Miney-Roo, how could you?

I am not a morning person. For me, farm life begins around 10 a.m. Once I’ve had my toast and tea I take my coffee out to the coop and let the girls come out to play. I had no intention of ever keeping a cocky, noisy, doesn’t-know-it’s-only-4 a.m. rooster. And yet there is a rooster in our midst. It seems I’ve been betrayed by my dear, sweet Miney.


People say it’s a good idea to have a strong, healthy rooster to protect the girls from predators. We certainly learned the hard way with the loss of Meanie that our flock is at risk, but I’m not sure Miney would be my first choice as the protector of the flock.

Miney, winner of the prestigious Most Awkward Chicken Award maybe.


Miney, who can’t figure out how to reach the other side of the gate despite the fact it’s not connected to anything.


Miney, who stands on my boot, trips over the water bowl, falls down stairs, and crashes blindly into low-hanging branches. Miney, scared of his own tail feathers (but what lovely tail feathers they are!).


Miney, my spastic little goofball and constant source of quiet entertainment. How could she he do this to me?? Hmmmm???


I’ve been hoping beyond hope that she’s just an extremely handsome hen, but I checked in with the nice folks at and they tell me to give in. At the very least, those pointy feathers spell rooster all the way.


So I guess we have a little roo in our flock, and of course it has to be Miney, my gentle little goofball. I will keep him, of course, and pray that he retains his sweet, quiet manner. Beyond that, we just have to hope our little genetic misfit never figures out how to reproduce!


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A start to the garden, a long way to go…

Here we are, two-months into our move to Bloomfield, and I have to say I’m pleased with our progress. I never imagined that after spending 22 years creating a whole life in another town we could so easily make this shift, but our stuff is unpacked and we’ve started to decorate so I guess we’re here to stay. It’s a really good feeling to know we made the right move and watching this place morph into our home. Getting some art on the walls made all the difference.

PUD HOOD installation
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repurposed trampoline chicken tractor

It’s Eenie, Meanie and Miney No Mo’

Well, we’ve suffered our first chicken fatality here in Bloomfield. Our poor dear Meanie was felled by a hawk while we were in town on Wednesday. (S)he was the largest of the three pullets, Eenie, Meanie and Miney, we were given last month. We were warned that it would happen eventually, but just a month in seems much too soon. At the same time it gives us an opportunity to do things better, be more careful, so hopefully it doesn’t happen again.

our three pullets

To be honest, we were starting to wonder if she wasn’t perhaps a he as she’d started to exhibit some, ahem, unladylike behavior. With this in mind we choose to believe that Meanie died the death of a hero, the valiant rooster fatally wounded while protecting his girls from attack. It does seem that Miney, our “special” chicken, may have been hit first. She generally prefers the company and safety of her people, as you can see.

Miney and me

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Petaluma Sunset

A Month Already?

Well so much for my planned weekly updates! I can’t believe we’ve been living here in Bloomfield for a month already, but at the same time I feel like we’ve lived here forever. We couldn’t have chosen a better spot to start our next adventure. I know a lot of people were concerned that we’d miss San Diego so I want to set your minds at ease and share some evidence that things are turning out just fine.

Let’s start with those who worried we’d miss that beautiful San Diego sunset. I’m happy to report that we’re doing okay. Turns out the sunsets here don’t suck!

Petaluma Sunset Continue reading


Bloomfield, CA, we have arrived!

I have fallen way behind in my blogging but I just have not had the strength or time to sit and compose anything remotely coherent. For several months we have worked to get our house ready to sell, packed up our welding shop, packed up our home and prepared to move 500 miles to a little house in the country. I’m not sure if our move has been more difficult than most but I can tell you that it sucked.

The unseasonably hot, humid weather hasn’t helped, nor did the torrential tropical rainstorm (although the water is welcome here in California) that decided to occur in time for our 5am departure through Los Angeles. Thank the good lord for Xanax – at least someone was calm and cozy during the drive!


I could whine for paragraphs about how much moving sucks but now that we have landed in our new hometown and things are rolling along as smoothly as we could hope I think I’ll just focus on the good things. And there are many good things!

Our home

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We’re Buying A Home!

All your positive thoughts worked! We are buying the little house in the tiny town I wrote about in my last (very long ago) post. Our offer was accepted and we made one last trip up to Bloomfield, CA, (pop. 150 or so?) to make sure. We were very lucky to find a wonderful place to stay right across the street so we could stay in the neighborhood and see what it’s really like. If you’re ever headed to Western Petaluma, check out Twisted Horn Ranch where you can meet our new neighbor Rocky:

Rocky the Longhorn Steer is the family pet at Twisted Horn

Rocky the Longhorn Steer is the family pet at Twisted Horn

I might be jumping the gun a little as we haven’t signed final papers, but we’re so close to the end I decided I could write about it. The house itself is a basic 50’s ranch house, not terribly exciting but totally livable. It sits on the north side of a very pretty acre of land with views for days across a meadow, creek and beautiful rolling hills. Here’s a view of the future garden from the kitchen window, which Jon will certainly enjoy as he washes dishes:


We’ll be adding trees and plenty of butterfly-friendly plants. Happily there are already a handful of apple trees dotting the property, including a four-way graft that I can’t wait to sample! But while the meadow is lovely, possibly our favorite part of this property are the old barns and garage that run along one whole side of the property.

An old garage will serve as our workshop while we get the barns in working order

An old garage will serve as our workshop while we get the barns in working order

One day the barns will be the most amazing workshop / garden room ever. They have loads of space and tons of character, but they’re going to take some work. It is entirely possible that they are held up by sheer determination (with the help of blackberry brambles).

The old barns are still standing, but might just be held up by blackberry brambles.

The old barns are still standing, but might just be held up by blackberry brambles.

The area is absolutely gorgeous! The nearby town of Valley Ford, just a 5 minute drive west, offers three restaurants, a hotel, a market, post office and a mercantile featuring local crafts and artisan goods. We are madly in love with Estero Cafe, which serves up breakfast and lunch featuring locally sourced organic eggs, veggies, cheese and more. Across the street is the only hotel nearby. We stayed in one of its five rooms our last night in town and ate a huge, tasty meal at the restaurant downstairs, Rocker Oysterfellers.

Valley Ford, CA

Five minutes’ drive is Valley Ford which offers three restaurants, a market, hotel, post office and general store with locally crafted goods.

I could go on and on but I will save some of our discoveries for later. And as for photos of the house itself, those will have to wait as the current tenants are fairly well entrenched and I can’t bear to share photos of “my” house featuring someone else’s stuff.

We have a lot of projects planned, so there will be no lack of before-during-after photos in the future! Those will have to wait, unfortunately, until the tenants move out and we get our house packed up and sold. Hopefully that won’t take as long or be as painful as I think it will. Stay tuned…

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Cool old barns like this dot the countryside throughout west county

A Ray of Hope as the House Hunt Continues

I haven’t written much in the last few weeks, mostly because I am consumed with house-hunting. While that has given me loads to write about I am just too distracted to do much about it. I’m not even sure how far I’ll make it through this post but I thought I’d at least try to get some words down and some random photos from our recent adventure.

Jon and I have spent the last several months trying really hard to find our new home. This is difficult from afar and, as it turns out, not that easy from nearby. Apparently we’re not the only ones who think it’s time to move to western Sonoma county.

Rolling hills of western Petaluma

Rolling hills of western Petaluma

Listings are few and far between and anything decent gets a handful of offers within days, often far over asking price. On our recent visit we walked through a handful of homes but the trip was a roller-coaster of emotions as I went through the Goldilocks phase of house-hunting. Too nice, not nice enough, too big, too small, too expensive, too noisy, too close, too far. In the end, there was just nothing we loved. Ugh. I don’t discourage that easily, but by Sunday afternoon I was feeling pretty down.

Had a cute baby possum visit us at the guest cottage

Had a cute baby possum visit us at the guest cottage

And then we spoke to our realtor Craig and he mentioned an as-yet unlisted home in a tiny nearby town I’d never heard of. He had spoken to the owners weeks before and knew they were planning to sell. He thought maybe we’d like it. “It’s farther out than you were looking,” he said casually, “but the house is in pretty good shape and it has some land, and there are a couple cool old barns.” He wanted to know if we’d want to see it. HOW WAS HE SO CALM??? Hells YES we want to see it! And so on Monday out we went, winding through the back roads to emerge at this little blip of a town out towards the coast.

Visited a friend's beautiful garden and met his cute doggies

Visited a friend’s beautiful garden and met his cute doggies

As soon as we arrived my heart sped up. I was feeling… hopeful? Was it possible? As we walked through the cute little house, poked our heads into the big broken-down barns and wandered through the garden I experienced this rush of excitement and then… peace. Calm. Warmth. I could feel myself breathing more deeply, my chest expanding to take in the cool, fresh air as I gazed across the meadow at the rolling green hills of Western Petaluma. I felt like I was home. And so did Jon. Even as I think of it now I get a little twinge behind my eyes.

Carnivorous Plants

Carnivorous Plants in our friend Mark’s garden

That afternoon we went back and visited the nearby town, sipping cappuccinos at a wonderful but totally unpretentious farm-to-table restaurant and contemplating our life in the rural outskirts of Petaluma. We went for breakfast the next day too, and took a walk around the neighborhood. Turns out it’s a great location for us, about 15 minutes in any direction from all of our favorite places in west county – Freestone Artisan Cheese Shop, Baker Creek’s Seed Bank and downtown Petaluma, The Birds cafe in Bodega Bay, the monarch overwintering site at Bodega Dunes, The Barlow, Community Market and Peter Lowell’s restaurant in Sebastopol. It is not too big, not too small. It’s not too close to or too far from anything. It’s in our price range, has a garage/workshop, vegetable garden and even a chicken coop. It’s pretty close to perfect but there’s still plenty of fun to be had making it our own.

We would be very happy here. The question of whether or not the owners will consider an early offer remains, but we decided to go ahead and give it a try. The offer has been submitted. Now we are patiently (ha!) awaiting word from the owner. If anyone reading this would just toss up a little positive thought for us we would appreciate it. Maybe, just maybe, we have found our home.

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Tiny Baby Monarch Cataerpillar (1st Instar)

Raising Monarchs: Collecting & Protecting Caterpillars

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m writing up a few very basic tutorials to help those who wish to attract, raise and release monarch butterflies. The monarch numbers have declined by nearly 90% in the past few decades! Loss of habitat is a major factor as the milkweed that feed their larvae (caterpillars sounds so much cuter) has been nearly wiped out by widespread herbicide use (RoundUp) in farms, highways and meadows along their migration route. So in my last post I talked about buying, growing and planting pesticide-free milkweed, which gives monarchs a place to lay their eggs.


So now you’ve got your milkweed planted or in pots around the garden and they are filling up with caterpillars. At this point you can just let them do their thing and approximately 10-20% will reach adulthood. Pretty dismal numbers, right? Sadly, caterpillars have a very high mortality rate.

Once they reach adulthood, monarch butterflies are protected by the toxic milkweed they eat as caterpillars. Strangely enough though, the caterpillars themselves are a delicacy for lizards, spiders and birds. Last summer I actually rescued a big fat caterpillar from a spider’s den. I swear I turned my back for a minute and next thing you know the cat is being dragged into a hole in the ground! I grabbed the little guy and pulled him out and an angry spider came racing out after him! It was terrifying. Continue reading

Monarch Caterpillars love Tropical Milkweed

Raising Monarchs: Get Started, Plant Milkweed

Last year I became obsessed with monarch caterpillars, which led to lots of blog posts! Now I’ve got friends asking me how they can raise monarchs at home so I’m going to write a couple simple ‘tutorials’ to help folks get started. Please note that I am not an expert but I will try to explain the basics clearly as I share some of my techniques, successful and otherwise, and also provide links where you can learn more. This post tells you a bit about attracting monarchs to your garden by planting milkweed. At the bottom are links to a few favorite sites where you can find milkweed for your home garden.

Tiny Baby Monarch Cataerpillar (1st Instar)

Tiny Baby Monarch Cataerpillars (1st and 2nd Instar)

I started raising monarch butterflies last spring and it is hard to imagine ever stopping. I don’t know why it is so addictive but I was hooked the moment I spotted my first caterpillar. Well, to be honest, I almost squished him because I had just gotten the milkweed from the nursery and wasn’t expecting babies so soon. Lucky for both of us I got down on hands and knees for a close-up and that’s when I noticed his little stripey pants. So cute! It seems the eggs were already on the milkweed when I bought it so within a week I was loaded up with freshly hatched cats. I can’t find an egg pic at the moment so I’ll just tell you they are tiny little white bumps that appear magically after a mama monarch visits your garden. Continue reading


House-hunting Overload

Jon and I just spent our first week in Petaluma and Sebastopol getting to know the area and trying to identify the neighborhoods where we would most like to live. Searching the whole county is just too much even through it affords us more options. We put over 400 miles on Lily (my awesome gas-sipping Mini) winding through west county alone! 

It’s a daunting task, home-hunting, especially with inventory so low. We are veering wildly from idea to idea hoping to increase our options by being super flexible. At the same time this flexibility requires us to go through hours of mental gymnastics to assess the potential of each property we see. 

Can we turn an old henhouse into a workshop?  Will our parents mind sleeping in a yurt when they visit? Should we buy a cool Airstream to live in and park it inside an industrial space where we can also weld? Could that weird little building that used to be a Mexican restaurant become our workshop and gallery? How hard and fast are the zoning laws exactly?

Do we want a gallery? Will people find us if we don’t have a retail space? If we find the perfect home with gardens and a creek down a quiet tree-lined path but no space for a workshop can we also afford to lease space at The Barlow? Continue reading