Category Archives: Life in Sonoma

A Dozen Years, a Dozen Oysters

Two Bird Cafe San Geronimo Two Bird Cafe San Geronimo Flower Power Point Reyes Station Tobys Feed Barn Point Reyes Station Point Reyes Station Farm Stand Hog Island Oyster Company Hog Island Oyster Company Valley Ford Wool Mill Valley Ford Wool Mill Valley Ford Wool Mill Tomales Bakery Hog Island Oysters (pardon for the wonky iphone pictures…was traveling light that day!)

Last Sunday was our twelve year anniversary. We debated a bit about what we were going to do to celebrate. We aren’t very good about finding babysitters. I know some of our friends always have a few regular babysitters to work from, but our parenting talents apparently lay elsewhere, because we’ve just never been very good at finding and keeping them. Luckily, for the most part, we enjoy being around our children, so we packed them all into the car and headed off to show them what our pre-baby dates used to look like.

Before our marriage we lived in Marin County, the county just north of the Golden Gate Bridge above San Francisco (for those not local) and our date days used to consist of hopping in the car and driving out to the coast to escape roommates and responsibility. We’d slowly drive around stopping where we like and always gathering food for dinner. Just as we did 12+ years ago, we made a morning stop at Two Bird Café for a cozy breakfast. Then out to Point Reyes Station to hunt through all the unique little shops. The bookstore there is one of the few bookstores left that leaves me feeling inspired about books and reading, I don’t know what it is about that store, or how they organize it, but I could spend hours there. Haven’t you felt that too? There’s just some sort of magic in certain bookstores, isn’t there? Not in all of them, just certain ones. In efforts to support them, we always buy a handful of books, this time Home Grown by Ben Hewitt and California Foraging were in our stack. I’ll let you know how they are.

Once we tired of all the quaintness of that town, we headed up the coast to Hog Island Oysters. That whole stretch of the coast, in fact all of West Marin, is one of my favorite spots on earth. It’s just so beautiful. Once at the packed oyster farm we picked up 12 oysters and 2 pounds of manila clams for the cooler and headed further north to Tamales. With a bakery right in front of us, there was no other option but to get some brownies and coffee.

Then again up the highway we went with a jaunt over to Valley Ford to check out their Wool Mill. We saw them at the Heirloom festival the other week and couldn’t get their wool pillows out of our heads. We haven’t been sleeping well lately. None of us. Our oldest, who’s 10, has been complaining that most nights, when he lays down his asthma starts to bother him. Since wool doesn’t harbor dust mites (which he’s allergic to) we thought we’d pick one up for him. Scott’s internal temperature always runs warm, he’s always hot at night so he wanted to try a wool pillow too, since strangely enough it actually feels cooler than our synthetic pillows. Both our son and Scott have commented that they’ve slept much better the past few nights on these pillows. It’s tempting me to drive back and pick up three more pillows. They aren’t cheap though, so we might space out that purchase a bit. After feeling their comfy display bed, made completely of wool products, I’m having woolly dreams.

After our pillow purchase we headed back home, just in time to make dinner. One thing I have never regretted in these past twelve years was that I married a cook. His dinners are almost always better than anything we could find in any restaurant. I was proud to see that all our children tried the oysters and they went absolutely wild over the clams. We never force food upon our children, nor do we make them special meals to cater to their pickiness. We just ask that they always try the food in front of them. At least one tiny bite, taste buds change, you never know if you’ll like it today or not.

All in all, it was a perfect way to celebrate a dozen years of being together.

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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

How the Summer of Freedom is Going

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This summer, so far, has been one of my favorites. This is one of the first summers in years when either I haven’t been pregnant or having to run continuously after very small children. The wee one, at 3 and a half, is old enough to join her big brothers through their activities, which leaves us all a little bit more room for freedom. Sometime in mid-June we discovered a mother quail sitting on her clutch of eggs between the lavender row. One early morning my oldest son saw two quail parents walk through our front yard with a trail of teeny tiny babies. As soon as they got dressed, the kids went to check on the nest and indeed they had hatched!
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Art and drawing have been constants. Our two tables look like this nearly constantly. At Amy Karol’s suggestion, I bought this fantastic art book to help give them direction when they need it. Which hasn’t been too often, they are usually quite self motivated when it comes to drawing, however it’s a handy book to keep in my back pocket for when they are ‘so bored!’.
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Flower arranging, soccer card organization, and drawing fishing lures have been favorite activities.
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The other month, Sunset magazine, came out with an issue containing their 25 best recipes of all time and I’m on a quest to try all of them. This Dutch Baby was, easy, and a big hit with the kids.
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It’s no surprise that since the quail nest finding, searching out other bird nests has become near obsession. Taking pictures of them has become a ‘big thing’, along with many calls from me to ‘not get too close!’ and ‘don’t touch anything near the nest!’.

Though keeping all three kids at home is far from peaceful (they’ve also been perfecting the art & craft of bickering), the absence of having to drive them all over town and pack them lunches has calmed all of us down considerably. Close friends have commented to me on their visits that I look more relaxed and even my most high spirited son seems calmer than they’ve ever seen him. Keep it coming Summer of Freedom, keep it coming.

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the summer of freedom

deck steps scabiosas potting table coneflower & nicotana lettuce shadeAnd so it’s summer time for us. School ended late last week. Starting up in mid May and extending all the way until the final half hour that they get out of school in mid June, I have this background of anxiety that builds up…’what am I going to do with these kiddos all summer?’ Last year I really needlessly worried about it, yet once summer began we fell into a pretty good lazy, relaxing rhythm. I was even sad to see us jump back to the school routine once September began. This May, when I started to feel that anxiety creep back I tried my best to calm myself. I stocked up a little stack of new books and activities in the back closet and a list of summertime activities to turn to if things get desperate, but other than that, this summer I’ve named the Summer of Freedom. This article from a blog I read frequently was running all over facebook a few weeks back and it totally hit home. An old fashioned summer, it argues, isn’t about specifically catching fireflies or flying kites or eating popsicles, it’s about Freedom. About kids being in charge of their own time table, about diving into whatever interests them. It’s a great article, you should read it if you have a minute.

How can you give your child a good old-fashioned summer like we used to have?

It’s not about fireflies or picnics or homemade kites. It’s about freedom.

Leave them alone.

Let them be in charge of their own time.

Let them have their own ideas.

Give them big, sprawling blocks of unscheduled time. Give them whole days, whole weeks.

Let them dig into whatever interests them and do whatever they want with it.

– See more at: http://www.project-based-homeschooling.com/camp-creek-blog/intellectual-benefits-real-old-fashioned-summer#sthash.YnWeC43K.dpuf

How can you give your child a good old-fashioned summer like we used to have?

It’s not about fireflies or picnics or homemade kites. It’s about freedom.

Leave them alone.

Let them be in charge of their own time.

Let them have their own ideas.

Give them big, sprawling blocks of unscheduled time. Give them whole days, whole weeks.

Let them dig into whatever interests them and do whatever they want with it.

– See more at: http://www.project-based-homeschooling.com/camp-creek-blog/intellectual-benefits-real-old-fashioned-summer#sthash.YnWeC43K.dpuf

How can you give your child a good old-fashioned summer like we used to have?

It’s not about fireflies or picnics or homemade kites. It’s about freedom.

Leave them alone.

Let them be in charge of their own time.

Let them have their own ideas.

Give them big, sprawling blocks of unscheduled time. Give them whole days, whole weeks.

Let them dig into whatever interests them and do whatever they want with it.

– See more at: http://www.project-based-homeschooling.com/camp-creek-blog/intellectual-benefits-real-old-fashioned-summer#sthash.YnWeC43K.dpuf

How can you give your child a good old-fashioned summer like we used to have?

It’s not about fireflies or picnics or homemade kites. It’s about freedom.

Leave them alone.

Let them be in charge of their own time.

Let them have their own ideas.

Give them big, sprawling blocks of unscheduled time. Give them whole days, whole weeks.

Let them dig into whatever interests them and do whatever they want with it.

– See more at: http://www.project-based-homeschooling.com/camp-creek-blog/intellectual-benefits-real-old-fashioned-summer#sthash.YnWeC43K.dpuf

How can you give your child a good old-fashioned summer like we used to have?

It’s not about fireflies or picnics or homemade kites. It’s about freedom.

Leave them alone.

Let them be in charge of their own time.

Let them have their own ideas.

Give them big, sprawling blocks of unscheduled time. Give them whole days, whole weeks.

Let them dig into whatever interests them and do whatever they want with it.

– See more at: http://www.project-based-homeschooling.com/camp-creek-blog/intellectual-benefits-real-old-fashioned-summer#sthash.YnWeC43K.dpuf

We ran all over this town during spring, with two in separate baseball teams, one in ballet and all three in school with different dismissal times. Schedules ran tight, tension ran even higher. We’re tired, our poor car is tired. My oldest, who loves baseball, turned to me one day in the car and said, “I can’t wait until baseball is over, because we never get to go home and play afterschool.” Well now baseball is over and so is school and as far as I can see, we have little to nothing scheduled on our calendars. Find yourself again, children. Enjoy & have fun.

(do you see? we have deck steps and shade, just in time for summer!)

 

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Easter Roses

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Most of the year when I go outside and see the assortment of 50+ rose bushes on our property, I think to myself, you know, I’m really not much of a rose person. I’m not sure what qualities make someone a ‘rose person’, but whatever they may be, I’ve always thought I lacked them. I’m too much of a lackadaisical gardener. I like things to grow independently and free. Roses, they have a fussy attitude. There’s a lot of persnickity pruning. And they drink a lot of water. So most of the year I wonder about the idea of taking many of them out.
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But then spring rolls around and magically I have no other option but to fall madly in love with them.
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We celebrated our Easter a day early this year. I indulged and bought a full flat of strawberries at the strawberry stand. I made strawberry shortcake and sent guest home with extra baskets. Scott made a delicious herb inspired dinner. There were games of horseshoes, cousins catching tadpoles, bubbles to blow and candy filled Easter eggs to find. And of course, there were roses. Lots and lots of roses.
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Happy Easter!

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Filed under Life in Sonoma, Sunday Flowers

Trading & Bartering

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We have a community within Sonoma, called Sonoma Hitch & Barter. It’s organized through Facebook and the premise behind it is that you post a picture of something you own, but don’t want anymore. You ask for some things you’d like to trade it for and people chime in with offers. It’s a pretty excellent little community. For instance a few weeks ago, we had to empty out our garage and we took a picture of a window air conditioner unit that we don’t need anymore. It was 10 years old and though it worked fine, it seemed like something that would never sell on craigslist. So we offered it up. I said we’d trade it for wine or beer. A couple chimed up, who had a very hot apartment in summer. They had a small wine collection, but really weren’t wine drinkers when it came down to it. So they brought us their wine and we gave them our air conditioner. We both parted ways very happy.

In the past I’ve traded various house decorating knick knacks for homemade muffins and cookies, a box of baby toys for 4 bottles of Pliny the Elder, and an old dresser for more wine.

The other weekend this arbor came up on the Facebook site and I jumped on it immediately. He wanted succulent clippings. Oh, I’ve got those in spades! So I gathered a big box full, plus a little mint and lemon balm and headed over to his house. He loaded this into my van and I gave him the plants and we both agreed it was an excellent trade. No money was exchanged. I had what he wanted, he had what I wanted.

For this trade, I had to bring all my kids along with me and there were lots of questions. Do you know this guy? Is he your friend? Why is he giving this to you? Why does he want those plants? It was a learning opportunity for sure about how money isn’t always the way you can obtain something. Later that night, my oldest commented on how he really liked the whole trading scheme. It’s a good system when everything works smoothly. And now I have this beautiful arbor that needs a few more plants around it, doesn’t it?
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In other news, do you see that barn in the bottom corner with the heart shaped group of trees? Isn’t it pretty? We’re having a french door added to our house so we can look out on that view. Construction starts this week. I can’t wait!!!
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After posting about the weedy asparagus patch, I went out just days later and weeded it. Nothing holds you more accountable than publicly posting about your downfalls! I also just planted our onions at the end of March. It seems late for this area, but we found a few years ago, as a fluke, that when we plant our onions late, they don’t bolt before they’re ready to harvest…a problem we’ve always had in years past. They were our most successful onion crop. With fingers crossed, we’ll have the same results this year.

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Weekend Life

Oh wow, thank you all so much for your comments! They give me inspiration. Again endless thank yous!

Well, this past weekend the weather in Sonoma was glorious. Mid 70’s and not a cloud in sight. I heard someone say that for every Californian who didn’t go outside that weekend, an angel lost their wings. Goodness, I’d hate for that to happen so we all spent as much of our time soaking in as much Vitamin D as we could.
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The children split their time between little league games and playing in the creek. Our middle child could easily spend every last waking moment searching for tadpoles, frogs, crawdads, snakes, and rocks. In fact most days he does that indeed. He caught a frog and put it in the little pond we built by our front door. Much to his older brother chagrin (his bedroom window is right next to the pond), the frog likes it there very much and croaks as loud as anything you’ve heard. We’ve also now got tadpoles in that little pond for daily observation. And don’t get me started on the piles and piles of rocks we have stashed in assorted piles and jean pockets in our house!

So while they were busy getting as wet and muddy as possible, I weeded. And I’m proud to say that Scott and I calculated and I accomplished clearing out one half of one percent of all the weeding we have before us. Oh, it’s a tough challenge, keeping up with the weeds. It’s like an epic battle, Humans against Weeds. Until we get a great barrier wall erected around our garden, we have no choice but to take up garden glove and trowel and fight the mighty fight.
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As with starting over from a blog break, I headed outside and wondered where in the sam hill to begin. This was the spot I tackled this weekend, a shady spot by a pathway we’re redoing. With my head down and my hands busy, it’s easy to get lost in a little micro world.
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Then I sat back and stretched my eyes out, oh what a view.

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