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February Coastal Gardening

Lee saying goodbye to Labradoodle puppy “Starboy”.

It’s February in my coastal garden. Time to get out in the sun, or overcast, or fog, and get those weeds pulled while the soil is moist. I’ve put off some fall chores this year and the fruit trees need pruning (husband Don does the big ones and I do the small). The roses need pruning, some shrubs need pruning, the salvias needs to be sheared and the climbing roses and jasmine need cutting back.

I like to alternate garden chores. I do about an hour of bending chores (pulling weeds) then go to work on vines and tall shrubs to give my back a rest. I can’t garden on my knees anymore as I’ve had knee replacements and my knees are tender. I just have to get along with bending and stretching. Today I’ll do my garden in the morning so that the husband and I can watch the Superbowl in the late afternoon. We’re from the North Bay so we root for the 49ers. Go Niners! Hey, I’ve got a life beyond gardening, you know.

Rose hips on the Berries n’ Cream climbing rose added color in the winter.

I had to adopt a relaxed schedule of gardening in the fall because of our first litter of Australian labradoodles. What fun we had with these six little bundles of energy. The garden suffered but except for a few sleepless nights, we enjoyed raising them and seeing them go to wonderful homes. Our black doodle “Maddie” was bred to a boy from Pennsylvania last month. We’ll see if this long-distant relationship turns out. One of the gardening chores I let go, was deadheading the climbing rose called Berries n’ Cream. I loved watching the  rose hips turn from green to red and resemble little red Christmas bulbs; one of the perks of “casual gardening”. Now I need to get out and do the pruning so I’ll have a flush of vibrant pink in a few months.

Most of the leaves have dropped from the deciduous trees. Because our climate is so mild, I sometimes have to hand-pick of the few remaining leaves on some. Our poor naked trees don’t get much of a rest in the winter. Before you know it, we’ll have spring green surrounding us.

Asian pear glowing in the after sun in late December.

I took this picture of the garden from the deck in the light of the setting sun. The orange glow in the background is an ancient Asian pear tree that we don’t have the heart to take out. It still produces giant pears but the squirrels usually get them before they ripen so we don’t enjoy as many as we’d like. This picture of the Asian pear was taken just after Christmas. Now the tree is bare. It has been pruned. It’s time for it to rest and get its required number of chill hours. Chill hours are the number of hours the weather provides under 45 degrees. With the necessary number of chill hours when the tree is fully dormant, the tree will be ready for renewal. I’m going out early today and see how much I can get done. Happy gardening.



Cambria Art & Wine Festival

Wine Painting by artist Milo DiVincenzo

Another Cambria event worth checking out. This weekend, January 25, 26 and 27, 2013, the little village of Cambria is gearing up for the popular Cambria Art & Wine Festival. People come from all over California to enjoy Central Coast wines at a three-day event. We like the wine tasting each day and enjoy trying wines that we may not have even heard of. There are hundreds of wineries in our central coast area. When we moved here to Cambria, there were only a handful. Now you can spend days in the beautiful rolling hills of Paso Robles visiting picturesque tasting rooms and sipping the finest Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and lessor known varieties.

Cambria is somewhat of an artist community so pairing the Art & Wine is special. There is an Art Show, Silent Auction, Wine and Cheese pairing, an elegant dinner at Linn’s with Hearst Wine and then there’s a label making party at Moonstone Cellars. Something for everyone. For all the details on this event, visit CambriaArtWine.org or call the Chamber of Commerce at 927-3624. See you there!


Persimmon Salad with Spinach and Pecans

Fuju Persimmon and Spinach Salad

We can’t grow persimmons along the coast. We don’t have enough chill hours in the winter to set the blossoms, and heat in the summer to ripen them. But I have a few friends that bring them to me because I love them. There are two varieties that are both delicious. Each variety has a purpose.

  • Fuyu Persimmons (or Jiro or Sharon fruit) are short and firm. They’re crisp and the skin can be eaten or peeled like an apple. They are great in fruit salads. These tomato-like ones are the better variety for eating fresh.


  • Hachiya are more “peach-shaped”. They are eaten when soft. You can spoon out the meat. I like these for baking but you must let them ripen until they are very soft.

Here’s a great use of Fuyu Persimmons. It’s an easy-to-make salad and great on a buffet table as it is a salad that will keep for a few hours without wilting.


Persimmon Salad with Spinach & Pecans


1/4 cup rice vinegar

2 tablespoons orange marmalade or orange zest

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Salt and pepper

3 quarts baby spinach leaves (1  lb.), rinsed and crisped in refrig.

5 firm Fuyu persimmons (5 oz. each), peeled and sliced into wedges

3/4 cup glazed pecans


In a large bowl, mix vinegar, marmalade, and sesame oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Make a bed of spinach. Put persimmons and pecans on top. Pour dressing over top. Mix gently to coat with dressing.

Note: The dressing and persimmons for this salad can be prepared up to 4 hours ahead; wrap fruit bowl with fruit and chill. Assemble the salad shortly before serving.


How to make glazed pecans:


1 Tbls. butter

3 Tbls. dark brown sugar

3 Tbls. maple-flavored syrup or real maple syrup

2 cups pecan halves or pieces (8 oz)

Heat oven to 350°F.

1. Line cookie sheet with cooking parchment paper. In 12-inch skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add brown sugar and syrup; mix well. Cook until bubbly, stirring constantly.

2. Add pecans; cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until coated. Spread mixture on to parchment-lined cookie sheet.

Bake 6 to 8 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely, about 30 minutes. Store in tightly covered container.


Next time you have an abundance of Fujus, make this salad and let me know what you think.



Cambria Christmas Market Lights the Spirit-2012


Wander through lighted paths leading to the Cambria Christmas Market



Cambria’s newest event, a German Christmas Market surrounded by garden paths lit with thousands of Christmas lights was a delight, even in the rain last night. The event has gone on every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night for weeks and we just couldn’t fit it in. I’m sorry I didn’t get to this event sooner so that I could tell my readers to go.

The festival is in its first year. I’ve heard there will be triple the booths next year and many more edibles offered to browsers. At home, we celebrate a “Scandinavian” Christmas so the German style Christmas atmosphere felt familiar. Tomorrow (Sunday) will be the last night of the event this season.



Public Announcement:

Germany’s famous Christmas markets, dating to the 14th century, inspired Cambria’s Christmas Market, which is lighting up the Central Coast town for the first time this year. Thousands of colored lights illuminate the path between Cambria Pines Lodge and the Cambria Nursery, where choirs, bands and singers regale shoppers browsing booths filled with artisan candles, toys, glass, Christmas ornaments, jewelry and other gifts-in-waiting. Santa drops by each evening, and sustenance from four food booths includes German classics such as brats and Gluhwein, a traditional hot spiced wine.

Info: Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 23, 4-9 p.m. Free. 2905 Burton Drive, Cambria. (800) 966-6490, www.cambriachristmasmarket.com.




Silver-laced Wyandotte Passes Away

Pretty Poppy a Silver-laced Wyandotte Hen


Poppy, our pretty silver-laced Wyandotte died today. I’m not terribly distraught because she died of what I believe is old age. I found her under the roost. She was paralyzed on one side of her body. No blood. No broken bones. Just laying with her wings spread out. I put her in a cage in the garden shed with food and water. She ate a little. But in the morning she was gone.

The hens are approaching  5 years of age. Their toes are twisted and they look to have arthritis. They no longer lay eggs but I don’t have the heart to get rid of them. I’m down to two hens now, Daisy and Sweetpea. Both have been through much more than Poppy. Daisy has been sick twice and Sweetpea was attacked by a dog. They both survived their mishaps and are still strutting through the garden, taking dust baths, and running to me when I have a treat in my hand or call “chick, chick, chick”.

What to do with old hens is a dilemma that we, who have pet chickens, find ourselves in.  We can’t keep building on to our coops to house new “young chicks” who only lay a few years, then retire. Most of us don’t have room in our backyards.

Perhaps we need to lobby for a breed that will lay and live longer. Is it possible? They certainly have developed chickens that lay more eggs than ever thought possible.

I will miss Poppy. She was a level-headed survivor. When a hawk would fly over, Poppy was the first to sound the alarm and run for cover. She loved to free-range, scratching deep under the artichoke leaves. She was not as tame as Daisy and Sweetpea and did not appreciate me picking her up. She was a bit of a “wild thing” but oh so beautiful. I don’t think I’ll get another Wyandotte. I had trouble with both of my Wyandotte girls. The golden Wyandotte was “mean girl” (story here) and I had to rehome her, and Poppy was a “wild child” (see story) and I had to separate her when she was young. But, none-the-less. Poppy was one of the original six and her passing marks time in my own life.

Taking Care of the Labradoodle Puppies

It’s too wet to garden and I’m spending my time raising six Australian Labradoodle puppies. Mind you, I’m not complaining about the rain. We who live along the central coast don’t complain when we get rain. It is so desperately needed to keep our gardens growing and our Monterey Pines thriving.

I Thought my readers might be interested in how the puppies are turning out. Living with six bundles of energy takes up most of my time when I’m not outside digging in the dirt. So if you’ve been following my blog, you know that Matilda (Tillie) has given birth and is now weaning her fluffballs.  They’ll be going to new homes at the end of the year. Little pieces of my heart will go with them.

These puppies come from a long line of hypo-allergenic, non-shedding service dogs. They are gentle animals, intelligent, easy to train, and make loveable pets as well as working dogs. The breeder, Elizabeth Ferris of Country Labradoodlesships them all over the world. It is my job to ready them for the journey and, hopefully, an opportunity to bring love and joy to those around them.

“Twinkletoes” is curious, lovable, happy, and well, adorable.

“Starboy” Big and beautiful. Smart and gentle. He’ll be about 45 lbs.

“Scooter” is small enough to crawl into my lap and fall asleep.

“Hoagie” is a “lover”. Soft, gentle, gorgeous. He’ll weigh about 45 pounds when grown.

Angel is one of the smaller girls. Active and fun-loving.


“Marilyn” Blond and beautiful. A face to die for.



















Healthy Chicken Treats

I’ve been wanting to put together a blog of what you can feed chickens as treats. At last! I found lots of information on the internet and wish I could take full credit for all the information below. But there are people out there with much more experience than I have so I’ve borrowed what I needed.

Most of the food in this chart, I have given to my hens at one time or another and they have been most enthusiastic! I usually give a small bowl of treats to them in the afternoon when I know they have eaten their fill of their enriched food. If you give them too many treats they’ll cut back on their feed and their health my be affected. So be reasonable with quantity  and watch them enjoy!

Apples Raw apples and applesauce Apple seeds contain cyanide. Hens love apples but feed their seed in moderation.
Asparagus Raw or cooked Not a favorite.
Bananas Feed hens bananas without the peel High in potassium, a good treat.
Beans Well-cooked only, never dry Also, greenbeans.
Beets Red beet root and greens Full of vitamins.
Berries All kinds A real treat for hens
Breads All kinds – stale bread okay. Feed bread in moderation.
Broccoli and Cauliflower Vitamin and calcium rich. Raw. Put in a suet cage let them pick away.
Cabbage and Brussels Sprouts Whole head or parts Hang a whole cabbage from coop ceiling. Gives them greens and exercise!.
Carrots Raw and cooked My hens love carrot tops too.
Cereal Cheerios, etc. Avoid highly sugared cereal.
Cheese Hens love cottage cheese and small chunks of hard cheese. Good source of protein and calcium. Feed in moderation.
Cooked Chicken Throw in bones of raw chicken too. They pick at it until nothing is left. Good source of meat protein.
Corn On cob, canned, raw or cooked Hand feed to tame hens.
Crickets (alive) Can be bought at bait or pet-supply stores. Great treat – provides protein and entertainment.
Cucumbers Something to pick at. Let mature for seeds and flesh.
Eggs Hardcooked scrambled are a good source of protein. Feed cooked eggs. Feeding raw eggs encourages eating own eggs.
Fish / Seafood Cooked. Small amount of uncooked okay.
Flowers Must be pesticide-free. Marigolds, nasturtiums, pansies, etc.
Fruit Pears, peaches, cherries, apples Served whole, chickens will pick away.
Grains Bulgar, flax, niger, wheatberries,etc. Raw or cooked.
Grapes Seedless only. For chicks, cut them up. Hens will play keep-away.
Grits Cooked
Lettuce / Kale Any leafy greens, spinach collards, mustard greens. A big treat, especially in winter.
Mealworms and compost worms Available at pet supply stores or on the internet. Make your own compost worm box and raise them. A favorite treat. Good for chicks in moderation.
Meat scraps. Not fatty or too spicy. In moderation. A good source of protein
Melon Cantaloupe, honeydew, etc. Seeds and flesh are good chicken treats.
Oatmeal Raw or cooked Cooked is better.
Pasta / Macaroni Cooked spaghetti, etc. Not very nutritional but they love it.
Peas Peas and pea tendrils and flowers Hens like leaves of plants too.
Peppers (bell) Chopped or whole
Pomegranates Raw Seeds are a big treat.
Popcorn Popped, no butter, no salt.
Potatoes / Sweet Potatoes/Yams Cooked only. Green peels are toxic. Starchy, not much nutrition
Pumpkins / Winter Squash Raw or cooked. Both seeds and flesh are a nutritious treat.
Raisins In moderation.
Rice Cooked only. Pilaf mixes are okay. Plain white rice has little nutrition.
Scratch Scratch is cracked corn with grains such as wheat, oats and rye. Scratch is a treat, not a complete feed. Toss it on the ground and let them scratch for it for something to do.
Sprouts Wheat and oat sprouts are great! Good for greens in mid-winter.
Summer Squash Yellow squash and zucchini Some hens love it, some not so much.
Sunflower Seeds Sunflower seeds with the shell still on are fine, as well as with the shells off (unsalted). A good treat. Helps hens grow feathers after moulting.
Tomatoes Raw and cooked.
Turnips Cooked. Not a favorite but okay to feed.
Watermelon Served cold in hot weather to keep hens cool. Seeds and flesh are both okay to feed.
Yogurt Plain (no sugar) Chicks and adults love it and it’s good for digestive systems.


Australian Labradoodle Puppies Are Here!

Country Matilda Lil Miss Q “Tillie”

Thought I had better explain why I have not been gardening or posting on my garden website. I’ve also ignored the hens a bit. You see, I’ve been helping our lovely labradoodle “Tillie” with her six puppies, born in our bedroom on October 21. The little beauties, three cream-colored and three chocolates have their eyes open now and are toddling, discovering the world around them.

We started out as simply lovers of Australian multi-generation labradoodles, not breeders. We were given two pups from a breeder on the condition that she would be allowed two litters from each of them in payment. This arrangement is termed “guardianship”. The conditions were that the breeder would breed each one of our girls to one of her beautiful studs. We would care for the pregnant girl until time for her to deliver the pups. The drawback we found; we couldn’t bear to give up one of our wonderful dogs while she gave birth and nursed her young. My husband and I decided we would like to do it ourselves. What an experience!

Tillie nurses her newborns.

Our girl Tillie was in the first stages of labor for 12 hours. She searched the garden for a private spot to make her den. She dug holes 3 feet wide and 2 feet deep while we followed her around with a flashlight to be sure she didn’t drop a puppy into them. She panted, she paced. If we sat, down she’d climbed onto us. When we crawled into bed at midnight, she crawled into bed with us. Finally, the last stages of labor began at 7:00 am. We put her in the whelping box that Don had built, and one by one over the next 4 hours, she delivered the most beautiful little chocolate and vanilla packages into her whelping bed.

For three weeks I’ve helped her watch over them. I try to go out into the garden each day to water, to rake, and to continue my fall clean-up. But my mind is on the little pups that will go off to their homes at 8 weeks. I can see their little personalities. I can see their gentleness and sweetness, like their mother, and I can see their fun-loving nature.

Tillie’s first litter.

The breeder does the business transaction for purchasing, but I would be happy to talk to you about the breed and these precious puppies if you are interested. The breeder has some beautiful pups non-shedding that are nearing the weaning age now. Email me for information on our pups and I’ll be happy to put you in contact with our breeder Country Labradoodles.

We call him “Star”

The sun is shining and it is another glorious day in Cambria. Time to get outdoors and see if it is too late to plant some winter greens.



Scarecrows 2012 Have Taken Over Cambria

The 2012 Cambria Scarecrow Festival, presented by the Cambria Historical Society, is in full swing. We had our first light rain of the season, the dust has settled, the sun is out, and it is a beautiful sunny day in our little coastal town.

To see the “ladies, gentlemen, and creatures” come anytime during the month of October. The artists of Cambria are displaying their talents and have created colorful displays for the enjoyment of all. Each year this event has grown. This year there are over 300 “scarecrows” on display. Bring your camera and take a walk down Main Street between the East Village and the West Village. Then drive out to the seaside Moonstone Beach Drive. You’ll never think of a “scarecrow” in the same way again.

For more information visit http://www.cambriascarecrows.com..

Below are some of my favorites. Remember these are only several of 300!

A Cambria Gardener. This gal was made by one of the Cambria Garden Club members. She has on some Garden Club handpainted overalls. She looks like she may have a little knee trouble. She loves gardening!


These bicycling “scarecrows” are actually pedaling.

A Cambrian walking her dogs. My friend Leanne made this.


A Cambrian Priest welcoming visitors.































A Cambrian couple waiting for the theatre to open.





























Anyone for bridge? These look like friends of mine.
















This dancing Elephant Seal moves. Visit their colony while you’re up here.



This one makes me think. Did the lady beat the crow to some eggs?



























This was a favorite last year.

What a happy bee!

Dog attacked hen. What I learned

Dog attack. Hen lost skin and feathers.

When I encounter a mishap, I try to learn from it. Most of you who read this blog know that our dear Sweetpea, a barred rock, was attacked by a dog last month. The dog was thankfully not one of our own labradoodles. That would have been even more difficult to endure. The dog that got into our yard, chased the hens, caught Sweetpea, and successfully pulled off feathers and flesh, was a neighbor’s female bull terrier.

Years ago, when I was a young mother and had a milk goat, chickens, ducks, a pony, and baked our own bread, we lost hens due to raccoons breaking and digging into the coup at night. I’ll never forget the sound as a hen was having her head ripped off by a predator. I vowed that if I ever had hens again, I would have a coop that nothing could break into. So dear husband built a cement floored henhouse (where hens are contained at night) and buried hardware wire around the perimeter of the outdoor coop. We used 2″ welded wire for the top and sides of the coup to prevent hawks and foxes, patrolling our area during the day, from helping themselves to fresh chicken breast. This has worked as we haven’t lost a hen to a predator yet.

Then in the spring, I began letting the hens out of the run for a few hours a day while I gardened. I’d put the 2-year-old labradoodles in the house for their late morning nap. Our half-acre is fenced so I felt fairly sure that a fox wouldn’t get in, grab a hen, and escape over a six-foot fence, nor would a hawk bother the girls with people around. What I didn’t anticipate is a neighbor, with her dog off leash, walking by, seeing an open gate (contractors were unloading materials for our garden-room addition) and, doing what dogs do, go hunting in our back yard.

Feathers growing back.

It all happened in a few seconds. The dog saw the chickens, ran full speed, with husband and contractors, in hot pursuit. The dog first grabbed Daisy (the Buff Orpington) and spit her out (guess she was too fluffy). Then she grabbed Sweetpea and ran about 100 feet, put her down on the ground and began ripping and tearing. Shouts and screams did not deter the dog. My husband pried her jaws apart to get the dog to release the hen.

Sweetpea’s wing was broken and pieces of her flesh on her back and under her wing were missing. In the beginning of my “hen project” I made an agreement with my husband that I would not run up vet bills for hens. So far, I’ve been able to treat them at home. I felt I could bind her wing and treat her wounds myself. She probably would have benefited from stitches but I just couldn’t bring myself to sew flesh.We gave Sweetpea antibiotics for a week, changed her dressings daily and kept her wing bound with “vet tape”. With only one wing, her balance was off. The first time she tried to jump up on a bale of hay, she fell on her side and “couldn’t get up”.

I put her in the run for an hour each day so that the girls would stay friendly, and within two weeks, she was back with her pals full time and was able to get up on her four-foot roost at night. We removed her bandage after three weeks and she was able to take a dust bath and lie in the sun. Ahhhhhh……….

What I learned? The hens are never really safe. The reality is that as long as there are predators, there is a danger of a chicken being hurt or killed. You can do all the things you can to safeguard your chickens but mistakes will happen, like a gate being opened as you pass through and a negligent neighbor walking with a dog off leash.

Did I do anything about the incident? Yes, I reported it to our San Luis Obispo County Animal Control. They took a report and recorded it in case of future problems. What I found out is, the owner of the dog is responsible for damage costs (if there are any). On a third incidence, the dog will be classified as vicious. What good will that do? And as far as paying me for the loss of one these pets, what would be adequate payment?

I’ll be as careful with the girls as I can, but, they are old and deserve to have a pleasant life. I want them to follow me around, scratch in the dirt, lie in the sun and just be chickens so I’ll continue letting them our under supervision. That is the best I can do for them.