Monthly Archives: August 2013

A Winner and a Tip to Control Aphids


Last night Random Number Generator told me that Kimberly of An At Home Daughter was our Pharmaca gift card winner! Congratulations Kimberly!

I just wanted to show you these broccoli plants. They’re romanesco broccoli, which are great fun to grow, we’ve done it in the past. This year we planted the seeds in either late January or early February and they are just now forming heads of broccoli! The plants are absolutely huge and at this point in the season are full of aphids. Scott asked a lady at Sonoma Mission Gardens about how to control them and her advice was to sprinkle a little gypsum onto the heads. She said, ‘you don’t like to eat food with sand in it, do you? Gypsum is like sand to aphids.’ So we’re going to give it a try and we’ll let you know.


Filed under Bad Bugs

Baked Chiles Rellenos, Corn Harvest & Ponds


The baked chiles rellenos turned out great! We have chili rellenos a few times during the summer and they are without a doubt one of my favorite dinners. But they are a lot of work! This was a nice alternative and I could make it early in the day and pop it in the oven after soccer practice. It’s especially nice when your husband comes home early and makes a peach pie to bake with it! Anyway, recipe for baked chiles rellenos here.

We harvested all the corn this weekend. Five portions went into the freezer and the rest went into dinner.

The sunflower plant growing next to the corn just fell over. Much to bees dismay we cut off all the blooms and brought them inside.

Scott woke up yesterday and decided we needed a pond. A bunch of excited boys and a few hours later we have a pond. I’ll show you more pictures soon.

While the boys were out digging, the girl and I decided to finally, finally sew this little top I’ve had cut out for months. Instead of sleeves I made it sleeveless (this was supposed to be a summer shirt!), with bias bounding. It turned out cute and if luck is on our side it will fit next spring too. She grew five (!) inches in the last year, so she’d better get as much use out of it now.

Don’t forget, today is the last day of the $50 Pharmaca giveaway. Enter, enter, enter!

How was your weekend?


Filed under just picked, Preserving, Recipes

Take Better Care

I just have a moment to write. I have dinner that’s ready to come out of the oven…if it’s good, I’ll share the recipe as it’s helping use up all the excess eggs & chilis we have coming in.
Thank you for those who agreed that chocolate is health food.
We picked our poor neglected concord grapes the other day. Note to self: 5lbs of grapes = 2.3 measly half-pints of jam, take better care of grapes next year.


Filed under just picked

$50 Pharmaca Giveaway

Every once in a while a company will contact me to do a give away here, but usually I’ll turn them down. If I don’t already shop at the store or buy the product I don’t feel good about sponsoring it here. But a few weeks ago a store I already shop at, Pharmaca, contacted me about doing a giveaway and I had to say Yes! Pharmaca is an integrative pharmacy that carries both mainstream pharmaceuticals as well as all natural products. For a person like me, who tries to approach our healthcare as naturally as we can, this place is a super fun place to shop. We have a Pharmaca here in Sonoma and I go every couple of months to stock up on various things our family needs. I try and only go every couple of months because it’s very easy to go on an overly indulgent shopping spree when I get inside.
Pharmaca also sent me a gift certificate so that I could purchase some things to show you. I went in over the weekend with the thought that school was starting soon and that meant colds were going to start cycling through our house very soon. Just a few weeks ago we had a cold take it’s turn going through the family, but Scott and I stopped it by taking zinc & elderberry lozenges. I bought some more at Pharmaca in a small bag to keep in my purse. These aren’t the same brand as I bought before, but the combination of zinc and elderberry is great at stopping colds, so I have every hope they’ll help us.
A lifetime ago I traveled to Tuscany to study ceramics and my roommate there was from Austria. She was in medical school to become a naturopathic doctor and she had a terrible cold. A horrible, terrible cold and her bed was just a few feet away from mine…I had three weeks left in my trip and I did not want to get that cold. She gave me some echinacea tincture drops regularly to put underneath my tongue (they absorb faster) and I never did get her cold. She gave me my first few lessons in natural health care all those years ago. I know there are other immune boosters and other ways to ingest echinacea, but I prefer to put the tincture drops under my tongue because it always reminds me of her and that dreamy time spent throwing pots in Italy.
I also am trying out this Kick it Allergy for Kids by WishGarden. Our oldest son has been hit again by allergies the past two weeks which activates his asthma. I have no idea what is in the air this time of year, but this happens every year. When I was in Pharmaca, I found two different homeopathic allergy brands that kids could take. I wasn’t sure which one to pick so I casually asked the man stocking the shelves in the children’s section for advice. He was able to give me a well informed answer and help me figure out which one would work best. You couldn’t find that kind of help from someone stocking the shelves at a mainstream drugstore! I hope it helps.
I stocked up on our favorite Badger brand sunscreen. I like them because they have really safe ingredients in them and they smell fantastic. Often we buy the Badger Kids Sunscreen and I was thinking of buying the Badger Sport Sunscreen by Pharmaca since it’s soccer season. But in thinking of an upcoming camping trip we’ll be taking I ended up getting the anti-bug sunscreen.

At the end of the trip through the store I picked up some lavender essential oil, which I had run out of and a bar of chocolate…because well…that’s health food for me!

So about the giveaway:

Pharmaca is offering one $50 gift certificate to one lucky winner. Please note that this gift certificate is good for use in-stores only, so make sure to check that there is a store near you. I’ll close the contest at 9pm pacific time Monday, August 26th and I’ll announce the winner on Tuesday, August 27th. Sound good? To enter just leave a comment below and let me know about your favorite all natural health product.  All closed now, thank you!

Good Luck!


Filed under Body Care

Making Lattes

A few weeks ago our stove top milk frother broke (It’s pictured above). I almost cried. For days I mourned it’s loss. It was a beautiful, old heavy metal, workhorse of a milk frother that cames from who knows where. The way it works is you pour water into the base, screw on the top and let it boil on the stove until enough pressure has built up, then you open the steam wand and you can froth away. It worked great. But the other morning the central screw became stripped without our knowing it and the top shot up off the frother blasting at full steam towards the ceiling and fell to the floor in the most dramatic fashion. Luckily no one was hurt, but we do have an impression of it on our ceiling so that we never forget.

As I mentioned I grieved the loss of it. I’ve become quite fond of our frequent homemade cappucinos and lattes. We are coffee people through and through. Good black coffee is hard to beat, but it’s such a treat to have a well made latte without the hassle of having to get dressed and get all the kids in the car and to a cafe. Luckily our town has an amazing drive thru cafe, but nothing beats not having to get out of your jammies!
Scott takes the ferry into San Francisco a few days a week for work and stopped by the gourmet cooking store in the Ferry Building. We didn’t want anything too big, or expensive, or anything that needed to be plugged in. They pointed him to this Frabosk Milk Frother. It’s Italian, so that was a good clue that it was going too be good. And it is! And so easy to use. It highly recommend it. You just heat the milk up, then take it off the heat, put on the top and pump that black handle up and down for about a minute and you have perfect foam. Seriously perfect foam.
We’re back in business!

Oh, tomorrow there will be a new giveaway!


Filed under In the Kitchen

Chicken Tractors & Inspiring Hippies

Last Tuesday I woke up with an extraordinary amount of energy and announced to the kids at breakfast that we were going to build a chicken tractor. In case you aren’t familiar with chicken tractors, they are basically a small coop, or enclosure that you can put a few chickens in and then drag around to where you need it to be. And we needed them to be in certain spots, for instance in one particular row of our garden. The collards had long since been in an edible state and as I pulled a plant up, to walk it to the chicken coop thousands of pill bugs were underneath along with a good helping of earwigs. I needed the chickens to eat those bugs, yet not the tender plants in the next row over.
So we got out the tools and a bunch of scrap lumber and made this funky thing. I’ve always been curious about building things myself. I’m pretty good at small scale construction, having been a sewer/knitter/bookbinder/general craftsperson for a long time. I was excited to give a try at larger scale building. I got the circular saw out and cut the boards with ease, but man, when it came to the nailing. Oh! That put me in a foul mood. So much so that after a while, I slumped down in the shade and I said to my oldest son, “I don’t know, I don’t think I can do this!” He, skilled at woodworking from doing it at school every week, said to me so calmly, “Mom, we just put the nail in the wrong place, it’s easy to fix.” I went inside to get a drink of cool water and when I returned he had nailed the boards together in the place I had so much trouble with. Then when he got frusterated, I took over. We make a good team, that kid and I.
Anyway, we got it constructed. It is Funky! That’s for sure, but it was free and it’s functional. We took an old screen to use as a sliding door and we used half shade cloth on top and half plywood. From having shade cloth over our chicken run I know that while they are just fine under the cloth, they’d much rather be under solid shade. The plywood provides that plus gives the funky structure added stability, yet with it only covering half, it’s still light enough to pull where we want it to go.
The boys have had the most fun collecting different chickens to put in the tractor everyday to eat away both collards and bugs. Since they are getting a wider variety to eat, the hope is that their eggs will be more nutritious. They are debugging the row that we will plant again soon and also tilling and fertilizing as they go. Other than collecting chickens to put in it, we haven’t had to do any work. So far it seems to be a win-win-win situation.

I don’t know about my future woodworking endeavors. Building this was a complete mixture of fun and frusteration. I guess that’s the learning curve on any new hobby though.

In completely unrelated news, Scott and I watched the documentary Saint Misbehavin’ the other night and we can’t get it out of our heads. Having always had an ear out and an eye open to all things hippie and counterculture related, I’ve heard a lot about local legend Wavy Gravy growing up around here. He even entertained a small crowd of us years & years ago at the Sweetwater in Mill Valley, while waiting for a late appearing Baby Gramps (another phenomenal character). I don’t even think he was scheduled to entertain, I think he was there as part of the crowd, but when we were all left waiting, he hopped on stage to keep us all happy. Anyway I never did know much about him, but now I know and I completely admire him. Wow, what a great ton of good he’s done for people in this life (and he’s still moving full steam ahead)! It was inspiring to me how many people you can affect in a positive way if you make it your life’s effort. His marriage to Jahanara is an inspiration as well. They’ve been married since 1965 and still very much in full partnership and admiration of each other. She seems like and incredible person. The movie is certainly worth looking out for if you can find it!


Filed under chickens

Notes on another Sunday of Preserving


Fueled by ample amounts of espresso (more on our coffee drinking habits soon), we decided to spend this Sunday, again, tackling those things that needed putting by. (sheep’s milk soap in the background! shepard neighbors make for good friends! More on beauty products soon too. I have been getting so many orders for my e-booklet lately and I’m so very appreciative of each and every one!) First up were the peaches. Another few trees are coming ripe on the other side of the house, so into the freezer in quarters they went along with others to be made into fruit leather.

Next up was 8 pints of apple sauce. Turns out we were able to round up enough Gravensteins to make a batch! Oh, it’s so delicious!

Green beans were blanched and frozen in portion sized sections. Do you have a FoodSaver? We use it regularly, I’ll talk about it soon. My writing has been quiet on this blog lately, but it isn’t for lack of activity. I do have a lot to share when and if I do get some more time to write! Anyway, the FoodSaver sucks all the air out of the bag and you are able to keep your food fresher for much longer in the freezer, which will be perfect for our storage of green beans.

This is our first successful year at growing cabbages and today I found three more in the garden. Into the crock for sauerkraut they went. We use Sandor Katz’s method in Wild Fermentation along with a packet of Vegetable Starter Culture from Cultures for Health, just to insure that it will ferment correctly. If this batch turns out anything like the last, it will be delicious!

Lastly, we also canned seven jars of pears too. I don’t know. I’m suspicious of canned pears. I have very vivid memories of the rare times my parents let me buy school cafeteria lunches. They always had canned fruit cocktail as ‘dessert’. It was totally disgusting, but I do remember that if we took our red milk straws, we could poke the pears with them. They’d fill up with pear and then we could blow the other end of the straw and shoot pear bits at each other. That’s my best memory of canned pears. All the rest go downhill after that. So, we’ll see about these. If they don’t fair well with us over winter, it’s back into the cider press next year! They are pretty there, floating in the syrup! Having that recording log inside our kitchen cabinet has already proved itself priceless! I’m keeping notes on such things as how many jars a full pot yields, how much sugar was used, and all sorts of other misc. notes I knew I’d forget. Since I wrote it on binder paper, I plan on transferring it into a binder at the end of the season to keep for next year.

Tonight, we’re exhausted and really enjoying our gin and tonics. If I don’t have to quarter and peel another piece of fruit again this summer, it will be a-okay by me! Now to get ready for a certain someone’s ninth birthday tomorrow!!


Filed under In the Kitchen, Preserving

A Week of Preserving Peaches


If you haven’t heard from us in a while, blame the peaches. While this year (again) might not yield a single jar of apple sauce or apple cider, the fruit tree world is making up for it in spades in peaches. These ten (!) peach trees are very happy this year and as a result we’re swimming in them. It’s a little ridiculous. Canned peaches, peach jam, peach cobbler, peach fruit roll ups, peach chutney, frozen peach segments. They’ve all been made this week in our kitchen. If we could completely nourish ourselves during the winter only in peaches, we’d be set.

I’m finally starting to get a firm handle on canning myself. In the past it was typically Scott’s job to do the actual canning, but after 10 years of watching, I started canning on my own last year and this year, I’ve canned each one of our 30+ jars of jam. It’s quite a satisfying feeling and not nearly as intimidating a project as I once thought it to be. Last year when I was first attempting it, I had to have the kitchen quite orderly, the kids out of the room and my entire focus on the task at hand. This year, I caught myself fishing out lids out of boiling water with cluttered counter tops and a two year old swinging around my legs. Not at all safe for the wee-one, I realize, but I’ve come a long way in canning confidence. We’ll work on safety at a later date.Oh, this is a few years old now, but if you need some cute labels for the top of your jars (my canning pet peeve is labels on the face of the jars…so hard to get off!) I have some free downloadable canning labels you are welcome to.


Filed under In the Kitchen, Preserving