Thursday, December 3, 2009

Broccoli & Gratitude

A bit of a belated update here. We have so much to be grateful for this year. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving with pies from our pumpkins; the end of the Poblanos: roasted, stuffed with cheese, and baked with cornbread; a freshly killed Tofurkey resting on a bed of our onions, potatoes, and rosemary; cases of persimmons; heirloom pink popcorn; and of course broccoli and cauliflower from the garden. We're on track to our 100th duck egg in the next couple of days. Our cover crop is growing, and we're mapping out next Spring's plantings already. Today I took down a seven foot tall Doug Fir and wrestled it through the front door and into our converted-wheelbarrow tree stand. We've even finished our card ahead of schedule this year. We pick it up tomorrow and plan to get it out over the weekend. It looks like we're in for a bit of rain starting Sunday. It will be a welcome change from last week's power-zapping windstorm into cold snap.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Halfway through their third week of laying the ducks have had their first four egg day. Appropriately, this brings the total number of eggs they've lain to 40 so far. After counting the eggs, Estelle added her guy to the nest box this morning, hence the post title.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Eggs At Last...

The full moon and a supplemental light on a timer kicked our ladies into production over the weekend, 25 weeks from their birth. We've found two per day since finding a lone egg on Sunday morning, for a total of 7 so far. Due to the size and color of the eggs however, I think that more than two ducks are laying. The eggs have clean, hard shells and are rich in flavor. Their golden yolks reflect their nutritional value.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Tiburon Poblano Peppers

Last Friday was our final harvest of Tiburon Poblano peppers for this year. We sold a season total of 117 lbs from 60 plants, and we still have plenty for our personal use, neighbors and friends. They are sweet at the base and scorching hot starting about halfway up the pepper. As we pull out the plants to cover crop, we will string the stragglers onto ristras and hang them to dry. A dried Poblano pepper is referred to as an Ancho chili (from the Spanish word for "wide'). We use them in our recipes to remind us of hotter, drier times throughout the chilly, wet winter. It's hard to believe it's coming. We have a crystal clear 80 degrees here today.
The other pepper we sold this summer --yet to be mentioned on this blog-- is Italia. It is a sweet, frying pepper that gets 8-12 inches long when red and ripe. Essi sono magnifici!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I don't think the heavy stuff's gonna come down for quite a while...

This is what we woke up to at 7 AM yesterday morning. When all was said and done, 11.41 inches were recorded on our rain gauge. Needless to say, I was out there until midnight in the rubber ducky suit cleaning culverts, diverting puddles and making sure our trees were solidly tied down. Over-saturated soil, high winds and baby trees aren't the best of friends. The ducks were out as well, and thoroughly enjoyed turning our lawn into a pond. It's always incredible to me how fast our land recovers from these incidents. Today was very peaceful with intermittent sprinkles and all sorts of interesting groundscores poking out of the earth: broken glass, a neon yellow golf ball, a .22 caliber bullet, and a strange, broken owl/raccoon pottery piece that I found in a storm drain.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Lavandula x intermedia "Provence"

I just potted these cuttings up out of plug trays into 4" pots yesterday afternoon. There are 244 in all. We will allow them to establish their roots in the pots before planting them out later this fall. 'Provence' is a French hybrid lavender, or Lavindin. According to Ritcher's Herbs, where we bought our plugs, it is a: Vigorous, long-stemmed variety in cultivation since the 1950s and still widely grown for fresh bouquets, lavender wands, and potpourri. Very fragrant, with a sweet floral scent. Ht. 1m/3ft. This is how it is grown in France.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Apple Peppers

These beauties are sweet over sweet. I was eating the culls for breakfast as I harvested them Friday morning for the HGP's CSA boxes. We sold them 53 lbs, and there's still loads of fruit on the plants.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

And the Winner is...

Brandywine (Sudduth's Strain) picked today!
Our most perfect tomato this year.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Duckies & Kitties

Ducks @ 17 weeks

Opal @ ~5 months

Jasper @ ~5 months

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Heirloom Tomatoes

Here is a sampling of heirlooms from today's harvest. I grew these tomatoes from seed, starting on April 4, 2009. That's 6 months of work for these beauties! Heirloom varieties include: Dr. Wyche's Yellow; Brandywine Sudduth's; Silvery Fir Tree; German Pink; and Cherokee Purple. We also have (not pictured) Crimson Carmello (an experiment--grown in a soil-less medium) and the Super Sweet 100 Hybrid (a delicious cherry tomato).

I recently attended a "Tomato Masters" workshop at Love Apple Farm in Ben Lomond lead by Cynthia Sandberg. I learned many techniques for successful heirloom growing and maximizing yields. She has over 125 heirloom varieties, and I plan to take her "Grow your Own Tomato Transplants from Seed" workshop next winter.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Black Manuka Table Grapes

Almost exactly two years since we planted these grapes,
we've harvested our first crop.

Estelle was eager to help...

And she gladly accepted grapes as compensation for her efforts.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

New Potatoes!

We used Phil Foster's big honkin' red potatoes as seed potatoes this year and are quite pleased with the results so far. The plants are just starting to senesce, but I dug one up tonight for a sneak preview. Not too shabby considering each plant was started with 1/4 potato. Sartaj is included for scale.

Friday, August 7, 2009

"Candy" for the HGP

We are happy to announce that today marked the beginning of a strategic partnership between AHMF and the Homeless Garden Project. We delivered 6 cases of "Candy" sweet white onions for their 70 member CSA. Unfortunately, I pulled out to deliver them before Nancy had a chance to get any photos, but they were large, good looking and a "high quality product" in the words of Paul Glowaski, HGP's Garden Director. We look forward to supplying them with "Apple" sweet and "Tiburon" poblano peppers later this season. If you haven't been out to the HGP recently, it is beautiful this year. A map to their garden can be found here.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

6 Week Old Ducklings & Our 1st (and 2nd) Avocados

Lots of feathers and still growing, these ladies now stay out all day!

These are from the Zutano we put in a couple of years ago.

It has a much heavier set on it this year.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Images of Summer

~Click individual images to enlarge~
Top Row: Flowering cactus (Cereus peruvianus 'monstrosus'), Leucospermum cordifolium, Pomegranate flowers
Bottom Row: Wisteria & Garuda, Walla Walla Onion seed saving operation with pollinator, Flowering Onions with Eschscholzia californica (California Poppies)--orange--and wild mustard--yellow.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

New Kitties!

Jasper & Opal, brother and sister born at Tennyson High School Farm, Hayward, CA.

They have feral instincts and show excellent hunting skills already!

Estelle was excited to meet her new friends.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Our Working Puppy!

These photos demonstrate to me the Tatra's innate capabilities: both to learn quickly and to work well with distractions and other animals. With a little bit of patience and a couple of good corrections, Sartaj (now 10.5 mos old) has grasped that these three week old ducklings are neither snacks nor toys. He has known them since they were a day old, and they've piqued his curiosity from the start. For the first few days, we kept him tied up and allowed him simply to observe them when they were out of their brooder and then released him to sniff once they were back inside. Next, we let him approach them on a leash to sniff, correcting if he tried to put a paw on them or appeared to be stalking or chasing them. We praised him when he so much as took his eyes off of them, which was not often at first. Eventually he learned not to approach them aggressively and even to ignore them to an extent. At two weeks of age, they moved out of the brooder and into their coop, and once again he was tied up when they were let out in order to learn where he was expected to wait. As you can see, he progressed rapidly over the past week through the leash phase and now displays great discipline while unleashed. Not only does he know where he's expected to lie and return to, but today he helped me to herd them back into their coop, coming directly to me when I called and then waiting as I moved and repeating the process. As a team, we worked them across and down a hill and safely back home. I am very proud of him and continuously impressed by how quickly and eagerly he learns. Lately, he is also doing a great job watching over the property and sniffing out gophers for me to trap before they eat our trees!
Update 6.9.09: 10 new tatra puppies born this morning at Gnu Hampshire Farm!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Five Baby Ducks!

I just took the gorgeous drive up Salinas Valley to pick these little ladies up from Metzer Farms.  They all hatched yesterday, but they're quite animated already, as you can see from the amount of shavings they've kicked into their water.  From left to right is the Buff Orpington, Black Swedish, Blue Swedish, Cayuga, and Khaki Campbell.  I'm listening to their happy peeping coming from the brooder as I type this.  They will begin to feather out at two weeks, and we transition them off their starter crumbles and onto their waterfowl grower pellets at three weeks.  They will be fully feathered out and nearly sized up by 8 weeks and should begin laying between 16-24 weeks.  

Friday, May 8, 2009

Echium, Hummingbird, & Bee (Click for full size)

I shot this with a shutterspeed of 1:4000 in order to freeze the hummingbird mid-flight (50mm lens at f1.4). The plants are Echium wildpretii (red) and Echium pininana (purple). I believe the hummingbird is a female Anna's Hummingbird. The bees are European Honey Bees, busy as usual.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Photos as Promised (click for larger image)

View From the top of the Avocado Slope

Rows of mandarins (pomegranates in distance)

Our Meyer lemon block

After a long day of citrus planting...

Spring Planting Update

We've had a pretty big spring over here so far. As illustrated by our site plan above, we now have the majority of our pomegranates, citrus, avocados and persimmons in the ground. We are extremely grateful to quite a few people for working with us to help turn our dreams into reality. First and foremost, we'd like to thank Freddy Menge of the California Rare Fruit Growers and Orin Martin, Jim Leap & Christof Bernau of CASFS Farm & Chadwick Garden fame for their priceless insights into soil, fertility and varietal knowledge.
Mike at Ewing Irrigation, Santa Cruz, was extremely patient as I designed and installed our irrigation system. As you might imagine, that involved the token amount of second guessing after I ran my ideas by Matthew Sutton of Orchard Keepers and Kurt Christiansen of Christiansen Associates Gardens & Design. At this point however, we've got 51 different zones running off of 3 different panels, not counting our annual beds and landscape irrigation. I ran 1.25" PVC main lines, into 1" risers and valves, into 3/4" sub-mains with 1/2" Netafim Techline CV around each tree. The Techline is 1 gph on 12" spacing and each emmittter is also designed to serve as its own pressure regulator and check valve. So far we've been running it with the flow rates on the valves wide open without an issue.
Doug Riesner of Riesner Nursery in Farmersville, CA (when you've been in business since 1913, you don't need a web site) provided us with super high quality bare-root 'Wonderful' pomegranates and 'Fuyo' persimmons at half the price of the larger growers. They're all leafing out already. Aaron Dillon of Four Winds Growers, Fremont,CA, coordinated our order of dwarf citrus. He also helped us get our hands on five Xueng-Xang (pronounced 'Jing-Jang') oranges, which I tried at Gene Lester's homestead of incredible citrus varieties earlier this spring. They are the size of a small navel, thick skinned, easy to peel, seedless and the most incredible sweet over sweet I've ever tasted. Steve Maddock of Maddock Nursery, Fallbrook, CA, sold us our Lamb Hass and Reed avocados on G-6 rootstock. He kindly foliar fed them the week before I picked them up and they're all pushing nicely. We hope they'll be quite happy in our sandy loam... now with a little love from global warming we'll have an abundant grove in a couple of years. Thanks also to Leor for picking me up at the San Diego airport and Andy for letting me crash for the night in Encinitas during that little excrusion, our neighbor Christine for helping to unload the little sacks of cement, and to Dave Shaw for making it up here just in time to help with a clutch half day of planting supervision and irrigation assistance.
Last, but certainly not least, we are supremely grateful for all of the helping hands we've had in getting our trees in the ground. Emily at Jacob's Farm hooked us up with a great crew of their guys who were all still half time for the winter, and Tony at Diablo's Tree Service pulled together a crew to mop up the rest. I would also be quite remiss if I were to neglect Nancy and Estelle for being the most supportive, helpful and understanding wife and daughter a fellow could wish for when undertaking a project of this scope.
In other big news, we're finally registered as an LLC, and are planning to grow peppers and onions for Paul and the Homeless Garden Project's CSA this summer. In the meantime, we're still harvesting Meyer lemons and Bearss limes and enjoying the splendor of our new green friends. p.s. we'll have roses by next week!! p.p.s. will post photos tonight.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

First Sunflower of the Year

This renegade sunflower was found growing in an old compost pile. It flowered during the recent warm spell but blew over during a windstorm so I cut it and brought it inside to enjoy. I guess it is already time to start planting sunflower seeds again!

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Garden in WInter

Estelle is enjoying the warm "winter" weather. The temperature reached a high of 79.7 degrees today according to our weather station. Notice the flowering salvia apiana (white sage). I love sitting amongst the sage bushes and inhaling their sweet cleansing fragrance.