A Farm Is Born!


Gina and I have chosen a name for our dairy goat, honey bee, cut flowers, organic vegetables, soap, cheese, bread, preserves, what-ever-else-we-get-obsessed-with-down-the-line operation. The name is derived from the names of the roads we live on (it’s all on the ranch, but there are a couple of different little dirt roads here). And those names are descriptive of the property itself – ‘henge’ refers to our sacred, ancient oaks, and the ‘hollow’ refers to the deep creek hollow that runs through the property.  So the name has a lot of meaning for us.  Plus, it’s got a good beat, and you can dance to it!

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Every morning I walk in my garden, looking at every plant, checking the moisture of the soil, pulling the odd weed (the rice straw and garden cloth have been fantastic at keeping weeds down – highly recommend!) and just generally basking in the beauty of what soil, compost, seeds, and a few sets of hands can accomplish. It’s so satisfying.

Even better – the garden is jamming!  I mean for real.  This year I got serious about fertilizer, and started all the plants with compost, lots of chicken manure, and concentrated organic vegetable fertilizer.  It has totally paid off, I almost feel like I cheated!  The tomatoes are huge, the peppers are better than they’ve ever looked by this time of year, and… well, let me just show you:


Cherokee Purple and Jellybean cherry, Roma in the background, the Brandywine I started from a seed is also doing great but it’s out of the frame.


Jalapeno pepper (the Poblanos and the garlic are also doing well but were hard to see in the picture so I cropped them)


The Armenian melon and the Ambrosia melon (which miraculously survived getting stepped on by the dog) are also loving their spot.  So far no gopher attacks (thanks Junebug!)


The Cocozelli di Napoli squash, started from seeds right in the barrel, are huge!


Basil, Tarragon, Feverfew and one of the Calendula in the herb bed


The Marketmore cucumber started from a seed, and the eggplant.


The little Padron peppers got a late start because they were so hard to find! I’m definitely saving seeds from these guys for next year.

The blackberries are flowering, the strawberry patch is full of berries (on the small side, but sweet!), the tomatillos are doubled in size, and the peach and the apple tree both have fruit.  I’ve never had such a varied garden before, and I have to say, I feel like I’m sitting on top of a gold mine, looking down and seeing the Mother Lode glinting in the sun! Eureka!

G.V. (pronounced ‘Jeev’)


At some point in the early 1990s, the skater/punker kids I hung out with started calling the area “Jeev” (for G.V.) and it was so catchy that occasionally I still meet total strangers, non-locals even, who know it by that name.

Funny as it may seem, one of my favorite things about moving back to the country is actually the town.  Grass Valley, California, is a Gold Rush town, with just the kind of colorful history you would expect from the wild west.  Grass Valley, and Nevada City, our chi-chi neighbor to the north, make up the heart of Nevada County.  Local legend has it that the shape of Nevada County, which looks like a Derringer pistol pointing right at the state of Nevada, was no accident: Locals were angry when the newly formed state of Nevada stole the county’s name, so they bought land from neighboring Placer County and the gun shape was created.  Another beloved (and this time definitely true) Nevada County tale involves the Great Republic of Rough and Ready and the night they got fired up decided to succeed from the Union (in 1850) over the taxes imposed on their gold claims.  They elected a president and had an anthem written, but after about three months they felt guilty about it and rejoined the United States as enthusiastically as they’d left it.

Nowadays, it’s a quirky place where rednecks and hippies, cattle ranchers and pot growers, conservative Christian churches and Yoga communes, skateboarding punk rockers and Future Farmers of America not only coexist, but revel, and even overlap.  Where a municipal ordinance was enacted out of necessity that outlaws leaving your car unlocked with the keys inside, because a rash of teenage joyriders overwhelmed the police department one summer (people still do it though). Where Occupy Nevada County continues to stage the politest, most cheerful monthly protest you’ll ever see (as well as fiercely advocating for people facing home foreclosure).  Where a mid-week, midday traffic jam in downtown could turn out to be caused by a gang of Burningman types on stilts dancing down Mill Street (that happened last week).  Where the cars in the parking lot at the venerable Briar Patch co-op are as likely to have Tea Party bumper stickers as they are to have “No Farms No Food” and “Grow Organic” (actually I’ve seen several cars around here with all three).

I’m a dyed-in-the-wool liberal, and I do wish our district could elect a Democratic congressperson someday. But truly, on a day-to-day basis, it doesn’t matter that much around here. What we have in common is a lot more important to us than what we don’t. We have the rivers, the mountains, the four distinct seasons.  We have the stars in the night sky and the flowers in the meadow, cows in the pasture and berries on the vine.  We know how to be generous and kind to one another, despite our differences. And as the late, great Nevada County resident and storyteller Utah Phillips once observed (I really don’t know who said it first, but I heard it first from him): In Nevada County we only lock our doors in the summertime, because otherwise people will come into your house when you’re not around and fill it with zucchini.

Bee Update


Great news! I opened up the hive today to see how the bees are filling out the second hive body and it was positively packed with bees and brood. I didn’t see the queen, but I only pulled a few frames. I did see eggs though, so she’s in there somewhere. I also saw a drone, which is good because that means the bees are still finding flowers out there, otherwise they’d kick him out because the workers won’t tolerate drones in the hive after the honeyflow is over (they eat too much). Weird lookin fella!  Gigantic eyes and big fat body.  Not my type, I guess.  Anyway, I am really pleased because they have almost totally built out the last frame with comb, which means I can stop feeding syrup in a week or so.  After I do another mite check, assuming we’re looking good as far as mites go, I can put the honey super on just in time for the blackberry bloom. Blackberry honey in August!

It really seems like the coffeeberry bloom and a few other natives around here are perfectly filling the gap between the spring bonanza honeyflow and the blackberry bloom, which makes me very happy. I was warned about the honey starve at the very beginning of summer here in Nevada County.  Because our climate is very dry in the summertime, we have a real dearth of flowers after the spring rains stop and the ground dries up. Then the hardier blackberries kick in later in the summer. I’ve never paid this much attention to the different blooms – I’ve enjoyed them as something pretty to look at, just not as bee food! – so it might be that this is just a good year as far as the timing goes. But I’ll gladly take it.  I’m so excited to try honey made right here at the ranch!

That’s Not a Kale Plant . . . It’s a SPACE Station

Stormtroopers on my kale plant

Without anyone noticing, the Empire took over this region of space known as the Kale System, and it’s now swarming with Stormtroopers. Or aphids. Whatever you want to call them.  Tons and tons of faceless little white robots marching to and fro with no particular purpose except total universe domination.

Assume the scrappy little rebellion known as ‘me’ is short on resources at the moment and cannot buy organic non-toxic insecticide or, preferably, a bag of live ladybugs to help restore freedom to the galaxy.  She must rely on the good blaster at her side. (Filled with 1/3 white vinegar, 2/3 water.)


“Peeowm! Peeowm!”

But no! The deflector shield was up! Our weapons were no match for this fully operational battle station.


Vader is on that ship. I can feel it.

And so the rebellion was forced to retreat to a distant moon, from which she would launch a desperate attack.  Plans were obtained that may be our only hope of defeating the Empire, once and for all.

  • Three to four cloves of garlic
  • Mineral oil
  • Strainer or cheesecloth
  • Liquid dish soap
  • Water
  • Spray bottle

To make garlic oil spray, mince or finely chop three to four cloves of garlic, and add them to two teaspoons of mineral oil. Let this mixture sit for 24 hours. Strain out the garlic pieces, and add the remaining liquid to one pint of water. Add one teaspoon of liquid dish soap. This mixture can be stored and diluted as needed. When you need to spray, use two tablespoons of the mixture added to one pint of water in a spray bottle.

To use your garlic oil spray, first test by spraying an inconspicuous part of the plant to see if your mixture harms it at all. If there are no signs of yellowing or other leaf damage after a day or two, it is safe to use. If there is leaf damage, dilute the mixture with more water and try the test again. Once you have determined that it won’t harm your plant, spray the entire plant, paying special attention to the undersides of leaves.

What will come of the rebellion? Will she be able to defeat the evil Empire, or will she be crushed, in one swift stroke? STAY TUNED!