Yesterday, after I’d fed and watered the chickens, I grabbed a two-gallon bucket and a ladder to pick some apricots for canning. But my morning didn’t go as planned when I spotted a cloud of bees swarming in the very fruit tree I was preparing to climb into. Nothing like a honeybee swarm to make you switch tasks in a hurry.

 

Honeybees clustered around the queen in a swarm

Honeybees clustered around the queen in a swarm

 

 

There’s a centuries-old saying among beekeepers: A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay . . . a swarm of bees in June is worth a silver spoon . . . a swarm of bees in July ain’t worth a fly. My beekeeper neighbor says simply, “A swarm in July . . . bye bye.” The rhyme echoed in my brain. Even early July? Should I try to save them? I donned my beekeeper suit and gathered together the items I would need for the rescue.

 

Ironically, in late winter I had hung a swarm catcher in the tree next to the swarm. A swarm catcher makes it easy to hive the bees since they are all inside the bucket-shaped unit with a small hole on one side and a large covered opening on the other. They go inside and you dump the bees into the hive box. I’ve had three swarms this year and not one of them went into the swarm catcher despite me putting attractant (a type of scented oil) in the vial inside the unit. Go figure!

 

Yesterday’s swarm wasn’t as big as the two I captured in May and June. I’m not even sure if I could save this one, but trying was better than losing them. I decided to help the small population along but putting into their hive some frames of comb and honey.

 

A swarm at this time of year (approaching the end of swarming season) will require extra food if the bees are to make it through autumn when they kick out the drones and then winter when their food and nectar sources become scarce.

 

Lavender and sunflowers are beloved by bees

Lavender and sunflowers are beloved by bees

 

 

I draw hope from the fact that August in the Bay Area brings blooms to certain species of eucalyptus and also star thistle. My bees also have access to lots of lavender. I have planted several types of it around my farmette.

 

 

 

Giant sunflowers in bloom

Giant sunflowers in bloom in dinner-plate size

 

 

The sunflowers in my garden are blooming now and will (thanks to consecutive planting) over the next several weeks. And I’ve got two raised beds designated as bee gardens full of blooming flowers and herbs like borage that attract bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.

 

 

It remains to be seen if this July swarm will have any worth at all. I think they’re going to need a lot of help. That means keeping my eyes on them as I take care of my chickens and keep the summer canning going.

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

 

If you enjoy reading about the workings of an urban farmette and also appreciate a good, clean mystery, check out my Henny Penny Farmette series of cozy mysteries–A BEELINE TO MURDER, THE MURDER OF A QUEEN BEE, and A HIVE OF HOMICIDES.  I also write wellness and spirituality books–SACRED TRAVELS (soon to be updated to include color images), RITUALS FOR LIFE, and MY POCKET MEDITATIONS.

 

All my books are available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and other traditional and online bookstores everywhere.

 

 

All available online and in bookstores everywhere

Meera’s mystery series

 

More than 150 rituals for sound mind, strong body, and meaningful connections to the people around you

More than 150 rituals for sound mind, strong body, and meaningful connections to the people around you

Anyone can find peace, clarity, and focus...all it takes is a moment

Anyone can find peace, clarity, and focus…all it takes is a moment

 

 

 

 

 

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Springtime Projects on the Farmette

Author: Meera, March 29, 2018

After weeks of rain, Mother Nature has put on a robe of splendor.  Warm weather has arrived. Already, my beekeeper neighbor has had his honeybee hives send out three swarms.

 

April 13, 2016 bee swarm on Henny Penny Farmette

Previous bee swarm on Henny Penny Farmette

 

My own bee population seems to be swelling. I’ve fished out my swarm catcher, primed it with scented lemon oil, and placed in among the blossoms in a nearby apricot tree. I may be blessed with a swarm as well.

 

 

Our grapes are Thompson Seedless and Merlot

Our grapes are Thompson Seedless, Merlot, and golden Italian muscat

 

 

There are plenty of other springtime projects to attend to here on my farmette. I’ve got to reassemble my temporary grape arbor. Each year, I think we’ll build a permanent structure, but there never seems to be enough time.

 

 

My cell flats have organic plants up now and ready for placing in my garden or raised beds. I’d like to add some more chicken manure to the strawberries since they are rapidly growing and producing small fruit.

 

 

strawberries lg em

 

 

Other plants need a spring feeding–the citrus, apples, and apricots, for example. I usually do the feeding before the trees break bud, so I’m a little late.

 

 

 

This candy-stripe rose was a gift from a friend--a cutting from her rose that became a large bush in my care

This candy-stripe rose was a gift from a friend–a cutting from her rose that became a large bush in my care

 

 

 

I will be turning the compost pile and mulching all my rose bushes (which have already leafed out and are setting buds). Finally, I’d like to put up a couple more bird houses (mating is already in the air) and fill my hummingbird feeders.

 

 

These six-month-old hens love treats like greens from the garden

This–my original flock–was massacred by a wild predator, fox or coyote,  last year

 

 

I need to purchase baby chicks from the feedstore to start my new flock. Hubby and I will build a new, reinforced chicken run and expand the existing hen house.

 

 

Then, there’s the side walkway that needs pavers. Painting of the fences. Building a new porch. Widening the patio…the projects are seemingly endless, but that’s fine. We’ll have a lovely six months (maybe an occasional storm). The dry season is upon us.

 

And I’m ready for the Adirondack chair…oh, that’s right…we have to build it first!

 

 

Classic Adirondack Adirondack chair, surely created for the enjoyment of a a garden

Classic Adirondack Adirondack chair, for the enjoyment of a a garden

 

 

 

 

 

_________________________________________________________________

If you enjoy reading about farming topics and you love a good cozy mystery, check out my  novels from Kensington Publishing–A BEELINE TO MURDER, THE MURDER OF A QUEEN BEE, and A HIVE OF HOMICIDES. All are available on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, and other online retailers as well as in bookstores everywhere.

 

 

 

My debut novel Sept. 2015

The debut novel for the Henny Penny Farmette series

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second book in the Henny Penny Farmette series

The second book in the Henny Penny Farmette series

 

 

 

 

 

COMING Sept. 2017

The second book in the Henny Penny Farmette series

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Pie to Welcome Autumn, Plus a Few Apple Facts

Author: Meera, September 15, 2017

Autumn officially arrives next Friday, September 22, 2017. That means peak apple season has begun and nothing says “fall” like an early-autumn apple pie.

 

A little egg wash on the crust renders a beautiful golden color

A little egg wash on the crust renders a beautiful golden color

 

 

Here’s my easiest apple pie recipe.

 

COUNTRY APPLE PIE

 

 

 

Ingredients:

 

6 cups apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced

 

3/4 cup granulated sugar

 

2 tablespoons butter

 

1/8 teaspoon salt

 

1 teaspoon cinnamon

 

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

 

2 tablespoons flour

 

2 unbaked pie crusts (homemade or store-bought)

 

1 egg, beaten with 2 tablespoons water (to make an egg wash)

 

 

Pie ready for top crust

Pie ready for top crust

 

 

Directions:

 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit

 

Combine sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon, and nutmegr in a large bowl and mix well. Stir in the apples. Spoon the apples into a pastry-lined baking dish or pan. Cut the butter into small pieces and distribute over the apples. Place the second rolled-out crust over the pie. Snip off the excess crust and cut a design into the top crust to create a steam vent. Flute crust edges. Use a pastry brush to apply the egg wash over the top crust.

 

Pie with egg wash applied and vents cut in is ready to bake

Pie with egg wash applied and vents cut in is ready to bake

 

 

Bake for 10 minutes. Cover crust edges with aluminum foil to keep them from burning. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Crust will be golden brown and juices will be bubbling.

 

 

FACTS ABOUT APPLES

 

1. Apples were known in the ancient world; they’ve been around for 3,000 years.

 

2. Apples thrive in a temperate climate and are grown worldwide.

 

3.  There are roughly 7,000 varieties of apples worldwide, all members of the rosaceae family.

 

4. Washington state produces half of all U.S. apples.

 

5. Science shows that apples are rich in antioxidants and vitamins A and C, are high in fiber, and  and aid in lowering cholesterol and high blood pressure. They can help stabilize blood sugar levels.

 

6. Some of the best-loved apple varieties include: Braeburn, Red Delicious, Granny Smith, Gala, Fuji, Golden Delicious, Honeycrisp, and Rome.

 

If you want to know which apples are best for baking, eating fresh, making into sauces, or freezing, see, http://bestapples.com/varieties-information/varieties/

 

 

_____________________________________________________________

 

 

If you enjoy reading about delicious farm recipes, growing heirloom plants, or keeping bees and chickens and you like a mysteries, check out my Henny Penny Farmette series of cozy mysteries from Kensington Publishing in NY. They’re available online and in traditional bookstores everywhere.

 

Murders at a N. California winery is a catalyst for ex-cop turned farmette owner Abigail Mackenzie

Murders at a N. California winery are the catalyst for ex-cop turned farmette owner Abigail Mackenzie to search for a killer

 

 

 

Currently, A HIVE OF HOMICIDES is a featured title in Barnes & Noble’s September promotional BUY 3, GET 1 FREE sale.

 

WHAT IS THE BUY 3, GET 1 FREE OFFER?

 

Everyone who buys a Kensington cozy mystery from the B&N in-store display or any Kensington cozy mystery from BarnesandNoble.com between 9/5/17 – 10/5/17 and registers their purchase at http://sites.kensingtonbooks.com/kensingtoncozies/BN/ will:

 

–     Automatically be entered into Kensington’s “Cozy Mystery Bonanza” sweepstakes for a chance to win a $300 value gift basket. One grand prize winner will be selected after the sale has concluded.

 

–     Automatically receive a free Kensington Cozies recipe booklet plus a download code for the novel A STORY TO KILL by Lynn Cahoon after the sale has concluded.

 

 

*                    *                     *

 

DON’T FORGET TO ENTER THE FREE DRAWING AT GOODREADS.COM.

Win a signed copy of A Hive of Homicides along with a gorgeous reversible apron and a set of 2 chicken napkin rings. Enter before September 26 for a chance to win.

 

See, https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33911114-a-hive-of-homicides?from_search=true

 

 

 

 

 

Reversible apron features a floral backside. Ties make it totally adjustable.

Reversible apron features a floral backside. Ties make it totally adjustable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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20 Things to Do on a Farm When It’s Raining

Author: Meera, February 6, 2017

Rain . . . unrelenting rain makes working outside near impossible. Since rain is in the forecast for the rest of this week, I’m doing indoor projects here on the Henny Penny Farmette. Why? Because let’s face it: try driving screws into wet fence boards or digging when the earth is like a giant mud ball, or pruning trees when looking upward against a downpour is rather ridiculous. Here are some things to do inside until the weather clears up.

 

1. Clean the clutter from the kitchen and test some new recipes

 

2. Read seed catalogs

 

3. Order beekeeping supplies (to be ready when the weather turns warm and the bees get active)

 

Blood oranges keep that lovely red color when made into marmalade

Blood oranges keep that lovely red color when made into marmalade

 

 

4. Make a batch of blood orange marmalade (since blood oranges are ripe now)

 

5. Feed bees, birds, and other wildlife

 

 

 

Crew Cut, our resident black phoebe

Our resident black phoebe eats a lot of insects but other birds are attracted to our feeders

 

 

 

6. Work on indoor renovation such as finish the installation of base boards and crown moldings

 

7. Sew curtains; make a quilt, or start an embroidery or knitting project

 

8. Start the spring cleaning in one or more indoor rooms

 

9. Plan the spring vegetable garden on paper with a drawing

 

 

Rhubarb takes about three growing cycles to produce enough stalks for harvest

Rhubarb takes about three growing cycles to produce enough stalks for harvest

 

 

 

10. Clean out closets and recycle unused items from cupboards and drawers

 

11.Make herbal teas  (for example: dried leaves of herbs such as mint, dried lemon or orange peel, spices, rose hips, and dried berries)

 

12. Catch up on your reading for pleasure or books and periodicals about farm and homesteading topics

 

13. Bring your beekeeping or gardening journal up to date

 

 

Bantam is a small breed; here, a rooster

This Bantam rooster likes to strut his stuff

 

 

14. Order supplies–antibiotics for the chickens or medicines for your bees and other domestic stock

 

15. Bottle honey from the bucket and affix labels

 

 

 

 

Filling from the bucket spigot goes fast because the honey flows quickly; it's quite heavy

Filling jars of honey from the honey bucket in the kitchen

 

 

16. Make a dazzling dessert

 

 

This sunflower bundt pan turns out a pretty cake

The  sunflower cake comes out near perfect when baked in a bundt pan

 

 

 

 

17. Mend clothing

 

18. Start working on the taxes for the upcoming season

 

19. Play your fiddle, piano, horn, or drum

 

 

 

 

Amendments are easy to work into the soil in raised beds

New seedlings moved to an outdoor raised bed

 

20. Start heirloom seed in flats or get some sprouts growing in a jar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* * *

 

If you enjoy reading about farming topics, check out my cozy mystery series from Kensington: A Beeline to Murder, The Murder of a Queen Bee, and A Hive of Homicides. Delicious recipes, farm lore, and tips for keeping chickens and bees add to the charm of these delightful mysteries.

 

 

The third novel in the Henny Penny Farmette series is due out in September 2017
COMING September 2017
These books are available through online retailers and traditional bookstores everywhere.

 

 

The first novel in the Henny Penny Farmette series

See, http://tinyurl.com/hxy3s8q

 

A Beeline to Murder is the debut novel that launched the Henny Penny Farmette series of mysteries.

 

 

 

The second cozy  mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Sept. 29, 2016

See, http://tinyurl.com/h4kou4g

 

The second cozy mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette series is garnering great reviews from readers and industry publications.

 

 

 

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Cold Weather Means Protecting Citrus, Covering Hives

Author: Meera, November 18, 2016

It’s hard to believe Thanksgiving is next week and already, the first snows have arrived in the Sierras and Rockies.

 

The fountain water has frozen overnight and awaits to sun to melt

The water in our Italian fountain froze overnight and now the birds and bees that drink there must wait for the sun to melt the ice.

 

The plunge of nighttime temperatures here on the Henny Penny Farmette are hovering at frost and freezing levels. This morning, I walked with a steaming cup of coffee and noticed the thermometer hovering at 39 degrees Fahrenheit. That means our citrus trees and other frost-intolerant plants must be protected or moved indoors.

 

The work I’ve been bearing down on–a new book, mystery promo, and prep for Thanksgiving–now have to be put aside for a few hours. I’ve got plenty of cold-weather work to do outside.

 

Satsuma  mandarin orange tree prolifically bears fruit but is susceptible to freeze

Our Satsuma mandarin orange tree prolifically bears fruit this time of year but is susceptible to freeze

 

 

Citrus trees will be covered with blankets against the frost. I’m hanging the heat lamp in my chicken house. I need to clean the chicken house,  put more straw in the nesting boxes, and a ground corncob material on the floor. Already, I’ve put the windows back in (leaving a crack open for ventilation).

 

 

My Buff Orpington hen likes a cozy nesting box stuffed with straw

My Buff Orpington hen likes a cozy nesting box stuffed with straw

 

 

 

I opened the beehives last weekend and added an extension onto one hive–something not normally done during autumn when you typically shrink the size of your hives. The hive seemed overpopulated and the bees seemed stressed. After closing that hive, I wrapped both of them with blankets.

 

Hive frames with lots of bees

Hive frames with lots of bees

 

 

With the the citrus protected, the heat lamp in the chicken house, and the beehives covered, I can return to my indoor work . . . it never stops but my passion has always been to live close to the earth and write. This is the good life, made better by this wonderful Mediterranean-like climate that enable  our citrus and  grapes to thrive (although plunging temps make for a little extra work protecting them).

 

*           *          *

 

Enjoy reading about farming topics? Check out my cozy mysteries–A BEELINE TO MURDER and also THE MURDER OF A QUEEN BEE  (both in the Henny Penny Farmette series from Kensington Publishing).

 

These novels are chocked full of recipes, farming tips, chicken and beekeeping tips, sayings and, of course, a charming cozy mystery. For more info, click on the links under the pictures.

 

The books are available through online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo Books, and Walmart as well as from traditional bookstores everywhere.

 

 

The first novel in the Henny Penny Farmette series

See, http://tinyurl.com/hxy3s8q

 

This debut novel launched the Henny Penny Farmette series of mysteries and sold out its first press run. It’s now available in mass market paperback and other formats.

 

 

 

 

The second cozy  mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Sept. 29, 2016

See, http://tinyurl.com/h4kou4g

 

NEWLY RELEASED! This, the second cozy mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette series, is garnering great reviews from readers and industry publications.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Predators on the Prowl

Author: Meera, October 1, 2016

Are they venturing out of the nearby dry hills and canyons for water? Or, in search of a fresh chicken dinner? Whatever the reason for their forays into our neighborhood, the foxes are back.

 

 

 

 

 

Hunting for food? Water? What brought these foxes into our neighborhood?

This fox pair  dug a den near a compost pile on the property adjoining our Henny Penny Farmette last year . . . now they’re back

 

 

 

My neighbor, who also has a farmette with chickens, bees, and fruit trees, alerted me first that the foxes had returned because they got one of his chickens.

 

 

With that worrisome news, I’ve decided against allowing my chickens to free-range forage around our property. Instead, I’m keeping them safe in the chicken run that also has poultry wire across the top to protect against high-flying predators like hawks or cunning little climbers like foxes.

 

 

 

Although we live fairly close (a mile or so) away from designated agricultural land, ours is still a neighborhood of families with pets. Some of us keep chickens and bees and even goats and horses and burros. I sometimes hear braying or neighing while having coffee in my garden on a bright, crisp autumn morning.

 

 

A flock of wild turkeys roams through our property this time of year, too. We don’t mind the turkeys but foxes, large raccoons, coyotes, and wolves can attack small dogs and cats. For that reason, we all stay alert and share news with our neighbors of predators prowling about.

 

*               *                *

 

 

If you enjoy reading about farmette topics (including gardening, beekeeping, and delicious recipes), check out my cozy mysteries A BEELINE TO MURDER and also THE MURDER OF A QUEEN BEE in the Henny Penny Farmette series (from Kensington Publishing).

 

 

Enter the Goodreads Giveaway–September 29 to October 6–for a chance to win a signed copy of a first-edition hardcover of The Murder of a Queen Bee. Three lucky winners will be chosen.

 

 

These novels are chocked full of recipes, farming tips, and sayings as well as a charming cozy mystery.

 

The books are available through online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo Books, and Walmart as well as from traditional bookstores everywhere.

 

 

The first novel in the Henny Penny Farmette series

See, http://tinyurl.com/hxy3s8q

 

This debut novel launched the Henny Penny Farmette series of mysteries and sold out its first press run. It’s now available in mass market paperback and other formats.

 

 

 

 

The second cozy  mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Sept. 29, 2016

See, http://tinyurl.com/h4kou4g

 

NEWLY RELEASED! This, the second cozy mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette series, is garnering great reviews from readers and industry publications.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Obama administration has proposed new animal welfare standards that ban common practices governing chicken farms. Currently, an organic chicken farm may allow chickens outside to roam on concrete. The new rules specify the chickens  must have access to the outside and to soil.

 

 

 

 

Young chickens free-ranging

Young chickens in the outdoor chicken run on the Henny Penny Farmette in N. California

 

 

Currently, certified organic farms allow chickens to have a specific amount  and quality of outdoor activity. But that doesn’t mean access to dirt for scratching, pecking, and dust bathing that are instinctive behaviors for chickens.

 

 

Under the proposed new rules to be certified organic eggs, the chickens producing them must be allowed 1.5 square feet of space per hen indoors and 2 square feet of space outdoors. Outdoor space must be at least half soil and not have a permanent roof or flooring.

 

 

 

A hen from a neighbor's farmette that flew onto our property.

Egg laying hens are happier when they can free-range forage on grass and dirt all year round

 

 

The new rules means chickens can scratch, peck, and bathe in soil instead of being caged where they do not necessarily have access to soil.  Current egg producers will have five years to implement the proposed changes that also specifiy no de-beaking of chickens.

 

 

Already, McDonalds and other large food corporations have advised that they’ll be making the transition to certified organic along with Walmart.  Certified organic eggs under the new rules will mean more humane and better life for the chickens producing those eggs than for chickens whose eggs are labeled “cage-free.”

 

 

Currently, cage-free eggs mean the chickens producing those eggs do not necessarily get access to the outdoors as the new O’bama administration rules propose.

 

 

There will be a sixty day comment period before the rules can go into effect. But for animal protection advocates and supporters of the organic food movement, the new proposed rules are a welcome change.

 

*          *          *

 

 

If you enjoy reading about farmette topics (including gardening, beekeeping, and delicious recipes), check out my cozy mysteries A BEELINE TO MURDER and also THE MURDER OF A QUEEN BEE in the Henny Penny Farmette series (from Kensington Publishing).

 

 

 

Both are available through online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Walmart as well as from traditional bookstores everywhere.

 

 

The first novel in the Henny Penny Farmette series

Now available in mass market paperback, this novel launched the Henny Penny Farmette series of mysteries and sold out its first press run.

 

 

 

 

The second cozy  mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Sept. 29, 2016

The second cozy mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Sept. 29, 2016

 

 

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Buffo’s Gone Broody

Author: Meera, May 17, 2016

My Buff Orpington hen won’t leave the nest. I’ve taken to putting out a bowl of crumbles and a canister of water so she’ll have nourishment while she sits on a a pile of eggs.

 

 

 

Broody Buffo sm web

 

 

 

 

I’m beginning to think that with her this broody period is going to happen about every six months–at least that’s been the case so far.

 

 

Ruby the Rhode Island Red, the Wyandotte sisters, the Black Sex Link, and my two white leghorns are being de-laned into the two other boxes. And I have to practically crawl into the chicken house to reach the last nest box to retrieve their eggs.

 

 

 

Our town doesn’t permit us to keep roosters. Ergo, those eggs that Buffo is trying to hatch will have to be tossed at the end of her broody period. They’re not fertile and will never hatch. But I haven’t the heart to tell her.

 

 

*          *          *

 

 

If you enjoy reading about farmette life, check out my cozy mystery novel series from Kensington Publishing, New York. The books feature a farmette milieu, farm sayings, tips, and facts as well as delicious recipes to try. The books are available from online sources such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Walmart and others as well as traditional bookstores everywhere.

 

 

First book in Meera Lester's Henny Penny Farmette series of cozy mysteries

First book in Meera Lester’s Henny Penny Farmette series of cozy mysteries

 

 

 

Novel #2 in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Oct. 1, 2016

Novel #2 in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Oct. 1, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

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Can You Say Duck?

Author: Meera, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year! What are you planning for your New Year’s Day dinner? Here on our Northern California farmette, we love a New Year’s meal of cracked crab, sourdough bread, and a crisp winter salad, but this year I think we’ll have duck instead.

 

Crab season in Northern California has been put on hold thanks to an unprecedented algae season. Our local Dungeness crab has become infected with domaic acid, a neurotoxin produced by the microscopic algae that can cause human illness and death. Testing continues until the crab is safe to eat.

 

In the meantime, crab is being imported to local stores and restaurants, but it is expensive. With other issues with salmon, sardines, shrimp, and tuna, a seafood shopper might turn to Safeway. The store now offers Fair Trade Certified seafood, in an effort to reduce the seafood/fishing industry’s human rights abuses. But if there’s crab, it’s not local.

 

There are many other options, but I wouldn’t mind a farm-raised (mind you, I don’t mean “factory-farm raised,” which I’m against), free-range duck for dinner. I was raised on a farm and my grandparents (who raised me for a period in my life) kept chickens, cows, pigs, and horses. Meat (like Boone County ham and, yes, pickled pigs feet) was part of our diet along with all the delicious vegetables and fruits my grandmother grew and in her various gardens and preserved in myriad ways.

 

Maybe the rest of our duck meal could include a winter salad with citrus, pears, goat cheese, and sugared pecans; roast potatoes, green beans, and a chocolate sheet cake. We’ve got sparkling cider and wine. That sounds pretty good, but it isn’t crab, which is really the meal with which we wanted to start 2016. So, I guess duck will have to do.

 

 

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My farmette looks like some kind of ghostly haunt after sunset. That’s because of all the bed linen I’ve draped over citrus trees and frost-sensitive plants. On moonless nights, the backyard looks like a gathering of ghosts illuminated by the warming lamp in hanging in the hen house.

 

 

Orange and tangerine trees draped against freezing temperatures

Orange and tangerine trees draped with bed linen to protect them against freezing temperatures

 

 

That heat lamp splays light across the back of the property. I didn’t realize right away that the claw marks in the dirt near the chicken run are from a large raccoon who, thanks to the light, now knows exactly where to find the chickens and has come prowling over the last few nights. My locks and the buried wire fencing of the chicken run are keeping the hens safe.

 

 

For the last few mornings, the water in the Italian fountain (the motor is turned off now) has been frozen and doesn’t thaw until mid-morning. Still, I see wild birds bathing in it. And we have plenty of wild birds now, thanks to twenty pounds of bird seed we’ve poured into feeders around the property.

 

 

I’m looking forward to the weather changing again in a couple of days–rain is on the way. The last storm brought a new blooms to the roses and caused the daffodils and some summer tulips to push up green shoots.

 

 

Since some of my trees perform better with a good winter chilling, I feel obliged to appreciate the cold. Besides, I can stay inside and bake, read books and seed catalogs, and write on my third cozy mystery novel.

 

 

Book and its author

Book (left) and its author (right)

If you enjoy reading about farmette life, you might like the farmette milieu featured in A Beeline to Murder, the first book in my Henny Penny Farmette series of cozy mysteries. See, http://tinyurl.com/p8d6owd

 

 

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