Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Woody's Whacky Brother

Sitting atop the exhaust vent of our house is the source of our mysterious sound.

For two days I have walked all around our house trying to figure out where in the world the machine gun fire sound was coming from. It wasn't until I went outside and looked up did I see this little whackadoodle. I believe he is Woody Woodpecker's long lost brother, Clarence. You don't hear much about Clarence. Now you know why.

Happy Wednesday!


Friday, February 22, 2008

An Incredible Gift of Seeds

As you know, Farmer Jeff has started his tomato babies. I actually thought he was all done with tomato seedlings, but today we received an incredible gift of seeds in the mail, including more tomato seeds! Who in the world sent us seeds, I asked.

We were gifted seeds from our local Sonoma County chapter of Slow Food. Slow Food is, in the words of the organization, "a non-profit, eco-gastronomic member-supported organization that was founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world".

We believe in growing as much as is physically possible. We also make a lot of items from scratch including bacon, wine vinegar, cheese, jams, catsup, and go so far as raising chickens for eggs, composting all vegetable and fruit matter from the restaurant and so on. It just makes sense to us. We don't do it for any other reason than that. It just makes sense.

Now, within Slow Food USA exists the Ark of Taste. What is that?

The Ark of Taste seeks, first and foremost, to save an economic, social and cultural heritage - a universe of animal breeds, fruit and vegetables, cured meats, cheese, cereals, pastas, cakes and confectionery. Slow Foods mission is to preserve endangered tastes - and to celebrate them, by introducing them to the membership and then to the world, through media, public relations, and Slow Food events.

Farmer Chef Jeff and I (and Eastside Farm) were given the following seeds: Amish Pie Squash, Sibley Squash, Amish Deer Tongue Lettuce, Tennis Ball Lettuce (grown at Thomas Jefferson's house, Monticello!), Grandpa Admire's Lettuce, Speckled Lettuce, Moon and Stars Watermelon, Sheepnose Pimento Pepper, Jimmy Nardello's Pepper, Lina Cisco's Bird Egg Bean, Christmas Lima Bean, Red Fig Tomato, and Burbank Slicer.

We will be able to introduce them to the public through use at the restaurant AND at the Farmer's Markets! (Farmer Jeff ran downstairs to the sprouting room tonight to get the babies into sprouting trays. ) Most of the seeds are from the Seed Savers Exchange.

We didn't realize before tonight that we are already raising some of the items on the Ark of Taste list. We currently grow Sebastopol Gravenstein Apples, Meyer Lemons, Jacob's Cattle Beans and Cherokee Purple Tomatoes.

In addition to the fruits and vegetables, there are ...drum roll please...CHICKENS on the Ark of Taste list! We raise the following prized breeds: Jersey Giant (Bess), Plymouth Rock (Laverne and Shirley), and Wyandotte (Bebe and Cece). Go girls! (This is Cece)

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Amazing Little Eggs!

Some of the girls have just started laying and we can't believe just how amazingly TINY they are!!! The little green egg in the center is literally the size of a large olive! One of the eggs is pale blue and must be from one of our Ameraucana Easter Eggers. We think that our tiny little girl, Sarah, the bantam Olde English Game Bird, is laying the little pale brown/ivory egg and we are assuming that the long, light brown eggs is from Bully, the bantam Brahma.

It would really help if we could actually WATCH them laying the eggs, or check the nesting boxes right after they have laid the eggs. Why can't we? Well...the girls yell at us. They want their privacy. If we stand there...oh, heavens, they SCOLD us!!! They are too funny. They do like the nesting boxes and are finally getting accustomed to the remodel.

The only hold out is Josephine, the little spit-fire bantam hen that is Napoleon's special girl. She insists upon sitting on the edge of the door leading outside. I have to physically go and lift her out of the door way so I can lock up at night. I think she is really just sitting there trying to figure out how to better landscape the enclosure!

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Life on the farm

After spending another night in emergency with Callebaut (he had another spell of anxiety, lip licking, drooling and general discomfort) I thought a blog on other news would be welcome.

Friday night Farmer Jeff and I found ourselves still pretty exhausted after the marathon chicken coop redux and crawled into bed looking forward to a good, long and deep nights sleep. Can you hear it coming? I was holding Ginger in my arms, praying for good health, when Chloe started chasing something in the bedroom. I didn't think I had seen a moth, but that is what it sounded like she was chasing. Once Ginger sat up to see what was going on, I thought I would join her. I turned on the light just as I saw something pretty damn big fly past me and land on the quilt that hangs behind our bed. Then I saw it. About a foot about Farmer Jeff's head was a very large and very dark lump. Hm...BAT!!!! I thought I had best wake him up but there really wasn't a damn thing we could do.Benny the bat flew back and forth across the bedroom, stopping only to fling itself onto curtain rods, closet doors and then the air show would resume. At one point he smacked against the wall and slid down the closet doors to the floor where Chloe was ready and waiting. I am not exactly sure what happened, but I heard both the bat AND Chloe let out a squeal and Chloe ran to the bathroom. Once Benny stopped again on the closet door, I turned off the light and told everyone to go back to sleep.

We didn't see Benny at all the rest of the night or the next day until...we came home that evening in the middle of the aerial show punctuated by cats racing back and forth in the room. I wish I had had the presence of mind to grab the camera and take movies, but I was actually laughing too hard. Once I composed myself I took action. I closed all of the doors, started turning off lights and herding the cats behind the closed doors. Small problem. My brain said, "get Julian and get him out of the room". Small problem...I tried to put Julian outside on top of the dogs. OOOoooPPPSSS. Farmer Jeff grabbed my arm as Julian was throwing himself into reverse up my arm. So much for Calm, Cool and Collected. (It is all done with mirrors!!!)

Once we got everyone secured behind the correct doors, we opened the front door and tried the "sweep him out" maneuver. We switched tactics when that morphed into bad version of "BatMinton". Farmer Jeff grabbed the tube leftover from the chicken coop linoleum, crammed paper in one end of it and then offered up the open end to Benny. After loud complaints from Benny he finally jumped into the ticket to freedom. Farmer Jeff carried/ran him outside, still in the tube, and then shook the tube until Benny came tumbling out. FREEDOM. Benny took off with nary a backwards glance. Whew...

In other news:
The 30 varieties of tomato babies, about 800, are poking their heads up. Needless to say, that is the first thing Farmer Jeff wants to look at in the morning and the last thing at night...and maybe 2 or 4 times during the day! Yesterday we did a thorough cleaning out of this room, aka the Mad Scientist's Lab. It is a much nicer and cleaner place to spend time.

This room is, not surprisingly, misunderstood and so is the crop! Last year we had a gas leak in front of our house which required a visit through the lab. Farmer Jeff wanted to make sure that the utilities guy understood that we were growing TOMATOES...not that other famous cash crop. The guy just laughed and said, "it's okay, dude, I live in Mendocino. Don't worry about it. I won't say anything". Farmer Jeff TRIED to tell him that THESE ARE TOMATOES...but the guy just waved him off, "don't worry, dude". Oh well...

The composters are in full tilt boogie. We are monitoring the temp and moisture content daily and now Farmer Jeff is intent on building our own tumblers out of 55 gallon oil drums. There is something to be said for his upbringing. Farmer Jeff is a third generation farmer and carries with him the can do/can figure it out spirit that is so essential to survival. I stand is awe of him, his ingenuity and his tenacity.

Yesterday was the first time I had ever seen Chloe and Ginger sleeping together, so I had to get a picture. I have always worried about having 2 females of the same specie together and there have been some turf wars since Chloe moved inside. It seems as though we may have had a serious breakthrough. I really hope so. Ginger needs all the love and support she can get.

Last night, when I took Callebaut to emergency, our dear, little den-mother, India, flipped out. Callebaut is her alpha and omega/all and everything, and she is NOT happy when he leaves without her. Farmer Jeff stayed behind last night to get some very necessary sleep (he had to be at work very early today) so it was up to him to calm her down. Ultimately the only thing that worked was allowing her to get up on the bed and then curl up on MY pillow right next to Daddy. She settled down after about 10 minutes, but was up and at Callebaut's side right after we arrived home. Once she saw that he was okay, she settled down on her couch and went to sleep.

We can't do a blog on the kids without talking about the darling Tasso. He is such a love. He just wants to cuddle, smile, play, sleep on the bed, be adored and be king. Well, he can't be king 'cause that is Callebaut's position, but he is certainly our fine, young prince. I couldn't decide which picture was cutest, so here are two!
PS: I can't sign off today without a picture of Julian, aka J-Boy, Sputnik, Gray boy, who was kind enough to keep me company in my office/crafts room between bags of fabric!

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Friday, February 15, 2008

An Eastside Farm Chronicle Update

Things have been pretty hectic around here lately. I realized that I haven't done a follow up to several stories, namely the problem with Callebaut's bloat, the chicken that was attacked by the dogs, and Ginger, my sweet little zipper necked girl.

Callebaut is first. His bloat seems to be under control. Good news. He is on a better quality dog food, following the advice of our vet to only feed our dogs food that lists the meat, not meat by-products, first. Done. We also have cut back on his food 'cause he was a bit on the chunky side. He also has been taking pills, happily because they are embedded in a spoon of peanut butter, that helps with his "motility". He is also not supposed to tank up on water, which he used to do every night, and can only take a good drink two hours after he has eaten. With everything we have done for him, he is now showing off a very shiny coat and a more defined waistline. Actually, he is looking very fine, indeed!

Now Ginger's news...sigh...
Ginger's tumor is malignant. It is squamous cell cancer and it has gone into the blood vessels in the vicinity of the tumor along with her lymph glands. This is not good. I will be taking her back in to our vet in 3 weeks. In 2 weeks I am to begin checking the same location to see if the tumor has grown back. The vet believes a tumor will pop up on or in her somewhere in the near future.
I am incredibly saddened with all of this and I can't help but feel deflated. I just want to spend quality time with her because I don't know how much time we will have together.

The Chicken: Honey West survived the dog attack with fierceness and strength. There is actually a story but I will save it for the next posting.

The Remodeled Hen House: Farmer Jeff and I are still exhausted from the day/night of the remodel. The girls are still adjusting to it and are gifting more eggs! That is very good news! Farmer Jeff has gone back in and added more perches, which will help the girls to get a better night's sleep. They are still wandering aimlessly in the coop when heading off to bed because they have not figured out the sleeping assignments. Once they determine who will sleep where and with whom, life will drift back to normalcy and tranquility.

The Composters: Is this a new subject for the blog? Hm...I think so! Farmer Jeff found 2 big composters on Craigslist and we are now composting all of our green matter from the restaurant! We are most excited by this new achievement. We have discovered the key ingredient for acceleratingly the compost...Chicken Poop! Um...we just happen to have a LOT of chicken poop! We are going to be cranking out compost and then using it in the garden once we have aged it.

Life, on the whole, is good. Living on the farm has really driven home the cycle of life. We see it on a daily basis. I love the new growth, little chicks, flowers, leaves budding. That is the fun part. The slow decline of the garden teaches me that there is nothing I can do to stop it. What I don't want to face is death. It is as much a part of life as...living. Doesn't make it easier.

Think good thoughts about a pussy cat.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The First Video of the Chickens

Check out our video of the chickens investigating the new nesting boxes.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

EXTREME MAKEOVER: Chicken Coop Edition!

Extreme Farm Makeover paid a visit to Eastside Farm! After a careful assessment of the chicken coop, it was decided that a makeover was LONG overdue!

Yes, Farmer Jeff and I lost our minds again. We decided a couple of weeks ago to COMPLETELY overhaul the chicken coop. When we first built it 2 1/2 years ago, we only had so much time and money we could put into it. Even then we built it more sturdily than our house!

After cleaning the coop and washing eggs for a couple of years, we decided to take the plunge and rip the inside apart.

We started this project the day before with the assembly of pre-fab nesting boxes. Complete with bizarre instructions written by someone who, big surprise, could not write instructions on how to crawl out of a paper bag. Needless to say, it took longer than anticipated, but we did end up with some new, neat and clean nesting boxes.

Yesterday we were both so excited by the project that we were awake by 6 (something I NEVER do) and were hard at work by 8 am. We started by scooping out all of the shavings/poop from the inside of the coop. Then we started pulling everything out: the nesting boxes, "droppings bin", perches and hardware. We literally tore it down to the studs.

Then the rebuild began. After a serious trip to The Home Depot, we were then on a mission. We wanted a coop that we could clean & sterilize. I think it is because both of us have our background in the food industry, our solution to this problem was FRP. (Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic Composite) Since we were going to put that up, we both agreed to insulate the coop. I worry about the cold of and the heat of summer. We had considered insulating the coop for several years, but knew that in order to do so we just had to tear it apart. SO...yesterday we insulated.

After the insulation was installed, we cut and installed drywall. I can't believe how much weight we lifted, cut, moved, held and installed. Whew! Makes me tired just thinking about all that we did!

Next step: we paneled the roof to keep it warm and keep the rats out. Little buggers. We could hear them last night, along with the chickens who were locked outside. Everyone was agitated and perplexed! We tried to placate the troops outside but little solace was found. They really complained the whole time! We tried to keep the girls happy by setting their familiar nesting boxes outside, but that really didn't help. We did get about 10 eggs from them yesterday, but that was about half of what we normally get. I can't blame them. Their sweet and familiar life had been interrupted!

After the plywood and ceiling were in, then we could get to cutting and installing the FRP. As you can see by the pictures, night fell by the time we got to the FRP. The girls were stacking up on the ramps to their doors, that were closed, and they started picking on each other. I tried their cracked corn, "chicken pancake treat", but that didn't do much. We rigged lights into the pen and that seemed to finally calm them down.

We had laid out the FRP on the grass to make sure that it "gassed off" and it ended up being wet from the dew/condensation. We dried it off best we could and then cut it and glued it to the walls. Not content with these incredible walls, we took it one step further and laid linoleum! It is so easy to clean and keep clean!

Once the floor was done, the next step was to install the nesting boxes, one of which I was assembling on the floor! They turned out to be pretty cool looking and CLEAN!!! After the boxes came the perching rails. Farmer Jeff kept me apprised of the time. At first he said, I think we'll be done by 11. Then it was, I think we'll be done by midnight. Then it was, we're almost finished, Hon...

The nesting boxes on Napoleon's side are a stylish blue, but all in all, I think it is a very stylish look!

What time was it all over? 2 am. We had worked for 18 hours straight. The flocks reaction? WHAT HAVE YOU DONE??? I AM NOT GOING IN THERE? At that point, Farmer Jeff took me by the elbow and led me inside to go to bed.

The first thing we did this morning, um, later in the same morning, was to wander into the chicken coop. Thankfully, several of the girls were not only checking it out, they were actually beginning to lay eggs and as of this moment, we have 4 eggs on Napoleon's side, and 7 in the main section!

It is a glorious day. The temperature is a perfect 69 degrees, the sun is shining and the chickens are happy. The revolt we saw brewing yesterday has given way to sun bathing and exploring the "new digs". Our girls are happy, once again!

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Friday, February 08, 2008

Indulging the Kids

India has claimed ownership, or at least sleeping rights, to the chair in my office. As you can see, I also use this chair as a place to temporarily store fabric! I am gearing up for the next set of bag production, hopefully in time for Valentine's Day! I pulled out fabric with hearts, red fabric, and apparently fabric that works as a good chin rest.

Last night I re-washed and ironed ALL of it in preparation for cutting out/sewing. In addition to that bit of laundry, I also did a few other loads. I tell you, animals have an uncanny sense of things. The minute I had the load out of the dryer and has just started folding it, Chloe was on the bed and starting to make a little nest out of it. I asked Chloe if she thought the world revolved around her, only to see her look at me, saying...yeah...and? Kids!

PS: the chicken that was the plaything of the dogs is just fine. I have no idea what happened to the little dog and frankly, I have been afraid to go and ask. I just keep praying for a positive outcome. Thanks for all of the concern and good thoughts!

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Just Think Lovely Thoughts

When I was growing up each of us kids was allowed to pick a record to listen to. My brother, P, always chose Call of the Wild by Louie Prima. My brother, C, always chose Slaughter on 10th Avenue and I always chose the Broadway soundtrack of Peter Pan with Mary Martin.

When Peter Pan first appears in the nursery to the children, he explains that they, too, could fly, "just think lovely thoughts". Today is one of those days that I really need to think lovely thoughts.

As you might remember, Farmer Jeff is away for a few days on his annual boys time away from the wives trip. I am home, on jury duty (yet to be called but patiently waiting), and caring for the animals.

Yesterday the animal food chain almost came undone before my very eyes. Whilst collecting eggs and feeding the scissor-beaked hen, Tyner, our Amazon Hen, Honey West, got out. (She is named after the 1966 TV show with Anne Francis as Honey West...and yes, that is her pet ocelot.)

She got out right in front of the dogs and they decided it was time to re-invent badminton...or to help themselves to a fresh chicken dinner. I was yelling at the dogs like a drill sergeant (or mother) to leave the chicken alone. The chicken would get away from one dog only to be grabbed by the next dog. It was a living nightmare. This went on for several go-rounds. I thought I got the chicken away from them only to have them grab her again. I thought she was dead and at the last minute just pulled her out of their mouths and thrust her into a nesting box.

My poor mother-in-law had just dropped by at this time. She is the only other person, besides Farmer Jeff, that had heard me screaming the day dog India caught and broke the leg of once feral cat, now house cat, Chloe. She helped out by getting the dogs into the house. I went back to check on the chicken and...she was alive! Alive!!! I couldn't believe it! She didn't have any signs of blood, just a lot of feathers missing and wet.

I fixed up a convalescing cage in the garage, complete with heat lamp and dry towels. This morning when I went out to check on her, fulling bracing myself for anything, there she stood, squawking at me in a very indignant manner, demanding to be returned to the coop. I obeyed and back she went. I checked on her today and she seems to be fine. A little ruffled...but that is to be expected!

Now I need you all to help me pray, and think lovely thoughts, for the little dog I hit on the road today. He ran right out in front of me. I did what I could to swerve, but I hit him. I didn't kill him, but he was injured. His owner ran out and grabbed him while I was yelling to him...I am SO SORRY. I have been in his position before, while picking up one of our cats from the road. What can be done at that point. I saw the owner speed off to the vet and I have no idea what happened.

What a strange couple of days this has been.

Just think lovely thoughts.

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Monday, February 04, 2008

Critter Update

Both Ginger and Callebaut are fine now. Ginger was supposed to go in the vet this morning for a little post-op check up and she WOULD NOT go in the cat carrier. We are talking BIG HISSY FIT. Heavens! This fit included long and sharp toe nails along with a snakelike backward movement. She must have been watching Eli Manning's 4th quarter move 'cause no matter how hard I tried to hold on to her, she just squirmed away. Of course, it didn't help that Callebaut was trying to help and ended up just providing a distraction to me. My name really is Mud with Ginger right now.

As for Callebaut, we ended up at Canine Emergency at 10 pm on Friday night 'cause he was doing his old licking lips, walking in circles, pawing at his mouth...and the last time he did that he had bloat. There is nothing sweet, gentle or kind about that word. It really paints an ugly picture and it is deadly for dogs if their bloated tummy turns.

Luckily we got a doctor that remembered to ask the question: do you raise his food? Hm...well, yes, as a matter of fact we do. I learned you are NOT supposed to do that!!! At least not in his case! I seem to be contributing to the problem.

The end result, we are now feeding him 3 small meals: 8 am, 4 pm and midnight. We are also not supposed to be letting him drink much water for 2 hours after he eats. In addition to all of these instructions, he also gets a thyroid pill. My chubby baby really does have a glandular problem!

We are all enjoying a quiet and sunny day today. After 14 days of straight rain, I thought I would lose my mind, but the sun has come out. Joy...oh joy!

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Friday, February 01, 2008

My Cute Little Zipper-Necked Girl

(Photo is before the procedure. She is too loopy to have her picture taken right now.)

It has been a rough couple of weeks for the older kids in the house. First it was Callebaut with his tummy and low thyroid and then on Wednesday night I discovered a lump in Ginger's skin on the right side of her neck. Today she had a little "procedure" that removed it and sent it off for a biopsy.

My beautiful little girl (and one of my several faithful sleeping companions) now looks like a feline Frankenstein with her very own little Zipper-Neck. She is also doing a really amazing imitation of a very drunk girl as she slides and slithers to the floor and slinks around corners in her drugged and hazy state. It would almost be amusing if it weren't so disturbing. Does that make sense?

In my heart of hearts I know she is fine and they will not discover a "problem" with the lump. In the meantime, I will let her sleep it off in her den under the bed and will indulge her with canned (instead of the standard dry) cat food...and will let her have first choice on which side she sleeps. Sorry Chloe, the older girl gets first choice!

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