Wednesday, December 19, 2012

fitting


















In late October we marked ten years here with a quiet toast to the many workers, helpers, guests, and friends who have enabled and enriched our occupation of this idyllic spot and made possible the bounty that we're able to share with others. The "wwoofers" of 2012 deserve special mention, an incredibly bright, diverse, energetic and intelligent bunch. May you all thrive in your various endeavors!

Decadal milestones inspire meditations about place and time. Before we were here, this was the site of a commune of sorts, a reportedly less-than-merry group of pranksters who accumulated junk motorcycles, junk cars, junk trucks, trailers, and other treasures (but left no drug waste behind - we checked carefully). Before that, there was a multi-decade period of relative quiet, and before that, a farm-labor bunkhouse. The bunkhouse, probably in use from the 1860s or 1870s to the 1930s, housed a farm crew (probably mostly Native American, at least initially) that would seasonally tend the production of fresh vegetables in the slough-bottoms and floodplains, following the receding water of the inundations that were regular before the coming of the big dams. That era ended in the 1930s with rural electrification and the widespread adoption of the turbine pump, enabling groundwater to be delivered at will and liberating farm production from the cycles of flooding.

And before the bunkhouse there were the Native American settlements, dense in the corridor of the Cosumnes, a landscape that offered acorns, fish, and game in rich abundance. Settlements were so dense that every knoll and ridge above the flood line probably hosted a seasonal encampment or more permanent village. Their feet walked these paths first.

Through it all, sandhill cranes have endured. Cranes - pictured above at roost just west of here in October - have been visiting this locale (and ones like it with the right combination of shallow water and food) for millions of years, gliding in each September and departing in February or March. Cranes note major changes in landscape. Many stories relate how they visit, year after year, former foraging fields that have been converted to unusable vineyards or orchards and that they are slow to return to fields in those rare instances when a vineyard or orchard has reverted to open land. And we observed, after we built our house, that groups of cranes would abruptly change course as they approached the house, avoiding rather than flying over the new building. We had intruded.

One wonders if the past couple of hundred years have seemed to the cranes like just so much unintelligible flux, a newsreel run at super-speed and we like so many frenetic stick-figures. Domestic cattle replaced herds of elk and the occasional bear, wheat fields replaced entire landscapes of native grassland, small dairies proliferated, faded and were consolidated into a handful of super-large dairies, orchards dotted - and vineyards later carpeted - the landscape, with only occasional retreats in the service of conservation, and always more houses, more roads.  Change had become the only constant.

That the sandhill cranes remain in relative abundance is a testament to some significant level of resilience and ability to adapt. We've noticed for the past few years that those that overfly our property no longer deviate to avoid the house. We're an accepted landmark.

Happy holidays all!
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Friday, September 28, 2012

tick, tock



















With the last melon of the season in the refrigerator, it is from a rational perspective time for denial about what's passing to morph into excitement at the prospect of what lies ahead in the fruit cycle. But melons cast a long shadow. With no disrespect intended to the apples (crisp and sweet or wondrously tangy), persimmons (just turning orange), quince (a huge crop slowly ripening), pears (luscious crisp Hosui and Shinko Asian pears, juicy Bosc and Bartlett), or swelling but still-green citrus, there's just nothing like a melon and no way for the last melon to go unmourned or to not spark some reflections about the passage of time.

This year's melons included a spectrum of varieties whose names captured well the poetry of the seed world: football-shaped Old Time Tennessee, 20-pound Bidwell Casabas, Collective Farm Woman (small, hard-shelled, candy-sweet), Osage, Honey Rock, Charentais, Piel de Sapo ("skin of the frog"), Sweet Passion, Ein Dor, Noir de Carnes, Amarillo Oro, Marygold, Green Machine, Crane, and Gaucho. We ate melons and gave away melons and made melon-only fruit salads for potlucks from mid-July on.

The melon above is an Amarillo Oro, with a somewhat hard shell, light gold-green flesh, crisp texture, and intense sweet, honey-like flavor. It had the high honor of being selected for our annual (OK - second biennial) trip to Dardanelles Lake, which Frederik and I did to observe his 32nd birthday. We enjoyed a long swim, delighted to find the lake's waters much warmer in mid-September than they had been in early August two years ago. And we enjoyed the melon, of course, as we will the last Crane now in storage.

We had the lake to ourselves on a weekday until joined by a large and somewhat noisy (but in an entirely nice way) group of seniors out for the day. People with gray hair - what were they doing up there? Must have been in some stage of denial ...
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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

sunflower math and sex



Our black oil sunflowers produce a single 8" head on a sturdy 4-5 foot stalk and just after dawn (below) they point northeast and eagerly await some direct sunlight.

We learned in third grade (the kid's, not ours) that the spiral arrangement of sunflower seeds (and other flowers) exhibit the Fibonacci sequence; an 8-foot, summer-after-third grade sunflower was nicknamed Fibby. At the heart of the Fibonacci progression is the "golden mean:" a:b; where a is to b as a+b is to a. Numerically, the value is an irrational number (one incapable of expression in decimal form) a bit more than 1.6. Within the sequence, each successive number is 1.6 (plus a little) times the prior number. When the integers are small, the ratios are approximate, with each successive relationship being alternatively somewhat more and somewhat less than the golden mean; this is why the spiral pattern is inexact at the center of the flower head. As the numbers get very large, the ratio becomes exact; further from the center, the spiral patterns become more perfect.

In practical terms, nature is packing seeds most efficiently into a circular seed-head, satisfying every organism's drive to maximize the prospects for reproduction given a limited energy budget. The angle corresponding to the golden mean is 137.5 degrees, and each seed in the sunflower is offset from the one closer to the center by that amount (approximately so near the center, exactly so toward the outer edge). The result is a spacing in which all seeds are equidistant, and successful development yields two distinct sets of spirals, one in each direction, as in the photo above.

The botany of the sunflower is as fascinating as the mathematical theory. What we typically call a flower is actually many flowers (in this case, hundreds) bundled together into a head. The ray flowers form the outermost ring, and each has a single long petal. Within the ring, the disk flowers each have four tiny petals. When flowering, a threadlike stalk growing from the top of the ovary splits lengthwise to expose two sticky surfaces. The stalk is called the style, and each sticky surface is called a stigma. The structure formed by stigmas, style, and ovary is termed the pistil. The stigmas capture pollen transported by the fuzz on bee bellies, and if chemical signals between the pollen and stigma are in harmony, the pollen grain cracks open, and one of the two cells inside will burrow a tube down through the style, under the outer layer of ovary to its base, and from there into the ovule itself. There, the second cell, which has done no work so far except tag along, will divide into two sperm. One of these fuses with the egg cell, and further growth leads eventually to the embryo. The other fuses with two additional nuclei within the ovule, and further growth leads to starchy nutritive tissue. While these processes are occuring, the stigmas, style, and petals shrivel and fall off, their purposes complete. In sunflowers, the nutritive tissue is taken up by the embryo before seed maturation, some of it is converted to oils and protein, and then stored in the embryonic leaves (a.k.a. cotyledons). [In grasses (corn, wheat, rye, etc.), this nutritive tissue stays predominantly starchy, because it is not metabolized until after the new seed germinates.] The ovary wall develops into the hard black shell, and the ovule develops into the seed inside. Shell plus seed are technically a fruit.

We'll harvest the fruit and run it through a small oil press, creating an oil for cooking and salads. As we use it, we'll try to pause occasionally and marvel at the process by which seed becomes seed.

(Sara Sweet helped me with my homework by writing most of the botany section.)



Thursday, August 2, 2012

Kingbird irruption

















Ms K and I spent last week in Alaska with Hank Lentfer, enjoying cool temps and mostly dry skies and the incomparable landscapes of Glacier Bay, Icy Strait, and Lemesurier Island in SE Alaska. We were impressed by the sense of community (in Gustavus, keys stay on dash boards just in case a neighbor has a need), of priorities (music, art, friendship), and seasonality (summer is its own priority). We were awe-struck by the scale of Alaskan landscape, by the sense of human presence as a thin veneer on the wilderness, and by all of the wildlife - hump-back whales, grizzlies, wolves, bald eagles, and a handful of birds new to us.

The amazing visuals were complemented by a world of new sounds: the slap of sea against hull, the bark of sea-lions, the loud sigh of hump-backs emptying their lungs and low-pitched music of their underwater communications, the soprano chatter of the bald eagles, the thunder-crack of glacier shedding ice and echoing splash of iceberg hitting ocean. 

Also impressive was the extent to which the local wild landscape provides (fish, venison, berries, even kelp salsa!) and the amount that can be nurtured from the soil in a short-season: potatoes, greens, beets, cabbage, carrots, radish, kale. Gustavus is at the end of a very long and costly supply line, but it seems to be more than cost that drives an ethic of self-sufficiency, more than just mutual dependence that sustains an ethic of sharing.

Above all, experiencing Hank in situ was the major reason for the trip, and while our visit was too short and we were sad to leave, we left convinced that he'll realize the hope he expressed at the close of his book, "The Faith of Cranes" - "to be left singing when all else is stripped away." Thank you, Hank, for being there and for being you.


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Saturday, July 21, 2012

corn, corn


















America's corn crop is withering across the corn belt and temperature records are falling like dominoes. (In the latter category, my candidate for most symbolic is Death Valley's night-time low temperature of 107 degrees on July 12-13 - the warmest low temperature for a 24-hour period ever recorded anywhere on earth.) 64% of the continental US is officially in drought, and the intensity and breadth of the drought continues to grow. It is what one hopes will be an "oh, shit" wake-up moment for the planet. The link is to Bill McKibben's cover story in this week's Rolling Stone. Read it, share it, act on it.

Our high temperature for July 13 was 92, 15 degrees lower than Death Valley's low, continuing the summer's pattern of very plant-friendly temperatures locally. It shows in our floriani corn, now 9 feet tall and forming ears. In this photo it's a wall of green behind one of hundreds of oil-seed sunflowers that are also thriving.
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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

floriani corn



















The Floriani corn is at 7' tall and still climbing aggressively. It has started to tassle but is not yet showing ear development. I'm betting on an ultimate 9' height.

Floriani is a flint corn variety, used for making polenta, masa, and corn meal. All the kernels are red, yielding a nice mottled red-yellow polenta.

The story told is that Floriani went early from the New World to Italy and was found recently on a small farm in northern Italy. Somehow it survived the great loss of plant diversity that occurred there, as here, as a result of the increasing concentration on a few commercial species in the 1960s and 1970s. Floriani was rescued by Community Grains, a project of Oliveto Restaurant's Bob Klein. With permission (thank you, Bob!) I snagged a couple of ears at an event last August.

If we get a successful crop - which is looking increasing likely but may require hand-to-hand combat with the raccoons in August! - it's bound for Sacramento's wonderful Magpie Caterers Market and Cafe.

Monday, June 18, 2012

spokesman?*



















This awkwardly situated - but very much alive - barn swallow is probably one of many forced out of their crowded nests early by the weekend's high heat. They are not yet competent flyers, but they can make short hops from place to place. The parents find and feed them, cueing in on the white "grin patch" still very evident on this bird.

We have at least 50 nests on and around the house, all with hungry youngsters. We watch the parents shuttle back and forth with everything from mosquitos to grasshoppers and picture a steady, substantial stream of protein moving to and - as is quite obvious everywhere! - through the young birds. This crop of barn swallow babies is just the first of several; most parents will hatch two more rounds of young this year, and sometimes three.

*for Sara, with apologies to everyone else.
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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

pelicans


















American white pelicans have been visitors here for the past 10 days. We see them wheeling overhead in a flock of 200 or more, color shifting from a bright white to an almost invisible neutral as they change their inclination to the sun. Here they are feeding on fish, frogs, and crayfish in a shrinking wetlands pond, accompanied by hundreds of egrets (and a few great blue herons) desperate to get their share before the bounty is all gone.

Inland pelicans use the terminal lakes of Nevada and Utah as home bases and breeding areas. They are apparently driven by instinct to visit the Central Valley's remaining wetlands areas at this time of year, when historically the snowmelt-driven flood waters would have been receding from the valley, making aquatic prey more accessible.

A few more photos are on Facebook, here.
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Saturday, June 9, 2012

love bite




For June 6's transit of Venus, we convene a few friends for supper in the garden and set up a primitive projection system for watching the progress of the planet across the sun. Here, Venus has just started her passage; through the evening she will burrow deep into the heart of our star and slip away only after nightfall.

The supper is from the garden - lettuce, beets, potatoes, grilled onions, grilled polenta - and comes together with the help of a few enthusiastic assistants.

Few are willing to listen to my deeply-researched lecture on the importance of the transit in the history of science and exploration, but we all resolve to convene again the next time Venus intrudes upon the sun. Somewhere.

In anticipation of the occasion, I reread Shirley Hazzard's Transit of Venus. Hazzard, born in Australia (a continent whose "discovery" was a by-product of Captain Cook's voyage to observe the 1769 transit), is a consummate prose artist. Her most recent novel, The Great Fire, is my favorite. Both explore the lives and loves of endearing characters in the stark post-World War II moral and physical landscape.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

blogging while blonde ...







We enjoy the company of Trish and Jenna this week, joining Guillaume for a round of weeding, planting, and enjoying the early summer Kingbird bounty. Trish and Jenna blog, sometimes, yes, compulsively, always intelligently, often lyrically. They all launch tomorrow - T&J back to Wisconsin and Guillaume for a month on the John Muir Trail. We'll miss them.

More photos at http://www.facebook.com/kingbirdfarms, where I've started posting photos and tagging and all that stuff ...

Thursday, May 31, 2012

early abundance






















Although nominally still spring, the fruits of early summer are upon us - here apricots, mulberries, and cherries. We are staying ahead of the birds with the apricots, breaking about even with the mulberries, and are hopelessly behind on the cherries, occasionally finding a half-eaten, half ripe one.

Tastes like summer? Feels like summer too! 97 here today.
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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

fuzz ball




This hours-old killdeer chick and its sibling keep mom (with chick below) frantically vigilant as they scamper through the melon patch without regard for the various hazards. Killdeer chicks are precocial, born ready to move about and to forage on their own, although they won't be flight capable until 25 days old.

The primary hazard here, should they stray through a nearby fence, is our chickens, who would eagerly dismember and consume the little bird. Other hazards are hawks and owls. Kildeer young mortality is high, a reason why kildeer populations are not thriving.


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Monday, May 21, 2012

eclipsed


















Yesterday evening's crescent sun replicates itself on the siding of our house through pin-hole pathways in a screen of native grape on the west side of the deck.

It was not a total eclipse (92% here, 100% a hundred miles north) but dramatic. The chickens took it as dusk and a signal for bedtime, then huddled outside the hen-house, confused to be experiencing dawn so soon.

We used our spotting scope to project the image of the progressing eclipse on a piece of paper. This was our peak.

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Friday, May 18, 2012

some local press


 

















A regional recognition leads to a nice notice in the Galt Herald, our local weekly. They ran this photo with it.

The photo was pulled from a piece they ran earlier this year on our now one-year-old community garden. The FFA members and I are planting bare-root fruit trees in February in the margin between the fence and the curb. The trees have leafed and branched and are looking good; a few even gave us blossoms.

The garden is thriving, with all of its 31 plots now contracted to community members who are tending vigorous summer gardens. It has a growing waiting list.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

connect* the favas!

























We're at several 100 pounds of favas distributed and still only about half-harvested. This year I occupied, with favas, some of the un-leased beds at the community garden (which is now, happily, fully subscribed and with a growing wait-list), as well as growing an abundance here at Kingbird. At the food bank they are popular with some and eagerly sought, and a mystery to others. Although labor-intensive (pick, shell, peel) they reward throughout their life cycle - providing a nice mass of green in the winter garden, early flowers for the pollinators, nitrogen for the soil, biomass for the compost table, and protein for the table, and all of that without irrigation or a need to weed. My candidate for miracle crop.

*Bill McKibben, true global hero, asks us to "connnect the dots" globally today to demonstrate our concern about climate change. I'll be joining an event later. You should too - or at least pause for a moment, breathe deeply, think green thoughts, reflect on our urgent need to change course and avert disaster, and resolve to do your part going forward.
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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

the hopyard takes shape again





















Guests Nadir and Julie, from near Lyons, France via New Caledonia and some other exotic places, have recreated the hop trellis and got the little guys pointed upwards once again. Hops die back completely in October and start fresh from their big (and growing) root systems each March. Except for some particularly rowdy varieties (Cascade, I'm looking at you ...) we're ahead of the curve; the bines (hop-speak for vines) are just at the launch point. Julie is a nurse and Nadir a physical therapist. Both speak excellent English and have been easy house guests and effective workers.

Julie and Nadir found us through a program called Help Exchange, an organization which links travelers with host sites, many of them non-profits in need of labor and in position to provide meals and housing. We are newly subscribed to "HelpEx" and these two are the first that have found us that way.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

me too!


















This western tiger swallowtail (Papilio rutulus) wanted to be on the internet too, so I yielded and with the last post have now posted photos of the three common large butterflies in the garden at this point. Papilo rutulus needs willows (we have several different species) and alder (we have none) as host plants.

This individual is missing the central portion of its tail, which would have had a patch of brilliant red amid spots of irridescent blue, as well as the lower extensions of each wing. This pattern is read by many birds as eyes and antennae, leading them to confuse tail with head and end up munching on a bit of membrane instead of the body of the butterfly.
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Sunday, April 15, 2012

summerbirds

























By Mikael, wwoofer from Denmark, we are reminded that the Danish word for butterfly is, curiously, "sommerfugl," literally "summerbird." Above is a pipevine swallowtail (battus philenor), below a painted lady (vanessa cardui). Each was so seduced by our lilac in full bloom that it was largely oblivious to the camera. The host plant (necessary for egg-laying and pupal development) of the pipevine swallowtail is the pipevine (Aristolochia californica); we have an abundant patch under a nearby oak. The pipeline swallowtail is poisonous to birds due to chemicals derived from the pipevine by the larvae. Host plants for the painted lady are the various milkweeds, of which we have many. It has been a very good spring for butterflies so far.

With Mikael's help I stay abreast of the demands of the season - or at least don't fall too far behind! We've weeded the hops, cleared the green manure crop from the summer garden area, built Galt's largest compost pile (roughly 6x6x30), and potted up 100+ tomato plants. He will continue his migration north soon, and we will miss him.


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Saturday, March 31, 2012

only child




















Updating this story, our novice mom successfully hatched one chick from her clutch of 10 eggs. She was a very diligent setter, but it was not clear that she had mastered the important nuances, such as the need to rotate each egg daily to assure appropriate development of the chicks.

Not to worry, she's a very good post-hatch mom, taking care to protect her chick from the rest of the flock and the other hazards of the big world. The little one is energetic and fearless, keeping mom on her toes constantly. In honor of Leela and Anna, recent visitors from Australia and New Zealand, the little one will be referred to as "chook."

We have high hopes for mom's future endeavors.
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they're back!


















We have kingbirds, 8 days ahead of last year's return date.

They must have been tricked into believing the reports of a balmy March and may feel a little bit bait-and-switched by today's intense rain and heavy winds. Maybe they can huddle with the barn swallows, whose numbers seem to be doubling every third day.

The new Kingbird tee-shirts (thank you KCY!) beat the live birds by about two weeks.
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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

a welcome

















A vivid sunrise says "welcome to spring" this morning.

And triggers a mental review.

Tomato and pepper seedlings in the greenhouse? Check.

Apple trees blooming? Check.

Bee hives active? Check.

Carrots and beets germinating in the raised beds? Check.

Onions and garlic maturing nicely? Check.

Four or five successive plantings of lettuce in progress? Check.

Hop vines emerging? Check.

Chickens at peak laying? Check.

Wwoofers scheduled? Check.

Weeds under control? Coming ...
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Sunday, March 18, 2012

awakening to water

















We awoke this morning to deep water in the slough that arcs through our property. Dry yesterday, the slough filled overnight because our little river, the Cosumnes, was pushed out of its banks by heavy rain in the Sierra over the past few days, filling the series of natural depressions east of the river. Depending on the weathern pattern over the next few months, the slough will either gradually empty and be dry by the first of June, or stay wet through July and August, as it did last year.

This is the latest fill date for the slough in the 20+ years that we've been watching. Last year we had a February fill, but prior to that the slough had always filled within a few days of January 1.

This week's series of storms gave us about an inch and a half of water, greatly improving conditions in the garden but leaving us still at barely above half our seasonal average.
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Monday, March 12, 2012

dawn chorus





















We awoke at 5 am yesterday to the chatter of a pair of barn swallows, our first arrivals of the year. They were perhaps overwhelmed by the blank slate of opportunity presented by the walls of our house.

We greet them with mixed emotions. They do indeed make a mess of the walls, decks, and cars, and require vigilance to be deterred from constructing their mud nests in totally inappropriate places (on or above doors, for example). But they also eat large quantities of mosquitoes, which may be why they nest on structures, having been tolerated for generations for doing so. And my garden last week was overrun at times by mosquitoes; I should have known that the swallows were near.

We love the slow rhythms of avian arrivals and departures. I've written of swallows before, here and here. We expect that we'll see the last of the sandhill cranes trickle away this week and soon we'll start looking for the first of the kingbirds.
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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

getting the signals straight

















 This partridge cochin bantam hen seems to be responding to the instinct to brood her own chicks. She sits in her nest for days at a stretch in the trance-like state that characterizes broody spells, not reacting to the flash of my camera or to a friendly scratch behind the head.

Finding and following those instincts, and getting it right, must be for a modern hen quite a challenge. For millenia, ever since techniques for artificial large scale hatching of eggs and raising of chicks were devised, the tendency to "go broody" - to shift into chick-production mode - has been deemed an undesirable trait in hens, and selected against. The reason is that the broody hen stops producing eggs and refocuses her energy away from egg-making and toward staying alive (with little or no feed) during the 21-day incubation period. The result is that most modern hens are not broody at all, or will at best claim and protect a nest full of eggs for a few days before getting distracted.

The early masters of articifical incubation were the Egyptians, who in the fifth or sixth century BC developed wood-heated brick structures capable of incubating 10,000 - 15,000 eggs at a time, i.e. at a scale not seen again until in the US in the 1960s. One hypothesis is that large-scale chicken production was driven by the need to feed the masses of laborers who worked to build the pyramids. Later, the Romans devised mobile incubators that would travel with the troops.

Because the various cochin strains of chicken are known for their broody tendencies and competency at raising young naturally, I added a few as chicks to my flock last year. They are just now beginning egg production.

This hen (she probably deserves a name) may or may not turn out to be a successful brooder. About a week into her first stretch of brooding I got curious about how many eggs she was nurturing and reached under to check. To my surprise, there were none - zero. She had the behavior down but had somehow missed the basic point. I removed her from the chicken house to break the broody cycle. When she got in the mode again, about a week later (and a week ago), I gently slipped 10 eggs into her nest. We'll see how well she does this time.


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Saturday, March 3, 2012

otow orchard

















 We visited Otow Orchard yesterday, a 40-acre island of sanity amid the affluent sprawl of Granite Bay in Placer County. The farm is run by our friends Tosh and Chris Kuratomi (and Chris' vigorous 96-year old mom), and our visit was long overdue. Tosh and Chris grow dozens of types and varieties of fruit, mostly old varieties. The farm was launched in 1914 by Chris' grandfather and many of the producing trees date from the initial plantings.

The farm's fruit-stand sells fruits and vegetables in season, with something offered all year. Stop by if you're going anywhere near Granite Bay. It's a tranquil and beautiful place.

We leave with a few hoshigaki. A specialty of the farm, hoshigaki (photo below) are hachiya (or similar) persimmon that are peeled and dried. The flavor is a dense, concentrated essence of persimmon.














More photos (courtesy of Ms Kingbird) are here.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

pigs in pollen
















Our warm winter has brought the early apricot varieties out of dormancy and our almonds are set to explode with blossoms any day. One of our two bee colonies made it through the winter, the other did not. The survivors have mobbed the two apricots that are now in blossom.

Although one colony either died or moved elsewhere, our bees generally have it good - a stable environment, year-round sources of nectar and pollen, no chemical insults. That's in contrast to their brethren across the country. Two-thirds of commercial beekeepers in the US move their hives into the San Joaquin Valley each February. They come to pollinate the almond crop; 80 percent of the world's almonds are grown in just five counties of the southern San Joaquin Valley. Scientists' speculate that the stress of travel, the proximity of so many colonies at one time, and the associated chemical exposures may be a factor in "colony collapse disorder."

The warm weather of the past few weeks have the neighborhood wine grape growers in a state of high stress. With consistent daytime temperatures of 50 degrees or higher, grape vines initiate "bud break," the emergence of tiny green spears that will become this season's leaves, branches, and fruit clusters. Those spears are highly vulnerable to frost. We've had temperatures over 60 for a few weeks now, and bud break is imminent on many wine grape varieties. Despite the high temperatures now, the possibility of a hard frost will be with us until the first of April or so. The stage is set for what could be a major economic disaster.
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