The Starter Farm

What did I do wrong?

The cherry tree did not fruit this year.  The tomatoes plants in the new garden are yellow.  Why does the basil look like Swiss cheese?  How come the apple trees look like they are being burned by a blowtorch?  The small frustrations pile up to the point where irrational thoughts of a yard less condo begin to feel romantic.   I read a lot.  Every piece of literature I can get my hands on about farming I’m on it.   Pruning... [Read More]

Family Heirloom

I still remember sitting with my legs barely touching the floor at the kitchen counter waiting for my mom to slice up that beautiful red orb.  I’m not sure how I fell in love but tomatoes seemed to be ingrained into our Italian Polish background.  Every year the largest portion of our garden was allotted to tomatoes.  I know heirlooms are all the rage now but we grew good old-fashioned Jersey tomatoes.  I think we had Early Girls, definitely Beef... [Read More]

Alone time

We entertain at the farm a lot.  When I am asked if people visit, I joke that we have about a 90% occupancy rate.  But when I am alone on the farm I can really concentrate on getting things done.  I usually spend some of these days without saying a word enjoying the silence and sounds of the farm.  I wake up; make a list in my head of the chores ahead and what my next meal will be.  ... [Read More]

Rat in the Barn

It was the wisp of a tail that gave him away.  He thought he was creeping oh so quietly out of the chicken coop.  At first I thought the light was playing tricks on me as I shut in the chickens for the evening but my fears were confirmed as he disappeared into the night.  What was he searching for?  All the grain was sealed tight with just the daily feed in the chicken bowl available.  And the cat, my... [Read More]

Chicken Run

The frantic voice on the other line of the phone forced me to drop my fork.  “You need to be here tomorrow. They get dropped off at 8am, they get put out on the floor at 9am and you need to be here then because they go quick.”  Game on. I had been waiting for this phone call for 4 months.  I was not about to drop the ball but I did hesitate for a minute.  “So, I need to... [Read More]

Planting Limbo

It is the most unusual time of the year now in the Santa Ynez Valley.  The days are getting longer, the flowering bulbs are emerging and the fruit trees are beginning to flower.  I’m still building a fire at night because I love a fire but I’m cracking a window to keep the room from becoming too warm.  I’m now reaping the benefit of my winter plantings.  I’m enjoying dinners out of the garden even in this late winter period. ... [Read More]

Borrowed Stud

The first question I always get asked by people when I tell them I have dairy goats is “Do you get goat milk or make cheese?”  And then I tell them that as with a human female, a goat must give birth first to produce milk.  You can’t just milk a female goat and expect milk to come out. Then they get it.  Also, milking a goat twice a day is a commitment that I’m not sure I want to... [Read More]

The Great Chili Competition

Usually I get the call in the beginning of December, which I have come to believe is the culmination of a yearlong obsession. “What seeds do you want?  You have to grow the Ghosts.  Definitely you need Thai and Chocolate Habs.  Wait, did the Fatalis from last year do well?  I think I have a few surprise crosses.  Do you want them?  I’m not sure last year’s Scorpions were as hot as the Ghosts.  They have Chocolate Ghosts now!” This... [Read More]

City Mouse vs. Farm Mouse

At first we thought it was a low battery warning on the smoke alarm, a gentle high-pitched peep that always happens at the most inconvenient time right in the middle of the night.  Both up out of bed we began to search as no sleep would continue with this annoying beep.  The hunt led us room by room waiting for the next inconsistent cheep without success, finally leading us the only room without a smoke detector - the bathroom.  There... [Read More]

First Frost

There it was covering top of the lawn ever so lightly.  Shimmering as first rays of the morning’s light fell across the yard and then it was gone.  Yes, as every gardener knows this time of the year brings the season’s first frost.  We notice the slight burns on summer plants holding out until the first hard frost ends their growth for the season. The Santa Ynez Valley experiences light frost throughout the winter but not for so long that... [Read More]