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Month: October 2022

Relaxation and Sleep for Holistic Wellbeing

Fall in Sonoma

Recently, I was visiting with a friend who has created an aromatherapy company in wine country and she brought to mind the importance of a restful nights sleep for one’s wellbeing.  As this is an important part of the lifestyle within an  Art of Leisure home, I wanted to share a few thoughts with you.

Home is our haven and our wellbeing is largely centered around the places at which we feel at home.  This could be our own house or a well appointed resort or guest cottage.  A large part of the welcoming and relaxing experience that we feel is the air or scent of a location. Carole Addison-Goyne from Nomad Botanicals has created a lovely business with this as their priority.  In my own office, I use a lavender diffuser from Nomad Botanicals to enliven the air with a restful scent that reminds me of a trip to a monastery in Provence where monks grew acres and acres of lavender.


At times in which you seek a moment of ease, it is nice to remember that our sense of smell allows us to reach back to a pleasant moment or memory in an instant.  This is an element of the wellness provided us by natural plants, which I find fascinating.

In Sonoma and Napa Valleys, with fall upon us, we are feeling the shorter days and longer nights.  Along with the grapevines and land devoted to agriculture, we are grateful for the slightly slower pace.  With all of my involvement in creating a home and environment that nurtures a sense of wellbeing, it was the luck of synchronicity that I noticed a recent discussion on the importance of sleep and relaxation on the TODAY Show, with Ariana Huffington and noted Harvard professor and sleep doctor Rebecca Robbins, author of “Secrets of Sleep“.

This seems to be a popular topic today, as Carole was asked to speak at the San Francisco Academy of Sciences’ Nighty Nightlife event under the stars.

WellbeignA lovely older tree is an endless source of healing and airborne scents.

This picture of a very old tree reminds me of Forest Bathing which is receiving quite a lot of attention recently.   Forest Bathing, or  Shinrin-Yoku, is a healing ritual originally from Japan. Spending time in nature, has been linked to both cognitive benefits, increase in mental health, and emotional wellbeing. This Japanese practice of taking in the forest with all the senses is truly a rewarding experience.  A very interesting book on this subject is Forest Bathing by Dr. Qing Li, who is the chairman of the Japanese Society of Forest Medicine and Associate Professor at the Nippon Medical School in Tokyo.

Plants can be both hardy and delicate.  Accordingly, Nomad Botanicals shares three key areas of working with plants for health and wellbeing:

  • Begin with healthy, vibrant botanical plants: This brings forth authentic essential oils, imparting aromas along with vital life force with each drop.  A treat for the senses and protection from the elements.
  • Expert Formulations: This is very important as it is with study, apprenticeship and working in the industry that people such as Carole, who, with 25 years of experience, become knowledgable about plant chemistry, mixing scents with top, middle, and low notes.  The result is a creation of poignant aromas, textures and results for those who enjoy these products.
  • The gift of being able to transform routine moments into rituals which support wellbeing.  This begins with careful and considerate packaging, presentation, design and personal attention to clients.
This is the diffuser I use in my office.  It allows one to easily transport oneself, through scent, to the five different locations of the world identified by their unique scents.

A bee roaming my neighborhood on a summer afternoon.  Simply looking and smelling flowers or consuming honey can be healthy additions to our day.

As one of the more relaxing scents, lavender is abundant in Sonoma and Napa Valleys.  Grown for both medicinal reasons and for landscaping. essential oils from plants such as lavender are at the heart of the mind, body and soul-soothing world of aromatherapy.  It was interesting to be reminded that essential oils in plants are their organic method of communication with the environment around them.  This is both to attract creatures, such as pollinating bees and butterflies, and to deter predators. How plant oils affect our mood and brain is an organic experience that has much to do with our past experiences and the influence of scent.

Towels are most always part of a wellness ritual.  These are a few lovely thick white towels and a waffle robe which I saw recently at the Chateau Sonoma store on the Sonoma Plaza.

Another wonderful example of organic towels from the sustainable home decor shop JAK W in Sonoma, just off the Plaza.  This style would be perfect for an outdoor shower as can be easily hung from a hook and dry in the breeze.

Alchemy Works is a newer store to Yountville which offers a number of very lovely products.  Seen her on the shelf is their room spray which features notes of bergamot, vetiver, and sandalwood with hints of nutmeg and fresh geranium.

Cooking can offer its own form of aromatherapy as seen here at Alchemy Works in Yountville.

This bag and hat would be especially welcome on a leisure wander along a path in a forest or tree lined city street, shown at Alchemy Works.

Wishing you many moments of relaxation and beauty as you enjoy the Art of Leisure.  Feel free to contact me anytime.

Fall in Sonoma

Healthy Soil + An Organic Pumpkin Patch

Fall in Sonoma

In Sonoma and Napa Valley because we live in an agricultural area the health of our soil is very important to our wellbeing.  As the soil directly impacts the health of the foods we grow and our community, it is my thought that we all may like to know a little more about nutrient rich soil.  For that reason, and to teach kids in my Sonoma Nature Club, I did a little experiment to study the effects of various microbial and nutritional additions to the soil on five different small areas of land in wine country.  Healthy land and gardens are an important part of the leisure lifestyle in Sonoma and Napa Valley.  In 2021, I began the research project on how soil amendments adjust the crop output and water retention of plants.

This informational and educational project included the participation of the Sonoma Nature Club (described in this local article) and Sonoma Mentoring Alliance members.  It  has been inspiring for kids of all ages to better understand the cultivation of soil and the growing of crops, farm to table, the endeavor has since transitioned into a valuable source of knowledge for the community.  Hopefully, this will be helpful to you and your plants as they thrive through the growing season.

Wine Country

Here, Sonoma Ecology Center Garden Park manager Steve Carara and I enjoy some of the harvest from my 2021 organic pumpkin patch at Sonoma Garden Park.

Sonoma Garden Park
One corner of the crop in the field.

This is partial list of what was monitored by Sonoma Nature Club:

  • Growth + health of plant
  • Count of pumpkins and size of fruit, plus foiliage
  • Soil water content
  • Soil compaction
Pumpkins in Wine Country
The 2022 pumpkin patch. You can see the rocks that a Sonoma Nature Club member painted on the lower right corner.

A few larger pumpkins at Sonoma Garden Park which we will study and then carve for Halloween festivities this year.

A few members of the Sonoma Nature Journal Club carving their 2021 pumpkin crop.

Sonoma Garden Park
Friends in the garden include pollinator butterflies.  We always appreciate a lovely Swallowtail butterfly visit.

This study of soil is part of the immersive agricultural experience that I have offered to kids and adults at the Sonoma Garden Park for a number of years.  The focus is specifically on analysis and education about crops, soil and the land, which will be helpful to both the personal gardener and the crop grower.  It has been my belief that becoming more comfortable with the land and nature is of the utmost of importance for everyone.

Soil Science
Part of our soil science study involved the product Biochar which is available from the company Pacific Biochar.  The Chief Executive Officer, Josiah Hunt is shown above discussing how this soil enhancement product increases crop yield for vineyards.

Biochar is simply defined as a fine-grained biomass charcoal used or found in soil.  For as long as fire and plant life have co-existed, pyrogenic organic matter (biochar) has played a role in the development and fertility of topsoil.  One of the findings in our Art of Leisure soil science study is that biochar does increase water retention in and around the root mass of the plant, allowing for better root development and water availability for the plant.  It also helps to increase soil tilth and supports microbial communities.


It is quite interesting to know and see how Biochar is created.  First, the natural wood pieces are carefully burned or heated with a minimum or absence of oxygen.  When air is excluded, oxygen for combustion is stripped from the biomass, which is thus reduced to carbon bonds of charcoal.   Above is a container burning at Donum Estate Winery earlier this year.

Here we see the opening of the container and cooling of the product.  It will then be packaged and transported to a site for distribution.  I have used this product as part of the soil science study for Sonoma Nature Club and the community.  It is my belief that the foundation for soil health is in increased microbial activity in our soil.

Healthy soil that has some structure and can bring nutrition to the roots of a plant can be accomplished in a number of ways.  This engaging agricultural study is helping us to better understand the process.  Below is an example of a cover crop of mustard seen in the Napa Valley earlier this year.  Mustard is usually incorporated into the soil later in the season, all part of sustainable agriculture.

If you have an interest in this, please feel free to give me a call anytime.

Home and Nature