Monday, April 18, 2011

Well, it's been a hundred years since I've written anything, but I have some exciting news...Rachel Kaplan and Ruby Blume have just published their magnificent book on Urban Homesteading, and we're in it! This book is action packed with amazing photos, fantastic how-to's, and superb writing. Check it out here! Urban Homesteading Book

Sunday, May 9, 2010

bee time

Bees bees bees. Here's a little pic from my latest view inside the hive.....had some trouble, and had to wire up some of the comb for the bees to attach to the bars...a sad day in my tbh.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Well, that sure felt like a long winter. And I don't actually think it was a long winter, but my tolerance for cold, wet and dark has dwindled over the years. Now, I just want sunshin-y spring weather year round. I'm pretty terrible about keeping up with my garden enthusiasm during the winter - I mostly just want to sit by the fire and read or crochet when it's cold out - so I'm glad the warmer days are returning, and with them the urge to get my hands in the dirt and grow things.

Two weeks ago, I direct sowed my first round of seeds, and then more last week. Already, I'm seeing sprouts of beans, peas, onions, potatoes, lettuce, basil, beets, radish.....on my evening rounds. I'm already fantasizing about scarlet runner beans and fresh figs.... Also, the chickens are in full production now, and we're getting 5 eggs a day! The bees are back too. After losing a population a few months ago to the cold and wet conditions in my hive (poor management I think) I now have a new swarm caught by a friend, and I'm thrilled that they seem to be staying. We did harvest a bit of honey from the last bunch of bees, but not nearly enough to satisfy us and our friends.
The current big project is to terrace the ravine behind our house. Very extensive work since we're discovering that most of the hill is filled with concrete, brick and random buried junk. I spent last weekend shoveling dirt, and will probably do the same every weekend with M. until the terrace is leveled. Once completed, our plan is to plant the new space up with things like fennel, nettles and squash. Also, we may try to do some vertical planting on the terrace walls of sun-loving things like peppers and tomatoes. Very exciting. With the new bed we added a few months ago, we now have 5 raised beds, and the terrace will almost double that space. Amazing considering our total land is about 1,000 sq. feet.

And finally, our dream for the summer is to get a greywater system going. Considering that we also need to replace our roof and do a bunch of indoor painting projects, I'm not sure how we'll find the time, but it would be nice to set something up that we can use to water our veggies. More on that later.....
P.S. Just read a wonderful book - Radical Homemakers..... I highly recommend it... Talks about moving from being a consumer to being more involved in producing your own life, food, everything. Celebrates things like raising chickens, canning and staying home. Very inspiring.

Monday, September 21, 2009


I asked for it, I got it. We've been overrun by tomatoes.

I really wanted to plant a lot of tomatoes. I grew up in NJ, and if you know anything about NJ, you will understand my feelings about tomatoes. I love them. And I hardly ever find ones as yummy as I remember them growing up. So, this year, I wanted to plant a bunch of plants to make sure that I would get to eat as many as I wanted and with the hopes that some of them would taste as good as NJ. I planted 5 plants in the raised bed....2 containers full....and then the other 2 hanging pots....and now, I'm in trouble. Right now, they are taking over. For a while it was zucchini...stuffed, baked, grilled, in bread, with chocolate....but now, tomatoes are in... they've crowded out the eggplant, have taken over a whole bed, and are starting to encroach upon the corn.

I've been picking about a large basketful every night after work. They are mostly the large cherry tomatoes, so even though that is a lot, it's not quite enough for we're eating them. Tomatoes in salad...salsa....roasted tomatoes....tomato bean casserole....tomato bean soup....tomato fritatta.....shall I go on? My new favorite cherry tomato recipe is to put them in a baking dish with some olive oil, garlic and basil and bake them for about an hour. They are so rich and sweet - like candy, but better. They are all good, especially the bigger heirloom ones, but I have to say, I don't think I will plant quite so many next year.

Monday, September 14, 2009

the old man is snoring

Well, we got our first rain this weekend. The whole bit, with thunder and lightening - very cool. It reminded me of the east coast....we hardly ever get thunder in CA. So, now it feels like winter is coming. We wore sweatshirts, and I was ready to start a fire yesterday, I made soup for dinner too....very autumnal. You can smell the change in the air, and all the fruit trees (except the apples) are losing their leaves. I made some fig jam with the last of the figs, and we pulled the zucchini plant yesterday to make room for new beet and carrot seeds. We also built a new raised bed for more planting space. I'm so excited to plant new seeds, I'm actually impatient for the old stuff to finish up just so I can clear the space and plant more. I pulled the broccoli and cauliflower and even glared at the brussel sprouts - if they don't produce something soon, they're coming out to make way for more carrots! We've also put in winter potato crops, onions, more lettuce, and soon some arugula and garlic.

Winter is also a time for some yard reorganizing and cleanup, so yesterday, in addition to working on the raised bed and planting seeds, we merged the two chicken poplulations into one flock. The ladies spent the day squawking and pecking at each other trying to figure out who will be the boss lady now that all 6 of them are living together. This means we can move the chicken tractor out of the way to make more room for garden beds and tree planting. Our goal is to put some trees in the ground this fall and get them out of their temporary buckets. Then they should (hopefully) grow much larger and produce more fruit next summer.

Winter also feels like a time to regroup and rest a bit, to plan for next summer and to dream about new projects. I'm starting to work on holiday gifts too. Last year we did all homemade gifts for Christmas and Hanukah, and we'll do the same this year. I crocheted hats and scarves, and this year am working on more elaborate creations. Also, there will be canned treats, and if I can spend a Sunday working on it, hopefully candles from the beehive wax.... Come to think of it, I guess we're still busy in the fall and winter, but the projects tend to allow more time for reflection and quiet...they take us inside more, and tend to be about the transformation of things that we've harvested. One of Z.'s favorite bedtime books is called The Story of the Root Children by Sibyl Von Olfers. It's about the root babies of the flowers and the plants that rest and regroup all winter until they are ready to emerge from the earth for summer splendor. In the fall, the wind blows again, and they retreat back underground to Mother Earth where they are warm and fed waiting out the winter. I felt the chill in the air this weekend and it seems like almost time to join the root children under the ground.
Have I mentioned that one of the best things about growing your own food is eating it? When I come home exhausted from teaching, I love going out into the yard with my toddler to look for dinner....tomatoes, zucchini, lettuce...I love the idea that I pick it, and that less than an hour later, we eat it! What a concept! The other day I made artichokes....Mmmmm. I've never been a huge artichoke fan - it always seems like so much work for not a lot of reward. But now, I get it. These were sooo tender and yummy and buttery. And the smaller ones didn't even have a choke. Wow. Definitely need to plant more artichokes.....

Friday, September 4, 2009

the chicken came first

We've got chickens. It started out as 4...then one died...then, we had to replace her, so we got 3.... and I still dream about the Blue Laced Gold Wyandotte that we saw which we couldn't take because she wasn't sexed, and we couldn't take the chance of getting a rooster (sigh.) So, now we have 6 Heirloom breeds: 2 Ameraucanas (Ramona and Natasha), 1 Gold Laced (Violet) and 1 Silver Laced (Alice Lucy) Wyandotte, 1 Light Brahma (Beatrix), and one Welsummer (Olive). And you've probably already figured out that I'm obsessed with them and have learned all the lingo and chicken speak I can find. These ladies live in a deluxe chicken condo in our yard, next to the raised beds, and they also have a mobile chicken tractor (both accommodations thanks to the cute-and-good-with-tools hubby) which they can free range in. We don't just let them loose because we are actually trying to grow things in our yard, and when left to their own devices, they pretty much eat (read DESTROY) everything. But they sure are fun to watch...Chicken TV... And I must say, I thought they were all pretty dumb at first, but now that they all seem to have personalities, they are a little more exciting, and their stupidity is somehow very endearing.

Well, 2 days ago, we got our first egg! Adorably small and sort of conehead looking - very pointy. So cool! It was almost 3 months to the day since we got them as 10 week old pullets. Man, what a long wait! I don't know how people do it who start with chicks - they have to wait twice as long to get an egg, and let me tell you, the wait is excruciating! But now that we have 2 little eggs (they will lay approximately 1 per day/per chicken) I have to say that I can't eat one! They are just too special! I know that's silly, and the whole point is to eat the eggs, but it just seems so miraculous. Today, one of my art students said I should blow out the egg and save it, so I think I will....That way I can have my egg and eat it too!