August 2022

Welcome to the dog days of summer! Like us, you’re probably trying to stay cool, perhaps in a shady garden spot! We never stop marveling how much cooler it is in the California shade. If you don’t yet have some tall, shade producing native trees or arbors in your yard, maybe this is the year to plant some! (Let us know if you’re looking for special native trees and plants!😉)


In spite of the heat, we’ve been keeping busy at CNGF. This is our second year to receive a San Jose Parks Department  Safe Summer grant to provide scholarships for campers at our Earth’s Heros Nature Camp, especially for 6-12 year olds who live in school districts with high levels of gang activity. This summer is one of our best yet; our campers have been learning about California native plants and ecosystems, keeping nature journals, taking care of our chickens and aquaponics farm, and making pizza in our outdoor stone oven. (Click on “Show More” to expand text.) 

Children’s Programs at CNGF

Uvas Canyon County Park



We are preparing to offer our Ecological Certification classes, in partnership with SJECCD-Workforce Institute, in an array of programs including Nature Immersion Education, Mindful Aging, Ecological Land Management, and Regenerative Organic Agriculture. If you are interested in taking a class, serving as a mentor, or providing housing to foreign students, please reach out to us.

Learning Together With Young Children In Nature
(notes from Board member, Sherry Kaufman)

Sherry with her dog, in Mendocino

“I sincerely believe that for the child, and for the parent seeking to guide him, it is not half so important to know as to feel. If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and the impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow. The years of early childhood are the time to prepare the soil. Once the emotions have been aroused – a sense of the beautiful, the excitement of the new and the unknown, a feeling of sympathy, pity, admiration, or love – then we wish for knowledge about the object of our emotional response. Once found, it has lasting meaning. It is more important to pave the way for the child to want to know than to put him on a diet of facts he is not ready to assimilate.”

~Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder (1956)

If this message from Rachel Carson, writer, scientist, ecologist, resonates with you, you may want to read The Sense of Wonder to inspire walks in nature with your young ones.

Garden of the Month:
Santee ELSEE Family Resource Center Garden

This outdoor preschool classroom is copied after our ELSEE flagship teaching garden in central San Jose, The Lab for Nature-Based Urban Living.

We designed and built this garden with over 100 species of native plants to replicate a Santa Clara County grassland. If you’d like to join us in our mission to create teaching gardens at schools, libraries, and parks throughout our county, sign up here! We are continuing to create a network of ELSEE teaching gardens at schools and libraries across the county. Come out and meet other folks in your community who are becoming stewards of nature in San Jose.

Santee Garden

Native Plant of the Month:
Blue Elderberry

Varieties of native elderberries can be found throughout the world. Here in the American West we have Blue Elderberry/Sambucus Cerulea. Elderberry is one of the most important, beautiful, and useful indigenous trees; its berries, flowers and bark provide us with food and medicine as well as long straight branches that can be used to make flutes, whistles, and even arrows.

Recipe of the Month:
Elderberry Syrup

Our elderberry trees are filled with ripe elderberries, and in addition to pies and tarts, we’ve been experimenting with Elderberry syrup.

Elderberries have been used as medicinal food for a variety of purposes for centuries, and double blind studies confirm that elderberry syrup lessens the duration and severity of influenza and other respiratory viruses.

Notes from Alrie

Alrie Middlebrook, Executive Director, CNGF

Drought Tolerant Plant Communities:

This summer, we’re all thinking about water – not just water to drink, but how all our flora and fauna can continue to thrive in California during these challenging drought conditions. If you’re reading this newsletter, you already know that native plants are part of the answer.

Weekly Online Hike Talks!

Alrie and other experts give a plant community talk over zoom, based on a local hike, every Thursday from 6-7 pm. Go to the Zoom link here. We hope that you’ll be inspired to go on these hikes yourself, and to bring the children in your life! We believe it is the birthright of every child in Santa Clara County to learn the native plant communities that make up our local ecosystems. By learning about these plants, they will come to love them, and when they love them, they will want to protect them.


AND… we are ramping up for our biggest and most exciting fundraiser to date. Our goal is to raise 5.6 million dollars, which will allow us to BUY OUR PROPERTY so it can serve as a community resource for nature-based urban living for generations to come. We will be beginning our feasibility study within a few weeks – you may be hearing from us! And again, if you are interested in joining our volunteer fundraising or grant-writing teams, please reach out! We have an amazing, active, and diverse group of volunteers who love to work, learn, and play together…join us!


Special thanks to Melissa Blum,
CNGF newsletter editor and Board member.