Native Moonshine

Tecate Cypress Bourbon V2_edited-1

Last year, I gave you my tried and true shortbread recipe. This year, I experimented with a new fun project: Tecate Cypress-infused bourbon.

Infused whiskeys and bourbons are all the rage of do-it-yourselfers and of artisanal restauranteurs. The idea is to take stems, greenery, berries, flowers or other plant parts and allow them to transfer flavor to a favorite spirited liquor.

Before you think about trying this at your place: warnings and caveats!

Caveat One: Never put anything in your mouth that you think you have the slightest chance of being allergic to. We are not suggesting that this is 100% safe for you. Call the Poison Control Center Hotline (which I did before I started my experiment) and talk to one of their experts. Call 1-800-222-1222.

Caveat Two: Don’t forage wild plants. Please grow your own, and forage your own garden, or ask permission to pick from someone else’s garden.

Caveat Three: Drink responsibly.

Caveat Four: You may not like these sorts of flavors, so test this out in small batches before you go using up all your expensive supplies.

Here is what I did. I took a small sprig of Tecate Cypress (Cupressus forbesii, now called Hesperocyparis forbesii) – about seven inches long and stuffed it into a quart Mason jar and filled it with bourbon. I set it on my counter in my kitchen and let it seep. Every once in a while I took a sip to see how it was coming along. Many online resources say this takes about two weeks, but after about eight days, I felt the flavor was strong enough to make an impact.

If I had found the flavor to be too strong, I would have simply diluted it with more spirits.

But it is just fine. It tastes slightly resinous. Just like it smells. I love it. For our family get-together on New Year’s Day, we swap under $10 gifts and the theme this year is to bring a gift that has a connection to wherever the person comes from. So, my little Mason jar of Tecate Cypress Bourbon is gonna be a hit, I am sure. I do plan to put a cute label on it, in the holiday spirit, excuse the pun.

If you see any members of my family before the gift exchange on the 1st, don’t let on. This is a surprise.

The more we learn…

Monarch on Mexican milkweed, photo courtesy Stephen Morton for The New York Times

Monarch on Mexican milkweed, photo courtesy Stephen Morton for The New York Times

As we’ve all learned, the Monarch butterfly has a special relationship with milkweed. The general public is becoming more aware. The good news is that people are interested in helping with the problem.

But of course, big problems are always more complicated than they appear on the surface. So often, what we start out to suggest as being best practice for a particular issue winds up getting more and more nuanced as time goes by.

The monarch/milkweed is an example of this. It isn’t good enough to simply provide any old milkweed. This article in the New York Times, while slightly east coast-centric, does recognize the conundrum and is helping citizens to learn to take more specific actions to help the monarchs.

Monika, one of our online correspondents, brought this to our attention and she wrote, “Introducing non-native species can cause harmfull consequences.” Well-said, Monika.

Native plants live here - garden sign

CNPS Garden Signs are a mark of your commitment


I don’t know if you’ve seen our new CNPS Garden Signs – we are selling them to the public for $36. We’ve already sold out of the first round!

And now, we are looking to get a photo of a monarch butterfly on a narrow leaf milkweed for the next round. We are looking for high resolution, high quality, colorful images that will crop well in Photoshop. Do you have an image that we could use?
If you have any other butterfly/native perfect combos that are also high-res, colorful and croppable, we’d consider those as well.
Please send to me at skrzywicki@cnps.org. Call me with questions or comments: 619 318 4590.

Veilleux hoiday Arctostaphylos

Pete Veilleux shared this picture with us of a cute little Arctostaphylos dressed for the holidays. Do any of you have other photos you’d like to share?



Bauer Book

There’s been some discussion lately about the effect that the drought has on our wildlife – are people seeing changes in animal and insect behavior? Are populations of squirrels crashing? Has this affected regional patterns such as elevation and latitude or longitude of observed migration patterns?

While scientists at the macro level are looking to monitor and report, we all can do our part to gather data from our own gardens and nearby open spaces. Keep a log or journal and record your observations. A friend of mine has his own rain statistics dating back over twenty years! Each meticulously recorded in a series of black and white composition books, sold inexpensively at office supply stores.

Of course there are more elaborate systems, including some beautiful art journals that can serve as inspiration. And, CNPS sells a Nature Journal, as well as a complete kit for field journalling.

Attracting your own gang of birds and bees is the first step. Here is a book that will give you some great planting and care advice to step up the level of visits by the natural world to your garden: Nancy Bauer’s “The California Wildlife Habitat Garden: How to Attract Bees, Butterflies, Birds, and Other Animals.”

The book is available at the CNPS store and would make a nice holiday gift.

Photo Courtesy Carol Dukes, Flower Hill Farms

Photo Courtesy Carol Dukes, Flower Hill Farms

The message about Monarchs is spreading across the country. I recently came across this blog post by Carol Dukes. Carol is an artist and farmer, who lives on her “Vegetarian and Eco-Friendly” farm in Western Massachusetts. She writes about “Monarch Migration Milkweeds and Monsanto” with beautiful photos to compliment the serious message.

I think that people are getting the picture, aren’t they? Do you have any examples of people who have changed behavior due to our preaching a message about the need to remove synthetic chemical support systems from the gardening tool bag?

Please let us know.


We need to help the California Department of Food and Agriculture change this picture!

The California Department of Food and Agriculture has  the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, which is an annual competitive solicitation process designed to enhance the competitiveness of California specialty crops. And guess what? California native plants qualify as “specialty crops,” so we are applying for a grant to help the Horticulture Program stay funded.

The Department is looking for qualified individuals to join the committee that reviews, evaluates, and makes recommendations to them on proposals submitted for California Specialty Crop Block Grant Program funding.

We’d love to have some native plant experts apply for the job. Here is the process:

Individuals interested in serving on the Technical Review Committee should submit their applications via email to grants@cdfa.ca.gov before December 8, 2014. Applications must include a letter of interest, short biography, and statement of qualifications identifying the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program funding category related to the applicant’s area of expertise. For a description of the funding categories, please reference the 2015 Request for Concept Proposals at www.cdfa.ca.gov/grants. In addition, prospective Technical ReviewCommittee members will be required to disclose whether they are affiliated with any proposals submitted to the 2015 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, whether as an applicant or cooperator. If selected, individuals will be required to complete the Form 700 Statement of Economic Interests and the Ethics Training Course.

Prospective applicants may contact CDFA’s Federal Funds Management Office at (916) 657-3231 orgrants@cdfa.ca.gov for additional information.

The funding categories they mention are: Market Enhancement, Specialty Crop Access and Nutrition Education, Equipping Current and Next Generation Specialty Crop Farmers, Environmental Stewardship and Conservation and Plant Health and Pest Management.

So, this gives broad scope to the capabilities they are looking for – and we’d love to have some native plant expertise on the committee. Please do consider applying – or let others know so they might apply.


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