Coping with Loss, Farm Style

The kids on the farm have had a rough couple of weeks.

On Lily's birthday we had a new chick hatch out and Lily made a point of noting it was a Very Special Thing. "This'll never happen again ON MY BIRTHDAY!" She clapped, feeling the special bond already. And then... well, something happened to the sweet little chick. She fell out of the laying box and was likely trampled upon by the adult chickens. Mark gathered her up, brought her inside and thus started the process of trying to save a broken chick.

7 days: 6 ~ wounded chick

Lily named her Shimmer and spent days with the chick wrapped up, close to her heart, feeding it with a dropper and caring for it with all the ferocious love of a ten-year-old.


lady beetle

So many things happening at the Farm, I don't even know where to start. Before we started this little experiment, I had days off from my "real job" and I would spend them reading the paper while sipping coffee and then I'd take a nap. Okay, so I'd actually spend the day fantasizing about that line up while getting chores and errands done, but at least it was at a leisurely pace.

Now my days "off" are UP AND GO GO GO GO! And it's not a bad thing, for sure, but sometimes I want to yell, "COME ON! I NEED A NAP!" And that's usually when I actually go take a nap, because when you're yelling at the chickens, it's time for a freaking nap.

But then.

Then there's the really wonderful part of all of this: Lorien and her family moved in. Granted, not to their forever home (still in permitting, people) but into a bitchin' sweet trailer we found on craigslist that comes from some fellow burners.

Full image of Trailer getting installed

We set it up, Mark & Lorien spent some time doing repairs and then they simply moved in. Amazing. We've held a knitting night there already, and in addition to being a cool place to hang out, it's giving us an idea what living in community feels like.

It feels awesome.

There's been many a shared meal, borrowing of things, laundry talk, gardening, kid care sharing, dogs everywhere and overall amazingness. So far, I'm totally in love with this.

And things are growing in the garden! Which, you would expect if you've ever been successful at gardening before. Let me assure you: I have not. Not really. Never. Things THRIVE when you pay attention, people. This is shocking to me, though my parenting should have tipped me off that it works universally.

My last post (almost a month ago, *ahem*) was about the putting together a garden bed. NOW LOOK AT IT:


Seriously, nobody could have predicted that. Except for all people who have ever gardened before, but we're not counting reasonable people in that statement.

Speaking of, does anyone have any idea what this is:

what is this?

It's taking over the garden bed and does not appear to be cabbage. Or at least, that's what Lorien says. But the seed packet that I believe it came from claims it's a Nikki Chinese Cabbage. Anyone have experience with this stuff? I clearly don't.

Lots of other things are popping up too:

growing beans radish

apples! peas

Oh, and after several bee hives gave us the middle finger and swarmed off for greener pastures, we finally have a hive that's staying put. Interestingly enough, this hive came from the school, where it had attempted to make a home in the bushes between the art class and the Jr High. Our friend Alex extracted it and brought it on over and they've been very happy ever since. We may even get honey some day!

It's super exciting, ALL THE THINGS happening. And it's keeping us busy, my friends.

What's keeping you busy?

Building a Bed

Years ago when we lived in a house that was up-side-down. The bedroom was on the top floor and there were skylights and vaulted ceilings and LIGHT LIGHT LIGHT! It was amazingly alive, that space, which was not so very wonderful when you were trying to sleep. Downstairs the living room was dark and broody and perfect for watching movies, but not so much for being productive during the day. But it was the first home we bought together and we loved it. We got a dog and took long walks through the neighborhood and bought a real bed. In that big space, our new bed had to have a frame that could compete, so we got a cherry sleigh bed and we loved it.

When we moved to the house we're in now, one that is not up-side-down, we stuck our sleigh bed in our dark, cave like bedroom and we said, "hurmph". It was too big in there. But it was what we had, so we lived with it. Then we moved upstairs into a loft bed and rented out our cave bedroom, putting the cherry sleigh bed into storage. And years later, when we moved back into the cave bedroom, my mother helped us buy a new bed.

And now we had this beautiful bed that had nobody to sleep in it. We tried to sell it on criagslist, but we were unsuccessful. "Why don't we turn it into a garden bed?" I asked Mark.
"A garden bed?"
"Yeah, we could plant things in it."

We did the math and realized that to build a raised bed, we'd spend about what we'd get if we sold it. And so we set to work.


Mark, setting up the frame in the spot of choice.


Putting in a garden bed today. #GingerLeafFarm

Frame is assembled, but will need more support.



Laying in plywood and building up the sides.



Weed cloth to help retain soil.


A few more loads of dirt and compost and it will be ready to plant!

We put tiles under the feel so it wouldn't sink into the ground and then filled it with soil and compost. It's about this point where we realize we put it SO FAR AWAY and now we're dead with carrying buckets.



Figuring out where to put the seedlings. At first, I was all super thoughtful. By the time Lorien showed up, I went kinda mad and we just threw stuff in there.


A good long drink of water.

We planted:

  • Four different kinds of heirloom tomatoes
  • jalapeños
  • cabbage
  • kale
  • pole beans
  • a bunch of random volunteers

We'll see what survives! (fingers crossed, touch wood, spit spit, etc)


What's next?

Making strawberry shortcake with fresh organic strawberries and this GF cake recipe.

This week, life came at me full force, smacked me around a little and then gave me jacked up dreams (did you know that if you misplace your car at Costco, you might stumble across a lion in the warehouse? TRUTH, SO CLAIMS MY HEAD!). Really, it's not that big of a deal, life. Things happen, you cope, then you say, "What's next?" And most of the time, my "What's next?" is hopeful, cheery and ready. But this week, I had so much on my plate that my "What next?" became something of a horrified shriek.

Earlier today Mark tried to take me and the girls to the lake to ride bikes and I broke down in tears. "I have to do this! I have to get this done RIGHT NOW and you're offering to take me to the lake?" I could have attached a "HOW DARE YOU!?" to that sentence, I was so clearly incredulous. Luckily I heard myself and pulled back. "I feel so guilty right now. I haven't had any time for you or the kids. Please," I begged, "please don't ask me to fix this right now." And he didn't. 

I finished the thing I was working on, took a deep breath, donned my big straw hat and walked out into the yard. Snagging a pair of clippers and a small bucket, I headed to the lower orchard wanting to check on the aphid situation on the citrus. Last week, they came on like a nightmare, those stupid little bugs. I found evidence of white fly on the orange, too. So I spent a few minutes clipping off damaged leaves and breathing in the smell of orange blossoms and collecting the random bits of trash that come in on the wind.

The chickens were thrilled with the buggy leaves I gave them and my heart slowed down watching them race around the coop with their bounty. Shortly after, Lorien showed up with a couple pounds of organic strawberries from Costco (she assured me she saw no lions) and I set to hulling them and getting them ready for shortcake. We fed the strawberry tops to the chickens and cracked up as one of them YELLED for more.

Amazing how healing connecting to the land can be.

There's still too much to do. But half an hour in the sun and some dirt under my nails and I feel like I can start calming down my "What's next?" I just have to get through this weekend. I can do that. Pinky swear.

What's brings you back to center?

Fermenting veggies for fun

My youngest child has always had digestion issues. Nothing too exciting, mind you, she's just always a little "off". But she LOVES Sauerkraut and if you know anything about fermented foods, this is a very good thing. I've been getting it from a friend but recently, Lorien and I decided it was time to start making our own and possibly offering it for sale at our monthly market days here at the Farm.

I am, like many domestic things, clueless on the subject of fermenting foods. Lorien knows plenty. Again, this is why community based living makes so much damn sense. So we got together and made some sauerkraut and kimchi. I didn't take many photos of the process because I was running in and out of the house more than expected. Mark had to be delivered to the airport for an out of town gig. Then we needed more cabbage. So Lorien and my food processor did most of the work. But I helped! I did! Here are some pictures.

making kraut today

Cabbage gets run through the processor (slicer blade, not grater), then spiced. We used salt and the spices you'd find on an Everything Bagel, working with what I already had in the cupboard. Mix them all up, then into the crock. There's also some shallot in there and we discussed adding garlic, but never actually did.

cabbage goes in

This is the point at which I decided we needed more cabbage and ran out to get some. You think you have so much and then the salt does its thing, you smash it down and it appears to be half of what you thought it would be.

placing the weights

Lorien then placed the weights and this was the point where we realized we maybe put too much in. But we got all thug-like and forced it into submission. Well, Lorien did. I stood by and said encouraging words.


Lorien also made a whole batch of kimchi when I wasn't looking. We had dropped by a home brew store the week prior for two-step valves so the air created from the fermenting process could be released without allowing air in. This keeps things from exploding. Also it makes it darn near impossible for contaminants to be introduced.

tucked away so they can ferment

Then we stuck the pair of them in the unused shower in the main house. You add water to the crock lip to create a natural valve. The best part is when it gets going, it audibly burps at you. I totally want to make our own labels and call it "Rude Crock" Sauerkraut.

The whole process took us a couple hours and we'll have to wait almost a month for it to finish fermenting (faster if it's warm out and the juice we used from another batch actually helps the process, slower if it's cold and the juice we used was dead).

Can't wait to try it!

Why I need to live in community

Growing 3/27/13

I try to take a walk through the property daily. Doesn't always happen, mind you, but I try. I really don't know how else to get myself in the habit of paying attention and so far it's helping me not kill things. It helps that Mark is focused on the seeds and doing his part, but well, he travels for work sometimes and that makes it my job to focus, something I'm not always so good at.

I carry my phone with me, set on camera mode and ready to capture what I can. I'm also using a garden tracking program called Folia which allows me to note down milestones and will then give me a timeline as to when I should expect sprouts or should aim to transplant or fruit may appear. I'll be thrilled when they finally have an Android App so I can update from the field.

It amazes me how ignorant I can be about plants, though.

seed starts - pumpkin

"Look!" I'll show Lorien, "The pumpkin is sprouting!"
"That's not a pumpkin sprout." She'll reply.
"But that's what the package said." I insist, as though good hard observation cannot possibly win over a seed package.
"Maybe it will still sprout, but that is something in the brassica family." She calmly insists.
"But I want it to be a pumpkin." I pout.

She all but pats me on my sweet stupid head.

I know I can learn, it just seems remarkably slow to sink in. But for now, I think everything is beautiful, even the clumps of nasty aphids I found clustered on a weed stalk in the canyon, or the creeping vine that keeps tying to take over everything.

Growing 3/27/13 Growing 3/27/13

OK so the aphids are gross, but there's a beauty to them too, all huddled together, just trying to survive in the wilds. And the way the vine wraps around the dead stalk of a tree it probably killed?

Poetry, I swear.

This is why I need to live in community: ignorance, I have it in spades.


Learning to be ruthless

emerging peaches and their party hats

Over the weekend I was sitting in the orchard, chatting with my mom on the phone.

"I'm having a disagreement with Mark* about the peach tree." I tell her.
"Tell me about it." She prompts.
"He keeps telling me to leave it alone, but it has so much fruit emerging, I don't know how the tree can manage it all."
"Oh, hon. You have to remove two-thirds of the fruit or you could damage the tree. I know it's hard to do, all that promise, but you have to. Leave about an inch between fruit so it has room to grow. If you don't you could lose a limb or end up with a ton of misshapen, small fruits."
"So be brutal?" I ask.
"Ruthlessly so."

And so, with my game face on I plucked at it, feeling horrible about all that promise I had to remove.

Growing 3/27/13

I still can't force myself to throw away the culled fruit, though it has no reason to live. It's beautiful, though, in it's little bucket.

On advice from my uber smart mother

But man, just thinking about a globe of warm peach, fresh from the tree, large and sweet and sticky and...

I need to sit down for a moment.

But seriously, learning how not to be so sentimental is a huge part of figuring out how to run a small pseudo-farm. I'm figuring it out, it just might take me a while.



*Later, when I showed Mark what I'd done to the tree he had indicated I should leave alone, he was all, "Yeah, I've been meaning to do that." Merp. Turns out we sometimes suck at communication.

The rocks that screwed us

Here's the thing with building a house in California.

Take the cost you think it'll run. Take the time you think it'll take. Take the amount of stress and worry you expect to invest.

Double it. Double it all.

Now maybe you'll have an inkling of what you're up against.

We've been working on putting a house on our vacant lot for almost a year now and we've hit every kind of wall you can imagine. At some point, I'll tell you all about those walls (maybe, if I can find the sanity to do so) but today I want to tell you about rocks.

Most of the area were on is - geologically speaking - called the Lindavista Formation. The rocks found in this formation are relatively insignificant, culturally, but can easily masquerade as something more important. The rocks often have rounded edges, which when broken, can look like grinding surfaces used by Native Americans. So when we had to pay for a archeologist and a Native American to come take a look at the land, our greatest hope was that nothing of significance would be found*. If it was found, we're looking at paying the very same people a four-hour minimum to stand around while we dig up the footprint, at a rather significant cost.

They found this rock:

rocks of significance

In the photo, the left of the large rock shows a slight curve, which they said made it a potential field stone used for grinding.

I find it extremely shady when the people making a recommendation that you pay someone to be on site during digging are the very same people who will be paid to stand around while digging is happening. That sentence didn't mean to be so convoluted, but well, this process is convoluted, so why should I allow you to be comfortable when reading it? ANYWAY, this concern of mine sent me to the ear of a friend of ours, who happens to be a local hot-shot geologist. I asked if he'd be willing to come on out and give me an idea if these people were full of crap or not. He agreed.

And here's the thing, I'm totally OK with the idea that significant artifacts should be properly handled. I just didn't know if I was being lied to or not, as everyone needs to put dinner on the table. And looking at that rock above, I really didn't know what to think.

So Eric came out this morning and took a look. His first impression of the rock was that it was insignificant (which is what I thought!). But what he found next? Well, that is not insignificant.

rocks of significance

You see those thin bits of rock? These kinds of rocks do not naturally break like that. The shape could have occurred when the area was graded in the 1970's, but upon closer inspection of the wider of those two shards, he found this:

rock of significance

"You're going to have to pay them."
"Yep. Those may be nothing, but they look like potential tool marks. Tool marks mean there may be more to look at here." He glanced around some. "You have an alternate site for the house?"
"OK, just know this could take longer than expected."


At least this is coming from someone I trust. And after he left, Mark and I took a walk around the property and came up with an alternate plan, just in case something is found that will take a long time to unearth.

For once, I'm hoping that my land utterly and completely unremarkable, insignificant and boring.

Fingers crossed.


*Who can come up with the best "An archeologist, a Native American and a geologist walk into a bar" joke? Winner gets a potentially significant rock from the Lindavista Formation. GO!