Sunday, June 21, 2009

And what have I accomplished?

First, I'm going to start off with the pictures:

And I had nothing to do with any of this. Nothing. I've completely neglected my garden and was rewarded with this.

For the past 3 months, I've let my kids dig huge holes (yesterday's loot: an old toy car, an old broken lightbulb, pieces of old ceramic tile, and other old things from the 5 generations of our family that have lived here), weeded sporadically, and generally done not much of anything else.

So today, I sawed down the sun-stealing "weed" tree to make the blueberries happier. I pulled some weeds. I got dirt under my nails. And I feel so much better, like a real participant in this whole farm thing I have going on.

A few more pictures. The tomato houses:

Courtney rigged up a makeshift coldframe for her tomatoes, so I copied it and put one around mine (in the forefront). Here's a shot of the outside and a shot of what's going on inside.

The center walkway with freesia, rosemary, sage, dahlias, strawberries, thyme, gladiolus, and random flowers.

The girls: Lucky Clucky, Figaro and Clio

Friday, June 12, 2009

We have Launch and now I can garden again

This past month has been insane. Tonight I launched my new business and the launch party was smashing success.

Why does this matter in the world of lettuce, blueberries and chickens? Because I think I may actually be able to get my hands dirty again rather than simply pass through the garden on my way to do something for work.

So tomorrow I plan to do the following: Clean the chicken coop, pull weeds from my fruited walkway, saw down an annoying tree that's blocking the light to my blueberries and take lots of pictures of the garden.

It's amazing back there right now - the freesia and dahlias are blooming, strawberries are turning bright red, bees are humming. It truly is a cacophony of sound and color and I can't wait to share it.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The bees are here!

I've been getting nagged lately about not posting. It's not that I haven't wanted to, it's just that I've been so busy writing copy and working on my new business, Alice and Isa, to really put anytime into my garden blog.

Oh, and I haven't had much to share about the garden until now.

The bees arrived last week. Keegan was super excited and actually go to help introduce the bees to their new hive. Sadly, 2 days later, we discovered the queen had died. Our new queen was introduced yesterday and the hive seems to be humming along.

Lots of things are growing too: Strawberries, blueberries, favas, lettuce and spinach greens. And finally ASPARAGUS - I found two little stalks poking up today!

I'll post pictures as soon as I remember to bring the new camera downstairs.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

So, my camera is broken

Hence, no updates because there are no pictures.

And it couldn't be at a worse time! Everything is coming up and looks amazing. But what I really love is the smell. A garden has different scents throughout the year and my favorite is the Spring Scent. The earth gives off a musty, damp smell and the newly blooming flowers (in my case lavender, white lilac, and some crazy red flower/shrub) give off the most amazing aroma. It just smells alive.

I planted 3 heirloom apple trees last week - pearmain, suntan and a pippin cross - as well as a Santa Rosa plum. All 4 of the are beginning to bud out. In fact, the plum has very defined green leaves already. Not too shabby for what I thought was a dead bundle of sticks when I opened the box. If you have a desire to plant fruit trees, I suggest checking out They had a wonderful selection and the prices were very fair.

As the month winds to a close, I'm hoping that the bees will be installed and I'll finally have a real fence built around the chicken run. But as is the way with an active garden - there are always more plans and changes then time to do them in...

Monday, March 2, 2009

What's in the box? Mushrooms!

I'm a mushroom lover. As a kid, I looked forward to spring so I could head out with my grandpa morel mushroom hunting. I loved wondering around the forest, pushing leaves around with my stick and trying to find the biggest mushroom.

So imagine my joy about 3 months ago when Finn and I found 2 mini-morel mushrooms growing in our backyard. Despite my childhood knowledge, I couldn't bring myself to eat them out of fear that they were possibly false morels. If only we could grow our own mushrooms...

And then - kismet! Two months ago I found a cardboard box at the garden store that promised I could grow mushrooms at home, if i just bought and brought it home. Since I can't hunt mushrooms, I could grow them! Awesome!

Per instructions, we had to wait until at least Feb. 9 to open it. So, for a few weeks, the mushroom box sat on my laundry room counter completely sealed so it didn't become contaminated.

Finally, about 2 weeks ago, David and the boys mixed up the contents of the box, watered it well, and sat it out of direct sun and ambient light in an area of at least 65 degrees.

And now we have mini-portabella mushrooms! They're doubling in size daily and should be ready for harvesting sometime next week.

For the record, if you ever want to hunt some of the best morel mushrooms in the world, head to Mesick, Michigan - Morel Mushroom Capital of the World and my preferred stomping ground.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

What does it take to keep a chicken in the coop?

Ah, the lovey Cleo. She's one crafty chick and can escape from any confined environment.

Really this is getting crazy. I cannot figure out how she, and only she, keeps getting out of my chicken wire, black mesh, Fort Knox of chicken runs. I've seen her dig under and put a stop to that with bricks. I've seen her jump on the coop and leap over the fence, so I put a top on the run. But now I have no idea how Houdini chicken is getting out.

So, does anyone have suggestions on how to keep a determined hen out of my garden? So far, she's mostly chomping on weeds, but once those are gone, she's gonna start eating veggies again.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Pirates or bees?

Since our empty hives were installed a few weeks back, we've noticed that they are very popular with the local bees. On any sunny day, there are at least 2 dozen bees flying around the hive and crawling in the crevices. I didn't realize this until I attempted to push the hives back a bit from the chicken coop so I could give it a proper cleaning and out flew a ton of bees. Luckily, the bees were more confused by the moving boxes than angry and only buzzed around for a few minutes until settling down. Good thing too because I was trapped in the run with the boxes.

We're waiting for the bee people to come check on the hives to see if a bee population has set up shop or a bunch of "pirates" are just sniffing around checking out the competition. In the meantime, I've been told that placing sugar water out for them will help get a hive established. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to try it since we've had nothing but torrential rains lately (and also no bees, since they can't fly in rain).

Saturday, February 7, 2009

And what does your garden grow?

It's February. Most of the country is covered in snow and ice. Here in San Francisco, we're supposed to be wading through torrential downpours, but as global warming would have it, we've had a long streak of warm, sunny days with a sprinkling of rain thrown in.

And my poor plants are confused.

I noticed the confusion last year when our faithful lilac didn't bloom, but we had tomatoes! For those of you unfamiliar with San Francisco summers, we rarely see sun from June until Sept. Our summer tends to be an endless, gray fog with temperatures in the low 60's. Not ideal tomato weather.

Anyway, back to this strange February garden.

Currently blooming or growing plants: 3 blueberry bushes, a dozen strawberry plants, a dwarf improved meyer lemon tree, rosemary, thyme, and sage in my boxes. Oh and the faithful lilac is starting to bloom.

MyFarms boxes: Box 1 - ground cover, Box 2 Favas, Box 3 - I 'm not sure because it has the row cover on it, Box 4 - onions, garlic and lots of ground cover, Box 5 - favas, Box 6 - Favas. Random large square trench - asparagus.

Not yet sprouted or bloomed in my boxes: potatoes (banana and purple) and peas. Tulips have started coming up. Daliahs, fresia, and gladiolus are getting ready. Lavender is beginning to flower. Some of the primroses are flowering while others are just leafing out. And random little shrubby-type soft perrinals that I've forgotten the names of.

All this in a space roughly 25x60 plus a jungle gym, chicken run and 2 bee hives.

We're really making this little plot work!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The NBC 11 story that featured my chickens

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Of eggs and hens

Anyone who has every had chickens knows that they will strip your garden down to dirt. I, sadly, did not - that is not until after not only was the oxalis banished from my yard, but so were the broccoli, the tender baby lettuces and all the carrot tops.

In my best effort to prevent the total destruction of mine and Courtney's (my MyFarm farmer) hard work, I wrapped my chicken coop in chicken wire thus making a run-within-a-run.

So far so good, but Cleo is devious and loves any challenge I throw at her. The above picture is of her enjoying few moments of freedom today.

As a side note, I think it's interesting that every hen has her own unique egg color. My dark eggs come from Lucky Clucky, my medium
eggs come from Figaro and Cleolays the
lightest eggs.

Anyway, here are some more pictures from today's work. Looks like Courtney dug a big hole (I think the asparagus plant is going here) and drapped a sheet on the sprouts to keep my crazy neighbor's pigeon flock out.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

You have WHAT??!

The above is a common reaction when I mention that we're raising chickens and starting our own little farm in San Francisco's foggy Richmond District.

So, what possessed me to turn my back sand lot (because it really could not be called a backyard) into a little piece of urban heaven? I really don't know. I'd been actively trying to tame the sand and weeds for 7 years planting flowers, putting in a jungle gym for the kids, laying mulch, building raised beds and experimenting with growing veggies and flowers. It looked pretty but I felt it lacked something.

And then, on July 4th last year, I went to the Marin County Fair and fell in love with the chickens. I had to have chickens! They'd eat the weeds, they'd give me eggs, they'd make great compost! So I ordered up an Egglu from Omlet along with 3 18-week old hens and 2 weeks later I had chickens.

In late August, I ran across an article in the SF Chronicle about a new company called that would install, maintain and harvest veggies for you. I liked the idea, but didn't want to give up my involvement in the garden. MyFarm assured me I could work as much as I wanted in the garden. I thought 'why not': they'll lay the drip irrigation and do the crummy winter gardening. Great deal!

And now, as of last week, I have 2 very tall bee hives nestled into the back corner of my yard. The bees haven't been installed yet (not until late March) but there seems to be a lot of bees hanging out around the hives. My hope with the hives is that the bees will help pollinate the flowers and veggies plus we'll get yummy honey.

What's next? I'm hoping the city will let windmills be installed. We may not have sun in the Richmond, but we certainly have wind!