Monday, September 21, 2009

Mea Culpa

I have been over-the-top busy... and blogging about my chickens and garden has drifted to the bottom of the pile.

I will back at it soon enough...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

BackYard Poultry Mag Link

WOW, how cool... Le Coop just got linked to the Blogs on Backyard Poultry Magazine...

I will try to make us all proud!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Under-Rated Eggplant

I feel bad for eggplant, it is like the poor kid in the back of the class who was never really good at sports or struggled in school to have friends or was not a super student - yet the potential was there if given the chance to come out of it's shell.

I think this is one of the hardiest plants I have in my garden. As mentioned in earlier posts, I have the Dusky and the

So, as I researched the eggplant, come to find out it does have a bad it is apart of the "Deadly Nightshade" family.... WOWSA... looking at the flowers of the Belladona and the Eggplant they are identical!...

Here is some more data!

Atropa belladonna, commonly known as belladonna or deadly nightshade, is a perennial herbaceous plant in the family Solanaceae, native toEurope, North Africa, and Western Asia. The foliage and berries are extremely toxic, containing tropane alkaloids.[1] These toxins include scopolamineand hyoscyamine which cause a bizarre delirium and hallucinations.[2] The drug atropine is derived from the plant.

It has a long history of use as a medicine, cosmetic, and poison. Before the Middle Ages, it was used as an anesthetic for surgery, and it was used as a poison by early men, ancient Romans, including the wives of two Emperors, and by Macbeth of Scotland before he became a Scottish King.

The genus name "atropa" comes from Atropos, one of the three Fates in Greek mythology, and the name "atropa bella donna" is derived from an admonition in Italian and Greek meaning "do not betray a beautiful lady"

The Eggplant, also known as the Aubergine in Europe and Britain, is one of the least widely appreciated vegetables in the Western World. As its latin name, " Solanum Melongena" indicates, the Eggplant is the only member of the Deadly Nightshade family to originate in the Eastern Hemisphere and is closely related to the Tomato, Potato and the Pepper. In fact, like its cousin, the Tomato, the Eggplant's popularity was stifled in Europe and North America until relatively recent years due to its association to Nightshade. Where as the Tomato was believed to be poisonous, the Eggplant was believed by superstitious Europeans to induce insanity and was unaffectionately known as the "Mad Apple" until only a few centuries ago.

Eggplant are native to the general SouthEast Asian region of India and modern day Pakistan and was first domesticated there over 4000 years ago, especially in the vicinities of Burma and Assam. In its home region, the Eggplant is used in many local dishes and carries a wide range of names in Bengalise, Hindustani, Urdu, Sanskrit and other local languages. In fact, the Eggplant's true species name "Melongena" is an ancient name for Eggplant in Sanskrit. Within its home region, the purple fruited Eggplant were the first to be domesticated. In time, Eggplant soon spread into neighboring China by about 500 B.C. and became a culinary favorite to generations of Chinese emperors. About 500 A.D., a Chinese scholar put up the first written record of Eggplant and states that they had become popular among all classes of the Chinese people some two centuries earlier. The Chinese viewed the Eggplant differently than the Indians did and soon developed their own unique varieties. In particular, they preferred smaller fruited Eggplant, as well as differing shapes and colors. From India and Pakistan, the Eggplant soon spread West into the Middle East and into the Lower Stans regions, as far west as Egypt and northward into Turkey. Arabic records of Eggplant exist from the 9th, 10th and 12th centuries and Eggplant are an important part of Arabic, Turkish and Persian cuisine. The Turks alone are believed to have over 1000 native recipes calling for the use of Eggplant in varying ways. In the 4th through 7th centuries A.D., the Moors introduced the Eggplant to Spain and the vegetable soon spread throughout Europe. The 16th century Spaniards had great respect for the Eggplant and believed its fruit to be a powerful aphrodisiac, hence they referred to them as "Berengenas" or the "Apple of Love". The Italians too, held the Eggplant in very regard and called them "Melanzana". Northern Europeans, however, were not so kind to the Eggplant. Albert of Cologne described the Eggplant in the 13th Century and referred to them as "Mala Insana", a corruption of the Italian name "Melanzana". By the 16th century, Eggplant were widely known in Europe as "Mad Apples" and were believed to induce insanity if consumed. Despite this, a few people did respect the Eggplant and in 1550, both purple and yellow varieties were introduced to Germany from Naples, Italy. By 1600, white Eggplants, as well those with ash-colored and brown colored fruit, as well as those with pear shaped, round, oblong and long, thin fruit were also known in Germany. The English were responsible for coining the name "Eggplant" in regards to a variety with egg shaped, white fruit that they became familiar with, yet strangely, they refer to them today by the French name of Abergine, which is a corruption of the Catalonian name "Alberginia". Although the Spanish actually introduced the Eggplant to the Americas, in particular, to Brazil as early as 1650, Eggplant were still unknown to the United States for another 150 years. Thomas Jefferson introduced them to the United States in 1806 from a friend in France and held them in high regard. In fact, even today, a prickly, white Eggplant is still grown in Jefferson's preserved Virginia Garden at Monticello. Despite the fact that Jefferson, who was not only a founding father of the United States, but was also a legendary horticulturist who championed the Eggplant, the vegetable was primarily grown in the United States as an ornamental plant until about 50 years ago. Eggplant also reached Australia, and were introduced there in 1850 by a nurseryman by the name of John Baptist who obtained the seeds from a friend who spent some time in India. Despite this, the Eggplant was largely a neglected species in Australia until scores of Europeans immigrated to Australia in the 1950's and popularized them. Eggplant come in a wide array of shapes, sizes and colors, which makes them an outstanding edible landscape plant. If you are not a fan of supermarket Eggplant, we would encourage you to try some of our varieties in your garden this year. When selected, grown and prepared properly, they will make anyone become a true Eggplant fan and they will open you up to a whole new world of culinary delight!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I Dream Of Jeannie - Sailing.

I am so sorry, but of late my time has become filled with Dad duties, some added pressure on the Honey Do List and more work at work.. which might be considered job security.

Today was really a great day, where we, my daughter and I, spent the better part of the day, working in the garden and the backyard. While I laid brick in a courtyard, my eldest weeded, pruned and cleaned the garden... OK she did it for money, which I really don't like. I am not one for chores = money. Chores and chipping-in is part of the "teamwork" called family. Paying a kid to clean their room, pull weeds, do laundry and pick up after themselves would be akin to the government paying us all to shower, brush our teeth and get hair cuts. You do it cause it is the right thing to do, not cause your going to get paid. I think if kids learn teamwork early without getting paid or an allowance builds character and sets expectations. Once an adult, making money is the bonus and the need, but being a good team player without "I want my money"... is going to serve them well through life. Now, there are exceptions...

If your kid has their eye set on something, mine wants a Channel Island surfboard. It is $600+. I think, instead of having Dad drop the scratch for it, her working to either pay for it, or meet her half way is the right thing to do. Then, once purchased, there is a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction and appreciation. Something I think many kids are sorely lacking today.

Last night as I struck the deal with her. You babysit, work hard in the yard, not "phone it in"... You can earn money. It is going to be judged a $5, $10 or $20 job - by me. WOW... she spent 4 hours in the garden. Shoveling, weeding, cleaning, pruning, raking and did a super job. Her hands and feet were filthy! Even better... and she had a true sense of accomplishment. We picked tomato's and eggplant, cleaned the chicken coop and then needed to fix the feeder. Since the chickens spazzed on it and broke it. We took a hanger, snipped the long section out of it and replaced one of the supports that was missing on the feeder so we re-hang it.

So, where does I Dream Of Jeannie play into this. After I struck the deal with her, we watched an old rerun of it. One where Tony and Roger wanted to buy a sailboat together. It was $3200. Jeannie figured she would "twinkle" one up and when she did, Tony explained he wanted to work for it not have it given to him. NICE!!! Jeannie could have snapped up a yacht, and Tony wanted a small little boat and have worked for it. Bernie Madoff obviously did not see this episode. The funny thing was; Tony and Jeannie went to the Coco Beach Bank to get a loan and since the banker was such a terd, Jeannie put $3M in his account so he could get a loan and not be hassled. Ha! Not much has changed. Mr. Bellows gets wind of his bonanza and wants to rat-him-out only to be the one who appears to be nuts. Really this was a great show; clean, funny, clever... nothing foul or gratuitous, just good clean fun.
All of this I owe to having chickens... I love this stuff.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

COOP Disaster!!!!


Sorry radio silence... busy

I was working on our backyard. It has been down for a few years as we have done remodel after remodel and ultimately not been able to use the backyard for for entertaining or simply hanging out. So, after realizing everytime my kids walk by the windows facing the backyard, they cried.. I thought I'd better do something about it.

So, in a pile, I have tumbled aged bricks... these bricks used to make up my front path. After much deliberation and caving-in, we've decided to reuse these in the backyard courtyard. So, as I was running back and forth with the wheelbarrow, I left the gate to the garden and chickens open. (keeping in mind - dog has not discovered said opened gate)...

As I was laying bricks, I hear a cacophony of clucking. Similar to my in-laws talking loudly over a big pasta dinner.. so it really didn't shock me... until I realized it was our chickens, the gate was open and Fudge the Maniacal crack pot dog had made it back there. Fortunately the chickens were in the coop. However, when a chicken has never seen something, and it sees it for the first time... OH MAN. It is like a schoolyard of kids seeing an alien land in their playground. GOODNIGHT!!! Anyway, Fudge ( I DID NOT NAME HIM)... was running around the coop like a lion circling it's prey, as I make my way back there to command (loosley used term) him away. Upon raising my voice to the level of the space shuttle launch he bolted to the other side of the gate and waited for me to shut it. I return to the coop to see nothing but feathers flying...water turned over and the feeder completely jacked up and bent.

Other than that it was a restful time placing bricks.

More to come tonight...

Monday, September 7, 2009


So, we hit Santa Cruz yesterday and surfed what's called "The Hook"... If you google 41st Avenue in Capitola, CA and work your way down to the coast, there is a parking lot and a nice little point break there. There was just enough surf to have some fun. It was in the low 70's, sun was shining and I got to surf with my daughter!!! How cool is that? My neice, nephew and brother-in-law where out there as well. Nothing like exhausting yourself for some greasy pizza afterwards!!!

Anyway, this surf spot was unusual because the kelp was everywhere...literally so much so kelp that when you went to paddle for a wave, your leash or foot would be tied up in the kelp. Which got me thinking about kelp as a fertilizer. I have heard over and over about the benefits of kelp so here it is...

The immediate benefit obtained from kelp can be attributed to the release of auxins, cytokinins and gibberellins. These plant growth hormones, required in small quantities, are essential for cell division and cell elongation, basic functions of plant growth. Increased levels of plant hormones can result in enhanced seed germination, early emergence, stimulated root and shoot growth, increased fruit set and decreased fruit drop.

When used as a fertilizer supplement, kelp is an excellent source of chelated minerals necessary for proper plant growth. Kelp meal acts as a slow release fertilizer, slowly breaking down and releasing its nutrients. The potential benefit of a kelp fertilizer supplement increases each year as it contributes to the soil organic matter.

The following application rates are approximate and may vary depending on the climactic region, soil type and soil fertility:

  • Garden - 3lbs per 100 sq ft
  • Field – 200 to 400 lbs. per acre
  • Row – 20 lbs. per 100 feet
  • Orchards – 1 lb. per inch of tree diameter
  • Compost – 6 oz. per cubit foot
  • Turf – 10 lbs. per 1,000 square feet
  • Seedbed - ½ to 1 lb. per 100 square feet
  • Potting Mixes – 2 to 3 % of total volume
  • Bedding Plants – 1 oz. per tray
  • Fertilizer Mixes – 5 to 10% of total volume
This information is by Canton Mills... .

I am grabbing a handful next time, or simply take it off my leg and bring it home... dump it into my compost pile and allow the attributes to add to my garden.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Life On The Farm With No TV!!!!

So, I wrote the other day about raising kids without outside influences. Outside Influences are defined as TV, iPods, cell phones and computers. The other day, I lost my marbles, when my two kids were in the back of one of our cars cleaning it. I was in the kitchen making some dinner. Wife was running errands. I looked out the kitchen window only to witness - fist flying, screaming and crying. Now..please understand this happened between a 13 and 7 year old!!!! How? How in the world can these two go from cleaning a car to wanting to end each others existence? I quickly stopped it and had the eldest come in and explain how it happened. I then asked the other to come in and explain what happened. I then did got my calculator, built an excel spreadsheet determined the probablities of fairness and wisdom and decided to administer the penalties as such;

No TV for a week
No iPod's for a week
No computer for a week (unless there is a paper due for school)
No texting for a week (the eldest only)

What has ensued has been one of the most peaceful weeks in recent memory. Our kids are calm, the pets are fed, the coop is clean, the garden has been tended to and the attitudes are a bazillion times better. There is no fighting, they are playing together. There is no sour faces, no poor pathetic me stomp-offs... it has been AWESOME!

I am convinced, outside influences on kids can be dangerous and with science pointing to low brain activity and higher blood pressures in kids due to these influences, it is painfully obvious, our kids need us, need to use their minds and use their bodies and in doing so, they may have a chance to be normal people. Shoot, remember having to change the channels manually? What a pain, but what a blessing, nothing on the 5 channels you got, cool go outside and play and that's what we did.

So, with modern society ripping around like they need to accomplish all of lifes goals right now, and the influence of the media making us believe our kids aren't safe walking out the front door, TV has become the "Go-To" babysitter and entertainment. Therefore, I must submit - get a garden, get chickens, plant flowers, build a pond, get an aquarium (salt water - I will speak to this later as I had one for 5 years and am going to put another up soon)... but get your kids hands dirty, use their muscles, have them read, talk with them, love on them but extract these influences and use them in complete moderation.

Sorry to be preachy, but my kids brains blossom when these influences are removed...I bet yours will to.

Off to surf Santa Cruz...!!!! with my kids of course

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Good Rooster Wine...

When I make a recommendation and it involves booze, I am always cautious to note the following; "Drink like there is no tomorrow!!!!!" I am kidding of course, at heart I am a teetotaler but I do like red wine and living 45 mins from Napa it is kind of a prerequisite to living here, along with the understanding earthquakes are fun. I am not sure how many of you have experienced an earthquake, but they are fun, for the most part... the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake was insane... news reports of the Bay Bridge collapsing, The Marina in SF on fire... The Cypress section of 980 collapsing... I was walking down some stairs in my house and thought a tree had fallen on the roof. I walked down to the first floor where the windows looking out to the backyard looked like water rippling. Then everything went dark. Spooooooky and actually pretty nerve racking.

So, this is why wine is so important!!! Last night my sister in law brought this wine over. Coincidence? I think NOT....

I was skeptical, as imported French wines are brought over here like Chinese toys...often with the same result - cheap crap, and this one had a "screw top"..... I know many are going this way, as cork is getting scarce and plastic stinks! Although I am typing on a plastic computer and therefore I guess we need it.

La Vieille Ferme (translated - The Old Farm)... is a mash up of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault. It was surprisingly good. Easy to drink with no strong tendencies of wishing you had licked your shoe instead. It was purchased at Whole Paycheck, but priced like a Chevy on Ebay - $10. BONUS - a hen and rooster on the label. Get it, you'll like it.

Here's to good health and happy times with loved ones!

Thursday, September 3, 2009


I am sorry not to have posted sooner, but I am trying to keep up with an ever changing job and more and more work. ARGH!!!!

So, happy place... moving to my happy place...

Check out this harvest tonight.

Three Dusky Eggplants, eight tomato's and one pomegranate. Yes...

So, I skinned the eggplants, cut them length wise 1/4" thick, soaked them in olive oil and BBQ'd them. Added a touch of salt.

In a separate bowl I combined garlic, basil, tomato, ricotta and mixed it all up. Once the eggplant was done, I rolled up the mixture inside the eggplant. Made a quick salad and voila' a meal fit for a frustrated overworked ding dong and his wonderful girls!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Some Fun Items

Have been asked from time to time for some Le Coop or ChickenMan goodies, here they are... there are some coffee cups and other things. Someone told me about easy enough to do.