Sunday, January 30, 2011

Kale Chips Itty Bitty Style

I believe the secret to perfect kale chips is a low oven temperature, about 250 degrees. Too hot and they tend to burn. I also use insulated baking sheets, which hold even heat. With regular pans, try parchment paper.

Usually I stick with olive oil and salt, but today I experimented with my seasoning. I whipped up a concoction of olive oil (3 Tbsp.), ume plum vinegar (1-1.5 Tbsp.), and soy sauce (1-1.5 Tbsp.). After de-stemming and drying the rinsed kale, I brushed the mixture on the leaves and placed them in a single layer on the pan. Using a brush prevents too much of anything globbing up in one area. I then popped them in the 250 oven for about 30 minutes. I checked them a couple times to make sure they were fully crisp - leathery kale chips are not what we are going for. They came out perfect and oh so delicious. A real hit with the kiddo to boot. This could be the trick you've been looking for to get your child to eat their greens.

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Support San Francisco Urban Agriculture

If you haven't heard, San Francisco is changing its zoning laws to permit gardens in all areas of the city and to allow sales of produce from those gardens. Yay! This is really exciting stuff. But we still need your help. The San Francisco Urban Agriculture Alliance is supportive of the proposal with the exception of three little niggles: the requirement of fancy fencing for gardens (fancy fencing costs bucks, big bucks), the "change of use" permit fees that would incur if someone were to say put a commercial growing operation in a residential neighborhood like Little City Gardens has done (again, could be costly and involve all kinds of convoluted conversations with the planning department - we want to promote urban ag, not scare folks away), and the prohibition of selling value-added goods (what can we say, jams and preserves are all the rage these days and a little extra moola could turn a business that is just covering costs into one that is profitable). You can find more information, including the proposal itself, here.

There are three ways you can show your support.

1. Sign the online petition!

2. Send a letter to the planning commissioners.

3. Join us at the public hearing on Thursday, February 17th (1:30 p.m. at City Hall)

Thank you everyone for supporting urban farming!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Cool Season Squash

If you live in an area where the soil doesn't freeze, you might want to give chayote a try. This squash plant, native to Mesoamerica, is unique amongst cucurbits in that it produces fruit in winter. The plant is propagated by allowing the harvested fruits to begin sprouting. They should be collected in December or January and left on the counter. If by March the squash doesn't sprout, you've got a dud and will need to start again next year. Chayotes should be grown in pairs for best production. Make sure you select a good site for their size. They can be grown in sun or shade, as they are light seekers, but will grow 10 to 15 feet in the first season so they will need plenty of room. A trellis or fence is a good idea for support.

The chayote is a popular plant in San Francisco. I've been meaning to plant some the last couple years, but kept missing the time window. The other day I saw that a neighbor had a huge canopy of vines that looked like a grape variety of some sort, but on closer inspection, I saw that it was a chayote con espinas. Ouch. I made a special effort to walk the dog past this house everyday, hoping to catch the owner at home to ask if they could spare a couple. I want to join the chayote club too! No luck. So I hopped down to 24th street in the Mission and picked up both the smooth skinned and the prickly types, two of each. Because dammit, I will have chayote by next year!

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

It's January?

My peppers are finally ripening. It's winter, right?

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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Spring Chickens Class

Want chickens in your backyard, but don't know if you've got the chutzpah? Come find out at Itty Bitty's first ever class on raising urban laying hens. We'll go over everything you need to know about responsible chicken ownership in a city: housing, feeding and general care, essential chicken terminology, predators, breeds, vaccinations, diseases and illnesses, purchasing chicks or pullets, legal issues, maintaining good neighbor relations, and local resources.

When: Saturday, February 26th from 1-4 p.m.

Where: Itty Bitty Farm (address given once you sign up)

Cost: $20-30 sliding scale (you can pay by cash, check, or Paypal)

To sign up, contact me at heidikooy(at)yahoo(dot)com and I will reserve a space for you. Hope to see you there!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Get Your Fruit On

It's January boys and girls, which indicates for us Left Coasters that it's time to seriously contemplate fruit trees. Get that bare rootstock in the ground and light a fire under it (metaphorically speaking, that is; I'm not advising burning bushes here). Prune your established trees. Give your Prunus persica a good dose of copper to prevent the horribly debilitating peach leaf curl. Graft scions to existing trees. Where can you get  scions to graft, you ask? Funny, I was just going to mention the Golden Gate Rare Fruit Growers scion exchange this Saturday.

WHEN:  12 noon to 3:00 PM
                Saturday, January 22, 2011

WHERE:  First Baptist Church
                  4555 Hilltop Drive
                  El Sobrante, CA

•Hundreds of varieties of scions (fruit wood) to graft onto your own trees, including:
apples, pears, quince, plums, peaches, nectarines, apricots, cherries, and more. . .
•Cuttings to root: grapes, figs, pomegranate, kiwi fruit, mulberries, and more. . .
•Rootstocks and grafting supplies
•Grafting class and demo 12:30 and 1:30   
•Custom and assisted grafting of your selected variety onto a rootstock
•Local Fruit Friendly organizations   
•Questions answered, secrets revealed. . .
•$4 donation to enter
** volunteers needed
** bring plastic bags and tape to label scion varieties you take home

Don't forget to do your research about what trees will work best for your microclimate. Chill hours are crucial. If you think you can get away with growing a tree, in the heart of  San Francisco, that needs 1000 plus chill hours, you are sadly mistaken and will certainly be disappointed. Here's a useful chart for the Bay Area. Chill hours can vary greatly across the city of San Francisco and I had once found this very awesome link that gave the number of hours by neighborhoods, but now I can't find it. Crap. You can use this for now as cross reference and if I ever do find that super useful site, I will be sure to post it. Happy fruiting!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Fond Remembrances

Is it possible to be nostalgic for events that transpired merely a month ago? I just received a disc of photos in the mail from a local photographer, Lori Eanes, who came out to snap some shots of the farm last month. Aside from being absolutely gorgeous, they capture the last few days that I had with the baby goats. My heartstrings are feeling a serious tug at this moment. Sniff sniff.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Not Such a Bad Gardener After All

I'm enjoying spending time in the garden during this lovely warm spell we've been having. And I've come to the conclusion that maybe my thumb isn't all that brown after all.

The speckled lettuce and escarole have been slow to grow, but are coming along nicely. You can even see some carrots in there.

This is my experiment bed where I threw in a load of radish, carrot, and beet seeds all nilly willy. The radishes are obviously winning.

I'm surprised at how well my chicken wire potato cages are doing, regardless of the leaning Tower of Pisa issue.

I will blame all of my previous garden mishaps on the rats, who, by the way, have been suspiciously quiet.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011


Guess how I spent the better part of my morning? Tracking down neon green rat turds in the animal pen so that the chickens wouldn't accidentally peck at poison poo. Damn, there were a lot of them. This is going to be a messy five days.

Makes me fantasize about buying this pellet gun, called the Whisper, for the hubby's Valentine's gift. How romantic. We could sit in the backyard like a couple grits, me with the blow dart gun and hubby with his air rifle (My awesome urban farming friend Rachel over at Dog Island Farm informed me that pellet guns are not considered firearms because they don't use gunpowder. Shows you how much I know about weapons.), enjoying a quiet evening taking out rats as they skitter across the fence.

"Did yeh git that one, honey?"

"I shore as shit did!"

Too bad both weapons are  illegal to possess in San Francisco. Just when I thought I could bring a little romance back into my life

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Your Days Are Numbered

To exactly five. How do I know this? After over a year of hunting you and your kind down using every method known to man, I have finally sunk to the lowest form of ridding one's self of thine enemy. It wasn't like I wanted it to go down this way. Thankfully you were a willing participant in your own demise, gobbling up three of those fluorescent turquoise poison cubes like you were one of Jim Jones' bitches guzzling the People's Temple Kool-aid.  An ugly, brutal death awaits you, but you left me no choice.

You see, I'm over the top pissed that you got yourself out of this Havahart trap that I left you in for the Disgruntled Farmhand to do the dirty deed. You looked so defenseless and cute in that little cage, and I had done enough killing in recent months. I thought I could pass the job on this time. I hadn't expected that you would be able to wrench yourself out of seemingly secure galvanized steel. But you did. You clawed hay up through the mesh, piece by piece, until you could shove it into the corners and wiggle the lock on the door, cracking it open no more than a half inch. It was enough. What are you made of, silly putty?

The DF was hopping mad because he knew - now that you had figured it out - you wouldn't go in the trap again. Fuck you and your metacognition! It's no wonder you are so blasted difficult to get rid of. You can fucking learn!

Screwed I was, since we had exhausted every other method of good riddance. Snap traps killed a couple of your young ones, but then everyone wised up and the grain tinged lumps of peanut butter remained untouched. The bucket trap seemed promising since you guys were always falling into the goat's water. However, I never got that one set up quite right. The electric zapper was a winner until it shorted out in the rain. I'm sure, in time, you would have caught on to that one as well. The black box bait stations never had a chance since you all are neophobic. How the hell did your kind get so smart if you're afraid to try new things?

Having little impact on your overall population, we moved on to interesting weaponry. The DF built this cool frog gig from a bamboo pole.

We taught the seven year-old how to use it.

The best any one of us did with the spear was to knock one of you off a fence, possibly causing some bodily injury. Though that might be wishful thinking on our part.

Everyone loves the blow dart gun.

I don't know how effective it is. A few of you have shown up injured and in need of a more humane end after a nighttime under-the-chicken-coop dart blitz. Certainly not enough death to put any kind of dent in your numbers. On this count, we really don't care. A strong puff through the tube is a super fun way to pass the time while simultaneously developing fine marksmanship.

The DF expressed interest in busting a cap in your ass with a pellet gun, to which I had to persuade him otherwise as I am 100% positive that it is illegal to discharge a firearm within city limits. There's only so much law breaking I can allow around here.

Our foray into various arsenal eventually seemed diversionary. We moved on to destroying what we thought were all of your nests, like this one inside the neighbor's fence.

But you little fuckers set up shop everywhere. You're like the John McCains of the rat world with too many homes to even remember where you put them all.

When we realized that you had breached the sacred boundary between interior and exterior, finding droppings under the basement stairs, we were done with you and the filth leaking from your incontinent sphincters. This war needed to end. I put that poison out where I knew you could get at it, but other less pathogen-laden creatures couldn't. I will try not to think about how you are going to bleed to death internally. Or that a stray cat may eat you and be poisoned accidentally. Or that you might die between our walls, producing a stench so vile that we will have no choice but to open it up and dig you out. Yeah, I'm going to try not to think about all that.

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Dirty Job

And I have to do it. Twice a year. That's probably not good enough to get on Mike Rowe's show though. No props for this sh*t mucker.

I know it looks bad, but I guarantee it smells a thousand times worse. You know that odor when you floss your teeth and a big ol' hunk of last night's dinner comes popping out from between your back molars? That's what crap, hay, and ten inches of rain will smell like, but kicked up a few notches Emril Lagasse style. I can only handle it for a couple hours before I start retching. Since it takes me about three hours to complete the job, I space it over a couple days.

The chickens freak when I do the dig out as tons of yummy worms are revealed under all that muck. They barely even touch their feed on these occasions. Lots o' worms = happy chickens.

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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Ringing in the New Year

2011 has started off with a flurry of cleaning and decluttering of farm, home, and body. With the monsoon-like torrents pelting the backyard and the tornado of activities during the holidays, all systems are in need of an overhaul.

On the first sunny day of the year, I finally got around to turning the ginormous compost pile. And what a gorgeous, brisk day it was for a bit of outdoor laboring! Look how happy I am to be in the sunshine.

What a welcome relief from all the rain. So much needs to get done around here; the animal pen needs to be mucked, the greenhouse cleared of hay and goat doodie, the basement cleaned and organized, not to mention the inside of the house. Ugh!

And to top it all off, I need a good cleanse as my insides are feeling like the animal yard looks: mucky, boggy, and anaerobic. The holiday over-indulgences - including the five gallons of eggnog, eight cups of tea per day, cookies, and tamales - have taken their toll. Some of you may assume that I eat really well since we grow our own food around here, which is true for the most part. But you should have been tipped off by the lard post that I'm a fat whore.

So I'm off to see the hydrotherapist next week followed by a three week cleanse. No, someone is not going to give me a bath. I'm going to have my large intestine flushed. I realize this is totally tmi and I promise I won't post any pics of what comes out, though I have to admit I can't wait (oh come on, you know you're curious as to what might be hanging around your colon for the last decade or so). After the colonic, I'll be focusing on a primarily veggie and whole grain diet for a few weeks. Which reminds me, I better get a jump on the spring planting.

I'm also using this time to reflect on what I'd like to accomplish around the homestead. Here's the top 10 goals for the year.

1. Improve Organization. This is not my strong suit. My brain functions more like a pattern of overlapping circles rather than in a linear fashion. Ironically, I am a compulsive list maker. Yet I rarely, if ever, follow my lists. This just won't do anymore with a farm, household, finances, and two businesses to run. I'm hoping that technology can solve the dilemma.

Last year I inherited a free iPhone, which is another example of the ridiculous irony of my life as I don't actually use it as a phone. I have a perfectly good phone that doesn't drop calls so I stick with that for my telecommunications. But I use the iPhone as my do-everything-else device: iPod, organizer, camera, blog writer, etc. Though it seems like there is an app for everything, so far I haven't found the perfect daily planner/organizer. Right now I'm using YadaHome for my to do lists, calendar, and grocery lists. Though it takes a bunch of time to set all of your activities up, especially if you are like me and have a shitload of them, I love the fact that it has alarms. I need alarms. Bad. Along with all of my meetings, appointments, and payment due dates, I'm also scheduling planting dates, compost turning, chicken house cleaning, hoof clipping, household cleaning chores, etc. I think this going to change my life. For reals.

2. Keep Production Records. Poor record keeping is just par for the course when one has "unique" organizational skills. Yet again, I have found an app for my problem! Isn't technology swell? I started using Daily Tracker to calculate how much food we are producing on our 1000 square feet. So far I'm crazy for this app because I can track anything I want and it does the calculation for me with graphs and charts. Cool beans. Though I can keep an eye on how much I'm spending on supplies with this app, I can't figure out how I can make it evaluate how much I'm spending versus saving. Anyone know of a good app for that? I guess for that part I can pull out some of my basic math skills. I'll be posting the monthly tallies in the sidebar of the blog, in case you are curious to see our progress.

3. Offer Urban Farm Classes. In February, I will be offering a basic chicken keeping class here at Itty Bitty (date tbd), which will hopefully be followed by more homesteading types of classes. Let me know if there is something you would be interested in. Classes will be sliding scale and low cost because my grandmother would roll over in her grave with a fit of hysteria if she heard I charged you $75-100 to learn how to can.

4. Build Attractive Fences. The fencing situation around here looks like a leftover bamboo prisoner of war camp from Vietnam. I need to fix this in deference and cultural sensitivity to my Vietnamese neighbors. I know, totally not cool for a former anthropologist.

5. Get Bees. I'm going to put them on the roof.

6. Learn to Be a Better Gardener. I need to mend my crappy gardening ways otherwise I'll never survive Armageddon! Seriously though, we are a long way from veggie self-sufficiency. If I can get the majority of our plant needs met in the backyard, my gardening street cred will be untouchable.

7. Annihilate Rats. The electric fencing will be extended and we will be adding more weapons to our already hefty arsenal. Those fuckers are gonna die!

8. Install Drip Irrigation, Gray Water and Rain Water System. Once you start talking about boring PVC tubes, zones, and digging instead of lovely, shiny, colorful veggies and flowers, you've pretty much lost me. This will be a challenging project for me to stay focused on, but since I am an inconsistent hand waterer, this may drastically improve my planting outcomes.

9. Build a Deck Cover. No more swamp for the poor goats! Better get this one done soon.

10. Install an Herb Garden. It's going under the loquat tree and it's going to be beautiful.

Oh crap, that's my alarm telling me to go pick up the kid from school. What do you all have planned for 2011?

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