Saturday, December 9, 2017

Every Penny Counts

Mr. W snapped this on his way home from LA
Wednesday afternoon, somewhere near the Thomas fire.
Ash is raining down at my house today, as smoke from the Thomas fire in Ventura County blows north. I don't know exactly how many structures and homes have been lost, but I know it's in the hundreds, and I cannot even imagine what people who lived in the fire's path are going through.

Tomorrow, Mr. W. and I are heading to Walmart to buy a whole bunch of stuff to donate to the victims (if you want to contribute, Venmo me tonight!). It may not end up being much when you consider the magnitude of everything lost, but hopefully it'll help.

I really believe every little bit helps.

At the beginning of this year, I was feeling really uncertain about what would happen to many of the causes I care about. Certain organizations and initiatives seemed to be in jeopardy—so I set a crazy goal to donate $100 a month to different charities. Now, for some people, that's peanuts. But it was more than I'd ever coughed up to nonprofits in my life.

I'm excited to say I exceeded my goal by about 40%.

It got me thinking about how much easier it is to give than I thought it was. Sure, I could have used that money to pad my savings account or take a nice trip. But receiving thank you letters from teachers in need and nonprofits that do such important work for wounded veterans or the environment or LGBT rights—it made every last cent count so much more.

Did you know that if every one of my Facebook friends donated just $5 a month to charity, there'd be more than $40,000 a year going to good causes? From just FIVE bucks a month. Almost everyone can afford that.

So I'd like to poke you in the rib and ask you to donate to something you believe in. Or send some money to a great org like Direct Relief or the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. Or drive yourself to Walmart tomorrow and pick up some stuff to send to Californians who have lost their homes. They need it, and I have a feeling it'll make your holiday season feel a little more meaningful.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Warning: Chicken Panic Is Contagious


Whoever wrote the story of Chicken Little and his famous "the sky is falling" catchphrase must have been a hen owner. Anyone who has spent even a small amount of time in the company of poultry can tell you that the feathered girls are usually high anxiety. The intensity of their panic is somewhere in the realm of fainting '50s Beatles fans or, if we were measuring it in abs, maybe like 8 Ryan Goslings.

Our new chicks, Agnes and Barb, are especially uppity—I think because we didn't get them until they were about 6 weeks old. The ladies in our first brood have been handled by us since the day they were born, so their neuroses are slightly less (maybe around a factor of 6 Gos abs).


Barbie and Agnes currently live in a sectioned off portion of the big girls' run. And yes, their coup is a souped up cardboard box...



Anywhoo, it occurred to me last week that chicken anxiety might be like the avian flu. Catching. And I'm infected. Mr. W has been away for work (which always depletes any reserves of calm I have) so I've been on chicken duty all by myself and was pretty much flapping around the house squawking like a featherbrain Wednesday when I thought our little Samantha was eggbound. (Teaching moment: Chickens can get eggs stuck between their uterus and ....exit hole....and it they stay that way, they can die).

Sammy hadn't produced any eggs in a few days (or she may have laid in the yard and hidden them from me) so I was keeping a close eye on her. When she finally went into the nesting box, I checked on her about 3 times and when I opened it to find her standing with her beak wedged in the corner, painting and straining, I freaked out.

THE SKY IS FALLING!!

I raced through the yard like a crazy person, looking for some sort of bathtub so I could throw her into an Epsom salt soak. I couldn't find my normal tubs, so naturally I began to blame Mr. W for losing the hen spa box. Finally, I grabbed a mini ice chest, ran into the house to heat water in the microwave and frantically searched for the bag of salt.

Then I realized that I've never actually witnessed one of our girls laying an egg. Maybe Sammy was just doing that. Maybe she wasn't eggbound, but eggbirthing.

I zipped back to the chicken coop and sure enough her pretty blue egg was waiting in the nesting box.

The sky was still intact hovering above my head.

Apparently chicken labor involves standing in a corner, straining and panting. Duly noted.

Though I feel much calmer about the situation, I'm fully prepared to have the avian panic flu strike me again. If only I could get these little ladies to chill out before it hits.


In other farm news, our garden is going crazy. In the last two weeks, I've given zucchini away to I believe 6 different people and I still have more than I know what to do with.


As a result of the overly abundant harvest, the dehydrator has become my new BFF.

I've dried about 7 zucchinis, a dozen or two apricots and a few plums.
Oh my gosh and - happy day - our almond tree is ready to be harvested for the first time! Super excited to roast some nuts. 10 Gos abs on the excitement scale for that!


Monday, July 3, 2017

Hipster Farmers' Almanac


A few weeks ago, Mr. W and I spent two days laying down our "big" summer garden in the lower, wild part of our backyard. Creating a functioning garden in the middle of a weed field requires just a smidge of elbow grease. So, naturally, we started with a call to our neighbor asking if he could roll his tractor over to plow our plot for us.


I assumed that our neighbor's tractor pass would to make our jobs exponentially easier, but that was before I knew all the details of Mr. W's very intricate garden construction plan. Dig-and-plant is for amateurs. Instead, we dug three 6-inch-deep, 25-foot-long trenches into which we placed chicken wire as protection against gophers. (The one thing we planted outside of the "grid" recently disappeared into a tunnel in the ground. Thank goodness Mr. W knew we needed to lay down the wire...)


Now, I'm pretty sure that I've told Mr. W about twelve times that I will no longer dig ditches for him. I'm happy to help with other chores, but I when it comes to digging—the ultimate grunt work—I'm out. Yet, somehow, there I was with my shovel, breaking my back alongside him for hours.

Thankfully, Mr. W had a blue tooth speaker pumping out 80s music from Spotify. So as we covered our gopher barrier with a mix of compost and regular dirt, Adam Ant and Robert Smith serenaded us.

"How many farmers do you think listen to the Cure while they work?" I asked Mr. W.

"Only the hipster ones," he answered.

Were we hipster farmers?! 

I felt like I needed to run out and buy some high-waisted pants and vegan sandals. But when I told my 22-year-old niece the story, she quickly informed me that we were NOWHERE NEAR hipsterhood.

So, I guess we're just farmers who listen to 80s music.


In spite of all the sweat and dirt and body aches our project entailed, we're pretty psyched about the new garden. Hopefully sooner than later, our kitchen will be overflowing with tomatoes, tomatillos, bell peppers, jalapeños, zucchini, pumpkins, cantaloupe, corn, and some edible flowers.


A wee baby pumpkin

Until then, we'll distract ourselves with the other latest addition to our farm: Santa Barbara (Barb) and Santa Ynez (Agnes) the pullets. We picked them up last weekend and we're in love.




CHICKEN BUTTS!

If having really cute chickens doesn't add to our hip-ness, we're hoping our other latest project will help: cafe lights on the pergola. Summer al fresco dining, here we come.

Hip that.