Author Archives: Overall Gardener

Who’s On Top: The Perplexing Social Dynamics of Chickens

Chickens are charming. They’re also opinionated, tend toward melodrama, and are famous for not getting along. I’ve heard plenty of horror stories of one bird in a flock being literally pecked to death by the other hens.

Fortunately, we haven’t experienced anything near that extreme. In fact, our first two hens got along perfectly well before the introduction of a new Ameraucana and Welsummer last summer.

Luma, in molt, and Petunia are best friends these days, but Petunia maintains her dominance.

Luma, in molt, and Petunia are best friends these days, but Petunia maintains her dominance.

Petunia and Luma had been making do on their own for over two years, and though they didn’t seem particularly emotionally bonded, scuffles were rare. Petunia, a slight, intelligent Barred Leghorn with a penchant for human piggyback rides, was decidedly in charge of the larger, food-obsessed Luma—a Barred Rock.

Needless to say, introducing new birds sent all social dynamics to hell. Immediately. (And this was with a cautious, well-planned get-to-know-you period and introduction). Petunia and Luma suddenly had something to bond over and became best friends. Petunia put the young birds in their place and then treated them well enough, though she remained extra vigilant for any sign of revolt.

Luma got ferociously mean, especially toward Fifi, the nervous Ameraucana. While Fifi ran for cover as soon as anyone noticed her, the Welsummer, Bell, was more persistent in humbly asserting herself and running into the fray for as many gulps of food as she could get away with.

But now, six months in, the pecking order is more convoluted.

Sometime in early fall when the older girls were preparing to molt, Bell made her move and came out on top. Petunia and Luma run away when she approaches and defer to her in matters of food. Petunia, especially, is afraid of Bell.

Bell, flaming and regal.

Bell, flaming and regal.

With the shift in dynamics, Bell continued being nice to Fifi, as she always has been. By mid-fall, Fifi must have realized that Bell was the safest bird to challenge. She remains terrified of Petunia and Luma (who continue to chase her away from treats), but she is downright brutal to Bell. For instance, Fifi will now bite down hard on Bell’s wattles, hanging on until Bell gives a shrill, desperate scream.

So who’s on top?

Petunia gets to boss around Luma and Fifi, Bell scares Petunia and Luma, Luma terrifies Fifi, and Fifi tortures Bell.

The infinite wheel of chicken hierarchy.

The infinite wheel of chicken hierarchy.

You’d think they would realize how ridiculous it all is. But they’re chickens.

This convoluted hierarchy leads to some humorous scenes. The other day I watched as Luma chased Fifi away from a pile of greens she was eating. Moments later, Bell moved in to claim the pile, and Luma ran off to avoid being pecked. No sooner was Luma gone, then Fifi returned and chomped down on Bell’s wattle.


Petunia in the foreground, with Luma, Bell, and Fifi from left.

Petunia in the foreground, with Luma, Bell, and Fifi from left.


It’s tempting to assume all this confusion is due to molting, and that’s certainly possible. But it’s been like this now for months. Petunia began an energy sapping, appetite suppressing mini-molt in October, Luma molted in December, and Bell in January. Fifi’s the only bird laying and the only one yet to molt, but she’s certainly not on top of the flock.

While it may be a confusing social situation for the birds (and it certainly is for us on the outside!), fortunately no one is getting seriously hurt.

But I have to wonder: is this type of pecking order mayhem common?

Experiments in Sauerkraut

We finally chopped up two batches of sauerkraut on New Year’s Eve. They’ve been sitting on the counter ever since, bubbling away and looking tasty.

In the end, we modified a recipe from a recently gifted cookbook, The Nourished Kitchen, by Jennifer McGruther. I’m always interested to read how long folks recommend letting fermented foods sit. McGruther suggests leaving the kraut for a minimum of six weeks before tasting and confides that she generally lets hers go for about three months.

When lacto-fermenting cauliflower pickles last year, I experienced the disappointment of letting a batch go too far for my taste. The resulting pickles were distinctly fermented and ‘gassy’ tasting with that special zing I associate with overripe or spoiled food.

I’m perplexed. I’ve read so many accounts of lacto-fermented foods bubbling away for weeks or months on end until they taste just right. These same recipes often recommend room temperatures of 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit. Our house is perpetually cold—usually in the 50s, so our pickles and kraut shouldn’t be fermenting extra quickly. The funky fermented taste that I can’t quite love seems to kick in by the end of the first week at the latest.

So what gives? Do I have terrible finicky taste in lacto-fermented foods? Is the funky zingy taste just a stage that I’m never patient enough to see through?

Blissfully unaware of the strict six-week timeline Kelly thought we were following for the sauerkraut, I opened up the airlock jars this week and took a taste. I should stop here and say we made two versions: a straight cabbage kraut a la the cookbook and a colorful kraut fashioned after our friend Tanya’s, but using the same cookbook’s base recipe–we love Tanya’s kraut, but she is out of communication on a foreign beach and unable to weigh in or provide her recipe.

In addition to cabbage, the colorful kraut features a few chopped cloves of garlic, grated ginger, and grated beet.

A week and a half into fermentation, and both krauts are distinctly funky to my palate. There’s no mold growing, and I have no reason to believe anything’s wrong other than my own impatience and/or poor taste.

Fingers crossed I didn’t introduce any bad bacteria by opening the jars. This time, we’ll give the kraut its time and hope that that does the trick.

Spicy SauerKraut Recipe

  • 5 lbs. cabbage, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon beet, coarsely grated
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, grated


  • Quarter the cabbage, and then chop it very thin.
  • Place cabbage in a large bowl and add salt. Let it sit for five minutes.
  • Massage cabbage with salt for five additional minutes until the cabbage releases its juices (who knew a little salt would suck so much water out of a cabbage? This part was like a mad science experiment that caught us completely by surprise!)
  • Add remaining ingredients (if desired) and mix thoroughly.
  • Fill jar or crock with cabbage mixture, packing it down firmly as you go.
  • Pour any remaining juices from the bowl over the packed cabbage and place a small  jar or other weight on top of the kraut. This will help keep the cabbage from floating to the surface of the liquid. close the lid
  • Let sit for six weeks before tasting (or, if you’re like me, taste it a week in and see what’s really going on in there!)
  • Enjoy!




Look how much the cabbage shrinks after being kneaded with the salt!

Look how much the cabbage shrinks after being kneaded with the salt!

A canning funnel comes in handy when filling the jar with shredded cabbage.

A canning funnel comes in handy when filling the jar with shredded cabbage.

The cabbage supplies all its own water. Wow!

The cabbage supplies all its own water. Wow!

We used a small jar as a weight to keep the cabbage from floating to the surface of the liquid.

We used a small jar as a weight to keep the cabbage from floating to the surface of the liquid.

The airlock lid will let the cabbage gases escape, but keep bacteria from getting into the jar over the course of the fermentation.

The airlock lid will let the cabbage gases escape, but keep bacteria from getting into the jar over the course of the fermentation.

Here's to colorful, spicy kraut!

Here’s to colorful, spicy kraut!

December Harvest and 2014 Farm Stats

Happy New Year to you and your garden/farm/homestead/piece of earth!

It was a wonderful year for us in many ways, and we continue to believe that growing food really matters. We are grateful and feel energized to begin a productive new year and to continue learning and growing.

Here’s the December harvest scoop:

  • Asparagus ‘Farmer’s Favorite’: .13 lbs.
  • Basil ‘Aroma 1’: .06 lbs.
  • Butter lettuce: .75 lbs.
  • Cabbage ‘Parel’: 11.25 lbs.
  • Carrot ‘Nantaise’ (with tops): 1.5 lbs.
  • Eggs (Ameraucana 13; Welsummer 6): 20
  • Green onion ‘Purplette’: .86 lbs.
  • Kale ‘Wild Kale’: 1.6 lbs.
  • Kale ‘Winterbor’: 1.34 lbs.
  • Lemon ‘Meyer’: 3.25 lbs.
  • Lettuce ‘All-Season Romaine’: .06 lbs.
  • Mustard ‘Ruby Streaks’: .06 lbs.
  • Mustard ‘Tah Tsoi’: 1.31 lbs.
  • Navel orange: 23 lbs.
  • Parsley ‘Dark Green Italian Plain’: .25 lbs.
  • Persimmon ‘Fuyu’: 76.5 lbs.
  • Rosemary: .03 lbs.
  • Sage: .03 lbs.
  • Thyme: .03 lbs.

Total: 122.01 lbs.

2014 harvest total: 1073.13 lbs.

2014 egg count: 447 eggs

2014 growing stats and notes


In 2014, we doubled our small flock of chickens, welcoming a Welsummer and an Ameraucana chick in February.

Many thanks to Petunia, Luma, Bell, and Fifi for last year’s 447 colorful eggs!




In 2014, I resolved to ‘master’ honey bee hive division. A lofty goal that I can’t claim to have achieved. I did, however, perform a four-way walk away split on one of our best producing  hives, and all four successfully raised laying queens!

Although we lost our longest-lived colony in 2014, between my 100% success rate on hive divisions and collecting a local swarm from just a few blocks away, we maintained a seven colony apiary through the summer. So far (knocking on a hundred pieces of wood!), we haven’t had any hive losses this fall/winter. This is a record for us! We would be thrilled to make it through the winter with zero losses.

In 2014, we harvested 156.5 lbs. of extracted and comb honey–not a particularly impressive figure for seven colonies and due in large part to drought and to our conservative bee-robbing approach. Still, it was more than enough to give to friends and sell (for the first time!) at the county fair.

The bulk of this year's honey harvest bottled up by the quart, pint, and half-pint.

The bulk of this year’s honey harvest bottled up by the quart, pint, and half-pint.

loquat and bee

Bee butt in the loquat blossoms.

Harvest stats:

In 2014, our average monthly harvest was 89.4 lbs. Perennial crops made up 62% of the year’s harvest, while annual crops made up 38%. ‘Fuyu’ persimmons squeaked in a few pounds above ‘Hachiya’ persimmons to claim the title for largest harvest (151.75 lbs. to 147.2 lbs., respectively). The apple harvest was utterly abysmal, as were the asparagus, fig, zucchini (who ever heard of such a thing?!), and loquat harvests. The okra was a summer superstar, as were the eggplants, melons, and beans.

2014 projects:

In 2014, Kelly expanded her quest to install drip irrigation in all major beds. She also continued experimenting with olive curing, and with making liqueurs and fruit wines and melomels. Together, we dutifully weighed and recorded (most of) the harvest, vastly improving our garden record keeping. I grew my first vinegar mothers, and tried my hand at lacto-fermented vegetable pickles. We also opened a Little Free Library and seed exchange on the curb out front. I’ve stopped trying to count the books going in and out every day–there are just too many!

Many of our adventures last year didn’t make it onto the blog; unfortunately (or fortunately?), not every task involves pulling weeds and putting up produce, and often we run short on time when it comes to writing about our farm exploits.

Onward to 2015:

This year, we’ll grow more food.

Can we double our yield? Or triple it? I think so. I also know we will gripe and procrastinate. We’ll start seeds later than we intended, and then we’ll get starts into the ground even later. I will threaten no jam this year, and no pickles either. Kelly will say we have enough plum wine stored away to last a lifetime, and she’ll decide curing olives is too much work. She’ll decide to retire from beekeeping for the third year in a row.

Then the seasons will call to us. The plums will ripen and the bees will swarm, cucumbers the size of sour dough loaves will peer out at us from under wilted leaves. I’ll fire up the water bath canner and crank up the bluegrass music. Kelly will pound out more bee frames and set her olives to soak. We’ll get to work.

Light in the Darkest Day

Happy Solstice to gardeners everywhere!

The little sunflower that could (all the way through December!).

The little sunflower that could (all the way through December!).


Future sauerkraut!

…And the basil that just won't quit.

…And the basil that just won’t quit.

Pudy: feline ballerina in the grandmother fig.

Pudy: feline ballerina in the grandmother fig.

Cabbage for the masses.

Cabbage for the masses.


Anybody want to help us weed?

Knock on wood, all of our hives look good this winter.

Knock on wood, all of our home hives look good this winter.


November Harvest

The November harvest brings us tantalizingly close to 1000 lbs. of produce for the year. Will we make it over the top in December?!

  • Apple ‘Granny Smith’: 2 lbs.
  • Basil ‘Aroma 1’: .063 lbs.
  • Carrot ‘Nantaise’: .38 lbs.
  • Chive: .06 lbs.
  • Eggs (Barred Rock 8; Ameraucana 16; Welsummer 18): 42
  • Honey (harvested in August and September): 113.25 lbs.
  • Kale ‘Winterbor’: .25 lbs.
  • Lime ‘Bearrs’: .25
  • Parsley ‘Dark Green Italian Plain’: .31 lbs.
  • Persimmon ‘Fuyu’: 65.75
  • Persimmon ‘Hachiya’: 52.75 lbs.
  • Mustard ‘Tah Tsoi’: .25 lbs.

Total: 235.31 lbs.

2014 harvest total: 951.21 lbs.

2014 egg count: 427

The bulk of this year's honey harvest bottled up by the quart, pint, and half-pint.

The bulk of this year’s honey harvest bottled up by the quart, pint, and half-pint.

Pudy among the Hachiyas.

Pudy among the Hachiyas.

Up next: Navel oranges, leaf lettuce, cabbage, and peas!

Up next: Navel oranges, leaf lettuce, cabbage, and peas!





Indoor Chickens

Our darling Petunia is ailing. The vet recently suggested that she is ‘fading away’, pointing to her loss of appetite, frequent lethargy, and white blood cells that appear ‘squashed’ and misshapen in every blood test she’s ever had. Yes, our chicken has had multiple blood tests.

She’s certainly never been the healthiest bird in the flock, suffering from recurrent oviduct infections over her almost three-year life. We finally put her on chicken birth control this past spring, which stopped her laying, brought her hormones down to normal levels, and cleared up her chronic infections.

I’m suspicious that her second, rather halfhearted, autumn molt of the year (she lost only her tail feathers) may be to blame for her behavior changes, rather than an awful virus affecting one chicken in the flock, or a progressive congenital disease, as the vet suggested. We’ll wait and see.

For now, Bell, a Welsummer, and the loudest chicken we’ve ever met, is seizing the opportunity to become top chicken. We hope her reign is short-lived. She’s got the bossy piece down, but she’s a poor forager, has terrible anxiety, and is less fair-minded than Petunia.

While she’s under the weather, we’re giving Petunia the royal treatment, attending closely to her excessively finicky dietary whims and general comfort. I’m aware that many (most?) backyard chicken-keepers don’t take their birds to the vet, particularly when the bird is no longer laying. When we started out with our first chicks nearly three years ago, I didn’t anticipate how attached we’d become, or how much these small-brained creatures would worm their way into our hearts. Chickens have big personalities. They’re social and affectionate, and highly expressive.

So here we are, muddling through as usual, using half head and half heart. Petunia is dear to us. It’s cold outside (California, SF Bay Area cold, in the state’s warmest year on record–but still, chilly). Petunia has alway been slight, sleeping in a nest box in winter to keep warm. Chickens are notoriously cold-hardy animals. The vet thinks she’s fading away.

We couldn’t take it anymore a few weeks ago and started bringing her in to sleep in the straw-stuffed cat crate. Every morning at first light she gives an assertive and lengthy cackle from across the bedroom to let us know she’s ready to start her day. At the vet’s suggestion, she gets a capsule of fish oil down the gullet once a day to support her coronary functioning, as well as dandelion root and milk thistle seed extracts to support her liver. Egad.

Her appetite’s been poor, so we offer her favorite treats, like sunflower and hemp seeds. We also scramble her an egg every day–she likes it thoroughly scrambled and dry. If it’s too warm, or too wet, or too oily, she shakes her beak vigorously and repeatedly, wiping it on the floor, and we know she will not be tempted by any more of our tempting treats for a good long while. She stalks off under the kitchen table and stands staring into space, or she preens her beautiful new set of feathers.

Even when she disdains our culinary offerings, she’ll be damned if anyone else eats. Sometimes we bring Luma (aka ‘Baby Tiny’) in to inspire Petunia’s appetite–a kind of competitive, race-to-the-finish mealtime. For a minute, Petunia stands by passively, as Luma guzzles the feast. Then, some primal chicken instinct kicks in and she towers over the much larger Baby Tiny, making a series of intimidating guttural clucks.

Kelly has always been a better, more attentive mother than I. But she’s gone to new extremes for Petunia. Discovering that a crate of extracted honey frames was infested with wax moths, Kelly sensed opportunity. Not only does she pluck out the mature moths for Petunia to snap out of the air (a favorite treat, so long as there’s not too much honey on them), she also cuts wax moth pupae out of their tough, fibrous cocoons and hand-feeds them to our little chicken.

Hard at work, extracting wax moth larvae.

Hard at work, extracting wax moth pupae.

The prize.

The prize.

Our little princess.

The princess.

Last weekend, friends arrived to share a meal and an evening of board games with us, and we had to explain why there were two chickens pecking at a pile of seeds and oats and scrambled egg on the kitchen floor.

I have to say, though, there’s something warm and friendly about having Petunia join our indoor life. She often enters into conversations with her delightfully wide range of vocalizations, or hops up on a lap for some very serious eye contact and ‘lite’ snuggles before bed. And whether it’s caused by the end of her molt, her fabulous diet and supplements, or just the extra TLC, she seems to be regaining at least some of her appetite and energy.

Home-Grown Vinegar

The homemade vinegar experiments have been sitting undisturbed in the darkest room in the house for almost three months. This is partly because it takes a while to make vinegar and partly (mostly) because I am really really busy with less interesting things.

I had an unexpected extra day off this past weekend and finally responded to the nagging voice in the back of my mind that’s been urging me to check up on the vinegar.

There’s bad news and good news. The bad news is that my store-bought white vinegar mother grew a nasty blue-green mold layer, as did three of my smaller jars of fruit scrap vinegar. I poked around briefly online and came to the conclusion that there’s no way to salvage a vinegar mother once she’s gone moldy. Bummer.

Because her gelatinous floating mass still seems perfectly alive, I’m having a hard time doing anything to actively dispose of her. A flush down the toilet seems vaguely cruel, as does tossing her into the compost pile. Instead, I’ve taken the passive route of putting her container in full sun on the back stoop–a move I guiltily suspect will also kill her. I never expected to get so emotionally invested in Acetobacter.

In the meantime, fabulous, magical, scientific things have happened in the other jars. In the largest jar of grape mash, a beautiful thick mat of vinegar mother formed on top of the grape skins and liquid. After I’d finished worshipping her, I tore this mother into multiple pieces and placed her in new jars with various concentrations of white and red wines. The experimentation continues!

A side view of the grape mash with a layer of vinegar mother at the top. You can see fruit flies stuck in the mother. See below for more on the role they play in the vinegar-making process.

A side view of the grape mash with a layer of vinegar mother at the top.

Vinegar mother--the view from above.

Vinegar mother–the view from above. You can see fruit flies stuck in the mother. See below for more on the role they play in the vinegar-making process.

A piece of vinegar mother in a new jar.

A piece of vinegar mother in a new jar.

And up close, in my hand.

…And up close, in my hand.

The vinegar from this largest jar is delicious, very sour, with a complex flavor and a strawberry-lemonade hue.

The other three small jars of fruit scrap vinegar didn’t make mothers, but the liquid has definitely turned to vinegar. Maybe they need more time? Or maybe the liquid was a little too low? I added distilled water and wine to these jars as well and will wait with baited breath for new developments.

Grape mash vinegar mother recipe:

  • 5 cups mashed (juiced) grapes
  • 5 cups distilled water
  • A ‘splash’ of fresh grape juice
  • 2 spoons honey

Combine ingredients in a 1-gallon jar and leave uncovered for 24 hours. Then, use a rubber band to secure cheesecloth over the mouth of the jar and place in a dark warm room (my room honestly isn’t that warm, but I hear warmth is ideal for vinegar production). Leave untouched for about 3 months.

I made this recipe up, and the results were far beyond my expectations. I imagine any number of variations might also yield success.

Grape mash recipes that produced vinegar but no mothers (yet):

  • 1 cup grape mash
  • 1 cup distilled water
  • 1 cup honey

Notes: A pleasantly sweet and tangy vinegar

  • 1 cup grape mash
  • 1 cup distilled water
  • 1 cup white sugar

Notes: This one is a little too sweet for my taste, but definitely still vinegar-y

  • Unmeasured amount of grape mash (1 cup?)
  • Unmeasured grape juice (1 cup?)
  • unmeasured quantity of whole strawberries and raspberries (1/2 half cup?)
  • 1 tsp white sugar
  • Distilled water to cover

Notes: Very tasty, with berry flavors coming through

A note on fruit flies

I left my jars of grape mash uncovered for a day to allow fruit flies to get inside and jumpstart the process. From what I’ve read, fruit flies carry Acetobacter–the genus of bacteria that turns ethanol into acetic acid, or vinegar–on their feet and in their bodies, thus inoculating the mixture and increasing the chances that a good mother will form.

There’s no way around it: a jar of fermenting fruit with a captive cloud of fruit flies emitting a tiny buzzing sound beneath the cheesecloth cover is pretty disgusting. Even more gross is taking off the cheesecloth three months later and releasing a crowd of fruit flies—the great- great-grandkids of that first colony. Whatever works, though, you know? The vinegars in all of the non-moldy jars taste great and the mother was something to behold.

I’ll be interested to see the difference between the white and red wine batches I’ve started with pieces of vinegar mother, as well as whether the smaller jars will end up forming mothers of their own. The grape mash I used back in August was from Flame grapes, a table grape that Kelly assures me is neither a red, nor a white ‘wine grape’. Will the mothers have a wine preference? Stay tuned.

September and October Garden Harvests

I present to you the last two month’s harvests–minus several gallons of honey that have yet to be tabulated!

We’re often a bit flummoxed trying to make sense of why certain crops do wonderfully one year and very poorly another year. This summer’s winners included cantaloupes and eggplant. The potatoes did horribly, as did the zucchini.


  • Apple ‘Golden Delicious’: 3.5 lbs.
  • Basil ‘Aroma 1’: 9.38 lbs.
  • Bean ‘Kentucky Blue’: 9.25 lbs.
  • Beet ‘Pacemaker III Hybrid’: 8.13 lbs.
  • Bell pepper ‘Big Red Beauty’: 1 lb.
  • Carrot ‘Nantaise’: 1.75 lbs.
  • Cucumber ‘Bushy Pickling’: 6.25 lbs.
  • Cucumber ‘Fountain’: 2 lbs.
  • Eggplant ‘Rosa Bianca’: 4.75 lbs.
  • Eggs: 71 (Barred Rock 19; Ameraucana 25; Welsummer 27)
  • Kale ‘Winterbor’: .25 lbs.
  • Cantaloupe ‘Minnesota Midget’: 5.38 lbs.
  • Onion ‘Red Amposta’: 2.75 lbs.
  • Parsley ‘Dark Green Italian Plain’: .38 lbs.
  • Pepper ‘Early Jalapeno’: 1.25 lbs.
  • Potato ‘Red Pontiac’: .25 lbs.
  • Potato ‘Yukon’: .75 lbs.
  • Thai Basil: .06 lbs.
  • Tomatillo ‘Variety?’: 1 lb.
  • Tomato ‘Early Girl’: 7.63 lbs.
  • Tomato ‘Pineapple’: 5.13 lbs.
  • Tomato ‘San Marzano’: 2 lbs.
  • Zucchini ‘Variety?’: 1.25 lbs.

Total: 74.09 lbs.


  • Beeswax: 5 lbs.
  • Cucumber ‘Bushy Pickling’: 1.25 lbs.
  • Eggplant ‘Nadia’: .63 lbs.
  • Eggplant ‘Rosa Bianca’: 3.13 lbs.
  • Eggs: 55 (Barred Rock 13; Ameraucana 19; Welsummer 23)
  • Navel orange: .13 lbs.
  • Onion ‘Red Amposta’: .25 lbs.
  • Parsley ‘Dark Green Italian Plain’: .125 lbs.
  • Pepper ‘Big Red Beauty’: 4.13 lbs.
  • Pepper ‘Early Jalapeno’: 4.13 lbs.
  • Persimmon ‘Fuyu’: 9.5 lbs.
  • Persimmon ‘Hachiya’: 94.45 lbs.
  • Pomegranate ‘Wonderful’: 1.5 lbs.
  • Tomatillo: 2.75 lbs.
  • Tomato ‘Early Girl’: 6 lbs.
  • Tomato ‘Orange Roma’: .75 lbs.
  • Tomato ‘Pineapple’: 2.5 lbs.
  • Tomato ‘San Marzano’: 1.88 lbs.

Total: 138.12 lbs.

2014 harvest total: 715.9 lbs.

2014 egg count: 385


The first two pomegranates  from our little tree were absolutely delicious!

The first two pomegranates from our little tree were absolutely delicious!

Nightly raccoon family raids led us to harvest the Hachiyas early. They're ripening nicely in the kitchen, and Kelly will soon brew up a batch of persimmon beer.

Nightly raccoon family raids led us to harvest the Hachiyas early. They’re ripening nicely in the kitchen, and Kelly will soon brew up a batch of persimmon beer.

Late-season tomatoes and tomatillos.

Late-season tomatoes and tomatillos.

Pomegranates, 'Rosa Bianca' eggplants, and jalapeño peppers.

Pomegranates, ‘Rosa Bianca’ eggplants, and jalapeño peppers.

Introducing Spoon Farm


Is it a garden, or a farm? Who cares either way?

We used to think of what we have here as a garden, because it’s tiny—less than a quarter acre—and decidedly suburban. But lately, our thinking has begun to change. It’s not just the fact that so much of what we eat comes from this scrap of land we cultivate, or that we’ve moved beyond veggies, to include chickens and bees. There’s also power in naming, and in the identities we choose.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn recently that the USDA defines a farm as ‘any place from which $1,000 or more of agricultural products were produced and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the year.’ Whether or not we sell it, we are certainly producing (and consuming!) well over $1,000 in agricultural products every year. More on this next year, when I hope to finally buckle down and track the dollar value of our production.

Other definitions of ‘farm’ are even more inclusive, ranging from ‘a tract of land devoted to agricultural purposes,’ to ‘a plot of land devoted to the raising of animals, especially domestic livestock.’

Check, check, and check.

So it’s a farm, this place where we sweat and grumble and search for moments to pause and enjoy the literal and figurative fruits of our labor, and the unselfconscious beauty of flora and fauna minding their own business. It’s pleasing to stand looking out at what right now is the ramshackle, top-heavy, last burst of summer crops and to say, this is Spoon Farm.

We sold honey for the first time a few months ago at the San Mateo County Fair and came up with our name then. Kelly made a first round of labels, and on a whim recently, I made a farm website. Check it out at!

Late summer veggies.

Late summer veggies.



Winter babies ready in the greenhouse.

Winter babies ready in the greenhouse.