Seven Grandfathers Farm


Bell bean cover crop May 2012.jpg

Thirty years ago, Craig Thomas had toiled over a specific French drain for his raspberries, hoping to eliminate any standing water, and improve drainage. It wasn’t about the bees pollinating or the rabbits eating the canes in winter. Soil structure and organic nutrients were not the problem in this meticulously tended garden. Insects and pests simply didn’t have a fighting chance because the ground was teaming with beneficial microbes. But his clay soils harbored a common soil-born fungus that made organic raspberry farming a challenge.


While grappling with the raspberry problem, Craig decided to call El Dorado County Agriculture Department about the poor performance of the berries, and was surprised to hear back from Dick Bethel himself, then El Dorado’s county Farm Advisor. A personal visit was the next surprise, and if three is good luck, Dick diagnosed the difficulty quick as a wink. “You’ve got phytophthora”, he told Craig. “Pretty common around here, a systemic condition that makes some berries tough to grow in these soils”. What you’ve got to do is hunt for and try disease-resistant berry varieties. But that wasn’t all Bethel confided to Craig. “You have done a remarkable job with your place, here.” he went on. “This is what an organic farm should look like.”


Craig set about to plant blackberries and almost by accident found a successful variety as part of a free trial variety sent by an Oregon nursery. This variety, “Triple Crown”, is a product of research and trials done in partnership between USDA and the University of Washington and offered to the public to grow and propagate without patent restrictions. The rest is history so they say, since now, each season, the small farm sells berries in stores in Placerville, Auburn and Grass Valley and to folks who come to the farm. On the 7.5 acres parcel, 2 acres are farmed organically with a variety of vegetables, 60 orchard trees including stone fruits, figs, apples, basil, lettuce, kale, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, onions, and garlic and then there are the lovely flower bouquets you often see at Placerville Co-op. “This year, we might direct some effort toward CSA subscriptions, or a larger farm stand,” Craig said. “Right now we are happy selling directly to locations such as the Placerville Co-op. Generally, what we pick and what a customer buys is enjoyed by their family within an 8-hour time period. It is very satisfying to be able to provide that degree of local organic produce to the community.”

Three years after moving to El Dorado County, Craig began farming in Kelsey, and by the mid-1980’s it was El Dorado County’s first certified organic farm. Craig was proud of finally achieving what had been his vision for some time. In late 1970’s Craig taught the first sustainable agriculture class at Chico State University, popular with the younger generation of Peace Corp and first-time farmers. Craig also earned an anthropology degree from Chico State with an emphasis on cultural ecology, a program that reinforced his own philosophies around the spiritual, social, economic and ecological relationship between people and Mother Earth. In the late 1970’s he decided to call El Dorado County home and organic farming a way of life.


Seven Grandfathers Farm was named one day when Craig was in his field, enjoying a beautiful day full of sunshine and the ridge-top vista when he looked up and saw seven perfectly formed pure white thunderheads looking down on him. He thought of the Seven Grandfathers and the relationship with the land, a rich inheritance to be respected and passed on as caretakers, its quality fostered by his and his wife’s hands and enhanced by beneficial insects, tons of compost, cover crops, soil tests, an old Kubota tractor, a suite of well-cared-for hand tools and a labor of love


Craig also has his hand in the Sierra Forest Legacy program, as its co-founder and Conservation Director. This is an independent coalition of 80 environmental non-profit organizations that work on Federal forest policy and how the national forests should be managed. This is what he calls his “day job”, a term often echoed in the farming community. His scientific background (and his wife Vivian’s, too, as a biologist), form his attitude about food safety regulations as well as the rigorous methods and practices they both use on their organic farm. “Regulations have a valid role in government to make sure our food supply is healthy and safe,” he said. Craig believes, based on USDA research, that many, many more people are turning to organic to insure their own family’s food quality and safety. “Organic farmers, like myself, demonstrate extensive procedures that are audited annually to validate compliance with the USDA, National Organic Program and quality. And people want that.”

These procedures include more than having your regulatory status in order and up to date. Paying apt attention to the health of the soil is a number one priority. “That soil organic matter and the right balance of nutrients makes for nutritious food,” Craig emphasized. This includes careful attention to crop rotation, soil testing, compost management, increasing organic matter in the soil, and whatever else a farmer can do to increase plant health and nutrition. Contrary in philosophy of big industrial farming, who mostly lean on unnatural, chemical sprays and fertilizers, it isn’t the yield or the weeds Craig is concerned about, it is making sure that soil is a happy city of microbes doing their job in his two acres of intensive farming. Certification comes via the California Certified Organic Farmer nonprofit organization (CCOF), committed to advancing organic agriculture through certification, education, advocacy and promotion.


The non-profit Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) supports organic integrity by developing clear information and guidance about materials, so that producers know which products are appropriate for organic operations. Only OMRI registered sprays or soil amendments are used at Seven Grandfathers Farm, “and more natural products are showing up for organic use that are targeted and quick to degrade due to intensified organic research,” Craig said. “For example, there is a spray that is used to paralyze the gut of the Coddling Moth larva, a common apple pest in the Sierra Nevada foothills and elsewhere, that is specific to the larva of this moth without harming other insects. This targeted natural product eliminates the need for widespread pesticide chemical use.”

Farming is not without its wildlife challenges. “It’s quite a sight,” Craig relates, “watching three grey foxes climb one of our cherry trees as they come ripe. But part of the relationship with the land is to foster a harmony with the critters that have lived here a lot longer than we have. So the deer, wild turkeys, tanagers, hawks, foxes, raccoons and my neighbor’s cat work out the agreement between maintaining habitat diversity, a reasonable level of “sharing” and a healthy level of organic food production for our community.”

Craig’s background includes a stint in the marketing and selling of fresh farm goods as well. In the later 80’s he started the Peoples Mountain Market in Garden Valley that runs June-October in Garden Valley Park, corner of Garden Valley Rd. and Marshall Rd. Local growers mix it up with musicians and crafters in a welcoming park environment. Craig started the outdoor market with a friend and managed it twice during its 30-plus year history.

Now, on the Board of Directors for Placerville Natural Foods Co-op, Craig hopes to help strengthen the relationship between local growers, and outlets like the Coop and the communities they serve. His article in the February 2017 newsletter spells out his heartfelt encouragement to buy/eat local.

Buying Local benefits include:

  • The desire for food of superior quality—freshness, flavor, ripeness, and extended shelf life;
  • Understanding food safety issues and learning about farming practices directly from the grower, including visiting the farm;
  • Support for small business in the local community;
  • Preserving farmland and open space while supporting sustainable economic activity;
  • Access to unique and heirloom varieties;
  • The ability to buy products that don’t survive long-distance shipping;
  • Depending on several factors such as the farming system, the possibility of a lower carbon footprint and CO2 emissions from production through consumption.
  • Natural food stores and local farmer’s markets have the highest level of consumer trustworthiness (USDA 2014)

“Good food does not come in a store shelf box.”  by Unanimous


February Comfort Food

Winter Pot Roast.jpg

A winter pot roast is the perfect match for a day when the rains took a breather and you want to get out in the garden, or at least get some seeds planted in the garage!

So simple to do in the morning:

Put the pot roast in a skillet with some bacon drippings and brown all sides, along with some hand fulls of onion, pepper, carrot, quash, potatoes, whatever you like.  Pour the lot into the slow cooker and add a couple cups of wine, and broth, turn on high for 6 hours or less and take it out when the dinner salad is ready.



Seeds for Spring

Sounds like a book title, but no, it was to be a video.  Then I find out I have to upgrade this site to post videos.  The forthcoming rains predicted are a good reason not to plant directly into the garden containers.   So here is the set up in photos, instead.

The shoe bag is a terrific idea because it does not leak, you can hang it wherever it gets good light, and watering is a simple matter of a squirt now and then with a water bottle.  The dirt is organic seed starting mix that was first well mixed with water, an important step. It cannot be too wet or too dry.  Some seeds (the package read) need light to germinate, so I didn’t cover again with a bit of mix. I didn’t fill the pockets but half-way, good thing, because it was heavy enough!

The other containers on the right came from store-bought produce, oven-ready chicken or regular seed starter trays.  The trays collect any water dripping out, and I don’t plan to over water the other containers which do not have drain holes. The covers keep the humidity and moisture just about right. These containers all have greens: kale, lettuces, parsley, arugula, and the like.  The seeds for root vegetables are going into the ground tomorrow, 2/13, since they are sensitive to transplanting.   I’ll keep you posted!



There I go again, copying one of those “that looks good” recipes off the internet.Yesterday, I must have torn out a baker’s dozen from some of the magazines saved up.

What is the matter with me?! The internet is full of any and every possible recipe known to man or woman. Even kids pick up their I phones if they need to know how to make something. Yet I continue the magazine subscriptions like a junkie.

My society meeting members know better than to bring something to eat to a meeting without a recipe. “Can I get your recipe” is quickly satisfied compared to having to go back home, dig it up and email it. There are others like me out there. My sister says the same thing, and complains about her boxes of paged recipes waiting for more attention.

I can’t believe the amounts of money I have spent over the years paying people to file those slips of paper. They are smarter than I am, but occasionally one will belabor over several stacks of sorted pages, asking if she, too, might copy some. My file drawers are full, waiting for the big “cleanout day”. My computer is full. Now I have several files of different project, and of course there is a Recipe Section.

My favorite TV food network show is the “Chew”. That cast of characters can keep you laughing over more recipes produced in their lickety-split segments than any I know.

I can’t believe the amount of time I spend on the internet looking for that “one that looks good” today. Of course I have signed up to receive a daily email, but the one I want is not on the agenda of those listed. Not today anyway. This allows me time to complain about the number of emails I have to wade through and also how hard it is to find what you are looking for on the internet.

Then, because I am such a health-minded foodie, I must add, subtract, substitute and revise every one to meet the latest information received about “better choices”. By this time, half the day has slipped through my recipe-finding colander, and I can complain about that, too. More research, more time, after all one cup of sugar isn’t one cup of stevia, you know.

Then there are the fabulous blogs I follow. It isn’t just that they have a daily notice on email for an important health facts, there are recipes to catch your eye, your time, your copier, and that big in-box of like-minded paper under the desk.

What is one to do? I have, in the past, put together workshops for foodies like myself. Like most addicts, I had a hidden agenda. After all was said and done, complaints aired, questions raised and answered, problems resolved, surely someone would come up with a way to stop the craving I had to keep collecting recipes. No such luck. We left every meeting with a whole new set to file, or put in “that box”.

Today I blame Michael Symon’s Coconut Cake:

Coconut Cake MICHAEL

This Coconut Cake is delicious for any occasion!


4 cups cake flour or all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 1/4 cups unsalted butter (room temperature)
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 lemon (zested)
4 large eggs (room temperature)
2 1/2 cups buttermilk (well shaken)
4 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup coconut water
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups sweetened shredded coconut

For the Cake:
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line the bottoms of 2 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper and spray with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together. Add the vanilla, lemon zest, and eggs one at a time and mix to combine. Slowly add the buttermilk and then the flour mixture in 3 additions. Turn the speed to high and mix to aerate the batter, about 30 seconds.

Place in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, turning and rotating the pans halfway through baking. Remove from oven and cool completely.
For the Coconut Icing: Prepare a double boiler with water and turn the heat on to a simmer.

In a medium bowl, add the egg whites, sugar, coconut water, cream of tartar, and salt, and mix to combine. Place the bowl over the simmering water and immediately begin whisking. Whisk until the egg whites start to become frothy and the sugar has dissolved, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

Pour the egg white mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whisk on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add the coconut and vanilla extract and whip on medium-high speed for 3 more minutes until light and fluffy.
To Assemble: Slice each cake round in half horizontally. Stack the first layer of cake onto a cake stand. Spread about 3/4 cup of frosting to the edge of the cake and sprinkle with 1/4 cup of coconut, top with another layer of cake, followed by 3/4 cup of frosting spread to the edge and 1/4 cup of shredded coconut. Repeat three more times ending with the frosting.
Coat the sides of the cake with the remaining shredded coconut. Slice and serve.
Tip: For a store-bought solution, use your favorite cake mix and add lemon zest to the batter.



Approximately 4,000 California walnut growers produce over 600,000 short tons of walnuts annually.  Right here in El Dorado County, 205 walnut trees on 10 acres at Perry Creek Walnut Farm are budding out that delicious fruit at a steady pace.  A rainy season promises a bumper crop of organic English walnuts for the farm in Somerset, say proprietors Betty Allen and Bob DaCosta.


sign Betty Allen moved from New York to Somerset in 2010 and never looked back. Although she advertises on a regular basis with her New York business network, Betty also sells to locals and internet customers.   Betty and Bob do all the harvesting, drying, shelling, packing and shipping the old fashioned way—by hand. The walnuts are harvested in October   Whole and shelled walnuts are available in all sizes from 1 to 10 pounds, plus shipping. Twenty pounds in the shell brings you an additional two free pounds.


Well known in the community, Perry Creek FLAV-R-ROASTED Fancy Mixed Nuts and sugar and spice and candied walnut packages are available at the farm stand out front. You will also find homemade items such as 3-Berry Jam, Apple Butter, Organic Pasta Sauce, farm fresh organic eggs and vegetables in season . Community involvement includes fostering animals, Pioneer Firefighters Association and Farm Bureau as well as El Dorado County Farm Trails Association.nutmachinebettys-farm-stand


*In 2011, Walnuts were certified by the American Heart Association as a heart healthy food. Researchers include walnuts in superfood lists to help you

Initial findings from the Walnuts and Healthy Aging (WAHA) study presented at Experimental Biology 2016 (EB) indicate that daily walnut consumption positively impacts blood cholesterol levels without adverse effects on body weight among older adults.1 The WAHA study is a dual site two-year clinical trial conducted by researchers from the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona and Loma Linda University and is aimed at determining the effect of walnuts on age-related health issues.

A USDA Ag Research Service study results show that daily consumption of 1.5 ounces of walnuts significantly affects the bacteria in the human gut in a way that is favorable to decreasing inflammation and cholesterol, which are two known indicators of heart health.

Researchers from the University of Georgia have found walnuts to be a great option for getting more polyunsaturated fat into the diet, with 13 grams per ounce.

Walnuts are unique among nuts in that they are primarily composed of polyunsaturated fat (13 grams per ounce), which includes alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the plant-based omega-3 fatty acid. They are the only nut to contain a significant amount of ALA with 2.5 grams per one ounce serving.

90% of the phenols in walnuts are found in the skin. The form of vitamin E found in walnuts is in the form of gamma-tocopherol, found to provide significant heart health protection.

94.5% of U.S. adults consume no tree nuts whatsoever. Researchers find that nut eaters take in 5 grams more fiber, 260 mg. more potassium, 73 more mg. of calcium, 95 more mg. of magnesium, 3.7 mg. more E and 157 mg. less sodium.

California produces 90% of the 38% of all walnuts grown in the U.S.

Quinone juglone, a rare and valuable antioxidant/anti inflammatory in walnuts, is found in virtually no other commonly-eaten foods.

Most walnut trees are grown on black walnut rootstock these days, so it is interesting that a particular toxin called “juglone” from the roots, buds, leaves and nut hulls seeps into the soil and may turn susceptible plants nearby yellow or cause them to wilt and die. It is important to keep the highest concentration of the toxin that exists around the canopy of the tree raked clear.
Field crops like alfalfa, crimson clover and tobacco are especially sensitive to black walnut tree toxicity as are vegetables like asparagus, cabbage, eggplant, pepper, potato, rhubarb and tomato. Susceptible fruits are apple, blackberry blueberry, and pear.

Purdue University has informal lists of plants that tolerate juglone and those that are sensitive to it, and planting, according to the University of Wisconsin, can be up to 50’-80’ from the trunk. Naturally you need to consider the sun and shade requirements of the plants, as well. For more information: The go-to book for anyone growing nut and fruit trees in California is the UC Davis publication, The Home Orchard.





Adapted from a great site “Modern Farmer” you might want to correspond via

The history of turkey domestication goes back 2,000 plus years to an archaeological site in Guatemala, probably a ceremony, sacrifice or feast.

Picture this. The first Thanksgiving in Plymouth, where the Mayflower’s provisions yielded little that might resemble a feast, let enough to feed the 50 or so Pilgrims and 90 Wampanoag who attended. William Bradford, the governor of the Plymouth colony, wrote that deer (or venison) was a centerpiece of that 1621 meal. Wild turkey as well as ducks, geese, swans, and small birds were probably part of the main fare on that first harvest holiday. Other local food of the day included seafood and shellfish, corn, probably multicolored, hard ground and stewed into porridge. Additional vegetables included potatoes, winter squash (hubbard, acorn, butternut), Jerusalem artichokes, beans and berries. Since their supplies were depleted by the time of their arrival, the feast would be void of pumpkin pie.

Turkeys originated in Mexico, turn different colors depending on mood or breeding season, and the “snood” above the beak is what attracts female turkeys, the larger the better.

We don’t see turkey eggs at the market because it makes more economical sense to market the bird not the not-so-plentiful production of eggs (at $3-3.50 apiece).

Their name came from a mistaken identity early on by settlers who thought they were guinea fowl from Turkey. But it would be too weird to change the name to “Mexico”.

They are called Guajolotes in Mexico, and sometimes, because of a somewhat ignorant populace, I’ve heard, they become elected officials.

Digging the Dirt with UCCE Master Gardeners

I recently had the pleasure of attending Secrets of the Soil, a workshop,         with the likes of:

Chuck Ingels, Farm and Horticulture Advisor with UC Cooperative Extension in Sacramento County since 1996 and overseer of the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center.
His topic:            Physical Characteristics of Soil, Plant Roots and the Rhizosphere

Amanda Hodson, Ph.D in Entomology and U.C. Davis Project Scientist.
Her topic:           Soil Food Web, Defining Healthy Soil

 Rei Scampavia, doctorial candidate at UC Davis, researches nest site selection in bee species. Her topic:  Ecosystem Services and Ground Nesting Bees

Their presentations are available on the .edu link above, as well as these presentations:

What is IPM?         
Beneficial Predatores

Agricultural and Natural Resources

Also check out the .edu link above for resourceful links such as:


Yes, I am very impressed, inspired and encouraged with my re-acquaintance with Master Gardeners of El Dorado County. The workshop was more than terrific – I even came home with a worm composting bin for red wigglers!  The link below gives you step by step directions.  redwigglerwormcomposter



I got lots of my questions answered, and not all of them agreed with what else I’ve heard. Which gives credence to the words of Chuck Ingels when he tries to answer questions from the gardening community. “It depends,” he says. It depends on too many variables given the complexity of the world beneath, above, and around the soil.   There are millions of species, thousands of studies, and way too many possibilities for any given situation. I guess that’s why they offer so many classes. Hats off to Master Gardeners!


New Destinations in Old Newtown, CA.

The Davies Family Inn is also known as
ShadowRidge Ranch
3700 Fort Jim Rd.
Placerville, CA 95667jimlindaweddingpix
Proprietors: Jim Davies and Linda Hopkins Davies

The setting for this story could be a Hollywood movie fade-in on a thriving mining community southeast of Placerville, CA in the early 1850’s. It was called “Newtown”. You can vividly imagine the noisy rousting about of the miners in and about the saloons and boardwalks crowded with all manner of local folks trying to go about their business amid barking dogs, horses, carriages and stagecoaches coming and going. The Wells Fargo Concord Stage Coach was the grandest of all, carrying the gold to Sacramento

Newtown is where the party of Mormons, on their way to Salt Lake after moving through Placerville (Old Hangtown), built a corral for their stock to fatten up for the long trip. Besides, they found enough gold in a ravine near Weber Creek to make their stop worthwhile. They named the area Pleasant Valley. Another town grew nearby called Dog Town. In 1849, five of those men returned and by 1852 the miners secured construction of ditches from the north and south forks of Weber Creek and from the North Fork of the Cosumnes River.woman-washing-gold-river-13623411old-town-3026565

It was too great a secret to be kept. Population of miners exploded. A sawmill was built in Pleasant Valley, and Newtown was born, first with a store, then a hotel, butcher shop, post office, brewery, billiard saloons, drinking establishments and miners’ cabins. Newtown was filled and kept growing. The population was 99% male. It is said that one diversion for those gold panners tired of the saloon or the streambed would be to watch Dr. Snow’s wife hang her

The Davies Family Inn is at Shadowridge Ranch, the original homestead of the Raffetto family who owned a couple of stores in Newtown or Sunny Italy, as the Italians liked to call it. There they sold produce and goods that they raised and made on the ranch, to the gold miners.* In January 1872 came the worst storm on record, followed by a severe earthquake. In May the village of Hanks Exchange, just a few miles to the west, burned and then, a few months later, Newtown was struck.

On Oct. 12, 1872 a fire started in the Newtown brewery and rapidly spread to the remainder of the town. The inhabitants bravely fought the fire that would leave many of them penniless, but were unable to stop its spread. Soon nearly every building in this prosperous town became nothing but a pile of ashes. Small portions of the town were rebuilt, but many of the residents moved elsewhere.

After only 20 years, Newtown, a town that once had more citizens than Placerville, became only a shadow of its once prosperous youth.

*Read John Gardella Reminiscences of Old Newtown – – B

Martin T. Smith authors a delightful account of Henry Hooker’s time in this area:

In 1919, Charles and Matilda (Tilly) Carpenter purchased the ShadowRidge Ranch for a staggering $2,000, which took them years to pay off! Some of the buildings were destroyed by fire, so Charles began rebuilding them. Using timber from the ranch, each log was felled by hand, skidded with a team of horses, hewn by hand, winched into position and chinked with local clay. Charles then traveled by horse and wagon to San Francisco where he salvaged doors, windows and flooring from the 1915 Panama Exposition World’s Fair. Most are still intact and can be seen today in the cabins.

Since there was little money for decorating, Tilly set about planting her famous flower gardens. By the mid 1920’s her garden had become so large and colorful, people from all over the county would travel the old dusty road just to glimpse the magnificent waves of colors, shapes, and fragrances. Today the gardens have been carefully restored, many of the flowering plants returning year after year from the original

lodgecozyoriginalhouse2customcraftedbridgeToday, ShadowRidge Ranch sports friendly meadowgardenhospitality to BnB visitors, wedding parties, corporate events, and celebrations of all kinds. Jim Davies is the Chef in residence and his wife Linda is more than an adept event planner and hostess. The grounds, gardens, and every aspect of the lodge and accommodations are so thoughtfully and meticulously cared for you would think a maintenance behindcarriagehousecrew is operating full time.

Backroads Barn
Proprietor: Reneé Hargrove barnstorage renee2 barnfoundation soup-to-nuts perfectaccessory

Adjacent to ShadowRidge Ranch/Davies Family Inn, the Backroads Barn shares the property’s rustic setting. It is a charming destination for visitors looking for vintage, antique, repurposed and quality handcrafted goods. It has become a popular destination to be considered along the way to El Dorado wineries, farms, ranches, shops and restaurants.

Reneé explains that Dave Thomson and some key ‘pickers’ have built a unique and specialized vintage inventory for the Backroads Barn.  Dave is known for his water features, which add a calm and cooling essence to the already appealing scenery. Many local artisans’ wares are featured in the shop’s center, as well as in the adjacent storage barn. Reneé makes an effort to showcase artisans’ work along with “keeping it local” and American-made. Backroads Barn also sells architectural salvage, like reclaimed wood, hardware, and old doors so their customers can create lifestyle pieces for themselves or for resale.

The painted wooden barn quilt was one of the first installed in 2015 after El Dorado County Farm Trails Association’s ‘Quilt Trail Project’ began. Each barn quilt has special meaning to each host location so The Davies Family Inn wanted to honor the lore of the homestead and onsite cabins.

Visit Backroads Barn Friday through Sunday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. unless there is a Wednesday Special Event Sale. and

SECURED! A Short Story of Reinforced Dimensions


The new compost bin was long in contemplation and even longer to begin. The small version of a composter–a catalog-order tumbler– had been in use for three seasons now and had to be rejected since, come each spring, it produced slightly more than a couple of buckets of compost tea. It really wasn’t made for the long haul, as they say, due to being too heavy to turn by hand once full, and even more difficult to accept the turn of a pitchfork. It did not get enough carbon to offset the nitrogen from kitchen waste. Garden gurus worth their kohlrabi would have just laughed at the effort, I’m sure.  I was finally compelled to just do it, and do it right.  First I found a spot. Some some, mostly shade.spotmostlyshade

I read everything and everybody I could put the computer mouse onto, in addition to the Heirloom Expo’s haul of books I took home. Feeling confident now with the fall season’s leaf drop and onslaught of cuttings and declined vegetable plants, I asked our helper Brooks for a work day and told my husband about the plan. Bruce is of the attitude “you gotta do what you gotta do” when it comes to gardening, along with steering himself nowhere near, mentally or physically.postholedigger30lb-electricjackhammer
posts-go-in-cementBut, it was a sure thing Bruce would get involved when he saw that Brooks didn’t measure to the inch when he cemented in the posts. Bruce is a very methodical person. “Put your foot where you want the post,” I remember Brooks saying. “Don’t you want some string and boards and a measuring tape?” I asked, remembering those used by our neighbor on the vegetable garden when he built it. “No, no,” Brooks shot me his I-know-what-I’m-doing-look. “We’re not building the Taj Mahal,” he said more than once.

The rest is a slow history of the two men visiting Home Depot, methodically measuring, explaining,-sawing, talking, stopping for lunch, talking, visiting Home Depot, measuring, and then discussing how to enclose the bin. A bear would visit our property on a yearly or biennial jaunt, and one year literally tore the cover off the tumbler despite its riveted construction. Other varmints seen on the property include wild turkey, fox, possum, moles, gophers, deer, mice, voles, toads, snakes, and oh yes, the darling and destructive squirrels.fencepulledtaut

After waiting for Bruce to research the fence idea, and then waiting for the snow fence to arrive at ACE, it was a sure thing that once those two went back at it that it would be a long, slow, methodical and tedious project.  Not because of the talking, measuring, re-measuring, talking, trips to Home Depot and lunch, but because this bin had to be a sturdy and steadfast construction to withstand the certain frequent and violent attacks by starving skunk, possum, mice and occasional bear. It must be reinforced. Heavily reinforced.


The fence was pulled taut. Many hundreds of heavy-gauge staples were pounded in. Two-by-fours were added along the top sides and in the middle all around. It was very well reinforced.reinforcedsides

The rain forecast was the next topic of lengthy conversation. Although
water would be needed to wet the material inside the bin it had to be a controlled output, so rain had to be kept to a minimal through the cover.  In addition to the quandary of how to build a top that one could get into, and how to build a front to access and turn said pile, loomed the question –once the hinged cover was built — how to weatherize it so it would hold up over time. Brooks was sent home while Bruce thoroughly researched the weatherization process through visits to paint shops, the internet and home improvement centers until finally………ok, paint, not resin or varnish, but what color?  Great ponderation ensued while, hinges on half the cover were installed making it easier to lift back onto itself.

Meanwhile, the erstwhile female homesteader is collecting compost of every size, type, color, age, and description that matches the most researched advice of compost gurus in the gardener kingdom.  Garbage cans on the property came into use and were filled with layers of vegetable peelings, brown leaves, green cuttings and dirt from the post pilings. Some required safer cover than others and were stored in the garage.

This activity was largely interrupted by the necessity of making fruit fly traps out of paper cups and topped with Saran wrap and then there was always lunch to attend to. There were additional distractions such as having to explain that yes, we do want worms in the compost bin, they belong there.  And don’t throw away that clean cardboard egg carton. My insistence on saving empty toilet paper rolls required a full dissertation. A gallon of red paint appeared on the scene.

The next distraction came due to the rain.  Although Brooks was long gone and fewer lunches had to be made, the project began to grind to a halt with the weather finished-with-topreport, in usual panic tone, indicating we should be building Noah’s Ark instead. The paint and hinges finished the cover just in time to place a full garbage can of leaves and cardboard underneath to stay dry until better weather and a blueprint for the front could be developed.  After much final research and discussion about the front of the unit, it was decided that a door made of plywood would be the sturdiest function.  Of course Brooks might need to reappear at the site in order to assist in the measuring, sawing, talking, trips to Home Depot, and lunch.

Well, the rain came in downpours and then some. We began to wonder about building that Ark. It lasted several days. We parked the car outside the garage and it got a thorough washing. Bruce worked on the door of the bin inside the garage and decided not to call Brooks just yet. He painted the huge 55” square frame of heavy plywood, fully braced of course, with more of the red paint. In between coats, I had to help turn the monstrosity over. I imagined that all that red paint put the door at a whole new level of sturdiness.backviewdooronAll of a sudden June bugs, large black beetles, began to appear in the garage. Most of them were belly-up on the cement, waving their legs. I can only assume they wanted, much more than I did, what was in that bucket full of cut up, over-ripe pumpkin that Small Box Farm donated to the compost bin, and that they had largely overeaten, otherwise they would be able to roll themselves upright, no? Removing them was another distraction, and lunch for Bruce was late that day.

The rains stopped, sun appeared, and the red door was moved outside to get another coat.It was then that I noticed gopher mounds near the post of the bin. OMG, I had forgotten about the critters coming up from underground! We needed wire!
Bruce told me to go online and find out what advice they had for gophers. There was conversation about the fact hardware cloth was actually wire, but what gauge? There were recollections of our building gopher baskets of “gopher wire”. I looked up the phone numbers for Tractor Supply, Front Yard Nursery and Home Depot. I was referred to Clifton & Warren Farm Supply.

When I got there, I could see that gopher wire was not recommended to put on the bottom of the compost bin, that it would not hold back an adult, full-fat critter. So Clifton & Warren had the hardware cloth and cut it to size for me. The biggest distraction there were the half-dozen youths, including brand-new hires, so energetic and anxious to help that a time-consuming round table discussion transpired with everyone chiming in over the size gauge, the taller or shorter roll, and how many feet exactly was 55”? Finally a price was devised and I left, glad to have some outdoor sunshine left in the day. It felt good on my shoulders. I didn’t even mind that we had skipped lunch.wire-in-the-binfront-bd-in-bin

Next day, I found Bruce busily trying out a number of fasteners for the Red Door. “I thought you were going to put a handle on the cover so I could lift it,” I reminded him in my sweetest whine. “Yes, I will get to it,” he whined back. Therein was discussed in-depth whether or not opening the cover first or opening the door was the priority in terms of using the bin for compost.  Bruce did remember to put in the lower board inside the door, however.  Time passed. Bruce decided on the biggest, most secure bolt he could find in that stash of bolts, screws and bits any compost builder worth his screwdriver would have on hand. Actually, he put in two bolts, top and bottom.

secure-boltcroppedHe instructed me to try them out. They were secure. Very secure. I gave him a hi-five and we went in for lunch.



A Persimmon Walked into a Bar

Persimmon is a Fall favorite, native to China, introduced to California during the mid 1800’s. There are many varieties of the “non-astringent” persimmon which contains less tannins than its “astringent” cousins which must ripen fully to be eaten or included in recipes. I have used both California persimmons most easily found, the Fuyu and Hachiya varieties in baking by ripening them in a paper bag with a few apples. The purees may be used the same as you might use pumpkin, taking care to strain out the fibrous inner strands of the fruit.  Shown above is the persimmon tree, the Hachiya, the Fuyu, Persimmon Bars and more Fuyu.

In addition to a good supply of vitamins and minerals, some of persimmon’s health benefit properties include dietary fiber, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidants like the carotenoid Zea-xanthin which protects against age-related macular disease.

Lemon-Glazed Persimmon Bars

1 large egg
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups finely chopped dates, or stemmed, re-hydrated dried figs, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup persimmon pulp
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
lemon zest (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 350*F.
  2. Combine egg, sugar, and finely chopped dates or figs in a bowl; mix well. Stir in 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice and baking soda. Add a mixture of flour, salt, cinnamon, orange zest, nutmeg, and cloves alternately with pureed persimmons, mixing well after each addition. Stir in chopped nuts.
  3. Spread in a 9 x 13-inch baking pan lined with parchment paper sprayed with cooking spray, and bake for 25 minutes, or until light brown. Cool for 5 minutes. Lift out of pan by using edges of parchment paper and cool completely before glazing and cutting.
  4. Glaze with a mixture of powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice.  Sprinkle lemon zest over moist glaze, if desired.  May be frozen, placed in pie boxes.

Makes 24 bars.