, light, vintage goods and sustainable materials. When she wasn’t able to find all of those things too easily when she needed them for her own remodeling endeavor, she decided to make S&S the place that would offer it all.
“At the time [when I was renovating my home], there weren’t many things in the modern-design sustainable category, it was still mainly hemp designs,” she recalls. “I wanted really contemporary sustainable things in my home.” So, she went on to fill that gap with a selection of goods made from repurposed or recycled materials, many crafted by local artisans.
S&S sells industrial designer Timerie Gordon’s felt and wine bottle lamps, Joya Birn’s needle-felted animals, along with vintage furniture and china, blankets and handmade jewelry. Green succulents artfully arranged in pottery and wooden boxes (with recycled glass to add color) bring the outside in, and everything from the smallest accessories (tea towels, pillows and candles), to design needs of grander proportions (carpeting and wallpaper) are available. And, once you’ve got the tools, there are demos to teach you technique. Richardson and her creative partner, landscaper Kathleen Shaeffer, are planning workshops “to make Storefront a place where people enjoy coming together to make things.” Experts are being corralled to give in-store talks about green home and garden design concerns and solutions.
At the end of the day, Richardson says that it doesn’t take much to make a space feel like you’ve created it for yourself—as long as you’re just willing to try and, of course, “go with the flow.”
Storefront and Studio is located at 1010 Fair Ave., Santa Cruz. For more information, go to storefrontandstudio.com or call 426-0724.
Dorm Room Drama
How to design your dorm room
by Christa Martin
Back in college, my next-door neighbor in the dorm was a snotty brat with a queen bee complex. She was über controlling, and a spoiled princess. People loved her to her face, and hated her behind her back. But one thing this pain-in-the-ass, blonde bobblehead had going for her was a really cool dorm room. It was tricked out to the max—the two beds in her room were lifted up to the ceiling, bolted to the walls, serving as lofts. Underneath the beds, she and her equally prissy roommate were able to store a killer sofa, dressers, a fancy television and more. The only downfall was the over-abundance of teddy bears on one side of the room. Other than that, it was an amazing, tiny pad. And hence, we all put up with her attitude just so we could eat cookies and watch movies in her room. It was the dorm room of all dorm rooms. No one else’s room was ever as cool as hers. But maybe yours can be.
“Start with a window treatment,” says Lock. “Put up inexpensive blinds from Cost Plus. Your window is your vista to the campus and the world. Put up some cheap shelves, and maximize your floor space.” (Line your walls with shelves and pick up the stuff on the floor and put it on a shelf. This will free up your floor and create more space.)
She also suggests adding things such ascreative lighting fixtures, hang Christmas lights, use cushions, put paper on your desk with glass over it for a creative work place, put hooks on the walls for hanging things, throw in a hammock for a visitor to sit in, use coils from your hairdryer cord as a toothbrush holder, use bunk beds for maximizing space, and so on. And of course, “Ikea is a great resource,” she adds. As are places like thrift stores where you can get creative on a very small budget.
As for an image for your room, Lock says that students can pull off a lot of ‘looks’ in their dorm room: Zen, modern, country and beach are all accessible ‘looks,’ created by infusing things like driftwood and natural colors.
Additional resources include hitting up the local Salvation Army, where Lock says the thrift store offers 50 percent off on Fridays, and visiting the blog, designsponge.com, which has a slew of ideas for a budget-focused student.
“Look at everyday found objects and change their purpose,” Lock says. Her other tips include: “Set a budget, make a list, stay simple, stay open-minded.”
Ten Tips for Real Estate Today
by Diana DuPre
There is an $8,000 first-time home buyer tax credit that is due to expire Nov. 30, 2009. That means if you haven’t closed escrow by then, you are not eligible for the credit. There is talk of extending the deadline, but so far, nothing has been decided. Please see: irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=204671,00.html for information on income restrictions, rules, guidelines and regulations.
What is a short sale? A short sale is when the current owner (or their realtor or negotiator) is trying to negotiate with the bank/lender to accept less money for the sale of the house than what is currently owed on the loan. The benefit for the seller is they are able to avoid having a foreclosure on their credit report. There are possible tax penalties involved when doing a short sale, so the homeowner should always consult their accountant and real estate attorney before proceeding.
As a buyer, should I purchase a short sale property? The first thing to realize about a short sale, is that they are anything but “short” as far as the time frame. If you decide to put an offer in on a short sale property, be prepared to wait between two and nine months for a response from the bank. If the listing agent has the short sale price already approved by the bank, then the process is much easier and quicker. The benefit of buying a short sale property is that they are generally sold below market value.
What is a bank-owned or REO property? A bank-owned or REO (real estate owned) home is one that the bank now owns and they have already foreclosed on the previous owner. The benefits of buying a bank-owned property are that they generally sell below market value and the transaction is usually a fairly quick process, between 30 and 45 days. Most of the bank-owned properties in Santa Cruz County that I have seen are in need of semi-major to major repairs. The bank has already taken such a big loss on the house, they don’t want to fix anything, so they price the home low with the intention of it selling fast. Most bank-owned and REO properties receive multiple offers, so when submitting your offer, make sure to put your best foot forward.
What’s the difference between refinancing and a loan modification? Refinancing is when you apply for a new mortgage to pay off your existing mortgage. Loan modification is when you apply for a change in rate and term on your existing mortgage. If you want to find out if you are eligible for a loan modification, go call your lender directly. Be wary of outside companies that offer to modify your loan and want to charge you an upfront free.
If you are having difficulty making your mortgage payments, there may be help available. Hera Hope for Homeowners: “HERA” stands for “Housing and Economic Recovery Act,” which includes a loan modification program for homeowners struggling to meet their home loan payments due to economic hardship. HERA legislation includes a specific loan program called “Hope for Homeowners”. Please go to http://homeownerhope.org/faq.php to find out more about the HERA Hope for Homeowners program.
If you believe your property tax rate is too high based on the current market value of your home, you have the right to apply for reassessment. Visit co.santa-cruz.ca.us/asr/index.htm for more information. When sending in the request, be sure to include some recent sales in your neighborhood to justify the reduction in value. It shouldn’t be necessary to hire an appraiser, your realtor should be happy to provide these for you. If you have already received a letter from the county that your property taxes have been decreased, then congratulations. I have spoken with a few clients and friends lately that have been upset when they’ve received the letter stating the declined value of their home and the subsequent lower taxes. A positive way to look at it is if you aren’t planning on selling your home or refinancing any time in the near future, then in a way it’s just like being given free money from the government! I mean really, how often are we given a break on our taxes! That’s less outgoing expense every month and in this economy that certainly can’t be a bad thing.
FHA has recently changed their guidelines to allow the 3.5 percent down payment to come from a gift. Previously, the borrower would have to have 3.5 percent of their own money saved before being eligible for a FHA loan. Also, if you are a parent and thinking about helping your child buy a home, be sure to ask your lender about the “kiddie condo” program.
Is now a good time to buy? In my opinion, it is always a good time to buy, if you have the right reasons. If you can afford to buy now, have long-term goals of keeping your home and can get into a low fixed-rate 30-year mortgage. There are a lot of homes available in Santa Cruz County that are cheaper than paying rent, with putting only 20 percent down (sometimes even less). Check with your accountant to see what the tax benefits would be for you.
Making the decision to buy or sell your home is one of the biggest decisions you will ever make. If you don’t already have a realtor, ask friends and family who they would recommend and why. Always do a background check on the realtor’s license before committing to working with him/her. Go to: 2.dre.ca.gov/PublicASP/pplinfo.asp to find check their license status.
Diana DuPre (CA DRE# 01099129) is head of Rose Homes & Investments. Contact 419-7389 for more information.
Twelve Tips for Fall Gardening
by Lorri Kershner
In general, fall is a great time to prepare for spring. Fall gardening involves clean-up, pruning and thinning, and preparing your growing garden for winter vegetables. Fall gardening is great therapy, because you are doing a lot of tidying and organizing. When you commit to some simple labor, the rewards in spring are extremely gratifying.
Now is the time to rake dead leaves, trim dead growth off of shrubs and bushes, and generally tidy up. Raking around trees and bushes, such as roses, allows them to absorb water more readily.
If you don’t already own a composter, now is a great time to invest. Ecology Action encourages you to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the County of Santa Cruz regarding composting. Rotating composters will give you potting soil in 30 days. Be sure to cut things like stems and small branches into smaller pieces so they decompose more easily. Leaves compost relatively quickly, so be liberal with them. Check out compostsantacruzcounty.org.
Pruning happens in late fall, except for deciduous trees, which are better pruned in late winter. Pruning stimulates growth and shapes plants and trees. Good pruning is one of the most effective ways to maintain a healthy garden. A good book on pruning is enormously helpful. Bookshop Santa Cruz has a good gardening section, and a great selection of gardening periodicals.
A visual feast awaits you if you put some effort in now. Daffodils and paperwhites are especially desirable because gophers and deer tend to avoid them, but tulips are especially beautiful. The Garden Company and Pro Source have ample supplies.
Plant ‘Second Season’ Vegetables
Because we are blessed with a mild climate, we can grow food in fall and winter. Charlie Keutmann, owner of the Garden Company, recommends ‘head crops’ (such as cauliflower, broccoli, cabbages), ‘root crops’ (such as beets and carrots), and ‘leafy crops’ (such as chard, kale and lettuces). The Garden Company has plenty of starters in all these categories.
Discover Containers for Fall and Winter Color
Planting in containers is a great way to keep color in your garden through the winter, when much of your garden is dormant. Mums, grasses, cyclamen, and impatiens will do well on sheltered porches, patios and decks. Remember to keep an attractive bucket in the shower or tub, so that you have a ready supply of water for your containers.
Plan for Next Year
Far West Nursery has lots of suggestions for plants that bloom in fall, winter and spring. Investigate and plant now for color in the winter months, and draught-tolerant blooming in the coming spring and summer.
Plant New Trees
The world needs trees, and October is a good time to shop for them and plant them. They have the winter to build strong roots and establish themselves. Be sure to plan for the space that a mature tree will take, and for the direction of the shade it will provide.
Mulch is an effective nutrient and acts as a blanket of prevention for weed seeds. Ask your local nursery for a recommendation. Mulch deeply—six or eight inches of whatever material you decide on. Tree chips are especially effective because they will last through more than one season. Mulch helps keep water in the soil, too. Remember you are raking a well around the bottom of trees and shrubs so water can penetrate to the roots and be held there.
Now is the time to start picking apples, reap tomatoes, squashes, and all the bounty from your summer garden. Learn more about canning and freezing so you can enjoy the fruits of your labor through the winter.
Santa Cruz has wonderful nurseries and people who can give you good advice about planting. Organic gardening is endlessly rewarding, and relatively simple to do. Growing food is gratifying and a great way to collaborate with our environment.
Revel in the wonders of the natural environment we share here in Santa Cruz County, and the tremendous resources our community provides.