Category Archives: Urban Farming

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

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

Quality of Life vs. Regulations?

Benjamin Franklin  Benjamin Franklin

“Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.”

I have a large carbon footprint.  The kids are all “cooked” and done, I am a widow and live alone in a rambling house on a large lot.  Despite all this, my carbon footprint is lower than what you would expect.  I compost my green waste, my recycle bin is always full and I often fill my neighbors bins (I don’t understand that one.) My bees produce sweet organic honey, my chickens keep the bees healthy by eating all the bugs that might invade the hives.  I eat the eggs they produce and feed the chickens all my kitchen scraps from the organic veggies/fruits I raise or purchase.  I recycle greywater and sustain my fruit trees in drought and give away much of my bounty to family, friends and the local soup kitchen.  I chose not to buy a hybrid vehicle because of the disposal of the batteries and the distance the vehicle components travel prior to assembly.  I owned my last vehicle until it died and the repair was more than the value of the vehicle.  I have a truck parked on the side lot that is over 10 years old.  It is more sustainable than a U-Haul rental and the kids are in the rental stage of their life so they will move a lot until they settle.  I still have a mountain of “stuff” of my own and from my beloved’s robotics shop that I am downsizing.  I get along with most everyone and don’t expect anyone to rescue me in a natural disaster or if I loose my job.

Do you ever wonder if a Christian woman in the Sudan thinks quality of life is about “stuff” like American men and women do, she probably doesn’t. Are there some common threads to the two extremes? What quality of life is all about? Definitely something I feel worth my time to ponder. More personal changes will be forthcoming as I continue to downsize my possessions so they do not control my time.

Perhaps my ideal quality of life is to live life at my own choosing without being molested by individuals, groups or the government.  I work in a department that deals with environmental regulations.  I constantly sort through the miasma of verbiage that has to be so precise.  One comma out of place can change the meaning and regulators often do not care if you left out a comma or placed it incorrectly.  You get the fine!

I fear the direction my country is taking.  People are blinded by their passion or a charismatic speaker.  The scientific method is an unknown to most people. People often don’t understand that many governmental agencies do not, in practice, have any real oversight.  On paper there might be a “dotted line” relationship to oversight.  Take the California Air Resources board; they manufacture nothing so promotions are based on number of people they supervise.  Do you see the inherent problem there!  The agency continues to bloat every year, getting bigger and bigger.  No problem, at the end of the year they just take the cost of operation and divide it up to the major players and send them a bill.  No product or even reduction in pollution is achieved as a result of this bloating.  It looks like a tax, feels like a tax but is called a fee, it stinks like a tax that IS passed on to the consumers.

One of my co-workers sent a document with thousands of data points in it to the Board.  They communicated back that a fine would be forthcoming because they could not open the file.  My company IT Department examined the file, the email etc.  There was nothing wrong with the file other than the size, it was just over a megabyte.  The IT guy volunteered to make the 2 hour (one way) drive to SFO to find out what happened.  Sure it burned up more fuel, spewed more greenhouse gasses, but the fine would be big and next month, more of the same.

He was escorted through cubicle-ville and glanced at the screens as he passed by at mid-morning.  Desk after desk in the large room went by and he saw over 50% of the workers were watching YouTube or a video which consumes bandwith.  Emails over a megabyte can’t get through because there is no bandwidth.

He worked with the Board and explained that they needed more bandwidth or less YouTube.

We paid for the IT person’s time, the fuel and vehicle to send him to SFO, his meals and the legal fees to contest the fine.  Don’t worry about it, it was billed out as cost of goods sold and you paid for it!

What sounds good during an election cycle is not always good.  Buyer beware!  I don’t believe we need more regulations, rules or a bigger government.  We have some good ones on the books but they are not enforced.  I prefer to vote with my dollars.  Perhaps I’m being a bit naïve but, I still wish to live my life at my own choosing without being molested by individuals, groups or the government.

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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

Chickens and … Teenagers?

Soup, Sally, Jensen and Concrete are fully feathered now so this weekend we will need to provide them with an outdoor run.  I have the wire and the stakes ready to go but I keep forgetting to soften up the ground so the stakes will pound in.  I’m not 25 anymore and have to respect my body more these days if I want it to last!  The girls seem very happy in their roomy hen house so I’m not too worried, there is some room to run and lots of places to hop up on and roost.  We keep it clean and give them grass clippings and treats to play with.  In another month or two when they are fully grown, it could get ugly.  Overcrowding leads to hen pecking, just check any high school if you want to see what that looks like. Standard pre-teen and teen behaviour!  And they think they are being so original.

We introduced the chicks to the apricots that fell to the ground and they were very enthusiastic in snapping them up and fighting over them.  This was new to my grandaughter, her docile friendly chickens all of a sudden became pecking monsters!  I let her know that in the future, she cannot combine cuddling her feathered friends with food.  Not without a serious pecking or two!

They are still too young to break the skin of any other fruit we have given them.  Apples were a challenge but apple cores, chicken fight!  There was plenty to go around, really ladies, show some class!  I made some yummy blackberry jam last night and wasn’t satisfied with the texture.  I pulled out my sieve and ran the jam through it to get as much of the pulp out as possible allowing only about one cup of the seeds into the jam.  The rest of the seeds will go to the chickens.  The jam tasted yummy and I called home to find out how it set up but was met with, not now grandma, auntie is dying my hair red.  K…… does your mother know? “yeah, she said it’s only hair.”  I can see her point of view in a day and age when kids have so much trouble available to get into.  Hair is not forever.  Back to School should be interesting.  I’ll have to wait until I get home from work to find out how the chickens enjoyed the seeds.

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Filed under Canning, Family Times, Urban Farming

Meet the Girls – Soup, Sally, Concrete, Emily and Jensen


The names are a story all on their own, but since it is not my story you will have to wonder!

This is the new hen-house!  Waist high with a small door for them to enjoy the great outdoors in their outer coop, a large door on the right for easy clean out (wheel barrow fits under so I can rake out the grass, hay and droppings) and a lift-up door in the front for egg collecting and rain shelter.  My daughter and her boyfriend built and painted the house out of mostly scrap and leftovers.  We combined our leftover paint bits and used every drop to make it blend in with the main house and protect the wood.  The chickens like it because it helps them to see bugs faster, LOL!

I will soon be able to supplement their feed with scraps from the kitchen.  I stick to raw vegetable scraps for their health and to keep the area clean.  (carrot peels, onion ends, potato peels, crushed egg shells for their calcium needs, etc.) Scraps with fat of any kind can go rancid and carry disease.  Chicken droppings are considered “hot” and I’m using grass clippings for the bedding material.  That will in turn be raked up as mixed material and sent to the compost pile.  This combination will accelerate the compost breakdown and be added to the garden next year.  I’m a lazy gardener so this method really appeals to me.

If you are going to have any chickens in an urban setting, please be kind to your neighbors and keep the area super clean and maintained as well as getting rid of any roosters before they begin to crow.  The hens will learn to be noisy from him if you keep him around too long!  You can buy the chicks by gender to avoid this problem.  You can also buy fertilized eggs if you want the baby chick experience.  You will have no problems with neighbors if you give up the roosters and rake up the manure regularly. 

Mmmmm, fresh eggs in a few months. 

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