Meet Smokey, the latest addition to our menagerie.
Happy Holidays! It’s going to be a cold Christmas in Southern California! By policy, we’ve always stayed home for the holiday to avoid unnecessary traveling. This year, however, my eldest brother, Mark, and his girlfriend of one year plus, Karen, decided to have a Christmas Eve party at Mark’s house in Julian, which is in the mountains east of San Diego. So my family of four is traveling tomorrow morning from north L.A. My youngest sister, Martha, her husband, Brian, his mother, Jeanette, and their two little dogs are leaving today. They’re renting a house in Julian (in town) for three days, and we’ll stay there tomorrow and tomorrow night and return home on Christmas day. There is a good chance for a little bit of wet snow to fall in Julian on Christmas morning!
This is predicted to be an El Niño winter. The first storms of the season brought us brief periods of light rain followed by cold air, and, of course, there’s always the wind that comes before and after each system, sometimes gusting up to 35 mph. Yesterday a full day of very light rain followed a good rainfall the previous night, so now we’re soaked and I don’t have to be concerned with watering the vegetables for a few days. The larger plants, broccoli and cabbage, will still be okay after a few days, but the seedlings need more attention in our sandy soil because the top two inches dry out quickly in windy conditions. Sometimes I swear I can hear the wind sucking the water right out of it! The temperatures since mid-October have been cooler than normal, and about two weeks ago we had a low of 33ºF. Lately, the lows have been between 38ºF and 42ºF, with highs in the 50’s and 60’s, but this storm brought another cold air mass, and temperatures will drop at night into the 20’s and 30’s. I’m hoping it won’t drop to freezing here, but just in case, today I’ll have to work out a way to protect the 18-foot long bed of lettuce plants.
Vegetables in the ground so far include broccoli and cabbage transplants, radishes, turnips, carrots, Swiss chard, baby bok choy, turnip greens, four types of lettuce, endive, radicchio, garlic (102), sweet onions, red onions (trying these for the first time) and scallions. None of the peas sprouted, and I don’t know why. I should have planted spinach already, but clients have given me a lot of work with deadlines to meet. Next week the work will lighten significantly, so spinach will be planted then, along with more lettuce and other greens. Red potatoes will go in during the first week of January. I have four celery plants and one romaine lettuce in the aquaponic garden (with 2-1/2 dozen goldfish in the tank). I’ve given up trying to raise catfish or tilapia because they all die off for reasons I can’t figure out, making it very expensive to use them just for their waste materials. Our fish supplier wanted $15 each for small catfish this year!
Most of our hens are still molting or just coming out of molt. Four of the Red Rangers and one Ameraucana are still laying, and two of the older Ameraucanas started laying again yesterday, much to my delight. My egg customers have been rather disappointed with the relative lack of eggs, and basically line up for the next dozen. So we are seriously considering adding another two dozen hens to the flock early next spring. We’ll also raise more Red Rangers for slaughter. Raising more hens means building another hen house. They love to free-range during the day, and on the really cold mornings I prepare organic oatmeal with fruit (and sometimes almond pieces) for them. I set two bowls of hot, creamy oats & fruit out in the yard and they can’t wait to get to it, which is very rewarding for me.
Smokey (pictured above) wandered into our yard a week ago. There were no reports of him missing from anyone’s home, so we decided to keep him. Our 15-year old tabby, Tiger, (80+ in cat years) is very put out by this newcomer’s presence. I’ve talked to him about this kitten and he seems to understand me, so he keeps his distance. Smokey spends his time indoors for now, which helps. Time will tell whether Tiger will eventually accept his presence or run him off. It would be really nice to have a good rodent hunter/killer on the property again (Tiger’s worthless), mostly because gophers have invaded the front yard and gardens. They seem to be drawn to very dry topsoil because the tunnels won’t cave in very easily, and before long the tunnels are everywhere.
I hope everyone has a safe and wonderful holiday!