Local Food for the Holidays ! Whew, feeding 24 out of our garden for Thanksgiving weekend


So we made it to the deadline. The building was closed in and warm . We had a table , benches and a sink and even lights. Even though power was only run in with an extension cord.The oil lamps were lit.

Plus our ambitious goal to feed the masses from Tuesday through Saturday only from our garden or locally produced meat. Tuesday was bread preparation for Wednesdays early morning bake. Naturally fermented bread has many steps it goes through from the starter coming out of the frig. on Sunday, then added to and revitalized until Tuesday morning when it becomes the preferment, then dough, then loaves with many hours and folds in between. We ate Fish Chowder, rock fish traded for bread, our potatoes, parsley, garlic, and onions.Served with baby greens salad, purple onion and chopped parsley. Some of our sourdough bread from last week reheated.

Wednesday the oven was too hot. It was 800 degrees at 6am. I needed to get it down to 580 by 8am It keeps fooling us when it’s been fired for a few days, and it is already hot, it’s easy to overheat it. So we had time constraints, trying to deliver our orders so there were some dark sourdough loaves. Still everyone who came by or who arrived gorged themselves on fresh, warm bread. The blue cheese from Point Reyes with walnuts is always a favorite.

My idea was every family would take a loaf of bread, a dozen eggs from our chickens and jam for breakfasts. I think I got those to most everyone. Then Wednesday local cheese and warm bread with snacks for lunch. Dinner was lasagna from our homemade putanesca tomato sauce full of many garden vegetables and put up over the summer. The area we couldn’t keep up the local production was in the dairy. We bought in milk and cheese. Although a local dairy, commercially produced. Oh I would love it if you could again buy milk from small dairymen, but legislation trying to make us “safe” makes that near impossible. With the casserole we had salad with local beets and romanesco broccoli. Fresh bread and a tart made from redhaven peach and crabapple jam I made over the summer poured into a crust filled with frangipani, baked in the brick oven.
The Thanksgiving pies I made that day I was disappointed with because I baked them in a too hot oven, easy to do when the oven is wood fired. I made a butternut squash pie, from squash that I grew, and locally made mincemeat, from Lisa’a Luscious in Point Arena.

Thanksgiving arrived with the Turkeys my brother and his family picked up, I’d ordered them in August from Mendocino Organics, in Redwood Valley, pasture raised . They were the most beautiful turkeys I’d ever seen, so plump and firm, fresh. As Joel Salatin say’s “well exercised”, verses birds stuck in small cages, eating round-up sprayed feed laced with antibiotics . Roasting heritage breeds is different than the huge commercial turkeys, they have more muscle and less fat, so quickly roasting them at a high heat for fewer hours was recommended. We turned then three times and they baked for about two hours in the 450 brick oven. The had been brined the night before and were filled with oranges my neighbors brought up from their tree in LA and our onions. I made the croutons for the stuffing, then local celery traded for some backhoe time, onions and parsley. Bacon or sausage were the two types we made. The turkey was the best I’ve ever eaten. Support local pasture raised meat !

I had really planned the vegetable timing and the romanesqo broccoli and the lettuces, were perfect. The potatoes had looked great from above and I dreamed of letting the kids dig the potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner. I dug some up a week before to see the size of all the red potatoes I’d planted.They were covered with a scaly scab. Oh, bummer forty feet of bum potatoes, usable but ugly. But as I dug I found the fingerlings were fine . So I had to BUY some potatoes for the mashed potatoes so wonderfully made by my nephew Casey. The fingerlings were roasted with butternut squash, acorn squash, garlic and rosemary all grown here.


It was a wonderful meal. Followed by what I realized my family “does” when it has many hours together, SING . Then some impromptu acting, charades, and even some fabulous opera sung by my niece . When we were young my Dad, a self professed history buff, decided to try to remember the sea shanty’s he had heard as a child and also mixed with a large dose of Woody Guthrie. He taught himself these on the guitar and we all learned them as kids. We had an old fishing boat and would often show up at Catalina Island on the weekends. As we put down the anchor, my Dad would get out the guitar start singing, with all of us joining in, and the fancy yachts would pull up anchor and move away, leaving us with a perfect spot !

The next day Turkey sandwiches and homemade beer my brother had brewed and brought with him from Portland.

Then I made myself go on a walk, which led to a great mushroom walk all over our property, leading to a continued walk down under Hwy 1 in a tunnel and out to the ocean on the other side.

My brother in law dragged around David Aurora’s huge manual on mushrooms for the next day, looking like a preacher.


We made it to the lighthouse to see the most beautiful fall skies and ocean in turmoil. Another home grown salad and chili (our onions, home canned tomatoes, herbs and belted galloway beef from our local friend) and more bread ! for dinner.

I can’t remember when but everyone rode the horses around, led and instructed expertly by my sister the true equestrian. We had a great time. Everyone helped so much. It was fun to see what we all might do with one another when you have no TV, power, cell reception, internet access or phone. We had great fun and a wonderful visit all based around the hearth .

All the cousins cleaning up ! Thanks to my sister Heather for spending much of her Thanksgiving taking these wonderful photos.

Finding Roots


As we walked by the dining room, the sounds of thirty young men chanting “Ram Yam Kham, Om Ah Hum” with their deep resonant voices came flowing through the windows. The sound went down into my heart and I stood there shaking. We three, twenty year old girls had been trying to “find” where the men hung out in this monastery. Not understanding why these gorgeous,sensitive, burley, men weren’t looking for us . They were so different and unexpected. We had no warnings to stay away from them and had no experience of men that paid us so little mind.

Invited to Odiyan by the patron to help plant an area we had never seen before even in pictures. It was already disconcerting enough to just drive the windy coastline up, seeing almost no cars. On and on we went finally getting really scared when after an hour of no cars, a jeep drives by with about six big men in it, most with guns pointing up into the sky. Where were we ? Where were we going ? Finally a glimpse of what looked like an out of this world UFO, The white Stupa over on the hillside and some views of a shiny copper roof.

This first view of there, now thirty one years later, has stayed in my mind and the sound of the men chanting has stayed in my heart. I found my roots there and a community much like what the farming communities of old knew instinctively. How to work together, how to believe in oneself and my abilities. To gain confidence from hands on work and jobs accomplished from start to finish. Moral ethics required to live in a small community with integrity . What I was looking for in my culture, a sense of place and purpose and of participation in something larger, was all found here. But I still wonder how to instill it in my world and my children’s world now.

What we have lost through the decimation of rural culture and livelihood is enormous. No wonder teenagers are tattooing themselves and piercing their entire bodies. The world of TV, video games and texting has not given them a culture to interface with, only a cloud culture and no ground. The confidence to drive tractors and do important tasks that support the family and the communities well being. The moral character to represent their family and community. The entrepreneurial experience to start small industry and the creativity and problem solving ability necessary in rural life. America has represented this spirit
and creative, innovative genius, yet now has turned it’s back on what it takes to develop it in our culture. Come back to some ground and plant some vegetables, cook most of your meals, don’t buy processed goods shipped hundreds of miles.Teach your kids to cook and use local fresh ingredients. Buy enough from your local farmer to support their efforts. Say through your actions that you want this rural culture to be alive . Maybe we can bring back a community spirit that will inspire our children and give them the roots to succeed .

Food Sovereignty

We have the right to eat what we want, right ? No we certainly don’t . It is not the governments job to “protect” us from the choices we want to make. If I want to buy some milk from my local dairy it should be my choice, the Farmer should not go to jail for selling it to me. This is just protecting the big corporations from competition, even us little tiny guys.

Bring back rural economy, freedom to consume what we choose.

Help our alternative county, sign this Food Freedom petition.

http://www.mendopendence.com/2011/09/16/sign-petition-to-the-mendocino-county-board-of-supervisors-a-right-to-food-of-our-choice/

Thanksgiving-All local, home grown

This year we decided to host our families Thanksgiving Dinner. It didn’t matter that we did not have a big enough space to sit 25 people, much less a warm space to even get that many people inside.The most we’ve ever squished around our table was 10 and it was very difficult to crawl in and out of the kitchen then. We would just have to build it.

So began our January of this year. Trading for services, since we didn’t have the money. Cutting trees, milling the siding and wood for a table, doors and eventually cabinets( not by Thanksgiving). We started to close in the large roofed area where the oven is. Adding the sink and creating a space to make the bread and cook near our baking oven. Slowly arising out of the ashes and sawdust, a room took shape. We now also, through the help of a good friend, joined our wood slabs together to build a large table 11.5 feet long. The benches are still in the works as are the doors.

Lately the momentum of our farm has almost swept us away. We tried hard to keep this year focused on two projects, fencing a larger garden in and hopefully readying it to plant for this year ( also making a huge mountain of compost to amend our sandy virgin soil ); Then the oven area getting walls and warm for our crowd on Turkey day.

The adventures and stories involved in all this and the people who have helped it to happen this year could fill a book. But thanks to Chris San Giovanni, Amie Heath, Drew and Corina Common, Katie Norton and Margarita, Bobby Smith milling our wood, Bob Askew for making our Table.My sister Annie Woods for the Tablecloth and silverware and design vision. But mostly my husband Dennis for his constant support and willingly putting up with me.

Then came the food, it was almost easy to look past this part and just figure we’d eat bread. So growing now in the garden are two large beds of purple onions, a long bed 4×40′ of potatoes red, russets and yukon golds. We’ve ordered three turkeys through Mendocino organics CSA http://mendoorganicscsa.com/. The free range birds will not be as large as the commercially raised birds.The butternut squash is starting to get harvested as well as the acorn and delicata squash. The pumpkins are very small and I hope I have enough warm weather to get them to develop. Although I just found a wonderful pie recipe using butternut squash. Lettuces are in. It’s probably too late for more beets than we already have in the ground. Although I’m going to try for some carrots in the next couple of days. Parsnips, parsley, thyme are in the ground and romanesco broccolli are doing well. Peas are planted and starting up the fence and another bed in flower in the garden. Food has not been the hard part.

We’ve come a long way. The reality of trying to create takes a huge effort, like birthing a baby each time a new thing is created. At a certain point if you are doing good work your one step towards God is matched by his nine steps back towards you. The first step is the hardest but the bounty and abundance of the response is all worth it.

Ethics and Morals in eating Meat

Tomorrow we are going to butcher four Moscovy ducks at our place here.

It brought up different reactions in each of us. It was a request of our budding chef, volunteer Katie, who wants to learn as much about Farm to Table as she can. She saw nothing wrong with killing an animal to eat it, since she has made the choice to eat meat. Our other volunteer Margarita, who has witnessed home butchering, felt only sympathy for the animals. Me, the one who as a Buddhist has not killed any animals for many years, ( although I do throw slugs and snails to the chickens, then they can kill them) has considered this a lot.

Because we are a meat eating family, especially my husband, we eat grass fed, local animals, that I know have been raised humanely and kindly. Yet because I believe in the Biodynamic principles of gardening, and the value of animal manures in the compost to enrich the soil, is very important to me. It inherently brings with it the dilemma of animals whose value is no longer meeting the farming needs; and the old chicken that is no longer producing eggs needs to go into the soup pot. So that said, I knew I’d be sometime facing this moment. I’m going to see how it goes.

We then got on the discussion that taking another life creates violence within us. Then on the topic of guns. Which Katie abhorred, Margarita thought looked cute as a decoration and that I had to live with in my gun collecting Vietnam Vet husband.

Since keeping animals, especially for milk or dairy, brings with it the inevitability of babies born that won’t stay or have a long term place on the farm. The question arises as to how to humanely live a self sufficient lifestyle. Treating animals with respect and kindness and with careful husbandry is first and foremost to me. But the sanctuary I worked in seems to not fit here, and supporting animals that have outlived their usefulness is not smart farming.

The next question is whether we will put their viscera, blood and feathers on the compost pile? Are we not getting back to the roots of organic and traditional farming ? Shall I start to pick up fish heads and guts from the pier ? Why not, I regularly buy fish meal and blood meal containing fertilizers. Especially since I’ve realized that even though I was buying “organic” chicken manure, for gardens I was working in, it didn’t mean the chickens had been fed an organic diet. So therefore the manure bags were polluting my gardens with antibiotics and fly spray and the round up sprayed on the GMO corn.

Self Sufficiency Is Hard Work

So five years into building our farm and working outside to afford our farm. Plus living a self sufficient life, living off grid while doing this. Growing the majority of our food year round . Wildcrafting for local fruit; blackberries, huckleberries made into jams and frozen for mid winter feasting. Bartering and trading for anything from salmon and local rock fish, even abalone to lamb and goat cheese also lemons and wine. Our half a beef and the wild pig Dennis shot carrying us through. I find our meals to have become more and more gourmet and inspired. Needing abundant creativity and a very diverse garden to keep the meals interesting.

More and more I read and think about traditional lifestyles in rural France and Italy. How local food markets were based on a high standard and a reputation you didn’t want to ruin by offering a lesser grade product. Our tastes here in America have been ruined by old food overly processed, too much sugar and salt, not to mention mold . It will take careful eating practices to regain our taste buds in favor of fresh foods. I noticed I wasn’t that interested in vegetables; they didn’t seem to have any flavor. My kids too now love vegetables because they are fresh and flavorful. Growing traditional heirloom varieties of vegetables and fruits, brings back subtle flavors lost in our current market produce, grown for shelf life and ship-ability.

The work day is long and hard but the richness and integrity of living this type of life is so abundant . The pay is little for what we are producing but what we need is coming and a feeling of working within a community is developing. Doing good work trying to be kind to each other is bringing us closer and we all help to make this vision develop .

This Kiwi smells like compost


This morning my young daughter told me the Kiwi smelled like compost . Not garbage, or just stinky- but like compost. That’s how we are changing the world, through living the sustainability concept and the kids ” getting ” it !

Although my husband who is of the old school, has now learned not to feed our kids quick snacks found at the gas station mini mart, most of the time. It was good to realize that he’d stopped instead and bought organic fruit. Fruit is becoming our extreme luxury item now after living more than a year and a half only eating what we produce, and our trees are small ! We have currently grown tired of strawberries and boysenberries, coveting the fifteen french prunes on one tree. Soon we are off to harvest loads of blackberries to make our jam and to freeze for pies. But still the crunch of a apple or the juice running down my chin of a ripe peach makes my mouth water at the thought.

Still it’s wonderful to see my daughters not take for granted fruit and vegetable production. To learn to make do with what you have or to do without. Eat in season , creatively cook and eat from the garden.

Carried Away With Summer

I know I’ve written very little the last few months. Part of it is that I’m sleeping again, so no more 2am-4am writing times. The other part is this farm vision is taking effect before my eyes and it’s just so much work.

Today my husband and son-in law and the rest of us got part of the new fence up. This will increase the garden to about four acres. I’m trying to fill part of that with fruit trees, part of it with ornamental gardens, some rows of berries, then more vegetable space. I’m looking at it from an irrigation point of view. How I can run the systems and how much landscape can we reasonably water. Marketing what we produce seems to be relatively easy, so I’m trying to focus on what we like to eat and how to grow the most diversity of product to eat with year round. Also to try to grow mostly what will do well here.

These last few days have been like a farm camp here. Dennis riding three kids all piled around him on the four-wheeler. Dragging small sapling fir trees up to hatchet off the branches and hand peel the bark with a draw knife. They are all making a teepee, an authentic large sized one . Tonight our instant hot water heater washed six of our dusty bodies in a row, then did dinner dishes as well. I finally succumbed having typed the first part of this with dirt all over me and my clothes.

I feel it’s very important to include our whole family in farm and house chores. So visiting grandchildren harvested strawberries, weeded paths and then collected flower seed on their own inspiration to grow their own flower gardens at home. Helping with running errands picking food and preparing lunch out of the garden seems to make the food taste even better.Today doing a taste test of six different types of beets.Then gobbling them up in a salad .

Our freezer is full of Sherry’s cow and an extra lamb, plus lot’s of tan oak bark smoked salmon. We feel stocked for the winter. But the summer garden is going full force harvesting french filet beans, so far eating more of them in the garden than we have cooked, lettuces, spinach, beets, mizuna, peas, cauliflower, kale, potatoes, garlic, onions, leeks, broccoli, mixed greens: cucumbers, tomatoes and squash are just starting here on the coast in August. Winter vegetables are starting to go in, more potatoes, garlic, brassicas, peas, spinach, lettuces planted in the next months for winter harvest.

Since my family is coming here for Thanksgiving, I’ve been planting acorn squash, pumpkins, etc. specifically with that holiday in mind. It’s inspiring me to finish many undone projects around the ranch, hopefully many will get done. Three turkeys were ordered from http://mendoorganicscsa.com/2011/07/01/thanksgiving-christmas-turkeys/. To reserve for the holiday. My brother made the comment today, his birthday, when I called; ” You know Katie, we could always just go buy something from the store, if we need it ” . Yeah cranberry bogs just don’t grow around here, but we could dig a pond and try ? OK Ok .