The quarter-mile-long Mariposa Creek Parkway runs parallel to State Route 140 (Main Street in downtown Mariposa) on Stroming Road between Eighth and Sixth streets. Along the path, the Master Gardeners created the California Native Plant Demonstration Garden, which includes dozens of beautiful, drought-tolerant plants labeled for easy identification.
The path, which follows a short stretch of Mariposa Creek, was designed to increase appreciation for native flora and encourage Californians to consider “going native” in their own landscapes, said Kris Randal, coordinator of the Master Gardener program for UC ANR Cooperative Extension in Mariposa and Merced counties. Water shortages associated with the ongoing California drought are also driving interest in landscaping with native plants.
“Many natives are drought-tolerant, adapted to local soils, and rarely need fertilizers or pesticide treatments,” Randal said. “With some care and irrigation to get them started, they create a beautiful natural setting that brings pollinators and wildlife into your backyard.”
Randal was an advocate for native plants even before joining UC ANR. As a community educator for the Resource Conservation District in Mariposa County, she coordinated the transformation of a weedy parking lot around the district's building on the Mariposa Fairgrounds into a beautiful display of plants and wildflowers that occur naturally in the surroundings.
“After I planted native brush and wildflowers, it was a joy for me to watch diversity come into my yard. Plant it, and they will come,” Randal said.
Randal suggests growing California native plants, even over native plants from other parts of the world with Mediterranean climates – such as Australia, Chile and South Africa – which also are often recommended because of their low water needs.
The California natives, she said, support local wildlife and pollinators, have historical and cultural importance, and save time and expense while adding beauty and ecological health to the environment. Native plants attract native bees, butterflies and hummingbirds and provide seeds, nuts and fruits for other native birds and wildlife. Native plants promote soil health by supporting flora and fauna that flourish underground.
“There's all kinds of magic going on under the soil,” Randal said.
As a first step toward converting to native landscaping, Randal suggests finding a natural area close to home and visiting it every few weeks to see what is growing, and what is blooming. Take notes and consult a plant guide or the Internet to identify the plants.
“It sounds like a lot of work, but it's not,” Randal said. “It's fun.”
This task is particularly convenient for Mariposa County residents, where the UC ANR Master Gardeners planted a wide array of beautiful native plants in one place.
In early spring, one of the first deciduous shrubs to leaf-out on the pathway is California buckeye. The leathery, pear-shaped fruits contain seeds that are easily sprouted, or they can be used in dried flower arrangements.
Along the trail, visitors will find California fuchsia, known by many as a natural hummingbird feeder. Blue elderberry, columbine and manzanita also attract hummingbirds to the demonstration garden.
Randal points out soap root, which looks like a grouping of long spindly leaves growing from the ground. Native Americans used pulp from the bulb to make a soapy lather, and they used the fibrous and hairy husks of the bulb to make small brushes to whisk out acorn shell debris from grinding holes.
One of Randal's favorite natives, she said, is a low creeping sage. The fragrant plant forms a low mat as big as 10 feet across with blue-violet flowers May to June. “This is great in a pine forest where it will get afternoon shade,” Randal said.
A lovely shrub known as Ceanothus blue jeans produces profuse powder-blue clustered flowers. The tall evergreen provides a colorful show of flowers with no care or irrigation. Western redbud explodes with magenta blossoms in the spring. Native Americans used the branches for basket weaving and made a red dye from the bark. Red Twig dogwood produces beautiful white blooms in early summer, and its bright red branches are a unique display in the winter.
“Growing native plants help you appreciate your surroundings and feel more connected to the natural world,” Randal said. “It attracts more life and that's why many of us garden.”
An initiative to maintain and enhance healthy families and communities is part of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Strategic Vision 2025.
Author: Jeannette Warnert
To find out how to help people who want to grow food in their communities in California, Rachel Surls, a UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Cooperative Extension advisor, and several UC ANR colleagues interviewed urban farmers as part of a statewide study of urban agriculture needs.
Surls, who specializes in sustainable food systems in Los Angeles County, and her colleagues identified several common challenges that UC ANR and local governments could address to cultivate a more urban agriculture-friendly environment.
In an op-ed published March 24 in the Sacramento Bee, Surls listed the following six things that local officials could do to encourage urban farming:
- Make zoning and regulatory information accessible
- Develop a transparent process for use of city-owned land
- Create an urban agriculture incentive zone
- Update zoning to make it urban-ag friendly
- Make water accessible while promoting efficient use
- Provide guidance and support for soil testing and remediation.
There seems to be growing interest in cities encouraging urban farming. For example, last year Oakland updated its city codes to allow planting of community gardens in most zones of the city without obtaining a special permit. San Diego has made it easier for residents to keep chickens and bees in their backyards. The Sacramento City Council recently voted to allow residents to farm on urban lots and sell produce they grow at farm stands. And now, Santa Clara County is considering tax breaks for property owners who allow crops to be planted on their unused parcels.
Urban farmers told the researchers that UC ANR could help by providing educational materials on topics such as pest management, water management, design of community urban agriculture projects and soil testing and remediation.
To begin providing the public with information about urban agriculture, UC ANR has created a website at http://ucanr.edu/urbanag. Visitors to the website will find science-based information on raising crops and livestock, selling farm products and links to policies for farming in a backyard, at a school or a community garden.
“Many urban farmers are beginning farmers so the website offers basic information on planting, pests and irrigation, and on navigating local laws and regulations that impact farming,” said Surls. “But the website is also intended to be a resource for policymakers who are making decisions that impact local farming in their cities.”
For the latest information about urban farming, visit http://ucanr.edu/urbanag and follow @UCurbanag on Twitter.
The University of California Global Food Initiative aims to put the world on a path to sustainably and nutritiously feed itself. By building on existing efforts and creating new collaborations among UC's 10 campuses, affiliated national laboratories and the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the initiative will develop and export solutions for food security, health and sustainability throughout California, the United States and the world.
The conference begins on March 24 with presentations on new research. On March 25, participants take a tour of Lodi-area vineyards and wineries. The “Innovations in Extension Symposium” will be March 26. (Full agenda.)
“At the symposium, we'll be focusing on extension strategy,” said Matthew Hoffman of the Lodi Winegrape Commission, the sponsoring organization.
The events involve nearly a dozen UC ANR academics, including three Cooperative Extension viticulture advisors who were hired during the past year: Lindsay Jordan of Madera, Merced and Mariposa counties, George Zhuang of Fresno County and Ashraf El-Kereamy of Kern County.
During the session on innovations in extension, UC ANR's Franz Niederholzer, an orchard systems advisor in Sutter and Yuba counties, will discuss an extension project underway in collaboration with scientists in Washington and Oregon. The project, funded by the USDA, will offer training in spray application technology to the farming community.
“Spray application technology is very important to integrated pest management and to farming in general,” Niederholzer said. “Mischief can happen if you don't spray properly. Growers have so many things to consider, we want to revisit the fundamentals of spraying with them.”
UC ANR specialist Mark Lubell will discuss the use of social networks in agricultural extension. Social networks and social media can help improve access to information, transmit knowledge efficiently and deliver information when and where it is needed. Lubell will share tools that can be used to conduct networked outreach and build extension efforts.
Other UC ANR presenters are Chris Greer, vice provost of Cooperative Extension, Matthew Fidelibus, viticulture specialist based at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, Ryan Murphy of the Agricultural Sustainability Institute, and Neil McRoberts, plant pathology professor at UC Davis.
For more information about National Viticulture and Enology Extension Leadership Conference, contact Matthew Hoffman at (209) 367-4727, firstname.lastname@example.org.
An initiative to enhance competitive and sustainable food systems is part of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Strategic Vision 2025.
“It's like having an embarrassing social disease,” Betancourt said. “We want to do better, and we need your help.”
Betancourt was appealing to UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and other experts who were gathered with him at the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association annual meeting in Visalia. UC ANR entomology specialist Larry Godfrey had begun the pest management session with a somber message. The whiteflies that cotton growers had been controlling reasonably well for more than 20 years was suddenly posing a tremendous challenge.
“I don't know what's up,” said Godfrey, who is housed in the Department of Entomology and Nematology at UC Davis. “It's a different critter.”
Betancourt attested to Godfrey's conclusions. He observed a few whiteflies in the field during the summer of 2013. It was a minor problem. In 2014, he decided to be more aggressive with monitoring and treating for the pest.
“I doubled down last year, but we had a bigger problem with whiteflies,” he said. “I thought, ‘This just can't happen!'”
Whiteflies feed on plant sap and then excrete honeydew. The sweet, sticky honeydew settles on open cotton bolls. If sticky cotton makes its way to spinning mills, it gums up the machinery. It's a scenario that mill managers won't soon forget.
Because of the San Joaquin Valley's long, dry growing season, cotton farmers have earned a reputation for high-quality, high value cotton, said Roger Isom, the CEO of the California Cotton Growers and Ginners Association. Sticky cotton is major concern.
“It happened in Arizona and almost destroyed the state's cotton industry,” Isom said. “Sticky cotton brings mills to a standstill. If they start getting sticky cotton, they'll decide to stop buying from the area where it came from. And once you have the stigma, it's extremely hard to overcome.”
Godfrey said the new biotype of sweet potato whitefly was first found in the San Joaquin Valley in July 1992. Certain areas required careful management, such as those closer to cities where it is warmer and the pest can spend the winter on ornamental plants. Farmers were able to deal with it.
“Then, in 2013 and 2014, populations of whitefly developed in other parts of the San Joaquin Valley, not only adjacent to cities. We don't know why or exactly what is going on,” Godfrey said.
Initially, pest control advisers suspected the whitefly was developing pesticide resistance. UC ANR research trials at the UC West Side Research and Extension Center in Five Points and the Shafter Research Station in Kern County showed that insecticides used at label rates were still able to knock down the pest.
“What we did notice was we had a lot more whitefly and we started seeing them earlier than normal,” Godfrey said. “It certainly makes it more expensive to grow cotton and, if not controlled, makes sticky cotton.”
What's worse, the reputation of cotton in a whole area is tarnished if one or two farmers mismanage the pest and their cotton gets into commercial channels.
“In my area, we have a problem right now and it's not just my problem,” Betancourt said. “Everybody who has whiteflies has to deal with them. We have a reputation to uphold.”
All the growers who send cotton to the same gin as Betancourt will be invited to meet with UC ANR scientists Godfrey and Pete Goodell, integrated pest management advisor, to strategize about whitefly control for 2015.
Godfrey said they will emphasize the importance of early management and treatment, sharing lessons learned in Arizona.
“The scientists there did a lot of really good work on quantifying an infestation and determining when to treat,” Godfrey said. “We are taking their recommendations and studying where we might need to make changes due to California growing conditions.”
Goodell said it is critically important for growers to take the threat of sticky cotton seriously.
“We can't reiterate enough, once you develop a poor reputation for sticky cotton, it sticks with you,” Goodell said.
An initiative to manage endemic and invasive pests and diseases is part of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Strategic Vision 2025.
Goodell webinar on Preventing Sticky Cotton.
Godfrey research report PDF attached below:
Okay, who ate the last piece? Umm, when will you be making more?
Maya Farris, 9, a second-year 4-H'er, may be fairly new to 4-H but she knows how to make a good batch of “Monkey Bread.” A member of the Pleasants Valley 4-H Club in Vacaville, she won a showmanship award at the Solano County 4-H Project Skills Day with her “Monkey Bread” entry and then went on to enter the project—and wow the judges—at the Solano County 4-H Presentation Day.
We watched folks line-up for a sample of her monkey bread at Project Skills Day, and then watched her expertly answer questions from judges at the Presentation Day.
Before we give you the recipe, first, a little bit about Maya. She's one busy 4-H'er. Her current projects are baking and bread making, arts and crafts, rabbits, poultry, goats and crocheting. She learned how to make monkey bread from her baking and breadmaking project. She thoroughly enjoyed the recipe, as did her family and friends.
The Farris family is sold on 4-H. “4-H has really helped Maya become focused and experience different activities that she may not have otherwise tried,” mother Rayita said. “4-H is definitely a family affair; her older sister is also involved in 4-H and in many projects.”
The monkey bread recipe is a five-ingredient recipe, perfect for busy days:
Monkey Bread Recipe
Prepared by Maya Farris,
Pleasants Valley 4-H Club, Vacaville
1 can refrigerated biscuits (16.3 oz)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
Mix sugar and cinnamon in a large ziplock bag and set aside. Cut each biscuit into quarters and place in zip lock bag, a few at a time. Shake to coat and place pieces in a greased 8" loaf pan. Combine melted butter and brown sugar and pour over the coated biscuit pieces. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool 5 minutes, then turn over onto a serving plate. Serve warm.
Meanwhile, what do you know about monkey bread? Actor Robert Duvall couldn't get enough of it. Kids grab it and pull it apart like toys after Christmas. Nancy Reagan served it in the White House. Texan Anne King created a legend.
One of my Texas relatives gifted me with Tom Perini's Texas Cowboy Cooking cookbook which includes Anne King's famous Monkey Bread recipe. Robert Duvall wrote the foreword to the book after enjoying Tom Perini's cooking in between scenes of the Warner Brothers' 1995 movie, “Stars Fell on Henrietta.”
Duvall starred as a destitute wildcat oilman who lands in the town of Henrietta, Texas, during the Depression. Duvall thinks there's oil — aka black gold, Texas tea — on a poor cotton grower's farm. He convinces the farmer to go for broke. Director James Keach filmed the Clint Eastwood-produced movie near Buffalo Gap, Texas, which just happened to be near the Perini Ranch Restaurant.
“After Clint Eastwood and I ate our first meal there, the cast and crew returned for dinner as often as we could,” Duvall writes in the foreword. Guess you could say they took a'likin' to the restaurant. They loved the “good eats,” including Monkey Bread.
Anne King of Albany, Texas, rose to fame (maybe not fortune) with Monkey Bread and shipped it all over the country. It's also called a pull-apart bread or bubble bread because of the layers of dough squares or rolled balls baked together in a tube or bundt pan.
No one really knows how “monkey” became part of the name. Maybe someone was just monkeying around or figured the bread resembled the monkey puzzle tree. Then again, there's a fruit called “monkey bread” from the baobab tree or monkey bread tree. Nancy Reagan helped popularize the odd-sounding bread in the 1980s when she served it in the White House.
Here's Anne King's famous Monkey Bread recipe from Tom Perini's Texas Cowboy Cooking book.
By Anne King
1 cup scalded milk
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup mashed potatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
One 1-ounce cake of yeast or 1-1/2 packets of dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
3 eggs, beaten
6 cups flour
1/2 cup butter
Mix together the hot milk and shortening. Add the potatoes, salt and sugar. Set aside to cool to lukewarm. Dissolve the yeast in the water, and add to the potato mixture. Add the beaten eggs. Add 5 cups of the flour, 1 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. Turn out the dough onto a floured board. Sprinkle the dough with 1/3 cup flour. Knead the dough thoroughly, adding a little more flour if the dough is sticky. Place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise for 2 hours.
Melt the butter in a shallow bowl. Roll out the dough on a floured board into a rectangular shape to a thickness of about 1/2-inch. Cut into 2-inch squares. Dip the squares into the melted butter and arrange in the bottom of a tube pan (bundt cake pan). The squares should overlap slightly. Continue to add layers until the dough is used up. Set aside to rise again until double in size, about an hour. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. Loosen the sides of the monkey bread rings with a table knife. Turn out the monkey bread and let guests pull apart the squares to serve themselves. You may bake in smaller pans, just be sure to reduce the cooking time slightly, maybe 15 to 20 minutes. Makes 1 large loaf.
Texas Cooking (www.texascooking.com) offers a version of Monkey Bread with cinnamon. It's shaped into balls instead of squares and is made with cinnamon and pecans. This bread can be mixed in the traditional manner, by hand, or in the dough cycle of your bread machine.
2-1/4 teaspoons (1 package) active dry yeast
4 cups white flour, plus more for kneading if needed
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup warm milk
3/4 cup warm water
3 tablespoons melted butter, divided
1 egg, at room temperature, lightly beaten
1 cup toasted pecans, finely chopped (see Note, below)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2/3 cup light brown sugar
5 tablespoons butter, melted
Lightly grease a 10-inch tube, 9-inch springform or Bundt pan. In a large bowl, combine the yeast, flour, salt and sugar, making a well in the center. In a separate container, stir together the milk, water, 2 tablespoons melted butter and egg. Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture, and stir together to form a soft dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic. Place dough in a bowl that has been lightly sprayed with vegetable cooking spray. Brush dough with remaining 1 tablespoon melted butter, and cover with waxed paper or plastic wrap.
Let rise in a warm place for 45 to 60 minutes, or until doubled in size. While bread is rising, mix together the toasted pecans, cinnamon and brown sugar. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently for two minutes. Divide dough into 30 equal pieces. Shape pieces into balls. Dip each ball into the melted butter, then roll in the pecan mixture. Place in prepared pan. Do not pack pieces together, but leave some space between the dough pieces. Sprinkle any remaining pecan mixture and melted butter over the dough pieces. Cover with waxed paper or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes. Bake in a 375 degree preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes. Bread should rise well above the top of the pan and be golden brown. Cool on wire rack.
Second-year 4-H'er Maya Farris, 9, of Vacaville, answers questions about her monkey bread display at the Solano County 4-H Presentation Day. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)