Monthly Archives: January 2012

Eviction and Upcycling in the Chicken Coop


We’ve been having a little problem in our chicken coop. It’s a problem we had back at our old Sonoma garden, but it was only a little problem. Here it is a downright infestation. Rats. We’ve always used an old cabinet as their nesting box. We put some hay on the middle shelf and on top and they were quite happy with that. Unfortunately the rats were also quite happy that they too could build a little nest underneath the cabinet. We noticed the problem a while back when the chicken’s food dish was licked clean…chickens don’t do that. Then we started seeing tunnels. Everywhere.

(June, a buff cochin)
Thinking we were quite clever we cleared out the coop a couple of months ago and laid down some large old doors we had laying around thinking that putting in a ‘floor’ would deter the little buggers. To no avail. Instead they were digging massive rat superhighways underneath. Things were getting out of control and we had to do something fast. We needed to get that cabinet and floors out of there pronto and get their boxes up onto the wall.

(Bea, a coocoo maran)
Unfortunately the pre-made hanging nesting boxes were either too small for our well fed hens or too expensive. Even the ‘economical’ boxes we’d seen at Rivertown were $25 each. Multiply that times 6 and that makes our backyard eggs pretty darn expensive. While I’m all for good quality and high style, in this case, thrift and ingenuity won out.

(Edna, an Ameriana)
Scott took three 15 gallon pots we had around from trees we bought a few years back and sawed them in half. Then he screwed the lip to two old wood slates we had from an old futon frame. These then got screwed straight into the coop wall. He made two sets of three. One up high for the agile girls, one set of three down low for the old ladies. We were very curious as to how they would adapt to this change. The original three gals had been using that cabinet for their roost for the past four and a half years. But it seems like they warmed right up to it.

They even laid us two eggs today. Thanks ladies. Oh, I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of the rats, but at least we aren’t encouraging breeding grounds for them.


Filed under chickens

rain, cover crops, bare plants and ethiopian food


It was rainy here…finally. What a dry winter we’ve had up until now.

Scott ran around throwing out cover crop seeds down before the rain started (an old post about cover crops). The crimson clover and purple vetch are already sprouting.

The favas I planted earlier are thriving.

While I’ve been forcing roses into dormancy…

…Scott’s been on the other side of the yard taming raspberries into neat and tidy rows.

Six new bare root fruit trees await planting. Two cherries, one plum, one persimmon, and two more figs.

The seedlings are coming along well. Now that we have a place to grow inside with warm southern sun, we can start our seeds earlier than before.

All this winter weather has had us in the kitchen cooking with spices. Scott’s been making lentils and curried winter squash soup. Last night I made our favorite Beef in Berbere Sauce (taming the heat by paring the 1T of cayenne down to 1/4t.) with…

injera. Reminding me of my high school and college days when we used to adventure into Berkeley to the Blue Nile for Ethiopian food. So sad to hear they are closed.

Hope these winter days are going well in your part of the woods.

p.s. As often as I can remember, I thought I’d post back to previous years around the same date. January 26, 2009 More Edible Weeds


Filed under Cover Crops, In the Kitchen, Recipes

Eggs, Bacon & Interesting Tid Bits for you


We finally started getting a few eggs after the New Year, just a few though.


And we continue to enjoy our homemade bacon. Now that it has sat in the freezer for a while the flavors have mellowed out and it tastes just perfect. At first it tasted almost too sweet, but now that flavor receeded into the background and it couldn’t be tastier. Scott’s Christmas present of a meat slicer makes nice uniform pieces. Baking it in the oven it totally the way to go.

: :  If you live in Sonoma, my friend Jacqueline, who directs the Hearth Foundation, is holding meditation and tea sessions every Thursday from 6:30pm-8:30pm in her art studio. Anyone is welcome who would like to either learn how or continue their practice of meditation with other folks. I’ll be there tonight. Join us if you can: 19201 Twin Oaks Lane, Sonoma. $10 donation appreciated

: :  Yesterday as I was starting work on a design project I searched around for a new podcast to listen to I stumbled upon Garden Fork. Have you discovered this site yet? I haven’t listened to the radio shows yet, just played a whole bunch of videos in the background while I worked. Totally entertaining and educational. Do you have any podcasts you listen to?


Filed under Life in Sonoma

Two Favorite Bread Recipes

Last week a few of you asked for my bread recipe that I had shown. Why I’d be happy to share. However that isn’t the bread I make most of the time, mostly I make another kind of bread (above), so I’ll share that recipe too. The one you asked for is a dark whole wheat molasses bread that is great for morning toast. I got the recipe from a booklet called Old Fashioned Bread Recipes we bought at the mill we visited last year, remember that beautiful place? The booklet is filled with sorts of amazing early American bread recipes like Vermont Maple Syrup Bread, Cracklin’ Bread, Butterscotch Biscuits among others, totally worth the $3.50 I think! Anyway, I’ve adapted their Gingery Wholewheat Bread to work in my bread machine and I also leave out the ginger, because I dunno, ginger first thing in the morning in toast doesn’t sound like my cup of tea.

The other recipe I got from the back of some Bob’s Red Mill package and again I’ve adapted it too over the years. But this recipe is our very favorite. It is the kind of bread recipe you can use everyday. Partly because it works great both as toast and for sandwiches but also because it’s so flexible. I substitute out things in it all the time and it always turns out great. I don’t know about you, but we always have all sorts of strange types of flours in our pantry. Rye, spelt, graham, wheat bran, wheat germ etc. from various projects. Lately in place of the 1 c. of whole wheat flour I’ve been mixing a third of a cup of various flour like substances to use up those odds and ends and the results have been fantastic! The bread picture at the top there is what I made the other day using wheat bran and Bob’s Red Mill 10 Grain Cereal instead of the whole wheat flour.

In most cases, when I bake bread I try and take an extra minute before I stick it in the oven to brush a little milk over the top and sprinkle oatmeal on if it seems appropriate. It’s a tad fussy, but half of eating is with your eyes, right? And us, being bread lovers, always look so forward to cutting into a beautiful loaf of bread.

A note about the recipes, these are notes for folks who have bread machines. If you don’t have a bread machine and you bake by hand, I think you’ll easily be able to figure out how to adjust the recipe accordingly. I’ve even doubled both recipes before and mixed and ‘kneaded’ them in my kitchenaid successfully.
Gingery Wholewheat Bread (without the ginger)
put into bread machine in this order:
1/4 c. water
1 c. milk
1/4 c. molasses
1/4 stick room temperature butter (1/8 c.)
1 T. brown sugar
3 c. unbleached flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/2 t. salt
(1/2 t. ginger – optional)
2 1/2 t. yeast

Set on dough setting. When finished take out and form. Put into a greased loaf pan and let rise 40-ish minutes. Brush top with milk, slice top with serrated knife. Bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees.

Everyday Oat Bread
put into bread machine:
1 1/4 c. water
1 1/2 T. sugar (either white, brown, turbinado even honey has worked)
1 1/2 t. salt
1 1/2 T. vegetable oil or butter
1/4 c. oatmeal
2 c. unbleached white flour
1 c. whole wheat flour (or various other flours that you find at the back of your pantry)
2 t. vital gluten (or if you don’t have use flour instead)
2 1/2 t. yeast
Set on dough setting. Take out and form. Put into greased bread pan. Let rise 40-ish minutes, brush top with milk and sprinkle with oatmeal. Slice top with serrated knife. Bake for 25 minutes at 425 degrees.

Happy Baking!


Filed under Recipes

Growings On…


The tractor works, the field got mowed.

Unfortunately the tractor does not differentiate between grass and mustard and it all got plowed down. At least our field is too big to mow in one sitting and a patch got saved.

She’s growing too. Walking and toppling all over the place.

The felco’s were sharpened and all the fruit trees have been pruned.

What a job!


Filed under Fruit Trees, Our Weekends

Looks like we’re getting serious here. Meet John.

Well folks, it appears as if we are really doing this thing now. Today, we brought home a tractor.


Ever since we first got serious about this property the word ‘tractor’ has come up often between us and with friends and family. ‘When are you getting a tractor?’ is what everyone wants to know. Much like when you first get married and everyone wants to know when you are going to have a baby, people wanted to know when the tractor was coming. I hemmed and hawed. Geez, we have a neighbor that is happy to mow when we need it with his tractor. And what’s wrong with a shovel and a little hard work anyway? But who am I to stand in the way of a man and his tractor. Isn’t that half the fun of having some property having the excuse to get a tractor? Scott has been researching for months now and finally the right one appeared just a few miles north of us. This is a nice little one, with a front blade, mower, rototiller and a dump cart, perfect for our needs.
We dropped off the kids this morning, filled up the coffee mug and headed north to pick up a truck and trailer to haul it in. The truck had country music already playing on it when we got in, a song about a tractor none-the-less, and we headed back down beautiful highway 12 down into Glen Ellen. The place we picked it up from was a 3.5 acre farm tucked into a small valley surrounded by olive trees, fruit trees, and a greenhouse getting filled with flats to start kale seeds. It took some tricky driving and some muscle but between four of us we got her loaded and brought her home.
I still remained a little skeptical about it until I sat down in the tractor seat…. You know, I think this might just be quite fun! Get ready to see some serious growing this year!


Filed under Life in Sonoma

Fresh Starts


How were your holidays? Ours were very nice. It’s hard to believe that they are gone. That whole Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years flew by like a storm! But this week, it’s back to school and back to work. The mornings are a little rough. Good thing for homemade bread, salted caramel pear butter, and handmade mugs to get us started.

Happy 2012 to you!


Filed under Uncategorized