A Peck of Peppers, and more!

Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Thursday, September 30, 2010 9:01 AM

Nay to the nay-sayers!


You can indeed grow peppers in Oakland! Practice (and patience) makes perfect!

Normally, this isn't the right time of year for peppers. However, we haven't exactly had a normal year here in the Bay Area. Our summer was much cooler than normal and I personally wondered if anything would ever ripen. But with the recent heat wave, everything has ripened all at once. This morning I finally harvested my peppers. It took me a couple of years to find the correct micro-climate in my small garden, but this year I'd say I hit the jackpot!

To successfully grow peppers, it is important that you find the hottest spot in your garden, and the place that gets the most sun (not necessarily the same thing). Plant several varieties to see which ones grow best in your area. Merritt College usually has a plant sale in the spring where numerous heirloom and other unique varieties are available.

I don't suggest starting your peppers from seed, at least not at first. Peppers can be tricky, so starting with plants will take one hurdle out of the way. Once planted, make sure to keep peppers watered well. I use a soaker hose in my garden and the peppers are right at the very beginning of the line so they get the most water.

Also, it's important to remember that peppers do not like peat moss. So use some nice rich compost to ammend your soil before planting. Finally, if you don't have luck the first year, don't give up. Try a different spot. Try a different variety. Eventually you'll hit upon a winning combination.



Last week I was crazy canning tomatoes. I've also harvested a lot of lemon cucumbers, tomatillos, picallo squash, pumpkins, and even a few small tiger melons. I've still got a trickling of tomatoes coming in, and a few peppers and tomatillos that will be ripe in a few weeks.

Overall, I'd say I've had a successful garden this summer. But it hasn't been easy. Having spinal surgery definately made it a challenge. So I'd like to thank the numerous friends, both old and new, that have generously donated their time to help me plant, weed, water, and harvest. Without all of you, I wouldn't have been able to do it. Thank you for enriching my life!

3 Raccoons, 1 Cockatiel, and an Animal Control Officer – Oh My!

Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Thursday, September 16, 2010 9:27 AM

So, it's been an interesting week here at the homestead. This morning I woke up about 5 AM, which is definitely not normal. After getting some snuggles from Max, I rolled over to look out the window at my goats to see what they were up to. All of them were staring intently at the corner where I keep my quail. Oh great, I thought. Is it a cat or a raccoon that might be interested in the quail?


After staring into the corner watching for moving shadows for a good 5 minutes, I couldn’t see anything. Then the goats shifted their attention to the patio. So I figured it must just have been a cat. And then all of a sudden, I hear some rather loud splashing. I got up and went to the other window where I watched as 3 raccoons first drank, then played, and finally started fishing in my fountain.
I was torn between spooking them off and watching them play. They were only about 2 feet away but didn’t notice me at all. They were big fat healthy raccoons. Personally, I don’t mind if they get water. But fishing? No, I don’t think so. I opened the window and scared them off. But after I went to the bathroom I saw that they were back. So out the back door I went to send them on their merry way. They scampered up onto the garage roof. Just for good measure, I pulled down the ladder and went up onto the roof to make sure they were well on their way. I watched as they climbed down a neighbor’s fence and ran through their yard. My guess? They’ll be back.
Yesterday afternoon, Wednesday, I came home from the store and heard a loud squawking above my head. I’m pretty attuned to the sounds of all the resident birds, and this was definitely not a sound I had heard here before. Above me was a bird circling, calling out as if it was in distress. Then it landed in the sycamore tree across the street. I went inside to grab my binoculars and take a look. Frankie was over working on the porch tiles and we both had a good look at the fella. Yuppers! It was a Cockatiel, and a big one at that. It was obviously either an escaped or dumped pet. Not good.
So I sent a text to Wendy, knowing she was an expert on all things related to parrots and pet birds. She suggested putting out a cage, adding food and water, and a toy, preferably one with a bell, and then trying to get its attention. Oddly enough, I happen to have all these things. So Frankie helped me separate the two linked cages that I keep the quail in and get one of them down. Sorry quail, back to a tighter space for a bit. After installing food, water, and a bell toy, Frankie noted that the bell on the toy really wasn’t loud at all. Actually, it was pitiful. But no worries. I knew just where to find something louder.
No, I did not pull out my Crier bell. That wouldn’t do at all. But I’m sure all you Ren Folk will remember those gawd awful bells we all used to have back in the day. Yeah, those bells on strings that are not costume approvable. Yes, well I happened to have a string of them stashed in a drawer. Back out front, bells in one hand and binoculars in the other, I decided to see if they had any affect.
The fella seemed to be sleeping, all puffed up and no head in sight. I started shaking the bells to see if it had any affect. Up came his head. He was obviously interested. He was looking around and bopping his head around to get a better view. And then he launched into the air! I’d say I caught his attention. He flew around in circles screaming for a full minute if not more, most likely a bit confused as to what to do. Then he settled back down in the tree. I don’t think he’s used to flying that much.
So although I didn’t manage to attract him to the cage (yet), we did jiggle the bells numerous times during the rest of the evening just to let him know which direction to focus on. He squawked at me several more times. I think he’s scared. After dark, I rang the bells a few more times, hopefully to reassure him. I’ve done it this morning as well. With any luck, he’ll be hungry and thirsty today and will associate the bell and cage with food and water. If not, at least I can say I gave it a damn good effort. I’ll be ringing those bells several times today.
This brings us to the day before, Tuesday. I was expecting Freya and Colin around 6 PM. Freya needed a bodice for Casa and wanted to see if I had one to fit her. It was about 5 PM and I was getting ready to clean out the chicken coop. I walked out to the front yard and was greeted by an Animal Control officer in the driveway asking if I had goats. Oh great! Here we go again. Yes, I do have goats, and they are legal in Oakland. She said she knew, but they had received a call so she had to make a visit. She was very polite and easy going. I immediately liked her. I have great respect for the folks that dedicate their lives to animal welfare. I wish I could do it.
We went into the backyard. The kids all greeted her warmly. Once again I started talking about homesteading, animal husbandry, the municipal code, etc. She started taking some notes, but somehow ended up putting her notebook away rather quickly. It was obvious I knew my stuff and that everything was in order. She was very impressed with the barn and took some pictures. She was especially interested in the milking parlor. I gave her my website and told her she could look there for more pictures.
She said someone had called but wasn’t sure what the complaint was (i.e. couldn’t tell me). But she did mention that not everyone knew goats were legal in Oakland. She also stated that some folks are concerned about slaughter or ritualistic sacrifice. I assured her that my goats were for dairy, not meat, and that after I spent $400 on a goat, I certainly didn’t think I’d be sacrificing it anytime soon. Love you Lulu!!!
Once again, knowing the municipal code came in handy. Mentioning that Vector Control had already been here and I had passed their inspection most likely helped as well. She said that they occasionally get goats, but they don’t adopt them out like cats and dogs. They have special needs, you know. You can’t just go to your local Safeway and buy a bag of goat food. She said they find farms that will take them and know how to care for them. That made me happy.
It was sort of funny at one point. I was talking about the number of goats I could have based upon their square footage requirement. I have 4, but could technically house 8. Of course, I wouldn’t do that because it would overload my system and I’d end up with a manure problem. But the municipal code would allow it as long as I kept it clean and didn’t have any vector issues. She mentioned that a person could even have a cow if they dealt with the manure and cared for it properly. I laughed. I don’t think I’ll be getting a cow any time soon. I won’t be getting a horse or pig either. Well maybe a pig sometime, but not here. I’d buy a meat share into one raised by Sarah and Mark up in Sebastopol. Cute little piggy. Yummy! BACON!
All in all, it went quite well. Officer Nicole was very nice, had lots of questions, and seemed to like everything she saw. Heck, she even came inside for a second to check out my sizable tomato harvest. Sorry to whichever neighbor called, but I’ll be keeping them. And we’ll see you next time I take them out for a walk around the block. I promise to sweep any poop off the sidewalk.