Hot Cocoa

1 ½ cups whole milk
Peel from 1 clementine
1 ½ tsp cocoa powder
2 tsp sugar
¼ tsp cinnamon
Pinch of chili powder
In a small saucepan, heat milk with peel.

Meanwhile stir together cocoa powder, sugar, cinnamon and chili powder. Once milk is just shy of boiling, discard peel. Pour a small amount of warm milk into mug, stirring with cocoa power mixture to form a paste.

Gradually add remaining milk.

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Spring Soil    
What's the difference between dirt and soil?
Dirt is the stuff that's under your fingernails. Dirt is the stuff you sweep off the floor. Soil is way more than that. It is one of the four things you can't live without; water, air, sunlight, and soil. All of our food comes from soil, all of our clothing comes from soil, and all of our houses come from soil. So without soil you would be hungry, naked and homeless.

Here is how to assess your soil. Take a handful of it and smell it. It should smell earthy and sweet, not sour. It should crumble easily. If it comes out as a block, then it may be compacted. Stick a coat hanger in it and if it resists, you have compaction. Feel it. Is it smooth? Does it make a nice ribbon between your thumb and forefinger? That's a loam. Look at the color; the darker the soil, the more organic material.

You don't want to work a soil when it is wet because that could destroy the structure. The structure is how the individual particles of sand, silt and clay are arranged. If you break the structure, soil can puddle or break and that can cause problems by increasing the amount of compaction and reducing drainage.

To improve damaged soil, add compost by gently working it in with a tilling fork. The microbes and other animals can create aggregates as organic matter increases.

Soil is like a bowl of granola; add some milk to it and it stays pretty crunchy. But if you took that granola and crushed it before you added the milk, you end up with mush. And you don't want that in a soil. You want soil to have good strong aggregates. This allows roots to penetrate and water to drain. You don't want your plant roots to be waterlogged, you want a nice mixture of air and water present. Healthy soil means healthy plants and healthy people.

Rich top soil is the frontier between geology and biology, a mix of weathered rock fragments and decaying organic material.

I peered down into the six-inch hole, hoping to plant a tree here. A thin milk-chocolate layer at the top gave way to swirling khaki and taupe. Water pooled on the surface. This soil was damaged during the construction of a new house.

Gardeners fussing over the plants on top of the soil might look beneath their feet, to the microbes and invertebrates that call soil their home. People think soil is static and inert, like the rocks from which it comes. Nothing could be further from the truth.
For more information on living soils 
Oak Pruning
in the Era of Climate Change
Those with oak trees in their yard should be on high alert of the changes that could be coming with the early spring and mild winter. Historically, it is important not to prune oak trees during the primary infection period-April, May, and June. But as our climate warms it could be earlier.

Because insects are cold-blooded, temperatures drive their development. As the climate warms, insects that rely on temperature will emerge earlier and develop quicker. For pests with faster generation times, the hotter it is, the more they develop. The beetles that carry the oak wilt fungus could be active as early as mid-March. So that means Do Not Prune time could arrive as early as March.

Any wound or pruning cut made during the high-risk time is like ringing the dinner bell for the beetles. They have been known to find a freshly wounded tree in as little as 15 minutes and possibly transmit the infection.
If you would like to reduce the risk of losing entire stands of trees to oak wilt, increase diversity. If you want to plant oak trees, white oak is the best option. And finally, it's not just pruning that can transmit oak wilt. It can also occur by removing buckthorn, felling trees, or clearing brush in an oak woods, which can inadvertently break oak branches and possibly transmit the fungus.

Trees in the red oak group - those that have pointy-lobed leaves, such as northern red oak, and pin oak- are most susceptible to the disease. White oaks - those with rounded lobes - are much less susceptible, though they occasionally are also infected.

Wilting red oak in an area recently cleared of buckthorn.

It's a good idea to frequently check on the Oak Wilt Risk Status for updates.

Thanks for reading.  
Happy Planting!    


Faith Appelquist

President & Founder


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