Green Rascal Design


We've Landed!


Hubby and I are now successfully relocated just south of San Jose, California. People think this is the middle of nowhere because it takes us 20 minutes to reach anything. But we like it.

We brought the chickens with us, and they have a nice big fenced-in yard to scratch around in. There are lots of new things for them to interact with: pocket gophers, giant jerusalem beetles or whatever they're called, blue-bellied lizards... turkeys, peacocks... cows across the street.

The cat made it more or less unscathed. He continues to freak out about certain things. This cottage is a lot smaller than our old house, so he's bummed out about the lack of hiding places. However, that is a small price to pay for all the fun wildlife he gets to now look at.

Our tiny dove, Peet, did not make it. He sadly died the second night here. :( We miss him.

We have been working on a garden here. The landlord said make use of whatever is available, so we have been. Unfortunately I don't have pictures on this computer to share right now. We're learning about things that grow in California. Lots of things are different here, so the learning curve is kinda steep right now. But most things that haven't been eaten by the pocket gophers are doing well. There's a raspberry, strawberry patch, herb garden, vegetable garden (mostly lettuce so far), a small fig, various potted citrus trees, and a pomegranate that's doing really well. I have also prepared a long line of "pots" to plant things in, and a long skinny bed for future tomatoes and hot peppers. In addition, we have partially buried two toilets that we found in the junk pile out back, and put some flower seeds in there.

There was a pretty big junk pile behind the shed where mice had made nests inside an old gas grill, etc. Amongst the true garbage was a small pile of decorative concrete blocks which we will use as a border around something. Not sure what yet. The neighbors took the "dog igloo" to a local shelter that may be able to use it. There were three small dish network satellite dishes, a full table, two partial tables, lots of wood, three task chairs, one folding chair and a poster that says "red elvises." There are also two metal trash cans full of garbage, which we plan to empty over time and then use to grow sweet potatoes.

I'm finishing up one house I've been working on (off and on) for ten years. Hopefully it will get built this year!

There is a logo in the near future for some old friends. That will be fun.

Other than that, I'm not continuing work under Green Rascal Design. This website will probably just get a large overhaul at some point so that the blog can live on. I'm excited about making new connections here around San Jose, and possibly building something else new depending on finding funding for it. So stay tuned. ;)

Welcome to Fall


The summer has gone out like a lamb here on the blog, but that's only because I was dealing with a lion at home. We were so busy canning tomatoes and jarring jams and selling eggs and checking-in guests that I just plain took a vacation from networking and writing.

Now that it's officially fall, I realize why I haven't felt the deep need to take pictures of everything and post them up on the interwebs. In the spring all the ripening fruit is new. It's just after the hunger gap - the time after we've used up our last can of tomatoes/jar of jam but before anything has started going in the garden. So naturally once things get going in the garden we're oohing and aahing everything and taking pictures like mad and bragging about how awesome we are.

As time goes on throughout spring and summer the novelty wears off. Sure there are some new things going on, like our first real fig from the fig trees we got as a gift. And we got a single goji berry from the tiny stick we planted at the beginning of the season. And we got 11 tiny arctic kiwis. But none of those things have been bumper crops, so we didn't really feel like sharing. I guess it's permagarden fatigue. kinda like senioritis.

But we have been very busy. We've had to order more Weck jars. And I even bought some at a popular retailer. (gasp!) Our little cupboard in the dining room is crammed with sauce and jam. Plus, we've been making wine. This batch of strawberry wine is not good. The nettle wine we just finished off was excellent. So we takes the bad with the good.

And the airbnb thing has been wonderful. We've had about 7 guests, so not too many. We enjoy a couple weeks of guests per month. That keeps me washing linens and towels and hanging stuff out to dry a lot. Now that it's getting chilly out, I'll have to take the air conditioner out of the window and find a couple of nice space heaters. It's not very warm up there. I could also advertise it as a cold house; apparently that's a thing that some people seek out. But most of our guests have been here for work or school. We haven't had a single vacationer here yet.

We're now busy thinking about whether to get more fruit trees next spring and where we might put those. The apple trees did not do well this year. If this happens again we might consider replacing them. They get every disease possible, and it's very frustrating. We may not replace them at all if they start doing better. But next year we might get some jujubees and put those in the front yard somewhere. lol. Along with this we're reconsidering our vegetable patches and what to do with potatoes. Our potatoes were a bust this year too. Next year we will probably do containers to keep the voles off them. Luckily the parsnips and onions will probably be coming back. The skirret, lovage, and good king henry seem to have established themselves. And I'm hoping for better cilantro performance next year. The herbs in the front yard all seemed to do well, except for the white dwarf lavender and one of the corkscrew chives.

Oh, and I've been trying to post regularly on the Green Rascal Design facebook and twitter pages. If you're on either of those social media channels, check them out! Despite appearances, at some point I do intend to serve more clients. So if you're new please say hi! We don't bite. not even the chickens do that. ;)
In the last approximately 2.5 years a lot has grown here at our little patch of heaven. I wanted to show a comparison of exactly how much.
I hope this visual helps you understand what it means when I say that last year we grew 50lbs of tomatoes and canned $200 worth of strawberry and raspberry jam. Numbers are convincing, but these pictures really tell the story.

We'll be having people over occasionally to see the garden in person, and hopefully I'll also have a couple videos sometime. So if you'd like to talk about how we did it, and how you can do it too, send me an email!
yesterday's strawberries
We're pretty lazy. Well, we're not super duper lazy, I mean we did go out and pick these strawberries, put them in a bowl and take a couple photographs of them. But compared to the amount of work you think it takes to get this many strawberries we are really lazy. Why does this work for us? We work with nature instead of against it. Nature wants to be a forest? Well we'll give it a forest. The strawberry patch certainly meets the criteria of a strawberry forest. It's thick/dense. We planted the little plants 2 years ago with only about a foot between each plant - probably much closer than the "recommended" spacing. In fact, I'd say the recommended spacing is almost always wrong unless you're a real farmer. In that case you're not reading this blog, haha. No, if you're just trying to grow a couple hundred dollars of strawberries go ahead and plant them real close. The plants will help each other out - strength in numbers and moisture control. Do we have bugs? Heck yeah we have bugs. But there are soooooooo many strawberries that the bugs can't eat them all. And we do try to keep the bug population down by piling grass on the side of the gardens for the slugs/ground snails to eat instead of our precious plants... but we're not out there killing ourselves over the bugs and weeds.

red currants
We're patient. This currant bush was planted 2 years ago also, and we haven't put a bunch of fertilizer on it to make it grow real fast and produce fruit the first year. It's still very small, but it's totally natural. The only thing that might be of concern to me is it's proximity to our neighbors and their questionable lawn-care practices. (their weed killer might run into our yard in a heavy rain) Some things we planted our first year here are still not bearing any fruit. And that's okay. Surprisingly many of our other new tiny bushes are bearing fruit in the same year. True, it's only a couple berries here and there, but it's still amazing how rewarding patience can be.

our first kiwis?
our first lingonberries!
our first blueberries?
rose hips this year?
amazing mulberries!
And that's just the berries! Never mind the leafy greens, herbs and vegetables.

Ok, it's true that we did dig the holes and put the plants in, and put some mulch around most of them. But is that really so much work for years of free, virtually organically grown berries?

You can do it!

Cherry Flowers


Green Rascal Cherry Blossoms
our first cherry blossoms of 2012
As you were...
Things have been SO BEAUTIFUL out, that it has been difficult to focus on work.

It's now too hot for the chickens. They're being very demanding, and want to be out in the grass nearly all the time. But they continue to lay about 4 eggs a day, and we have way too many eggs now.

All the plants are putting out their leaves. Our trellis is almost looking happy again! I tied the blackberry and raspberry canes in interesting shapes so they look less messy, and hopefully will be easier when it's time to pick berries. Hubby threw down a seed mixture he'd concocted after reading several examples of other people doing so, with mixed results. The plants are all clumped together, so I'm worried about over-crowding.

Happy St. Patty's


So it's March! It has been pretty warm around here, and the chickens have been laying eggs like there's no tomorrow. We weren't expecting it, but are happy to report that Pepper has laid two brown eggs in the last 3 days! This means she wasn't totally broken by last summer's heat wave that ended her season prematurely! The Marans breed isn't the best for egg production, so it would've been fine with us if she never laid another one. But I am just so happy to have a couple brown eggs!
Now we're in garden prep mode. Have been for a while. The beds are anxiously waiting the first seeds. Traditionally St Patty's Day is when you plant peas, and they're the first seeds we would be putting out. Except it has been so warm that we broadcast some white clover seeds in some bare spots around the yard already. The trick will be to keep the chickens away from them until they sprout. I was not expecting the birds to want such tiny seeds, but they do. sigh!

This weekend is the annual borough St Patty's Day parade. It's a big deal 'round these parts. I had no idea bagpipes were SO popular! And there are also a lot of little girls involved in traditional Irish dance. (forgive me for not knowing what that's called and being too lazy to look it up!) Anyway, to celebrate we hope to have a new batch of mead done. We made a strawberry mead and also an apple mead. Hopefully one will be Irish enough for the holiday. (I could just dye the apple mead green...)

Besides the St Patty's traditional pea planting and beer drinking, I've been very busy networking. Just the other day I met someone from the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture. This, less than a week after hearing this talk from the founder of Double Brook Farm, and our participation in the Plymouth Whitemarsh EcoFest later that night. It has been a great week for Green!!

Oh! And this week I was featured on Eggzy's blog. They started a new series called Featured Flock Owner. Check it out!

Garden Resources


We're making a small addition to the Green Rascal Design list of services. Over the weekend we went around our little borough and plastered some fliers on power poles - strategically placed where 1) lots of people pass by or 2) some edible plants would be a nice addition to a yard. Yes, we're on a mission to help people in our neighborhood grow their own food.

Everyone always says they don't have time to garden and it's so much work. Even after we've gone through the calculations to show how worthwhile it is from a financial standpoint to garden, I still get this complaint. So today I'll try and provide some resources...

Nature vs Wall St.


Today my better half, Chris, decided he wanted to share some insights about how good of an investment fruits and vegetables are. I've already shared some of these ideas, but hubby's take on things is a bit more monetary and might appeal to you if you're one of those 'show me the money' peeps.

A note on Chris; he's an IT nerd with a love for investing. With his brother he started and ran a small hedge fund for several years, investing money for their family and several friends and doing quite well until the market tanked in '08. Since then his more conservative investing has nearly made back all of what the hedge fund lost. So his understanding of ROIs is pretty good, I think. Without further adieu:

_A good return on your investment is usually between 10%-15%.  Nature laughs at these returns.  In the following paragraphs I will examine the kinds of returns on investment that investors in nature can expect these days. 
I apologize for the horrible red-eye (and my unruly hair), but it's the only picture I have of me holding one of the giant squashes from under our butterfly bush. And you know if I just put up a picture of the squashes it wouldn't be nearly as impactful.