Roasted Feta with Honey
1 8oz slab Greek Feta, blotted dry
2 tablespoons
olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
Preheat oven to 400. Place feta in a small earthenware dish and cover with olive oil. Bake until the cheese is soft but not melted, about 8 minutes.  
Preheat broiler. Warm honey and pour over the surface of the feta. Broil until brown and bubbly about 8 minutes. Serve with bread, heirloom tomatoes, roasted beets, nuts or pickled vegetables.

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Gardening in the Microbiome    
Discoveries about the diversity and workings of our gut bacteria have come on so thick and fast in the last couple of years, you can hardly open a newspaper or visit a grocery store without encountering the word 'microbiome' or hearing people talk 'probiotics'. This is a scientific revolution equivalent to the transformation of a horse- drawn cart to the automobile.
A pinch of rich topsoil contains tens of millions of bacteria and scientists are working hard to understand what most of them are up to. All plants have a microbiome, a cosmos-like mass of microbes that coats their roots, leaves, shoots, fruits and seeds. Plants can't get the nutrition they need from soil without the help of microbes - particularly bacteria and fungi - which create nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium and other nutrients in a form the plant cells can absorb.
It turns out the complex microbial world in the soil may protect plants much like our gut microbiome protects our bodies. In a classic experiment, researchers grew plants in two types of soil. They sterilized one soil to kill all the microbes and left the other soil unsterilized. Then they introduced a pathogen to each type of soil. Plants grown in the sterilized soil succumbed to the pathogen, while the plants grown in unsterilized soil did fine. Researchers found when pathogens attack a plant, it responds by releasing chemicals into the soil that attract a number of microbial species. As those microbes gather around the plant, they release compounds that kill the pathogen. One can't help but see the parallels between soil immunity and our own immune system.
How can you establish a favorable microbial ecosystem? Just as antibiotics indiscriminately kill both good and bad bacteria in the gut, you should avoid fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides which disrupt soil biology. Incorporate organic matter such as compost and manure to the soil. Use mulch, leaf litter or plantings to cover bare soil. And increase diversity, for a diverse garden is a resilient garden. Whether microbes are multiplying in the soil or going gangbusters in our guts, they are everywhere and will outlive us by an eternity.
Natural soils are thriving with life. They contain an incredible diversity of microscopic bacteria, fungi, viruses and other organisms. A single handful of soil can contain tens of thousands of different species.  
The simplest solution for restoring fertility to the soil is to follow a prebiotic strategy and feed the beneficial microbes. Nature relies on prebiotics; organic matter, compost, and mulch to build fertile soil
Yep, it's dead. The absence of microbes and mycorrhizal fungi make it difficult to establish trees in the city. This has profound implications for human quality of life. 
For more information on the micobiome in soil 
Conifer Heyday
About 400 million years ago, the first vascular plants ( plant tissues that conduct water, sap, and nutrients) appeared on Earth. These were plants such as horsetails, mosses and ferns. From these plants, the first trees evolved around 365-million-years ago. From these swampy forests, conifers appeared. Conifer domination was long and illustrious, and they happily shared the earth with the dinosaurs. Plant-eating dinosaurs inhaled vegetation such as ferns, cycads, ginkgo and conifers.
Conifer resins and poisons would have offered defense against dinosaurs. In the book Jurassic Park, scientists clone dinosaurs from the blood found in ancient amber (conifer resin) trapped mosquitoes. This was the heyday of the conifers, from 250-65 million years ago, nurturing the evolution of 20,000 species.
Then about 125 million years ago, small flowers emerged in Asia. This was the beginning of the flowering plants or hardwoods. The hardwoods, exceedingly abundant today, would have been unknown to the first dinosaurs.  
Add another 60 million years of evolution and a number of trees we would recognize today were around: laurels, magnolias, planes, maples, oaks, willows and within another 20 million years, the palms. By then the hardwoods underwent a massive expansion, undoubtedly helped by a warming climate. When the dinosaurs were disappearing (66 million years ago) the hardwoods were dominating the world with the conifers exiled mostly into the northern latitudes and the Pacific Rim.
Hardwoods co-evolved with various animals and particularly insects to move pollen from flower to flower. Colorful petals, nectar, and fragrance that we associate with flowers developed in response to this need. Conifers are exclusively wind pollinated, not animal pollinated. Conifers declined to 630 species while over 300,000 species of hardwoods exist today.
The decline of the conifers and concurrent expansion of hardwoods represents one of the most important distributions of plant life on Earth. Today less than 1% of all plant species are conifers, but they cover 30% of Earth's forested land. Conifers are the largest (giant sequoia), tallest (coast redwood), and oldest (bristlecone pine) living things. They're still here and the dinosaurs are long gone.

A conifer forest in the Rocky Mountains has the eerie feel of bygone world. Conifers are harbingers for climatic change for millions of years, survivors across deep time.

A redwood tree in Big Sur California. Five percent of the world's conifers are in California.

Lodgepole pine forest in Yellowstone National Park. Conifers often grow where soil or climate is sub-optimal.

A high perch for a pair of bald eagles. Douglasfir is one of the world's tallest conifers capable of growing over 300 feet.

For more information on conifers of the Northwest    

Thanks for reading.  
Happy Planting!    


Faith Appelquist

President & Founder


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