is the only word I can think to describe this spring. Even before today’s rain, the hills were Ireland green, and the flowers, spinach, and herbs have overwhelmed the Labyrinth.  They look so good in their profusion, I’m just giving up on the labyrinth idea for the moment.


In back, the small flower area of the vegetable garden is a riot of color–with nasturtiums, geraniums, cymbidiums (should that be cymbidia?) and poppies.

2016. are eating whole meals from the fall vegetable garden, which has yielded potatoes, onions, greens galore, and bouquets grace the table:



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2016.’s been so warm, I’ve made a temporary summer office (had to take in the rug and the hammock today, of course).



A garden solution

Because of the beautiful, day-after-day, much needed rain, I had a gardening problem. My bare root asparagus arrived in the mail, and it was too wet to plant.  I came up with the idea of planting the 10 roots in individual brown paper bags. I set up a doubled lunch bag, filled it with dirt, and gave it a try. The bag almost immediately split. So I got plastic bags to act as sleeves to hold the paper together.Optimized-2016-03-13 15.40.34

Continue reading “A garden solution”

Fall garden

Because of the drought, I didn’t plant a summer garden, but everyone’s predicting massive rains this winter, so I turned on the irrigation and started seeds in flats. I use old plant holders or egg cartons, or anything that holds dirt. I set them in something that retains the water and keep them wet. I started these four days ago, and already I see little seed leaves from the lettuce and  zinnias.

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Continue reading “Fall garden”

The Halal butcher

As my chickens get beyond laying age, I’ve been giving them to my Ethiopian friend who is willing to slaughter them for fresh meat. But today I decided to try something different. I took my two oldest hens deep into industrial Oakland to the live poultry Halal butcher shop, where for $5 each, they quickly slaughtered, cleaned and plucked my hens, returning them head, feet and all in about 10 minutes.

shopThe shop itself (at least the part I saw), is a big garage with pens of chickens, geese, pigeons, quail and ducks waiting for their end. Fortunately, the fowl seemed unaware of their status, and ate their feed happily enough. The menu listed rabbit, pheasant,veal, lamb and goat, but I didn’t see any.









While I waited, a young man from a Chinese grocery store drove up to by some quail and chickens, and a curious pigeon dropped in to eat some scattered feed, but had the sense to fly off after his snack.

The pigeon reminded me of the title poem of my current poetry ms.

What Birds Know

Always our animal companions
exist at our pleasure—
the fattened hog
roasting on the spit,
the shorn sheep in the field.

Chickens thrive on grain
we spread for them.
The birds of the air
and steer clear.

Gone to seed

Optimized-2015-08-09 15.10.30Because of the drought, I did no planting this spring, and instead let existing things go to seed. As I result, I have my own fennel and coriander seeds from the garden, as well as lots of chicken food!

Optimized-2015-08-09 10.33.50But here it is, poetry Monday, and despite working all day in the garden, I need to post a poem. I found a set of poems that Richard Brautigan wrote on seed packets. Here is one, and you can see more here:

Screenshot 2015-08-10 19.23.37 Continue reading “Gone to seed”


Larry forwarded an article about the cost of backyard chickens today. Here’s the graphic overview. The graph on top is the price of a dozen commercial eggs (not organic BTW, you’d have to at least double, and in some cases triple that number for pasture-raised organic eggs).

Screenshot 2015-07-23 12.59.05The lower figures are pretty accurate for startup costs, though they don’t include fencing, the electric fence, and the labor of scrounging fresh greens, straw, etc. for the birds. Continue reading “Chickenomics”

The Angelina Jolie of Chickens

For years my flock has consisted largely of Americana chickens, docile birds who are good layers of green or olive eggs. But this year, diversity has been the theme. I just can’t seem to resist new breeds.

hamburgIn addition to the original Americanas, of which two remain, I have a Black Australorp and Rhode Island Red (brown eggs), a couple of Silkies, little white puffballs with feathered feet who are great mothers and lay small white eggs, and my favorite from the original flock, Houdini, a Hamburg hen who escapes the chicken area every day to lay her white egg in the bushes.

When I ordered chicks, I decided to go for exotics, so I have two Cream Legbars (turquoise eggs), three Coco Marans (mahagony colored eggs), a Black Orpington, an Olive Egger, and a Rhodebar.  Some of these look pretty strange. Here’s a Coco Maran and a Black Orpington with her feathered feet:

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And here’s a Cream Legbar: Continue reading “The Angelina Jolie of Chickens”

Garden without water

Although I have turned off the irrigation because of the drought, I have been watering the garden with dishwater from the sink–several gallons a day. In response, things are still looking good:


Optimized-2015-05-24 16.08.10In the backyard, I’m using water from the shower…not as much growing, but still enough! Of course it’s early in the season, but I’m’ still hopeful.





Culling the flock

hamburgAs a farmer, I have to treat my hens without sentiment; when they pass their peak laying year, they have to go. This week I took the oldest hens, the beautiful Black Australorps, and gave them to my Ethiopian friend, who eats them. I’ve made one exception so far, the Hamburg hen we call Houdini for her ability to find a way out of the chicken run. She’s a small hen, and although she’s almost three years old, she still lays well. Continue reading “Culling the flock”

Deep Litter

Deep litterI have been raising my chickens in a large run covered in layers of various hay, straw, grass, etc.  This is called the “deep litter” method, that I read about in Juliette de Baïracli Levi’s Herbal Handbook for Farm & Stable, a book I referred to often when we had a real farm. Levi was one of those intrepid Englishwomen of the early 1900s, who studied and traveled and made her own way in the world. Continue reading “Deep Litter”