Friday, December 31, 2010

Random Thoughts

Bella in action

I discovered a website last night that I absolutlely love.  All about permaculture and this post specifically about the art of composting and a European permaculture method called hugelkulturing that we are excited to try.  (Here is a demo of the hugelkulture method.)

 Even if you have been composting for many years I guarentee you will learn something new from this guy. He thoughtfully, and intentionally uses everything around him that might be considered waste. Beautiful pictures, I am truly inspired.

It's almost a new year and we can't think of a better way to spend the first day of 2011 than by having our first work party.  Behind the hand and down the hill we will prepare beds for spring.  The consensus around here is that we will try sheet mulching  two 4' x 20' beds and double digging two 4' x 20' beds.  We shall see who's method works better.  No it is not a competition:). 

Also came across these pics of our chickens when we first got them...sooo cute and fluffy. 
It won't be too long before it's time to get more.  Spring is just around the corner.
Stay tuned for lots of pics and info from the work party.  I hope it doesn't rain...............

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Guava Jelly

My neighbor Lila graciously passed on to us a huge bag of pineapple guavas or fejjoas, which are in season right now in our area.  On my wild forages I used to find these trees all over, especially in parking lots and landscaped places.  We have always just eaten them raw but with this many I needed to do something else.  So in the spirit of Bob Marley, yes I did blast Songs of Freedom all day, I made guava jelly.  We are having it on our toast this morning and its delicious.  Tangy, tart and sweet.

I'm not usually one to use recipes, as many of my friends know, but this is basically what i did if you happen to come across a bunch of this aromatic fruit and are so inspired. 
Wash and cut up the fruit removing the stems, and boil in a large pot with a little water.
Boil for about 1/2 hour until the fruit has broken down, stirring frequently and watching that the water does not boil out.  Strain out the solids in a fine mesh strainer or a jelly bag, measure the liquid and add to a new clean pot.  Compost the solids and bring the liquid back to a boil. Add juice of a couple of lemons and sweetener to taste, about half as many cups sweetener than liquid or a little less than half.  I used organic cane sugar because I didn't want to boil my raw honey.  (If you use honey you may want to add some pectin.)  Simmer for a while until it reduces to about half.  Pour into clean jars and let set. 

On the topic of making things from scratch, one of my current favorite library books is Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It, and Other Cooking Projects, by Karen Solomon.  The recipes for hot sauce and ginger beer are both amazing!!!  We have also recently tried her recommendations for curing olives so we'll see how that goes.

Friday, December 24, 2010


 One of my favorite things about winter in northern California, December specifically, is the abundance of mushrooms.  Being an herbalist and spending so much time with plants, I feel embarrassed at my limited knowlegde of mushrooms.  I love going on walks with naturalists or even better, my dream is to find a grandmother figure with long white braids to hold my hand while walking me through the forest and teaching me all the names and uses of the plants and fungi.  Exploring the property today I found these two specimins which seem to be very intact considering the amout of rain we have had in the last couple of weeks.  (Im not sure if it's ok to share this info, but I did look them up on my iphone mushroom identification application-hee hee, sometimes technology has its uses.).  Simply beautiful! 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

December on the Homestead

December has been an eventful month, not necessarily easy but full of learning and new experiences.  It has been almost 6 months since we moved here and things are coming along, one project after another.  Earlier in the month we got established with a local large animal vet who turned out to be quite helpful.  Little did we know a few days later our ever spirited, 8 month old Oberhasli goat, Poppy, would once again try to escape the pasture by jumping the fence, resulting in a fractured front leg.  Very traumatic indeed for me (my high hopes of breeding her in the next month were shatterered) although Poppy remained stoic.  Definately a learning experience watching the vet.  I have to say that even though we don't have immediate access to prescription drugs, if this was to ever happen again I think I would be capable of taking care of it.  The whole process entailed shooting her up with vallium, setting her leg straight and then creating a splint with padding and PVC pipe held in place with duck tape.  (I learned to give my first shot which is a big deal for me!)  Poppy is doing well, it's been almost 2 weeks and she's getting a series of homeopathic remedies to speed her recovery.  Now to work on the fencing...

Winter Solstice and Wool
Tuesday we had a wonderfully successful needle felting class here with 7 homeschoolers ages 6-11.  The children learned how to create wool felted dolls inspired by the Waldorf tradition.  I was so impressed by their attention span.  They were able to work for almost 3 hours straight, some even forgoing their lunch break to keep the creativity flowing.

Soap from Scratch
After curing for 30 some days, our first batch of homemade soap came out terrific!  My friend Rachel, of Dog Island Farm,, and her roomate Jeanette came through, we had so much fun. We used a great recipe from Kim Flottum's, The Backyard Beekeeeper that includes coconut oil, palm oil, beeswax, lye, and distilled h2o, with essential oils of tangerine and sweet orange-yummy!  Next attempt will be homemade laundry soap.