Free Postmortem Exams for Backyard Flocks in California

It’s too late for us now, but if I had another two chickens die in close succession, I’d consider rushing the bodies off to one of the California Animal Health and Food Safety’s labs run by the University of California Davis’ School of Veterinary Medicine. A Root Simple reader who is a veterinarian tipped us off to this service. You don’t need a veterinarian (though you might need one to help interpret the results...

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Cat Litter Composting

Pocket Nitrogen Generator  Mrs. Homegrown here: Apologies to you googlers looking for solid answers. This is what Erik calls a probe. I’ve decided to compost our kitten’s litter box waste, and this is how I plan to go about it. However, I’m sure I’ll learn a lot as I go, so this post isn’t instructional. I will post a report once the system gets going. The real reason I’m posting is because I’d...

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Our favorite way to cook zucchini

It’s that time of year again. Put aside those zucchini bread recipes and try this instead. This recipe–or technique, rather– sounds too simple to be good, but it really works. As one friend said of the dish, “It tastes like there’s a lot going on, but there’s not.” All you’ve got to do is shred your zucchini up on the large holes of your kitchen grater. Saute the shreds in an uncovered s...

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How to start a chicken retirement community

Mrs. Homegrown here: So–here’s the story of another mistake we made. When Erik and I first got chickens we didn’t lay out a plan for dealing with the chickens as they aged. That was the mistake. Simple as that. Make your plans, people! We learned how to slaughter chickens–we knew we could do it if we needed to–but we never really sat down and decided what would happen to our ladies when they stopped laying. We̵...

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New Year’s Resolutions

It’s a week for formulating New Years resolutions and I have two that stem from reading Ferran Adrià’s A Day at elBulli . Adrià is one of the main proponents of “molecular gastronomy” (though he rejects the term) a style of cooking that involves not just unusual ingredients, but the creation of entirely new forms of cooking. Think dry ice, freeze drying and culinary thoughtstylings such as “Spherification.” B...

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Medlar: The Best Fruit You’ve Never Heard Of

This week we were luck enough to tag along with Tara Kolla of Silver Lake Farms on a jaunt to the hills near Tehachapi to help harvest an allusive fruit called the medlar.  Erik and I were just extra hands–the plan was hatched between Tara and Craig Ruggless of Winnetka Farms. See, Craig has a place up in those hills, and just happened to know his neighbors had a little grove of medlars, and these neighbors agreed to sell them to Craig an...

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On miso, caffeine and the search for a morning brew

Mrs. Homegrown here: I am a caffeine addict. Erik is too, though he doesn’t admit it. Actually, he was only a casual user until he met me, and then became habituated to the morning brew, and eventually graduated into the 3pm pick-me-up brew. In general, I think mild caffeine addiction is not very worrisome, and pretty much built into the fiber of America. However, my own addiction has always been demanding. And recently I had to go strai...

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Thoughts On the Egg Recall

An AP reporter just called to ask for my comment on the recent egg recall. He asked if I thought more people would start backyard chicken flocks. I said yes, adding that I believed that a “distributed” form of agriculture, i.e. many more people keeping small numbers of animals rather than small numbers of professionals in charge of tens of thousands of birds, would lead to greater food safety. Backyard flocks can get infected with s...

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Changing Egg Habits

photo by Buzz Carter Got the last word in an Associated Press article on the egg recall: Egg recall has some changing buying, eating habits. Basically, I said small is beautiful–better to have lots of  people with four hens each rather than a few people with hundreds of thousands. Too bad food safety laws winding their way through Washington are being crafted to favor the big guys who caused this recent outbreak. More on that anon...

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The Pinnacle of Permaculture: Tending the Wild

Book review: Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California’s Natural Resources by M. Kat Anderson, University of California Press, 2006 When the white man came to California, he found a verdant paradise: meadows thick with wildflowers and clover, stately groves of nut trees, abundant, healthy game and rivers full of fish. It was a land of endless bounty. The natives, often derogatorily called “Diggers...

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