Monday, November 17, 2014

Home and Garden

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Another Wonky Panorama. Aren't the teenaged chickens huge?


This weekend was all about tidying and organizing.  I tackled a project that has long been nagging at me:  organizing our bookshelves.  At the moment, we have significantly more books than we can fit into our home, so something had to change.  I've currently got two stacks of books in the kitchen to give away.  Whats impressive is that we had a huge Book Purge prior to buying our house, and another one when we left Connecticut to move to California.

I'm also flirting a Wardrobe Purge.  I have too many clothes that I never wear.  I need to pull every garment out of storage, try everything on, and then ruthlessly edit what I own.  At the moment, there are too many aspirational clothes, clothes of good intention.  if I'm never going to wear something, why is it cluttering up my house?

The truth is that I have a bit of a problem throwing things away.  I need to get over my weird guilt, and just set these things loose in the universe. Books will go to friends. Clothes that don't fit will be donated to charity.  It shouldn't be that complicated.

After stirring up all the dust in the house, I moved on to the garden.  A friend had ordered a load of mulch and offered me some of the leftovers.  There's nothing like mulch to make a garden look tidy and intentional. 

This winter's crop of fava beans are coming along. They're a bit sprawling at the moment, and some are falling over. I'm not sure what that's about.  In the past, we've grown un-named fava beans.  They were amazingly vigorous, but neither Robb nor I were particularly fond of them. Eventually I realized that I was probably trying to eat something that was intended more for animal feed, and sought out an actual culinary variety of beans.  We'll see if this kind (Windsor) is any better.



If you're interested in reading what other gardeners are up to, mosey on over to Daphne's blog for the weekly garden jamboree.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Chicken Shenanigans

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 Our persimmon tree is ripening. And I recently noticed this.  Hmmmmmmm.....


This particular fruit is about three feet off the ground.  Our hens are utterly fruit-obsessed.  Visitors to our house may have seen Isabella leaping for grapes.  She's completely insane when it comes to grapes.  We cut them into tiny pieces, and she launches herself into the air to get them.  She seems spring-loaded, as she jumps for grapes. Her wings flap uselessly at her side.  Robb and I find this hilariously funny, which is Reason Number 4,927 why it's good we never had children. We can't refrain from laughing at her indignity.




As for the hen-pecked persimmon, can't you imagine something like this?  Only with chickens?



Dignity? What's that?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Making Things, Beautiful Things

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From time to time, I like to offer some inspiration on the blog.  Long-time readers will have figured out that I'm fascinated with how things are made. The prototyping process, the team effort, the attention to detail, the exquisite skill built up over years of hard work, the hours and hours of work. This mesmerizing video has it all.  Grab a cup of coffee, and drink in the beauty.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Goosebumps and Chicken Flesh

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Our Top Hen, Anne Elliott is moulting.  It's a pitiful spectacle. Her two remaining tail feathers are particularly sad.




She looks like Chicken Dinner.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Oakland Treasures

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I make no secret of the fact that I love Oakland.  Despite its gritty reputation, Oakland a wonderful place to live.

This past weekend, I took part in an Oakland-based treasure hunt. Participants ran all over downtown Oakland, and used their knowledge of local architecture and history to solve a series of puzzles. These urban scavenger hunts force participants to really look at a city.  And there's loads to see in Oakland.




There all manner of lovely old buildings, which look splendid in the sunshine.  (Oakland is mostly immune to the Bay Area's famous foggy weather.)




There are a staggering number of spectacular terra cotta facades in downtown Oakland.  I went on a walking tour of this part of Oakland with the Tile Heritage Society, a few years ago.  I must have been really busy at the time, because I never edited those photos to share on the blog.




Swirls and squirrels in a theater foyer.  I believe the medallions are made of terra cotta.



How can you not love this well satisfied Art Deco squirrel?  




Oakland is a city of contrast and contradictions.  There are huge problems to be solved, undoubtedly. But there's also a remarkable vitality of spirit.




This mural, like the city it represents is simultaneously -- and unapologetically -- polished and rough.




Like this pediment, the city has a lot of history and beauty.  And it could definitely use some love.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Fluster Cluck

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There's chaos in the hen house.

The Mean Girls have not been allowing goofy Lydia and the New Girls to sleep on the main perch.  Instead of sleeping on the second perch, Lydia and the New Girls have been sleeping in the nest boxes.

That sounds cute and cozy, if you don't know that chickens crap all night long.  The nest boxes, from which we would gather eggs -- if every single hen weren't moulting -- were covered with chicken poop.  This had to stop.

Robb and I discussed various options to keep the birds from fouling their nests at night, and finally arrived at the idea of sticking a salvaged baby-gate in front of the nest boxes before Chicken Bedtime.

There was much fussing in the hen house tonight.  In the end, all the chickens roosted in the main perch.  All except Lydia who glumly bedded down in the wood shavings.  Lydia is one strange hen.

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I wrote this and then scheduled it to publish on Tuesday morning. When I got home from work on Monday night it was already dark (time change).  The chickens had put themselves to bed, before Robb could move the gate in to place. The Mean Girls were teetering atop the gate, and everyone else was bedded down in the best boxes.

Suffice it to say that relocating six grumpy hens by the light of a cellphone is an activity from which no participant emerged with their dignity intact.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Monday Garden Update

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This weekend, we picked our first persimmons.  We made them into fruit-and-nut muffins that we shared with our next-door neighbor.




We're also getting a lot of kale, arugula and mustard greens from the garden.  The latter two self-sowed, which is fun.




We finally got some rain, which meant that digging in the garden was somewhat easier.  Despite all my efforts at soil amendment, our dirt has the texture of concrete.  It can be miserable to work in the summer (our dry season).  When the soil is damp, it become much more manageable. 

When we first bought the house, I went a little crazy buying things on the Farm and Garden section of Craigslist.  One of my biggest mistakes was the putative lapin cherry tree that turned out to be inedible rootstock.  The fruit was horrible. And I stupidly planted the tree in the middle of my vegetable garden.  Thanks to the ridiculously high walls between our garden and our neighbors' we don't get a lot of sunlight.  And so it was a particularly foolish choice to plant a tree smack-dab in the middle of my veggie patch.




The tree had to go.  It took a lot of muscular effort, but I finally dug it out.  I feel like a tree murderer, even if I know this was the best thing to do.  I planted a huge patch of Wethersfield Red onions where the tree used to be.  




I also gave the brugmansia in our front yard a massive haircut.  This bush was leggy and sprawling.  The branch on the right had to be propped up, because it could not support its own weight.




Directly under the brugmansia is a fuchsia bush that is prone to fuchsia gall mites.  The mites are spread by hummingbirds, and we're stuck with them if we want to grow fuchsias around here. I cut the plant back to a nubbin.  This seems to do the trick. Next season, it should grow back beautifully.

Robb made coffee, and feral cat Cardigan stopped by for some muffins.  Cardigan is a funny cat.  He's totally aloof during the day, but turns on the charm at night.  I swaer I dated the human version of Cardigan, once upon a time.  He wouldn't acknowledge our relationship when anyone might see, but was all over me when we were alone.




Cardigan is my Bad Boyfriend.





I may have heartlessly uprooted one cherry tree, but I made up for my Crimes Against Trees by finally getting this dwarf cherry tree into the ground.  I bought this a couple of years ago, but wasn't sure where I wanted to plant it.  It sat so long in its pot that the roots grew through the drainage holes, and into the earth.  Moving that plant wasn't easy -- I'm going to be sore tomorrow.

Now that I've finally committed to placing this cherry in the front yard, I can move my pomegranates to their final locations in the back garden.  I have been dithering about this for ever.  How many fruit trees can I cram into one tiny plot of land?




I did a huge amount of pruning this weekend.  I cleared out a lot of dead wood in our lemon tree, and finally cut down the dead stalks of the Jerusalem Artichokes.  I planted them as a potato alternative, since I can no longer eat anything in the nightshade family.  These plants grow to over eight feet tall, and are covered with cheerful sunflowers.  That's a good thing, since they block the view of the house on the back side of our property.  This place has been a on-again mostly-off-again construction site for over a year.  I suspect that the person who bought the house and started renovations either went broke or died.  Why else would they hire laborers to smash out all the windows and then leave the place open to the elements for months and months?  Huge sunny flowers sure improve the view.




I failed to take a photo of the gratin that Robb made with the Jerusalem Artichokes.  I really enjoyed it, but Robb was somewhat ambivalent.



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