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blog moved to new location! (upcoming book too!)

Please visit the new location for this blog:

The original blog ( has been moved to a new location, with a new title to reflect my upcoming book on our first year of farming. 

OK, I confess: I’m not just a farmer. I’m a writer, too. And I officially have a book being published this Spring that details our first year as greenhorn farmers. The book–titled The Wisdom of the Radish–will be published by Sasquatch Books, a Seattle-based publishing house that specializes in West Coast authors and has a focus on food and farming topics.

I hope you will continue regularly visiting the new blog site, and also hope you’ll pick up a copy of the book when it hits the stores in February or March!


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CSA first week

Last Wednesday was the first CSA pick-up for the year. We rolled out our new farm-stand pick up layout in the barn on the farm, and it was a success! As you can see on the chalk-board, the shares are very GREEN for these first couple weeks. A cool, rainy spring (almost summer now!) has meant more greens for us to enjoy. And really, we ought to feel lucky, because they’re jam packed with nutrients and antioxidants and–speaking for myself–they make me feel so fresh and energized when I eat them.

The first week’s share:

Bok Choi (Mei Qing Choi) — 1/2 lb

Spinach — 6 oz.

Arugula (Astro) — 6 oz.

Green Garlic — 2 stalks

Spring Mix — 6 oz.

Butternut Squash (Waltham) — 1 squash

Parsley — 1 bunch

Chard (Bright Lights) or Kale (Red Russian) — 1 bunch

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Photo journal of May in the veggie fields

About a week ago I snapped some photos of the little plants that are sneakily growing into big plants in rows and fields around the farm. If you’re in the mood for a scavenger hunt, you can sift through the photos and see if you can identify the various vegetables in their teenage phases. Below you’ll find: cabbage; broccoli; beets; kohlrabi; fennel; baby salad greens; head lettuce; peas; tomatoes; eggplant; garlic; onions.

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The Waiting Game

Em with Visitor

Emily in her kidding stall with one of her daily visitors.

Did you ever play the Waiting Game as a kid?  It was one of those games generally forced upon children by short-tempered parents, like the Quiet Game or the Use Your Restaurant Voice Game, and in the same class as the Clean Plate Club (a club which typically required your membership only when your plate sported broccoli or spinach). In other words, not very fun.

Unfortunately, it turns out the Waiting Game isn’t just for kids.  It’s also for goat owners awaiting kids.

We moved expecting mama Emily into a comfy, plush kidding stall inside the barn on Friday morning, thinking she was due on Valentine’s Day (Sunday).  We pulled out all the stops for our mother-to-be:  put down soft, fresh straw for her to lie on, rigged up a pen out of hog panels (perfect for goat back-scratching), gave her her own personal alfalfa feeder, grass hay feeder, mineral feeder, water bucket.  We threw open the windows and doors when it was sunny to let in light and fresh air and shut them as soon as it cooled down to keep the barn as warm as possible. I checked on her constantly, waking in the middle of the night and trudging to the barn to check on her, to try and make sure that we’d be there to help her out no matter what time the kids decided to arrive.

Well, it’s Tuesday, I haven’t slept more than a few hours straight in 5 nights, and Emily has shown exactly zero signs of imminent labor.

Her ligaments (the ones that run from her pinbones to her tailhead and disappear before labor) seem to soften and then firm up and then soften again, teasing me.*  Her udder is continuing to fill slowly, but isn’t anywhere near full, and hasn’t shown the sudden 24-hour ballooning that typically precedes labor.  Her teats seem to be starting to swell… but then again, no.  Her hips seem a bit hollowed out, her belly seems to be sitting lower (indicating the kids are moving into place to make their entry into the world)… but then again, maybe that’s just wishful thinking.   She has a very tiny bit of mucus discharge but nothing like the large amounts that indicate the loss of the mucus plug and the onset of labor.

Emily Ligament Test

Feeling for Emily's ligaments. They've softened a bit, and I can reach partway down her spine.

Emily's Udder

Emily's udder is filling up, but isn't yet tight and shiny. Her teats aren't filled with colostrum, either.

In other words, we have no idea when she’s going to kid!  We bought her bred from Brandywine Farms (a wonderful family farm in the foothills of the Sierra), but the breeding date wasn’t known precisely, and when Emily was ultrasounded, the vet wasn’t exactly sure how far along she was.  They gave a window of 15 days, the first possible due date being Valentine’s day.

So for now, back to the waiting game.  And hoping that Emily will let me get some sleep before March!


*FYI, signs that a goat is close to labor are:

  • Loss of ligaments — specifically the ligaments along the back end of her spine, past the pin bones but before the tailhead — to the point where you can almost reach around the spine.
  • “Hollowing out” of hips and a “mushy” hind end as babies drop into place and all other muscles relax to let the birth canal open up and the uterus get to work.
  • Udder is tight and shiny, filled with fresh colostrum.
  • Teats are swollen, taut, and full of colostrum, ready for babies to suckle.
  • Mucus discharge… aka “string of goo” from the goat’s vulva.
  • Goat may start to talk to babies (arching head backwards and nickering to stomach). Goat may paw the ground to try and make a nest for kidding.
  • Some more subtle signs are “going posty,” which is when the doe starts to walk sort of funny and the back legs look stiff and post-like.  Also, the tail will arch in a funny way.
  • And of course, the biggest signs that a goat is going into labor are… contractions!  And then, of course, the appearance of two little hooves, and the kid.

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Foggy River update!

Emily, or "Auntie Em," is due in one week.

It’s been a while since we’ve blogged.  This has been a very busy off-season… so I thought I’d at least let you know why we’ve been so silent lately.

Reason number one would probably be that I’m in the process of writing a book, and the manuscript is due to the publisher in April.  So that’s taking the majority of my writing energy — and I’m also freelancing for the local paper (currently have 5 articles on the docket for this month) and that’s taking the rest!

Reason number two — our new website, Foggy River Farm. Emmett’s been working on it whenever he’s not working on the barns (which are, respectively, reasons three and four).  We’ve built one barn for the goats — hay storage, milking parlor, kidding room — and we’re about to start one for the veggies, so we can have a nice shaded place to process our produce down by the field.  It’s been a lot of work, but in the process Emmett has become quite the handyman/carpenter/architect.  There are still some things to be done — like, it would be really nice to have a water faucet nearby, not to mention a source of light for late-night kiddings — but in the meantime we’ll carry buckets from the house for water and bring a lantern if any of the goats decide to give birth in the middle of the night.

Other reasons for our silence — we’re getting married!  Which is exciting, but the process of planning a wedding is a part-time job unto itself, and as you can tell we each have several part-time jobs already… which explains why we’re just finally getting around to sending out invitations, and haven’t yet dealt with details like, oh, rings.

Finally, some exciting news:  we’re expecting several kids.  Four of our goats are pregnant, and one of them is due in exactly one week (yup, on Valentine’s Day).  Which means…  adorable Nigerian Dwarf goat kids, and fresh goat milk… which means… fresh goat milk cheese!  Yummm.  We’re also expecting lambs in a few weeks, so we’ve been busy giving “birthing haircuts” to all the pregnant animals.  This is about as fun as it sounds: trying to control a hormonal pregnant sheep or goat while buzzing her butt with an electric shaver.  We also trimmed their udder area so that when the kids and lambs are born, the little ones will have an easier time finding their food source.  (You can imagine that trimming the udder area isn’t particularly popular with the mom-to-be, either, especially with the sheep, who had to be flipped onto their backs for the task.)  We’ve made sure that all the pregnant gals are up to date on vaccinations and mineral supplements, and our nearly-due goat Emily has been receiving daily pinches of raspberry leaf and nettles, two good pre-natal herbs that are said to tone the uterus and speed post-natal healing.  We’ll let you know how our first experience as “goat midwives” goes as soon as Emily gets down to business!  Her udder is already filling up and we’re monitoring her each day for signs of impending birth (more on this later).

That’s all for now.  Hope you’re having a restful winter — and enjoying this fabulous weather we’ve been having!  I loved yesterday’s sudden downpours which vanished just as suddenly as they started, and later on in the day, the brilliant sunlight breaking through the towering clouds.  And today, not a cloud in the sky — just good, old-fashioned, California sunshine and that crisp, cool, after-storm air.

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Our new website is up now. We’re still tinkering with the layout a little bit, and adding new information every week…but the basics are there. 

From now on, please visit for the most up-to-date information about the farm, CSA, and goats!

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On Thanksgiving

As we’re once again bombarded by new traditional recipes on morning shows, in newspaper columns, and magazines, I feel compelled to say a little something about that most American of all holidays, Thanksgiving.

It’s Emmett’s favorite holiday, mostly because he likes to eat.  My favorite holiday is Christmas, because I like giving people presents.  Specifically, I like thinking about people and waiting for that inspiration to strike — the mental flash of the gift that the person most wants (as opposed to the gift that I most want to give them).  Christmas always has a little of that tension, doesn’t it?  There’s always that choice between what I want to give you (which is often what I want given to myself) versus what you’d actually want.  Too often we go with the former instead of the latter, but to me Christmas is still about that spirit of providing for another person.

But back to Thanksgiving which, everyone knows, is about food and family.  And food first.  It’s the only holiday that is defined by a meal, as opposed to a religious observance or a greater cause or commemoration.  And since I’m now in the business of growing food, I find Thanksgiving a bit more important than I once did.  This year, we saved the last of the Yukon Gold potatoes so that I can make my mom’s famous mashed potatoes (which involve potatoes, butter, Lactaid, salt, and at least a dozen tastings to determine whether the appropriate proportions have been reached for optimal creaminess).  We’ll decorate the table with squash and gourds we grew, and we’ll roast our beets and carrots as another side dish.  We’ll know the work and time and effort that went into these parts of the meal — because we tended them and processed them, from seed to finished dish.

And in the process, I’ll realize that Christmas isn’t the only holiday about gifts.  That each item on the table represents the sweat and toil of another human being (or, in the case of the turkey, its life).  So even if you weren’t the person who grew your potatoes or carrots, your cranberries or yams, your turkey or wheat for the stuffing, say a little thank you for your food.  Because someone did grow them for you, and the gift of a meal goes beyond a simple economic transaction.  Because tomorrow, in houses across America, families will combine a bunch of different foods, have some people over, sit down at a table, and instead of dinner they’ll have Thanksgiving.  And without the people growing the food, whether they’re driving combines or hoeing by hand, none of that would happen.

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