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2nd Round of Chickens

“Studying cows, pigs and chickens can help an actor develop his character. There are a lot of things I learned from animals. One was that they couldn’t hiss or boo me.” James Dean

We have been country people for 5 years now. When we lived in the city we had lists of all the things we wanted to do once we lived in the county. One of our goals, was to have free range chickens. We went big too, we purchased beautiful chicken houses from the Amish. They are big, and they have room for the chickens to roost, two windows, big door, and a door to collect eggs.

We did everything the books told us to do. We raised them for the first three months in the garage. They had little waterer, and it was changed twice a day. The had a feeder that we filled twice a day, and they had a heating lamp. For the first few months the heating lamp was on all day and night to keep the little chicks warm. By the third month, we unplugged the heating lamp during the day, but turned it on in the evening.

After the third month we kept them in their new homes for two weeks, checking on the them, feeding them, and giving them water. Once their feathers were grown in, we allowed them to go outside their house. During the day, they would stay just outside the door, some of them didn’t even want to leave the house. For the first couple of weeks they would stay close to their house, and not go far from it.

As they grew, they became more bold. Since they were free range, they would go all over the place, but mostly like to be close to our house. Which created a disaster…poo everywhere on the porch. I spent so much time cleaning the front porch, and the back porch. Sometimes, we would even see the chickens way down the hill. This is 42 acres, and they have tiny legs. By evening, all of them would come back home, and get inside their homes.

Then, football season started. We would go to the football games with the kids. They were in high school, so they would hang out with their friends and my husband and I would go for romantic walks downtown holding hands. We would come home, and it was late…we would lock the chicken doors. In the morning we would let the chickens go free. Since we had 100 chickens, it was hard to tell that some were missing. It was only after a few games later we discovered…every time we go to a game, there are fewer chicken.

There was one fox that boldly came right by the house. He had the most beautiful red fur coat, and a black peak on his tail. He was super healthy looking, and just strutting right by the house. I thought to myself, honestly, if he came to the door, knocked and asked me for a chicken, I would give it to him. Anyway, a couple of times there were even coyotes that would stalk the chickens during the day.

We finally lost all of our chickens. They were captured by the foxes and coyotes. If we have raccoons near by, I have never seen one in our area. So, now we are starting all over again. We still have the houses. This time, we are building them a lovely fence to protect them from predators. The eggs that come from farm chickens are just so much better than grocery store eggs. I’m always a little embarrassed when I shamefully have to carry a dozen eggs to the check out. By July, I won’t have to carry eggs to the check out, because we will have our own eggs.

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Thomas Hill Organics

We have a wonderful restaurant here in Paso, Thomas Hill Organics. I was recently invited to a private pairing. Wines from four different wineries were paired with food that the chef made. Each one of us also had the opportunity to talk to the journalist that were visiting the area. The other wineries had their wine makers there, and I was the only one that was an owner. Everyone was so engaging and it was an excellent atmosphere for the journalist and all of us. The seating arrangement was intimate, and the exchange wasn’t just about us, but about the pairing of the food. How food changes the taste of the wine, and how all the different aspects of the dish change the taste of the wine. I was the first one there, so here is what the seating arrangement looked like before everyone got there…

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Our first course was paired with an Albarino. It truly is a seafood lover wine. IMG_0304.jpg

Salmon, jalapeno peppers, olive, tomatoes, and wafer slice of watermelon. It was so delicious!

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This was paired with our Zinfandel. This is a prime cut of grass fed beef, topped with a clove of garlic. Polenta is the side dish for this course. I usually don’t eat beef, but I was surprised how well it paired with the Zin.

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Olive Oil Pancakes

Not only do we have our Sunday dinners together, but we also enjoy our Sunday breakfast. Anyone that has been to my house knows that I use olive oil for cooking, and that is no different with my pancakes.

 

 

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old fashion bowl

What are you going to need?

2 cups of all purpose flour                        1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

1/2 teaspoon of salt                                       2 large eggs

1 1/2 cup of milk                                         3 tablespoons of Olive oil

Mix all your dry ingredients first, and then add the wet ones. Get as many as the lumps out with the whisk as possible.

While you are mixing the wet ingredients, you may want to turn on your stove top so the skillet gets hot before adding your butter or your olive oil to the skillet.

Use a ladle or a bog spoon to scoop some batter to add to your hot and now oiled or buttered skillet. Depending on the size of your skillet or griddle you can do many or a few, but you will want to flip once tiny bubbles appear on your pancakes.

Once you have them on the plate you or your guests can decide if they want butter or jam on their pancakes. We use hartley farms jams, not only are they our neighbor, but a friend that makes awesome jam!

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Templeton Farmers Market

“The farmer is the only man in our economy who buys everything at retail, sells everything at wholesale, and pays the freight both ways.” John F. Kennedy

Recently, I was at the Templeton Farmers Market. I loved seeing all the farmers there selling what they grow on their farm. I haven’t got to the point that I can sell my wares at a Farmers Market, but I did have our wine there to taste for that day.

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Before I actually set up, I was walking around the outside of the perimeter of the park. When I look at the prices of items that are for sale, I just can’t believe that the prices were pretty on par with super market prices.

 

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Pruning Time

The olive trees need maintenance, just like everything else. This is the time of the year we have to prune all those trees. Their silvery leaves that are billowing in the wind need some trimming. Sometimes, it is a little difficult to find people to do the running since this is also the season to prune for the vines. The climate in this are is perfect for Mediterranean food and faire. It is warm and dry during the day in the summer, and then up to 50 degrees cooler in the evening. Our overall temperatures are very close to southern France. When the averages are compared with the cool nights, our area is a little cooler.

Now, we have had so much rain, and it will impact the flavors of the olives and the grapes. The water from all the rain hasn’t yet soaked into the earth, it’s like a sponge that can’t pick up any more water. The water is just running off, and not being absorbed. This week, we are going to have warm, sunny days, which will allow the some drying before more rains come back to our area. No one is complaining about all the rain, since we really need it to completely recover from our four years of drought. I am so excited to taste the differences in the fruits this year! I’m sure they are ripe with possibilities!

So, what does our olive grove look like now? Here is a photo before the trimming of our Italian variety olive trees.

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Cow Nest

It has been so wet here lately that I felt bad for Luna and Stella. I took at bail of hay down to the pasture to make a little nest for the girls. It was a hit, and the girls loved it, and here is my proof…img_9201

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Hidden Hills

When we were in our “dream building” phase, one of the things we wanted was an olive grove, and we finally found it. Hidden Hills gave us everything we wanted in an olive grove, we have olives, and a vacation rental. The olive trees are now being taken care of, and lovingly be watched, pruned, watered, and then in November…they will be harvested.

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The property has a wonderful history too. The place was built as a bed and breakfast. There was a keeper of the house that grew a garden, and the beds are still on the property. There is a gentleman’s orchard with apple, pear, plum, and nectarine trees. There is a green house, and it was once was filled with the fragrance of basil, vanilla, and flowers. The attendant of the house used to put fresh flowers in each of the rooms, and the cottage. There is a chicken run with hen houses. The attendant would gather eggs from the hens each day.  He made fresh dishes that were made from the food that was gathered from “Hidden Hills“. These are all aspects I love.

The goals for the place…get the olives in great shape for the fall so we can go back to having “Hidden Hills” as a label. We will then be able to sell the olive oil in the tasting room. Fix the barn, and have an intern trade housing for maintaining the gardens, greenhouse, and chickens. Gathering the fresh items to give to each of the vacation rentals. Each of the baskets would include olive oil, wine, fresh herbs, chamomile, lavender, homemade soap, homemade lotion, honey, eggs, and bouquet of flowers. Maybe even a postcard of the property.

There is also a pool, spa, and outdoor kitchen at the property. If you would like to stay at the property, make sure you go to Paso Robles Vacation Rental.

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Honey Healing

One of the first weekends we were living in the country, this happened…

I was taking both of the dogs (Cane Corso females) for a walk. Since we were new to the country I did not want to trust to just let them out in the yard. Now, our yard is 42 acres. There are coyotes and other animals around here. I was gazing at the stars when all the sudden Sadie pulled really hard, and I did not let go. I was pulled across the rocks like I was a rag doll. I screamed, and Sheba stopped. Sheba stayed right by my side, and Sadie was running after what ever it was that was near our house. I limped back into the house with Sheba.

I went upstairs and washed my legs with soap and water. I had to take a wash cloth to get all the debris that was embedded in my legs. My left leg looked a lot worse than my right leg. It burned like hell…it was really painful. I took some honey, and put it all over the wounds, and took another wash cloth that was damp and kept it over the wound.

I kept the wound clean every day, and also added honey to it every day. By the third day it was really looking so much better. By two weeks it was healed. I believe I was in less pain, and it healed faster with the honey.

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Paul Youngman

We have several pieces of art by Paul in our home. We have two bicycle paintings. I commissioned him to paint the bicycles for me several years ago. I just loved other paintings I saw of his with a transportation subject. I thought he would be there prefect candidate to commission for my bicycles.

I was really happy with the paintings too. The use of color, light, and shadow are perfect. The bicycle has hints that the rider of the bike is going to have a picnic. Bread, wine, and a table cloth are all ready. The faithful dog is ready to go along with the rider. The shadow of the dog is just beside him, and so is the bike.

The architecture of the building says to me that the rider may have chosen the bottle of wine from their own personal cellar. The rider may also be going to have said picnic on their own property.

The other bike Paul painted for me is red.IMG_1917

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Backyard Fun

Gardening with your children is a special time in their lives. We studied plants, animals, art, and science outdoors. When my sone was 18 months old we invested in a vermicomposter. We got the plastic bin, and a couple of days later we got our worms. Red wigglers, then we added  newspaper, that we had shredded. The newspaper was wet, and then we added apple cores, and coffee grounds.

We have had the vermicomposter all these years to show the children they don’t have to throw everything in the trash, there is a better way to dispose of our garbage, and it will  go back to the earth. These same products that we bought at the store, will help bring life to our new plants.

We used our “black gold”, the material that had been digested by the worms, for the plants. We planted pumpkins, tomatoes, basil, lavender, rosemary, beans, strawberries,  peas, and marigolds. We planted our seeds, watered them, and the kids would draw and paint pictures of their growth.

We had an animal that was eating our strawberries, so we looked up the footprints of the animals to try to identify what animal was coming into the yard and devouring our berries. We also did science experiments outside as often as we could. We would research where the ants were coming from, and how much water it took for the ants to start carrying the eggs to the surface. Where did the ants want to take their eggs? What kind of tiny insects are on the leaves?

We also purchased ladybugs and released them in the yard. Counted how many stayed, and for how long. We also purchased praying mantis, and then would track them too.

I also allowed the children to take their own photographs. Even when they were very young they loved to take photos and show me what they discovered. What is in your back yard?