Sunday, October 3, 2010

Figs Finally

We have three fig trees. One was bought last year and is a Conadria Fig, which is green with pink flesh and very sweet and delicious. We have been getting one at a time until the other day when we got a whole handful! Last year we also planted one of many cuttings I made. This was the only one that lived and I thought it came from a tree we found in our house hunting, but now that it has fruit, I think it might be from a dwarf black mission fig we grew in a pot at our old place. The figs were always dry and pithy with no flavor, but this is in the ground with plenty of water and is a vigorous grower. The figs are sweet and juicy, but still have a hint of green. Still not sure the exact type, but maybe we will find out one day. Meanwhile, Desert King, which we bought and planted this year has figs, but they are far from ripe. Hopefully the nice weather will continue long enough to ripen them.

In a couple of years, we should get more figs than we can eat, but right now, I can't get quite enough.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Autumn is here?

Another month or more has lapsed since I last posted anything. I have been busy. I have taken a bunch of pictures of garden activities, though and will quickly update the progress here. After a very cold summer, it got very warm a couple of weeks ago. All of the tomatoes (early or not) ripened at the same time. They were covered with Agribon, as was the okra and kiwano melon. We also got eggplant, peppers, corn, strawberries, summer squash and winter squash. This picture shows just a small portion of our harvest.

I removed a lot of the tomato plants last week to make room for more garden boxes and now I am kicking myself because the temperature is in the 90s again and will be for most of the week. I still have some other tomatoes in the ground so they can take advantage of the heat. And the okra and kiwano melon are still growing under Agribon. I harvested some okra and it was really good, but did not get very much. The kiwano made a couple of fruits and I couldn't resist picking one before it was ripe, so the flavor was disappointing. I am hoping  the heat will turn some fruits the proper orange color soon.

Here is an okra flower. The okra is related to hibiscus.

Here is the harvest. Okra, kiwano and asian pear.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Fourth and Sea Produce Swap

I finally made it to the 4th and C produce swap, which happens outside the very good fish and chips place called "Fourth and Sea". I brought some of my volunteer spaghetti squash and armenian cucumbers which grew to enormous sizes overnight.

Here is Ann Heatly, who started the swap. Find them on the facebook or at

Thursday, July 29, 2010

And then

I keep trying to grow okra, which is challenging here because it is not hot and humid and it is almost always in the 50s at night. Lately it has been cold during the day as well. I am trying to help the okra along with agribon fabric.

Also under the fabric is kiwano or horned melon. The melon has not made a single flower, though our crane melon and cucumbers have been flowering and fruiting. August is just around the corner. It could get to be over 100 degrees or it could stay chilly. The okra is about to flower.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

So C-C-Cold-d-d-d!

It is easy to blog when you are blogging all the time, but I fell out of the habit and no longer feel like a blogger.

So much food has grown and it was even warm before, but now it is so cold. It is the end of July and as I write it is evening and 54 degrees. It got into the mid-70s today. I have tomatoes trying to get ripe and okra and melons trying to grow. I heard we are on target to have the warmest July on record and people are roasting all over but it is so chilly here.

Anyhow, to recap the past while, I had some volunteer squash come up very early. It looks like spaghetti squash but it tastes much sweeter. That's right, I already have winter squash. I have a bunch of strange squashes that must have come out of the compost. I took some pictures, but can't find them, but that is ok, because we also had:
potatoes and beets and carrots and onions and garlic and basil and greens and stuff, some of which can be seen here.

And then after that we had basil and made pesto. Some pesto went on pasta salad and some went in the freezer for later.

and so on.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

USDA and the facts

I know months have gone by since I have posted here and I have tons of pictures of all the veggies I have grown, but I have been too busy with stuff and things to post anything. But now I am angry at how the government once again takes quick decisive action on the wrong things. While the company formerly known as Blackwater continues to get government contracts, BP continues to get military contracts and so on...

In case you have not heard about the story of Shirley Sherrod read here.
Or just google Shirley Sherrod. I am not going to get into the whole story, but in a nutshell, a right wing website posted an excerpt of a speech given to the NAACP by USDA official Shirley Sherrod who is African American. The speech is about how she overcame her own feelings of prejudice after her father was killed by the KKK and helped a white farmer keep his farm while working for a non-profit many years ago. The clip that was posted appeared to show her "admitting" to withholding help from a white farmer due to his race. Fox news aired it over and over and the USDA quickly fired her. The NAACP also condemned her without first talking with her and has since apologized. The USDA is re-considering their actions now that the full video has surfaced.

I think that Tom Vilsack should offer his own resignation.

Here is what I wrote at

I am writing to urge you to offer Shirley Sherrod her job back. It seems to me that you are taking longer to re-consider the situation than you did to ask for her resignation without knowing all of the facts. This rush to action without full consideration of the facts is deeply troubling. I would urge you to consider offering your own resignation in light of this very unfortunate incident.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


After many misfires over the years, we finally got a good solid crop of daikon.

So I looked online for daikon kimchi recipes and cobbled together what I thought was the best of them. I didn't write it down, so this is from memory.  First, I peeled and cut the daikon into chunks and soaked them in a quart of water that had two tablespoons of salt dissolved in it. While they were soaking, I put about 10- 15 cloves of garlic, a thumb sized or bigger piece of ginger, some fish sauce, two tablespoons of salt, two tablespoons of sugar and 1/2 cup of chili powder into a food processor and made a paste. After the daikon had soaked for a couple of hours, I drained it and mixed it with this paste. Then I placed it in a large jar, alternately adding layers of mustard greens and green onions (also from the garden). I covered this loosely (so it wouldn't explode) and let it sit at room temperature for a few days before putting it in the fridge.

This kimchi is not very spicy for some reason. I think the daikon we planted was relatively mild and the chili powder must have been also. Still, it is a delicious companion to rice and other food. We have some more daikon in the ground, so I am looking forward to making another batch.

Monday, May 17, 2010

So much food already

It looks like I am dropping to once or twice a month for this blog. It is not because there is nothing going on. There is so much going on, I don't get around to blogging. We have been pushing really hard to get the Arroyo Community Garden up and running and we are pretty darned close. There is now a blog for that garden, so I will probably not talk about it too much here any more.

In other news, over the past several weeks, we have been harvesting the following food:

Monday, April 26, 2010

350 Garden Challenge

Weeks have gone by but I have been too busy gardening and working on the community garden and other things like work to post anything here. There are all kinds of garden opportunities comming up. Here in Sonoma County, there is an effort to get 350 gardens going on the weekend of May 15-16. There is a pretty broad definition of gardens so anything can count, whether it is a window sill garden, a community garden, a residential garden, etc. It can be a brand new garden or new work on an existing one. iGROW is the place to go to register. You can sign up your own garden or volunteer to help someone else's. In other garden challenge news, the Victory Garden Foundation in Oakland is also doing the 350 Garden Challenge.

Also, if you live nearby there is a meeting this Wednesday at the Baker Creek Seed Bankfrom 7pm to 9pm Phone (707)509-5171 199 Petaluma Blvd. North Petaluma, CA 94952

I will be working on my own garden as well as the Arroyo Community Garden that weekend. We had a workday on April 17th, shown here:

Another one is scheduled for May 1st.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Pickled Eggs

If you have more eggs than you can eat right away, why not pickle them? We happened to have just that problem. Sometimes we give them away, but I like pickled eggs and I happened to also have a bunch of beets. I steamed the beets and hard boiled the eggs. In a pot I cooked water, vinegar, salt and a tiny bit of sugar. I put them all into a jar and put the jar in the fridge. A week or so later and they make the perfect Easter egg.

Of course, we get Easter eggs every day from our chickens.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Dig For Victory

My sister just sent me a link to this video.

Dig it.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fava Beans

I planted fava beans as a cover crop in the fall. I couldn't wait for beans to mature before turning under 2/3 of the plants, but I left a patch to keep growing. They have been blooming for a long time now, but not beaning.  Finally beans are forming. Not sure how long it will take before we can eat them. We have been eating the greens, which are pretty tasty.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Compost Tea 2.0 Solar Powered

Years ago I bought a small solar panel and charge controller but they sat around and I never put them to use. I want to make compost tea on a regular basis and I don't want extension cord to a fish tank air pump for the 48 hours or so you need to bubble it. So I went to an auto parts sore and got a deep cycle battery and a battery box. I found a device called "Power Bubbles" for keeping fish alive on your boat when you are fishing, It runs on 12 V DC and uses very little electricity. I hooked up the solar panel to the charge controller and the charge controller to the battery. Power Bubbles came with clamps to connect to the battery terminals. Everything fits in or on the battery box. Power Bubbles can drive two tubes with air stones, so I was able to use two 5- gallon buckets.

The picture at the top shows some compost tied into a piece of cheesecloth but I also have recently made a worm bin. My neighbor told me that the CVS sells red wigglers as bait so I went over there and found the fridge that contained containers of red wigglers. I had an old plastic storage bin and some nylon screen and drilled holes in the bin, lined it with screen and fillied it with compost from the regular compost bin, rice hulls and worms.

The worm bin sits on top of a 5 gallon bucket.

When you water the bin to keep it moist, it drains worm compost tea. I added that to my solar powered compost tea bubbler along with some molasses and kelp.

Solar powered compost tea. I have made one batch and am working on the next. The bubbler has been going 24 hours a day for several days now.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Good News?

Attorney General Eric Holder abd USDA chief, Tom Vilsack have announced that their agencies are working together to enforce antitrust laws in the agriculture sector.  I hope this is good news. They will be going after companies like Monsanto who monopolize the seed and chemical business. Pretty soon generic biotech seeds will become available as patents expire for things like Round Up Ready corn. Does this mean that we can see the percentage of biotech crops grown in the US increase from where they are now? I can't wait. Generic GMOs.

Of course, this quaint step towards enforcing the law will mean nothing if we do not amend the Constitution to reverse the "Citizens United" Supreme Court decision. Chris Dodd introduced an amendment but I think it is too narrow. It focuses on the ability of Congress to pass laws restricting campaign spending. I prefer the Move to Amend approach, which is to say that money is not speech and corporations are not persons.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Last Kabocha

The other day I noticed that we still had one kabocha squash that we harvested last fall. We have been growing this variety from saved seed from a squash a friend gave us. Since it had been sitting around for so many months we were not so sure it was still good. So I cut it open and it smelled fresh and delicious.

I used half the squash to make a coconut curry with greens, pea shoots and snow peas.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Close Call

It is a little hard to see in this blurry picture but the lighter sections on the mulch on the ground is frost. It wasn't supposed to be that cold. Spring is here and everything is growing new tender growth including frost damaged plants like avocado and citruses. Fortunately the rain must have protected the plants and there was no damage.  In case you don't live here, the coldest winter night time temperatures are in the low to mid twenties. Daytime temps never stay below freezing beyond the early morning. More rain tonight and 46 degrees right now, so I am crossing my fingers and not covering trees out there.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

More Broccoli

Before this gets too boring...
I harvested this romanesco broccoli head last week after it fell over during a rain storm. It was over 4 and a half pounds. I gave some of it to my neighbors and we had at least three meals with it.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Hoop House Folly

OK, it is not a hoop house, it is more like a rectangle. I thought I was really smart, making this mostly out of  scrap PVC pipes. I covered it with Agribon fabric and put my starts in there. It was noticeably warmer inside immediately.

But then the rain and wind came and it all came crashing down.


I have switched back to a tented garden shelf for my tomatoes and eggplants. 

And inside, things are growing and staying warmer.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Is spring in the air?

I am on the east coast at the moment, just south of a bunch of snow. There is still snow on the ground outside this hotel. Once again, I have let quite a bit of time go by without updating the blog. That doesn't mean we have not been updating the homestead. We have had some more rain in California, which is needed. In between rain, we got some things planted and some other things are showing signs of life. To the left is new growth on the loganberry. We expect to get some actual berries from it this year. We also planted some more strawberries, which we should get this year.

We also planted thornless blackberries and thornless red raspberries as well as 2 elderberry bushes. We will probably not get any berries this year, but next year will be a berry good year. In other fruity news, we planted 2 paw paw trees and the multigraft plum tree is blossoming, along with the blueberry bushes.


Monday, February 1, 2010

Nuclear loan guarantees

I apologize for not talking about my garden so much, but some things just set me off. How about this? The Obama administration is proposing $54 billion in loan guarantees for new nuclear power plants. Compare this to the paltry $3-5 billion in loan guarantees for energy efficiency AND renewable energy. Is this the change you can believe in?

Safe nuclear power = 93 million miles away in space. It provides solar, wind, biofuels, etc.

We have not solved the waste problem, the radiation problem or the terrorism problem. Loan guarantees are needed because the market has decided nuclear power plants are too risky.

He did say he was for nuclear power during the campaign. I'm just saying...


Romanesco Broccoli

Back in August I planted romanesco broccoli. It grew and grew and grew and grew but never brocc'd. I was ready to give up hope but it is winter and not much else is growing, so I left it. I have finally gotten a few heads starting in January.

It is a difficult to predict variety, as the heads are forming ever so slowly over the course of two months, but it is delicious and satisfying to have in the middle of winter.

One of them got so big and top heavy that it fell over and had to be staked up.

Just started seeds of regular broccoli for spring.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

State of the Union

The President delivered his State of the Union Address last night and a few things jumped out at me.

Dear President Obama,

You mentioned in your speech "building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants" and continued investment in "clean coal".  I sincerely hope you know better and are just saying these things to throw a bone to the right wing. But I am troubled by the idea of government investment in these technologies. No insurance company will fully insure nuclear power plants so we need the government to provide that protection through the Price-Anderson Act and investors are unwilling to take the risk on them so the government also subsidizes them. Add to this the fact that nuclear power plants are terrorism targets, mining, transporting and enriching radioactive materials is hazardous and we still do not know how to dispose of this clean, plentiful, safe fuel. It also does not matter if you can burn coal in a "clean" way if we continue to blow up mountains and destroy communities and waterways to get the coal in the first place. Coal cannot be clean.

On health care, you said, " if anyone from either party has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors, and stop insurance company abuses, let me know." How about allowing all Americans to buy into Medicare? This wasn't even on the table?

Trade. No politician is ever specific enough to spell out what they mean by trade policy. Put "trade" and "jobs" together and it sounds OK. Sure, we should make more "goods" that people around the world want to buy. I wonder what you mean by " we will strengthen our trade relations in Asia and with key partners like South Korea, Panama, and Colombia." What is "key" about these partners, besides that they are super close to the US and right wing?

Not mentioned in the speech was the utter failure of the US to resolve the coup in Honduras. The former president there is being exiled to the Dominican Republic while the coup leaders are getting all charges dropped.

You mentioned the shocking decision by the Supreme Court, "Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests - including foreign corporations - to spend without limit in our elections." but instead of demanding a serious rebuttal to it like... a constitutional amendment, you call for earmark reform and urged "Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong." A bill can be overturned in the courts. We need an amendment and we need the President to lead on this.

Then there was the "spending freeze". I don't know what to make of this, except you are trying to curry favor with Republicans. Please understand this. They hate you.  Senator Jon Kyl told NPR's Steve Inskeep "I don't think the American people want a whiner who says, 'Woe is me.' It was a terrible situation, and more than a year after he was sworn in, he's still complaining about the Bush administration,"

Mr. President, you are very smart and a good speaker. Much of what you said was good. I do not agree with all of your policies, but I want to support you. It is time to lead and throw your weight around. If Republicans want to filibuster everything, Democrats are going to have to grow a spine. I thank you for saying, "To Democrats, I would remind you that we still have the largest majority in decades, and the people expect us to solve some problems, not run for the hills." Republicans were able to get almost everything they wanted with a very slim majority under Bush. Democrats were cowed by the "nuclear option" threat to end the filibuster and as a result we have Justices Roberts and Alito, whose activism threatens to end America as we know it with last week's supreme court ruling.

There is a lot of work to be done in this country. According to charts and graphs I have seen, it is not as bad as it might have been. I will accept that you have done what you think is the right thing and that it has largely helped. The "recovery" is far from complete. It is difficult to see the light when you are still near the bottom of a hole. I hope you can bring some of the opposition along, but so far, it has not worked. It is their way or no way. You have the will of the majority behind you. Don't be fooled by the Massachussets special election into thinking that Americans don't like health care reform or they want Democrats to be more like Republicans. People are disappointed because you are so "centrist" like another popular president named Clinton. People are disappointed because big business continues to write the rules. People are disappointed because banks still will not renegotiate mortgages. I think you know. I think you understand. Now come on and fight for the people. Stop disappointing.

Thank you,

Angelo Sacerdote
Concerned Citizen

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Floodgates

We've been getting all kinds of rain here, but the Supreme Court has just opened the floodgates of corporate cash with their radical ruling last week. In a series of leaps of logic, they have equated corporate rights with citizens rights and political spending with first amendment protected speech. If there are limits to free speech, such as shouting, "fire" in a crowded theater, there should be limits to "speech" that strangles and murders democracy. A single major corporation could easily outspend every national political campaign with just a fraction of their profits. Imagine 100 major corporations influencing elections. I don't know about you, but I don't have endless money to contribute to political campaigns to fight all this money. I also have trouble understanding why "free speech" should cost so much money.

I have long been a proponent of public financing of elections. Money in politics affects every issue you can think of from agricultural policy to energy policy, health care policy and foreign policy. I still believe we need this and there is a bill in the Senate called the Fair Elections Now Act. I think it has been kicking around for a couple of years not going anywhere, but now it is the very least we can do and apparently they have a bunch of CEOs who agree. Contact your Senators and tell them to get on the case and pass this bill.

More importantly, however, we need a Constitutional amendment to finally declare that corporations are not persons and are not entitled to the rights of persons. Apparently Arlen Specter tweeted the suggestion, but he says all kinds of things. Public Citizen is proposing a more specific amendment. has a proposed amendment, which is a little more to the point and they have also made a video to explain it.

I say, corporations are not citizens and elections ought to be publicly financed. Given the stranglehold corporate money has over the House and Senate already, it will be a long hard fight to get this through.  If we can't, maybe we should start applying other laws to corporations, such as the death penalty for murder or even just jail time and take away some of their tax benefits.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Arroyo Community Garden 1st Workday

After a few months of meetings, we had the first workday for the Arroyo Community Garden at the Living Word Church this Saturday. I shot some time lapse of the work. You should probably watch it full screen. No dramatic digging or building happened, but if you look closely, you can see the stakes and strings which signify where the water lines and walkways will go. Next step is trenching.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Mulch Basin

Jeez, it's been almost a month since I posted anything. It's not that nothing is going on, I just didn't blog. Now all two of my readers will have forgotten by now. I started this post a while back, before the rain, which is pooling on the clay in the back:

 but draining where the mulch basin is:

We have a break from rain so we are taking the opportunity to dig great big holes in the clay soil of the backyard.  Last winter, just after we bought this place, I noticed that the drainage out back was pretty slow.  After heavy rain, water would sit there on the surface for a while before it would percolate into the ground.  I had been reading books like Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond by Brad Lancaster and Create an Oasis with Greywater by Art Ludwig and they both stress the importance of mulch basins.

When I first started thinking about rainwater collection, I imagined having a storage tank holding the water from my roof.  While I do plan on doing that (I have already started collecting containers) there is no way I can store the 6000 plus gallons that might run off my roof this year.  In fact, I figure if I put a roof over a little more of the chicken coop I could get about 600 gallons from that alone.  What these books promote, especially Brad Lancaster's, is harvesting rainwater in the landscape.

A mulch basin is a big hole dug out of the earth that is filled with something like wood chips. If you have a greywater system, you can safely discharge your bath or laundry or sink water into a mulch basin.  I heard that the California Plumbing Code was changed, due to emergency water conditions, to allow domestic greywater.  In fact, it looks like the city of Petaluma is even promoting it. At any rate, even if you just want to harvest rainwater, a mulch basin seems to be a terrific idea.

We needed to get a couple of stumps removed so I called various tree people.  It would be cool and manly to have a chainsaw, but we live in the suburbs and don't need to cut that much wood.  For pruning, we have pruning saws and even a reciprocating saw with a pruning blade. A tree service guy came by and gave me an estimate. I also asked about wood chips and he said, no problem.  He showed up 2 days later and dumped a few yards of wood chips by the driveway for free. Well that was great, but we never could get him to show up and remove the stumps. I guess it is back to the phone book.

Our yard is fairly flat.  There is a very gentle slope, in that is seems like they made the street lower than the houses when they developed this walnut orchard.  Due to the poor drainage they put all the houses on little hills, but this must have been a river bed in ancient times. As you may have seen in a recent episode of Chicken Theater, the poor chickens get clay all over their feet when it rains. We have been digging out the basins and creating berms on the sloped areas, to slow the water and encourage percolating rather than runoff.  So many people try to get the water to run into the street, but we have been planting a mini orchard and want the water to stay (just away from the house, please).  I am hoping that filling the basins with wood chips will help the water to drain deep into the ground.  I am also hoping that covering the ground in the chicken area with wood chips will help condition the clay soil and mitigate the clay shoes effect while providing a habitat for worms and other creatures the chickens like to eat.  It may take many truckloads of chips.  I will keep you posted on whether it makes a difference.

Another side effect of this project is a total body workout.  Digging heavy wet clay trenches and basins really works out your abs, upper body and even your legs.  I think this will be my workout regimen from now on.  Digging holes and moving dirt.