Monthly Archives: May 2011

Goodbye Old House

Today we begin the big move to leave this house and start life in our new home. I am feeling quite sad about leaving this house that we’ve lived in for almost our entire married lives. All our babies were brought home here and while I look forward to seeing them grow in our new place, it is always so sad to say goodbye. I hope you don’t mind me sharing some of my favorite parts about this house:
New allergy bedding
Winter Light in Jack's Room
I’ll miss the beautiful morning light in our oldest son’s bedroom, no matter what the paint color,

A different morning
a clearer shot
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the oak tree that towers over our backyard, beautiful in any light,

Happy Spring
the scented geraniums blooming outside our dining room window,

Berry Picking
the small patch of wildness in our yard, perfect for berry picking,

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our climbing trees,

cooling down the house...
our kitchen. Our funky, too small for more than one person galley kitchen,

Sunday Flowers
bathroom
our serene bathroom,

Our Family Room Ceiling
the many projects we did, including tearing out the ceiling and re-insulating the family room,

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then painting it and getting the artwork just right.

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I’ll miss finding boys in homemade pants under the apple tree telling secrets,

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our rag tag, pell mell, mish mash group of raised beds,

Fireside Play
the many, many hours spent fireside,

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this corner. This little artwork/play corner.

someone turned five, we had a party
And memories of all the parties we’ve hosted. I’m going to miss it all!

However, on to new beginnings!

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This Sonoma Garden is Moving

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Some of you who have been reading this blog for a while may be wondering where all the posts on spring plantings are. Why the big lack of sharing what we’ve planted, the pictures of sprouting seeds, the near unreachable growing dreams I have for our garden? Well, we have been growing things from seed and planning great big garden dreams in our head, but they are all in preparation of a new garden. Yes, after over two solid years of searching and 7 offers on 7 different houses, we are finally moving! While we are still staying in Sonoma, we are headed out of town and into the country. We are moving from our little walk-to-town cottage to a California ranch rambler on two acres. It is an exciting move, our dreams for this new property have been soaring without limit, but it is incredibly scary too. The property is stunning, yet far from town and the house? Well, it’s bigger, but oh, is it ever a project. Luckily the new well was just dug, but it still needs a new….well, you name it and it needs it. A new roof, gutters, a new septic system, new windows, new plumbing, new paint, new electrical work….the project list is endless. And didn’t I hear somewhere that linoleum in the bedrooms is coming back? I’m crossing my fingers that’s true.
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But let’s not dwell on the house, take a look outside. The people who lived here before was a husband and wife who built the house when they were married in 1950 and lived there until their death last year. As the years went by they expanded the house and the gardens. They were avid gardeners; fruit trees, berries, nut trees and perennial vegetables abound. And the flowers, just look at the flowers. I’m going to need your help identifying many of them! As we peeked in the cupboards we saw home canned jam and knew we had found the right place. I hope we’ll make that couple proud with how we’ll continue on with their property.
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Our new neighbors include a dairy, a Rocky chicken farm, a dog kennel, a horse ranch and many hobby farmers. Not to mention that we’ll have plenty of peacock, fox and wild turkey stories to share soon.
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I have valued your comments and readership so much, I’m looking forward to sharing our new adventure with you and getting your advice and opinions as we go!

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If you can’t find your four year old….

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…and the cherries are ripe, try looking up. I swear that little boy is a monkey! Unlike last years huge harvest, we only have a couple of small baskets to enjoy this year.

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le Tour de Coop, come visit our chickens

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The Le Tour de Coop last Saturday was so much fun. I know a lot of you couldn’t make it since you don’t live here, so let me give you the tour! Here’s the sign saying that our house was a stop on the tour.
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Welcome back through the side gate.
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It was cold and overcast that day but we set out chairs for people to sit just in case. Behind the chairs, under the cherry tree is our chicken coop. Scott built that PVC structure and covered it in chicken wire. He built it out of PVC so that we could move it around the yard as we wish. But when it is there, we pin it down with u shaped prongs so that raccoons can’t pull it up to get underneath.

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Before you head around to the back of the coop, try a cookie. They are lavender mint shortbread cookies that I made from last years lavender and this years mint. (no eggs in these cookies!) Next to it is a bowl of eggs that we get from our chickens so you can see the three different colors we get.

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Our coop was already there when we bought the house. It was this funky little shed that was open on this side. When we got the chicks, four years ago, Scott walled off this side and added a door, all out of scrap wood he found around. When we first got interested in chickens we searched all around for coop designs and as much as we liked the fancy little house looking coops out there, we decided that we wanted more of a repurposed, recycled, frugal coop. It just seemed to make more sense to us and let’s face it, those custom cute looking coops are crazy expensive.

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Our nesting boxes are actually an old cabinet that we found laying around the property.

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Meet Edna. She’s an Americana. She lays blue/green eggs. We got her and her sister and a Buff Cochin last spring. The two cookoo marans and the buff orphington we got four years ago.

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Over to the other side is where we keep their water and their food. We hang their food up for two reasons, because if it’s hanging they don’t scratch and kick their food all over the place and so that the rats have a harder time getting to it. (yes rats, an on going battle around here). For some reason I didn’t get a picture of the rest of the girls, they were milling around their chicken yard. If you look up at the second picture from the top, you’ll see part of a white picket gate, behind that is a little yard that is fenced in and that is their yard to mill about during the day. Then in the evening, or when we leave the house, we let them back into their coop.

We had such a nice crowd who came to visit. I’d say we had about 50 people circulate through our backyard during the four hours the tour was held. It was great to talk chicken with so many folks. Some had just started their flock, others were seasoned chicken wranglers and others were just curious. Some came through quickly and many others stayed and lingered, chatting and walking through the garden. We only were able to get out to see one other coop, we got so caught up in visiting with people who stopped by our house.
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I wish you all could have come by, but I hope you enjoyed this little photo tour instead. Happy Spring!

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Admiting Defeat, When Natural Doesn’t Work

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You know after reading this blog, that we try to do things in a pretty natural way around here. We are by no far saints in the living natural world, but we give it an honest effort. For instance with our body care things. I’ve been making lotions, soap, deodorant, and avoiding shampoo for two and a half years now. We eat as organic and close to the source we can, if we can’t grow it ourselves. But sometimes natural doesn’t work. Our almost 8 month old daughter has been struggling with eczema almost her whole life. Unlike with our youngest son, my handmade lotion wasn’t working for her. So I upped the ante and found a thicker shea butter lotion to make. It helped, but it didn’t get rid of it. I tried this herbal infused coconut oil recipe that my herbalist friend told me about. That didn’t work. I even used Aquafore and Eucerin that every other mom told me about. Those didn’t work either.
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Meanwhile both her legs, arms, chest and cheeks felt like rough leather, no matter how much homemade lotion I slathered on her. The poor dear would scratch herself until she bleed. When we went to the Naturopath, he gave her a probiotic to see if that would help and urged me to cut some of the popular allergens out of my diet to see if that would help her. Since we already had to switch to an egg free diet, I chose eggs to eliminate first. After two weeks of that, still no improvement. Then a mom friend emailed me with some suggestions that her pediatric dermatologist recommended. I ran to the drug store last week, when she had completely scratched up her cheek and bought them. CeraVe as a lotion and Cetaphil Restoraderm body wash. As soon as I got home I brought her in the shower and used the body wash on her and then put the lotion on her afterwards. Would you know, in 24 hours her skin was as smooth as silk and the redness has close to vanished! Amazing! I really can’t tell you how elated I am that I found something that worked, even if not natural.

Now that her skin has been clear for almost a week, I am noticing that certain clothes I put on her make her skin flare up. I have been juggling between my homemade detergent and some lavender scented detergent that I bought at Whole Foods a while back. I have yet to find the culprit, but I’m so glad to have found that clue too.

Tell me, when does natural not work for you?

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Coops & Kindles, You’re Invited!

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I have to fun things to share with you! First, you are cordially invited to visit us and our chicken coop next weekend, May 14th! We are proud to be part of Le Tour de Coop, a tour of backyard chicken coops in Sonoma. There are going to be seven different coops that you can tour in town and we are house number 5 on the map. Just click over to learn more, buy a map (proceeds benefit our favorite garden park) and come by for a visit! Next week, after the actual tour, I’ll give an online tour of our little coop for those too far to visit. Above is a sneak peek of the gals basking in the early evening sun from my kitchen sink window. I love to watch them mill about while I wash the dinner dishes and listen to my ipod. Watching chickens with hands in warm soapy water and good tunes in my ears is my little moment to myself before I gear up for the evening get-the-kids-to-bed routine.

Second, a Kindle saavy friend of mine urged me to set my blog up so that you could read us on their Kindles. Do you have one? I admit to be still back in the stone age when it comes to reading. I like the tactile sensation and old dusty smell of reading actual paper books, however I do see the attraction of Kindles and ipads and such. How fantastic it would be to simplify and get rid of those shelves of books and carry them all around on such a slim little device. The neat thing about subscribing to blogs on your Kindle is that you don’t have to be attached to a wireless connection to read the posts. You just download them your blog subscriptions when you get the chance and then you can read them whenever you get the chance during your day. If you are interested, you can subscribe to A Sonoma Garden here.

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Filed under chickens, Life in Sonoma

We went to a Naturopathic Dr., and then we made cookies

My poor baby has asthma!
Our oldest son was diagnosed with asthma when he was just two and a half. That was four years ago and every doctor that we’ve gone to see about it has given us the same two medicines as treatment. One is a daily inhaler, flovent, to take during the times of the year when he has the hardest time with the asthma, which for him is winter and late summer. The second medicine is albuterol, which is an inhaled medicine to be taken as needed to ease his attacks. Both medicines help tremendously but I’ve always wondered if there was a better way to ease his breathing. Maybe there was a way to get rid of the asthma, rather than just live with it and treat it with these medications. This winter he needed to use his inhaler a great deal, which concerned me. That fact, combined with meeting our town’s naturopathic doctors (the wife is in my mother/baby group) gave me the push to make an appointment to see if they could offer some help.

The first visit was a long and thoughtful one. The office was very warm and inviting, unlike most doctor’s offices and Dr. Porrino really listened to what I was saying and asked good questions about my son’s symptoms and health history. He explained that asthma is like a cup. That your body is built with a ‘cup’ in it that fills up full of irritations and inflammation. Seasonal allergies fill the cup, daily stress, food allergies and sensitivities, colds, sicknesses, all go in the cup. And when your cup overflows you begin to have asthmatic symptoms. The difference between all of us is that some of us have been given large beer stein sized cups at birth and others, like our son, were given small shot glass sized cups. So the idea is to keep that cup as empty as possible.
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Given that we already know what environmental allergies our son has (dust, cats, grasses) we focused on food sensitivities. Apparently sensitivities are different than food allergies. The doctor gathered five drops of my sons blood onto a special card and sent it to the lab for testing. When the results came back (and on this very nice, colorful chart, I might add) his charts looked pretty good, but it did show a high sensitivity to eggs. The recommendation was to cut eggs out of his diet for about four months to see if this makes a difference. Really bad news when you have six laying hens, I’ll tell you! That trial along with adding in a daily dose of a good probiotic and a teaspoon of Cod Liver Oil"" to boost his digestion and immune system and hopefully we should see some improvement.

As I went home I started to lament the idea of keeping eggs out of his diet – no ice cream, mayonnaise, and baked goods! As it works in a small community, as soon as I shared this news with one friend, she told me of a mutual acquaintance who’s son has an egg allergy. I contacted her and she told me that in baking you can substitute 1 T. vinegar + 1 T. liquid + 1 t. baking powder for each egg.
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As soon as I learned this I pulled out our very favorite oatmeal, chocolate chip cookie recipe and gave it a go. Would you know, they came out perfectly delicious? The only change I noticed was that the cookie was slightly crisper than normal, which was just fine.

Hopefully all this sacrifice of irritants and the addition of good supplements will help our little guy out. Nothing is harder than watching your child struggle with taking breath. And hey, now we know we can at least eat cookies along this journey.

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