Monday, March 31, 2014

Shack Up with Your Farmer

What to do with two rowdy boys during a ski week with no snow?  Two words: Farm Stay!

This past ski week, I scratched my head as to how to keep the boys out of trouble.  We decided it might to explore Sonoma County, which is just under an hour from my parents' home.  Although Sonoma is sadly being converted to a monoculture of vineyards, it still has some real actual farms.  And some of those farms let real actual people - including crazy boys - stay on site.

The view from the cottage.  23 acres of woodlands and farm!

We found a great little farm on VRBO where we could stay in the private guest house.  The stay included access to an organic vegetable garden and a tour of the farm.  They also threw in fresh eggs and goats milk for giggles.

The organic vegetable adjacent to our cottage. We made some killer 
omelets using broccoli and greens from the garden.

As part of the tour, we visited the 100+ hens (and one handsome rooster) that provide the farm with eggs. Even though I have chickens, it was fun to see so many and to ooh and ahh over the strutting rooster.  I picked up a few tips on how they organize their nesting boxes and the boys enjoyed collecting so many eggs.

The tour also included some 1:1 time with the three goats in residence. I had not realized how friendly goats can be.  Far from eating our clothes and metal cans, these pretty girls nuzzled and romped . . . 

And one even gave us some milk!  

I cannot recommend enough shacking up with your local farmer.  Farm stays are another way for farms to make ends meet.  They help keep those pretty open spaces in our country pretty and open.  But its more than that. 

If going to the farmers' market is "knowing your farmer", this is getting downright intimate.  You see how farmers really live and get a taste of that life yourself. (My boys are hooked!). 

Our week off, I know where we'll go.  You can keep Maui.  I'll take the farm.

This post is part of the Homestead Barn Hop

Friday, March 21, 2014

Tomatoes Were My Gateway Drug

It started with a single "color bowl" - a cheap plastic pot from the local big box store stuffed with petunias and lobelia on my apartment balcony.  I watered the pot diligently and it made me feel happy, cheered even when the annual flowers faded.

The craving grew though.  My first rental house offered a single raised bed, high above the rows of hydrangeas and camellias. Sure, my first tomato plant occupied that bed right along with some Iceland poppies and sunflowers. But the fruit it produced . . .

That was the gateway.  The beginning.  There was no turning back.

As the years went by, I added more tomatoes.  Basil and cilantro. Then pumpkins.  Peppers, peas, summer squash soon followed.  I became a full blown veggie gardener and it didn't matter where I went.  Tomato cages cluttered apartment balconies in search of sun.  Ornamental beds at rentals were cleared for carrots and lettuce.  From home to home, my vegetable garden followed me.

When we finally bought a home, I poked bareroot sticks in the ground, planning orchards and berry patches.  I hauled home citrus trees and built more raised beds, conscripting broken branches and feed containers once the redwood beds overflowed.

 Soon after, I planted a few flowers - as "companion plants" for the vegetables. Nasturtium here, calendula there, and borage over in the corner.  Before I knew it, I was putting together bee gardens, joining the local native plant society and filling my greenhouse with butterfly larval plants - because baby butterflies - or caterpillars - need to eat.

Gardening occupies my mind at all hours of the day.  I wake wondering whether how long sun hits the patch along the fence and go to sleep debating whether I should add that new Asian pear tree - the one resistant to fire blight.  My bookshelves are littered with gardening guides, my Pinterest boards brimming with pretty pictures and clever ideas. I'll admit it.

My name is Green Bean and I am an addict.

And you can be too.

Whatever you do this spring, do me a favor.  Grow something!

This post is part of Oregon Cottage's Tuesday Garden Party and Homestead Barn Hop.  Check it out for more gardening fanatics.


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