Partridge in a Pear Tree

Well, not a a partridge, and not a pear tree. Peering out at the photographer: our not-as-stealth-as-they-think-they-are juvenile hens roosting in their new favorite tree: a sapote.  They’re not laying eggs yet, but have finally taken to launching into the trees at night to guard against predator attacks. Baby chicks don’t roost, so we know we’re halfway to eggs when a young hen starts to fly at night.

True story: back in the day when I was married and living in the suburbs of San Clemente and commuting to the family farm…I raised our chickens against city ordinance law right there in San Clemente and then brought them; squawking and clucking to the farm when I (inevitably) was issued a San Clemente “chicken ticket.” The kids couldn’t bare to leave the cute babies at the farm all week, only seeing them on the weekends, and I truly have always enjoyed raising baby chicks. Even today, so many years later, I  get such a kick out of watching their antics. Often a quick feeding turns into a chicken sojourn as I sit under a tree of their enclosure and watch them enjoy life.

So, I’d pick up just hatched babies at the SC post office, and raise them in one of way too many bathrooms in that house that always felt more like a hotel  than a home. No, I did not fit in, demographically, as chickens and toddlers romped in my enclosed front yard, during the day, and then we’d go through the drill, of herding the babies into a crate that I’d put in a bathroom at night. As they got a little larger, the crate wouldn’t do, and so I chose an enclosed shower to keep them in at night. In the early days, I had no idea how chickens developed, and so went through quite a panic when one morning I discovered two dozen half grown chickens missing from the shower floor. (the call to my then-husband to admit that two dozen pooping chickens had gone missing in his house did nothing to ameliorate the growing distance between us;)  As it turned out, had I just looked UP, I’d have discovered the chickens peering down wondering what all the fuss was about. They had all discovered THAT very day, that they could fly, enmasse, and were roosting on the top of the shower’s expansive glass shower enclosure.

Despite the four acres our home was situated on, someone offended by our outlier activities  eventually complained each and every time I raised a new flock over the years, and the City of San Clemente would dutifully send out an “enforcer” to come pay a visit with yet another chicken ticket that my ex would use as demonstrable proof I was nuts. And so,
the new flock would be moved to the farm.

Still got chickens. Still may be nuts.


Farmer Donna Weighs in on CSA Box Value

 I received a note from a subscriber today cancelling her subscription, and because she brought up a point that my own brother gleefully pointed out to me, a man with no farming experience who spends his days in an air conditioned office…yet every year beats me to the table with with tomatoes and squash,  I thought I’d share my thoughts. Her point, (and my brother’s is)  paraphrased here:

Thank you. I was very pleased with the quality of the product. It was always excellent. My complaint is with the variety ….when most backyard gardeners in north county have tomatoes, squash, beans, apricots, and other fruits and vegetables, we did not get them in our boxes. 
Here’s my response……
Dear …..

Thanks for your feedback. Not to be argumentative, but I do want to point out we do grow squash, beans and tomatoes. We put two of those items in our boxes from end of June through half the winter.  And tomatoes are on their way! Attached is this week’s harvest ticket.
What is also true is our CSA box is an outstanding organic value, but isn’t for everyone. With 20 acres, we can’t grow everything under the sun. Most backyard growers aren’t growing macadamias, Purslane, beets, avocados, onions, mint, Asian pears, spinach, kales, braising mix,  spring mix….I can go on and on. Forty four bucks a week can’t feed a family, nor can it include every wonderful thing available that any farmer anywhere grows in the summer months, but it goes a long way towards providing lots of local, organic produce that many subscribers choose to augment with things we don’t grow, or don’t grow every month.
Ok, I wince when my suburb living family members joyfully…gleefully… point out their bountiful May/ early June crops that I, the commercial farmer in the family… am weeks away from producing. Backyard growers like my brother, can buzz over to home depot and pick up a few dozen conventionally produced “starts” and have produce by May. Or they can start a few starts in a window sill in January, with the same results. That’s not a commercial, certified organic paradigm.  We have limited green house space, so much of our summer crops don’t arrive until mid-summer. Even our tomatoes that we started in February won’t be in production for weeks. So we may shift forward in the arrival of our summer produce, but it does arrive.
Particularly with the skyrocketing cost of American produce, our CSA box is an outstanding value. As the economy continues to shift downward, (despite the falsified media reports to the contrary) more and more, “organic” production will be coming from third world nations with sketchy pollution and hygiene industry practices. Certified organic, but grown in conditions that no first world farmer would have anything to do with. The reason is it’s cheaper. It’s always cheaper to source produce from the third world. First world, certified organic, micro farmed and local will be more expensive because it costs more to produce; but the value is there. Sheesh, California Certified Organic Farmers, (CCOF) puts their California label on produce they certify out of Mexico. How confusing is that? It comes up here at right around half the California wholesale price, and impacts growers here. Grocery store buyers are hard pressed  NOT to purchase the third world produce, because they can make more profit, and sell the stuff cheaper besides, keeping everyone happy; as long as the consumer doesn’t ask too many questions and become overly informed.
I do very much appreciate your business, which is why I’ve taken the time to thoughtfully respond to your email; and hope as the months go by you will keep an eye on the actual costs of replacing your CSA box contents with domestically produced organic produce  and consider rejoining us.
Farmer Donna

Harvest Ticket July 2-3 2013