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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Leeky Garden

Undaunted by my overwhelming failure this summer, I have planted a bed of leeks that should be ready to harvest in the spring, if I understand correctly.  (Unlikely)  Happily, the day after I planted we had the first good rain in a long time.

I have also received my garlic and shallots and will be planting them soon as well.  November seems to be the right time for Georgia.  Which gives me time to get lots of good compost in the ground and then have it analyzed.  That's the plan, anyway.

I may be a lousy farmer (ok, I am a lousy farmer), but I make great compost.  Any future in that?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Ft. Knox in Our Backyard

Yes, another post about chickens.  Did I mention my garden sucked wind this year?  4 itsy bitsy tomatoes, 3 of which stayed in our refrigerator and 1 of which actually got eaten.  By me, and it was darn good, too.  I think we got 3 or 4 zucchinis way back when, and everything else just withered and died.

Of course, that pretty much describes the chicken situation, too.  I sound flippant but it is actually heartbreaking to have one after another die.  The low point came when we lost Chiquita.  After that, we finally got serious about chicken yard security, and we have truly built a fortress in the back yard, complete with electric fence.  It takes about 15 minutes to put them away for the night, but honestly, the peace of mind is worth it.

No more wandering at will during the day, either.  They stay literally cooped up, unless we're working in the yard and can keep an eye out for hawks.

As Kim said, the overarching or philosophical lesson learned from all this is how truly difficult it is to grow your own food, whether it be animal or vegetable.  Not only is it hard physical labor, we have lost so much of the knowledge that was commonplace only a few generations ago.  I can state unequivocally that I would not be capable of the year-long experiment that Kingsolver did; I would quite literally die if I had to eat only what I grew.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Blog Stats

Just added blog stats to our blog - a new feature that will show us how often our blog is viewed.

Kim, I wrote a post but I want to take a picture to go with it - I'll publish it tomorrow (sun's down for today).  Sorry I've been so remiss!  I'll be better, I promise!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Praying Mantis

This is the second very heavy with egg sack praying mantis we've seen in this last week. It's that time of year. We've had one lay her egg sack on the plum tree in back and this one is in the front yard. I like this silhouette picture of her. It reminds me of a Japanese brush painting and, I have to admit, I have the greatest empathy for her enlarged abdomen.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Salinas, CA Public Art - Farm Field Workers

Last weekend we made a mad dash to Monterey to view an Ansel Adams exhibit of museum quality prints Ansel himself made. The road trip took us through Salinas, CA, heart of the Californian farming community and, of course, home to John Steinbeck.

Along routes 101 and 68 we were taken by large cutout murals of field farm workers that could be clearly seen and appreciated from the highway. Upon returning home, I looked them up and found the artist's (John Cerney) website. There are number of mural themes though the 'Field Workers' struck us as both instructive and poignant regarding who and what labor brings food to the table around the country.

Check out the link below for the following:
Farmer & Irrigator-1995. The first of the 'giant' figures. 18 feet tall. Highway 68, Salinas, CA. Commissioned by Salinas grower Chris Bunn to pay tribute to the agricultural labor force. Two in a series of 10 total farm figures.

This website has more pictures and explanation:

Monday, September 27, 2010

'Catching Fire' - a book worth reading

Given the amount of time needed to raise food, store it properly, and then cook it, is it any wonder that the thousands of years of human endeavor have created such a wealth of culinary output worldwide. Such creativity is truly inspirational of what mankind can do. A new book last year, "Catching Fire," by anthropologist, Richard Wrangham, may provide the academic argument for the earthy sensual and intellectual moorings of homo sapiens (after h. erectus, of course). In other words, do not underestimate our core biological foundations in cooking (and raising etc.) food! Wrangham argues that as animals we are unique as the 'cooking' ape. In fact our whole anatomy and physiology is based on our ability to cook food to fuel our bodies.
See NY Times review:
Slate review:
Washington Post review:
Powell's books:

Saturday, September 11, 2010

What are we learning?

Janet came out west from Atlanta to visit in Pasadena this last week. We discussed possible directions for this blog as we shared our experiences over the last year in raising food. There is no doubt that raising food from scratch is no trivial task particularly if one plans to depend one's own life and that of those you love on it. I easily spend 6-8 hrs. every weekend physically working in our 600 sq. ft. garden. That doesn't count planning, ordering seeds, and documenting. I don't get much time during the week. Fortunately the climate in southern California gives me considerable margin for error and negligence. Nothing dies by freezing! Plants will die for lack of water, of course. I also have a tolerant husband, the cook, who is with our program and will make do with almost any produce from the garden.
Lessons learned so far:
- Sow seeds at least 6 months in advance of expected harvest. In June I planted rutabaga seeds in the hopes of December harvest.
- Seedlings are a major challenge. How do the commercial nurseries do it? I sow seeds and they just don't thrive. Nurseries by contrast will have densely packed thriving 6"+ tall seedlings. The seedlings from the sown rutabaga seeds in June are now (75 days later) barely 2" tall. Plenty of sun and water... why IS that?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Yield in Pasadena

Southern California must be a gardener's dream climate. I was out of town for six weeks, and granted my husband dutifully watered the garden, it's amazing what I found in the garden wilderness I returned to. The zucchinis seem to have missed the mark but the spaghetti squash went wild. I've harvested almost 30! However, no canteloupe and only 3 acorn squash this year. That's a disappointment. Is there a method here? Hard to say. The summer (June-July) was cool by Pasadena standards. In fact, it seems that the zucchinis have finally awakened to their promise with the recent hot weather. I may have them producing into October. However, I do want to get the broccoli and cauliflower going. I did start seeds for rutabaga in late June and recently transplanted them. So there's hope for a December harvest. My shock today was to see that Seed Savers was all sold out of garlic! I have to find another source since I don't have enough to supply the kitchen AND the garden.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

World's Worst Farmer

Yes, that would be me.  My garden was a complete and utter disaster this year.  I'm not completely sure why, but I think I may have gotten complacent with all the rain we had in the spring.  It's possible that I forgot to water as regularly as I should have.  Still, it seemed as though everything was going pretty well, then suddenly everything died.  Example:  I had, like, 5 zucchinis.  Nobody ever has just 5 zucchinis; usually it's more like 500.  This is how bad my garden was.  I managed to kill my volunteer rhubarb, which breaks my heart, and I never got a single potato - and those suckers were expensive!  The basil did come through for me.  Good old basil.

Undaunted, or an incredibly slow learner, I have ordered garlic, leeks, and onions for the fall.  Apparently the leeks are on their way; the bulbs will ship at the end of September.  I'm hopeful that cooler weather will encourage me to be a little more active in the garden, and water from time to time.  Wish me luck; I'm going to need it.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Raising Chickens Is Very Hard

It is sad to see my last post.  Since then, we lost all 3 of the younger chickens to racoons, first 1, then the other 2.  You think you're protecting them but they're incredibly vulnerable; you just can't think of all the ways they can be killed.

So we bought 4 more, because our older one, Chiquita, becomes quite weird when she's alone.  Within a week, she herself had actually killed one of the chicks.  We had kept them separated but they managed to find a loophole where we thought we had secured everything.  It's quite discouraging.

The good news is that the remaining 3 chicks are thriving, and Chiquita has started laying eggs.  Yay!!  It is the most amazing thing to peek into the nesting section of her coop and see a little brown egg sitting there.  I'm not sure I'll ever really get used to it.  Now I just have to learn to like eggs!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The "chicks"

Yes they're grown but to me they'll always be my chicks.  Just like my daughters.

Audrey III and friends

My garden has been taken over and largely destroyed by killer gourd vines.  I finally yanked them all out the other day but not before they overran everything that was trying to grow - which wasn't much, in fact.  Naturally the zucchini is growing apace; and the winter squash will be fine, I guess.  The peanuts died, the peas died, the beets didn't grow...corn is still coming up and it looks like the potatoes might do something yet.  Basil is great.  But not the bounty I was expecting, by a long shot.

In the upper garden, the tomato plants are getting very tall but very few flowers and so far no baby tomatoes.  I know we have crummy soil but I composted the heck out of it and if there's one thing I'm proud of, it's my compost.  So I don't know what the problem is.  Very discouraging; especially compared to Kim's perfect garden.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Garlic harvest

Mid June is the time to harvest soft-neck garlics that were planted in mid October in Pasadena. We're looking forward to cooking with them. We have 4 types purchased from Seed Savers. So, I found a video on how to braid garlics and each braid is one type and labeled. Maybe we'll be able to tell the difference by October and choose which ones to plant for next year. Also, at the rate Mark uses the garlic I think I'll have to find room for more next year. I planted about 50 cloves last year.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Recipes and gardens

Here's an hypothesis: If you grow your own food; you don't need recipes. Recently Mark cooked a dinner of new Russet potatoes (emphasis on the 'new'), dried Poblano peppers and white sage. It was great; all from our garden. The Russets were incredibly tasty and a real delight in texture. It occurred to me that who would have ever thought of this combination. And if we wrote it up as a recipe, there would be no way to purchase the items, or, if possible, it'd be very expensive. So, we cook what we grow and make it up as we go along. I think that's the key to home gardens and food. Creativity and experimentation and getting along with what you have is the key. It's doable and it can lead to totally new appreciation for what's possible.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Farmers Markets

May seems to be the opening month for farmers markets around Atlanta.  There are tons of them.  I myself have a booth at the East Atlanta Village Farmers Market, selling my bags and cases.  Not exactly convenient but it's kind of fun.

The poor farmers don't have too much to offer yet - tiny amounts of lettuce and chard; a good selection of onions; and radishes are coming in.  A few beets.  I'm doing my best to support them, and it'll only get better as the season goes on.

My own garden is showing mixed results, as gardens tend to do, I guess.  Tomato plants, zucchini, peas, and peanuts are doing very well.  Carrots - zip.  Beets - kind of.  Potatoes - some beautiful plants but not as many as I would like to see.  Today I planted eggplant and bell peppers and I think that's all the planting I'm going to do before fall.

The chicks are still alive and well, growing apace.  No eggs though for at least 3 more months.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Ohmigosh it's May

There have been squash blooms here and the tomatoes are also blooming. In fact, we've already eaten a few. I'm still getting seedlings started in a mad panic because the summer growing season is upon us and I feel unprepared. I did take a set of sprouting seeds of acorn squash out of the compost and replant them in pony packs. So now, I have about 30 vines ready to grow. My sister is going to take some for a school project in Malibu. Sometimes it seems so easy. Then I have seeds for poblano peppers and some eggplants that just can't seem to get going. I sowed them in February and they are now barely 1/2" tall. They get points for persistence... but goodness... what on earth is the problem? Of course, they are outside and it has been cool. Even recently the high was 65... not the best for growing. We're expecting the last of the broccoli and cauliflower. I've designed the summer garden trying to rotate crops so that high N feeders follow low N feeders and vice versa. It's not always so easy. It'll be squashes of various types, tomatoes, potatoes, and lettuce. The onions (that includes leeks, bunching onions and garlic) are maturing so I'm starting another set of seedlings.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Urban Chicken Coop Tour

With only 5 people, the tour was a little underwhelming.  But the folks who showed up were very nice.  One guy, a doctor, raises his own chicks and gives them away.  It's tempting to take some more, especially since he has the bantam silkies that Dominique likes.  But where would we put them.

All 4 of our girls are now in the coop day and night.  They've pretty much bonded as a flock, which is great.

Had a scare with an owl or a hawk the other day on the downstairs porch.  Fortunately I was out with them but only moments before I had been inside and they'd been out there by themselves.  I didn't think the raptors would come so close to the house.  Wrong.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Chicken coop tour

We are going to be on the Georgia Organics chicken coop tour this Saturday.  Why anyone would go around looking at other people's coops is a little beyond me, but then I ran into someone who's signed up and looking forward to it, so there you go.  Hope it's a nice day so the chicks can be out.

The older one is full-time in the coop now which is working well although when we had a heavy rain a few nights ago the nesting area got soaked.  The roosting area was fine.

The little chicks go out during the day when it's warm.  At first we had to keep them separated from the older one, but they seemed to have reached a sort of detente, except when they get too close to her food.  Normal.  She still seems to regard us as her flock but I hope once they're older and outside full-time she'll transfer her affiliation to them.  While still roosting on our arms, of course; it's so sweet.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Chick picture

For some reason, even though I uploaded 3 pictures, only 1 is showing.

New chicks

So our new chicks came this past Tuesday.  Amazing how quickly one forgets how cute and little they are.  This time we have an Easter Egger, a Barred Plymouth Rock, and a mystery chick.  They said it was a Blue Andalusian but we looked at the pictures on their site and it clearly is not.  I think it's a Buff Orpington but I guess we'll be able to figure it out when she's older.

The big chick is full time in the coop now, which finally arrived.  The little chicks are still in the cardboard condo at night but spend most of the day in the enclosed lower area of the coop.  The big chick is suffering from severe sibling rivalry or maybe is just a natural bully; anyway, she has to be separated from them for the time being so she's in the chicken yard outside the coop.  All are fully enclosed and, we think, safe.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Black thumb?

I'm starting to think that I'd better leave the growing to my local farmers.  Of everything I've planted so far, only the tomatoes and the peas seem to be doing anything.  And of course my volunteer rhubarb.  Even my basil, which seeded itself last year, is letting me down.  Undaunted, this morning I planted a few more rows of beets and carrots, as well as a bed of zucchini and some corn.  Later today, the peanuts.  Of these, the only one that's sure-fire is the zucchini and it will go nuts.  How do they go from pickle-size to blimp overnight?

3 more chicks on the way and Dominique has built them an absolute fortress.  Will arrive possibly this week or next week for sure.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

No more etsy coop link and here's why

I am furious with the guy I bought our chicken coop from.  Original delivery date was March 15; now says it will ship on April 16 and take 7-10 days to arrive.  This is the 3rd new date he's given us and I have absolutely no confidence that it will ship this Friday.  Furthermore, it's quite possible that had the coop been in the yard, the chicks might have been able to escape whatever it was that got in.  So I am holding  him partially responsible for the massacre.  He will be receiving some very negative feedback on his etsy site.

One chick left

I am unbearably sad to report that we are now down to one chick.  Something got into their newly-secured pen yesterday and destroyed both the dominiques.  Only the black jersey giant is left.  We are going to order more and keep trying; Happened yesterday and I'm still crying.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

April in Pasadena

The nasturtiums are taking over! That's lavender in the foreground on the right and behind them are the tall purple irises in their annual glory.

The jasmine blooms are almost past and even the one lone asparagus that came up this year has already gone to fern. The others planted last year didn't make it. Peas are almost past too though the sweet peas have just started to bloom. Tomatoes are blooming and the citrus are almost done. It's great to see how many fruit have set. However, our plum didn't bloom very much at all again for the second year. We've got to figure out what the problem is.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spring Planting Has Begun

Spring has definitely sprung in Atlanta (hope these aren't famous last words).  The bulbs Dominique planted last fall are a-bloomin' and the trees are popping with color.

We in response have sprung into action in the garden.  I got busy in some of my beds last weekend and now have arugula, lettuce, carrots, beets, and shelling peas planted.  Plus 2 mystery plants; I think one of them might be spinach.  We have rhubarb coming up in one of the beds from last year which was a pleasant surprise.

My seed potatoes arrived so I've put them in the greenhouse to get "eyes."  Also in the greenhouse I have artichokes, 2 kinds of tomatoes, and basil.  I might have one tiny little asparagus plant or it might be a weed.  The peppers and melons did absolutely nothing, as usual.  I had a scare after transplanting the artichokes from the flats to pots, in that they all seemed to have died, but most of them have come back now.

The compost is amazing.  No excuse for not growing great stuff this year!  Which is kind of too bad, because I'm sure I'll need an excuse.

I have some other seeds I need to get started now:  carrots, some other things I can't remember, and peanuts!  Very excited about the peanuts.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Nasturtiums are blooming. They are great around roses and other plants prone to aphid infestation. Good for salads too! In So Cal they reseed themselves and there are so many I usually have to pull them up because they can block the sun for other plants.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Osmia 4 wks in

The BOBs, Blue Orchard Bees, are hard at work. After 4 weeks they've already complete 7 new tubes of larvae. Interestingly, for four so far, they cleaned out the natal tubes and are using them again. In addition the BOBs took over one of the O. californica tubes. Hmm... not sure how that will work out in the end. These bees only work for 6-8 weeks so you want them to work the blooms on the fruit trees. Our citrus have a very large number of blooms. Unfortunately, the plum tree isn't doing as well. The jasmine is blooming as are the tall, purple irises.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sustainable Pattie

Yesterday I met an amazing woman named Pattie Baker who writes the "Sustainable Pattie" blog here in Dunwoody. I wanted her to blog about WrapCycle so she came over to have a look. We really hit it off. She's a bundle of energy and into all things sustainable, organic, etc., and especially community gardening. She started a community garden in Dunwoody and we talked about starting one in Sandy Springs. She also recommended her CSA so I can finally get started on that.

I loved the write-up she did so I've included the link. I feel like I've really tapped into something important here in Atlanta (along with the racewalking, of course).

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Poultry and Plant Progress

Day 4 and the chicks are wildly exercising their wing muscles.  They all have feathers at the tips and I'm sure they'll be flying pretty soon.  Sarah arrived this morning and in the nick of time because I don't think they'll be cute very much longer.  At least not in that fluffy, helpless way.

Seedlings are starting to come up, despite the fact that I've lost the use of the greenhouse due to much-needed repair work.  The artichokes look really hardy, and I'm getting quite a few tomatoes and asparagus as well as basil.  The peppers and melons, though - nothing so far.

Could start direct seeding some things in the lower 40, like arugula, lettuce, cabbage, but it keeps raining so it's hard to get down to it.  Only 30% chance today so maybe I'll get to it.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

BOBs are Awake!

My BOBs are waking up! It's so exciting and indeed they are starting to fly around. I introduced Mark to these new looking bees or rather they introduced themselves to him by landing on him! As you can see from the first picture (Sorry, not the best picture) there's more mud debris on the shelf. So, the little bees are making their way out. The mud plugs are quite dry. It must take some effort to dig through. There's a post somewhere on the web describing how bees in the back of the tunnel bite or nip their next up neighbor to get going.

They've arrived!

Just as I resigned myself to 3 days of sitting upstairs, barely able take a bathroom break for fear of missing the post, there was a knock on the door.  And there they were:  four of the most adorable chicks I ever saw.  Black, all 4 of them, although 2 have cream-colored patches on them.  I assume those are the Dominiques since they will be black and white, but I don't really know.

None of them was "pasted up" (thank God), much less dead.  First hurdle overcome.  I put them in their new digs unde the infrared lamp and they immediately started exploring.  They found the water right away and knew just what to do.  It took quite a bit longer for the food.  I'm sure they would have found it eventually on their own but I tried to help them along.

Every so often one would stand still then fall over.  I was very alarmed the first couple of times, until I realized that they were falling asleep!  Poor babies; it's been a tough couple of days for them.  They seem warm enough, and the know how to eat and drink, so I felt safe to post their pictures on Facebook and here.  But now I have to go back down - who knows what could happen without my hovering?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Ready for the Chicks

Our chicks are scheduled to arrive this week.  We don't know which day; it will be either Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday.  We're so excited!  And, incredibly, completely ready for them.  We had ordered everything we needed about a month ago, and yesterday we finally took it all out and made a cozy bed for them complete with heat lamp.  It's kind of a cardboard condo.  I ground up several bags' worth of leaves to use as their bedding, hopefully enough to last until they can go outside to live.

Dominique finished the outside chicken yard by putting on a door.  Now we're waiting for the coop to arrive - should come next week - but we won't need it for 4-5 weeks yet.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Marmalade Season in SoCal

It's Marmalade season! The citrus are ready. There's a bountiful blood orange tree in the neighborhood. I've decided to find out exactly how much marmalade a single tree can produce. So far I've processed about 20 lbs in three batches. There's a lot more to go. I'll give a final report on volume sometime in April. How much marmalade does a family use in a year? Or, should or could use in a year? And what does that mean regarding use of energy for distribution?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Bees - Osmia

While we wait for Janet's chicks to arrive, I'll tell you about my bees. Two years ago when trying to get the vegetable garden organized we had real trouble with the squash for lack of pollination. Flower after flower fell off and no fruit. So, it seemed clear. If we were going to have a successful garden we would need to address the pollination issue.... so that meant learning about bees.

There are many kinds of bees. Guess what! There are many kinds of solitary (not hive) bees that live in total bliss flying from flower to flower for the mere pleasure of procreating yet another generation of pollinators. Forget the hive, honey, queen bee, worker bees etc. etc. These solitary bees sound like my kind of bee: Low maintenance.

So, I learned about the Mason bee, of which, again, there are many types. I'll let you all do the Google search to learn more.

Short story: I settled on the Osmia lignaria, otherwise known as the Blue Orchard Bee or BOB!
Cute and native, a very important consideration. Of course, I was figuring this out in 2008 and by January of 2009 realized that I was out of luck to do anything constructive for that spring. This is also an aspect of learning about nature: Sometimes nature's cycle cannot be adapted to our convenience. Whoa! Did I really say that?

The picture above shows the natal bee tubes on the bottom shelf that I put out two weeks ago and something is starting to happen. I've actually got two types of bees. On the left are the tubes for the Blue Orchard Mason bees that come out as early spring pollinators. On the right are the Osmia californica that some out later and pollinate into the summer. Both are native to California. In between is just crumpled newspaper to hold the tubes in place. These are solitary but convivial bees and are happy to work side-by-side with others doing the same. One can just make out where some of the mud plugs have come out. Two plugs lie on the shelf in front. I haven't actually spotted any bees yet. Bummer, but they must be around. The Mason bees are black or dark blue. Of course the males come out first and get themselves ready for the females. Hmmm... The idea is that the females will come back and lay fertilized eggs in the cells of the above unit. THEN there should be lots of activity to photograph. I cross my fingers.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Introducing SoCal

Well, this blog is expanding its perspective to include Southern California, Pasadena, specifically. Now, I contribute with some trepidation. Nothing EVER freezes in Southern California. Growing slows, yes, as daylight shortens. But, nothing seems to ever actually die - even the beets.

We (my husband, Mark and I) have been self-sufficient vegetable-wise for almost a year now. Since I am from New England, where, perhaps naively we think, temperature controls much of the growing, it's a new situation to figure out what the cycle in Southern California might be.

Quickly, we now have beets, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, rutabaga, arugula, and peas harvestable.

More to come.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Sparkmann's Dairy

Dom and I took advantage of a road trip to Florida to stop by and visit this dairy that I discovered via Whole Foods.  We arrived at milking time (around 5:00) so we watched them milk the cows for awhile.  They did a lot of washing and the whole process seemed very clean. 

We also saw many calves, ranging in age from 1 day to 5-6 weeks.  They were caged but the cages were quite large.  The one thing I didn't like was that the 1-day-old was already in a cage by himself drinking from a large bottle rather than with his mother.  I'd like to know why that is.

S/he was having trouble finding the rubber teat attached to the bottle and the person taking care of the calves was gently and patiently teaching him/her to find it.

They were very open about letting us walk around by ourselves.  The cows all wander around freely, as far as we could tell.  The calves, as mentioned, are penned but I imagine that's for their own protection.  Maybe also to keep them from their mothers, and vice versa.

They don't claim to be organic but they don't give any growth hormones to the cows.  We ended up buying butter, drinkable yogourt, plus bacon and sausage from another nearby farm.  Haven't tried any of it so far.

In an unrelated aside, the softly falling snow outside my window is so beautiful.  Big fat flakes that are starting to accumulate again.  I already went out for a long walk in it.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Some Local Food Breakthroughs

Good old Whole Foods has led me down the righteous path to the promised land once again.  Well, that may be overstating things a tad, but I really do like that store.

Went grocery shopping for the first time in awhile, determined to do local as much as possible.  I exceeded my expectations and made some exciting discoveries.

In produce, I was able to get strawberries and broccoli from Floriday and cabbage from S. Carolina.  Had to get an onion from California but only bought one.  Don't we grow special onions in Georgia - Vidalia?  Hmmm.

In the dairy section, I found milk from a dairy in south Georgia.  Looked them up on line when I got home and they sell several products on their farm.  Dom and I are going to take a motorcycle ride down there when it gets a bit warmer.

Also bought some locally-made cheeses.  They're good - well, haven't tasted the cheddar yet - but the prices are breathtaking:  $18 and $17 per pound.  Ouch.  Gotta learn to make my own.

Then I found cornmeal grown and ground in Georgia.  Once again, looked them up on line and learned that they sell a whole lot of grain products - wheat flours, mixes, grits, rye flour...  This is especially exciting because I didn't think I'd be able to find that locally.  Now we can start making bread again.

Finally, bought some coffee from an Atlanta roaster.  Ok, I know coffee isn't local, but some things are not to be sacrificed.  Coffee is one; wine is another; I guess gin as well.  (Are we seeng a pattern here?  Too bad I don't smoke - that I could get locally.)  The roaster started in Olympia, Washington; Cathy, you should check them out although I have to admit I don't quite know where Olympia is in relation to Everett.

What a success.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Ready for the Chicks

All the stuff we ordered for the chicks has come already - that was fast!  Dominique finished the chicken yard this past weekend except for the door, which he designed this week and hopefully will get to build tomorrow, if the weather holds.  Can finish preparing my beds, too.

So we're all set.  Just waiting for the week of March 15.

Monday, February 15, 2010

More Progress

The 3-day weekend has been put to good use.  Two days ago Dom and I ordered pretty much everything we'll need to get our chicks through their first 5 months, including feeder, waterer, lamp, and lots of feed.  We've plottedd out where they'll spend the first month of their lives.  And today Dominique did a tremendous job of fencing in the area where their coop will go so that they can safely be "free range" even when we're not around to keep an eye on them.  Can't wait for March 15!

I planted the first batch of seeds that will be grown in the greenhouse.  It's not really that warm, even in the greenhouse, but I wanted to get them started so that they're set when it warms up.  Unfortunately it's too wet to continue preparing the beds but there's plenty of time for that.

Continued the quest for a good food source and think I've found a CSA that will fit the bill.  A tad more research then hopefully I'll be ready to share the discovery and post the link.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Some Disappointments

Dominique and I braved the sub-zero temperatures yesterday to drive to Little 5 Points to check out the food coop there.  As it turned out, the independent bookstore I'd been wanting to visit, A Capella, was right across the street so we went there as well.

Disappointed on both counts.  Sevananda is ok, but nothing special, apart from the fact that it is clearly a very community-oriented store, which is cool.  But in terms of local food, most of their produce was from California, Mexico, and Peru.  Found one locally-made granola, but no other grains or grain products seemed to be regional.

Although it's a co-op, anyone can shop there.  No one ever asked us about becoming members, either.

All in all, I can't see much advantage over Whole Foods, which is a lot closer.

Then we walked across the street to A Capella.  It's a small store, with used as well as new books, well-organized.  I went there with 2 books in mind that I wanted to buy, and thought of 2 others as I was browsing.  I took the one book that I was able to find to the counter, planning to ask about the rest, prepared to order if necessary, understanding that a small store can't stock everything that a big chain can.

The guy at the front counter was on the phone and stayed on the phone while he started to ring up my book.  I indicated to him that I was looking for some other books as well.  He put the phone aside long enough to listen to me, and finally told the person on the other end that he had to call back later.  At last I had his attention.  He looked up one book after the next; none was in stock.  That, of course, I knew, having already looked through the store.  Never did he offer to order a book for me.

I was under the impression that independent bookstores were an endangered species but judging by the customer service at A Capella either (a) they deserve to die out or (b) they're in fine shape, thank you very much, and don't much need my business.  Sorry, won't be making any special trips to Little 5 Points to help support them.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Local Food Coop in Atlanta

Been poking around the internet and may have found something, although it doesn't sound as convenient as Cathy's which actually delivers.

There's a place called Sevenanda in Little 5 Points, which is kind of near downtown.  I'll definitely go check it out, but not until it gets warmer.  Sorry to be such a sissy, but this sub-freezingweather is kicking my butt.  Anyway we're still working through the leftovers from the Walking Club party we won't be buying more food any time soon.

$120 for lifetime membership - how does that compare to yours, Cath?  Plus they encourage (not require) people to work in the store, which I think could be fun.  They support both organic and local food, and it's been around 33 years.  Seems like the spot.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Solar Power

It's amazing how a day of sunshine pushes you out of the house and into the garden.

We're having the first nice day in quite awhile here in Atlanta, and Dominique and I ran outside as soon as possible to make hay while the sun shone.  (Unfortunately, it's already starting to cloud up.)  Dominique staked out the space for our chicken yard while I finally ordered our chicken coop from etsy.  It won't ship until March 15 but that's ok, the chicks will need to be inside where it's warm and we can keep an eye on them for the first few weeks.

Then I started on the beds in the lower 40.  The earth is really improving; much less of that horrible red Georgia clay and much more of the dark loamy stuff.  Result:  we seem to be getting a better class of weeds.  Used to be very tough, tall grass; now it's more of a ground cover that would actually be nice if it weren't where I'm planning my carrots and potatoes and basil and and to be.

Made a small experiment.  In 2 beds I hoed then pulled out the weeds; then covered the entire bed with a deep layer of mulch.  In the third bed, I only hoed and mulched, leaving the weeds where they were.  It was a lot less work, so if the result is the same - i.e., weedless beds, I hope - then I can continue doing it that way.  Unfortunately I won't know the outcome until April, when I prepare the beds for actual planting, so I'll have to decide what to do with the rest of the beds in the meantime.

A very big toad jumped out the leaves in one of the beds.  Quite a surprise.  He didn't seem at all bothered by me and in fact I had to give him a gentle poke to make him move so I could see if he was ok.  He was.  I yelled for Dominique to come down, which scared him (Dom) to death, but eventually he brought his camera and we got some great shots.  He (the toad) seemed a little dopey; do toads hibernate in winter?

Saturday, February 6, 2010


I was feeling bad about not really putting too much into practice so far.  Ok, I've got chicks and seeds coming, but for the moment, we're still just eating whatever we want or whatever we've got and it's not particularly local and most of it isn't even organic.  Most if not all of the farmer's markets in this area are closed now (although I need to be more diligent in checking thatout).

Fortunately, I got to the part in the book where she's pointing out that if you start reading this in the middle of winter - as I have - you've got to accept that there's not much you can do except plan ahead.  So I guess I'm really doing what I need to be doing, which is nothing to feel bad about.

I will, at least, find out if some of the farmer's markets are open, and also I need to follow Cathy's lead in looking for food coops that will deliver local food to us.  Project du jour!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Garden Planning

Just ordered nearly $60 worth of seeds, including - fanfare! - artichokes!  Found another great site, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.  Similar to the Seed Exchange in Animal Vegetable Miracle, but oriented toward varieties that do well in southeast US.  Heirloom varieties, for the most part, and mostly organic.  I ordered tomatoes, beets, winter and summer squash, peanuts (!), potatoes, carrots, and peas.  I have seeds left from last year for arugula, cilantro, corn, lettuce, cabbage, Brussel sprous, spinach, and peppers - I hope they're still good.  And I'm counting on my basil to reseed itself as it did last year.

Found out that the chicks are arriving the week of March 10!!!

Monday, February 1, 2010


I'm so excited, I just ordered 4 chicks!!  Two Dominques :-D and 2 Giant Jerseys.  They should arrive some time in March, which gives us plenty of time to prepare.  Oh boy, I can't wait til they get here!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Rules of the road

Ok, so I'm going to California tomorrow.  Does it count as eating local if I bring back a bunch of stuff that's grown in California?  Or is that absolutely cheating?  Seems like all the produce here comes from there, and since I'm going there anyway...  Thoughts?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Slow Start

Dominique made dinner last night.  It was really good, but I'm not sure that we grow avocados here in N. Georgia.  And isn't it a little early for asparagus?  I suppose the salmon could have come from the Atlantic not too far away - or could it?

This is going to take awhile...

In the meantime, I am almost completely out of breakfast food and still no idea where to find locally grown grains for granola, bread.  I didn't think this project would be a weight-loss program but it may turn out that way.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Looming Crisis

Never mind the confit de canard; what am I going to have for breakfast?!?!  I'm running out of Grape Nuts, granola, toast, and bagels - and I don't think any of them is replaceable in their current incarnation.  I need local, organic substitutes and fast!  Ack!

Cathy, you're kind of hanging back.  Help me!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Slow Start

Ok, I haven't done anything yet except research.  But that's because I haven't had to do any shopping - I'm still working through the leftovers from the holidays.  (Amazing none of them has made me sick yet.  Cast iron stomach...)  BUT I'm preparing to pounce just as soon as I run out of everything.  Plus I need my personal French chef to return so he can prepare the confit de canard.  Did you think I was going to do that?  LOL

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My first challenge

I've set myself a challenge:  to make an AVM (animal vegetable miracle) confit de canard, based on a recipe I saw in today's NY Times.  I love confit de canard so much that I had it twice in a row on my recent trip to France.  First step:  find a local, well-raised duck.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Where's the beef?

I have been vegetarian in the past and could easily be so again, but I think my French husband would have a cow, so to speak, if I pushed him too hard in that direction.  So, following Kingsolver's lead, I searched for local sources of meat from ranches and farms that raise and slaughter animals humanely and sustainably.

I just found a great site called  It looks as though they might have different versions by site, Cathy, so check it out.  I specified "Georgia" and got a list (plus information, map and directions) for 16 ranches and farms, plus a few in southern Tennessee and northern Florida.  Plus they tell you which stores and restaurants offer these products.  Plus a whole lot of other information.

I'm going to plot a course to visit at least the nearby ones to make sure they're all that they say they are.  And hopefully meet some nice, interesting, and informative people along the way.

Better living through chickens

This is a great article on how chickens help with sustainable living from My Pet Chicken.   I have been told that I won't be able to get chicks for at least another couple of weeks, so this is a good time to study up.

Yes We Have No Bananas

Ok, this might not be a big deal for most people, but I am slightly addicted to bananas and eat a half or a whole one every day.  SO NO MORE BANANAS.  Have I mentioned how much I love tropical fruit in general?  I guess I need to move to Hawaii so I can eat local.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Just as I was getting down to my last half-banana, Dom bought me another 3.  Bless his heart; he knows I eat at least a half every day.  Obviously, however, they don't grow in Georgia and are probably the first thing I will need to give up for this experiment.  They're bought now, though, so it won't be for another 5 or 6 days.

Who's Chicken?

Did major research on chickens today.  Went to and picked  a couple of breeds that looked interesting - one of them named "Dominique"!  Criteria were good but not too prolific egg-layers, interesting-looking, and nice dispositions.  I don't want to be chased around by an ornery hen or 3.

Also had some interesting back and forth with the Chicken Coop guy.  I'm wondering how we can keep rats and other rodents out when there's no floor?  He says people put light chicken wire down so that it's still portable but there's some protection.

Chicks seem not to be available until February.

Saturday, January 9, 2010


I should post the links I'm talking about if this is going to be useful to anyone.  Here they are:

Georgia farmers market guide:

Canning equipment:

The chicken coop:
I started my research today, including where I could pick up a copy of the book since I gave Cathy back hers without finishing it.  I found some good online resources including a site that provided information on all the farmer's markets around Atlanta, another that provides canning equipment, and a portable chicken coop on etsy for $449.  I think I have Dominique on board with the chickens and I've asked the chicken coop guy if he knows any reliable sources of chicks.  I think they're not available until later in this season and they sure as hell wouldn't last long in this freeze we're having now.

The Launch - Who, What, Where, Why

We are two sisters, only 15 months apart in age (never mind what age), living in two corners of the country about as far away from each other as possible to get in the continental U.S. Cathy lives in Seattle (Everett, actually), while Janet is in Atlanta.

Thanks to Cathy, we have become inspired by Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, wherein she recounts her family's experiences with eating locally in Virginia. We've decided to see how these principles can be applied where we live, and we thought it would be especially interesting to compare and contrast how they would play out in two very different locations in terms of climate, growing season, resources, culture, terrain (or terroir) - well, just about everything is as different as it can be.

Hence our blog. Starting now, we're going to begin interpreting Barbara's ideas Seattle-style/ Southern-style, and documenting our experiences here. We would welcome comments, ideas, suggestions, and are hopeful that others have at least partially paved the way for us. Hopefully we'll help pave the way for others who want to try a "locavore" lifestyle on a full- or part-time basis.

Let's get started!