The Chickens!

Back in November we decided that after a mere six months of country living, it was high time to raise chickens.  We visited Dare to Dream Farms in Lompoc so the kids could pick out three chicks to take home.  For months we fed our chicks in the garage until the day they were finally ready to face the harsh and unforgiving outdoor coop.  And then we waited.  And waited more.  And some more.

Cutie pie chicks, first day home!
Cutie pie chicks, first day home!

Finally, nearly six months after bringing home the darned freeloaders, there it was.  Our very first egg!  The earth turned, the heavens sang, and we cradled that egg in our hands like a raw diamond, examining its cut, color, size, and clarity.  For the next two days we debated what kind of food would befit our perfect treasure.  We had only one after all.  How can we showcase it best?  Crack it raw into a bloody mary?  Poach it? Fry it up with fried rice so we could all enjoy it?  At last, a simple fried egg was the winning answer.  And never has a fried egg tasted so glorious.

Since then all of our birds have become official layers.  And if they were a bit standoffish before they started laying, boy oh boy are they flirty and friendly now, nuzzling our legs with their tushy feathers!  They seem to love us as much as we love them…er…as much as we love to steal the fruits of their labor.

Meet our first prize winning layer- Jeffrey.

Jeffrey

Not to be overshadowed by Her Royal Highness- Rainbow.

Chickens-6

And of course, our shyest hen of the bunch- Fast Cloud.

Chickens-9

And now for the reward, FRESH EGGS!

Just Got Laid!
Just Got Laid!

The Apricots

Our inherited garden contains two very special fruit trees. One grows both plums and nectarines, while the other grows both peaches and apricots. I have no idea how mother nature makes a tree that grows two types of fruit, so I would assume some grafting was involved.

However it worked out scientifically, the apricot half produced quite well this year. And as is usually the case with apricots, they ripened nearly all at once.
What’s a girl with six dozen apricots in a bucket to do? Make jam of course. A quick click on Amazon for some mason jars and this book to walk me through basic canning techniques and off I went.

Apricot & vanilla bean preserves.
Apricot & vanilla bean preserves.

The kids helped me pick the apricots, then hounded me with questions about how long our jam would take to make.  After putting them to bed I got to work.  Three hours later (it takes a bit of time to sterilize the jars, cook the preserves, can, boil, and then cool) I had eight mini jars of jam.  And the next morning my kiddos had the most delicious flax muffins topped with homemade apricot vanilla bean preserves, and I had some cute little jars to give whomever I was feeling especially nice to that day.

Flax muffin with homemade apricot and vanilla bean preserves.
Enjoying her flax muffin with apricot preserves.

Peaches should be up next.  To pie or crumble or can? Tough choice.

The Move

We’re here. Five years of planning and we finally arrived. Oddly enough, the moving van we packed up with all of our belongings simply would not pull into reverse. No reverse. Ironic, no?
Mind you, we’re not yet living on the ranch.  Oh no.  As I mentioned previously, we have to build a house there and that could take a couple of years.  In the meantime, we moved into our beautiful home in the Santa Ynez Valley with a mini-vineyard (1 acre of viognier grapes). Consider it practice.  Our new home is lovely — set back from the street, oak-lined driveway, plenty of room for the kids to play and explore alongside deer, quail, cats, and woodpeckers.  Best of all, it’s near town yet still just a 15-minute drive to our ranch.  So I’m not feeling completely isolated just yet.  I can ease into the slow and steady country lifestyle.

I’ve had a few weeks to adjust to our new surroundings.  And there have been some ups and downs.  The ups: enjoying quiet solitude, no traffic or crowds, friendly neighbors (we’ve actually received baked goods as a welcome from more than 1 neighbor, unheard of in the City!!), divine weather, and a very good night’s sleep.  The downs: my kids are a little lonely as we try to get plugged into the community, many failed attempts at getting them signed up for activities as the selection is understandably more limited in a small town, missing my family and friends, and zero progress relocating my mediation practice.  Overall, we’re adjusting.  Most importantly: El Patron and the kiddos are thriving and enjoying our new home.

One of the first projects I started with the kids was the garden.  This is a first for me.  I don’t possess a green thumb or much patience — two necessary attributes for a successful garden.  But I do have two kids with endless energy, the internet, and brute force.  Plus, our new house already had three gigantic raised beds, a few fruit trees, a gardening shed with supplies, and fencing.  With most of the hard work already done, all we had to do was till and throw some seeds.  This season we’re trying radishes, cucumbers, beets, lettuce, pumpkin, corn, tomatoes, chard, and carrots.  But full disclosure, the beets were our first casualty (some kind of bug ate the roots) and some critter already dined on most of our lettuce despite my spraying the fence with something really stinky that was supposed to keep them away.  No matter. I carry on.  A harvest we will have.  The kids have already enjoyed our apricots and nectarines, which thankfully required no skills on my part to harvest.