Problems? We All Have Them…

Problems… there are no shortages. Everyone has them. It’s not unusual for friends and family to come to us with problems that need to be solved. Usually, adults find ways to solve their own problems, they just want someone to listen to them while they talk through them. It makes them feel that we care. Some of us have open arms and lend an ear, others find it rude that anyone would think of dumping their problems onto them. Don’t we have enough of our own? The former may adore her friend, the latter may find her friend “toxic.” Whichever personality type you are; venter, dumper, compassionate listener, irritated unable enabler, the reality remains the same. We all have problems.

What are problems? Webster’s dictionary defines a problem as a perplexing question, situation, or person. It’s an ancient Latin word, problema meaning to “throw forward.” So true. Problems present themselves, over and over again. Over time, we should become pros at solving them and in a sense, we do. But growing older oftentimes means our patience grows thinner, hence a double quandary.

Sometimes problems get so out of hand, spinning our life out of control, that we become frozen and petrified, which only makes things worse. And when multiple persons are involved (as is often the case in family matters) one feels that their once pleasant life may never return. This is the time that we turn to the garden (or nature in the form of a park, the local strip of woods, the backyard or if none of these are available, the local nursery). For it is in nature that we find peace and rejuvenation that give us the best chance of answering the questions that life’s problems present.

Suellen Ocean is the author of many books on diverse topics. Her books are available here:

Allergies… Why Do We Say Gesundheit When Someone Sneezes?

It’s easy to forget that oak trees are like a big broccoli floret. This year in California, we’ve had so much rain, the trees are not just bursting forth their greenery, many are bursting with pollen. The timing of the rains, interspersed with intervals of beautiful weather, have enabled pollen and flowers on the trees to remain intact, bringing better assurance that the trees will bear fruit. Whether it’s fig, apricot, almond or oak, the trees in my neck of the woods are the healthiest I’ve ever seen them. Let’s hope there will be an abundance of acorns. I’m hungry for some acorn chocolate cake and there are several squirrels with big bushy tails that are probably eyeing them too. Don’t worry little fellas, I will only take a few.

Beware of the beauty of oak trees in full pollen mode. Even if you don’t regularly have allergies, this year might be different. After several years of drought, mother nature is making up for lost time. Gesundheit!

Why do we say that after someone sneezes? Gesundheit is a German word that means health.  Auf ihre gesundheit means, “to your health.” A sneeze might be a reaction to dust or pollen but it can also be a sign that someone is coming down with a cold. In office environments, it has become almost an obsession to say, “bless you” or “gesundheit” after someone sneezes.

Suellen Ocean is the author of Acorns and Eat’em, a how-to vegetarian cookbook and field guide for eating acorns. Find it here:–Vegetarian-Cookbook/dp/1491288973

What is a Deciduous Tree?

What is a deciduous tree? It’s a tree that loses its leaves in the fall. In the autumn, it loses all its leaves and becomes a wintry looking thing, one of the skeletons of winter along the landscape. It isn’t the frost that kills the leaves, it’s a natural process that the tree goes through while it makes chemical conversions through the winter, to return in the spring with a blast of bright green shoots that turn into the fresh greenery of the new season. The oak is a perfect example of a deciduous tree. However, the California Live Oak is an exception, keeping most of its leaves all winter long, leaving nesting and hiding places for birds and squirrels.  Suellen Ocean is the author of Acorns and Eat’em, a how-to vegetarian cookbook and field guide for eating acorns. Find it here:–Vegetarian-Cookbook/dp/1491288973

Skiing… Is it Getting Too Harried?


I remember the first time I went skiing. I was ten and not prepared for the freezing temperatures and that I had to grip a rope tow. The gloves I had were vinyl and they shredded after the first few times. I was scared to death I would fall off of the tow and those behind me would slam into me. Thankfully, the days of rope tows did not last long, for me, but they were around for years and it was a lot better than hiking up the hill… or was it?

Back in the early days, nature-loving types would spend hours hiking up the mountain. Once they reached the top, they would sit, relax, socialize and eat snacks. Then they had a blast skiing down the mountain, only to do it again. They got a work out. In the early 1930’s, when the rope tow came along, made out of thick rope that rotated on old car tire rims, powered by a loud engine from an old Ford, skiing changed. The pace picked up and instead of the long trek up the mountain and the peaceful socializing at the top, skiers raced up and down the mountain, trying to get in as many runs as they could.

Woodstock was the first ski resort in the United States, in 1934, to provide a rope tow. The first known rope tow in the world was in Quebec, Canada in 1932.

Suellen Ocean is the author of The Steinberg Conspiracy Series. Available here:

Book One, Chimney Fire:

Book Two, Hot Snow:

Blog Size Chimney Fire Front Cover


How Does Mistletoe Grow On Trees? You Might Be Surprised


Mistletoe is a parasite. Some people say it harms trees, others say not so much. Opinions vary and I imagine it has a lot to do with climate.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen mistletoe grow on anything but oak trees, but the American mistletoe also grows on poplar, maple, tupelo, apple and thorn trees. Grapevines and apricot trees that grow in the Himalayas, are sometimes found with mistletoe growing on them.

What really surprised me was the way the mistletoe gets its start. Birds are attracted to the mistletoe berries and after they eat them, they clean their beaks while sitting on a tree branch. Because the berries are sticky, the seeds from the berries attach to the branch. Eventually, the seeds germinate and the mistletoe begins to grow. The roots grow right into the bark of the tree drawing water and nutrients. This parasitic action can cause the tree branch to die and lead to the death of the whole tree.

Suellen Ocean is the author of Acorns and Eat’em, a how-to vegetarian cookbook and field guide for eating acorns. Find it here:–Vegetarian-Cookbook/dp/1491288973

Will Hilary Get Chivalrous Treatment? I Don’t Think So…

In 1852, in some of the gold mining towns of the Sierra Nevada mountain ranges, rugged men raced down steep mountains on long skis that back then were called snow-shoes. In this hearty back country, snow-shoe races were big entertainment and a lot of fun. There was a lot of drinking and betting on the races and in one instance, the winning purse was a thousand dollars. A lot of money back then. When the race began, all the men took off. Before long, a female came down the hill on her snow-shoes. The crowd went wild, especially as she began passing the other racers. The woman won the race and some speculated that it was because the other racers were chivalrous and didn’t want to beat a woman.

When we consider who gets our vote for president, we can’t go lightly on Hilary just because she’s a woman. And Hilary must do her part and not use the gender card as a diversion from the hard questions. She will go into the ring as an equal to the men.

As for the snow-shoe race back in March of 1852… when the racer removed her hat and face covering, the crowd was surprised to see that it was a man. And one man was so angry at having been “cheated,” he shot and killed the poor jokester in front of the whole crowd.

A lot has changed since the 1800’s. The 2016 presidential race will be monumental, whether Hilary wins or not. And unlike the snow-shoe race of 1852, it is no joke.

Suellen Ocean is the author of seventeen books, available at

The California Drought… the Winners and the Losers


Let me start with the losers, that’s easy. Anything that sucks water. The winners are the little things… lady bugs, lizards, aphids… birds. These tiny creatures are at the bottom of the biotic pyramid but just as important as creatures at the top. Without lady bugs we’d have too many smaller bugs eating our produce. Same with lizards, they eat insects. And birds, wow. Some baby birds eat fourteen feet of worms in a day. Oh wait… we like worms, they build beautiful soil. But then imagine a world without worm predators, they’d be everywhere and they’d probably grow really large but worms like moisture so I’ll not worry about that… yet. I’ll just sit back and enjoy the proliferation of birds and honey bees that are sucking the nectar out of an abundance of wildflowers the drought has brought on in my neck of the woods. It’s dry out west, yes, and it’s not near as pretty a spring as usual. And in Lake County, some of the oak trees are suffering. That’s bad news. But it is what it is. When you need some good news, look deeper into nature…for the little things. There are always winners. Suellen Ocean is the author of Acorns and Eat’em, a how-to vegetarian cookbook and field guide for eating acorns available as a FREE download from Ocean-Hose. Find it here:

America Was a Little Slow to Notice but it’s Not Too Late…

North American forests began their decline when Europeans viewed trees as something to exploit. Land was cleared for farming, wood was for ships and home building. Fortunes were made selling American lumber to Europe. About 1681, a well-known American historical figure, William Penn saw that the colonists were insensitive and unwise about their forest practices. The Indians had been here for thousands of years and saw nature in a different light. William Penn must have seen that same light because he required his colony (Pennsylvania) to save an acre of forest for every five acres logged. Unfortunately, this requirement was ignored. But ten years later, in 1691, Britain understood the seriousness of clear-cutting New England and enacted a law that all of Massachusetts’s white pines were to be saved for British ship masts. That didn’t work too well either, it only angered the colonists, who resented English rule. Probably many a white pine was downed in defiance to the monarchy. It wasn’t until 1876 that Congress created the Division of Forestry. Compare this with Switzerland. They have preserved a forest called Sihlwald Forest since 1291. And France started preserving their forests in the early 1700s. Planting trees to replace those logged has been a practice of Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Germany for many years. It’s almost impossible to imagine that in North Africa, the Middle East and some parts of Asia, where the desert is now, was once a thick, beautiful forest. Not only do tree roots hold water but trees create their own environment and draw precipitation. They bring the rain. Suellen Ocean is the author of Acorns and Eat’em, a how-to vegetarian cookbook and field guide for eating acorns. Find it here:–Vegetarian-Cookbook/dp/1491288973



The Canary in the Coal Mine? No. The Passenger Pigeon

If you’ve never seen a picture of a passenger pigeon, look it up. They were very beautiful. They key word here is were. They’re all gone now, every single one, because they were not appreciated. I guess they made good eating and were sometimes a nuisance, and when shooting guns became all the rage, there were insensitive people who shot the poor birds just for sport. We take it for granted, these beautiful earthly gifts, when they’re in abundance. When Europeans, Africans and Middle Easterners came to the New World, they were dazzled by the diversity of our feathered friends. Passenger pigeons, now extinct, were so numerous along the Mississippi, they were known to block the sunlight for hours.  Suellen Ocean is the author of Acorns and Eat’em, a how-to vegetarian cookbook and field guide for eating acorns. Find it here:–Vegetarian-Cookbook/dp/1491288973


Gardening and Agriculture Without Honey Bees? The EPA Steps In

Honeybees have dwindled in my garden and throughout the United States. I believe other countries are worried too. Scientists and bee keepers blame the use of pesticides but the large chemical corporations that profit from selling pesticides chose to blame it on other factors, like mites. Reuters News is reporting that the US Environmental Protection Agency has placed the protection of bees high on their priority list. The news is that the US has agreed to fund over $450,000 for research projects aimed at reducing the use of pesticides in order to protect honeybees. Here’s hoping the coming years will find much less pesticide use and a strong honey bee population to pollinate our crops.  Suellen Ocean is the author of Acorns and Eat’em, a how-to vegetarian cookbook and field guide for eating acorns. Find it here:–Vegetarian-Cookbook/dp/1491288973