Friday, November 13, 2009

The Big Molt

It's the beginning of molting season here at mothercluck and although Pox continues to lay eggs like it's summer, Chicken hasn't laid one since Halloween. The top egg is a big picture snapshot of her last fully developed egg. And then here's a close up:

And then before you knew it, I dropped it on the floor.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Season's Over

But Joe doesn't realize it yet. He STILL loves Manny Ramirez -- 'roids and all. More to come.

Too Many Chickens...

A phase? Too many chickens end up in the city shelter or worse, killed. From the New York Times.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Boy and His Dog

Joe takes Mr. August for a spin. I hope my son always loves animals and enjoys them as much as he did on this day.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Don't Be Fooled

Baby carrots aren't really carrots. This "Imperator" carrot grows faster and ripens quickly, and because of this, they only have 70% of the beta carotene of a normal carrot.

And besides, wouldn't you want a bit of dirt on your carrot? Buy locally at the farmer's market and have a taste of the earth.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Joe had to try one of our first unripe watermelons.

Rotten melon on the vine.

And finally...success!

This summer, I tried my hand at planting watermelon, a fruit that has never been one of my usual homestead staples of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and green beans. My goal was to produce a green and white speckled watermelon as sweet as the ones grown in my childhood, complete with hundreds of black seeds and succulent juice pouring down my chin.

Well, somehow it wasn't meant to be. I planted my vine in May, what seemed to be prime planting season. The leafy stalks grew and grew until August, when I witnessed my first flower. The flowers never really did take but eventually I found myself with a few fertilized flowers and a few watermelon babies that slowly grew and grew until either rot got to them or they fell from the vine.

This past weekend my husband who hates farm chores dug up the green leafy vine (I had let my chickens feast on the leaves earlier). There wasn't any ripe fruit and I considered my farming experiment a failure. As I looked at our lot and contemplated trimming my overgrown sage, I saw IT tucked in the sage -- a beautiful, round globe gleaming with fullness. Could it be, a beautiful sweet melon brimming with juice?

Today, I shared my success with our neighbors and the children that make our block a community. It wasn't the watermelon that reminded me of my youth on Mansfield Ave. but it was good, and it was tasty and homegrown. I might try my hand at growing another one next year but with one change: I'm going to let Joe decide if this is THE watermelon of his childhood. You know, the one that tastes as sweet as honey, with juices dripping down your chin.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Alpine Cleveland Sage

The two Alpine Cleveland Sage (salvia clevelandii) plants that welcome visitors to my home are now in bloom. In the morning, I wake up to their fragrance, which reminds me of a forest after a long leisurely rain.

What a welcome sight after a particularly tough, hot September!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Today's Gathering

This Wednesday morning, I hopped into my car and went to the Santa Monica Farmers Market -- my absolute favorite.

I love most of our Southern California markets -- Hollywood, Encino, Beverly Hills, Studio City, Alhambra, South Pasadena, and Pasadena -- but the Santa Monica market on Wednesday is extraordinary. The market in Hollywood may be larger but this one is diverse, offering a nice variety of farmer-vendors with unusual and hard-to-find produce.

My finds this week were these beautiful heirloom apples and hard-to-stop-eating smoked tomatoes from Windrose Farms in Paso Robles. I've waited all year for the tomatoes. The apples? They soon will become jam.

We'll be eating well this week!

Pictured (l. to r.) is lettuce from our front garden, sungold tomatoes, elstar heirloom apples, a mixture of dapple dandy pluots and moyer plums, and green olives that I will attempt to cure.

Monday, September 28, 2009

It's An Ant Invasion!

Add a little water to your compost pile and you get millions of ants trying to survive the tsunami. You can hear the chickens in the background.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Ugly One

Grace, our black lab mix of an uncertain pedigree, is by all accounts an ugly dog.

As a young pup, her mid-sized body was disproportionate to her smallish head, and her eyes would never stay focused for too long. We affectionately said she was the Marty Feldman of dogs because her walnut-colored eyes appeared to go in different directions. She didn’t have the talent of the late actor, known for his role as Igor in Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein,” but Grace was funny and sometimes engaging – that is, when she didn’t bark incessantly or dig up the back lawn.

Grace found her way to us as an apparently abandoned dog lost on a strip of land near a massive park east of Los Angeles. She barked at everyone, and no one, including us, could ever get close to her. Grace eventually befriended some homeless people. One afternoon, in an I-must-save-this-dog fervor, her keepers and I bribed her into my car with some fast food hamburgers. I came home with an ugly dog that ate everything and anything.

From the start, Grace didn’t have it easy in the looks department. Besides being naturally ugly, Grace was competing against our Rin Tin Tin look-alike German shepherd, and a gorgeous amber-colored vizsla. Both were animal actors and were living the good life in retirement. We essentially had two dogs that were drop-dead gorgeous, and then there was Grace, whose best attributes were her cute white front paws. She was easy to overlook.

Through the years, Grace experienced the deaths of our vizsla and then German shepherd. For a few short weeks, she was the lone dog in our house until Mr. August, another piece of canine eye candy, came into our lives. Grace never had a chance to win the hearts of others.

When our son came along, I spent more time at home, and as a result, more time with Grace. Grace eased herself into my life and my everyday chores, often positioning herself in between my legs whenever I stood still. Other times, I would find her sleeping next to me or parked at the door knowing that I’ll have to walk over her to exit the room (I cannot tell you how many times that she made me trip). And if I’m cooking, no matter how hot it is in the kitchen, Grace is there, sitting in front of the oven, at my side, just to be with me. She has become a kind, sweet, and easy dog who has warmed my heart. I cannot imagine my life without her.

Today, as I look into Grace’s cloudy eyes, her face shows wisdom and much grateful love. Her 14-plus years have been kind to her, although she can no longer hear since apparently barking herself deaf. She sleeps most of the day. And now that I’m at home even more, her days are spent following me around the house and eating dropped figs or the random piece of paper in our home. Sometimes it’s chicken feed. It’s a good life.

But when the time comes for us to say goodbye, in my heart I’ll know Grace was a beautiful dog, cute white paws and all.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

This Morning's Bath

Chicken gets dirty.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Coffin

We call this particular raised garden bed our coffin because, well, it's rather deep and large. This weekend we culled the last of the tomato plants and let the chickens do their thing. It was teeming with bugs and little critters. A few days later, it was a plot filled with dust and chicken shit. Thank you Chicken and Pox!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Organic Bean Greens

Close up of the chickens enjoying a mid-afternoon snack. Listen to the birds sing in the background; ignore the poop on the sidewalk.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Praying Mantis: Good for the Garden

This master of camouflage has been seeking refuge in our front public garden for the past few weeks.

Earlier pictures turned out horrible but fortunately the light was just right the other day and I was able to capture a photo of my new favorite garden guest: the praying mantis.

So what if they are known to eat off the head of their mates? I still want them around.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Ode to Bud

There are two key people who spurred my interest in urban homesteading: my mother and Bud, a sweet elderly man who I shared backyards with nearly a decade ago.

Bud is the first and only individual I knew who really had a victory garden in the 1940s. He harvested his small backyard oasis of vegetables and fruit well into his 80s. Year-round, I was always blessed with fresh-cut roses and sweet peas from his front yard, pounds of delicious tomatoes, foot-long zucchini and best-I-ever-tasted lemons, tangerines, oranges, and grapefruit. At this time of year, he would share dozens and dozens of black mission figs from his perfectly pruned tree.

Bud would always deliver his harvest after I came home from work. We would meet at our shared back fence, chat about the day’s events or whatever crossed our minds during those few moments of conversation. For many years, it was updates about his wife, Evelyn, who suffered from Parkinson’s, and then after she passed, the conversation picked up to include neighbors or church. Sometimes we talked about his days driving to work well before the development of Southern California, when the land was filled with rows and rows of citrus.

It was Bud who educated this amateur rosarian on how to take care of her small, but aspiring rose garden (don’t remove the dead branches until the third week of January). Later, he gave me tips on how to deep-water our emerging trees (drill three or four feet of PVC pipe deep a foot away from the sapling and drop water into the pipes to feed the roots). He taught me how to snip the bottom suckers off the tomato plants for a heartier and healthier plant, and he showed me the beauty of a red calla lily.

Bud died nearly six years ago at 89 years of age. I still miss him. I’d like to believe he would have loved Joe and the sound of his laughter. I also think he would have embraced the chickens and would have appreciated the taste of fresh eggs for breakfast. And yes, he most likely would have approved of my roses and my small, thriving garden.

This month, as I gathered Bud’s black mission figs from branches that now climb over our back fence – it’s not as perfectly pruned without Bud – my memories of this gentle gardener reminded me of his beloved Evelyn’s recipe for candied figs. Bud shared the recipe with me on a index card that I treasure. I haven’t made them since he died, but this year I decided to carefully harvest his delicious fruit in honor of him and his Evelyn.

Here’s to you, Bud, for everything you’ve taught me. God Bless.

Candied Figs

5 pounds of figs
1 cup of water
2 cups of sugar

First day. Boil water with lid on for one hour.
Second day. Boil with lid off for one hour.
Third day. Boil down until there is no syrup left. Take out of pan. Separate, and put on cookie sheet, put in over at 175 to 200 degrees, until they are dry. Turn over at least one time (takes all day to dry out completely).

Roll in sugar (I prefer powdered sugar), and then split open and put a pecan inside, store in cookie tins with wax paper between layers.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Chicken Envy

For those of who continue to have chicken envy.

Summer Harvest

Joe before he received a "traditional boy's haircut" while visiting his aunts, uncles, and cousins in the Midwest. The tomatoes were delicious. Joe's hair has yet to recover.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


The man who hates farm chores graciously added some much needed air to the compost bin this afternoon. Pox helped out a bit too. All in all, the compost is cooking nicely -- lot of critters including some luscious worms. This rich, coal-black dirt will be an excellent amendment next spring!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Four Eyes

By having only two hens that lay eggs, I refrain from using those eggs in foods where you won't taste their true flavor and texture. I feel a tad guilty buying eggs from another source but hey, an urban homesteader has got to do what she's got to do.

So for kicks on the night before the boys came home, I cracked open some eggs and did a visual comparison. The eggs on the right are from my urban homestead; the other ones are free range, organic brown eggs from a local grocer.

If you look closely, the deep golden egg on the right is from Pox; the one on the left is from the older, scrawnier Chicken.

The four eggs look similar but yet, they are so different. I'll eat my homestead eggs over the ones from the local grocer any day. At least I'll know that my chickens had a hearty meal that may have included a gullet full of delicious and delightful larvae. Yum!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

10 Days of Summer

I have spent the last 10 days alone -- no husband, no son, no job -- just me and my urban homestead.

It has been a long time since I’ve spent that many days by myself. In fact, it was most likely when I was in my 20s, working in downtown Chicago, that I've been alone for that long of a stretch. But even then, my life and my emotional needs were simple, and if I needed time for reflection, I could find solace during the quiet hours of my morning commute.

When these 10 days began, I established rules and boundaries to make the most of my time. I promised myself there would be no visits to Target (do I really need another thing from that store?), and almost no stops at the grocer. Instead, I shopped at the local bakery and ate food that was either in the house already or better yet, straight from my backyard. And yes, in the last 10 days, I have had almost every kind of egg imaginable – poached, fried, and scrambled – at all times of day. And I’ve also eaten countless cucumber and tomato basil sandwiches. Believe me, I’m not complaining. The meals have been divine.

I also promised myself that I would step outside my comfort zone. I attended an evening baseball game with a group of local professionals that I’ve never met, and last Saturday, I ventured some 30 miles away from my home so I could learn the nuts and bolts of preserving food. I also dined with a small group of women from all walks of life – actresses, chefs, producers, and me, an urban homesteader – just so I could get closer to reinventing myself as someone other than a mother and wife.

It was been a wonderful 10 days, and I’ve missed my boys. No doubt, I’m ready for them to come home. But then again, I’ve missed myself too. Let’s hope that I’m not gone for that long again.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Something's Wrong Here

I may be a mother with a young son but I still don't think I need special privileges to park. I'm certainly not handicapped. Anybody have any thoughts?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Make Me Some Pie!

Hats off to Martha Stewart and Evan Kleiman, Los Angeles' Angeli Caffe chef/owner and KCRW's "Good Food" host, for suggesting this can't miss recipe -- Tomato Pie.

I'm not a big Martha Stewart fan but this recipe works. When you bite into this sweet and savory pie, think fresh -- as in the freshest tomato sauce you've ever tasted. The filling is simple and combines fresh flavors of the season -- basil, onion, garlic, and two pounds of assorted homegrown cherry tomatoes. Top it with grated Gruyere cheese, cook for 50 minutes, cool before slicing and enter tomatoey heaven!

Here's the recipe -- I preferred the single-crust version.

Tomato Pie


Gruyère cheese and cherry tomatoes provide a savory version of that summer classic, the double-crusted fruit pie. Resist the temptation to eat this pie straight from the oven. Wait until it has reached room temperature; the juice from the tomatoes will have had time to collect. Serve it as a light lunch or as a side dish.


» 2¾ cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
» 2½ teaspoons kosher salt
» 2½ teaspoons sugar
» 1¼ cups grated Gruyère cheese
» 1 cup (2 sticks) plus 1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
» 1 large onion, diced
» 3 garlic cloves, minced
» 2 pounds assorted cherry tomatoes
» ½ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
» Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
» 1 large egg


1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine 2½ cups flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sugar, and 1 cup grated cheese. Add 1 cup butter pieces; process until mixture resembles coarse meal, 8 to 10 seconds. With machine running, gradually pour ¼ cup of ice water through the feed tube. Pulse until dough holds together without becoming wet or sticky; do not process more than 30 seconds. To test, squeeze a small amount of the mixture together: If it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time.

2. Divide dough into two equal balls. Flatten each into a disk; wrap in plastic wrap. Chill 1 hour.

3. Melt remaining tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent and softened, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl to cool slightly.

4. Place tomatoes in a large bowl. Toss with remaining ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons flour, 1½ teaspoons salt, and 1½ teaspoons sugar, and the basil and pepper; when the onion mixture is cooled, add to tomato mixture; toss to combine. Transfer the mixture to a deep 9- or 10-inch pie plate. Set aside.

5. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Roll out half the dough into a circle 1 inch larger than the pie plate. (The remaining dough may be frozen up to 2 months for later use.) Transfer rolled dough to top of plate; tuck in edges to seal. Make 3 to 4 small slits in the top crust; form a decorative edge.

6. In a small bowl, mix the egg with 1 teaspoon water for an egg wash. Brush the egg wash over the crust; sprinkle the crust with the remaining ¼ cup of grated cheese.

Place the pie plate on a baking sheet to catch drips; bake until the crust is golden and the insides are bubbling, about 50 minutes. Bring to room temperature, and serve.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Height of the Season...

Our tomato garden taken the first week of July. It was a very good season.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Seeds of Change

Earlier this month, I left my long-held position at an independent school located in the Los Angeles area. It was a hard decision to make -- I loved my school and my coveted position -- but the truth is, I love raising my child more.

I was always ambivalent about having children until Joe came along, when I was 41. He was a sweet surprise, discovered on Mother's Day in 2004, after spending nearly a decade married without children.

It wasn't that we didn't try having children. We just didn't produce one. But when that 8 lb. bundle of screaming joy was ripped out of me during an unexpected C-section, it was love at first sight...well sort of.

Since he was 10 months old, Joe has spent much of his formative years at a local daycare center. At first, I was ok with that. The center cared for him while I performed satisfying work and broadened my skill set. While I was writing, attending meetings, and handling press inquiries, the center was changing poopy diapers and teaching him how to play nice. While Joe was learning his ABCs at his school, I was at work, comfortably knowing that my job at MY school wasn't nearly as hard as the one his teachers held there.

Joe is now 4 1/2 and all that has changed. I've embraced my new life with him, and am quite ready and more importantly, comfortable to be his mother. I actually think I might be good at it.

Since Joe has been told of my news, he's a different boy. He's happier. He understands that Pre-K is important and not to be missed. But he also understands that having more time with mom is a special luxury. We are both looking forward to it!

Saturday, August 8, 2009


Left this one on the vine a bit too long. Surprisingly, though, this cucumber wasn't bitter. Sweet as pie!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Mr. August

The calendar that graces my kitchen features hunting dogs -- Weimaraners, Vizslas, the occasional Labrador and Mr. August – my 8-year-old -- possibly -- German hunting dog, Huckleberry.

This is not the first time Huck has made the cut and appeared on the calendar of Friends for Pets, the Sun Valley, Calif. , animal shelter that rescued him. He was Mr. October a few years back. I believe ever since he has been a personal favorite of the shelter.

Huck has always been easy on the eyes. His black and white speckled coloring is unique – he stands apart from the easily recognizable black lab or German shepherd – yet his markings make him look pure bred. In fact, we’ve often been told he looks like a Munsterlander.

I consider Huck to be the perfect, faithful companion. He is the third love of my life, after my husband and Joe. Huck was there by my side during those late nights breastfeeding, and he continues to be there with a tail wag whenever I walk in the room. He also possesses the greatest trait ever found in a dog: he seldom barks.

In the days ahead, I’m looking forward to spending more time with Mr. August. This August, unfortunately, we’ll be separated for a while when I’m out of town. I’ll miss him and his little hand nibbles.

Still, in my heart, Mr. August, with all his sweetness, will always be year-round.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Monthly Egg Count

Chicken and Pox exceeded all expectations: they laid a total of 56 eggs during the month of July. Not bad considering the weather has been extremely hot and production can be spotty during times of stress.

I celebrated the beginning of a new month with two fresh eggs...over easy of course.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Hand Fed

Chicken and Pox eating green bean leaves this afternoon.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Motherhood Circa 1965

My mother raised four children without driving a car.

Being the youngest, I spent many summer days walking with my mother a few blocks to purchase and carry the day’s meal. We went almost every day – there wasn’t much a middle-aged woman and a four-year-old could carry – but going to the market was our routine. I never questioned the monotony, but I imagine my mother did.

My summers were spent going to the grocer, and when I became older they included many unsupervised play dates down the street, or worse yet, adult-less supervision in my parent’s backyard swimming pool. My mother never cared to watch us swim. I learned to swim by myself and my new-found summer friends discovered the joys of the water when they visited me on Mansfield Avenue.

My favorite picture of my mother is with me, walking hand-in-hand as we prepared to shovel a driveway after the great Chicago snowstorm of 1967. I was the same age Joe is now – 4 – and I’m happy. I hate snow but for some reason, on this particular day in my life, I’m sporting a huge grin and I’m happy.

That photo is more than 40 years old, and at 46, I’m the same age my mother was in the picture. I’m still happy and if my mother were still alive, she would be smiling too. She would be happy that I’m a 4-year-old’s mother, and happy that I am the wife of a man who respects my independence. My hunch is she would say, “It’s about time you got out of the damn cold.” She was the one who dreamed big.

My summers are spent driving now, going to the occasional grocer, or maybe four because I have choices. And Joe’s life is filled with parks, libraries, parties, restaurants, museums, beaches, fresh-picked fruit, and adult supervision, at least for now.

I’d like to think Joe is happy. Maybe we need to shovel some snow ... and take a picture.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Out of this World!

Picked fresh this morning.
I may have left this stunning globe zucchini on the vine a bit too long but I'm sure it will be delicious. I cannot wait to cook it up this evening!
Maybe a little stuffed zucchini?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

You are naming it WHAT?

I must confess: my husband who hates farm chores cannot stand the name of this blog. When I first mentioned my idea, he had several reactions, most of which went like this:

“I don’t want Joe saying that name. Ever.”

“It’s offensive, Karen. It’s too close to the other word.”

“Think of your digital imprint. Do you really want to be associated with that name?”

“What will our families think?” And what exactly is a mothercluck?"

So I did what other dutiful wives often do. I ignored his conservative views and registered the domain. It wasn’t taken. I thought, hey, I’m on to something.

Joe knows the name of the blog and he’s said it a few times, and as a result, my husband who hates farm chores has rolled his eyes a few times…. well, actually, a few hundred times. It’s not nice to call people a mothercluck.

A few people have told me they never thought of the other word when talking about this blog. I’m grateful for that. But for now, mothercluck it is.

And I don’t mind being called that.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Eggs of a Different Color

As much as I try, I don’t and can’t eat a lot of eggs. My morning chores barely allow me to have a good, decent breakfast and by the time I get to my destination, my sustenance of coffee, two cheese sticks, and a yogurt have to be good enough to carry me until lunch.

On the rare morning I have eggs, the shape, size, and texture of them always surprises me. Always. Chicken and Pox’s eggs never disappoint. Chicken is older so her eggs are smaller and a touch paler, while Pox – in all her youthful glory -- gives me rich golden tones. They are divine.

I believe it’s true you are what you eat. Chicken and Pox eat a solid diet of tomatoes, corn, lettuce, peaches, and a whole host of composting worms. All these tasty morsels add up to a splendid tasty egg coated in a gorgeous shell.

In the coming weeks, my morning routine of dairy and caffeine will change. I’ll have more time to enjoy Chicken and Pox, their crazy, desperate morning clucks that cry for freedom, and the wholesomeness of their speckled brown eggs. I cannot wait. Chicken and Pox -- and their eggs -- deserve to be appreciated.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

California Dreamin'

Joe and I recently went to visit some friends in Orange County and on the way home I took advantage of a sleeping Joe and drove along California’s great treasure, Pacific Coast Highway. It was a gorgeous sight – the sun was at its lowest point in the day, kites were flying in the horizon, and I could even taste the sweet saltiness of the ocean.

I haven’t cruised along PCH in nearly a decade. During that journey’s brief moments of tranquility, I thought about my day, my life, and the changes I’m about to embark on in the weeks ahead. Most importantly, I thought about Joe’s future and what it will mean for him to be a Californian.

I’ve lived in this state nearly a third of my life. I consider myself more of a Californian that a Midwesterner, although my body is built for those long winter nights and for heavy lifting. I love this state, and I love my life and the great opportunities offered here. We’ve been fortunate. Very fortunate. Granted, the state is pretty messed up right now. But I do believe that people will continue to flock here.

I’m committed to showing Joe all that this great state offers, and for him to embrace a life of sun, innocence, and cool ocean breezes. When he’s a few years older, we’ll travel again along Pacific Coast Highway, just when the sun is about to set, and we’ll talk about his adventures and this state of great opportunity.

For now, it’s safe to say, he’ll never be a Midwestern boy. Thank God. I don't think my waistline could take any more meat.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Morning Pickins'

Harvested and gathered this morning.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


My biggest fear came true.

Today, when I opened up the bottom compartment of my worm bin I found a whole litter of white, inch-long wigglers feasting on my organic matter. It didn’t help that my compost didn’t smell like its usual earthiness. It, in fact, smelled like dog shit.

The chickens luckily were on hand to help me cull the nasty willies, which actually are soldier fly larvae (Diptera: Stratiomyidae), harmless creatures that are heat tolerant and very aggressive eaters. I had some moldy rye bread mixed in the worm bed that didn’t help the smell much. While the hens feasted, I gave the worm bedding a good turn to give it some much-needed air and emptied the worm tea that had collected. I’m hoping for the return of that lovely, earthy smell by the end of the week.

In the meantime, I hope I’ve eradicated the larvae problem, at least temporarily. It was good for the chickens – just not good for me. Ick.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Which Came First?

The chicken or the egg?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Pillow Talk

My husband who hates farm chores told me last night that I need to move on: Michael Jackson is dead and I need to focus on something other than how many needle marks MJ had in his neck due to Demerol injections.

I know my husband was kidding when he told me this, but I cannot blame him for feeling this way. He covered many celebrity trials while he was a reporter and even covered Michael’s molestation trial for a few days. He's a jaded former newspaperman.

I didn't have much appreciation for Michael when he was alive. But he was so huge and influential during my college years that he was hard to ignore. I'll miss Michael for his talent and his crazy-ass bizarre behavior.

For these lazy days of summer, surfing the Internet for trashy MJ overdose news feels just right. At least for now there's no need to move on.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Mouthwatering, Bell-Ringing Goodness

This past weekend, I became inspired by all the fresh fruit that's available and made a dessert I haven't attempted in six years -- a tasty and very light Pavlova. There are three basic steps to this impressive-looking, Australian-based dessert: meringue with a touch of raspberry vinegar, a fresh whipped cream base, and lots of wholesome colorful fruit.

I used our freshly picked blueberries and strawberries (we went to Underwood Farms in Moorpark over the Fourth but that's another story), and the peaches were from the local farmers market. The longest part was setting the meringue, which took about three hours.

The result: A surprisingly easy and delicious dessert. And although I had my doubts: it even held up quite well the next day!


Monday, July 6, 2009

The Greatest Invention

The washing machine. The toilet. Birth control. All are some of the greatest inventions of all time. But for me, the Roomba ranks right up there -- in theory.

I was skeptical at first. How could a fully automatic, cordless device have the brainpower to pick up the mounds of dog hair and five years of accumulated dust in our house -- not to mention miscellaneous amounts of string, paper and the occasional dog goo? But trust me when I tell you this: it works and it works rather well. But like a lot of love relationships, someone always will screw you in the end.

This past Christmas, I bit the bullet and bought a $100 model that works on hardwood floors. Still not brimming with confidence, I used it to suck up the dirtiest part of our home: our bedroom.

Now don't get me wrong. I like a VERY clean bedroom. I like a mite-free bedroom. I like clean sheets and a freshly made bed. But with two chickens, two dogs, a four-year-old son, and a husband who hates farm chores, a dust and hair-free bedroom has taken a backseat to everyday living.

Within 30 minutes, the Roomba ate most of the dust and mounds of dog hair. Our bedroom floor actually looked clean and better yet, it FELT clean to the touch. I was in love.

For some, the greatest thing about the Roomba may be the clean floors but for me, it allows me to do other things like surf the Internet, watch television, or write this blog.

I've talked to others who loved their Roomba but were disappointed that it failed to do its magic after three months. Mine is still going moderately strong -- enough to be one of the greatest inventions of its kind, at least in my book.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Eating Outside the Box

Back in March when we first brought the girls home, Joe was so excited he had to have his lunch on top of the chicken coop. What a lovely way to welcome them home.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Monthly Egg Count

It was a very productive month at Mothercluck-land!

Chicken and Pox laid a total of 52 lovely eggs during the month of June, matching May's egg production total.

It seems the hens are on a regular schedule – each one took a day’s rest four times during the month. And unlike a serious disgusting problem in April, Chicken produced healthy, hard-shelled eggs every time. No yolks running down her leg! Thank goodness.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Size Doesn't Matter

Our allotment of backyard farm fresh eggs doesn't come every 24 hours as most people would think. In fact, hens lay eggs every 25 hours, and very seldom lay eggs in the afternoon. Theoretically (and under perfect conditions), the hens will continue to lay eggs for maybe a week and then skip a day and begin the whole process again.

I've noticed with Chicken and Pox the egg size does become smaller after the say, forth or fifth consecutively laid egg, but the yolks remain the same. I've cracked these eggs open and found the yolks to be bright, large, and beautifully golden – quite tasty in fact.

So size really doesn't matter. It all depends on what’s inside.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Early Harvest

A few weeks back, well before the weather became, uh stifling hot, I harvested some radishes and enough lettuce leaves to feed a mouse. It may not have been much but the result was delicious.

Now that the heat of the sun is here to stay, I'm looking forward to some vine-ripened tomatoes. Our worm tea has done the trick -- we have a gorgeous crop with plenty of fruit.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

City-Wide Composting: A Brilliant Idea

I’ve always loved San Francisco politics and new legislation signed Tuesday by Mayor Gavin Newsom is no exception.

The San Francisco mayor signed into law the nation’s first mandatory composting legislation that will prevent tons of material from going to the landfill and in turn, will reduce greenhouse gases. Residents and more importantly, businesses, will be required to compost food scraps.

According to the mayor’s office, San Francisco already converts more than 400 tons of food scraps and other compostable discards into high-grade, nutrient-rich organic compost every day. By requiring homeowners, apartment dwellers, and restaurants owners to separate their food scraps from their trash, that number is expected to increase, and will further reduce the amount of methane gas that is released in an oxygen-starved landfill.

The city believes that composting will become “second nature for Americans, just like sorting bottles and paper.”

I’ve been recycling bottles and newspapers for more than 25 years. Let’s hope food composting takes less time to catch on.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Helping Hand

I commandeered my visiting nephew, Brad, into turning over our compost, a chore that my husband hates to do. It's great to have a strapping, 22-year-old helping with our homestead chores, especially the ones that are difficult to maneuver and unpopular with Matt. Thank God someone in this house is young and energetic and doesn't have to tend to a four-year-old.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

How Many Eggs is Too Many?

In anticipation of some family members arriving from Chicago, I've been hoarding eggs from our layers, Chicken and Pox. Since Joe won't eat eggs -- loves to hold them, kiss them, collect them but not eat them -- only four of us will be eating them over-easy tomorrow. I have 14 eggs in the fridge. I cannot wait. I hope it will be enough.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


For kicks I gave Chicken and Pox a little chicken for dinner. Chicken ate it. I'm not going to do that again. Something is just not right.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Urban Chicken Watch!

Check out Nightline on ABC tonight (11:30p ET/PT). There's a segment on urban chickens scheduled to air!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Mistake

A few months ago, when I planted the first seeds of the spring, I added this beautiful squash plant. Silly me thought I could train it to go up a lattice. Little did I know that a few weeks later the squash, now a pumpkin, would commandeer my entire garden. Out it went. I hated to see it go but there was no way I was giving up precious space for something that is harvested in October.

Monday, June 15, 2009


My husband and I have been picking cherries in the orchards of Leona Valley since we've lived in California -- nearly 14-plus years. We love the old fashion parade the town hosts every year which features the town-folk llamas. Unfortunately the cherries arrived a week late so we missed the parade. The cherries, however, were divine. Well worth the trip!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Chicken and Pox enjoying their daily dose of yogurt.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Enemy

It's hard to say which animal loves food more -- Gracie, our beloved mutt of 13-plus years, or the chickens. Either way, Gracie ALWAYS wins.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Too Much Sports TV

Conversation while taking a bath:

Joe: What is Viagra?

Mom: A drug.

Joe: Have you taken it?

Mom: No.

Joe: Has dad?

Mom: No. Not that I know of.

Note to self: Need to censor ESPN more.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Farm Boy

Having chickens for Joe has proved to be great for the family dynamic -- much more than having dogs. Sure, Joe loves the dogs but having chickens has taught him to pick up poop without hesitation.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Egg Count

In spite of unpredictable spring weather (we reached nearly 100 degrees for a few days), Chicken and Pox laid 37 coffee-colored eggs during the month of April. I celebrated by having fried eggs rolled up in pita bread. Yum!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Oh, What a Beautiful Morning!

I cut this lovely Red Lion amaryllis this morning from our backyard since the weather today is a bit unpredictable. I didn't want it wilting in our hot Southern California sun. Worse yet: getting pecked away by the chickens.

This is the second year for this grand flower. I bought a dozen or so at the end of Christmas 2008 when they were 90 percent off at Target. Money well spent.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Laid at 7:48 a.m. today.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Dirty Girls!

I love to watch my girls give themselves a good old fashioned dust bath.

It was brutally hot the other day in good old MotherCluck! land. The chickens took it upon themselves to cool off near their coop.