Sunday, November 27, 2011


As the cooler days and nights have taken over our lives, I have watched my lovely bees retreat into their hive boxes.  One of my favorite activities during the summer was to sit right next to the hives, look upward, and watch the flying lanes of bees, an open air highway between all the treetops.  Now they are huddling together, hunkering down for the winter time, and only small numbers seem to be out foraging for pollen.  All in all, it seems they are following the natural rhythm of the season.
I went down a couple of weeks ago to check on the hives and was a bit distressed at what I found;  dead bees, hundreds of dead bees. During the summer when the worker bees would throw the dead bees out of the hive, the carcasses wouldn't last very long on the ground as the yellow jackets trolled around, enjoying a free meal.  Now that the yellow jackets have gone underground into their own hives, the number of bee carcasses has built up to massive proportions and there is a type of above-ground mass-grave.  I know this is nature, which is brutal, and the younger and stronger bees will survive the winter and spring to fly and produce again, but yeesh!  I think I will sprinkle some winter-friendly flower seeds over the dead bees as a way to say thank you for all that they did.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Just In Case We Needed A Remider

Don't underestimate the power of a good natured hug!

My Beautiful Flock

So we added three ladies to the flock about a month ago, and they have finally ingratiated themselves into the existing flock.  It's a brutal process watching new chickens fight their way into a flock.  The entire order of things is thrown into limbo and the chickens spend a good two to three weeks fighting it out for different positions within the flock.  Whenever I would go down and check out the birds, I find at least three chickens with minor wounds on their combs.  When chickens duel it out with each other and assert their dominance over another one, one chicken will hop on the back of another, make them submit, and then they peck at their comb on top of their head.  This doesn't only happen with the new birds; I have noticed this happening with Stella, my Red Star, she is hopping and pecking all over Sweet Pea, one of my Barred Rocks.  It's an interesting process, and I am happy that it's over. 

Our Three New Ladies

Tina Turner, our Red Laced Wyandotte

Spooky the Ghost, our Pencil-Necked Rock

Teaspoon, our Leghorn

Teaspoon (Leghorn) on the left and Big Spoon (Leghorn/Delaware mix) on the right
Wherever Big Spoon is, Teaspoon is not far behind her.  On the first day, Teaspoon fought with Big Spoon for the dominant position of the flock.  Big Spoon let her know who the #1 was, and Teaspoon was fine with the #2 position.  It's hard to tell them apart sometimes, but Teaspoon's comb is pretty straight up and Big Spoon's comb flops over to the side.

And People Ask Me Why Autumn Is My Favorite Season!

I don't know if it's the colors of the leaves, the way the sunlight hits them and makes them glow, or the hint of crispness in air.  Whatever it is, Autumn rocks my world in the most wonderful ways!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Crazy Days

Things have been going very well for Taylor and I, busy, but very well.  I have picked up extra hours on a part time job out at an outdoor school in Western Marin.  Three days a week I drive through the most beautiful lands, cow farms, rolling green hills, and blue skies.  It literally puts a smile on my face every time I drive out there.  I am not sure how long this part time job will last, but for right now, I am enjoying the physical job, the hundreds of kids running around, let loose to let their crazy flags fly, and earn some extra money.  
-->  Here is an update with pictures to come.
Garden:  Our fall crops are doing well and popping up with flourishment.  We have some wonderful winter squash coming up, Pomme d'Or.  These little lovelies will be popping up around the beginning of December.  Next to those are the collards, Geogria Southern variety, and they are taking their sweet time maturing.  After that are the potatoes, just a basic Russet variety there.  Next is the first of two plots of beets;  I planted Early Wonders and Chioggias.  I am super excited about these root crops coming up, as beets are my new culinary obsession.  Plus, Taylor wants to experiment with extracting the sugar out of the beet and using that as a sweet alternative.  My rainbow chard is starting to mature up, both red and golden, and again, I am very excited as these are my favorite type of greens.  Lastly is our plot of carrots, Chantenay Red Core variety, which is a new one for us.  All in all, we should be harvesting some tasty vegetables right around the Winter Solstice.  That is one of the nice things about living in Northern California and these micro climates, we can grow through winter and still have a harvest;  it doesn't have to be a season of total fallow.

Container Garden:  I am experimenting with growing lettuce in a container:  Merveille des Quatre Saisons Lettuce (Marvel of Four Seasons).  I love this variety, beautiful red bibb-type rosette, crispy, and an excellent flavor.  I also planted some fava beans to see how they do in a container: Extra Precoce A Grano Violetto.  This is a purple fava, it has six beans to a pod and is very sweet in flavor.  I am excited to see how they do.

Chickens:  The three chickens that we added to the flock, Teaspoon, Tina Turner and Spooky the Ghost, have acclimated to their new family and living surroundings and seem to be doing well.  Teaspoon was laying like a champ in the first couple of weeks, an extra large bright white egg every day or two, but now she's slowed down.  I don't think Spooky is laying yet, as we guess she is a bit younger than the other birds.  And we're not sure if Tina Turner is laying or not.  I think she is, but I haven't caught her trotting out of the coop and calling out in egg-laying pride.  All in all their egg production is slowing down with the cooler temperatures and molting stage on its way.

Compost:  I can't tell you how awesome our compost is.  Trying to describe the sweet, earthy, nutrient-packed, black gold just loses in the telling.  This latest batch had a large, and I mean large, quantity of coffee grounds in it.  The pile was cooking at 160 degrees for over a week.  When we turned it, the temperature spiked right back up in there to 160 degrees again.  Taylor built a new system to sift the final product, and instead of grabbing the sifter with both hands and using every ounce of upper body strength to sift back and forth, now I am able to turn the compost in a cage like sifter.....MUCH EASIER!

Bees:  The bees are doing well.  Every time I  walk past their hive boxes, I can smell their honey.  There wasn't enough for us to harvest any for ourselves, but I will check in with them tomorrow and see if they maybe started filling the top super with honey (that would honey we could harvest).  It seems that many of the bees are dying, as the ground in front of the hive boxes are littered with hundreds of dead bee carcasses.  I thought they would hold on a little longer into the cold season, but I am sure it will balance out.  I read that I should expect almost two-thirds of the colonies to die off, and then they will repopulate come Spring.  Time will tell.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Day Light Savings

If day light savings is for farmers, and only 2% of our population are farmers, then shouldn't we perhaps consider doing away with archaic practice that unnecessarily disrupts our lives and circadian rhythms.