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April 16, 2014

F O R A G E R

Waterchokes              16 April 2014

 

 

After so much liquid drama, more water news may not be your cup of tea, so we won’t dwell so tediously on the well. It’s going to get fixed. We don’t own it. The county does, but they have no interest in seeing that it works again. Should they? I do pay them over three thousand dollars in property tax for land I don’t own-the Buttondown Gang owns it-and the dough just gets flung down that big bottomless hole on Victoria Street where the parasites have their nest. The older I get the more Limbaugh I sound. Oh, the horror. Our friends will help fix the well. I get tired of crabbing as much as anyone who has to hear it. Crisis and opposition make for useful content.

During the great desiccation symbolized by our well needing complete renovation, so many consoling fellow desert travelers offered their observations and shared their justifiable concerns. We all are pulling uncertain oars gamely across these shallows, united in hope, yet still wondering if we should put our homes on the market before the taps are closed.

I do harbor a twisted, somewhat depraved and precipitous quality of mind on occasion, but it does no one good, and entertains me only briefly. I have now stopped recommending that everyone go out and buy up the plywood necessary to board up the windows and doors of their homes when the lake runs dry and we are all obligated to shove off for Colombia, Indonesia or Sri Lanka. Plywood prices are bound to soar. But even these predictably soggy locales will and have suffered deprivations similar to ours. Their droughts are just not so dependable as Southern California’s. My Kona, Hawaii correspondent, Mr. Bong related today that the Big Island drought is now in its twelfth year.

All such latherless blather aside, today’s share features artichokes courtesy of that now dimly remembered week of pounding rain that yielded six inches on the farm, 17 insane inches in the Matilija watershed. I had abandoned the patch. The ‘chokes had been in there for four years, with the dirt getting more and more packed down with all our walking on it and tractor mowing once the crop was done. I stopped fertilizing them, pulled the irrigation out, but persist did the little devils. Then come the ballyhoo gullywasher of ’14 and back they surged like they had their roots in Castroville-national capital of the waterchoke, where it’s foggy and drizzly as the Netherlands, where first the human mouth became acquainted with that edible flower. Those Dutch must have been desperately hungry to have bit down on that once bitterly tough morsel, now hybridized for your tender tongue. The big red ones are heirlooms from Italy, La Violetta, with thorns sharp as yesteryear. Take hold of the stem and clip the spines off the leaves before cooking, thereby protecting the unsuspecting from unannounced ouch.

Today’s surprise offering renders plenty of roots, so you might consider baking everything together like Wes Jones did yesterday, sans leaves, with a slather of olive oil, a crush of thyme, and all those turnips and green garlic in the bottom of your crisper. Hey, Wednesday People, if those purple Kohl Rabis are still down in there too, haul them out and cut them in half. They are probably still OK. Peel back the garlic one level and chop it in. After baking for twenty, pull the pan and stir the stuff. You might cover it at first to guard the moisture, then leave the cover off for the final 20 minutes. Forty minutes should be enough. You can wrestle in some scrubbed potatoes, quartered if large. The fennel is also fit for this dish, just halve it or third it from top to bottom. The base (root area) of the fennel will hold the sudden sculptural affects of the bulb, which will be intricately painted by the juice of the red beet. And you know those artichokes can go in there, precooked, dechoked, spineless and halved. You may have a severe case of Yum headed your way.

I think adding the red cabbage may be going a bit too far with your casserole. A side slaw might be a better companion for this Rebel Stew. I would suggest whipping up some quick biscuits to accompany your feast. Butter is not obligatory when the olive oil is superior for you health. Simmered apples with cinnamon and honey over vanilla ice cream might be just the dessert to pound home the unspeakably edible character of this worthy repast you have made for you and those you adore.

The lettuce and the cilantro can wait until Friday, when you can roll out Crunchy Tempeh Tacos, chopping in any leftovers from The Rebel Stew, but chances are there won’t be any.

April 9, 2014

F O R A G E R

WAWAWAWAWAWAWAWAWAWAWAWAWAWATER

 

9 April 2014

 

 

When the well breaks down in the middle of a heat wave in the third year of a notorious drought, you get attentioned rapidly. After the dull shock wore off, I walked the field as an executioner, the Robespierre of Mira Monte, deciding who would live and who would die. Yes to the Kale and Celery, no to the Violet Cauliflower and the onions we planted in the lower field. Sorry Green Onions, it’s been fun, and if the well gets fixed or it rains ( hah-hah) hopefully you’ll still be out here, waiting for the windows of heaven to swing wide. But you Garbanzo, and you Zucchini, you may live. You I will spare from the dry rigors of death. The Zuke stays because he is my big early gamble. 2000 linear feet that says Early Summer to waiting Pilgrims hungering for that which is not leaf. Harvest squash by May Day and they’ll put your picture in Wikipedia on the genius page.

Garbanzo is a Go because she is miserly, a dry-land cropper who needs just a little boost up into the saddle of the season because she will ride the summer bareback, subsisting on the paltry, rather distrustful of puddles and downpours. But you gotta guard against the squirrel. Squirrel likes nothing better than to murder the garbanzo. If you are a trapper, by the way, bait them with garbanzo for excellent harvests of Spermophilus beecheyi, a truly evil critter, resourceful, plague infested, and resplendently proliferating.

Wandering around on 12 acres with two mighty four gallon per minute garden hoses pouring forth their miracle, I played Mr. Stingy with fennel and green cabbage and furtively lavished an extra half hour of precious liquid on my red beets and chard. Of course the Chard! God Save The Chard! The abundant giver of thousands of desirable bunches in a scant 1000 linear feet. The chard is my own selected variety of Rainbow Chard called  “ Dinero”.

With the lettuce, we just winged it. It was to term ( 7500 heads). Gina Fontana bailed us out with a couple dozen boxes to Ojai Valley School and we even sent some to Vegas. We revamped our Panic Sales Program. Nitana became the Rancho Del Pueblo Account Vice President for Help of Ojai, and was so impressive on her first foray into the Meals On Wheels Commissary that Lilly The Cook decided she would try to convince her daughter to name the imminent grandbaby Nitana.

Panic. Ha! Rhymes with manic. Now that the pipes are empty, now that high pressure bears down making you dingy with the dizzy, now that your wittle bitty wettuce is keeling over under the blast, now you notice every leak. Now you see every needless length of line watering the stupid Shepherds Purse. Now you wonder Oh Gee, why am I so thirsty? Because you don’t have any water, chump, and you used to have seven faucets to sip from.

Now you’ll fix that hose. Now you won’t blow off that washer until tomorrow. Now you can hardly wait to get out there in the noonday sun and sink a nice long cheater on that crappy two inch ball valve on Number Three Riser, you know the one that always leaks when you’re running it? Off she goes!  The one where all the frogs live and the coyotes go to at night to drink from? Where the plantain is four feet high and humming birds zip in there when no one is looking? Yeah that one, you wastrel, you water unconscious ding bat. Plug all those leaks and fix all those pipes so that God will know you really, really want it to rain again. Then it will be clear you really appreciate it. Up until now, surveillance has proven you could care a lot more.

April 2, 2014

F O R A G E R

The Dregs

 

 

2 April 2014

 

 

I stood over the parched trays of transplants with a hose full of air dancing back and forth in my hand. I had seen some air shoot before, so I thought that in time the wet stuff would come out. But the only water that came out was the brown dregs of doom. I drove over the to well and saw an empty 10,000 gallon tank. I turned on the power and nothing budged. I called my best friend du jour Don at Ike’s Well and Pump Service and he recommended I call Foothill Electric.

I did call Foothill Electric and they sent my other best friend du jour Steve out to check the power. He cracked the panel and saw the safety had been kicked. He shoved it back in and hit the switch. We watched that big General Electric 60 horse motor jump and buck like he was a Brahma fresh out of the chute in Tulsa. We killed the power. No rodeo clowns came barreling out of nowhere to save the say.

“ Well, boy, you’re either dry or broken, way down below. Sounds like it was cavitating.”

Such speech can melt your spirit. In the manly talk of machines and dynamic systems, a few words stand out as especially illustrative of how seriously mysterious the Manworld of gizmos, engines and contraptions can be. This world is open to women, and women populate it often enough. But have you ever heard a woman say the word “ solenoid”? I have heard one or two repeat this word, looking as if they had taken a bite of lemon beforehand. It just won’t come out of a woman’s mouth the same as when a greasy ambassador from Manworld will offhandedly toss it out, as easily as he might say something like “wide receiver”, “ quark”, or “Bee Tee Yous*”. Lingo like this just ain’t fit for a woman to use.

I hold that the same be true for the word “cavitate”. If it’s cavitating, the unfathomable powers of the universe, borne by hidden vortices no device can measure must be involved. When the device, usually tubular, becomes involved with cavitation, how can one expect any good to come of it? In the  rolodex of the unchained mind, after cavitation, calamity soon surfaces thereafter, followed by crisis, collapse, clanging and cracked.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*BTU: British Thermal Unit, which is how we measure the functionality of hot water heaters or a furnace. The BTU was probably invented by or in honor of Lord Kelvin, born in Ireland, lived in Glasgow, who was into heat. You have to remember, that these Brits were at one time the Kings of Science. Guys like Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, James Watt, even Bertrand Russell need to be spoken of much more often in comparison to, oh, say Johnny Depp or Jennifer Lawrence. Not to suggest that JenLaw is unremarkable.  At least Manworld gave us the Kelvinator to remember William Thomson (the First Baron Kelvin) by. With Watt you are always talking about how many Watts are in your light bulbs, which is  genius built-in. The Newton however, was a much-undeserved fiasco. You’re better off not even remembering it.

March 24, 2014

    26 March 2014

 

The fourth graders from Topa Topa School made their rounds this week, hunting lady bugs, time traveling and munching vast quantities of organic carrots they pulled right from the ground. I saw one boy with a big carrot in his mouth and one in each hand, so enthralled was he with the orange source of sweet Vitamin A he planned on packing some home.

I asked one group of children if they had eaten our fresh carrots last week at school. Yes they had! So I asked, were they any good? Yeah! The best!

Around 130 children came with some parents and teachers. They sat on hay bales and heard stories straight from the earth told by Dave White, leading the tours, with Juna Mueller, both of whom work for Food For Thought, the Ojai organization that educates the valley about the benefits of eating local organic produce. Dave is also the Executive Director of The Center for Regenerative Agriculture, headquartered in Mira Monte. The Ojai Unified School District has been introducing local produce on their menus for a few years with help from Food For Thought. Our farmers, Wes Jones and Nitana Calfee, provided nifty anecdotes regarding wild adventures with earthworms, hawks, lacewings and coyotes, our co-workers on the farm.

Our teachers taught the students how to time-travel, going back a million years, when the dinosaurs were gone and wilderness was remarkably different from what we see today. Was it wetter? Could have been. How else did all the rocky peaks become soil? Dave and Juna said it takes millions of years for nature to make the soil we walk on now. Expansive freezing and thawing, wind and water, contrived to crumble the mighty monoliths into the fine environment that allows Potato Bugs to hide and grain to grow so the birds will have something to eat. Now the biggest oaks grow in the deepest soil.  Earth evolution is a marvelously dynamic process that proceeds so very slowly we hardly can imagine what changed into what he have now, or to theorize, what will become of everything we see in another million years? Do you think one of us will be here to see it?

Will there be carrots in a million years? A million years ago there were no carrots. No carrot juice, no carrot cake and no Bugs Bunny. There might have been a weird umbellish plant with a semi-sweet root that enticed some lucky rodent back then, but there were no Persian carrots and certainly no French carrots. We get carrots selected from the Middle East’s great cradle of food that runs from the Tigris River to the Himalayas. From the Afghan imports, the French selected special varieties so sweet and tender even the King would eat them raw. And he was pretty proud, you know. The carrots you eat are the direct descendants of what was first grown in Nantes, France and that type governs fresh market production. Just ask the French when you see one about the Nantes carrots and I bet they will eye-ball roll and wave their arms over their heads. They’re excitable. None of those batty Imperator juggernaut carrots for you or the French. The Imperators are so big they look prehistoric, but of course they’re not. Only people can time travel. Carrots can’t because they are stuck in the ground.

That odiferous oniony leekish product in your share today is a green garlic. To consume, start at the floppy green leaves and chop some up on your way to the bright white shank. Chop and cook or splay it on salad, lightly. We call it a “shank” because it is long, like a leg or an implement for a tractor that goes way deep in the earth to break the clods so the carrots can slink down there and grow nice and straight. You probably remember that King Edward the First of England was known as Longshanks because he was so tall and that the Shawshank Redemption has nothing to do with carrots, although one of the most common uses of the word “shank” refers to a homemade knife fashioned by prisoners incarcerated within the walls of institutions similar to the fictitious site of the famous film.

You got yourself a red cabbage again after seven long months of waiting. We don’t plan on giving you one every week of course, but we believe cabbage is a highly underrated nutritional wallopsmacker. We have a couple more rounds of cabbage coming. We’re on a roll.

 

March 19, 2014

19 March 2014

On Wednesday we celebrate the dead God Wodan. Thursday goes to Thor. You might have thought that long before now the Christians would have banished references to the heathen pantheism of our Nordic heritage, yet Wodan’s Day it still be. Ralph Reed must be napping.

Wodan is a Germanic drop down from Mercury, the Roman god of communication in whose honor I frequently down a nice cold pilsner, sometimes in order to whet the dull blades of thought. Because he wanders, Wodan is also a bit like John the Baptist and paradoxically a precursor to Father Christmas, but I think if you stood Saint Nick and Wodan in the police lineup there is no way you would get a conviction.

“ I said he was skinny. This other guy looks like Yosemite Sam!”

We decided to change the name from Wednseday to Weedsday in honor of that bitty bunch of Lamb’s Quarters you got in your share today. Eat them chopped with your eggs tomorrow or in your salad tonight, but eat them soon in order to feel the power of wildcrafted goodness coursing through your veins. The Lamb’s Quarters is akin to spinach and beets, but more identifiable as a relative of Quinoa as are all the edible amaranths. including Kalaloo and Red Root Pigweed.

You also have the first Bok Choy to be seen in a month of Wodensdays, which would be a better spelling. I have thought ever since I could read that the spelling of Wednesday with that damn S sitting there lisping the D while your ears have only heard it pronounced as WeNsday, ignoring the first D entirely. And the English are supposed to be good spellers. If there was ever a day that should be renamed it is Wednesday. In Spanish,  Miercoles,  named after Mercury,  is another slurring, jamming the extra I in front of the E. I like the Italian Mercoledi better, nicely formed and more melliflouous than the French Mercredi.

That may enough etymology to go on your linguini, but there is enough for seconds. Carrots persist, as well as new salad mix. Arugula andFenyl,  as they spell it outside of Spilsby, near the English Channel, repeat their performance from last week. I don’t think the word fennel appetizes as well as tomato, for example, or asparagus. If we should change the name of fenyl to the Greek word, Marathon, no doubt it would increase that vegetable’s desirability, at least among long-distance runners and anyone put off by the lower echelon implications of the common word might be emboldened to give Marathon some run.

We got the squash and the cucumbers planted but this morning Jack Frost almost paid us a visit. I never knew he was still around here. There was a bit of ice on a cuke, just enough to singe it, but these frost intolerant varieties survived long enough for us to effort some row cover out once again to further their season. We have 27 extra days of production already invested in these 1200 feet of Summer produce, which is ample reason to float some cover on them. The task should take around two hours. Don’t worry. I won’t ply you with more senseless math again. Just because we do a lot of mindless counting should be no reason to inflict the obligation upon you.

March 12, 2014

12 March 2014

 I decreed I would not wander in the tall weeds with faux fictional exploits, but I can feel the permission already weighing heavy on my keyboard. Stop me before I lie. I want to talk about the farm and what grows there, but after looking at it all morning the mind urges to take flight. But I won’t talk about surfing. I won’t talk about Angelica Huston. I won’t delve into The Crimea, Google, The Bagrada, The Symphyla, The Health Department or The Drought, all of which could invest reams of copy. But somebody else has already covered these topics better than I can. Except maybe The Bagrada, of which I wish I was not so expert.

Instead, we can describe what happens out there on the rain-packed soils, where hoeing suddenly evolves into a tool-endangering enterprise. I have seen more than one blade snap out there, no matter be the operator trained or novice. Our transplant set is doing arguably better than our direct-seeded crops. The bok choy is jumping while the beets and chard linger. 2488 heads of mixed lettuce show an admirable vigor after the rain. Superhuman rows of fennel, smarter than any patch this side of Lancashire, thrive into maturity alongside red kale, broccoli and Lacinato kale. Turnips are so-so, owing to underground menacing of the minute root-devouring centipede known as Symphlya. Veronica purple cauliflower is pushing on amid the fancy planting of kolh rabi.

The croupiers are going to plant cucucucucucumbers and zzzzzuchini early again. If the freeze lays off, the early work will yield mucho casino. If it’s going to be 90 on Saturday all I can say is “ What took us so long?”

Peas be planting as do potatoes, more onions and leeks. Another round of cabbage and carrots are in. The six beds we planted to seed with the dark clouds issuing from Drenchtown on the horizon fare better than expected. Our lettuce scarcity is so dire that Wiley Connell could not contain his opinion of our sloth. So we got some heads from Stroke Grove, home of the Stockbridge Miracle. Can’t get more local than The Stroke. The Sunshine grapefruit you think are navel oranges came from Carol Vesecky in the River Bottom. Everything else is from the Us of you, not the Them of they.

Today we got tired of throwing away perfectly good kale leaves that the bitty finches have been murdering. Wes Jones is going to get his mow-jo working on the tractor in the big tangle formerly known as the Pepper Patch. Now it’s Nettletown, population ouch. We dare not tromp there further. That’s where the finches and sparrows secrete themselves from the swooping raptor perched in the oaks nearby. They need the safety of the calamitous growth, where they can wing into when a special shadow darkens their ground.

Nitana really, really wants to drive the tractor badder than a nine year-old boy so we will set her on the new Kubota and watch her crush some weeds.

Today’s share includes Wiley’s lettuce, kale, carrots, chard, cilantro, fennel, broccoli, arugula, and that bitter leafy you thought was lettuce last week. They are Italian chicories, so good for you, and better served with plenty of garlic and lemon, salt or anchovies, mayonnaise, yogurt, macaroni and cheese. braised chard, carrot juice, rice pudding, or some of that Sunday Evening Pizza they started serving at the Farmer and The Cook. This week’s special pizza will be the “Katy Gray”, which goes very well with fine beverages and Daylight Savings.

 

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