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Butterfly and Hummingbird Garden Gifts • Our Fourth Year

Spring in Sonoma

Hummingbird gardenAs we celebrate our fourth year of gifting butterfly & hummingbird garden seeds to the community, I’d like to share my recent visit to the home and garden of my collaborator on this project, Karin Campion Mattoon, as well as my own home in Sonoma.

Karin & I dreamed up this idea in the middle of the pandemic when spirits were low, and business was slow.  We harnessed our resources and engaged the mentors and mentees at the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance to help with this meaningful project.  Our focus remains beauty, life, joy, and the importance of collaboration for the pollinators on our planet.

Today, we are grateful to the many local business’s who have joined us in sharing these gifts with their clients and friends.  We are part of a greater movement to support butterflies and hummingbirds.  I understand that the Monarch butterfly count has increased substantially across the nation.

Hummingbird gardens

Butterly and hummingbird garden
Planting new seeds in 2024, surrounded by the flowers from 2021 planting.

Bees in the garden


Art of Leisure Butterfly & Hummingbird Seed Gift Businesses • 2024

Sign of The Bear
Café Mac
Summer Vine
Prohibition Spirits Distillery
Sonoma Country Antiques
Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa
MacArthur Place Hotel
Refill Madness
Caddis Winery
Baker & Cook
Off Broadway Cleaners
Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau
Woof
Sonoma Valley Certified Farmers Market
Plain Jane’s
Oak Hill Farm
Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance

Edward Jones, Lindsey Stone
Sonoma Syrup Company
Scott Nichols Gallery
Readers Books
Eraldi’s Men’s Wear & Shoes
The Loop Sonoma
Potter Green & Company
Vintage House
Chateau Sonoma
Half-Pint
Tiddle E. Winks
Artefact Design & Salvage
Wine Country Garden Center
Sonoma Mission Gardens
Jak-W
Valley Swim Club
Williams-Sonoma, Sonoma
The Sonoma School of Martial Arts

Seed samples

This year, for a limited time, locally owned Sonoma Mission Gardens is offering a sample of an organic product to help the seeds to start their growth, and Wine Country Garden Center is offering a sample of an organic product to support healthy flower growth. These complimentary samples will be available after April 16th; visit each nursery to pick up your sample and to inquire about additional tips for planting success.


Butterly garden
Porches are so valuable in a home where you may enjoy the day or evening surrounded by gardens endlessly changing activity and beauty.
Butterly and hummingbird garden planting
Entering the home, we see a dining table waiting to display vases filled with colorful cuttings from the garden.

Butterfly and Hummingbird Garden Seeds


Art of Leisure & Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa

A lovely setting with abundant flowers at Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, awaiting guests and the Spring Garden workshop.

In addition to the businesses participating in the seed giveaway, we are honored to collaborate with historic Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa as they celebrate Earth Day on April 19th with a Spring Garden workshop, creating sustainable hummingbird and butterfly gardens using our curated seed packets and garden pots. Gathered on the South Lawn at Fairmont Sonoma, you will learn more about these beautiful creatures and the importance of flowers as a food source for pollinators. Enjoy delicious tea featuring Sonoma Syrups and made made with nature’s freshest herbs while you assemble your own personal garden.  

Saturday, April 19th, 3: pm, $35 per person (one garden box per family of 4). You may view the program and purchase a ticket at their website here.


Butterly Pollinator

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.

Wellbeing

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.

Biochar

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

Water in Sonoma Valley, Carriger Creek, Home and Gardens

As we continue this winter season in which we celebrate the recent rains, I’d like to share with you two properties and some beautiful fountains that all bring to mind the joy of water available to the homes and gardens of wine country.  The first is a lovely residential + commercial location on the southern side of Sonoma Valley with an abundance of artisanal water.  The water flows up from the earth (at a rate of 14± gallons per minute), and is readily available to the home, small orchard, hobby vineyard, and business.

Sonoma Valley

View from above looking west at this Sonoma Valley property, 75 Fremont Drive, Sonoma.

A lovely interior with older wood floors that have such a warm tone to their coloring.

A very inviting entrance to one of the residential areas.

Sonoma Valley Vineyard

A few organic grapevines enjoying the sunshine before harvest.  Feel free to watch this video for more information.

The second property is on the west side of Sonoma Valley, just moments from the center of town, Sonoma Plaza.  This estate is graced with the abundant beauty of Carriger Creek flowing freely along the land.  With its location at the foot of the mountain, it offers sweeping views of Sonoma Valley, vineyards and beyond from most area points on this 33± acres of land.

Sonoma Valley

Expansive view from a potential building site on this land.

Nearby trail to wander at your leisure with full privacy.  You can see a part of the wildflower preserve in the distance.

Sonoma Valley Home

I just love this “personal park” area next to historic Carriger Creek where one can gather with family or friends.  This spot has been enjoyed by young Nature Camp participants over the years.

Journaling at Carriger CreekA moment overlooking the creek in the early afternoon with my journal.

Please enjoy this brief video highlighting the beauty of Carriger Creek and the pleasure of journaling, something that I share with the community, including children, through my Sonoma Nature Journal Club.

Carriger CreekThe beauty of the simple waterway of Carriger Creek.

Here in Sonoma and Napa Valleys, we so deeply appreciate when the water that springs forth from the land via stream, creek, lake or other waterway.  Carriger Creek is an enchanting natural waterway in the Sonoma Creek watershed that meanders through the land on the west side of Sonoma Valley before flowing into Sonoma Creek and out to the ocean.

A simple traditional tea house amidst the trees, with an enormous view of this property.

The Van Hoosear Wildflower Preserve, a nature preserve in Sonoma County, is nearby with 163± acres along the foothills of Sonoma Mountain.  The Preserve has a gently sloping grassland and over 250 species of common and rare wildflowers.  This sweeping expanse of protected land can be seen from the property and potentially hiked often.

Father José Altimira had much to say about the vital, historic water sources in this area.

“Sonoma is a fountain of fountains,” wrote Father Altimira in July of 1823, as he explored the North Bay, looking for the best place to build a mission.

The wonderful Sonoma Mission Gardens nursery has unique fountains to choose from so that you may relax amidst the sound and positive energy of flowing water.  To honor our precious natural water sources, here are a few lovely fountains that can be purchased for your garden and home.

Sonoma Valley Gardens

Ripples of water

Fountains in Sonoma Valley

Bubbling forth

Sonoma Garden Home

Drawn into a trough

Sonoma Mission Gardens

Tiered terra cotta

Garden Fountain

The majesty of an arcing stance

A side entrance door to this favored nursery of locals reminds us of all of the character and art of garden rooms.  Here Sonoma Mission Gardens offers many vessels: fountains for your own flowing water in Sonoma or Napa Valley.  It is all about land + gardens + homes, adding so much to our “Art of Leisure” lifestyle with family and friends.

Contact me anytime for further details.

Celebrating Earth Day With Butterfly & Hummingbird Gardens

Earth Day

Spring is here and Earth Day is fast approaching.  Sonoma Syrup Co. & Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance have joined with me to bring over 330 Butterfly & Hummingbird Garden Seed Gifts to anyone who is visiting Sonoma Valley from April 15th through the 25th.  These gifts, as seen above, will be available at the shops and wineries listed on the last post at no cost, only with the thought of helping our winged friends.

This lovely swing on a spacious wine country property’s front porch is the perfect spot to pop on a straw hat, pick up your binoculars, and enjoy the afternoon light while getting a closer look at the hummingbirds and butterflies who come to visit flowers in your garden.

We hope you’ll take a moment to read two fabulous articles recently published in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) that speak to the importance of butterfly & hummingbird gardens.

Jon Dunn has written a book about all things hummingbird: The Glitter in the GreenFind the review and story here.

The butterfly and pollinator garden at Jordan Winery in Healdsburg, Sonoma County, was designed to encourage a trip around property to view the sanctuaries created for our pollinating friends.  Read the wonderful overview here.

Earth Day

A simple, meaningful afternoon project with mentors and mentees.

It is a joy to see such happy faces and to understand that this effort is truly making a contribution to the community and our greater ecosystem.

We were inspired by our surroundings as we created with enthusiasm this gift to benefit butterflies and hummingbirds in the Sonoma Valley and beyond.

Earth Day Gifts

Tina Baldry, the program director at the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance, spearheaded this project with Karin Campion Mattoon and myself.

We look forward to hearing from you with pictures and thoughts on how your garden grows.  Enjoy a beautiful Earth Day!

Oak Trees Among Us and Oak Gall Ink Painting

Winter in Sonoma and Napa Valleys is a beautiful balance between rest and activity.  We who live here are grateful for our homes and our gardens.  Nature is such a large part of life in these Valleys.  We know that the vines are resting all around us.  This visual and economic reality provides inspiration and sets the cadence of our days.  Also, gifting us with an ever-present reminder of the seasons in our lives.

As someone who circles around many lovely properties, large and small every day, I’d like to highlight the oak trees which are abundant in the Sonoma and Napa Valley.  These beautiful trees surround and add much to the homes, land and views.  In addition, I share with you how to re-use the oak galls which fall from these trees.  Following is a short video on how to gather and make your own ink from the galls which can be found in abundance under or around the branches.

First let me share a few noteworthy examples of the oak woodlands around estates, appreciated in landscaping and on the land.

Sonoma and Napa Valley oak trees across all seasons:

An inviting spot for a moments summer respite under the reach of these branches which so exquisitely provide shade on the land.

View of Sonoma Valley with oak trees on the valley floor and hills.

Handsome barn with a few mature trees.

Oak Trees

Fall in Napa Valley with oaks in the distance.

A lovely estate with a  graceful oak welcoming all as they arrive.

A simple place with an abundance of vistas and fresh air.  The perfect location to take in the winter sunshine with a friend.

This property is perfectly complete with a guest house and inviting sport court overlooking the Valley, offering both privacy and a breathtaking view.

A cozy cottage is nestled in the hillside with the trees protecting the patio behind, then framing the views to San Francisco and beyond.

The history of oak trees and their oak galls tells us that Renaissance artists collected the galls and created a rich ink for writing and painting.   Oak gall ink is derived from an organic growth on oak trees caused by a parasite wasp which lays its eggs on the bark.  Similar to what was used in the past, oak galls can be found today around the base of most oak trees.

Oak Gall Ink

This original drawing by Leonardo da Vinci is said to have been crafted using iron-gall ink, which is a slight variation of the recipe I share in the video below.

Also, the Leonardo da Vinci book A Closer Look, describes how Leonardo used iron-gall ink for his drawings, a pigment made from oak galls and iron salts that becomes transparent under infrared reflectography (IRR).   It is thought that the paintings and drawings of Durer, Rembrandt and Vincent van Gogh, as well as many score sheets of Bach’s heavenly music, were created with this ink.   

This medium is quite simple to make and is a way to reuse, recycle, and get closer to one of the most natural plus authentic parts of these very old trees.

I have used oak gall ink for years.  Here is a simple dog painting which was done rather quickly, you can see the depth that this organic material brings to the subject.  

Oak Gall Ink Painting

Quite fine pieces of the gall can be seen in the slightly grainy detail of this drawing.

This video shows you how you can make my recipe for oak gall ink at home in just a few steps.

Feel free to call me with any questions or comments on this recipe or your paintings.

 

For additional information,  a book from my library which shows many examples and details about Leonardo da Vinci’s work.

Enjoying the oak trees and making ink is both an activity and and an exercise in nourishing rest.  It is my hope that you may spend a few moments among these majestic trees and find the Art of Leisure wherever you are.

The story of a Barred owl and life on the land in Sonoma Valley

Land Sonoma Valley

It is in winter that we can most easily see the beautiful birds in our lives.  With the leaves having fallen, birds perch in the branches above us, happily talking or singing with their fellow feathered friends.  In the spirit of honoring their presence, I share with you the story of a Barred owl who was injured in Sonoma County, then patiently rehabilitated by an experienced falconer on land in Sonoma Valley which I recently had listed for sale and have since sold.  Paco the owl was initially found at a construction site, then brought to Bird Rescue Center of Sonoma County (BRC).  At the time he was given to the BRC, his injuries were substantial.  The full inspiring story of his recovery follows.

Here Paco sits contently, briefly gazing behind at what may be nearby before spreading his wings.

This Barred Owl, cared for by the BRC, is carefully tended by falconer Chris Melancon. The video below tells the story of Paco’s rehabilitation.

Sonoma Valley Land

A striking bird’s-eye view of the 8± acres of Sonoma land that became the perfect location for an owl to recover from it’s injuries and gain strength.  Within the foreground is the area in which Paco would exercise quite early, before dawn most mornings.  This property is on the scenic east side of Sonoma Valley, with an expansive viewshed that can be seen in the distance.

Sonoma Land

Just because we love the land in Sonoma and Napa Valley so much, here is an on-the-ground view of a potential building site.

Land in Sonoma

A full array of crops were grown on this land, in addition to being a space for Paco to practice flying once again.

Sharing a moment of sunshine with a few friends.

It is my hope that you have enjoyed this story and will contact the Bird Rescue Center nearest you whenever you find birds, including owls or hawks, in need of care.  Please feel free to reach out to this amazing organization in Sonoma County for more details or to inquire as to how you can support the honorable work they do.

Wishing you a lovely day.  Feel free to contact me anytime with comments or ideas.