Winter Frittata

Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Thursday, December 26, 2013 8:13 PM

I have to admit I'm proud of myself.  This year I'm having my best winter garden to date.  Normally, I have a half ass winter garden.  I start it too late and then ignore it.  I end up with lots of bugs and not a lot of produce.  But not this year.  I decided early on that I was going to get serious about it and make it work.  So I did extra research on crop rotation, inter planting, companion planting, and trap cropping of winter veggies.  And I have to admit, the results are pretty spectacular compared to previous attempts.
This afternoon I decided it was finally time to start harvesting some of the bounty.  This is the basket on my knee scooter chock full of freshness.  Left to right, one sizable bunch of collard greens, two heads of red bok choy, half a dozen eggs, and two or three sizable bunches of broccoli rabe.  I could have picked more, but this seemed sufficient for one evening.  Kristin and I quickly came up with a plan for dinner.  Mmmmm... Frittata!
I took the back seat and let Kristin do most of the cooking.  First she started by browning up some diced bacon.  She drained out about half the fat and then turned to the onions.  The trick IMHO with onions is to slowly let them sweat over a gentle flame.  You can't rush perfection.  We also added in the diced stalks from the greens and some garlic along with a nice drizzle of some lemon infused olive oil.

When the onions were just about perfect, we added in the chopped greens and let them steam down.  Again, patience was paramount.  But oh, the aroma!  

Once complete, this mixture was removed from the pan and kept warm in a bowl with foil over it.  Next into the pan was the remaining bacon grease and diced potatoes.  The heat was turned up to brown the potatoes so they'd have a nice crisp surface.  We also tossed in more garlic and a little more of the lemon infused olive oil for good measure.
Once the potatoes were crispy, the greens, onions, and bacon were stirred back in.  Then came the fresh eggs.  LOTS of fresh eggs.  The heat was turned off and in went 6 or 8 eggs.  This was stirred and the heat of the mixture quickly cooked the eggs.  Before they could get completely done, we stirred in another half dozen eggs.  By this time, there wasn't enough heat to cook the second batch of eggs.
The entire lot was popped into a 350 oven for about 20 minutes.  The anticipation was killing us!  This is about the time we couldn't decide if we were making a frittata or a quiche.  And what the heck was the difference anyhow.  A quick Google search gave us the answer and provided a nice distraction from the kitchen for a little while.
When the eggs were just about cooked through, the top was sprinkled with Monterey Jack cheese.  A couple minutes under the broiler and the surface was bubbly and golden and done to perfection.  Once we took it out of the oven, we of course had to wait about 5 minutes for it to cool down.  
Now doesn't that look delicious?  Oh, if only you could smell the aroma!  And the taste?  OH MY GOSH is it good!!!  Kristin even went back for seconds.  I know what we're having for breakfast tomorrow!  Heck, maybe even lunch too.  It's THAT good!  No recipe required.  Just good fresh ingredients from the garden and barnyard along with some basic cooking skills.  

And my winter garden?  Oh, it holds so much potential.  Now I need to figure out how I'm going to prepare the bok choy I picked.  And there is just so much more nummy goodness to come.  Happy Dance for fresh winter veggies!  Nom nom nom

All I want for Christmas is TWO GOOD FEET

Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Tuesday, December 24, 2013 7:27 PM

My "Collection"

Because I've already had:
  • 6 Casts (only one shown above)
  • 5 Cast Shoes
  • 2 Surgery Shoes - much better than the flimsy cast shoes
  • 5 Cam Boots (getting a 6th on Friday)
  • 1 Pair of Custom Made Shoes
  • 1 Pair of Custom Made Orthopedic Inserts
  • 1 All Terrain Knee Scooter - my favorite item
  • 1 Live-in Assistant - will be living with me for a total of 4 months
  • Far too many months of disability with a drastically reduced income!
So I've put my entire collection (less 5 casts and Kristin, my live in helper) under my Christmas Tree in hopes that Saint Nicolas will see it and understand why I couldn't go out to sit on his knee or provide him with a Christmas Wish List.  Do you think he'll get the idea???  

Hopefully the cast pictured above will be my last.  It's coming off on Friday.  If everything looks good, I'll go back into yet another cam boot and start physical therapy.  I haven't put any weight on my foot for the past six weeks, so I'm a little anxious about it.  Okay, a LOT! When the doctor took the surgical splint off two weeks after surgery I asked if I could flex my foot.  She said yes and helped me do so.  I stopped her because it hurt like a mofo.  So although I'm looking forward to walking again, I'm very anxious about the pain that may be involved.  Don't worry though.  I'll take it slow.  The last thing I want is another cast or any more of the other items listed above.

On the bright side, the disability company finally finished their review of my appeal and have approved it.  So in a few days I'll be getting an automatic deposit into my bank account that will equal 6 weeks of back payments.  No, it won't be a fortune.  But it will make my budget not quite so tight.  So I think I actually will be able to afford that bat house which is what I really want for Christmas.

Wishing you all Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year!

((( HUGS )))

Would you want this guy living in your backyard?

Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Sunday, December 22, 2013 8:28 PM


I sure would.  In fact, I'd like it if he decided to move in with 150 or so of his brothers, sisters, parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.  Why?  Big Brown Bats are among America's most beneficial animals according to Bat Conservation International
"They are generalists in their foraging behavior and habitat selections, seemingly showing little preference for feeding over water vs. land, or in forests vs. clearings. Like all insect-eating bats, big brown bats contribute mightily to a healthy environment and are vital players in the checks and balances of insect pests. Numerous feeding studies of big brown bats exist indicating that they consume significant crop and forest pests including ground beetles, scarab beetles, cucumber beetles, snout beetles and stink bugs, in addition to numerous species of moths and leaf hoppers. Like many bat species, reproductive females often can consume their body weight in insects each night. In fact, a colony of 150 big brown bats can consume enough adult cucumber beetles in one summer to prevent egg-laying that would produce 33 million of their root-worm larvae, a major pest of corn (Whitaker, 1995)."

I've been considering installing a bat house or two here at Havenscourt Homestead for several years.  But for some reason I always get part way into my research and then some bright shiny distraction comes along and then... well you know how it goes.

The San Francisco Bay Area is home to 15 different species of bats.  

  1. Little Brown Myotis - Myotis lucifugus
  2. Long-Eared Myotis - Myotis evotis
  3. Big Brown Bat - Eptesicus fuscus
  4. Brazilian (Mexican) Free-Tailed Bat -Tadarida brasiliensis
  5. Yuma Myotis - Myotis yumanensis
  6. Fringed Myotis / Fringed Tailed Bat - Myotis thysanodes
  7. Long-Legged Myotis - Myotis volans
  8. California Myotis - Myotis californicus
  9. Silver-Haired Bat -Lasionycteris noctivagans
  10. Greater Bonneted Bat / Western Mastiff Bat -Eumops perotis
  11. Western Red Bat -Lasiurus blossevillii
  12. Hoary Bat - Lasiurus cinereus 
  13. Townsend’s Big-Eared Bat / Townsend's Long-Eared Bat - Corynorhinus townsendii
  14. Pallid Bat - Antrozous pallidus
  15. Canyon Bat / Western Pipistrelle -Pipistrellus hesperus

With that many species, it would seem that getting bats to move into a new bat house would be easy.  But not so fast my friends.  Only the first four bats on the list above are known to take up residence in man made bat houses on a regular basis.  So although some species like the Little Brown and the Big Brown tend to move in more readily, other species are secretive and rarely seen.  

Why bats?  Why not!  I already have a drought tolerant native garden, constructed wetlands, a small pond, bee hives, native bee housing, bird housing and natural food sources.  All of these things have contributed to having a successful garden and orchard as well as increasing the biodiversity of my neighborhood.  Insectivorous bats are extremely beneficial.  So why not roll out the welcome mat and try to attract them?  I can't think of a single good reason not to.  But I can think of thousands of little creepy, crawly, munchie, buzzing, and biting reasons to provide them with a home.

Oh yeah, let's not forget the added bonus - Bat Guano!!!  Depending upon how and where the bat house is mounted, it can be quite easy to collect this wonderful soil amendment.  Heck, I might just position my bat house directly over my compost bin.  Talk about low / no maintenance solutions.  This would be a great way to add phosphorus to my homemade compost.  If there's one thing I've learned about successful gardening, it's amend amend amend.  Animal manures are some of the best organic amendments.  Adding one more type to the mix would help to insure a good nutrient ratio.

Okay then, bats it is!  But what kind of housing would be best?  And where should I locate it?  What can I do to insure the best possibility of attracting a colony of these beautiful beneficial little buggers (er... bug eaters)?  

After much research, the site I found most beneficial was Bat Conservation International.  They have a lot of information about bats including an awesome Intro to Bats section, an interactive map of bat viewing sites, instructions on how to install bat houses, etc.  And the Species Profiles pages are a great starting point for researching individual species.  The database is search-able by state which really helps narrow down the list of bats that you might see around your neck of the woods.  I also found out that they have a certification program for bat house manufacturers.  Bingo!  Links in their list of certified vendors has had me surfing all afternoon.

Now I need to decide which way to proceed.  Should I build a house using one of the plans supplied on their website?  Or should I purchase one from a certified vendor?  Decisions decisions decisions.  Right now I'm leaning towards one they sell at their batgoods.com shop, although I would buy it directly from the manufacturer as it's a little cheaper that way.  This Bat Can from Bat Conservation and Management appears to be a good long term low maintenance solution.  
"Designed for applications where routine maintenance may be unwanted, infrequent, dangerous, or difficult. These bat houses are built from the ground up to never rust, separate, or de-laminate, and possibly never need to be repainted."


Although it's heavy duty plastic on the outside, the interior baffles are made of yellow pine plywood.  Their placement inside is designed to allow the bats to move around the circumference of the house as well as within and above the baffles.  This helps them find the perfect micro-climate inside for their ultimate comfort.  After all, isn't that what it's all about?


Or do I just go for a more traditional wooden structure like the one pictured below?  This style would be cheaper, but there is also more maintenance, cleaning, caulking, and painting required.  So in the long run it would be a lot more work.


Decisions... decisions...  Since this is going to be my Christmas present to myself, I want to make sure I make the best decision.

Do you have a bat house?  If so, what style do you have?  Do you like it?  More importantly, do the bats like it (have any moved in)?  How easy is it to maintain?  Do you collect Guano from beneath your bat house?  Pros / Cons?  I'm very interested to hear about the successes and failures of others in order to help make an informed decision about which direction I should go from here.

TRIVIA - I still remember my first encounter with bats.  It was at Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico.  They have a beautiful amphitheatre built at the cave entrance.  Every evening they have an educational ranger program that normally starts just before the bats begin to emerge at dusk.  As the talk continues, a few bats start exiting the cave entrance.  And then a few more emerge and the frequency increases.  Before you know it they are swarming out of the cave by the thousands!  With a population that fluctuates seasonally between 400,000 and 800,000 Brazilian Free-Tailed Bats, the exodus can last up the three hours.  I was a very young girl the first time I saw this spectacular show and I've been back to view it several times since.

This video is several years old, but they no longer allow filming so it's the best I could find on YouTube.  I could do without the cheesy music.  But it does provide a pretty good feel for the experience.  If you ever get a chance to visit Carlsbad Caverns, I strongly suggest you go!  It's an amazing adventure both inside and outside.


Happy Birthday Kristin!!!

Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Sunday, December 15, 2013 11:22 PM

SURPRISE!!!

Tonight, I surprised Kristin with a birthday party.  It wasn't a huge affair.  Just a few good friends, some finger food, a cake, and some presents.  But it was a lot of fun.  Her first surprise party ever!

Click here to see pictures.

Happy Birthday!!!

Look around you and SEE the potential?

Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Monday, December 9, 2013 8:48 PM

What do YOU see when you look at this picture?

Reading the responses to my Inspirational Giveaway post I saw the same theme repeated over and over.  
"I'm inspired by the hope of living somewhere someday where I can grow my own food."
"Going back to the land, simple things.. that is what I want" 
"I aspire to having a homestead... but I make do with what I have... but I still want to get further out in the country!"
Although this type of statement often expresses hope and desire, the problem is it's almost always out there... someday.  Someday I'll have land.  Someday I'll learn to garden and grow my own food.  Someday I'll (insert your dream here).

Well I'm here to tell you that you don't have to keep dreaming.  You can start now.  Today.  You don't have to have it all instantly.  And you don't have to have it all in a few years.  But if you truly want to give this lifestyle a go and stop dreaming about it, then you need to look around and see the potential that you DO have access to.  You may have a sunny porch or a shady side yard.  You may have a deck or even a fire escape outside your window.  Heck, maybe you have a spare room or an unused corner of your garage.  Look around.  Look down.  And especially look up!
Corn and squash growing in plastic totes on the roof of my garage.

My absolute favorite saying in the whole world is this one:
"You don't have to move to change the place you live."
Seriously.  You don't have to move to the country or have any land.  You don't have to wait until you finish school or retire from your 9 to 5.  You can start now, today, with what you have.  Start small.  Get a feel for growing something.  Build your base as you learn.

When you look at the picture at the top of this post do you see potential?  It's a broken down garage, a driveway, a rotten fence, and an obviously overgrown yard.  Doesn't look like much, eh?  Well when I looked at it I saw potential.  I didn't see a blank slate by any means.  But I saw a slate that, if wiped clean, could become a beautiful place.  And so it has.  Not overnight mind you, but over years.  I documented the transition of my side yard into a garden when I bought this house.  It took 14 months to clean the slate and arrange all the elements.  And I've been painting in the details ever since.

So I'm re-posting the video of that transition below.  It seemed liked an appropriate follow up to the question of inspiration.  And I hope it inspires you to take a closer look at the space you do have, how you might be able to use it, and how you can start today while still staying within your means.



By request - Hand crafted wooden mugs and more!

Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Saturday, December 7, 2013 6:51 PM

Warning - Addiction Alert:  It's hard to stop at just one...

Several readers have asked about the wooden cup pictured in My Seasonal Homebrew post.  It's a beautifully hand crafted wooden mug from the Madera Cup Company.  The artisan, Brian Warner, sells his wares at both the Northern California Renaissance Faire and the Southern California Renaissance Pleasure Faire.  They aren't cheap by any means, but they are beautiful works of art that are guaranteed for life.  I currently own three of Brian's mugs and drink out of them just about 365 days a year.  From left to right I paid $180, $130, and $85.  The one on the left is Leopard Wood and he only made six of them.  It's my favorite!.  Perfectly balanced and light weight, form meets function in these cups.  They just FEEL right in my hand.  

Brian's former partner Joseph Victor of Goodly Woods sells his wares at the Renaissance Faires in ArizonaColorado, and Maryland.  He also sells them on his website as well.  

Finally my good friend Valerie's husband Tony is the artisan and owner of As Wood As It Gets.  This extraordinarily talented wood worker makes a wide variety of beautiful and functional items for your home and/or office.  He sells his wares online as well as at the Northern California Renaissance Faire, the Great Dickens Christmas Fair (going on now in San Francisco) and several other events here in the SF Bay Area ,  I suggest you browse his products for some incredibly unique gift ideas!

Handcrafted wooden mugs and other beautiful wood products make excellent holiday gifts.  By purchasing from these artisans you are helping to preserve a beautiful art form as well as support small independent and local business entrepreneurs.  Let Santa know you've been very very VERY good, send him a link to this post, and maybe you'll be sipping your holiday cocoa in one of these beautiful works of art!

DISCLAIMER:  This is a completely unsolicited post.  I have no financial or other incentive to promote these products or artisans.  I just love hand crafted items and I support independent artisans.  I have been asked by several readers about the mug pictured in my previous post so I decided to share.

GEEK TRIVIA (Completely Off Topic) - I met Valerie YEARS ago on Elendor.  This MUSH (Multi-User Shared Hallucination) is the oldest role-playing game based on the works of J.R.R Tolkien on the Internet and has been continuously up and running since 1991.  Back in the day, this text-based game was hands down THE place to be if you were a LOTR fan.  I played this game and met Valerie and numerous other friends long before moving to the San Francisco Bay Area.  And now Valerie and I "play" together at the Northern California Renaissance Faire.  How cool is that? 

My Seasonal Homebrew

Posted by Kitty Sharkey 5:54 PM


Tea that is, aka Flu Brew

Yes indeed, 'tis the season.  And not just for jolly old revelers either.  Nope.  The cold and flu season is upon us.  I've been unfortunate enough to catch a terrible chest cold.  How?  I have no clue.  But it's here none the less.  Between the current cold snap in the SF Bay Area, my restricted mobility post surgery, and fear of catching pneumonia due to lack of activity it's time to bring out the big guns.  Out of the pantry, that is.

  • Garlic - This ancient remedy is an immune booster that helps fight off cold and flu.  It reportedly is effective as a decongestant.  It can inhibit coughs and provides relief to the respiratory tract.
  • Ginger - Another old standby, Ginger boosts your bodies immune system and has anti-inflammatory properties.  It can sooth coughs, a sore throat, and sinus congestion.
  • Green Tea - This ancient tonic is high in cold and flu fighting antioxidants.  It may even block viruses from multiplying in your system.
  • Lemon - Also high in antioxidants, lemon contains Vitamin C to boost your immune systems ability to fight off those nasty cold and flu bugs.
  • Honey - Nothing beats local honey when it comes to boosting your immune system and helping you feel better because it is antimicrobial and antibacterial.  A spoonful can really do wonders to relieve a sore throat.  And it's the perfect sweetener for your home brewed flu remedy.
Of course you can mix and match these ingredients and adjust measurements to your personal taste and/or symptoms.  But this is the recipe I've been using today to provide relief from my congested chest and sore throat.

Flu Brew
  • 3 cups of water
  • 3 or 4 cloves of garlic
  • A 3" or 4" chunk of ginger (I peel mine for tea)
  • 3 heaping Tablespoons of loose green tea
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 or 3 heaping Tablespoons of local honey
Roughly chop the garlic and ginger.  Place in saucepan with water over medium high heat and bring to a boil.  Immediately turn off heat.  Add the loose green tea and honey.  Cut the lemon into halves or quarters and squeeze into the saucepan.  Toss the lemon rinds right in there too.  Let this seep for 3 - 5 minutes and then strain.  Add additional honey if desired.  Relax and enjoy.  Relief will soon follow.

Optional (but helpful) - Rather than combine everything in the saucepan, I place the green tea, honey, and lemon into my french press.  Once the garlic ginger water boils, I pour it right over the top.  A good stir will help melt the honey.  Once steeped to desired strength, it's simple to just push down the plunger and pour the flu brew directly into a large mug.  My mug pictured above holds 750 ml, so I can fit an entire batch into it.

The Goat (2013) - A Short Comedy Film

Posted by Kitty Sharkey 11:59 AM


Check out this super cute short film from James Button.  Be sure to bop over to the film's Facebook page, Like it, and Share it with all your friends.

Finally a Facebook page and an Inspirational GIVE AWAY!

Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Friday, December 6, 2013 10:36 AM

I've been meaning to launch a Facebook page forever.  But for some reason I just never got around to it.  Well that's all changed now.  The page is up and running and ready for some content.  And what better way is there to launch a new page than with a give away?  Personally, I can't think of one.

Through the generosity of the folks over at Mountaineers Books and author/photographer extraordinaire Lori Eanes, I am giving away three copies of Lori's book "BACKYARD ROOTS - Lessons on Living Local from 35 Urban Farmers"
Lori is an amazing photographer who has also become a good friend over the past couple of years.  When she first started working on this project she contacted me to see if she could photograph my homestead. As I had never heard of her before, I bopped over to her website to see some of her work.  There were some absolutely beautiful images of food and numerous tear sheets from publications her images had appeared in.  But photographing a still life image of a perfectly prepared, staged and lighted plate of food is a far cry from trying to photograph a garden in natural, often unpredictable daylight.  And it's like night and day when compared to trying to capture a perfect image of a goat or chicken that is in perpetual motion with the same lighting limitations.  Trust me on this.  I've taken a lot of pictures around here over the years.

Little did I know of her talents when I browsed her website.  I agreed to her proposal and she came to my homestead several times.  And boy oh boy was I ever surprised at the results.  Lori has a unique talent of capturing the essence of urban homesteading in her images.  She has taken some of my absolute favorite pictures here at Havenscourt Homestead.  
She also photographed several other homesteading friends of mine and I'm sure they would all agree.  Her images aren't just photographs of gardens or animals.  They convey the hard work, pride and joy that I personally find so hard to express in words.  It's said that a picture is worth a thousand words.  And Lori's images say it all.
I was honored to be included in her book.  This beautiful photo essay on urban homesteading offers a unique glimpse into the lifestyle we urban homesteaders have chosen.  I own a couple of bookshelves worth of books on homesteading, gardening, raising livestock, etc.  But Lori's book is different.  Rather than a "how to" manual or a first hand story, it's a celebration of a unique way of life.  And it's an inspirational glimpse inside for anyone that is interested in urban homesteading.

And now, a copy of this inspiring book can be yours!  All you have to do to enter the give away is follow these simple steps:
Three winners will be chosen at random.  Entry deadline is midnight Sunday December 8th.  I will announce the winners on the Facebook page and contact each winner directly via private message for delivery information.  Please note that it may take 6 - 8 weeks for delivery.