Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Perched on the Soap Box - Chicken Mama Speaks

The Subject: Water and Gasoline

Water: Water is a necessary part of life. We will die if we don't drink water. Our bodies are 2/3 water.

Gasoline: Gasoline is also a necessary part of life but we won't die if we don't consume it. We won't be able to get places, nor will food make it to a store near you.

How much does water cost? Well, that depends on whether you get it out of the tap, out of your fridge through an internal filter, in a 5 gallon jug or a 16 oz or 8 oz personal water bottle.

I cringe every time I have left the house, am out in the world, and I am thirsty and buy water in individual bottles. Not only am I paying anywhere from .65 for a bottle to $2.50 for 16 oz. I don't believe water should cost so much nor do I like using plastic bottles.

I know that these plastic water bottles are a great commodity in the post consumer recycling market. The problem? Only 20% of these bottles are recycled. The rest end up in landfills, if we are lucky, and by the side of the road, in lakes, streams, and, basically, everywhere humans go.

Also, recently in the news, was the revelation that clear plastic actually breaks down very quickly and over 92% of the population is currently carrying bits of plastic around in their bodies.
Okay, still with me?

Gasoline now is up to $4.00 a gallon. Let's put this in perspective. A 16 oz water bottle costs, for sake of argument, a dollar. That means you are paying $8 a gallon for something that is almost free out of the tap.

If you do use the water out of tap, do what we do. We slice up cucumber and lemon, call it infused water, chill it and it tastes GREAT!!! If you really want to get fancy and make a huge batch for a party, add a sliced apple, lemon and lime along with the cucumber and lemon. WOW!

In summary, you will save money by drinking tap water, you will be helping the environment by not adding more plastic to the planet, less bottles will be made (they ARE petroleum products!) and energy will not be wasted making them. SAVE and SAVE and SAVE again!

Please share the ways you are saving money and/or not contributing to the plastic problem.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Praise the Lord and Pass the Tomatoes

After our devastating freeze last week in which we lost 80% of the tomatoes planted at the Ruff Patch, our other farming area, we had almost enough tomatoes so we could re-plant. This is why Farmer Jeff starts 1,000 sproutlings... We only bought 12 plants to fill in the hole created by the freeze.

There is so much trial and error along with "acts of God" aka weather that makes farming such a precarious and courageous pursuit. Farmer Jeff kept telling me, "This is why I didn't follow in the family footsteps of being a commercial grower. I can't stand this kind of loss or gamble!". So he is in the restaurant business instead!

In Other News:
While capping off T-tape, an irrigation hose with holes/emitters every 24 inches, I stood up, fell over my feet and fell backwards on my hands, wrenching my back, neck and spraining my wrist. Sigh...My neck is better, my back is still a little sore, but the wrist is taking a while to mend. The hardest things to do with my wrist (thankfully the left wrist and I am right handed) is hooking my bra and giving the girls in the "hospital" their twice daily pills.

They are almost done with the pills, but still have a little bit of a sneeze/cough. I think I have to take one of them back in for a final exam.

Callebaut is fine. He has not had any stomach issues for a couple of weeks, thankfully. India is good, too.

Now the great news: Tasso is the break out star of the group. He has found his calling and you can tell it has done wonders for his self-esteem. He has become the official "Ratter" of Eastside Farm. A nasty business, rats. When you have chickens/aka the 24 hour buffet with water, you will have rats. We have tried just about everything except for poison, which is too dangerous around the dogs and chickens. We have rigged up the food bins on pulleys, we have lined the floor of the enclosure with wire cloth, we have put out traps of all sorts, and we even bought a pellet gun. The best ....TASSO!!!

The cats are all good. Ginger hasn't had any recurrence of her cancer. I keep praying over that one!

The most important being at ESF (Eastside Farm) is Farmer Jeff. He is happy and tired. We are catering like crazy and when not doing that, he is at the restaurant, smoking bacon and sausage, checking on all of the vegetables/plants, mowing the lawn and ...working. We are both happy when we are busy. I am feeling it a bit more than he is...sigh...

It is cool today and for this I am grateful. If it were a prettier, sunnier day I would be tempted to be outside planting flowers and trimming. However, today is cool, breezy and cloudy. Perfect for staying in and catching up on paperwork. I think I will sneak in a nap today!!!

Happy Tuesday!

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Gambling on Tomatoes

Yep...we gambled, and gambled big. We planted the tomatoes at our "satellite" property (featured here on this blog) and we took a gamble by planting before May 1st. This is a calculated gamble because, historically, the last freeze of the year could be as late at May 1st.

Well, historically, the worst freeze in April in the last 30 years was April 20th. We lost 75-80% of what we planted on April 13th. I didn't take a picture because I honestly didn't want to see it more than once!

Farmer Jeff has reminded me that this is why he starts with 1,000 seedlings. Sigh...

Tomorrow he will be replanting about 150 tomatoes. I will be at a marketing class in San Francisco, in a nice warm, dry room. It is supposed to rain again tomorrow here...

At least the tomatoes will like it!

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Catering and our little girl, Sarah

This is the back balcony of Styker Sonoma, a beautiful winery in Alexander Valley. We were fortunate to be the caterer for an event there on Monday night. The wind was crazy so the winery moved the event inside. Well...the buffet and guests were inside, the "kitchen" was outside in the howling wind. The glamorous life of a caterer!

I couldn't believe my luck when my old catering partner, Charlotte Stewart (also the very famous Miss Beadle from Little House on the Prairie) agreed to come and help us to serve!

Unbeknownst to me, Farmer Chef Jeff was out in the "kitchen" taking pictures of our food. One is of the set-up for the "Corn Pups", our famous house-made sausage made into mini corn dogs. We did a full on Barbecue menu with the corn pups, the smoked catfish pate, Texas smoked brisket, smoked chicken, award winning collard greens, mashed sweet potatoes, and for dessert, Southern Lemon Yellow Cake, an old family favorite recipe. (I didn't realize that the light in the kitchen cast such a blue light! Isn't this wild?)

Now about Sarah:

See Sarah
See Sarah Sneeze
See Sarah Sneeze and Sneeze and Sneeze

Our poor little girl, our Bantam Old English Game Bird, is sick. She started sneezing yesterday and I immediately grabbed her and moved her to the sick room, the garage. I have learned that you need to move a sick chicken IMMEDIATELY in order to not get the others sick. We set up a heat lamp for her last night and that seemed to comfort her.

I checked on her again this morning and she was actually worse. Now she sounded as though the problem had dropped into her chest. I had to take Ginger in for her check up (to see if her cancer has returned...NO!!! VERY GOOD NEWS!!!) and told our vet about Sarah. This is the vet that talked me into getting chickens, but for some reason I didn't think he "saw" chickens. It turned out that he does so I came write home and put Sarah in a...paper bag. I wanted to use something I could throw away because if she was coughing and spreading bodily fluids, I didn't want to accidentally take that back to the flock. I went so far as changing my clothes after handling her.

Once at the vet he determined that she has an upper respiratory infection AND sinus infection. I need to give her half a pill twice a day for 10 days. We are going back to Modesto for another benefit on Friday and will need to teach our house sitter how to do it! I pray that she will get better soon. She is a sweet and special girl with an incredible personality. Really...

I will give an update on her as soon as I have news.

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What in the world is going on?

Is the world spinning faster, thereby making us feel like we need to get more done? HEAVENS!!!

We HAVE been Whacky busy. Doing what, you may well ask? Well...Here are some updates.
Last Week...

Kitty up a Tree...who is that?
The other morning, when the dogs went out, they got as far as the tree before they started barking. What in the world is going on, I asked Farmer Jeff. He didn't out I went and then looked up. Well, hello Stranger! Who are you and where in the world did you come from? Once we got the dogs into the house we were able to coax the handsome stranger down far enough to read his tag and call his owners. Thank Heavens for that tag!!! We got a call back from the kind and very worried owner. Turns out that it was a brave kitty from across the very treacherous road that runs between our houses. The kids of his house came over and got him. What a lucky kitty! The kitty's name, you are asking? Pancho. Nice to meet you, Pancho. Now be careful!

The Pig Pit
Farmer Jeff is hard at work on his Central Texas-style Pig Pit. is not for raising is for cooking them for dinner. 'Nuf said. We are not vegetarians. We do eat meat and actually prefer our pork over most meats. Sorry, Papa, I will not eat cheese so I can eat my pork!

I love the lines of this structure. It reminds me of an ancient church. I know it is where Farmer Jeff will be spending many a Sunday praying for crispy pig.

The Chickens
The chickens are still enjoying their remodeled house. Here is a picture of Wild Girl, daughter of Elizabeth, a now deceased Ameraucana and sister of Jericho. She is not the size of a full grown Ameraucana and does not lay green eggs. She does have a rather squirrelly personality, hence her name.

The Tea Party
I was able to have a little tea party to celebrate my sobriety "birthday" and my sweet honey gave me the most beautiful floral arrangement from my favorite florist, Dragonfly Farm, here in Healdsburg. I love tea parties. We had kind of a Southern-style tea with Pimento Cheese Sandwiches, Smoked Catfish Pate on Crackers, Cucumber Sandwiches, Hearth-Baked Biscuits with Willowside Meats Ham and a Honey Mustard, then also butter and then housemade Zinfandel Grape Jelly that we make! For dessert I was given a magnificently decadent 4 layer chocolate fudge cake...swoon...Thankfully I had folks with whom I could share it!

The Benefit
Farmer Jeff was asked to be one of two "Master of Ceremonies" (emcee) at a fund raiser in his hometown (kind of) Modesto. It was the first time a fund raiser in that area had a cooking competition, Culinary Clash, as part of the event. Since Farmer Jeff has won two of this kind of contest (Derby Day several years ago and "Steel Chef" last year at the Sonoma Showcase) he was a perfect choice.

We left town a little early so we could hit his favorite hamburger stand, Scenic Drive in, for a "knock out burger". This is what an article in the Modesto Bee had to say about Scenic: Over the years, Scenic Drive-In has become one of the most popular spots for burgers in the area. Next to Scenic Cemetery and west of Coffee Road, the restaurant is known for its signature "Knockout" burger, which includes avocado, bacon, cheese and hot peppers.
I think it also has 2 hamburger patties. Sadly, it is currently closed for repairs.

He called his father in a panic from the parking lot, and we were redirected to "M.O.A.B.", which stands for Meal On A Bun. OH MY GOD...what a meal that was! I also had a chance to see that my honey's love of old farm stuff is really one of his cultural back ground. Here is a picture of both the burger and the walls of the place.

We made it to the event in time, didn't need to eat tums but did have a bubbly drink to counteract the lunch, and were treated to a fun evening! Farmer Jeff was a natural! It was fun to watch. He had a fun reunion with his first "Chef", Stan Dimon, under whom Jeff worked and trained for several years at Mallards. This was the chef that warned Jeff: you will be working weekends, holidays, birthdays and most of the time that your friends will be off having fun. Are you SURE you want to be a chef?
Well, that was well over 20 years ago and here we are!

Bye, Bye A Good Yarn!
After 5 years in business and the formation of many wonderful friendships and knitting projects, my favorite place to hang out (and buy yarn!) has closed. We didn't let the day go unnoticed. We threw a little party for our beloved friend, Laura Vink, and toasted her into retirement! We also had a last run at the yarn. Farmer Jeff has been teasing me that we will be the first in the nation to have a yarn cellar. I assured him that I am an amateur when it comes to collecting soft and pet-able yarn. I have friends that are on husband imposed "yarn diets". You know who I am talking about! Anyway, we will still get together and knit every Saturday morning, but it just won't be the same! Thanks, Laura. You have given us a great gift of friendship! Now come and knit with us!!!

Well...the tea party was Sunday, April 6th. In that week we also did 2 catering jobs and then ended the week on Sunday by planting 192 tomatoes. I am sure glad we both like challenges and like to accomplish things! Next...this week!

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

All in a day's Work!

Today we planted the first of the tomato babies. What does that entail?

  • Creating rows/furrows (6 rows, each 60 feet long)
  • Setting up the irrigation system
  • Spreading 4 bags of powdered oyster shells carefully over the rows
  • Turning the dirt over the irrigation tape and oyster shell
Going to the nursery (Harmony Farm) to buy more stuff for the irrigation
  • Putting green plastic over the tops of the rows
  • Fixing us/the workers lunch
  • Cutting through the plastic to make holes for the tomatoes
  • Adding mushroom mulch to the holes
  • Planting the tomatoes, all the while making a very detailed list of exactly what was planted where. WHY? We did “library rows” at the Ruff Patch (the name of the farm where we are planting) with 2 plants of each variety of tomato and needed to keep track what was where.
  • Planted the tomatoes – 192!!!
  • Added more mushroom mulch

What are we doing now, you might ask? I am writing the "load/packing list" for an event tomorrow at Stryker Sonoma Vineyard. Farmer Jeff is supposed to be writing recipes for the cookbook. I think he is wandering around the internet while I write my blog! We are both playing hooky!

All work and no play makes Jack a very dull boy. Right?
(Who remembers what movie that was in? It feature
d someone named Jack. Coincidence? We think not!)

I am leaving with you a hint to the question above. A hatchet actually had a part in that movie.

The guys found this hatchet head while cultivating the soil. Will someone please explain to me how in the world folks believed that burning glass and metal with their trash would get rid of it?

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Like a Shark we are Always Moving!

We can't help it. We just like to stay busy! There are lots of benefits (having fun, seeing lots of people, being creative, feeding people) with very few downfalls (tired feet, tired, and tired). Oh, and not getting to my blog as frequently as I would like. I promise to give some updates and include more chicken pictures. Soon!

I need to thank my dear friend, Rosemary, for this photo. Alas, we don't have a llama or a goat. Wish that we could...sigh...

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

When an Anniversary is a Birthday

Today is the first day of the rest of your life.

That sentence sums up my day 15 years ago, April 2, 1993. It was my first day of sobriety after years of alcohol abuse. I didn't know at the time that I would not drink again. Actually, when I realized, after attending meetings for a week, that the rest of the folks at the meetings didn't drink AT ALL, I was pretty alarmed and aggravated.

I asked someone at a meeting, "you mean to tell me that I can't ever drink AGAIN?". God bless him...his answer was, "just don't drink today, and go to a meeting, and then don't drink between meetings".

Well, I have done just that. I have not drank, even when I wanted to. I have gone through my first marriage falling apart, my mother dying of cancer, a falling out with my family, a move to another city, a new relationship, a severe back injury, cervical cancer, a career change, another career change and life.

I did not pick up a bottle during all of that. I prayed a lot, I talked to my friends and my brother, Chris, I journaled, I cried, I took walks and baths, and drank lots of big glasses of cold water! One of my friends in that first year advised me, "when you really crave a beer, drink one or two glasses of ice water and it will really take away that craving because chance are you are just thirsty!" She was right!, I still do all of these things and now I also talk to my husband, Jeff. He has never known seen me drunk and I pray he never does. I am sober.

I am blessed and know it. I am grateful to my husband, my family, my friends, my animals, the incredible community in which I live, my beautiful home, my work, the clubs/volunteer groups to which I belong, the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous and the freedom to practice my own spiritual beliefs. I am alive and am happy. I never dreamed life could be this good.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Today is my 15th A.A birthday and it feels like the first day of the rest of my life.

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