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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Gunshot Triggers Howls and Cackles in the Hood

Author: Meera, July 17, 2014


Farm life isn’t always quiet. Night before last, a shot rang out around 11:00 p.m. It happened after some people in the neighborhood had engaged in a running argument, lasting hours.



My husband and I heard the arguing during our romantic dinner on the patio. His birthday is tomorrow and we celebrate birthdays all week, you see.



Hubby said he knew the sound of gunshots when he heard them. He was even more certain he’d heard the words, “We got to get out of here!” I was tempted to dive under the bed because people on the run with guns . . . well, that could be dangerous.



In the dark, you don’t know what has happened. I write mysteries. I’m thinking, “is there a body on the adjacent property?”



Three uniformed police officers arrive with nightsticks in their duty belts and guns in their holsters. With their flashlights drawn and turned on, they searched for a way into fortress that the neighbor has built or a means to see behind the tarps the neighbor has strung to hide his backyard and sheds.



Over the barking of the neighbor’s pit bull, I heard one officer tell the others, “This is like the Beverly Hillbillies. We’re notifying Code Enforcement.”



Glad it wasn’t our place they were talking about. We’ve been renovating . . . but neatly. Still, there’s the unfinished porch, the pile of lumber . . . .



I watched the erratic beams of their flashlights  as they searched. Then . . . here they come, lights bobbing, down our driveway. They want to see if they can penetrate the fortress of the Beverly Hillbillies from another direction. Our house is in close proximity.



My husband went searching for a ladder. Call me silly, but I thought it would be the tall, thin officer, who would climb up. No, that would be too logical. It was the short, chunky one scaling into the heights, disappearing into the elm tree. Did I mention the tree has an almost impenetrable canopy in summer? Not surprising that he couldn’t see anything.



The officers decided on a look-see from the rear. My hubby guided them through a field, past the apiary and chicken house.


A few of our flock of eight baby chicks, now with feathers

Chickens on an outside roost; inside, they roost on posts across the hen house


Roosting chickens are usually quiet. No doubt, you’ve heard the expression, “Going to bed with the chickens, rising with the rooster.” To say my hens were alarmed might be an understatement. They’d been roused from their slumber and cackled like there was no tomorrow. I realize there’s a bit of irony in the fact that our place is called the Henny Penny Farmette after Chicken Little’s story about the acorn falling on her head. This could have been the sky falling. They cackled like it was.



The deafening cackles agitated the neighbor’s pit bull, whose incessant barking got all the dogs in the hood howling. A fire engine shot by, sirens blaring. I took an aspirin, waited for my husband to return and the officers to leave.



Back in bed, who could sleep? I worried about when about when Code Enforcement might show up to cite the Beverly Hillbillies. Would the officers look over the fence and cite us as well? Code Enforcement aside, a gun-toter could hide behind our pile of porch lumber. We gotta get that porch finished.



But, like I said, it’s my husband’s birthday. He’s feeling romantic this week and not easily pushed. See my conundrum?




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Henny Penny Farmette house in 1953

Henny Penny Farmette house in 1953



I met with the tax assessor last month and he gave me a picture of our small farmette house from 1953. At that time, the house was only six months old. Over the ensuing years, many changes were made, rendering the tiny miner’s shack or bunkhouse (that appears to have been a single room) into a  2-bedroom, 2 bath house of roughly 1,000 square feet. We continue to renovate but limited resources slows everything. Eventually, we’ll have a small finished house in a lovely environment.



When we found the property in 2009, it was in foreclosure and looked like a dump. That’s because it had been used as one. Broken pieces of granite and cabinetry wood had been piled along its aging, rotting fences, too weak and weary to remain upright. Inside, the hardwood floors had been ripped off and everything that could be “harvested” from the house by others had been taken. The only appliance was an old refrigerator sitting a weed-field that served as the back yard.



But we saw land all around. Rising up  to the north in back of our farmette are hills (emerald green in the rainy season) that separate the inland valley where our farmette is located from the great Central Valley of California. Seeming as near as our front yard, the blue-green peaks of Mount Diablo tower over the landscape in the east and southeast (we now see these from our living room couch and front porch). From the northwest in summer, the breezes off the San Francisco Bay where it becomes the Straits of Carquinez blow toward Mount Diablo around 4:00 P.M. every day to cool the area.



Our sweat equity is paying off--our backyard no longer is a weed field

Sweat equity has paid off with a backyard instead of a weed field



After pulling out the  weeds that at one point towered over our heads, we envisioned re-engineering everything. We constructed a new landscape that included fruit, citrus, and nut trees, beds for roses and other flowers, an heirloom herb and vegetable garden, and a designated area for bees and chickens.



We've planted roses everywhere

We planted roses everywhere



Without a huge budget, we believed the renovation of the house would be ongoing (and it has been). This is our fourth winter. When we are not working outside, we are working on the renovation inside. For example, recently we installed window trim in the living room. Today, I’ll caulk, spackle, and sand in preparation for painting later this week.



The art deco stained glass door and trim enhance the entry to the house

We’ve added an Art Deco entry door, molding, and trim




Previously the entry into the house was through a side door and bathroom. The first impression wasn’t good. My husband created a welcoming entrance with exterior moldings around the windows and door. I talked him into a screen door and a porch (as yet unfinished) with a trellis to support purple wisteria.




A flagstone path lined with roses and citrus leads to the new door at the front

A flagstone path lined with roses and citrus trees  leads to the new front door but the porch is yet to be finished



Since unseasonably warm temperatures have been forecast for the week, we have begun work on a flagstone walkway leading to the porch. I love when Carlos gets out string, stakes, and the can of marking spray and begins putting down boundaries for fences, walkways, stone paths, and garden gates. The tax assessor didn’t ask about those markings. But we expect the property value to be listed higher next year because of the renovation we’ve already done.








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