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@LMR (the ranch blog)

Ted Hall
June 21, 2009 | Ted Hall

Roots: Grandpa DeHass

Posted by Ted Hall

Today is Father’s Day, another day to celebrate the roots of all that we cherish. Today we honor my grandfather, Frank E. DeHass.

Anybody who has been on a tour of the ranch has heard me start the narrative with: "My mother was an organic gardening pioneer in the 1940s. . . . (as I reported on Mother’s Day). . . And, my grandfather (her father) had a grocery store and large garden where our family raised fresh produce for the store.”

Grandpa DeHass died 50 years ago in July, 1959, when I was 10 (almost 11) years old. He always called me “Butch,” the only one to ever use that nickname for me. Today I find myself reflecting on his legacy.

I have very distinct memories of sitting next to his rocking chair as he told stories. And, stories he had. Grandpa DeHass was in the U.S. Army in the Cavalry. He served in France during World War I and later in the Philippines.

But, by far his most exotic experience was his service with General John J. Pershing when the U.S. Army pursued Pancho Villa into Mexico in 1916-17. The Punitive Expedition was the last U.S. Cavalry expedition in U.S. military history.  During that expedition Grandpa DeHass was General Pershing’s bugler. Just imagine.

His souvenirs always fascinated me, too, including the bugle, his horse’s (mount's) bit, and a rolled up snake skin from the jungles of the Philippines.

Grandpa DeHass and his wife, Rose, (my grandmother) operated a small grocery store in Beaver, Pennsylvania, which is the county seat of Beaver County.

They had a great site on the corner of Third Street and Sassafras Alley which was conveniently at the end of the electric trolley line that carried passengers to Midland, the next town. The corner marked the city limits of Beaver and today the corner still features a large welcome sign.

It was a neighborhood store with a confectionery and sandwich shop. Grandma DeHass cooked the meals, including soups from the fresh vegetables and homemade fruit pies.  (Her parents had been in the restaurant business in nearby Woodlawn,which later became Aliquippa.) Known officially as “DeHass Grocery,” everyone called it "the little store," according to my mother.

The entire family worked hard to provide fresh produce for the store from the gardens just a block away. As children, my mother and her two brothers and sister worked in that garden.

There was always a compost pile and my grandfather mixed a variety of potions, including soapy water and tobacco juice, for pest control. Grandpa DeHass's methods pre-date the writings of fellow Pennsylvanian J.I. Rodale, the inventor of the phrase “organic gardening,” which would later capture my mother’s imagination. 

Sadly, my grandfather lost the store to bankruptcy in 1936 when he could no longer pay his own bills after providing credit to so many of his customers. But, the traditions and skills of growing for the market were already in place. My mother and father continued the tradition on our own small family farm in nearby Potter Township and my Uncle Jim planted an extraordinary garden for another 50 years.

I recently visited my grandparents’ grave in the Beaver town cemetery. The grave features a wonderful bronze marker memorializing Grandpa's service in the U.S. Cavalry.  With peculiar irony, I also realized that my grandparents are buried across the street almost within sight of the store's original location.

My grandfather would be pleased to see (maybe he does) that the site still has high commercial value -  now occupied by a brand new Rite Aid store. The biggest change is that Sassafras “Alley” is now called Sassafras "Lane!"

Just down the alley (er, "lane") is the site of the gardens. Amazingly, the site is still mostly open space. It includes a parking lot for the local electrician's union hall, but otherwise it is still an open field nearly 80 years later.  Standing there I could sense the hard work and satisfaction that had occurred there so many years ago.

I always admired my Grandfather’s quiet resolve, his careful attention to every detail (whether building fine cabinets or sharpening lawn mower blades), and his readiness to lend a hand.

Now, as Laddie, Chris, and I continue our family adventure with the new Farmstead project which has eery similarities to my grandparents' business (a retail store and restaurant on the edge of town featuring homegrown organic produce), I am increasingly drawn to this connection with my grandfather - the garden, his compost piles, the store, the restaurant, the bugle, the horses ("mounts"), and more. . . 

So, I guess the acorn does not fall far from the tree.  I hope he would be pleased.

Time Posted: Jun 21, 2009 at 8:00 PM
Ted Hall
June 12, 2009 | Ted Hall

Back to Earth

Posted by Ted Hall

The drama at our Farmstead site at 738 Main Street continues to unfold.

In a little more than four weeks the crews working with Frank Borges, Jr. General Contracting have managed to build a new foundation under the historic Logan/Ives House.

You will recall that the house was lifted four feet in the air to allow for removal of the rocks and stumps that made up the foundation of the building when it was constructed in 1874.  We then built a new foundation (with "sustainable" concrete) and constructed a vault for the new heating and cooling system to be installed under the house.

Today the house was lowered back to earth using gigantic hydraulic jacks.  Guided by long lag bolts, the house was lowered to the new foundation in increments a few inches at a time.  

Much like on the way up, the house hardly made a sound as its weight was borne by the new foundation - just a little "clicking and ticking."

Frank and his crew quickly went into the house to see if it was still plumb (i.e., "square").  Much to everyone's delight (and amazement) the doors and windows opened and closed freely.

The lag bolts were snipped off and nuts tightened to secure the house to the foundation.  Now, not even an old-fashioned California earthquake is going to knock this fine building off its feet (sorry, no tornados here, Dorothy). 

Amazingly, Tim Brown, the framing subcontractor, and his crew were able to work on the entire structure while the house was up in the air.  The old framing needs to be brought up to modern standards for safety reasons.  

However, instead of using new lumber, we have used many of the old redwood studs and beams, just in new locations.  Keeping the original materials in use really feels right - like keeping a set of old china intact.  These pieces belong together.

We hope to complete the framing work by the end of June.  At that point, we will be doing relatively straightforward plumbing, electrical and finish work.  As a result, we are still planning to open our tasting room sometime in October.

Keep your fingers crossed. In the meantime, we have our feet securely on the ground.


Posted by Ted Hall

Ted Hall
June 8, 2009 | Ted Hall

LMR Grass-fed Beef Burger Day in the Schools

Posted by Ted Hall

Believe it or not, Thursdays are LMR Grass-fed Beef Burger Days in all of the local public schools, including the high school.  We are very proud.

This past Thursday Laddie and I were invited to help cook the burgers for the students at Robert Louis Stevenson Middle School in St. Helena.  I had a blast. I put on my white LMR chef's coat and took my place at the grill in the school courtyard.

For the past year or so we have been talking with Allan Gordon, the Superintendent of St. Helena School District, about how to bring fresh, local food into the regular menu planning cycle for the school breakfast and lunch programs.

Enter Kay Wilson, the  Health and Safety Officer, who took the intiative to start the process of changing the lunch program. Lydia Damian from our team worked with Kay to coach the program's administrators about the importance of planning menus in tune with the seasons.  

Starting with produce availability - as opposed to designing a menu and then placing an order - was (and remains) a very new concept. For longstanding food service providers, it is kind of like turning around the telescope and looking through the other end.

We also helped educate about the very significant difference in quality of grass-fed beef from a specialty producer as opposed to commodity ground beef bought primarily on the basis of price. 

So, burgers were an easy place to start because the beef is frozen and the quality is apparent as soon as you do a side-by-side comparison. 

Burger Day is made even more special for the elementary and middle school kids because the schools do not have a full kitchen. Meals are usually prepared elsewhere and then delivered to the schools. So, setting up a grill in the courtyard and freshly cooking the burgers is a special treat.

It was very clear that Burger Day is a very big hit with students (and parents). Laddie and I loved the kids' enthusiasm.  Watching them line up to get their meal and then load up with condiments was a wonderful sight to us.  

I felt a special pride because I knew first hand the steps that were involved - from cow to calf to pasture finishing to slaughter to packaging to, now, cooking.  Wow!

We are just beginning to see what can really happen.  

We look forward to developing a produce production planning calendar and working next school year with Kay and the team as they introduce other fresh, locally produced foods into the menus.


Posted by Ted Hall

Time Posted: Jun 8, 2009 at 11:30 AM
Ted Hall
June 7, 2009 | Ted Hall

Yes, We're Going to Have Babies!

Posted by Ted Hall

Eve drinking waterThe saga of our "mating challenged" Red Wattle pigs continues.  

You will recall that "Doc" Pam Coy and Laura White inseminated our gilt (i.e., never-bred female pig), Eve, on May 2nd and 3rd.  Since then, we have been awaiting the news of whether she is, at last, pregnant.  

Here is what Laura had to say earlier last week: 
"I checked her for heat between the 18th and the 27th. She never came into heat within that period, (which is when she should have come into heat). I let Pam know and she said as soon as she is back in town, we will ultrasound her using Dr. Gold's portable ultrasound! If she is not pregnant, we will try to breed her when she comes into heat again, which should be about June 11th. . . Let's keep our fingers crossed! I will keep you updated on the ultrasound date."

Laura White, Dr. David Gold, and Pam Coy reading ultrasound imagesWell, Saturday was the big day.  Dr. David Gold, our local vet, arrived with Pam and Laura along with Dr. Gold's latest acquisition, a portable ultrasound machine.  While Pam is "just" a second year vet student, her experience working in the swine barn at UC Davis means that she has lots of experience doing pregnancy checks on pigs.  So, she was the morning's "expert."

Eve being restrained by We used a "pig board," a plywood panel with handles cut in and rounded edges which was left over from Chris' days showing hogs, to hold Eve in the corner of her pen.  Then, both Dr. Gold and Pam took turns examining Eve's abdomen by running a probe over her skin.

They looked intently at the ultrasound images on the high resolution screen for evidence of fetuses floating in her uterus.  They occasionally clicked on the key board to record a still image of a particularly interesting view.  Pam Coy examining Eve with ultrasound probeThose of us watching the screen from the sidelines could only marvel at the things they seemed to see.  It was not at all obvious to the layperson.

Eventually they seemed content with their work, and I asked the fateful question: "Pregnant?"  David made a thumbs up and said, "Pregnant." I turned to Pam and she said, "Pregnant!"  So, pregnant she is!

Dr. David Gold, Pam Coy, and Laura White looking at ultrasound imagesNo, we can't tell how many piglets may be on the way as they are only about the size of the last joint of my little finger and are swimming about in amniotic fluid, making them very tough to count. Dr. Gold and Pam are confident they saw "several," but that is all we know.

Dr. Gold cautioned that there are still many things that could happen before we have a healthy live litter, but we began planning immediately.

Amazingly, we only have 80 days to get ready.  The gestation period for pigs is three months, three weeks, and three days (115 days).  So, Eve's due date is August 24th.  As of Saturday, she was 34 days pregnant!

Stay tuned as we begin our preparations for "farrowing," or birthing, the baby pigs.

Posted by Ted Hall

Time Posted: Jun 7, 2009 at 5:40 PM
June 5, 2009 |

Heading Home to Napa Valley

Posted by Jason Moulton

I am heading back to the Napa Valley with mixed emotions.  

Looking back on my journey in South America, I can't help realizing how I ended up here.

PieralisiMy biggest thanks goes out to Marcelo Cena of Pieralisi. Marcelo helped with all my arrangements and communication on the ground in Mendoza. In Chile, the Pieralisi representatives Christian Benevente and Sergio Castello were very gracious to help me get hooked up with Terra Santa. Jorge Nasal and Sebastian, the mill operator of Terra Santa were very kind to have me over for a day in the Curacavi Valley.

Furthermore, I'd like to thank Miguel Zuccardi and Mauricio Castro for looking after me for 2 weeks. Piece-by-piece, I learned how their operation at Familia Zuccardi works. And I must say, these two gentleman are producing the highest quality extra virgin olive oil in all of Argentina. I wish them the best of luck!

Upon review of the past 3 weeks, I've managed to see machine harvesting vs. manual harvesting, filtered oil vs. unfiltered oil, hammermills vs. stonecrushers, and so on.

Each manner of processing or harvesting has an appropriate reason behind it. Our decisions on how we treat our olives and olive oil are based upon our diverse locations (Napa Valley, Chile, and Argentina) and how much olive oil we truly want to make.

The important thing we all abide by is the processing of freshly picked olives. If we can't process them immediately, then our product will be of inferior quality. . . degrading our extra virgin olive oil prospects.

On that note, I'm headed back to Napa Valley, leaving the cold here in Mendoza for the sunshine in California. It has certainly been a great harvest down here.

Hasta la proxima vez che!

Posted by Jason Moulton

June 4, 2009 |

Making Olive Oil at Terra Santa

Posted by Jason Moulton

Terra Sante olive oilThe adventures in Chile continue. 

The capital of Chile, Santiago, was where I chose to base myself in terms of accomodation. Lying just North of Santiago, the Curacaví Valley was in close proximity, with buses leaving there every 8 minutes.

Christián Benavente and Sergio Castello, both of Pieralisi agreed to pick me up from the town of Curacaví. While Christián is the local Chilean contact for Pieralisi, Sergio Castello is the head of all Latin American operations in regards to Pieralisi.

Terra Sante young olive tree plantingsSergio travels to Uruguay, Peru, Chile, and Argentina to ensure all Pieralisi equipment is working properly. Sergio Castello and Marcelo Cena have both made a point in coming to California as well to help all Pieralisi olive oil mills. I am very grateful to have such excellent support from all these Pieralisi representatives.

After picking me up from the town of Curacaví, Christián drove us to Terra Santa. We arrived in the middle of processing Frantoio and Arbequina. Terra Santa has the luxury of processing immediately after being picked, just as we do at LMR. The ability to process immediately after picking leads to a greater quality of aromatics, less oxidation, lower levels of acidity, and an increase in polyphenols (antioxidants).

Terra Sante young olive tree plantingsIn total, Terra Santa has 386 acres planted to Arbequina, Picual, Frantoio, Leccino, Coratina, Arbosana, and Korieniki. The 86 acres on site have a median age of 6 years, while the 300 acres off-site are just one-year-olds. It goes to show how young and up-and-coming this company truly is here.

Production-wise, Terra Santa has the ability to crush 7,715 lbs per hour or 66,135 lbs per day. Total tank capacity is up to 145,310 gallons. Although Terra Santa is massive in its levels of production and property, it still maintains a high level of quality and respect for the olives.

Laboratory equipment at Terra SanteThe laboratory has a machine that generates the approximate amounts of acidity and breaks them down into the different families of acidity. There was also a miniature olive crusher to test field samples. The purpose of testing field samples is to know exactly what levels of acidity you could obtain prior to harvesting whole blocks.

Their tanks were absolutely pristine and beautiful, making me think it was more of a winery than an olive mill. As with most upper-echelon mills, this also had epoxy floors to maintain cleanliness efficiently. Sebastian, the mill operator was overly generous with his time in showing me how all of his equipment worked and how they cleaned up after a day of processing.

Pieralisi equipment at Terra SanteAfter getting a right and proper tour of the facility, I hiked up about a mile into the olive orchards. The terrain was tough, but pleasing to the eyes. These 6-year-old trees were doing very well for their age and seemed healthier than ever. The view of the rolling hills was smile-provoking to say the least.

Coming to Terra Santa was an excellent choice. As the production level increases here, the more important it will be to analyze every lot coming into the mill. As a quality control issue, Terra Santa is taking the right step in testing each and every lot before, during, and after processing.

I wish them luck on their new venture!

Posted by Jason Moulton

Time Posted: Jun 4, 2009 at 9:30 AM
June 2, 2009 |

Unexpected Journey to Chile

Posted by Jason Moulton

Chilean border crossing

Today, I was confronted with a very exciting opportunity to travel to Chile.

Miguel Zuccardi suggested that I try to cross the border into Chile to make contact with a Chilean olive oil company. The prospect was enlightening and, obviously, a "no-brainer." Truly, Chile was just over the Andes mountain range, which were in plain sight.

I said yes to the prospect and waited to hear back from Miguel in regards to which company I could visit. This wasn't the easiest task of cross-coordination and communication. In order to make this work, Miguel had to contact the local Pieralisi representative in Argentina, Marcelo Cena.

Marcelo, whom I met at Long Meadow Ranch in 2008, has been instrumental in helping through my journey to Latin America. Marcelo contacted the Chilean representative of Pieralisi, Christian Benavente, to coordinate a meeting with a Chilean olive oil mill.

The idea was to see a different type of olive mill apart from Familia Zuccardi and Pallazini. On that note, Marcelo and Christian found the perfect place. . . Terra Santa.

Curacaví ValleyTerra Santa is located about an hour North of Santiago in the Curacaví Valley. The olive mill will be the biggest I have seen thus far in terms of production. Terra Santa is a very young company, being founded in 1999 by Jorge Nazal Manzur.

Terra Santa Extra Virgin Olive OilJorge originally made his career from a Chilean clothing line, but now wants to diversify and focus on the burgeoning extra virgin olive oil industry in Chile. His goal here is to make high quality extra virgin olive oil for a good price. At the quality level, their acidity is <0.20%, which is great. The date of bottling is also on each bottle or tin, letting the consumer know just how fresh the oil can be. At this price point and level of quality, the Italians and Spanish should be fearful.

The bus ride through the Andes on to Santiago was full of beautiful mountian views. The snow capped mountains eventually appeared and hence, the temperatures dropped. The total journey was roughly 9 hours. Customs, of course, made it longer - especially when the officials saw me sneeze and assumed I had the H1N1 flu!Andes mountain views enroute to Santiago

When they discovered I was American, they sent me to the Health Department area to be questioned. Luckily, I was fine and the officials were quite nice.

Ironically, I was just getting over the normal flu, but had nothing like the H1N1 symptoms. I looked forward to going to Chile, where it was warmer than Mendoza.

I will kick this cold soon enough.

Posted by Jason Moulton