Tips & Advice

My Simple Guide to Creating Backyard Wildlife Habitat

Posted on October 17, 2018 by Mark Stevens

This past weekend I made a nesting box for the Western Bluebird. This species is a one of my favorites—their color is stunning and they are a pleasure to watch as they swoop and dive to catch insects. Over time, I have found that creating and/or preserving space for wildlife in my own backyard isn’t as difficult as it may seem. Putting out bird feeders and making nesting boxes are just the tip of the iceberg. Here are some simple steps that my family and I have taken to make sure that the birds, bees, and all the other critters that live alongside us have safe, welcoming homes of their own.

My Western Bluebird nesting box.
Create Shelter

Most birds want a nest that feels just right. For those birds that are comfortable nesting in a box that someone else made, the dimensions and opening size are important. An opening that is too big may allow predators or competitors to use the box. A great resource for region specific nesting box plans and placement is NestWatch. To support the natives bees in your area you can make nest blocks or other types of tunnel nests.

Plant Natives and Provide Food

Using plants that are native to your area will provide habitat and food resources for a variety of animals. Plant a varied selection of plants, which will give birds many options to build their own nests and find food. Choosing plants that flower at different times will ensure that there is a steady supply of food for native bees. For information on California’s native plants, visit the California Native Plant Society. Placing bird feeders throughout your yard will also attract and sustain wildlife. For help choosing the right bird feeders check out Wild Birds Unlimited.

Manage Wisely

One of the simplest ways to ensure that your yard is wildlife friendly is to leave some of it untouched. Whether you plant natives or have more exotic landscaping, try letting them grow wild for most of the year. It may end up looking less tidy than you are used to, but the insects and animals like it that way.

Want to go further? You can get your yard certified as a Certified Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Foundation. Check out the checklist here.

*featured image courtesy of effectivewildlifesolutions.com

News This Week: “Best Of” Sonoma County & Other News

Posted on October 12, 2018 by Mark Stevens

EACH WEEK WE COLLECT TOP LOCAL NEWS AND RECENT REAL ESTATE STORIES

“Best Of” Sonoma County Awards
Award recipients—including Ferrari-Carano Vineyards & Winery and Cowgirl Creamery (our fav)—were honored at the Luther Burbank Center on Wednesday evening. READ MORE

Explore Marin County
Find out the best places to eat, drink, play, shop, and stay. READ MORE

Best Remodeling Projects of 2018
Remodeling Magazine just announced their awards for the best remodeling work in the past year. Discover the top 5 home remodeling projects for smart design tips and trends. READ MORE

Sustainability Award for Jackson Family Wines
Jackson Family Wines has been given a Green Power Leadership Award from the US EPA for  their continued commitment to using renewable energy; the company uses 100% certified green power, including power coming from solar installed on their 12 wineries. READ MORE

 

*featured image courtesy of 7×7.com

Art Trails of Sonoma County – Like a Treasure Hunt (but better!)

Posted on October 10, 2018 by michelle_magnus

Sonoma County Art Trails goes onto my schedule, every year, twice a year, without fail.  And this isn’t just because I live next door to the talented Carole Watanabe.  Well, that could be part of it… but more so, Art Trails creates a great excuse to get out & about to new places in Sonoma County.  As we are driving down numerous hidden back-country roads toward our next stop on the Art Trails, we have the perfect excuse to stop off at a nearby winery or restaurant for refreshment and sustenance.  After all, looking at so much great art is sort of like an endurance race, requiring (delicious) food & hydration……

I am proud to call Sebastopol my home of many years. I love its progressive attitude and upscale down-to-earth vibe, among other things. So its no surprise that my town is home to the largest Art Center in California, north of San Francisco—Sebastopol Center for the Arts—responsible for creating this fun adventure known as Sonoma County Art Trails.

If you’re new to Art Trails, here’s a great way to take advantage of this event: Go to the Sebastopol Center for the Arts at 282 S High St, Sebastopol, CA 95472. They are open Tuesdays through Sundays from 10-4 pm and have extended hours over the weekend from 10-5 pm (10/13 & 14 and 10/20 & 21). Once there, you can pick up the Art Trails Catalog and Map, plus view the participants’ paintings throughout the gallery (each artist has one piece hanging in the gallery).  Or simply CLICK HERE for a digital version & print at your leisure.

Meanwhile, enjoy rambling around all the open art studios throughout Sonoma County….and have a great, art-filled weekend!

— Mark

 

Schedule for Sonoma County Art Trails

Sundays and Saturdays, October 13, 2018 – October 21, 2018

Upcoming Dates:

~ Saturday, October 13, 2018 – 10:00am to 05:00pm
~ Sunday, October 14, 2018 – 10:00am to 05:00pm
~ Saturday, October 20, 2018 – 10:00am to 05:00pm

Cost: Free

Location:

Various Sonoma County Art Studios
Sebastopol Center for the Arts
282 S. High Street
SebastopolCalifornia 95472

For More Information:

Contact: Sebastopol Center for the Arts
Local: 707-829-4797
Email: info@sebarts.org

 

*Featured image courtesy of sonomacountyarttrails.org

News This Week: Wine Country Charm and Environmental Leadership

Posted on September 14, 2018 by michelle_magnus

EACH WEEK WE COLLECT TOP LOCAL NEWS AND RECENT REAL ESTATE STORIES HOT OFF THE PRESS FOR YOUR WEEKEND CLICKING PLEASURE.

Short & Beautiful Ride to Small Vines Wines
Try this 7.5 mile bike ride around Sebastopol to taste some great wine, and take in some of West Sonoma County’s charm. READ MORE

Open Space Protected Forever!
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors have approved an agreement to protect nearly 1000 acres of land adjacent to Tolay Lake Regional Park. READ MORE

Kitchen Design Details
Small details can make all the difference in your kitchen design. This guide will help you turn your kitchen into a stunning success. READ MORE

Carbon Free California
Governor Jerry Brown has signed a new law committing California to a carbon-free power grid by the year 2045. The law is one of part of California’s ambitious plan to fight climate change. READ MORE

 

Why the Tasting Room is Dead

Posted on September 11, 2018 by michelle_magnus

California’s traditional tasting rooms are pivoting to more “maker” spaces, nature immersions and places for all-day casual hangs.

The Prisoner Wine Company is scheduled to open its doors this October along Highway 29 in Napa Valley. When it does, it will make a statement.

A popular brand for nearly 20 years, The Prisoner is known for its namesake big, bold blend and iconic label art, as well as wines like The SnitchCuttings and Dérangé under the general California appellation.

But The Prisoner has never had a home open to the public. Owned by Constellation Brands since 2016, The Prisoner Tasting Lounge and The Makery will plant its roots in the heart of Napa Valley, where it will occupy the St. Helena tasting space formerly home to Franciscan Estate.

Prisoner Wine
Prisoner’s Makers’ Hall / Photo by Matt Morris

The Prisoner’s Makers’ Hall will have four studios, each occupied by a “maker in residence” whose expertise will include art, music, design and cuisine, an environment “specifically designed to…challenge the wine-country status quo,” according to the company. The first set of makers will be Soap CauldronWine Lover’s JellyBayview Pasta and Amanda Wright Pottery.

The brand claims on its website, “We’ve reimagined the traditional tasting room by creating a comfortable lounge experience free from pomp and circumstance…a lounge is where we can be ourselves.”

Many of Napa Valley’s 3.5 million yearly visitors appear to want different things out of a winery experience than in days of old: More sit-down tastings, food pairings and places to hang out and Instagram their day. That’s not to mention more of a sense of belonging.

Scribe Winery / Photo by Leo Patrone

Scribe Winery, just over the Sonoma county line, created a more immersive experience for visitors years ago, and it has legions of devoted fans to show for it.

“What attracts people to Scribe and other wineries and farms is that they get to connect to the natural world and to the landscape,” says co-owner Andrew Mariani.

Scribe offers a relaxed, natural setting that overlooks its vineyards, where visitors often picnic under the trees.

“We’re stripping away what a tasting room was to have a simple, transparent experience that connects people to a place,” says Mariani. “They’re tasting wines from vines growing out front, having snacks from the gardens here. [Through that], the story of a place is being expressed and shared. It’s a really simple idea.”

Insider Tips: Flawless Landscaping Features

Posted on July 10, 2018 by michelle_magnus

Discover our top five simple and easy landscaping tips for creating outdoor spaces that are inviting, beautiful and easy to maintain.

Path leading to backyard permeable patio with firepit and chairs with well mulched California native plants, Heath-Delaney garden

1. Plant Natives
Using native plants in your landscaping will reduce water usage and make maintenance easier. Plus native plants will attract beneficial insects, and provide habitat for birds and other wildlife. Select species that will provide year-round appeal―diverse plants that bloom at different times, or shrubs and trees that have interesting bark in the winter. There are great resources for choosing the natives that will do best in your yard. Check out calscape.org for inspiration.

2. Use Light
Whether you are adding simple solar lights or investing in a low voltage light system, adding lights to your landscaping will make your outdoor spaces ideal for evening gatherings and nighttime festivities. Start with lighting pathways and other hardscaped areas like patios and decks. Mini spotlights can be used to highlight certain features such as fountains or specimen trees. Use a selection of multiple dim lights (rather than fewer bright lights) to give your yard a magical glow.

3. Add Seating
Create spots to rest and enjoy your outdoor space. Outdoor living spaces can be used like a living or dining room―though a simple bench or chair in amongst the flowers can be a fantastic feature for all to enjoy.

4. Make a Water Feature
The sound of water is relaxing, and can make you feel cooler on hot days. Larger water features can also provide additional habitat for water plants and bird life.

5. Use Potted Plants
Outdoor planters add variety and interest throughout the year. Add splashes of color with bright patterns and textures to your pots and planter boxes. Potted plants can soften hardscapes like patio edges or concrete steps, creating a more lush and alive feel.

 

*Featured image from www.julieorrdesign.com
*Article image from Saxon Holt/PhotoBotanic