Monthly Archives: April 2009

Our Hen Crows

She is Woman, hear her Cock-a-Doodle-Do.
Chickens out after a rainy week

Her name is Mabel (the buff on the right) and lately she’s been quite the little diva. Last week when we were going though that crazy heat spell, we opened our bedroom windows at the crack of dawn to feel the cool morning air. We laid in bed listening to the surrounding roosters and our happy clucking hens. All of a sudden we heard this ‘bawk-bawk-bawk-a-doodle-do’ coming from one of our girls. Just the most dreadful, meager little crow sounding much like when our late rooster Lincoln was learning how to crow. It seems that Mabel has decided to become the resident rooster. We had read about this when we were learning about chickens, that if left to rule the roost for too long that a hen could start to act like a rooster and begin to crow. It’s a soft crow, no need to go rushing around apologizing to the neighbors like before.

Mabel, luckily acts just as much of a lady as she did before. We think actually that she might have a crush on the wild rooster down the street. Last summer a rooster got loose and made it’s home in the new subdivision a few blocks away. We had three knocks on our door of neighbors and police officers asking if it was ours. They’ve done all they can to catch it, but with no luck. It’s the closest rooster around, so maybe Mabel is ‘flirting’. Who knows.

Have you ever heard your hens ever started crowing?


Filed under chickens


It’s been one of those weeks. One of those weeks where my shoulders have been firmly planted right around my ears, where I feel tension in back muscles I didn’t even know I had. My To-Do list is approximately as long as the drip irrigation that I’d like to install (have you checked out what my dear friend Julie has been doing? Good grief, she’s incredible). I’ve been around long enough to know that this too will soon pass, but in the meantime, I’d like to share with you a few photos that make me breath a little deeper…. in case your shoulders are a little higher than they should be too.
the rununcula look alikes that are my favorite spring flower
remember the awful iris’ I had last year? replaced!
sunlight through lavender
the giant valley oak that gives us morning shade.


Filed under What's Blooming

My Shampoo-less Hair is on MSNBC

I was reluctant to share about my no shampooing experiment the other week because I thought you’d all think me a little, well, gross. But it looks like now my dirty little secret is out nationwide on msnbc. Go check it out.

I’ll be back soon with more garden related (rather than bad hygiene related) news.


Filed under 1

Old Germans & Rose Finns


In the past we’ve always grown our potatoes directly into the ground. But this year we got a little crazy in our thinking and tried them out in our raised beds and wouldn’t you know, they are our most successful potatoes to date. Well, at least the tops of the potatoes are the most successful, who knows what’s going on underground. We ordered our potatoes (and shallots) from Milk Ranch as we do most years. What you are looking at here are the Rose Finn Apple potatoes and behind that are small square beds of Russet Norkatah and Red Gold. We planted all of these on February 27th and have mounded them up a few times since they’ve sprouted.


If you are new to potatoes, you should download this great potato growing guide straight from Milk Ranch themselves.


We also ordered shallots this year. We’ve never grown them before, but we liked the name of them. Old German Shallots. In my imaginative mind, I had half hoped they would sprout up with beer steins and big strawberry blond beards, but alas, all we are getting are leaves. They are pretty though. Fast Grow the Weeds recently wrote about her shallots too. Can’t wait to see these when they are ready. Shallots are something we are frequently buying so it will be nice to have them from our own garden this year.


How about you? Any shallots or potatoes in your garden this year?


Filed under Sprouting, State of the Garden

Our Speciality Chard


Oh, I suppose you grow swiss chard for the leaves, don’t you? Maybe you roast them, maybe you braise them, maybe you even saute them. But not us, oh no. We grow them exclusively for the stalks, that’s where the good stuff is. So while you enjoy your dinner of supple chard leaves, we’ll be chewing and chewing and chewing on our nice fiberous chard stems…because we like it that way.

Gosh darn chickens!


Filed under chickens, Leafy Greens

Garden Friendly Detergents and Soap

Edit: I posted a recipe and ‘how-to’ for making your own garden friendly liquid laundry detergent. Check it out!

The other week Ken, a local reader, commented on my Tips for A Drought Friendly Garden post saying that he was interested in knowing more about about plant safe detergents and soaps to use in his homemade grey water system. He wanted to know if I knew more about this. Well I knew a little bit, but I did a little research to learn more and I thought I’d share it with you. There are a number of reasons why you might not want to use common detergents and soaps, including what happens to them once they reach our main waterways, and you can read all about it at nature moms, but I’m going to focus garden friendly detergents and soaps.

I remember from way back to an old college class that I took that using detergents and soaps that contain phosphorus can harm the waterways by helping grow algae. Phosphorus acts as a fertilizer, which at first sounds great. If it’s a fertilizer why wouldn’t you want to add it to your garden? Well probably for the same reason that you don’t use Miracle Grow, right you Organic Gardeners? Adding synthetic fertilizers strips the soil of its natural nutrients eventually, so you become dependent on using synthetic fertilizers to add nutrients to the soil. Better to add manure, cover crops and compost to your soil and keep the phosphorus filled detergents out.

When you look for a safe detergent for using when you channel your laundry water into your garden, you want to closely examine the label. Just because it states that the ingredients are ‘plant-based’ doesn’t necessarily mean that the product is harmless. Nor does biodegradable mean that it’s going to biodegrade in a safe and short amount of time. Even harmful chemicals are designed to biodegrade at some point. Most eco-looking detergents and soaps carry those terms, so what in the heck can you use and who can you trust?

To be honest looking at all of the cleaning websites is making my head spin. I think what it comes down to is that if you are really concerned about growing your vegetables completely organically you might want to use your cast off dish water and laundry water for your lawn and ornamentals.

I learned a new term from the Bio-Pac website: Biocompatibility. Biocompatible cleaners are not only non-harmful for plants and soil, they biodegrade entirely into plant nutrients!Biocompantible cleaners are designed with grey water systems in mind, so any of the Bio Pac products would be safe to use. We use their dish soap frequently and besides it being plant safe, it is a nice soap to use. I hand wash the majority of our dishes every night so I’m pretty picky about liquid soaps. I don’t like them to be too thin or to have an icky odor. Bio Pac is nicely concentrated and it smells really nice too – citrusy!

Seventh Generation has been a trusted ‘green’ company for a while now. I use their disposable diapers exclusively and frequently use their detergent too.

Ecover products are also reported to biodegrade cleanly. Treehugger has a great write up all about Ecover.

If you are of the frugal manner, you can try making your own dish soaps and detergents to use. Most recipes call for washing soda, which according to this site is all natural and safe, much like baking soda. I list a detergent recipe below but can’t seem to find a dish soap recipe that looks good.

What to Buy:

  1. Seventh Generation Liquid Laundry Detergent
  2. Seventh Generation Powder Natural Laundry Detergent
  3. Bio-Pac Concentrated Dish Liquid
  4. Ecover Dishwashing Liquid
  5. Ecover Laundry Powder

More Info:

What do you know about plant safe detergents and soaps? What do you use?


Filed under Water

The Word on Water


Word on the street is that we have avoided mandatory water rationing this year! Hard to believe that we went from being told that we would have to cut our water usage by 50% to now being told that we can voluntarily cut back 15% in such a short time, but such is the power of mother nature. We did have lots of rain in late winter, especially up here in the north bay. Some counties in the Bay Area have already mandated 15% rationing and I think other counties in California are having a much harder time than that. But here in Sonoma county, the rationing is only voluntary. Great news. And the news said today would bring a 70% chance of rain. Let’s hope.

So can we do to cut back 15% voluntarily?

  • I’m thinking of having a friends plumber husband come over and install a three way switch to our washing machine water outlet so that we can divert water into my flower beds.
  • I’m also thinking of taking one part of my flower beds off of a drip line and watering them only with kitchen sink water scraps
  • I might just convince Scott to try Dry Farming one of our tomatoes this year
  • I’m going to mulch the heck out of everything

How has the water supply shaped up where you live?


Filed under Water

My No-Shampoo Hair Saga

This is the first time I’ve shown myself on my blog. Here I am, unshampooed hair and all.

When I first heard about people not shampoo-ing their hair, I immediately thought of the worst…that somewhere out there was a group of yucky greasy haired folks walking around. This was about three years ago when I first discovered the Mothering forums. There was a post link with hundreds of replies to this whole ‘No Poo’ thing. Gross, I thought.

Then last summer I started noticing a trend in bloggers who also decided to stop using shampoo. Amy of Angry Chicken is someone whom I admire so when she gave up using shampoo I became curious. Then I noticed that Meg of Sew Liberated converted too. If these beautiful, crafty woman were doing it, maybe I should try it too?

I first started noticing that maybe you didn’t need shampoo when I had my first son. He was born with very little hair and what precious hair he did have all fell out and he was lacking in the hair department until he was about 18 months old. So I never bothered shampooing his hair because he barely had any. And it never looked bad at all, actually it looked great. In fact I only started shampooing his hair when we was just over two years old only out of peer pressure…everyone else was doing it.

Why Would You Ever Give up Shampoo?
Supposedly most shampoo is laden with terrible chemicals, which is truthfully not hard to believe. Plus going through bottle after bottle creates a lot of unneeded waste and expense. And if you were like me, if you go a day or (gasp) two without shampooing your hair does look like a big greasy mess. Am I right? The real reason I wanted to give up shampoo wasn’t so much for the chemicals or the landfill situation, but because isn’t it always nice to give up being dependent on something that we don’t even really need? Especially something that corporate culture insists we need everyday? It’s kind of a liberating feeling.

The way that shampoo works is that it strips your hair of it’s natural oils. So your body reacts from it’s oil shortage by making more. Then you wash it the next day and strip the oils again, which means that once again your body produces more oil, you see how the cycle works. But by not using shampoo you let the hair oil factory regulate it’s oil production levels to create a healthy balance.

Using baking soda instead of shampoo is a good way to cleanse your hair without stripping it of it’s oils. In fact some people claim that they don’t even use baking soda, they just rinse their hair!

My Entry into Being Shampoo Liberated
I first stopped shampooing last August and it was a total disaster. Maybe it’s because my hair was really long or maybe I didn’t wait long enough through the transition period (it can take a while for your oil glands to slow down their production). I went back to shampoo using. Then in October I cut my hair up to my shoulders and decided to give it a try again. This time I was successful. I started out by combining a tablespoon of baking soda with a cup of water in a little ramekin every two or three days and bringing that into the shower with me, but soon I got lazy and just combined the two in the same proportion into a large empty plastic bottle (an old Dr. Bronners bottle). I squirt out about half a cup onto the top of my head and give my hair/head a good massage with my fingertips. Then I flip my head over and repeat with the underside of my hair. Then I thoroughly rinse it all out. Some people follow that up with a rinse of diluted vinegar, but I haven’t really found a benefit to doing that with my hair. My hair afterwards is tangle free.

It did take about a week of transition where I had my hair in a pony tail everyday, but after that my hair actually gained more volume. Scott mentioned that he’s never seen my hair look so healthy.

But Then I Went Back to Shampoo for a Bit
But because there is a bit of ‘girly’ in me, I started to miss the nice shampoo smells and big soapy lather. So over the winter I started to shampoo every two week or so. Then I went for another haircut and loved the way my  hair felt after her shampooing that I went caved and brought out the shampoo bottles again. At first I hoped that I could shampoo just once a week, maybe every four days if need be. But I soon realized with shampoo it’s an everyday or nothing commitment. My hair got dependent on shampoo all over again.

So now I’m back to baking soda. And I really don’t think I’d ever switch back. And for those ladies who highlight or color their hair, using baking soda on colored hair is just fine. I highlight my hair (hey, I never said I was completely natural! I do have my vanities.) and the color hasn’t faded a bit. I do the baking soda routine about every four days now. Which means that those days in between I take shorter showers which helps with the whole drought situation. And the fact that I don’t have to keep buying shampoo helps with the whole financial/economy situation. And of course, Scott is back to complimenting my hair again, which is always incentive to keep going. See, it’s a win-win-win situation.

Are you also one of the crazy no shampoo-ers? Tell me your story.

Update: My hair was featured on MSNBC’s website. Check it out!

Update: A 16-Month Update.


Filed under Musings

Peach Leaf Curl

Peach Leaf Curl
Note to selves: Spray the fruit trees properly next year!

Shame on us for not spraying the fruit trees properly this year. Here I am typing out blog post after blog post trying to sound like we are somewhat competent gardeners and this year, well, we are a great big gardening mess. First the damping off and now the peach leaf curl. What next?
Peach Leaf Curl
Peach Leaf Curl is another lovely fungal disease that when controlled with proper spraying stays at bay. But when you let it overwinter without spraying it will come and get you once spring hits and the leaf buds sprout. Once that happens, there is nothing you can do until the next dormant season. Since the disease places stress on the tree you can coddle your poor sickly tree by giving it extra fertilizer and proper water. Peach Leaf Curl affects namely peaches, nectarines and in the case of our yard, our Weeping Santa Rosa Plum tree. The leaves become discolored, curl up and much of the fruit also becomes damaged. I fear we won’t have half the nectarine crop or peach crop that we did last year.
Peach Leaf Curl
To keep peach leaf curl away, you should spray with a copper spray three times during the winter. I’ve been reading that most people can get rid of it with only one spraying, but we’ve been advised to spray three times. First when all of the leaves have fallen off, which often in Sonoma is around Thanksgiving. Then spray again a month later around Christmas and then give it one final spray at the end of January before the leave buds break.

This year we only sprayed in January and then it rained a day afterwards, so I’m sure that most of the copper was washed off anyway. We are paying for it now as all of our peach, nectarine and plum trees are deeply infected with it.

If you’d like to read more about peach leaf curl click over to UC Davis’s website. We get a lot of our in depth gardening info from them.


Filed under Fruit Trees, notes for next year