Monthly Archives: August 2014

Shaking things up

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Historically when it comes to earthquakes, I’m not the calmest person in the room. I’m a native Californian, I’ve been through many, but when the big ones hit, I’m not all that cool and collected. Who is, really. When you are just going about your business sleeping away and one hits, your adrenaline has no place to go but rush around all over the place.

And that’s just what happened at 3:20 Sunday morning. Huge jolts, loud creaks from the house and the noise of everything you own shaking all over. It was a long one, it seemed. Long enough for us to both get out of bed and try our best to walk to the doorway, then down the long hallway to the children’s rooms, which is when it finished. Once we got to our bedroom door, it almost seemed over which is when the whole house did a terrible jolt again and then the rolling started. That’s when I screamed. And that’s when the children woke up. As my son reported, ‘the earthquake didn’t wake us up, your screaming did mom!’ I opened our daughters door and she look wide eyed at me and said, ‘what. was. that!?!’

We lost power immediately of course, which means when you live with well water, that you are out of water too. We’re becoming accustumed to shouting out once we lose power, ‘don’t flush the toilets!’. Scott and I are pretty good about brushing aside small earthquakes, going back to normal life as soon as they finish. This one was so big and violent feeling that we all huddled around the kitchen table with candles and tried to figure out what in the heck just happened! Eventually we learned what you probably already know, a 6.1 earthquake in American Canyon, the epicenter 8 miles from our house.

Everything was fine in our house. The power came on the next morning and we were able to function as normal. As I joked with friends, all of our pictures were hanging askew before the quake, now they are straight! Our friends and family in Napa have big messes to clean up.

I wasn’t able to go back to sleep after the quake though, which made for a very slow foggy brained Sunday. We all moved slowly. Funnily enough the earthquake knocked down a whole bunch of ripe tomatoes from their plants so we took that as a sign to get some tomato sauce made and canned. I made my first loaf of sourdough bread using Wild Grape Sourdough Starter from my favorite The Model Bakery Cookbook(very appropriately a Napa Valley bakery). And truth be told, we got some quality tv watching in done too.

I know I have a number of local readers, how did you guys fare with the ground shaking?

 

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Visiting Chileno Valley Ranch

IMG_8023 IMG_8026 IMG_8027 IMG_8028 IMG_8030 IMG_8032 IMG_8034 IMG_8037 IMG_8040 IMG_8041 IMG_8042 IMG_8054As you might well remember, for about five years now we’ve been buying a fourth of a grass fed cow every summer. For many years we bought from Beltane Ranch which is just a few miles away from us. Unfortunately due to new regulations they aren’t able to sell directly to customers anymore, so we’ve switched to buying from Chileno Valley Ranch over in Petaluma. You can read a bit about why we eat grass fed beef from this older post and even more from this older post.

On Sunday they hosted a u-pick day for their apples. Our poor apple trees are in a serious state of decline, so we headed over there to meet the rancher couple and to get some apples. This ranch is deep down Chileno Valley Road, past curving roads, filled with hillsides, ponds and large ranches. It was a beautiful drive. As we approached our destined ranch I was pretty awed by the amazing house you can see from a distance. The house had been in the wife, Sally’s, family since the Civil War! Sally and her husband Mike took ownership of the property in the early ’90’s and set about rehabilitating the house (check out the original structure) and the land.

Everything was gorgeous. We came for the apples, but I left inspired by the gardens. While Scott chatted with Mike about the beef order we recently placed, I talked with Sally about her roses. Strangely enough I didn’t get any pictures of her dozens upon dozens (maybe a hundred +) of roses, but they were unbelievably beautiful. All with bright green leaves and in full flower. My roses at home have been in a sad state ever since their initial spring bloom and I’ve given serious consideration to taking a good majority out. Everything Sally grew was bountiful and lush. As we talked she mentioned how when she cleans out the chicken coop she sprinkles a little of their manure around the roses. She also has sheep and cows that she collects manure from and also has a local dairy deliver manure to her. Ah-ha! Yes, of course. Manure!

As soon as we got home I found my Felco’s and got to work tidying up around the roses and then promptly cleaned out the chicken coop and spread what I scooped all round the roses and watered it in well. Within easy walking distance I can access cow, horse, sheep and chicken manure. I need to collect my wheelbarrow and shovel, head down the street and put these neighboring friendships to work.

If you are local, Chileno Valley Ranch holds these u-pick weekends all the way until October, it’s worth the trip, if you can make it!

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Filed under chickens, Life in Sonoma, what we've learned

Rainy Summer Day

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Strangely enough, amidst the deepest of droughts, it rained this morning. In fact this was the third time precipitation has fallen from the sky this summer, if I’m counting correctly. Of course none of these rains have done much to help the drought nor has it even watered the plants all that well. However, us native Californians will tell you, rain in summer is just weird and miraculous!
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IMG_7937IMG_7934The plants, though they didn’t get a good soaking, very much appreciated the little they did get. They all looked much happier this morning upon my usual morning stroll. One of my favorite areas are these new planting beds we had built on either side of the deck staircase. It’s been a while since I’ve gone to the nursery and picked out all new plants for an all new bed. Fun! Pineapple sage, dahlias, purple fountain grass, mexican feather grass, artimesia, lavender, black and blue salvia and a few others fill the beds.
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In previous summers (2013, 2012, 2011) this bed was overflowing with sunflowers and corn and melons, this year it lays fallow, filled with weeds and dried fava beans. It’s okay… the soil needs to rest, right? Sure.
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IMG_7928Radishes, along with the other seedling I planted last week are sprouting up. Thank you weird, welcome summer rain.

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State of the Garden

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We seem to have entered into the phase of summer where it’s just plain hot & dry. The tomatoes and peppers aren’t complaining though. The tomatoes are starting to tower over our heads and are sending us inside with handfuls of red jems to enjoy. Remember we added in our drainage pipes a few weeks ago and it seems to be paying off, they are all looking very healthy and happy.
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Those metal containers? Look how happy things are growing in them. That basil, that tiny little store bought basil is almost tree like now. It’s the biggest basil we’ve ever grown. And the cucumbers are thriving too.
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The grapes, our poor little dry farmed grapes (irrigation going in next year, right?) are coming ripe. They are so fun to go visit and pick with the kids.
IMG_7916 IMG_7915I worked on this bed over the weekend. Getting out the pesky dead weeds and amending it with gypsum, which helps break up the clay soil. These zucchini got a late start, but seem to be happy and with a little bit of daily watering and some luck new seedlings will be joining them. Kale, chard, spinach, cilantro, carrots and radishes. I also added in a few biannual flower seeds that I’ll transplant out to the flower garden once they get going. Since I was going to be watering everyday, might as well group all the seedlings together! It feels good to have the time to focus on the garden once more and to feel hopeful about it again.

How are things going in your garden? Are you feeling good about the state of things?

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