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Blooming-May

• African daisies
• California Poppy
• Calendula
• Calla Lily
• Narcissus
• Lavander
• Ivy geranium
• Mexican Sage
• Pride of Madera
• Lantana
• Society garlic
• Wild geranium

Harvesting-May

• Baby arugula
• Onion and garlic greens
• Thyme
• Rhubarb
• Parsley
• Strawberries

           

Success! Peeling Hard-boiled Fresh Eggs

Love those fresh eggs but hate that they’re hard to peel?

Years ago, when we got the first six hens, we had more eggs than we could use. We ate quiche, scrambled eggs, omelets, egg casseroles and hard-cooked eggs. The beautiful eggs had dark golden yolks. Little works of arts. The only drawback was that after being boiled, fresh (meaning less than three weeks old)  hard-cooked eggs were almost impossible to peel. The shell stuck to the whites of the egg and would stay attached as you pulled it off. I learned that what happens to eggs as they sit, either in the refrigerator and at room temperature, is the air evaporates through the porous shell and air gets between the membrane and the shell. When the egg is boiled it causes further separation and space so the shell is easy to remove.

Poke small hole in wide end of egg.

This problem in pealing fresh hard-cooked eggs is a topic on nearly every website I’ve seen on raising chickens. Many friends have sent me solutions but I have not found one to work like this. My sister sent me this information and it actually worked. Thanks Sis!

Michael Friedman, the chef and co-owner of The Red Hen in Washington, D.C. tells us how to cook fresh eggs:

“I take the raw egg, and at the fat end, I poke a very small hole with a pin,” Friedman told Yahoo! Food. “This punctures the thin membrane between the shell and the egg white, making the egg easier to peel once its boiled.”

It also releases the bit of air trapped inside the shell, so the egg is able to fill the entire interior of the shell. The yolk moves to the center of the egg itself, which makes for a prettier presentation if you’re making a dish like deviled eggs.

Boil eggs for five minutes then let sit for 10.

Boil eggs for five minutes then let sit for 10.

 

After you’ve poked a hole in the egg, place in room temperature water. Bring to a gentle boil. Boil for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and let sit in hot water for another 10 minutes. Poor off water and fill bowl with cold water with ice. Let cool. Starting at the big end of the egg, gently remove the egg-shell. The shell removed easily. Notice how the yolk is centered in the picture below.

Perfect hard-boiled fresh eggs. No green. Yolk is centered.

Perfect hard-boiled fresh eggs. No green. Yolk is centered.

 

I will certainly continue to use this method for cooking fresh eggs. It worked better for me than any other I’ve tried. Let me know how it works for you  on your own eggs or those organic fresh eggs that are so wonderfully tasteful!

Four years ago I wrote this article on Backyard Hen Cam on “hard to peel” eggs. I’d tried vinegar, salt, baking soda, etc. This method worked better than any of them.

 

 

Labradoodle pups at three weeks

I can’t stand it! I have to put up pictures of our Australian Labradoodle pups that are now 2 1/2 weeks old. Sweet!

Brown Sugar

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Babe - a big boy

Babe – a big boy

 

Australian labradoodle puppies are here again!

Meet "Brown Sugar" at 3 days. Eat, sleep, love is her motto.

Meet “Brown Sugar” at 3 days. Eat, sleep, love is her motto.

Some of you who read my blog know that once and in a while I get “off subject” and leave gardening on the back burner. We have two lovable Australian labradoodles that we co-own with a breeder (Country Labradoodles). They bring great joy to our home. We are obligated to the breeder to breed them twice. Matilida “Tillie” gave birth to her second litter on Sunday night. A beautiful litter of seven, three girls and four boys, three carmel-colored, four chocolate.

The whole process of caring for these three-year-old dogs, watching them give birth, and then tend to the puppies, is really a fascinating process. The dogs have gone from puppies themselves to being great mothers. Tillie now knows from another room which puppy is calling, which is hungry, which just needs a lick and some reassurance. During these first few weeks, the humans only need change the bedding once a day, and make sure the mother has plenty of high-quality food, fresh water, and exercise. She does the rest.

Tillie's puppies at 1 week. From top to bottom: Beaux, Babe, Oliver, Tuxedo, India, China Doll, Brown Sugar.

Tillie’s puppies at 1 week. From top to bottom:
Beaux, Babe, Oliver, Tuxedo, India, China Doll, Brown Sugar.

We are handling the wee ones several times each day. We turn them on their backs, tickle their toes and hold them against our necks so they become accustomed to our scent. Their eyes are still sealed shut, and their ears are closed so essentially they are blind and deaf. Within a week, these will open up and they will see the world around them.

At eight weeks we will be searching for new homes for these pups. The breeder helps make a match. A few will be destined to become therapy and service dogs. Three pups from the previous litter are now serving in homes and schools. I’ll be keeping my eyes on ones that show special abilities and testing them for various traits. All those years as an educator is not wasted.

These dogs come from a long line of Australian labrodoodles, multi-generational non-shedders with calm, steady personalities. I feel honored to contribute my energy to these wonderful animals.

Water Issue in Cambria – No Water for Gardens

Limonium, also called Statice, or sea lavender, is a drought tolerant plant that grows well in partial shade and sun. Makes great dry arrangements.

Limonium, also called Statice, or sea lavender, is a drought tolerant plant that grows well in partial shade and sun. Makes great dry arrangements.

 

I wrote this article for the Cambrian (local publication) in October. Many people commented on it to me so I decided to pass it on to you who read my blog. I never get too upset about the politics in our small town. Nothing really changes. We have had a “water issue” for 40 years and nothing has been done about it. So here we are being limited and regulated in the use of our water. We’ll see how this all turns out.

In the 1980’s there was drought throughout the west. Water directors where we were living in Marin County piped water from the Sacramento delta, across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, providing customers with enough water for basic needs. Like people here in Cambria, our family carried water from showers to water trees and used clean sink water from washing fruits and vegetables to water potted plants. When the rains came, the crisis was abated.

Any gardener or farmer worth their salt knew there was no water in the soil and that the shortage of rain over the past few years was going to effect local wells. Why the CCSD (Cambria Services District) spent the last year talking about granting water hook-ups rather than solving the problem of an alternative water source is mind-boggling. But I’m way to practical to waste this space on my opinions. I’m a gardener. I’d rather discuss ways to keep our gardens alive in a water crisis.

Gardeners in Cambria are among the most resourceful I’ve met. Cisterns have been installed to catch roof run-off during rains. Friends on Marine terrace have tanks under their house that catch spring water. Some folks have been hauling tanks in the back of their pick-ups for years, helping themselves to the free non-potable water that CCSD offers, using it to keep their gardens green.

There are those who’ve had the foresight to plant drought tolerant plants that are California natives or are from Australia, Africa, and Chile. They may die back a bit but will live with little or no water. Common garden plants will need some supplemental water but will survive this fall if you are creative in saving water from household use. Potted plants, except for succulents, will suffer the most without water. Move your pots to a shady location now to avoid increase demands during the inevitable “hot spells” of fall.

Plants need some foliage to manufacture food, but leaves “transpire” giving off moisture. Native, drought tolerant plants naturally shed some of their leaves in the summer to reduce moisture loss. Let leaves dry naturally on the shrubs. If you prune too early, you may cause the plant to put out new foliage, increasing the need for moisture.

Be rational and don’t panic. Be patient. Be diligent. We will get through this. Hopefully, our gardens will survive and we’ll become “gardening fools” once again.

More Scarecrows at Cambria Scarecrow Festival

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There are many old surfers in Cambria but this was the only one we saw catching a wave this morning. The “real” surfers were standing on the other side of the road, beside their vans, waiting for the waves to come up in the afternoon.

 

 

Scarecrows Keep Coming to Cambria

 

Don and I drove along Moonstone Drive this morning and took pictures of some Scarecrows I hadn’t seen last year. They just keep getting better and better.

If you are able to visit our little village of Cambria between now and Thanksgiving, you’ll see over 400 “scarecrows” adorning our streets in front of shops, hotels, the Old Grammar School and the Historical Society. They will make you chuckle and smile. “Who thought of that?’, you’ll say.

They come in all sizes and subjects. There is no end to the creativity it takes to imagine and create these characters. This time of year we normally have beautiful weather so plan to spend a day outdoors. Stay overnight in a hotel and eat in one of the little restaurants downtown. This event is for everyone.

See some of the fabulous scarecrows of 2012 on this POST  and some of the stars in the festival’s first year (2011’s) scarecrows HERE.

For more information on the Scarecrow Festival in Cambria and a list of winners visit this CAMBRIASCARECROWFESTIVAL.COM.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Visitors to Cambria looking for an empty hotel room.

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It this a fairy godmother or a princess?

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A couple sitting in front of a hotel, enjoying the ocean view.

 

 

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This a common sight in our little village of Cambria. Plein Air painting is a popular past-time. Stop by the Art Center to see paintings produced by artists here.

 

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“Give a dog a bone.”

 

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A Cambria mermaid.

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A real “dune buggy”. This is planted in front of a hotel on Moonstone Beach Drive!

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I think these are “fanshionists”, not hookers!

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Neptune gazing at his domaine.

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A garden club member riding a motorcycle. Is she in a racing position or is she falling off?

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The original Cambria jail. If you use too much water, this is where you go.

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Mr. Gruber is the General Manager of the water district here in Cambria.

 

Back In the Garden Again

Lee, wearing her brace, visits the nursery.

Lee, wearing her brace, visits the nursery.

 

I once wrote that I was a “Terrible Garden Blogger”. I was referring to the fact that I just couldn’t get into a daily or weekly routine but wrote a blog when I was inspired. When I broke my hip last February, I had no idea it would be 7 months before I would be able to get out into my garden again. I had to wait until a second hip surgery at Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto. But, now I’m back. I have to wear a brace to hold me in place and I’ve borrowed a sturdy “walker” to hang on to but at least I’m up on my feet again and it feels good.

I’m sure you’ve heard about our water problem in Cambria. The underground aquifer went dry after the busy Labor Day Weekend. The “Pinderado” fair and parade and car show drew lots of tourists and the hotels were full. Guess there were too many toilets flushed and the wells began going dry. The Cambria Community Services District called a meeting and passed a resolution that, until further notice, no landscape watering of any kind was allowed! Whaaat? People have really had to scramble to find tanks and water resources. Luckily, we have a tank that holds 1600 gallons of water from runoff from the roof. I’ve been using that to keep plants alive. It should last through October. Hopefully, we’ll get some early rain and it will fill up again.

Well, it’s good to be back with you. I’ll try to get back into a routine of writing of my experiences with my garden, my labradoodles, and my hens. I’ve missed blogging but find it uninteresting, unless I’ve got something to talk about! There is enough nonsense pollution in the world without me adding to it.

Our water tank holds 1600 gallons of rain water.

Our water tank holds 1600 gallons of rain water.

A Praying Mantis Lives in Our Garden

A praying mantis in a coastal garden.

A praying mantis in a coastal garden.

A praying mantis lives in our central coast garden. I get shivers when I see them. They can be truly scary-looking when they cock their heads and stare you in the eye. But I have to remember that these are the “good guys”. They eat all kinds of insects that destroy our plants. Unfortunately, they are also known for eating each other when hungry. They are really quite harmless to people and can be “pets” if you are so inclined. They can fly some distance when provoked.

Probably the few that inhabit our coastal garden are California mantises, a native to the west coast that is also found in Oregon. But there are over 2,000 species of this charming insect and are now found everywhere in the U.S..

The praying mantis is called this because their front legs fold toward their bodies in a position of prayer. Their legs have sharp spines along their edges for grasping their prey. They are considered ambush predators, meaning they hide and wait for food to come to them. They need plants that are similar to their color for their habitat. California mantises are usually green, looking similar to a leaf.

The mantises in our garden are quite bold. They don’t seem afraid of people though I’m not inclined to pick them up so they have nothing to fear.  When I see one, I stop and thank them for the service in helping keep my garden pest free and let them go about their business undisturbed.

A California praying mantis.

A California praying mantis.

Update on New Hens

Ginger and Penny steal raspberries off the vines.

We’ve had our two new hens, “Ginger” and “Penny” for nearly a week. We’ve kept them in a partitioned area inside the coop and put them in the henhouse at night. They’ve learned a few things in this first week:

  1. Stay out of the way of the old hens, Daisy and Sweetpea. They mean business!
  2. All food is theirs if they want it. Give it too them.
  3. The nest boxes are more comfortable to lay an egg in than sitting on the ground.
  4. The nest boxes are also fun to roost (and poop in).
  5. If we don’t get up on the roost, Don will come out with a flashlight and put us up.
  6. The old girls get to have the prime spot to roost.
  7. Don’t get too close to the old gals or you’ll lose a feather or get pecked on the comb.
  8. Raspberries are TASTY!
  9. When Don or Lee says “chick, chick, chick” you’re going to get a treat so come running!
  10. Don and Lee love the old gals but know that we are sweet and tame too. They think we are beautiful!

 

Tomorrow, Friday, we’re going to see if all four hens can be together all day and have worked out their new “pecking order”. If it becomes too crazy in the coop, we’ll separate them and give it a little more time. I think they are doing pretty well. They are learning “chicken manners”.

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Two New Hens!

Jacob brings Ginger and Penelope to their new home.

I’m happy to announce that we have two new five-month-old pullets (young hens) that joined our tiny flock of two. Sweetpea and Daisy (last ones out of our original flock of six) are now 5 1/2 years old. Sweetpea, the barred rock, still lays 5 eggs a week. Really remarkable for an old hen. Daisy, the Buff Orpington lays 1-2 eggs a week but she pecks their shells and eats the egg inside before we can save it. I know that this “bad hen” habit would be the death of any farm hen, but Daisy is so dear to me……..

We’ve been trying to think of a way to add a couple of hens to our flock this year. As some of you know, I fell in my beloved garden and broke my hip and femur in early March. I’ve been in a wheelchair with “no weight-bearing” orders until surgery in mid August so I didn’t feel that I could raise little chicks as I’d done in the past. Our junior-high neighbor, Jacob, came to the rescue and raised three chicks for a school project. One died but the other two are now of laying age. Breeds: a Buff Orpington and a Barred Rock. “Would I like to have them?” YOU BET!

Daisy and Sweetpea jump on Don’s lap and keep and eye on their new “roommates”.

Of course, I’m worried about the abuse that they will have to endure as a new “pecking order” is established. Sweetpea immediately went on the attack with the little Buff Orpington. She was offended that the hen was impersonating her good friend, “Daisy”. We’ve put in a temporary fence across the coop to give the old hens a chance to adjust to their new “roommates” and give the new girls a chance to adjust to their new surroundings. Don went out after dark and put the new girls on the roost with the old gals, then went out at dawn to put them outside again before they could get picked on.

Jacob had named the barred rock “Penelope”, and the Buff Orpington, “Ginger”. We’ll keep those names. They are already  tame but they will have to learn to tolerate our “sniffing” labradoodles. Our two old girls had their “beaks bent out of shape” over these “intruders” and immediately went to sit on Don’s lap to claim their territory. Watching this transition will be hard for me as I know it is not possible for everyone to get along, especially at the beginning. Adding to an established flock takes adjustment  on everyone’s part.

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A Balancing Act in the Garden

A regular watering program keeps plant happy.

A regular watering program keeps plants happy.

My mind has been working overtime since I broke my hip four months ago and have been confined to a wheelchair. As I wait for my total hip replacement in August at Stanford Hospital, balance is much on my mind. Balance, both in our gardens and in our lives, is a quest. Something to strive for and realistically, something that may never be totally achieved.

Balance for many of us does not come easily;  the happy medium between too much and too little. Plants survive if we are a little off kilter. We can forget to water for a week, and our plants will tolerate it. Or, we can be too early or too late in our planting schedule. We can forget to fertilize on schedule, place plants too close together, or let pruning go for a season. But plants will certainly let us know when we have let our gardens become significantly off-balance. It is always better to prevent it than to remedy the imbalance.

 

1. Balance your garden with a light, regularly scheduled feeding program.

A gardener that is in tune with his/her garden can recognize early signs of imbalance. Nitrogen deficiency can be spotted in its early stage by evidence of yellowing leaves, and generally, the failure of plants to thrive. Chemical fertilizers high in nitrogen can correct this but tend to leach out of the soil quickly and do nothing to improve soil conditions. Organic solutions, like compost and animal fertilizer, must first be broken down and transformed by microbes to become available to plants. Moisture is necessary to provide optimum conditions for utilization by the plant. While I like using organic techniques, this is not to say that a sprinkle of 14-14-14 in the early spring is not helpful. Demand for nitrogen is high as new leaves emerge.

 

2. Don’t over-feed or over-water your plants.

The downside of overfeeding nitrogen is that all this tender new growth may attract sucking bugs like aphids. A gentle, balanced approached to feeding plants over time pays off.A balanced garden results in less time spent on weed control.

 

3. Mulch to reduce weeding and watering.

Weeds take nutrients from the soil creating competition, robbing water and food that your plants need. When barren soil is exposed to the elements, it is creating an imbalance that results in an environment where weeds flourish. Placing plants close together so that the canopy shades the soil between plants, discourages weeds from thriving. A 4-inch layer of mulch also blocks sunshine from weed seeds waiting to germinate and mulching encourages critters that help decomposition, like sowbugs. Because weeds compete with plants for water, food, and sun, weeding will help “tip the balance” in favor of your treasured plantings.

 

The picture above appeared in Organic Gardening Magazine “Water Well“. The article has some excellent information on watering your gardening.