Sunday, October 31, 2010


That's what I always think of when slicing pomegranates.

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Deep Roots

I’ve come to believe that the root of all evil are roots themselves.

Yesterday, my husband-who-hates-farm-chores and I tackled and culled the roots from one of our two raised gardening beds that sit inconveniently under a giant sycamore tree. There were roots big and small, long and short, and stubborn and easy. It was back-wrenching work, and today, I’m clearly paying for it.

The raised gardening bed is about two years old, and I really haven’t dug deep in the dirt since it was built. Every planting season (there are two, sometimes three in Southern California), I would just add our homemade chicken manure/compost mixture to the heap and mix it in as best as I could.

It’s been a good garden bed – not great since anything that grows there in the summer is only blessed with afternoon sun. But nonetheless, it’s been home to some showy herbs, a few successful tomato plants, the occasional zucchini, not-so-great peppers, and gorgeous coneflowers.

This year, after about five hours of prepping the garden bed, I took stock of what plants would do best in such limited conditions. The solution? Strawberries. They are hardy beasts which require very little maintenance. Hopefully my little strawberry field will prosper and take root under its now root-less ground. Plus, as an extra bonus, the plants could serve as an educational tool to the young children who live on our street. Strawberries can be irresistible to the young mind.

There’s no question I hate digging up tree roots but hopefully I won’t have to do it again. Besides, isn’t that the whole point? Strawberry fields forever?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A few of you may remember my post about our backyard coffin. With all the rain we've had the past few days, I decided to give my chickens a bit of exercise. My Araucana headed straight to the coffin and decided to dig deep.

Friday, October 15, 2010


Today is the first day of a new beginning.

For the first time in many months, I have nowhere to go, no one to report to, nothing pressing on my calendar, not even lunch with a friend. Since my boy is in school, I have seven hours of uninterrupted time. It feels strange, uncertain, a bit empty, but yet I have no choice other than get used to and embrace this feeling of change.

As many of you know, I worked for a nonprofit organization for 10 years before calling it a day, wanting to spend more time with my son before he started kindergarten. A few months later, I was offered and accepted a position with an Internet company that provided me with flexible hours and allowed me to spend a few days at Disneyland just because I could. It was a good match for me personally and professionally until early September: the company decided to go in a different direction.

It’s so hard to let go of something that you truly enjoyed doing, especially when it’s not on your own terms. I loved being able to accomplish many things in such a short period of time. I harbor no ill feelings toward the company. It was simply time for change.

So here I am. Last Friday was my last day of employment, and then having family in town helped me quell those feelings of emptiness and anxiety. They’ve gone and now I’m back to a new routine of listening to birds sing, walking the dog more, and enjoying my chickens bring in the morning.

There are a few projects on the horizon, one of which involves going back to school to learn an entirely new skill set. Why not? I’ve got time, talent, ambition, and a network of new friends to cultivate. I’m looking forward to embracing this sort of change.

Anything to get rid of feeling so empty.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Organic Eggs?

Hats off to the Homegrown Evolution blog that posted a link to The Cornucopia Institute's newly released Organic Egg Scorecard. It's definitely worth a look if you aren't raising your own hens.

The scorecard identifies a number of excellent egg producers and, not so surprisingly, many household names that are "ethically deficient egg producers." 

Bottom of the list? Eggs from Trader Joe's, Whole Foods (365 Organic), and Costco (Kirkland Signature). The Institute noted that these eggs are "produced on industrial farms that house hundreds of thousands of birds and do not grant the birds meaningful outdoor access."

The top egg producers included farms in Wisconsin, New York State, and Michigan. 

Saturday, October 9, 2010

My li'l farmer

We'll see you tomorrow at the California Baby Family Festival!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Monday, October 4, 2010

Hey LA Fans!

Come meet my Black Silkie and Buff Orpington this Sunday at the California Baby Family Festival Fair. I will be there hoping my chickens don't get too stressed out and sharing my love for all things fowl. Even my husband who hates farm chores will show -- so he says.

Should be a great time and who knows...You might win a $1,000 vertical gardening system from woollypocket. Proceeds benefit the Garden School Foundation.

So please, stop by and see what all the noise is about! My chickens would love to see you! For further info, check out California Baby Family Festival.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Seeds and Scum

The remnants of today's canning of almost seedless raspberry jam. 

Delicious scum is on the left. 

Scoop it up and pour it on vanilla ice cream. Divine!

The seeds will be breakfast for the chickens.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Butter Cow

My first experience with a fair was the Illinois State Fair.  I was just barely 20, working in a press office, writing stilted press releases on an old IBM typewriter and reading the latest news of the day which, if I remember correctly, featured Vanessa Williams' naked pictures in Penthouse. 

It was easy work. Decent pay for a summer  job where I chased politicians, wrote stories about the annual butter cow, and interviewed singer, songwriter Willie Nelson.  It was good experience and life altering, since I would come to live in Central Illinois later in life, and meet my husband. One of our first dates? Why yes, the Illinois State Fair.

It’s been 20 years since we had that first encounter -- complete with lemon shake-ups and vinegar fries. I liked the Illinois fair because of what it stood for in the agricultural Midwest -- 4-H clubs showcasing their best in animal husbandry, bad 80s concert bands, and my favorite activity: City kids could actually milk a cow with their hands for 25 cents. No liability issues there! 

Now we live in Southern California, and I’m not sure why we don’t frequent the LA County Fair more since I like fairs in general.  But this year was different. For I, on a whim, submitted some of my canned jams for competition. And you know what? I won.

The only prize I received for something I made was when I was 10, winning second place in a sewing contest. I won a book. This time they brought out the big guns: ribbons. I won two first-place blue ribbons, one third-place white, and the kicker, a purple ribbon touting my greatest accomplishment: Best of Division.

I’m excited as all get-out to have my name among the other winners – especially the ones who don’t even live in Los Angeles County.

The LA County Fair is no means a fair that comes straight out of the Midwest. For one, there is no 4-H competition (it's my understanding that those competitions will happen after the fair), and you also can't milk a cow unless you mean holding a metal contraption that milks a cow. But it is still a lot of fun -- especially if you suck up the high cost of parking, food and rides, lower your expectations on how many different kinds of animals you'll see, and, of course, win a competition or two.

My husband, who hates farm chores, never cared too much for Central Illinois and things like county and state fairs.

I, on the other hand, always have loved the vast flat land of green and dairy, and of course, a good fair.

Thanks LA. You may not be the best fair I’ve ever attended, but you're a winner in my eyes.