IMG_1400

Bird, Bee & Butterfly Buffet

A follow-up to my post Putting the BLOOM Back In Bloomfield,  …

Today I scattered the first seeds into the new pollinator habitat, a.k.a. the Butterfly Buffet. It was very exciting! Well, that’s a stretch, but it was fun. I hadn’t planned to start so soon but days are getting warmer and our risk of frost is over. Some seeds need cold stratification so I figured I’d better get them in the ground asap while they have a chance to catch a chill.

I think the timing was perfect – it’s been lightly raining all afternoon and then we’re due for a handful of sunny days to warm up those moist little seeds. It’s also the week of the New Moon, so success is practically guaranteed!

IMG_1400
I mixed together a huge assortment of deer resistant, drought tolerant, native flower seeds and grasses with rose, white and crimson clover. Lupines, yarrow, cornflower, coneflower, poppy, gaillardia, daisy, flax, primrose and more are now scattered along my pollinator path. I raked the ground, scattered the seeds, raked again, then walked over the surface to press the seeds in. Most importantly, I staked netting over the whole area in an effort to keep the chickens and wild birds out.

IMG_1398
I believe I will have my work cut out for me as I attempt to help the flowers outgrow the weeds but I’m up to the challenge. I’m also going to put in some small plants to anchor the space – lavender, sage and a few other butterfly favorites – so even if my seeds don’t cover the space with a blanket of flowers there will still be food for my flying friends.

So this is attempt #1 to put the BLOOM back in Bloomfield… we’ll see what happens!

~~~~~~~~~~ END POST ~~~~~~~~~~

IMG_1336

Starting Seeds, Salve For My Soul

I’ve been feeling a bit untethered since we uprooted ourselves from San Diego and transplanted ourselves here in west Sonoma county. I couldn’t be happier about the move, but the transition into a new life is exhausting. There’s so much to think about, figure out, find, solve, address. Where do I buy chicken feed? Why is there sediment in our water? What size rug do we need? What’s that terrible smell? So much new, so little familiar. My poor brain has no time or energy left for the imagination and creativity that’s so much a part of who I am.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to get myself grounded but I’ve been at a loss as to how to start. Hmmm, hang on, did I just answer my own question a second ago? Uprooted, transplanted, grounded… obviously my subconscious is trying to tell me something. I need to get back in the garden.

IMG_1295

I’ve been sifting and sorting and obsessing over seeds for several weeks and have been dying to start planting, but even if I had garden beds ready it’s too early to plant most seeds outside. Too cold, too wet. Luckily for me, as any diehard gardener will tell you, it’s never too early start seeds indoors!*

IMG_1158

*Note: this is not true at all. There are historically- and scientifically-based reasons for starting certain seeds at certain times, but the itch to garden is a powerful force and it’s just not worth fighting.

I’ve got a nice variety of heirloom seeds but since my potting area is just a little table in the dining room (thanks honey ;) I don’t have a lot of room for seed trays or grow lights. With this in mind I decided to try something new – starting seeds in paper towels. Yep, it’s true, you can start seeds in paper towels!

It’s a pretty cool trick. I tried it because it looked like a good way to start a lot of seeds in a small amount of space but it’s also proven to be a great way to test germination. Old or new, some seeds don’t sprout. Why waste time watering your seed trays and waiting, watching, hoping that something is going to pop out? Using this method, if it’s going to pop you’ll know, and fast!

IMG_1336

If you want to give it a try, just lay your seeds out about an inch apart on one half of a moist paper towel. Fold the towel in half and place it into an air-filled ziplock baggie or a plastic clamshell. The idea here is to create a mini-greenhouse with enough space to allow air to circulate and enough humidity to keep the paper towel slightly moist, but not so wet that the seeds rot.

IMG_1338

Put your mini-greenhouse in a sunny window, make sure the towel stays moist, and check daily for sprouts. You will be amazed how fast it happens. See these little guys below?

IMG_1368

They were just six days from seed to healthy sprout! For those who Moon Phase garden I’ll note that I started these two days before the full moon, maybe that had something to do with it?? Check it out – the roots grew into and through the paper towel:

IMG_1371

Of course this means you need to be careful moving them from the towel to the potting medium. I gently tugged on each sprout and those that came free easily I planted as they were. For the ones that were really embedded I tore the little patch of towel it was attached to and planted the whole thing. The towel will break down and I didn’t traumatize the delicate root.

IMG_1369

I just potted up my first experimental sprouts. Soilless growing medium is usually recommended for this technique but since I didn’t have perlite or peat I used a light potting soil. I filled my tray with the soil, watered it thoroughly and drained it, then created an indentation using the head of a screw because, well, it was handy. I carefully placed each little sprout into a hole:

IMG_1370

I then covered the whole sprout, leaves and all, gently with soil. After a light misting with water I placed the tray under the grow lights inside. One day later they don’t seem to be suffering from my use of potting soil, in fact they seem quite happy! They’ve straightened themselves out and their leaves have popped right through the soil.

IMG_1376

A few days later and they’re doing great! Zoom zoom! I only hope I haven’t missed the chill-factor window for cauliflower. I think it likes cold weather for the beginning of its growth cycle but to be honest I’m not sure. Only one way to find out!

IMG_1386

I must say, getting my hands dirty, starting my spring seeds and getting back into a ritual I’m familiar with has made me feel much more… myself. I have dozens of seedlings sprouting and no idea where they will end up but their mere existence motivates me to build new beds, sheet mulch the hell out of the meadow, create an outdoor potting station and, most importantly, get some dirt under my nails. Every. Single. Day.

Thank you, gardening, for helping me establish new roots and thrive here in our new home. I’m so relieved to have you back.

~~~~~~~~~~ END POST ~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Getting longer each day

Putting the BLOOM Back in Bloomfield

When we found this property one of my first thoughts was “Butterfly garden!” Not that it had one, but that it desperately needs one. I immediately envisioned a wild, natural habitat for butterflies, bees and birds flowing along the entire southern fence line.

The expansive green meadow is begging for color, the sloping terrain ideal for a meandering path surrounded by native flora and visiting fauna. I see flowers and grasses growing 3′ high swaying gently in the afternoon breeze and a healthy helping of milkweed to attract and support my beloved monarchs. Neighbors walking by will be surrounded by fluttering butterflies and people driving through town will say to themselves, “I see why they call this place Bloomfield!”

View of the to-be wildflower meadow from the big barn, looking east

As it turns out, this property used to be covered with flowers. The previous owners had a floral shop and grew their own supplies right here. We’ve heard stories and seen a few grainy photos and since cutting back the blackberries and clearing dead brush we’ve been surprised to see long lost calla lilies pop up near the barn, statice poking it’s way up across the meadow.

IMG_1190

Historically flowers have not been my specialty. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that not long ago I declared to Jon that I had no interest in growing flowers, that if I was going to use all that water and work so hard to build healthy soil it should be used to produce food, not just pretty decorations. Ha! It didn’t take me long to realize that those pretty “decorations” actually were food. They were feeding our bees and butterflies, hoverflies and wasps, hummingbirds and phoebes, all of whom were helping to pollinate my beloved vegetables! The little flying beasties are not only charming and entertaining, they are vital to a healthy and productive vegetable garden.  Continue reading

IMG_0925

“12 Weeks in Bloomfield” Sing-Along

I’ve been contemplating our time here in Bloomfield and was thinking “wow, we’ve been here for twelve weeks!” and maybe it’s because it’s Christmas or perhaps I’m still delirious from the move but I was inspired to write a little ditty.

Please feel free to sing along as loudly as possible to the tune of “12 Days of Christmas.” A big thank you to Jon, who helped me tweak and twist to get it just right. And of course to Miney-Roo for providing endless entertainment and inspiration.

Extra points and my undying adoration for anyone who records themselves singing this and posts it for me to enjoy! Ready? Here we go! Continue reading

IMG_0781

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.

IMG_0800

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.

IMG_0811

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

IMG_0807

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!).

IMG_0780

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

IMG_0781

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

IMG_0785

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!

 

~~~~~~~~~~~ END POST ~~~~~~~~~~~

IMG_0717

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
Continue reading

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

Continue reading

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

weMadeIt

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!

CatonXanax

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

Continue reading

viewofgarden

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:

viewofgarden

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…

~~~~~~~~~~~ END POST ~~~~~~~~~~~