Bonafide Farm

Some women collect shoes

October 12th, 2013 § 0

Apparently, I collect paint cans. And this doesn’t even count all the exterior paint stored in the garage!


I had a crew here this week spraying foam insulation in all of the six under-eave cubby holes that I use for attic storage on the second floor. My hope is that the insualtion will help seal the mice out, as well as the cold air that was streaming into the house from these unfinished spaces that were, until this week, fairly open to the outside.

I had to take everything out of the cubbies for the guys to work in them, and yesterday while I was putting it all back I was a bit shocked to realize how many cans of paint I have collected. This is what happens when you’re obsessed with paint colors and you’ve painted certain rooms more than three times within three years of living in a house to get just the perfect shade. I blame twelve years of apartment living–in which I was forced to suffer with regulation dingy-looking off-white walls—for inducing this paint-bingeing behavior!


October 2nd, 2013 § 2

I took my tablecloth out of the dryer this morning and was dismayed to find it torn. Two big gashes where the heavy cotton jacquard had split open. I sighed, sensing that its day had come and it was now worn out. I’d been dreading this moment.


I have had this tablecloth for 11 years. My mom bought it for me at a Crate and Barrel outlet when I was setting up an apartment in San Diego, and it’s traveled with me to every house since. On one corner it bears slubs from the claws of a maniacal white kitten that briefly haunted my life, but other than that the abuse of daily life has barely marred it. And it’s not like I treat it as one ought a lily white piece of fabric. Instead, it faces down dirty garden produce, spilled wine, festive splatters, and every sort of dirty creative thing I have going on at any given moment. And it always washes up just fine with no special treatment.

It’s because of this resiliency that I am very fond of this piece of fabric. That, and its thick, soft, comforting texture in the perfect shade of white, and its pure cotton quality that’s almost impossible to find these days for less than several hundred dollars.

Further inspection revealed that the fabric hadn’t worn through. Very strangely, it split open right along the edge of a very faint, almost invisible stain. I have no idea what the stain was, and hadn’t noticed it when the cloth was on the table. It sounds crazy but there seems to have been some sort of chemical reaction that ate through the fabric. Has anyone ever heard of this? I hadn’t used bleach in the wash, just regular detergent and a white vinegar rinse. It was in the wash with a bunch of towels, so no buckles could have torn it.


Regardless of how the tears were created my affection for this tablecloth was enough to try to patch it up. I am no seamstress, but I gave it a go. It was gentle, quiet work that was fitting for my energy level. I’ve just spent three days with a stomach bug unlike any I’ve ever experienced. The doc thinks it was viral, or food-related, but the bottom line, other than the obviously biological, was fevered nights, chilled days, 72 hours without eating, four pounds lost, ongoing gorgeous birdsong outside the window, dinner and concert plans cancelled, two contractor visits for home improvements rescheduled in the midst of big projects, the weight of my sleeping cat anchoring me in my body, and many Netflix movies streamed in bed.


Two hours of sewing later and I had created some meandering seams that brought to mind raised surgical scars. I am sure a Colonial four-year-old would have done better, but I don’t mind the patch job.


The thread I had wasn’t a perfectly matched shade of white, but no one but I will ever notice that. In fact, I doubt many people will notice these repairs at all as they blend pretty well into the woven texture of the cloth. It will remain our little secret, for hopefully many more years.

Memorial Day

May 28th, 2013 § 0

Memorial DayWeb

What a busy Memorial Day Weekend!

On Saturday I visited a friend for a look inside his new beehive. We’d taken an into to beekeeping class together this spring, and he won the class drawing for a complete hive with bees. After taking the class I decided against adding bees to the farm this spring, figuring that the roughly $600 outlay to get started with two hives was too much at this time. Further, there are so many things that can go wrong with a bee colony, from diseases to pests to the vagaries of weather and wildlife, that I got nervous I would screw it up and didn’t want to add that stress right now.

However, after seeing Aaron’s beehive, I am totally smitten and kicking myself that, as usual, I over thought it and didn’t jump right in. With complete sincerity I have to say that opening that hive and seeing thousands of beautiful creatures busy creating their perfect home was one of the most miraculous things I have ever seen. The precision of each cell of honeycomb blows my mind, as does the order the bees demonstrate as they go about separating comb into areas to raise brood and store honey.

We added a super (outside box), fed the bees, and inspected each frame of the hive. I learned how to hold a bee-covered frame without dropping it or crushing any bees. We found the queen, distinguished by a red dot of paint on her back, busy in the lowest super. Through this whole experience the bees buzzed about around me and I didn’t feel scared once. I was wearing overalls, my wellies, and a borrowed bee jacket and veil, along with rubber kitchen gloves. I think this delicate armor helped to alleviate any fear of being stung, but I also felt entirely calm around the bees. An inner voice told me that calmer I was, the calmer the bees would be (which is a mindfulness technique I have learned from working with all sorts of animals), and it seemed to work. I just focused on assisting Aaron and my mind was entirely present. It was strangely meditative, actually, moving slowly and deliberately so as not to kill the bees or panic them.

If anything, I’d get a beehive just to feel that peacefulness again. But I have been doing this farm thing long enough to know that the flip side of that wonderful feeling is the sadness that comes when living things in my care get sick, or injured, or fail to thrive.

I spent Sunday working in the garden, planting out a bunch of plants that Aaron sent home with me. I also fabricated more than twenty dahlia supports from 42″ tomato cages. I cut the legs off each cage, bent those wires into u-pins, and brought them to the garden, where I secured them, upside-down for stability, over the more than twenty dahlias that I planted out. I had started these dahlias in pots, some as early as March and others in April, hoping to get earlier blooms than usual. We’ll see if it works. Regardless, I will have very neatly supported plants!

I’ve also been busy tucking zinnia seeds around the house garden, and minding the blossoming veg garden. Lots going on—the growing season is upon us and I can be outside from morning until sunset and not run out of things that need tending.

Then on Memorial Day I went to a cookout hosted by new master gardener friends. When I got home, around 8:30 p.m., I bottled the beer that I made when my friends Brad (my homebrew mentor) and Amy visited in early May.


It’s a kölsch, a nice summer sipper, and I am pretty excited about it. I was nervous as the top blew off the fermenter its first day out, but that didn’t seem to negatively affect the beer.


As the kitchen was already a mess, I went ahead and bottled up some of my kombucha. This is the first batch I have made in four years, and it’s delicious. I spiked a few bottles with ginger, cherries and strawberries for a secondary fermentation. And then at nearly midnight I started soaking some wheatgrass seeds, which is a new experiment. I plan to grow them out to add to my green juices.

And so things continue on: growing or not growing, fermenting, decomposing or dying.  It’s all happening here, all around me.


May 10th, 2013 § 0

No matter how I try, within days of clearing off every surface of my house things start to accumulate. And not just any things. Usually they’re living, dirt-covered or maybe even sporting a smidge of chicken poop. Sometimes they’re fermenting, in both good and bad ways.


Case in point: my kitchen table right now. I’ve been puzzling out my vegetable/cutting garden plan for days, laying seed packets out like playing cards. A game of solitaire, this is. I’ve also got a few flats of recent experiments: lavender seeds left over from 2011 that I never got around to and the mother of all herbs, Urtica dioica, or stinging nettle. Yes, call me crazy but I am trying to grow that hiker’s bane from seed, hoping to transplant nettle down in the woods by the creek. I was shocked to not find any natively growing here, and as a source of minerals, nutrition and herbal healing it’s too important to live without.

And there’s a jug of spring water left over from Sunday’s homebrew session (which on Monday exploded all over my guest room, as in, I actually had to scrub my ceiling!) And a nice little collection of recent eggs that I am on the fence about refrigerating, thinking I may offer them to a new friend with a broody hen. I’d love it if one of my hens went broody, as I am dying to see what sort of crosses I’d get from my various hens and my Wheaten Ameraucana rooster. I had given myself the parameter that any new chicks would have to be hatched and raised by one of my existing hens, to cut down on labor, mess, and potential flock integration trauma, but with that gorgeous stack of potential just sitting there I am this close to getting an incubator. As if I need another project!

This doesn’t even show the kitchen counter, which is busy nurturing young plant starts and soaking morning glory seeds for planting out tomorrow. And I have a new pet—a kombucha scoby fermenting on the windowsill, waiting to be released into a jug of sweet tea.

As much as not having clear surfaces makes the Virgo in me a bit panicky, I also love living surrounded by my various projects. I recognize that this sort of “mess” is bound to accompany me wherever I go, and it will ebb and flow with the growing seasons and whatever else I am up to. My house smells like moist potting soil and lilac, fermenting beer and wood smoke, mulch-covered dog and iris. It smells alive, and as long as nothing’s putrid I rejoice in this perfume. There’s always January for empty surfaces and clear spaces.

The last few weeks

December 10th, 2012 § 1

Have been a whirlwind of productivity and enjoyment best relayed in photographs.


IMG_4418WebPervy Tuck

IMG_4464WebFirst raid of the compost pile several years in the making.

IMG_4466WebI know I am an unusual girl to take such pleasure in this handful of homemade worm-happy, vital compost. It is beautiful, and I am proud.

IMG_4564WebWell house renovation begins with an insulation/drywall blitzkrieg.

IMG_4567And a right-under-the-4:00 p.m.-closing-wire Saturday dump run. Good riddance to this stink bug, ladybug, mouse poo pile!

IMG_4575WebLots of wonderful meals prepared, including salmon and sweet potato stew, goat cheese and caramelized onion focaccia, and a roasted beet salad with balsamic dressing. The eating’s been good around here lately!

IMG_4672WebVintage gas pumps resurrected from my woods and hauled away to be transformed in to art.

IMG_4675WebThanksgiving mushroom walk!

IMG_4697WebChicken sculpture

IMG_4702WebDiscovered under my OSB front sidewalk: a whole clutch of snake eggs!

IMG_4703WebI am still cringing that Mama Snake (probably Mama Black Snake) managed to sneak her brood so close to the house. And yet I saw not a single black snake last year, when they were incubating right on my doorstep! That’s irony for you.

IMG_4707WebThrifty new front walk under construction, using stones dug from the property. It’s rustic, but it’s better than rotting, snake-incubating  OSB and sure beats the $9,000-$18,000 quotes I got from the pros for hardscaping this area…


And finally, lots of woodstove sitting, reading, and spending time with this handsome lad, who is relishing his increased responsibility on the farm and every day grows more accomplished. Official presented kill tally: two wood rats and one mole. Way to go, Farmdog!

Hurricane Sandy

November 1st, 2012 § 0

So Hurricane Sandy has come and gone. She brought many hours of wind so loud that it sounded like an ocean inside my house—ironic given how many people ended up with actual ocean in their homes from this storm. Just before four on Monday the power went out as I had anticipated it would. IMG_0925Web

Except for the awful wind noise outside, I was pretty cozy with the Jotul fired up for the first time this season. The wind blew rain down the chimney, rain penetrated the seal between chimney and roof and ran down the front of my fireplace, inside. All night long I listened to rainwater sizzle as it hit the hot stove pipe. Thankfully the blizzard warning my area was under never amounted to any snow, but from my house I can see snow in the Blue Ridge mountains to the west.


In the morning I went out to survey the damage. The well house lost quite a few more shingles from its roof, a trend begun with the derecho in June. Tree branches fell, screens flew out of windows, the garden was smashed.

I’d come home from my trip to the prettiest stand of snow peas I’d ever grown, just starting to form pods and full of flowers, underplanted with thriving arugula:


After Sandy:


And my dahlias are toast. Before the storm, that orange one below stood taller than my 5′8″ height.


After Sandy:


Compared to many other folks, I got off easy with this one and have no right to complain. Twenty-four hours without power was no big deal, and nothing but the garden suffered irreparable damage. It’s the end of the season, so it’s only a matter of days until frost blackens most of those plants anyway. But it is my favorite season in the garden, when moisture tends to be plentiful, heat and bugs relent, and most crops and flowers are on autopilot and keep surprising with unexpected last-minute gifts made all the more precious because I know that each harvest could be the last of the year.

Anyway, Sandy has cleared out and now it’s time to go pick up tree branches, fix the blackberry cages that were leveled, collect the well house shingles that are scattered about the yard, and see what I can salvage from the garden.

I hope that wherever you are you weathered well.

Spring flower arranging

April 22nd, 2012 § 0



Dutch master

March 17th, 2012 § 0

I came home Thursday night to this gift from my madre on the kitchen counter. It was so incredibly beautiful that it made my week.


2012: To clear skies and open doors

January 1st, 2012 § 0

Star Door DyptychWeb

On my windowsill

August 20th, 2011 § 0


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