Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A very humble Giveaway

I managed to order too many tomato seeds. You see, my satellite Internet connection goes wacky here and there and I just figured something was up with that. And then I checked out, apparently a wee bit hastily, and ended up with 4 packages of white tomatoes. Don't fault me. I have two small children.

So, pleasant and kindly readers, here is an opportunity to win some seeds. Three random winners will be sent a package of these White Tomesol Tomatoes from Baker Creek.

US shipping only please.

Your odds aren't bad! Leave a link or direct info needed to contact you in a comment. Please be simple my time is Previously Occupied (a theory I have used to no avail in the past when it comes to speeding tickets but now it is used more appropriately to exemplify my experience of motherhood, relevant or not.) Comments will close 4 days from now or something like that because I'm not too particular. Want an exact timeframe? This is not your perfect giveaway. I really will figure it out. I promise.

Good luck readers!
The beautiful thing about a small number of entries is that the way to pick is very simple! Names pulled out of my garden hat by my big boy helper! Congratulations to the winners!

(ps Marlyn I have some from my open packet I'll set you up with when I see you later today!)

Hey what can I say, everyone wins around here :)

The Tomato Bed

Ya... Serious!

They have arrived!

Here I present our first ever mail-delivered chicks. Black Copper Marans with a few Birchen Marans and Pumpkin Hulseys thrown in for good measure. Many thanks to Paul at Greenfire Farms. The packaging was impeccable. We lost a few in transit (I'm blaming the post office for neglecting to call when they came in nearly 5 hours before I went to inquire about their whereabouts). They're in their new little home that we prepared yesterday.
Colven helping with the chick lodging preparations yesterday. We sprinkled seed all over their outside dirt bed so by the time they can be let out they have lots of sprouts to eat and dig around in.

Monday, March 22, 2010

You know you are in the country when...

you wack down weeds and find a broody hen, and under an antique defunct tractor no less!
This little Golden Laced Wyandotte mama has 7 eggs there. She tends towards wander-lust so I'm not sure any of them are fertilized. We'll find out!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Garden Happenings!

I am just so thrilled that it is time to get planting! HOORAY! And I'm not planting while bending over a big pregnant belly like last year!

Our fig tree has begun growing some babies instead :)
The cover crop is full and lush and about two feet tall now. I only cover cropped a small area this year, the rest of the garden has had several years and I think is good with just additions of compost on top now. I'll be all about NOT disturbing that soil and all of it's organisms now. This last zone will get a haircut and till in a few weeks when the bell beans begin to bloom.
This is about a third of the area that will be covered with a variety of corn. I'm growing less sweet corn and trying dent corn (also known as field corn) for the first time. I have this idea that I will grow, harvest, soak, and grind or mill our corn for tortillas for the year. We tend to go through a lot of corn tortillas and I'd love to be able to get by without the plastic packaging and I'm sure homegrown will be tastier than anything purchased (even my favorites which are made right in Salinas!). What can I say, I'm an optimist! Here I have marked the path and center chill/snack/play zone with some sawdust. I planted flowers and Wade's Giant Indian Corn in this first area.
The seed is gorgeous. As in stunning gorgeous. It's hard to tell from these photographs but each kernel is like a sparkling gem in the sun. I'm very pleased with the seed quality!
I also started transplanting the little seedlings into bigger homes. I was going to direct transplant everything but the tomatoes don't have their home ready yet... maybe will finish today.
I've decided to move the old kid's digging area to the patch in our lawn (in the pic below) that has never done well for whatever reason. Well, really it's because this very end wasn't prepped as well as the rest. We had cover cropped and gardened for several years in the location where the native grass went because we moved into raised beds and the rest of the garden. So here I will put 6 rows of compost on top of the soil with mulch in between the rows. I think I'll have room for 10 plants per row which makes 60 tomato plants! I'm so excited! (I keep saying that don't I?? can't help myself)
The future home of the digging zone! We may even build a teepee over it and bring in some sand. Or just leave it a simple mud hole, that's what the kids seem to enjoy best anyway.
I also just put an order in for about 20 Black Copper Marans day-old chicks which are due to arrive Wednesday and am mailing in an oder for some more Buff Orpintons and Golden Laced Wyandottes from Sand Hill Preservation. I threw the idea of a few Dorkings around but decided to wait on that. I can't seem to find good stock locally so they will be mail-order day old chicks too, hopefully not far behind the others -- perhaps 2 weeks tops.
I'll have to do a harvest post this week, we've been enjoying cauliflower and beets and parsnips and a wide variety of greens, some of them new to us.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Something new for our garden: Chayote (Sechium Edule)

I was reading one of my gardening books, Carrots Love Tomatoes, not long ago and came across a name of a vegetable I didn't recognize. The description was alluring to say the least!
"This is a perennial tropical vine, an annual in colder climates, which bears a delicious, light green, pear-shaped fruit in the fall. Two vines must be grown or it will not bear well. Chayotes in a cream sauce are a dish "fit for the gods." I grow them on my garden fence along with cucumbers, where both do exceptionally well. They apparently have no insect enemies and seem to be protective to the cucumbers."
Fit for the gods? Cream sauce? Heck ya I'll try it! I found a great article on Mother Earth News' site which sealed the deal and sent me on a quest to find some of the fruits to sprout and plant whole. I'm excited to see some 30' vines loaded with fruit this fall. I'll keep you updated! Anyone want to experiment with me? I found my chayote fruits at one of our numerous Mexican markets and they didn't take long to sprout on my windowsill.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Vernal Ponds, Wildflowers, & Owls

We drove out Panoche Valley over the weekend to visit some favorite hot springs and really couldn't have picked a more fabulous weekend for wildflowers out in the hills. Pure beauty. We stood in awe of our extensive vistas and stunning surroundings up on top of this hill and took it all in.

Long-eared owls
I love this time of year! I think I may say that at every season change.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Every year I promise myself I'll be more organized about seed starting. Here comes another year and I'm no more organized than any of the last. The only thing I decided to change was something I really couldn't decide, the decision was made for me. I only have one germination mat and the greenhouse is much too full of STUFF to make room for my seedlings. Sigh. Some day I'll be organized. For this year I decided everything would be started outside in this single wood starting tray.
I put it under cover (with bird, cat, and child protection although the child part of it still requires keen ears and observant eyes) in the little semi-covered outdoor room where our family bath is (I photographed it last year here). This is the bath our second son was born in, so I'm really counting on baby energy to aid these little seedlings :)

This morning I trudged out in my trusty rain boots to check on the little dears. Note how saturated the ground is. I'm happy to have all this rain, we REALLY need it here in California. And the timing has been good for us to have it dump so much while we've been sick! Sweeeet.
And look who I found! Most everyone is up and shining! I am so pleased. Once all these seedlings are up I have another tray to start in it's place of more tomatoes, some more peppers, a few this and that.

And I've been so busy with life that I've just been writing down what I've started on my calendar! At least I know I won't lose it like the cute little notebook I used last year. Or the file folders the year before that. Like I said, someday I'll be organized right?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Fancy Feet & Dumpling Soup

As my rooster stock was finishing up I got a hankering for a good spicy soup. In the quiet that is my older boy with his dad and my younger boy asleep, I started poking around for some inspiration. One of the blogs I have listed on the side bar there is What Julia Ate and she has some truly inspired and creative canning ideas on there which is how I found the blog to begin with. As I looked through all the things she has listed on her side bar I saw it: Chicken and Dumplings. Oh ya baby!

I made a few changes, as I always must do. My collected garden greens: parsley, thyme, spinach, radish greens, French sorrel, celery.
Fresh cooked rooster. I'm including a photo of it to show what beautiful meat it is. The dark meat is DARK. The fat is yellow and thick. The muscle is strong. Real meat from real moving birds.

I chopped up my greens and put them in the bowl with a sprinkle of hot chili flakes for good measure and to help wipe out this infection. I like to put the greens in the bowls instead of the pot so if there are leftovers the greens don't end up mushy yuck, and I know each bowl got a decent bit of greens which look pretty while you eat them. They don't really need to cook, a few ladles of the hot liquid wilts them perfectly while the soup cools enough to enjoy.

Delicious! My mom used to always make chicken and dumplings. It has been forever since I had it. I won't wait so long again. Such good, healthy comfort food for a tired and sick mama.
Next bowl I make will have much more French sorrel in it, I find that even through this stuffy head of zero smell or taste I can still get the tang of the sorrel which is very very nice. I need to get more of it in the ground, I'm always stripping the one little plant I have!

What Ever Happened to Fancy Feet?

We've been down and out with the flu as anyone who reads this blog already knows. So I haven't been able to keep my eye on the chicken flock dynamics as much as I like to and should. Since culling the extra roosters recently as I posted about here, there was one rooster we named Fancy Feet who we just couldn't catch and ended up deciding to give him a chance. Then we lost Roo and I was really glad we kept Fancy Feet. Then yesterday I was out collecting fire wood and heard the hens in a big ruckus and saw Rowdy (our original gentleman rooster) running to break something up. As it turns out, two babies we adopted because their mother had been eaten and we had a good mommy with similar aged chicks who I knew would take them in (and she did, LOVE Buff Orpington mommies!) both turn out to be roosters. One of those unnamed roosters and Fancy Feet were chasing down hens, holding them down and pecking their heads. I looked at my gals and saw that things have changed quite a bit in our flock as almost every hen had a bloodied comb! Yesterday evening, despite the sick baby strapped to me and my throbbing sinus infection my husband and I decided to cull out the two problem roosters when we heard them going nuts and knocking hens off the roost to mess with them! Outrageous! Our 3.5 year old held one door closed and I the other and my husband bravely entered the coop full of roosting chickens and grabbed the two problem dudes. He swiftly culled and cleaned them while I held the flashlight and our son played by the fire we made to burn the feathers and goo and right into the stock pot they went.

Adios Fancy Feet, you little bastard.