For 12 years Tim and I owned a beautiful 2.5 acre ranch in Wynola, California. We called it Black Swan Ranch. These pages explain some of the work we did while we were there.
When Tim and I bought the Ranch in 2010, the ground was hard and dry and the trees were suffering. It became my mission to get things back to a natural state. I started with the soil. By covering the ground with chipped bark from dead and dying trees on the property, the soil began to regenerate. I started a blog on the work that we have done and continue to do at the ranch and will be bringing those article over to this site when I figure out how to do that.
There is always work to be done at the ranch. Along with our native habitat restoration, we have over 750 sq.ft. dedicated to growing vegetables and fruit. Hot and cold composting are essential to our sucess and so are our critters. Our goats and chickens provide vital nutrients for the soil in the gardens. Chickens lay eggs which helps in the kitchen. All of our animals bring us lots of joy and emotional support as tending to our furry and feathered family members is very rewarding.
We have been certified as a Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation. As we improve the native species of plants, we also invite the native wildlife (birds, insects, reptiles and mammals) to visit. We have several species of birds that come annually to build nests and raise their young at BSRBG. They are fun to watch and they help out with bug control. There is a healthy hawk and owl population on the ranch and that helps keep the rodent population in check. We have seen a large influx of native bees and insects that help keep the bad bugs out of the gardens (and minimize the use of chemical pest control). We enjoy supporting this natural cycle of life and are certainly reaping the benefits.
After 11 years we have decided it was time to pass on our legacy on to someone younger who shares in our vision for the property. This decision came with heavy hearts and both Tim and I will miss this magical space. Downsizing at our age made sense to us both. Heath concerns prompted this move and the timing was right. The new owners are committed to caring for the entire ranch, animals and all and we will go back from time to time for visits as long as we are in the state. At this time we have plans to leave California in a year or two. It a new adventure for us, one that I know we will find other ways to do our important environmental work. We can move on with the comfort of knowing that our mission will be carried out by the new stewards of this wonderful property.
Found a few old photos of the veggie garden when we first started growing years ago.
Over the years we have had bumper crops of veggies and fruit in the gardens at BSRBG. By caring for the soil , Mother Nature has been good to us by providing our ranch with an abundance of healthy good food.
Zephyr Summer Squash
I have been growing food for years at BSR and have seen my soil improve year after year. I do not use fertilizer but I do add some organic soil amendments periodically by Dr Earth. I sometimes amend beds after a heavy growing season with things like feather meal, azomite rock dust and cottonseed meal for the acid loving plants like blue berries and strawberries. For the most part I use compost that I have made from our goat barn and coop as well as garden waste gathered after a particular plant is finished producing. I grow comfrey and sunchokes for their biomass. I add it to the compost, use it for forage for the goats and chickens and make compost tea with it. I encourage beneficial insects into my gardens by mixing in lots of their favorite plants, sunflowers, lavender, toyon, white sage, poppies, calendula. marigolds and much more. The plants bring in the native pollinators as well as many predatory insects that help to take care of pests that would otherwise be eating my veggies. This reduces the need for any pesticides. If I have to use anything, the organic products like safer and neem usually do the trick. This year I am growing more food then I ever have before due to the pandemic. The hoop houses extend our growing seasons and those combined with my perennial crops like asparagus, artichokes and fruit trees, provide us with food year round. My pea harvest just ended and it was phenomenal. We are installing another hoop house this year. It is my hope to be able to continue to grow crops and propagate native plants year round.
As the founder and president of the WEFSC, I am determined to do all I can to help our community as well as others become more educated in fire resiliency in our home and gardens. I started the WEFSC Firewise Demo Garden Program in early 2019 and installed our first Garden in San Carlos in early 2020. The garden is in the San Carlos Community Garden and is located on the campus of Springall Academy at 6460 Boulder Lake Ave., San Diego, California 92119. The garden demonstrates the use of waterwise, firewise, native and habitat garden strategies. You can read more about this garden on the WEFSC website in the outreach section. www.wynolaestatesfsc.com.
These public gardens are being funded with grants and donations and we are seeking both at this time to install additional gardens throughout the San Diego County.
I have begun to successfully propagate several native plant species for these gardens. With the current Covid19 situation, efforts to source more spaces is on hold ,but propagation efforts continue and we are seeking grants for a more robust propagation facility at BSRBG. One area of special interest is the California native plant, Rhamnus crocea/ Spiny Red Berry. It is the host plant for an endangered butterfly species Lyceane hermes/ Hermes Copper. This butterfly is endemic to San Diego and Northern Baja California, Its numbers have dwindled as it's habitats have been destroyed by wild fire, land use and climate change. There is a very healthy stand here on BSRBG and it is my hope to be able to have hundreds of these plants to distribute in the years to come.
Community events will be held in the gardens to help educate people on fire resiliency in thier homes and landscapes. We have two planned for the SCCG in August and October of this year, however we will have to see how things go with the Covid lockdown. Once our propagation efforts are realized, plants will be made available at these events.
BSRBG is developing a dedicated area for it's own Firewise Demo Garden and plans to hold educational events and plant distribution to the community of Wynola Estates.
It's an exciting project as the effect it could have on the environment is promising. Every bit of effort counts especially when we are seeing the potential extinction of a species right before our eyes in our own back yard.
Please don't hesitate to let me know if you would like to get involved and help out.
WEFSC Update: 2021
Due to our recent relocating to Riverside County, the WEFSC is no longer in operation , however these programs that I have established are ongoing. I continue to propagate and grow the plants I started and will have plant material to donate in the Fall of 2021 and possibly 2022 as well. Please contact me if you have any questions or want to participate in these programs.
this is a little cautionary tale about silky chickens and rattle snakes.