Monthly Archives: October 2013

Daffodils as Gopher Prevention


This past weekend we stayed home. I even wrote it very large on the calender, “busy on the homestead” across both Saturday and Sunday. Starting with September our calender and going through to December now our calender is full, full, full! It’s a great thing, but our poor garden is getting neglected. This weekend we set our sights on harvesting the last of the walnuts (6 grocery bags full!), tearing out old plants, turning the enormous compost pile and getting this above bed ready for next years bounty. Just a few months ago it looked like this below:

This past weekend we tore it all out. We had had a problem with gophers in this bed after trying an experiment of laying down black plastic for weed control. The black plastic seemed to attract the gophers even more. Having read that narcissus bulbs are toxic to gophers and seeing that our narcissus needed dividing I set it upon myself to outline each of our beds with bulbs. We have an area at the top of our property that has about four or five 15 foot long rows of various daffodils and narcissus. They are just gorgeous when in bloom but I noticed this last year their performance had dwindled. They badly needed dividing. In fact just 10 shovels worth yielded me a bucketful of bulbs.

It’s such a huge bed, I didn’t think I’d actually make it around the entire thing in one day, but I did! I have the sore muscles and calluses to prove it too. In addition to being toxic to gophers, narcissus bulbs make a good weed barrier (like the naked ladies). They come up in late winter and form a wall of sorts which make it hard for that early round of weeds to break through. In the spot where this garden bed is, we need all the help we can get in that area!

Ever since reading Gaia’s Garden, I’ve opened up even more to the idea of where and how I plant our plants. For instance I’ve lined my flower bed with amaryllis bulbs to prevent weeds from encroaching. Then in front of the bulbs I planted thick growing yarrow as extra protection against the wild field behind them moving in. Favas are growing in the middle of the beds to prepare the soil for next years flowers. And now our largest veggie bed is lined with a wall to prevent gophers and will also soon be filled in with cover crop.

Though we don’t have a robust winter garden planted this year, we are doing extra homework in getting the garden ready for next year. It’s making me already look forward to next spring.


Filed under Flowers, notes for next year, what we've learned

Autumn in Sonoma


We took a trip to the pumpkin patch over the weekend. I barely got any pictures of pumpkins, but I did get these. There are so many great pumpkin patches around Sonoma, but this pumpkin patch, it’s an all day affair, so much to see and do that pumpkins really are almost the last things on our mind. In fact we didn’t even get any. Don’t you just love these roosters?

This is absolutely my favorite time of year. It always seems so fleeting. The colors of autumn are so breathtaking that I try to be outside as much as I can. We went on a walk with the kids the other evening and the ecstatic squeals from the little one as she hopped through a sidewalk covered with crunchy dried leaves was one of the best sounds I’ve heard. We’re layering on heavy with scarves and hats in the morning and unwrapping our layers down to shorts and t-shirts during the day, then slipping under hand knit blankets in the evening again. Butternut squash & chard is frequently on the dinner table (much to the chagrin of our children). And I just bought a huge bag of Central Milling Co. Flour for baking.

Happy Autumn friends!


Filed under Life in Sonoma

On Making a Wreath


Wednesdays are crazy days around here. It’s my marathon day. Three trips to school, three extra curricular activites afterwards, breakfast, lunch, dinner, clean up, teethbrushing, read aloud time. You know the routine, I’m sure. I start the morning up and at ’em at 5:30am and don’t sit down again until about 9pm. Normally I have each child in one extra activity outside of school, but this season I made an exception and added soccer to the mix without dropping their martial arts. At the end of Wednesday I’m dog tired and, to keep things honest, typically a little cranky too.

Yesterday, however, instead of going full throtal all day long, I took my couple of kid free hours and ignored the laundry and unkept house and unfinished work projects and did something just for me. I made a fall wreath for our front door. I had been slowly collecting materials the past couple of days, so once I got everything laid out it only took an hour to put it together. A completely enjoyable, hot coffee, quiet crisp morning sunshine, hour. All to myself. Not surprisingly the rest of the day sailed along quite nicely. And our front porch looks a little more autumnal too.

(in the wreath: grape vine base with olive & eucalyptus for greenery, corn, rosehips, curly dock seed pods, dried sunflowers & dried grasses for color. in my ears: mystic orb earrings)




Filed under Flowers

My Skin Care Routine :: Exfoliating & Nourishing

This change of seasons has really taken a toll on my skin. Yours too? In the last two weeks or so I’ve noticed a definite shift in the seasons and my skin has been so dry. I had run out of homemade body butter a month ago and my skin seemed to be happy with just using coconut oil as a morning lotion for a while, but last week I could tell that wasn’t going to be enough going forward into autumn and winter. My arms were aching they were so dry and my face too, while normally ‘normal’ skin, had big dry flakes on it. Yuck! My arms and legs were a simple fix, I just made another batch of body butter.
My face took an extra step. After a gentle reminder from a friend, I remembered that it’s really important to exfoliate your face a few times a week to get better skin. Without exfoliating your skin will look good at first, as all the dead skin cells cover your pores. But after a short time, those pores will become clogged and then they’ll start break out. That’s not what you want, you want to gently scrub all those dead skin cells away! All last winter I had exfoliated my face regularly, but I had let that habit go over the summer. Sunday night I took a of couple minutes to whip up a new batch of the microdermabraision facial scrub, hopped in the shower and in no time my face was in a better place. Using that facial scrub really does make such a huge difference in my face. And it’s so nice that I don’t have to buy it and since the ingredients are so basic I always have them on hand.

The other thing I’ve been using on my face the past two months is pomegranate seed oil. I’ve been putting it on my face every morning after my shower. That too has made a big difference in my skin! I get a lot of sun over the summer. Despite my best attempts at sunscreen and sun hats, my face gets it’s fair share. This oil has really helped me feel like my skin is healthy and hydrated. Unlike other oily things like coconut oil or shea butter or even olive oil, this pomegranate seed oil does not feel oily. Or even look oily. To me it gives it that natural, hydrated, dewy look that we’re all going for. Pomegranate seed oil is known for promoting skin cell regeneration and is high in antioxidants which help in anti-aging.

Pomegranate seed oil isn’t terribly cheap, but this 2 oz. jar will easy last me 6-8 months of daily use. That to me works out to be a pretty good deal. I’ve never had the best skin. Never will I have ‘porcelain’ skin, yet I’m trying my best to nourish my skin and keep it happy and healthy.
Do you have any winter beauty habits that help your skin stay hydrated?


Filed under Body Care

Apple Pie Season


The wee one and I made an apple pie. Now, I’m not known for my apple pies. Scott is. He’s the prize winning apple pie maker. But the other week, Alicia blogged about ‘the grand duchess’ of apple pies made with sour cream and eggs and ever since I couldn’t get the idea of a creamy apple pie out of my mind. I had to try it.

You probably know this already, but when you bake with a small child you need to stop for a minute beforehand, close your eyes, take a deep breath and say to yourself, ‘this is going to be a royal mess’. If you do that, baking with a child becomes completely enjoyable. If you go into the situation in a time crunch or with the thought that you don’t want a messy kitchen it’s bound to be a disaster. And, it’s taken me nine years of mothering to figure this out, but if you give your child their own bowl and give them a spoon full of flour, or baking soda or, butter or what-have-you in their bowl as you measure out your own ingredients, you’ll both be much happier bakers. In this case, she made her own pie crust and rolled it out with her little mini rolling pin.

Back to the pie though. It turned out great. A nice alternative to our usual pie. We have a granny smith tree in back and those tart, crisp apples were really fabulous contrasted with the sour cream. The crumbly, sugar topping is so good. It’s a rich pie and you’ll know that after eating a slice, so call all your friends over for dinner when you bake this. After I baked it for the allotted time, I stuck it under the broiler for a few minutes to give it more of a carmelized top. While this doesn’t top Scott’s pie, it will certainly make it into my recipe box for repeating next year. The only thing I’d do differently is cut the apples thinner, like an eighth of an inch thick and layer them in like a gratin. They way I did it was cut them about a quarter inch thick and just dump them into the shell. That allowed for big ‘air’ pockets for the cream filling to go into. Scott pointed out that if you cut the apples thinner and layered them then the cream to apple ratio would be in equal portions for each bite, rather than big chunks of apple & cream. Make sense?

That’s the dispatch from this Sonoma kitchen. Take a deep breath, get yourself in the kitchen, make a royal mess and give this pie a try (recipe here). It’s fall, we need to make sure our ovens still work, we need to pair the sight of colorful falling leaves with apples on our cutting boards and we need cozy comfort desserts for our now cooler autumn evenings. Now get baking!


Filed under In the Kitchen, Recipes

Knitting and Reading


I’m joining in with Ginny’s knitting & reading today. After knitting my latest sweater, I hit a bit of a knitting lull. My fingers needed a break and when they were ready to start again, I went for small needles and a little colorwork. This Bayard beanie is a great hat project. I made another one of these last winter. It has just the right amount of slouch to it and has this neat design detail in the back that gives it character. If you haven’t tried working with two colors before, this is a good intro project since you don’t have to carry the second color in your left hand. You only work with one color at a time, there aren’t any tangles or confusion about which color should wrap around which finger.

That said, I’ve ripped this hat back three times. I’ve become somewhat of a knitting perfectionist in certain cases. What you see at top got ripped out and then reknit on Sunday at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival. My oldest son and I went together specifically to see Steve Martin & Edie Brickell, the latter who I’ve adored since high school. We both brought our knitting and at one point as I looked around there were three other women knitting. Apparently we sat right down in the knitting section of the Banjo stage. Alas, concert knitting results in something that once again I had to rip out. Good thing it’s enjoyable knitting project.

As for reading, I’m reading Small Wonder by Barbara Kingsolver. I read her book Animal, Vegetable Miracle a few years back and this is another work of non-fiction. It’s an older book, written after 9/11 happened. It’s beautiful! Just right for this season, I think.

Are you knitting or reading anything good these days?


Filed under knitting

Walnuts : : A Tough Nut to Crack


The walnut harvest is upon us. I can’t remember how many walnut trees we have, but there’s a bunch of them out there. All in varying degrees of maturity and health. All in all, we’ve been getting around four full grocery bags of walnuts every year. We eat the vast majority of them, give some away and send some to our children’s school for their walnut cracking activity.

My dad and his siblings grew up on a farm with a large walnut orchard. He and his brother and sisters always had to help with the walnut harvest each fall. One time when my dad came to visit he asked how the walnuts were, picked one up, put it between his two palms and cracked it’s hard shell open with his bare hands! Oy! As for Scott and I? We use hammers to open them.

After you harvest them out of their hull, you need to let the walnuts dry for about two weeks before boxing or bagging them up, otherwise they’ll rot. Don’t ask me how I know this. With all these trees worth of walnuts, this takes a huge amount of space, so you’ll find all our outside tables and the floor of our garage covered at this time of year. After a few weeks, we bag them up and wait for a quiet day when we can all sit around and crack them.

Walnuts are super healthy for you, full of mono-unsaturated fats, Vitamin E, Omega-3 oil and all sorts of other good things your body needs. We use them in cookies, for eating plain, in salads, banana breads and granola. Sometimes I carmelize them with maple syrup in the cast iron skillet for snacks. They all get used eventually. This year I want to experiment with making a walnut butter out of them. We go through so much almond butter, I wonder if this would make a good substitute. Has anyone tried making their own walnut butter before? Maybe walnut milk?


Filed under just picked

a Morning Light and an Evening Walk


(morning light above)

Things are starting to get gorgeous around here.

The other night we took another walk past this pond to see it filled with Canadian Geese. They were stopping while on their migration. Moving out here I’m learning that the sound of autumn includes flocks of honking geese overhead.

Have a great weekend friends.

(We picked a few of those prickly pears and made prickly pear margaritas. They were so good, I’m thinking of venturing out with the leather gloves to pick a few more.)


Filed under Life in Sonoma

Growing Things from Seed


(echinacea purpuea started last spring)

Seems a strange time of year to be inspired by writing about gardening, but I guess as fall progresses and the garden is ‘wrapping’ up, it’s nice to look back at our growing season and look forward to the next…

Generally speaking, Scott is the vegetable grower and I am the flower grower around these parts. Generally speaking, Scott grows things from seed and I buy 4″ perennials at the nursery. Before the children came I grew flowers from seed quite a bit, but when I started having my babies there was only so much nurturing I could do. Starting from seeds had to go, for a while at least. Now that our youngest is 3, I started a few things from seed this summer and remarkably the majority of the seedlings have grown and flourished! There is something to be so proud of when you grow a successful plant from seed. First it’s so much more economical and the satisfaction of growing something from nothing is huge.

(hollyhocks started last spring)
In spring I started a tray of both echinacea purpurea and black hollyhocks. I kept them on my washer and dryer which is right in front of a window. Since I do at least one load of laundry a day it was easy to keep an eye on them. Once the threat of the spring bugs where gone, I planted them out with handfuls of Sluggo, copper tape and even netting over them to protect them. Only one of the echinacea survived, but boy is it a healthy plant. Most of the hollyhocks survived too and growing well in the garden. Strangely enough I planted them all within a few feet of each other, making sure to get them by the drip lines, yet some are just slowly growing while others are three times their size. Not knowing the rhyme or reason, I just sit back happy that none of them are dead!

(hollyhocks started 6 weeks ago and transplanted outside)
Hit by a streak of confidence I started another round of both echinacea and hollyhocks about 6 weeks ago in hopes of doubling my yield of flowers next spring. I grew the black hollyhocks specifically for dying yarn. The book Harvesting Color shows that they give a beautiful blue color, which is a rare color to get without indigo in the natural dye world. I’m curious to see if starting these perennials & biennials last spring versus this fall will show much of a difference once next spring comes.

(echinacea purpurea started six weeks ago, still inside)
For about 9 solid years my flower gardening got very basic and tough love. If the store bought plants didn’t survive with my haphazard watering routine or a soccer ball thrown into it at full force, well, then too bad. However I did feel bad when I looked out my window and saw another dying plant. Now though, I’m able to give a little more to the garden. There’s a saying I heard a while back regarding women trying to balance motherhood and their career. It goes, ‘You can have your cake and eat it too, just not all at once.’ I keep that saying in mind towards a lot of activities that I’d like to be doing, but have to make lunches or drive again to their school instead. All things in good time. You can have happy babies and a thriving garden, but maybe not all at the same time.


Filed under Flowers, Seeds