Category Archives: Vegetables

Winter Squash Wonderland

Thanks to some wonderful starts from the the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center’s plant sale we had an incredible bounty of big beautiful Winter squash. There were blue and green Hubbards, Red Kuri, a Big Max pumpkin growing out into the street, Butternuts under every squash leaf and hanging over the fence, and the spectacular Musque de Provence of which the largest weighed 65 pounds and had to have a party thrown in its honor.

As we watched the Musque de Provence growing all Summer we kept thinking “How are we going to store that thing once we cut into it?” When we finally harvested it the only option was to do as the French do at their farmer’s markets and part it out. We invited all of our squash-loving friends over for dinner and didn’t let them leave without a piece of the squash.

Summer’s End/Be Careful What You Wish For!

Well… there are bins of fruit piled everywhere- peaches, plums, pears, apples, grapes, and blackberries. The house smells sweet. It’s difficult to keep up. We’ve been harvesting, canning, and juicing. We’ve been making pies, cobblers, sauces and cider with our cider press.

We are trying to keep up with the 15 different kinds of tomatoes we’re growing. They go well with all of the pesto we’ve been making and freezing. It’s been great putting all of that homegrown garlic to good use. We’ve been blanching the tomatoes in boiling water for two minutes, slipping their skins off and freezing them in nice manageable portions. The freezer is full of tomatoes for sauces and soups, grated zucchini for bread, sliced apples and peaches for pies. It’s going to be a tasty winter!

We have a pumpkin the size of a Mack truck growing out into the street. We came home the other day to find a young man sitting in a beach chair next to it. He said when he saw the pumpkin “It just looked like a nice place to sit and hang out”. That made us smile.

While we’re on the subject of Mack trucks we are growing Hubbard and Musque de Provence squash for the first time. Let’s just say it has inspired us to have people over for dinner (often). They are huge and delicious! We’ll do a whole blog on squash next time. They’ve completely taken over the yard. The bees love the blossoms and ducks enjoy foraging for slugs and sow-bugs under them. I pruned off all of the leaves with mildew last week and to look out there now you’d never know.

The kids had fun harvesting carrots and potatoes. They’ve loved eating sweet corn right in the garden. They stand out there under the tall stalks munching on a cob and giggling. The giant sunflowers have charmed and amazed them. They have been sharing the seeds with the Scrub Jays who are busy planting next year’s crop as we speak.

The chickens and ducks are laying eggs now and the kids have enjoyed gathering the eggs. Two blues (Aracauna), one brown (Barred Rock) and two white duck eggs a day. Ping is still working on her egg-laying technique. She’s only laid soft-shelled eggs so far. We’re giving all of the birds oyster shell to supplement their calcium intake. They also make good use of the lucerne (alfalfa) that we grow in small patches around the yard. The chickens get it in hay form and the ducks graze on the fresh plants. It is also a good source of calcium.

The honeybees are busy filling the hive boxes with honey for the coming winter. The Mullein has been blooming for them for a good six months and there are still sunflowers full of pollen. We watched them drinking out of the birdbath today. This summer has been tough on them. They have fought yellow-jackets, ants and now wax moth larva. We’ll be opening the hive soon to assess the situation. Cross your fingers.

It’s time to get out there and start planning the winter garden.



Spring has arrived at the “homestead”. The Sugar Snap Peas are plump and ready. Kids, ducks, the dog and the chicken were all hanging out together today while the laundry dried in the warm breeze above their heads . Dee Dee duck laid an egg in the middle of the yard (luckily it was gathered in time). “Chicken” laid her’s like clockwork in her nest box. Her once-a-day constitution. It was quite a sight to see everyone, humans and animals alike, enjoying the beautiful day. We are truly blessed to have this little bit of paradise.

Our house was built in 1907 on a 6,000 square foot urban lot amongst other Victorians and Bungalows. It’s just a short walk to our wonderful old downtown. Two years ago we got our friends to leave Oakland and buy the house behind us. Our backyards adjoin so we’ve joined forces in this urban homesteading project. We had looked for rural property together before coming here but the long drive to jobs and amenities seemed crazy with the coming end of oil. We wanted a small, tight community that could support itself in a crisis. We are working towards that end.

My neighbor friend and I took a Permaculture Design Course this past year and the re-design for our two adjoining urban lots is the result of that course. We plan a permaculture food forest. We aim for “An overabundance of abundance” as permaculture teacher Penny Livingston-Stark says. That’s the plan. We’ll post our progress here so you can learn with us as we make mistakes, jump for joy, and hopefully live more lightly on the planet.

- Suzanne