Sunday, July 31, 2011

Gratitude...

I am grateful for my sweet girlfriend and the chance to while away a day with her on a fun road trip to Berkeley.

I am grateful that we were treated to this view not once, but twice as our chatting caused us to miss our exit (yes, we missed it both coming and going).


I am grateful that we got into the estate sale before the sparkly treasure I was destined to have was gone, and that we only waited in line for an hour, versus more.


I am grateful this was not a real baby.


I am grateful we found Cafe Gratitude, and were able to share a delicious lunch and dinner together.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

I heart macro Sunday: Tasty, tubular, and prickly

There is lots of goodness in the garden these days, and some of it is good enough to eat.

wild plum
Like the native plums...


And my best crop of strawberries ever...


And this, whose name I forget, and whose salmon colored variant used to be on my Must Have list.
  Now I'll never find it.


Even the weeds around here can be incredible in the dew and late day light.

Thistle

I hope you have a wonderful day, and don't forget to head over to see Lori at Studio Waterstone and check out the other macro treats! 

studio waterstone

Bountilicious

With summer weather finally here, it seems that Mother Nature is gardening up a storm, and she intends to feed a crowd.  The trees are laden with california native plums, which I've found to be a real treat for the chickens, and for myself as well.  Every walk is an opportunity to grab a snack, and just the other day I was treated to the first of the ripe blackberries.

Wild Plums

I've been enjoying some domestic fruits of my own labor recently, with the first picking of Turkish cucumbers, and more strawberries than I've ever been able to produce before.  I've finally found the right sunny nook and last year transplanted about six plants to a deep raised planting box in the new spot.  Now I need a basket to harvest what used to only require a small pocket, or a quick slight of hand to the mouth on the way back from watering.

First Turkish cucumber
Hardly any seeds in these cute little 4" long Turkish cucumbers.

My impatience paid off when I decided it was time to harvest one of my potato containers.  Sometime in mid-April I planted some buttercream varieties in a #15 black plastic nursery pot and also in a landscape fabric sewn tube supported by a wire cage, with potting soil added as the plants grew taller.  They're in two different locations.  I've tried the potato tower before but without the landscape fabric and using garden soil, and it was a flop.  This time I was encouraged by how fast and lushly the plants grew.

Potatoes in pot on the deck
I swear, these things grew at least an inch a day.

Without ever blooming the tops of the plants in the nursery container had recently started to yellow and die off, so I figured it was time to see if I had a success or a failure on my hands.  Ready or not, I needed that container for a tomato plant that had outgrown its own pot.

Sweet Success
Score!

Sweet success!  I emptied the pot into a wheelbarrow and discovered not gazillions, but quite a few decent spuds, with quite a range of sizes.  Some were much larger than I expected, about 4" across.  Totally cool, and definitely worth the small effort required to plant, water, and feed them (using a low-nitrogen fertilizer and worm castings).  I can't wait to see how the big TOP (Tower O Potatoes) turns out - shouldn't be too much longer on that one.  I also read that around here you can get two plantings each year, so I'm going to turn some of these right around into starts for the next batch.

First crop of buttercream potatoes


Here's the pot the potatoes grew in, with the tomato in its new home already, and my bountiful harvest.

Next time I'm going to use a larger pot, or at least rig up a cover around the base of the pot.  This one seemed to get quite hot from the afternoon, and I half expected to be digging up baked potatoes.

Snow peas
The snow peas preceded the cucumbers in the pot on the deck.  When the plants started to die off with the warmer weather I planted the cucumber seeds at their bases.

Gift from Chica Loca
Chica has been laying almost every day now, and each time we find an egg it's a celebration.

These are only the things grown in the "hers" garden, which also includes mint (love those summer Mojitos), basil, citrus, chives, parsley, French tarragon, and figs.  I've been gardening in containers on the deck and in another spot that I know to have at least 6 hours of sun each day.  My tenacious husband continues to garden in raised beds in the increasingly shady fenced-in vegetable garden, and is tending zucchini, corn, tomatoes, peppers, beans, and basil.  Is it a competition?  Perhaps.  OK, yeah, so it is. 

What's growing in your garden right now?  Are you overrun with anything?  Have you left a zucchini on anyone's doorstep yet, or stashed one in their car?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Sweet, sustainable serindipity

Ever since I read Joan Gussow Dye's This Organic Life a number of years ago I have been inspired to find a way to eat food that has not been carted halfway around the world by fossil fuel sucking airplanes.  While we do enjoy a mango or a pineapple from time to time, I think it's foolish for our long term survival on this planet to fully base our diet on things that are grown in far away places.  Michael Pollan, another of my heroes, had this to say about Joan, regarded as the mother of the sustainable food movement:  “Once in a while, I think I’ve had an original thought, then I look and read around and realize Joan said it first.”

The documentary Food Inc. encouraged me to move away from the usual handful of meat suppliers and seek grass-fed or free-range organic beef and chicken.  This led me to Whole Foods  Wallet (expensive), and Trader Joe's (too much packaging, no local food) in search of alternatives for produce.  I was incensed the day I started looking at the labels on Trader Joe's produce, and virtually everything they had came from Mexico.  How are we supposed to lead the world if we can't manage to produce anything in this country, not even our own food? I'll probably keep going back there for those addictive chocolate peanut butter cups, but my basket will not contain any produce.  I love going to Farmers' Markets, but have not managed to find one that I can make it to regularly.  I searched for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) groups that had pickups in my area to no avail.

And now, by sweet chance, I have found a local CSA and signed up for their weekly produce box.  I'm watering plants for a neighbor the next couple of weeks, and he offered that I could pick up his box while he was gone.  I'm so glad I did!   Abounding Harvest Mountain Farm, in partnership with Old House Farm, have started Neighbor Farms CSADaniel and Nancy are friends and neighbors with some of our own friends who live near them, and have turned an unusual and incredible piece of property into a food producing machine.  I can even walk to the weekly pick up location, and their selection of organic fruits and vegetables complements the few that we are able to grow in our increasingly shady yard.

This week the box contained some beautiful beets, zucchini, kale, heirloom tomatoes, basil, salad greens, cucumbers and more.  I'll get a picture of next week's box.  Their mountain property has a great Southwestern exposure that's hospitable to all kinds of fruit trees as well, and I can't wait until the pomegranates come in the fall.


I can't tell you how amazing this discovery makes me feel, the fact that friends are growing our food, that little fossil fuels were required to grow it and bring it to my house, and that we're using our food money to help a local, responsible business operate.  And with the eggs we're now starting to get from our hens, we're on our way to independence.

If you live in the Felton, Santa Cruz, Scotts Valley, or the surrounding mountains like I do, check them out and sign up.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Still basking...

Booth
Come on in! 

I'm just reaching room temperature after basking in a glow of wonderfulness from my show weekend at Bargetto Winery.  Not only did my last minute jewelry making efforts meet with pleasing results, I managed to get myself and my booth together without incident.  As it always is, the days at the show are just dreamy, and I love catching up with my artist friends and seeing what they've been up to.

James Kachler Pottery
The impish grin reveals his playful nature.

I was fortunate to have a booth next to Jim Kachler and his lady Debbie, who kept things lively.  Jim, a self-proclaimed psychoceramacist, makes some mighty amazing functional pottery, and he had the nerve to hang a particularly exceptionally engineered birdbath just a few feet from my booth, and before the show was done I had staked my claim.  It's exquisitely fine craftsmanship, and I know my birdies are going to prefer it to the old lasagna pan.

James Kachler Pottery birdbath
Jim's incredible birdbath.  The one I bought has a sky blue glaze on the inside, perfect for luring birds and reflecting the sky.  Can you believe the work he did on the hanging mechanism?  It's all copper, and built to last.

I was also blessed that Kate McKinnon came by for a visit while on her recent trip to Monterey, and she brought friends along.  I finally got to meet Ann Wasserman, a beautiful and gifted local glass and jewelry artist whose name I had seen on the Santa Cruz Open Studio tour.  We're hoping to get together one day for some studio fun, or maybe a visit to see her friend Wayne Robbins.  I would love that!  Kate wrote about her wonderful weekend getaway here - it sounds like a very relaxing time.

I was happy to see some other local glassy friends at the show as well - Heather Richman and Sally Wood from the Crafty Fox Glass Studio, who had a knockout booth filled with amazing work.  Heather's colorful fused plates were very tempting at the front of her booth. I'd link to their site but it appears to be horribly broken.  It was also very nice to see Alena Byrnes again, whose work is almost too beautiful too behold, and Jerry and Fran, and Carolyn Woodward with her very wearable tie dye.  Despite having just flown across country returning from a business trip, my husband made the drive down and we had dinner one night with Jerry and Fran.  Who knew Watsonville had a decent Chinese restaurant?

Newest Booth
My latest booth layout.  It's an evolving work in progress. 

On my list of things to do before my next outdoor show is to add a few slivers of fabric to my @#$% canopy walls.  Seems when you buy these at Costco they are just a little too short to go all the way around, causing much cursing and gnashing of teeth when it's time to button up the booth.  I've known this ever since I bought the canopy years ago, but it didn't fully dawn on me that I had the power (a machine that sews!) to fix this.  And fix I will, along with the velcro that's ripping off, and the torn zippers.

Packed up
I was lucky to get the truck for the set-up trip, but had to fit everything in my Prius for the ride home.  There was no rom to spare.

So, it's back to work for me.  I hope your weekend was fun.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

I Heart Macro Sunday: Getting Down to BZZZZZZness

There's quite a lot going on in the garden these days!  The number of bees I'm seeing is staggering. Sometimes they even linger to have their picture taken.

Gathering...

Shasta Daisies

Busy!

How this pollination thing works

Have a wonderful day, and don't forget to head over to see Lori at Studio Waterstone and check out the other macro treats!  And if you're in the Santa Cruz area, head on over to Bargetto Winery for the Fine Art Festival, and visit my booth to say hi.  Enjoy your day!

studio waterstone

Friday, July 22, 2011

Another Sneak Peek

My Earthy Orbs bead set in a pair of earrings with handmade fine silver earring findings, and a comfy, earthy stretch bracelet.

Time is critical today so I'm going to have to post and run, but thought  I'd share some more new work with you that I'll be showing this weekend  at Bargetto Winery in Soquel.  I've been working with my Earthy Orbs  mix, and love how it's melding with both silver and antiqued brass  findings.

My own lampwork and hammered silver rings, czech glass leaves, and Pacific Silverworks handmade leaf charms.  More is less, right?

My Earthy Orbs bead set plays nicely with antiqued brass findings.

In case you missed it, here's a link to the show information.

I'm off to load the truck and set up my canopy.  Hope to see you in Soquel!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Come see me at Bargetto Winery this weekend!

Got weekend plans?  If you're in town, it would be lovely to see you at my show this weekend - Bargetto Winery's Fine Art Festival.  I can't think of a more delightful location, in the dappled shade of a gurgling brook, with a glass of their delicious wine, live music making your hips sway, and some mighty fine local art. 

My friends Jerry and Fran will be there, and I can't wait to see their newest jewelry.  They have a way with metal and gemstones that few can rival, and their work is truly exquisite.  I'm sure I'll be telling them how my experiments in metal are coming along (although I suspect we'll talk a bit about chickens), and I hope to have some time to chat about tools as well.

Here's a sneak peek of one of the pieces I'll be bringing with me to Bargetto...I'll post more tomorrow.


Stay cool, wherever you are.

Monday, July 18, 2011

We're on a roll here

There's just nonstop excitement around the chicken coop these days.  Chica is apparently taking this job very seriously, and produced another egg for us today, on Day 2 of her laying career.  It was slightly longer than yesterday's, and she wanted the world to know all about it.

Being new to all of this still I once again rushed out to be by her side when I heard the characteristic call, which you can hear in these little videos.  I opened the servants' entrance to the coop and had a good view of the closer nesting box, where she was sitting.


Her sisters were there for moral support, which I thought was very kind given the recent kerfuffles they've been having. She was quiet for a while and nothing seemed to be happening, so I went back inside.

A few minutes later I heard the call again and went out to check, and sure enough, she had done it again!  I made sure to tell her how proud we were, and she seemed pretty excited about it too.


Looks like we won't have to divide that first special egg in too many parts after all.  Life is good here on the farm.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Yes! We Have an Egg!



We're a little stunned but overjoyed around here - at only 4 1/2 months of age Chica Loca has laid her first egg!  Sound the horns and break out the champagne!  This morning as I got out of the shower I heard her squawking in a way I'd not heard before, so I threw on my robe and checked the nest boxes.  She wasn't in there, but had taken the messy pile of straw I'd stuffed in there a couple of weeks ago (somehow I must have known) and woven it into a beautiful nest.  "It's time, it's time!", I shouted to my husband, much like the woman going into labor screams to her man.


First she started with the box on the right, and then she went out for a stroll in the run and returned to do the same with the box on the left.  We were preparing to drive a ways to attend a lovely brunch with friends (a delightful mix of art and science and baseball and I'll tell you all about it soon), and as we left she was sitting in the nest but no egg.  I've been thinking about her the whole time we were away, and literally raced from the car to the coop when we got home.


When I opened the nest box there it was.  Her very first egg, and much bigger than I expected - I was told that first eggs can be quite small but this was as big as the small to medium eggs from the store.  It's rather oblong and very light blue - Chica is the Ameraucana and those are known for their colorful blue and green eggs.  She was out roaming around the coop and didn't seem any worse for the wear, and what impressed me the most was the way she just knew what to do. 



We're so proud around here we could just burst!  I'm thinking maybe, just maybe this has something to do with the odd sleeping behavior lately, but who knows.  All I know is I need to get some of the laying feed now - the plan was to transition them to it in about a month, but clearly the time is now.

It's HAPPENING!

Guess who's about to become a mom?

Well, sort of.

A certain member of our flock is in the nesting box this very instant, and we expect our first egg very soon...

I'm so excited I can't contain myself.

I Heart Macro Sunday: The best dates always start with earplugs and liability waivers

Beauty in the trash!
Beauty in unexpected places.  Who knew the bottom of a trash barrel would reveal this?

Last weekend I did something that I never thought I would do.  I went shooting with my husband and another couple at a local sporting clays range (bear with me - a macro treat waits for you at the end of this post).  My husband hunts birds and is quite comfortable around his shotgun, but outside of our potato gun and my wristrocket, I've always been pretty leery of weapons.  I don't like the noise, and I don't like what they can do.

The first time we went to the range it was me and my husband and our teenage son, and despite my husband's prodding that I should try it, I just couldn't.  I couldn't even touch the gun, let alone participate, so I busied myself as the videographer.  Perhaps it was the ginormous SUVs with the Bush / Cheney stickers in the parking lot, perhaps it was the noise, but I was shocked at the visceral nature of my reaction. Mind you, this is not killing, this is target practice with little clay frisbees that a machine hurls into the air.  Hardly a blood sport.

Adele takes aim

The second time I went because another couple came along, and the other woman actually had her own little shotgun, and I hoped that maybe some of her courage would rub off on me.  I took some instruction from the guys, who are both seasoned hunters, and actually tried it, and didn't at all care for how hard the 12 gauge bucked into my body, even when braced.  But Jill let me try her weapon and it was much easier.  I gave it a try on several of the stations and did OK, but not great.  I had no burning desire to go back.  But give me some PVC pipe, Aquanet hairspray and a 5lb sack of spuds and I'm a happy camper. 

Adele

Then on a gorgeous day last weekend my husband made plans to go shooting with some of our friends.  Adele was keen to shoot and once again I found myself hoping to absorb some enthusiasm for this sport.  We rented a pretty little Browning 20 gauge gun and Adele and I shared it on the course.  One time I got both targets the first two shots, but other times I just gave up.  It was a beautiful day and I just loved being out with my sweetie in the gorgeous countryside and besides, I knew that there would be some kind of great lunch afterwards - Nili and Adele are foodies and can always find the best eats, even if it's just a local taqueria.


Adele through a knothole in the fence behind the shooting station.

And here's the macro goodness I wanted to share with you:

Browning 20 gauge

Who knew such unexpected beauty would be found on a Browning 20 gauge shotgun?  I think this is very cool.  Next time I'll have to take my molding compound...

Now toodle on over to see Lori at Studio Waterstone and check out the other macro treats!

studio waterstone

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Another kind of sleepover

Princess Lay-a
Guess who's got a pretty little comb and some wattles?  Princess Lay-a is growing up, sniff sniff.

With maturation comes the age old struggle for independence, and we're all about the teenage drama around here now.   Every time I look out to their run it seems someone is having an issue with someone else and feathers are flying.  Does anyone want any chicken feathers?  Seriously, they're starting to accumulate.  And also some of our girls have been having unauthorized sleepovers, and I have some concerns.  What will the neighbors think?  What if uninvited guests come over?

As you may recall, here's what their coop looks like - it's about 5' tall and is completely enclosed by a repurposed chain link dog run.


Lately we've been leaving the sliding wooden door to their coop open at night, so they can put themselves to bed and night and get up when they damned well please in the am.  Classic teenage stuff, right?  The other night I went out to check on them just after sunset and was alarmed when I only counted 2 heads inside on their roost.  It took me a little while to figure out that the missing girl was on the roof.

It's a sleepover!

This wouldn't bother me if I thought it was safe, but the roof is only a few inches below the chain link, and any predator that could get up on top of the enclosure (e.g. a raccoon) could reach through the link and put an ugly end to the party.

I'm not sure why this behavior is happening.  I read on the chicken forums (yes, there are several of these) that ripples through the pecking order can sometimes make one or more hens decide to seek higher places to roost (which implies social status), and once this happens others may will follow suit.  It always seems to be Princess Lay-a and Lucille, which I never would have predicted as the Alpha Chicks since Chica Loca is the one who boldly rushes toward our dog when we approach the run.

Two's company

For now I'm heading out just after sunset and plucking their sweetly sleepy bodies off the roof and shutting them inside the coop.  Yes, there's some complaining, but I always used to make some noise too when someone's mom put an end to my sleepover fun. Chickens get really slow and goofy at night - it's kind of sweet.  They don't run from you, and they're even a little snuggly.  Still, they make sure to let me know that they're not happy about the change in sleeping arrangements, but the struggling is minimal.


Some changes will need to be made so we don't have to perform this ritual every night, and so our girls live long enough to have the satisfaction of providing our breakfast.  I think the best option will be to put some screening on top of the roof to prevent them from getting up there in the first place.  Should be easily enough done.

It's so sad when they grow out of the cute and cuddly stage.  Next thing you know they're probably going to want the keys to the car.

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