Category Archives: Garden

Burst of Energy!

panoramic-photo-project-status-12-20-16It’s been a few weeks since my last post.  I’ve been putting the time to good use in my attic room conversion!  All the sheetrock is hung, 90% of the taping is complete and at least one coat of “mud” has been applied.  The finish skim coat has been applied on about 10%.  I hope to get the rest of the taping/mud done this week and possibly the texturing sometime around Christmas.  The panoramic view might be difficult to get a good idea of the room.  It helps to orientate yourself if you imagine the wooden door and the glass door as opposite each other.


Overkill Support Beam

Here’s another view of the early days when I first split the room in half at the top of the stairwell.  I’m not very fast, but it is getting done.  I used to be able to work only a half day on Saturday.  Since I’ve been sleeping better, I can now do an hour or so here and there after work and a whole day on Saturday.  If I had a whole Saturday!  I can also wake up as a functioning human by 8:00 a.m. now.  It used to take me until 10:00 a.m. to be able to think straight at work.


It’s been a large project, but I wanted to do everything above code requirements.  I’ve managed to do a lot of the construction using recycled/reclaimed materials.  The drywall looks like a puzzle because a lot of it was left over from construction sites.  It was free because the corners were slightly damaged.  I managed to get contractor packs of insulation for $50.00 at a going out of business sale.  I saved almost $500.00 there!  I did have to invest in two new LED lights and a fan.  I paid a professional electrician to alter the wiring.  My HVAC guy at work gave me the “T” to divert A/C and heat from the main line and coached me on how to do it myself.

I’ve made tentative arrangements with a High School senior art student to use the wall with the wooden door as a canvas for a senior project. Maybe a Dawn Redwood.  I love all things Sequoia!  I’ll post a photo if that happens.

The room is a little more private that my other bedrooms and I hope to have some very special visitors in it!  I think my WWOOFer* will like it!  I plan on giving them three choices of where to sleep.  This next year will be exciting as I attempt to transition from a consumer to a sustainable producer of my own food.  Who needs well over 5,000 sq. ft. of green lawn?  I would much rather have some zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, herbs and more in my garden.

*World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.  WWOOF has allowed Urban Gardens into the organization.  I already have a couple of WWOOFers that are interested in visiting my “garden”, several want to help in laying out the new format I’ve chosen.

Lots of changes, exciting times!


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Filed under Garden, Homeowner, Prepare, Projects, Urban Farming, WWOOF

The List Goes On!


The shed finally gets painted!


I think “The List” has become a sentient life form!  It started as a punch list of 100 items when we purchased the house.  My beloved whacked it down to 75 before he fell ill and died.  I have continued to hack away at the list.  Friends, family and sometimes hired help have helped me to whack some more off the list.  It was at 28 this morning but I allowed myself to add to it.  I have found myself arguing to avoid any additions, to just finish what we originally listed.  I lost the argument today and added eight window replacements.  They are all poorly hung, leaking, single pane windows.  Only one should be a problem replacement because of its location.  Three I might be able to do by myself, if Dahve will assist in the selection process.  Who knew there were so many different flanges to windows?

The List now sits at 36 with seven items to be completed before December 31, 2016.  The total estimated cost is between a conservative $10,000 to a possible $13,200.  “The List” is the reason I may work freelance for a few hours after I retire.  I have a couple of post retirement offers of work.  I will be fine with Social Security if I keep the income under $17,000.

I didn’t get any work done on the loft room or any of my could of, should of, or would of’s.  I did get the tool shed painted and is ready for winter and the sprinkler system is finally repaired.  The connecting pipes were disconnected from the main pipes.  The general belief is this happened due to the tilled soil settling and/or running over them with heavy weight.  We deep tilled the soil before installing the pipes due to the problems in the yard with chunks of debris buried in it.  We removed several truckloads of trash and concrete before the yard was ready for seed.  I would rather repair the sprinklers than have toxic trash and bits of concrete work their way to the surface, ewww.  The side yard was not tilled and I am still digging out trash from inside the house six years later!  Six heads repaired or replaced and my dead lawn is good to go again.

I feel like this was a good weekend.  Sprinkler system repaired, shed painted and a great talk on Sunday from Andy.  No Elvis impersonator this Sunday, but a great version of “Can’t Help Falling In Love”.  My take away this week is to love on purpose, to think before I speak and to bear with those irritations in life.  (Co-workers come to mind, 468 days to retirement!) More positive thinking and positive talking!  I also spent time with the beautiful daughter, son-in-law and my stolen son’s daughter.  The four of us walked through IKEA, (g-daughter and I did it twice) so daughter could get design ideas for their new house.

P.S. Could you use some relationship help?  The current Thrive Church-CA series is all about relationships, some good talks with usable information from Andy Bernard and Jeremiah Aja.  Check out Thrive Church-CA!

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Filed under Family Times, Foster Children, Garden, Homeowner

Mrs. Winchester – Today

People acquainted with me know about “the list”.  We bought an older home that needed a “few” repairs.  The punch list was 100 items long, my beloved completed the first 25 and then was promoted to work full-time for Jesus.  That left me with 75 items and very few skills.  I have drive, determination, an advisor and WiFi.

I watch a lot of fix it shows on Dish and even more You Tube videos on “how to”.  Once I have gained enough knowledge to ask intelligent questions, I ask my advisor Dahve what he thinks.  He thinks I’m funny.  I’m really not trying to be.

So there is always construction going on since it takes me forever to complete even a simple task.  Sustainable construction is the newest catch phrase.  I’m good with that, I need raised garden beds and I have this pile of old wood.  I can do that.  Sigh, it takes me an hour to pull the nails, scrape off the foam and get one long board ready to cut down for a garden bed.  I have two completed and need at least two more.  It was a little disappointing not to have something completed so I installed my rain gutter garden on the shady side of the house and planted my parsley and cilantro seedlings.  It looks a little wavy so I probably should have used more than four washers and screws.  I got a little distracted with the camera and thought you would enjoy my Cardoon (or cardonni) plants in bloom.  They are not artichokes, which are cultivated for the bulb, but are in the same family.  I can’t possibly eat all of this but I did discover the single ladies (chickens) love, love, love the seeds that hide in the dried thistle.  If you look close, you can find more than one or two of my bees nestled down in the purple fluff searching for pollen.  Guaranteed pollination!  Cardoon is an Italian veggie and you eat the celery looking stalks which does taste like artichokes, yum!  Hope you enjoy.




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Filed under Bees, Chickens, Garden, Homeowner, Photography, Projects, Urban Farming

Spring – Are You There?

I’ve always believed in goals but now that I am a fine and fancy widow, goals have become a critical part of my mental and emotional health.  I no longer am delighted with the love and approval reflected in my beloved’s eyes so I need to measure my own success.  This was a skill that I did not develop until I was 40.  I was not raised to believe in myself and my own success.  I was raised to always put myself last and to endure whatever was thrown at me, including fists.  Having someone believe in you can change your entire outlook on life.  I know it did for me.

I’m suffering from the early stages of spring fever.  My project list is down from 100 to 36 and I am itching to finish something.  The project list doesn’t include the new planter boxes I want or any gardening tasks! I don’t have the baseboard molding 100% done, I need a threshold and door sweep weather stripping installed and there is a 2′ x 3′ section of flooring still left to complete.  The problem is I need the big saw to complete these tasks.  It’s put up for the winter.  During the summer when the rains have passed, I leave the saw out under the awning and put it away for family get togethers.  I was going to drag it out for a few hours on Saturday but there was a light drizzle during the daylight that turned in to a rain at night.

We need the rain desperately!  One of the main NorCal water reservoirs is the Folsom Lake.  The marina has floating boat slip/docks.  They have been laying on dirt for over a year now.  We are far from being out of the water crisis but, I was so happy to see the live camera shot of floating docks!  Folsom Lake Marina Live Cam  Boats are permitted for launch starting this Saturday. Please pray for more snow in the Sierras.

FL Marina on dirt FL Marina Cam 2-5-16

Folsom Lake at capacity would mean plenty of water for the American River and all the towns between Sacramento to San Francisco.  It would mean no restricted watering.  One of the projects on the “list” is to change 1,800 sq. ft. of grass service into stamped concrete.  I removed another 400 sq. ft. from the front yard but never finished the project.  That will require some dirt excavation, a tree removal (it’s touching the roof), a walkway removal and another concrete pour.  Oh, and I’m not supposed to lift over 40 lbs. while doing it!

But the “list” is not getting any shorter, I need to accomplish something!  Arrrrgh!  My doctor said I was supposed to be kind and gentle with myself and stop beating myself up so much, to take it easy.  Raised in a performance for love environment, this is extremely hard for me even today.

I could work overtime tomorrow but I don’t think that is going to happen.  Too much goes to taxes and then there is the “list”.  The sun is supposed to shine from 6 a.m. to noon and then cloudy for the rest of the day.  President’s weekend is booked solid for the SAN FRANCISCO WRITER’S CONFERENCE (woot!) so I won’t be working on my projects then.  What’s that old saying, make hay while the sun shines or, in my case, finish something!  I can at least say my writing goals are fairly up to date.  I’ve started a local writing critique group and surrounded myself with author support. How are you sticking to your goals?

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Filed under Garden, Grief, Inspiration, Projects, SFWC, Uncategorized, Urban Farming

Bitter Fruit – Introducing – the Limequat



The Limequat tree is a cross between a Lime and a Kumquat or so I have been told. Why? The fruit is so bitter that it will numb your mouth, your tongue or any other mucus membrane it touches on its way down to your stomach. If you don’t throw up first. Just nasty. I have found no known use for this prolific fruit.

Contrast that with the very sweet fruit I tasted on my trip to Italy. I was very impressed with the community in Sant’ Orsola, when I visited with family a few years ago. It was my only trip, so far, and I loved it! I was loved and accepted unconditionally and it was a bit overwhelming at first. It was a happy discovery! My cousin, Paolina, and I walked through the town and up the hill on the paved road. She speaks no English and I speak very bad German and even worse Italian. She speaks Italian, Mochini and some German. It was fun to communicate with each other as she pointed out different things and gave me the Italian or Mochini words.

What was the most surprising is how the community reinvented itself to revive the economy. They have a thriving tourist economy, host sports events, and grow fruit, one among the many different types is Lemons. Yes, Lemons in the Alps. I was there during the summer but I could see the structure around the trees ready for the sheeting that would turn that section of the valley into an enormous greenhouse. Not sure how they handled the snow?

My California yard should be able to grow just about anything. I have a pretty little tree that produces fruit like crazy. The only problem is I have not been able to find a single use for the fruit.   A co-worker didn’t believe me so I brought some in. He tried it, only to spit it quickly into the trash and say; that’s just nasty! I told him it was.

So the nasty tree is at the bottom of my epic to do list. The list was at 75 items at the time of my beloved’s death and I have managed to whack it down to 34. The easy stuff is done, can I call the list nasty? It is certainly bitter that my beloved is not here to partner with me in finishing the list but, I am vigilant not to become bitter. I keep telling myself that I can’t retire until the list is completed It’s the journey not the destination, right! At this pace I will be 75 when that happens as I keep adding to it almost as fast as I complete items. Sigh! When is my next vacation day?

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Filed under Garden, Grief, Life Lessons, Projects, Urban Farming

Chicken Surgery – Could You?

When I think about doing surgery on a chicken I think chicken breast filet, not sewing one up!  I have butchered (or harvested for you gentler souls) many a chicken growing up.  We raised them for food.  Our eggs did not come out of a Styrofoam container that went to the landfill.  They came fresh from the hen house every day.  I would collect them from the nesting boxes and they would still be warm.

My current brood consists of two White Leghorns, two Great Blacks and one Rhode Island Red.  The chickens were a solution to a lawn mite problem I had.  I do not want to use any harmful pesticides or herbicides that might harm my bee hives.  When my daughter asked for chickens I immediately thought, no more bugs!  My yard is completely fenced and there is plenty of room for the birds to roam and not get bored to destructive behaviors.  The chickens became my Integrated Pest Management System, sans chemicals!

My bedroom is the closest to the hen house and I can tell the difference between happy chickens and a viscous attack.  It was late at night a week ago and I had already gone to bed.  The almost newlyweds were finishing up a movie in the den.  The chickens sounded the alarm and I jumped out of bed and yelled down the hall while I grabbed my robe and flip flops.  We keep a couple of mag lights on hand for emergencies (a must in the prep department) and we grabbed them and ran out to the hen house.  My daughter grabbed a rake on her way.

The hen house is constructed so a lady of a certain age can easily take care of the egg collection and house maintenance.  The nesting boxes are in the front and the roosting bars are in the back.  The front half wall lifts up for easy egg collection.  The right side wall drops down and will slope into a wheelbarrow or 5 gallon bucket for fertilizer collection.  My daughter, who jumps and squeals at the sight of a spider, was leaning into the hen house and beating an opossum when I reached them.  The poor opossum never had a chance.  He was caught in the act of holding Emily Rose by the drumsticks and biting her back with his long teeth!

A word about opossums: they are mean and will attack anything when sick or threatened, they have long teeth and sharp claws, they carry diseases like rabies and they are blind in bright light.  You should stay away from them as they will attack you.  (And yes, I have seen a rabid opossum!)  An aggressive opossum is either threatened or sick.  They don’t normally dine on live chickens.

My timid daughter was beating the opossum off her chicken with the rake handle with all her might.  I left them to go back to the safe and pick up an opossum equalizer.  I encouraged him to meet his maker and turned around to find my daughter holding Emily Rose and crying her eyes out.  Mister disposed of the offending aggressor while I outlined daughter’s options.  Because Emily Rose was attacked by a possibly diseased animal, we can’t eat her.  (loud sobbing)  I could put her out of her pain quickly (louder sobbing).  We could take her to a vet (something I hated to say due to the cost) or, she could use that $50,000 per med education I paid for to try and stitch her up herself. (after my initial examination to determine survivability)

She voted to un-filet the chicken.  Out came the first aid supplies and the Lidocaine that I had left over from my round of strep throat.  Trim the feathers, 15 minutes.  Clean out the debris, 1 hour.  Hands shaking relief, 15 minutes.  Sewing, 1 hour.  Mister held Emily Rose down with his mighty hands and whispered sweet nothings to soothe her.  I was the surgical nurse and threaded silk thread through beading needles, the smallest I had, and made sure the area was sterile.  It was an exhausting two hours, physically and emotionally.  The surgeon had to stop and wipe the tears from her eyes occasionally. What I thought was an above-average amount of medical supplies was sadly depleted in one episode. The injury was severe but certainly not bloody. If this had been a human injury, there would have been much more blood loss.

I am happy to say Emily Rose only spent two days in the CCU (chicken care unit, aka bathtub).  She quickly moved up to a cardboard box and the third day was ready to rejoin her sisters.  Her first day outside was stressful and she needed to spend the night back in the CCU, strictly because she has no feathers on her backside to keep her warm and the hen house was looking way too scary.  The second night she decided the hen house was looking better and she put herself to bed.

Daughter has added much more bio material to the nest boxes so Emily Rose can snuggle down and keep warm.  Chickens give off a lot of heat!

Lessons learned:

  1. Don’t let any waste accumulate, it attracts predators.
  2. Don’t get emotionally attached to your food.
  3. I don’t have enough medical supplies.



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Filed under Bees, Chickens, Garden, Urban Farming

Water – Water


I took a trip to the Valley this past weekend to see my daughter and the property her agricultural friends just purchased.  I loved the visit and am so excited for the happy couple who are proud owners of their first acreage, right in the middle of a drought.  They are being smart about the property.  The garden area is half the size it was in past years and the irrigation is on drip.  Livestock has been kept to a minimum and air conditioning means opening the house up at 5:00 a.m. and closing it up again at 7:30 a.m.  I’ve been told it means a 10 degree difference in the temperature of the house.  My hostess was charming and we drove all around getting to know the town and the spots she knew I would love.

What continues to haunt me from my trip is the situation the farmers and ranchers find themselves in.  The drive down Highway 99 is peppered with political signs that have sayings like No Water = No Jobs or No Water = No Food and many more.  I am naturally curious and tried not to step into a proverbial cow pie and asked about the water situation.  What I learned was heartbreaking.  It seems the farmers and ranchers must pay in advance for their water.  Even if they have paid 100%, the government is only going to release 5% to them and keep the difference of the 95% payment.  No refunds.

So what are the land owners doing?  They are bulldozing their trees, planting cover crops to let the fields go fallow and buckling down to try and do anything to hang on to their property for the future.  Major corporations are just waiting to scoop any defaulted properties.  I’m not a conspiracy theory person, but it sounds like the makings of an excellent Sci Fi book doesn’t it?

A picture truly does say a thousand words so I snapped a few for you.  These photos show an existing field struggling from lack of adequate water and the trees in their prime that were pulled out.  It is the California Valley region and burning is not allowed so the dead trees will just lay there.  I drove past at least 20 destroyed fields, all orange trees, without going off my route there or home.  The California Aqueduct sending water to Los Angeles could be clearly viewed when standing in at least two separate fields that were destroyed.   The Aqueduct is full.  Now that is heartbreaking!

I’m thinking Southern California needs to start thinking more about desalinization plants and less on dependence on the Aqueduct.  This will not be the last drought year, it is the third in my lifetime and my parents remember that many in their lifetimes.  My beloved is either a sixth or seventh generation Californian (depending on which side you count from) and remembers his grandfather talking about droughts.  It is a cycle and they will come again and go again.  What seems to be wrong is when you take water away from food producers to fill swimming pools in Southern California.  Don’t believe me, try Google Maps and check out the pools.

I don’t want oranges from Brazil; I want home grown ones that are fresh and not irradiated to kill pests. The cost of those killed trees will be seen shortly in your grocery store.  Oh, and the motel in the Valley town I stayed in had drained their swimming pool and had no plans to fill it any time soon.


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Filed under Garden, Travel, Urban Farming

Rosie and the Bird Brain

Framing Begins

Concrete Walks on concrete

Concrete Walks on concrete

What have I been up to lately? Well H1N1 has been making it’s way around my office, so far everyone except one employee has recovered. It’s surprising that a very fit 30 something woman has been so very ill. It just goes to show, you can never take your health for granted.
Work goes on at the little homestead! My handyperson, Dahve, (pronounced Da-ah-ve) has been guiding me through the steps to build a 10 x 12 shed for my gardening equipment. It will be wonderful to have my rototiller, lawnmower and gardening hand tools all in one place and out of my garage. My goal is to be able to actually park in said 2 car garage!!!
Dahve loaned me the slab frames and put them up with help from my future son-in-law. We hauled rock from the other side of the property and filled the frame with loose aggregate. We poured the concrete and just after it was finished, my hen named Concrete had to add her signature. I didn’t have the heart to smooth out Concrete’s footprint in the concrete!
The next Saturday it was time to start framing. Not as much work as I expected with Dahve’s air driven nail gun! It took two Saturday’s for us to frame all four walls. I can’t wait, this Saturday we will frame in the window and start with the concrete siding. Yes, more concrete, since the shed is up against a neighboring fence, we decided to go with the most flame retardant material there was, concrete paneling.
The hardest part so far, unloading the truck with the paneling and studs!

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Filed under All Things Crafty, Garden, Urban Farming