July 24, 2007

Somewhere through the haze of the Monday night voice lesson and the particularly fine passionfruit mojito consumed earlier, it was with great reluctance that I had to wake up enough to realize that little needles were attacking my leg and foot in the small hours of the morning……that’s the downside of having that adorable new kitten.

By day she is Leda, little 2-3 lb Furball of Cuteness and Purrs, by night she is Fanged Lilith who shall conquer All Exposed Flesh in Her Path. Leda now tallies along with Luna as the second cat to have been dumped or found stray at our farming partner’s home. I remain disappointed with my fellow country dwellers–people that should know better just refuse to be responsible about altering their animals. It’s much easier to dump unwanted offspring at another farm and hope they find a home. Well, in this case, someone got lucky, but it doesn’t change the problem. People can’t seem to understand that having a pet means making sure they can afford basic care, vaccinations, and making sure that their Fido or Fluffy doesn’t create a problem for someone else….what a concept.

The first figs are ripening, and I’m not sure what happened. Last year they were the size of a racquetball and very good. This year the fruits I’ve picked are almost the size of a baseball. Figs Gone Wild. The taste is "just okay" for now, but I expect it to get better.

(an aside–I’m watching what threatens to be another game of Giants i mean little league Baseball….can anything be sadder than this season???)

I am receiving a lot of requests for CSA deliveries to outlying areas like Yuba City and Sacramento this week. This tells me 2 things: People would like to have good produce, and, I wish I currently had the circumstances to make them happy. I still am on the hunt for a part-time job that will free some of my time away from my current position at UC Davis, but right now, I have no idea how I can expand further and still stay somewhat sane. I hope that some of these individuals from outlying areas might band together; if we can compile enough requests from one area, we can consider making the delivery run even though it’s out of our way. The whole subject of deliveries is really complicated, I’ve learned. Often, the hardest part of connecting a customer with our produce isn’t the growing, picking, packaging or driving; it’s the actual logistics of where to leave the stuff so that the end user doesn’t have anything happen to their order (theft, wilting in the hot sun, etc) and we are able to receive a payment. I mean, most city streetcorners don’t have locked dropoff boxes. Most stores or businesses are not going to be willing to act as a dropoff point, what’s in it for them?? And many people don’t live in a detached house, so there’s nowhere to really leave a box. Like I said, it’s complicated……

Problems with assorted chicks continue, we lost 2 of the poor little guys overnight. This time I’m calling on the powers of Pathology, it’s time to find out what’s going wrong….

Well, that’s most of the news. Oh, and a followup to the bee sting business….turns out the ticket, according to someone with lots more degrees than I possess,  is oral Benadryl and a hydrocortisone cream. And ice and all that other stuff, call the doctor if that doesn’t work well enough. So, until next time…maybe I’ll get stung in the butt, so at least I can be more productive….a farmer that can’t sit down, what could come of that?!? Possibly a sparkling chicken coop, or a polished car………..nah.

July 15, 2007

I’m laughing, because it’s funny, except, it’s not. My left foot has been stung twice in one week by bees. The first time it hurt like hell for about 5 hours, was fine for a day, and then itched worse than anything has ever itched for two days. I recall waking up at night scraping my foot across the carpet, anything to scratch the itch.

Then I got nailed again this Saturday morning while picking flowers for the Farmer’s Market. It hurt worse than ever, right away. Then it was basically fine until about 1 pm, when it started to hurt again. We had gone to see Harry Potter (best one yet!!) and by the time the film ended I wondered how I was getting back to the car, since it hurt too much to walk. I’m sure I made a spectacle trying to extricate myself from the theater as inconspicuously as possible. I have spent all my time since then with ice on my foot, and if I try to get up for more than about 15 minutes, I can’t walk. My foot is swollen so much that I can’t make out bones or tendons, and feels a lot like a liquid sac that is about to pop open. Luckily, this is still a good reaction to a bee sting; it beats the hell out of the people who can’t breathe. And while all this sounds rather dramatic, it is apparently a pretty typical response to a sting, just on the nasty end of the spectrum. I even spent hours reading about what one might do to help with the symptoms. I don’t know which one was more amusing, the suggestion to use meat tenderizer or the one involving toothpaste. (In case you’re wondering, ice is really about all that can be done, along with over the counter pain relievers). The thing that worries me is, that we have had an influx of (in my opinion) irresponsible beekeepers into the area. They think nothing of parking hundreds of hives on their properties, to hell with where those bees are supposed to go for forage or water. Where they do go are places like our gardens, that attract the bees. Too many bees a dozen times over compete for limited resources. It’s a lot like somone deciding to run 5,000 cattle on 10 acres and turning a blind eye to the cattle sort of wandering loose around the neighborhood, and then saying, "oh, was I supposed to buy hay and put out water troughs?". Also, I see more and more bees on flowers that aren’t acting right; I call them "tired bees". They act drunk, unable to go about their business, confused. I am pretty sure I owe my week of stings to bees of this kind, as I have spent years working among bees daily and never had this happen before. They have their own agenda, and if you don’t bother them, they just go about their business. However, my current condition equals lost work; I cannot function as a farmer if I can’t stay on my feet. And, I’m pretty sure I can’t go to work at the university tomorrow either unless the swelling goes down. I don’t have to walk as much at my day job, but I can’t function like this….One more sting and the Ag Commissioner may be getting a love letter….it won’t do any good but I’ll feel happy. Yeah, I know I can start wearing closed-toed shoes too, but that’s just going too far….we all have our lines in the sand. The latest batch of chicks hatched, it looks like another 7-8 viable chicks thus far. I am really thinking about getting a second incubator to do something about our 40% (on a good run) hatch rate. Well, at least our population will get a little boost, but not what it could have been. The nectarines, beans, okra and tomatoes are starting to ripen NOW. The nectarines will all have to be picked tomorrow and go into the refrigerator. Tree fruit is amazing, when it’s ready, it’s ALL ready. I wish I had the resources to do canning sometimes….but we’ll get there. Sales continue to go well for July. The heat, for our area, has been surprisingly even with a strange lack of really hot days. I’m not complaining, it has allowed me to get a lot more done than usual, but it is pretty different from most Julys that I recall. And, by the way, if you don’t like the prices of fresh produce and you’re tired of the cheapness and widespread availability of junk food, consider writing your senator or representative in Congress and giving your two cents about the upcoming Farm Bill. Should the sacred continuum of corn, cotton, soybeans, wheat, etc. continue to get all the federal subsidies while those who grow fresh fruit and nuts in our own state get zilch by way of assistance? Do it soon, there isn’t much time to weigh in on an issue that affects us all…..

July 9, 2007

Plop, plop, plop went the sound of 36 baskets of premium blackberries falling to the ground. Every single one of them had gone moldy in a refrigerator with too much humidity. This pleasant discovery was made when they were removed from the fridge to deliver. The experience was a lot like watching a hundred dollar bill float into the burn barrel, except at least the turkeys and chickens enjoyed the moldy berries.

Sometimes there are frustrating setbacks and losses on account of things you just don’t know about until it’s too late. The good news was that we were able to pick 96 more baskets, which we did get to market with no further disasters. I really like berry season, when people see the berries and say “what ARE those?!” because they’ve never seen a two inch blackberry in their lives. And of course it’s followed by the look of incredulity on their faces when they actually eat one of the fruits….so few people have ever tasted a real blackberry. They are used to the rock-hard, marble sized sourballs sold in grocery stores for about $4.50 a barely-half-pint, primarily by one large company that shall remain nameless. Driscoll’s. Oops, that just slipped out. Anyway, it’s gratifying to have some shining successes. It makes up for the mold……


It’s already time to start thinking about fall crops and planting. This is easily the hardest challenge of the whole year, to plan and start the next season’s garden while barely being able to cope with the output of the one already growing. But, it really is just around the corner, seeds should start going in 3-4 weeks from now at the most.


We made a disturbing discovery this week, about Dazzle our peacock. We watched him….attend the peahen. HE WASN’T DOING IT RIGHT. Which of course explained why every egg those hens laid were duds; our boy never got the job done. I mean, how much is there to figure out? And yet on Sunday evening, in front of multiple witnesses, he actually completed the task for the first time. Don’t know if we’ll ever get any peachicks, but at least now there’s a chance. That is, if he can remember what he did. It’s not like you can just run downtown and buy the bird an instructional video…….honestly.


The last batch of chicks is outside now, and the bathroom is currently occupied by a 3 week old turkey and a 2 day old….we don’t know what species yet. The turkey now spends all day resting and gazing at itself in the mirror. And using a 1”x4” for a slide. Yes, a slide, the little bird sits down on its hocks and slides on the piece of smooth lumber from the towel rack to the countertop. I think it has incurred mental damage. No one would believe my life…or my bathroom.


Hope you are all keeping cool J