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@LMR (the ranch blog)

Ted Hall
October 25, 2009 | Ted Hall

Fall Cattle Roundup: Part I

The beauty - and the madness - of our integrated farming operation is that we move seamlessly from one activity to another. Although we have just completed our grape (and potato) harvest, we held the fall roundup of our Shorthorn cattle herd on Thursday.

We pressed our last red wine on Wednesday afternoon, which means we have completed the initial fermentation of all of our wines. The 2009 red wines are already in the barrel in our cave and the grape crusher and press have been cleaned, sanitized, and stored not to be used again until next year.

But, on Thursday we were already off to our 500-acre property at Tomales Farm & Dairy to conduct our fall roundup of the Shorthorn cattle herd.  We brought in our entire herd of heritage breed Shorthorn mother cows (about 75) and their calves.  This is an important event as we examine every animal for its health status, take important steps to protect each animal against disease or nutrition problems, and remove the weakest animals from the herd.

We vaccinated every cow and calf and applied wormer to eliminate parasites, flies, and mites. We also placed two boluses (one selenium and one copper) in the first stomach of every animal to ensure proper mineral balance - because grasslands in Northern California are notoriously deficient of these critical micro-nutrients.  

Since early July the cows have been exposed to our three outstanding Shorthorn bulls. At the fall roundup we remove the bulls from the herd and check every cow for pregnancy.  Our vet, Dr. Nathan Keefer, palpates every animal ("the long reach of the arm") and gives us an estimate as to how far along the cow is in her preganancy.  We record this information and use it for monitoring the cows in the spring.  Our target calving date is April 15th (gestation is 284 days or 9 months and 10 days) and we want to know which cows might be early or late.  

If a cow is not pregnant, we evaluate her age, body condition, and bloodline to determine whether she should remain in our herd.  

At this roundup we decided to cull (or remove) 9 cows from our herd.  This reduction is offset by 11 new cows ("first calf heifers") that we added to the herd in July.

We also weaned the calves, which means we separated the calves from their mothers.  Our target is to wean the calves at about 200 days of age.  At this stage they are very strong and independent and we want their mothers to focus their energy on the next calf - since they are already pregnant and at the end of their first trimester.

After a long day of handling almost 140 animals, we returned to Long Meadow Ranch with the bulls (where they are maintained for the winter). We were pleased with health status of the herd and also with the progress we are making in creating a first-class grass-fed beef program. 

Next on our agenda, during the first week in November,  we will be holding our fall roundup of Highland cattle at our leases at Ferndale in Humboldt County.  

And then, of course, there is the olive harvest . . . in the meantime there is the planting of cover crops at LMR Rutherford Gardens, completing the winterizing ("erosion control") of all of our vineyards, and . . .

Posted by Ted Hall

Ted Hall
October 13, 2009 | Ted Hall

2009 Harvest in the Barn!

The 2009 Harvest is "in the barn" at Long Meadow Ranch.

And, just in time for the seaon's first major rainstorm.  As I write this note, we are expecting to receive 3 to 5 inches of rain on the ranch. We are very much looking forward to the rain to help refresh our vines and replenish the water table.  (Our pastures could really use the rain, too.)

We have enjoyed a remarkable harvest at Long Meadow Ranch in terms of appropriate yields and grape quality. The 2009 Vintage should be very good - as best Ashley, Frank, and I can tell at this early stage. We had a long cool growing season with no notable problems from frost, rain, mildew, excessive heat or wind.

LMR passed a new milestone this season as we were involved in the harvest of about 350 tons of grapes!

With our new San Mateo Vineyard (located adjacent to LMR Rutherford Gardens in Rutherford) providing about 2/3 of our harvest total, we were a seller of Sauvignon Blanc grapes for the first time to several ultra premium wineries in addition to providing grapes for our own production.

With about 85 tons of red grapes "in the barn" we are looking forward to the next two weeks of fermentation.  The first block to be harvested was our Merlot (about three weeks ago) and the last blocks picked were the middle and lower blocks of the historic Church vineyard, which we picked yesterday.  Because of the somewhat compressed time period for the red harvest, every tank in the winery is full.  And, the work pace will be very busy for the next few weeks as we "punch down" the caps and rack each tank before transferring the new wines to barrels in the cave.

In most of our vineyards we have already spread compost and reseeded our cover crops, so the rain will help us get an early start to refreshing our soils for the next season.

Soon we will be turning our attention to the olive harvest.  There is an interesting story to be told about this year's olive harvest.  More later.





Posted by Ted Hall

Ted Hall
October 10, 2009 | Ted Hall

The Root of It All at Rest

The Root of It All, our Mom, died last Saturday. Yesterday I spoke at her services.  Here is what I had to say:

Today is the day to celebrate the root of it all: Mom.

As you have heard from others, she was a force of nature. She always told me that I could do anything; that I could be President of the United States – most of the time I believed her.

She shaped the everyday life of my immediate family, too. As many of you know, we (Laddie, Chris, and I) live and work on our ranch, Long Meadow Ranch, in the Napa Valley.

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."

On Mother’s Day I spent the day with the source, Mom. Although our small family farm in Potter Township is long gone (we left in 1961), Mom was still going strong (at least in terms of her ability to tell me what to do about farming and everything else).

On Mother’s Day we reminisced about her early start with "organic" gardening. Her father and mother (my grandparents), Frank and Rose DeHass, operated a small grocery store in Beaver. It was a neighborhood store with a confectionary and sandwich shop. Mom isn't sure about its proper name because everyone called it "the little store." But, we think it was officially known as DeHass Grocery.

The family provided fresh produce for the store from its own gardens just a few blocks 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 (my favorite), for pest control.

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. Mom still cried when she talked about it. I think this may have been at the root of her enduring generosity.  But, even with the store gone, the traditions and skills of growing for the market were already in place.

When my mother and father were married, they soon acquired a small rural property and, as they say, the rest is history. The bible, according to Mom, was "Five Acres and Independence," a book first published in 1935 which became popular with young couples following World War II. And, independent she was.  One of my most prized possessions is my mother and father's copy of the book, which Mom presented to me a few years ago.

Mom reminded me that afternoon that I turned a compost pile for the first time when I was five years old.

Thank you, Mom.

Edith D. Hall Obituary

Posted by Ted Hall

Time Posted: Oct 10, 2009 at 1:00 PM
Ted Hall
September 25, 2009 | Ted Hall

2009 Harvest Brings Promises

Time Posted: Sep 25, 2009 at 7:00 AM
Ted Hall
September 24, 2009 | Ted Hall


We harvested 10 tons of our own potatoes this week.

The potatoes were grown on our "dairy" property in Tomales, California, known as Tomales Farm & Dairy (about 35 miles from LMR on the California coast).  Can you imagine burgers and fries from the same farm?  We are producing beef and potatoes from the same ground.  True terroir.

One of my favorite memories from 1992 is vice presidential candidate Senator Dan Quayle telling a sixth grader that the proper spelling of potato had an "e" on the end (i.e., "potatoe").  How embarrassing!  The spelling of this wonderfully nutritious tuber may have
determined the outcome of a presidential election. Seventeen years later potatoes are helping provide an authentic foundation for our farm-to-table food proposition.

As you may recall, we own a 500-acre former dairy farm in Tomales, California, where we raise grass for our grass-finished Shorthorn beef cattle. Tomales was renowned about 120 years ago for its production of potatoes (properly spelled with an "e", if plural).  The intensive potato farming contributed to significant erosion of the area's extraordinary topsoils and the industry went into sharp decline. But, a few locations still have the historically ideal conditions - including our property. 

This week we harvested almost 10 tons of potatoes from about two acres that we carved out of our lush pasture lands.  We collaborated with a local "share cropper" farmer and together we established a new organic field of potatoes.  We split the crop in return for his labor and expertise  So, we now have 5 tons of fabulous potatoes ready to be served at our new Farmstead Restaurant.  

We harvested two varieties: Russets and German Butterballs.  The Russets will make amazing french fries ("pommes frites") and the Butterballs will be terrific as a side dish either boiled, baked, or sauteed.  Chef Sheamus Feeley is already exploring how we will present these extraordinary home-grown potatoes at the Farmstead Restaurant.  For sure we will pair our fries and beef produced from the same ground.  Where else can you have this experience?  

Posted by Ted Hall

September 22, 2009 |

Happy Birthday Ted!

Posted By Sheamus Feeley

LMR Sangiovese Cake

Harvest time is always an exciting and creative time for me.  This recipe was inspired by the unique Sangiovese grapes from Peter's vineyard.  I am happy to share it with you especially as we celebrate Ted's birthday today!






Ingredients for Sangiovese Cake

4 tablespoons butter, melted
¼ cup Napa Valley Select
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
2 large eggs
¾ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
¾ tsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
1 lemon, zested
1 orange, zested
powdered sugar, for garnish
12 oz. Sangiovese grapes

Preparing the Sangiovese Cake

Preheat oven to 350°

Oil 9” spring form pan and dust with flour. 

Whisk eggs and sugar until light yellow in color.  Add all liquid ingredients and whisk to combine.

Sift dry ingredients into the wet mixture and stir with a wooden spoon.  Let rest for ten minutes.  Add ¾ of the grapes and transfer to pan.

Bake for 15 minutes, then add the remaining grapes to the top and continue to bake for around 40 minutes more.  Allow to cool for 5 minutes and dust with powdered sugar.

Posted by Sheamus Feeley

Time Posted: Sep 22, 2009 at 5:00 PM
September 9, 2009 |

Pepper Vinegar

Posted By Sheamus Feeley

Pepper VinegarBack home in Arkansas we always had a pepper vinegar on hand as a table condiment for beans, fried chicken and pork chops.

These days I also like to use it where a recipe calls for Tabasco, or another hot pepper sauce. I prefer my version, because it adds good acidity without too much heat that can destroy the balance of a nice simple dish. For example, I use it to finish classic my LMR grass-fed chili with Rancho Gordo Pinquito beans.


Ingredients for the Pepper Vinegar

1 quart distilled white vinegar
1 tbsp kosher salt
6-7 Serrano Chiles, pricked with a fork or knife

Preparing the Pepper Vinegar

Heat Vinegar and salt in a sauce pot until salt is dissolved. Pour over chilies and let cool to room temperature.

Place in a glass bottle, or jar with a lid and keep refrigerated. It should keep for at least one month.

Posted By Sheamus Feeley

Ted Hall
September 7, 2009 | Ted Hall

Grape Harvest Underway

Posted By Ted Hall

Sauvignon Blanc Grape Harvest Although today is just Labor Day, the grape harvest is well underway. We started on August 17th and have already harvested more than 200 tons of Sauvignon Blanc grapes from our San Mateo Ranch vineyard on the valley floor. And, we probably have another 25 to 30 tons still to go.
Sauvignon Blanc Grapes Sauvignon Blanc Grapes

Posted By Ted Hall

Ted Hall
September 4, 2009 | Ted Hall

Not Pregnant!

 Eve in farrowing penNo piglets! Drat. Now what?

The seemingly endless Red Wattle pig saga continues.  After constructing a clean and "baby friendly" farrowing pen for sow-to-be Eve, we are sad to report that she has no piglets.  

We waited patiently on her due date last week (August 24th).  Nothing.  Just Eve sleeping in the clean wood shavings that we had placed in her pen.

So, Dr. David Gold induced labor.  Again, we waited and watched.  Nothing.  Eve, of course, continued to eat and sleep with no apparent discomfort - aside from needing to be sprayed with water occasionally because of last weekend's hot weather.  Frustrating.  Dr. Gold speculates that she absorbed the embryos sometime early in her pregnancy. (Remember we saw them on the screen of the ultra sound machine.)  As best we can tell, we have a healthy pig.  Just no babies.

We are now contemplating our next steps.  We'll probably try the process again.  But, we are going to wait until we can determine whether Eve will come back into "heat."  She should resume her normal cycle 21 days after we induced her labor, which would be about September 14th.  

So, stay tuned.  We'll report on her status in another 10 days. 

 Post by Ted Hall

Time Posted: Sep 4, 2009 at 11:00 AM
August 31, 2009 |

Roasted Beets with Sauce Verde and Ricotta

Posted By Sheamus Feeley

Roasted Beets with Sauce Verde and RicottaI love beets.  I really love beets.  I grew up eating them and I love their earthy smell and flavor.  I have some roasting in my oven right now. 

They say that a lot of wines character is a direct reflection of the soil in which it was grown.  But to me, terroir is defined by the beet.  How many vegetables actually taste of the very earth that they come from? 

I fry them, shave them raw, pickle them and juice them, but I like them the best roasted in their own skins.  Delicious!

Roasted Beets with Sauce Verde and Ricotta

For the Beets:

2 dozen Chioggia, Bull’s Blood and Golden beets, no larger than a golf ball
Napa Valley Select Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher salt

Roasted Beets with Sauce Verde and RicottaFor the Sauce Verde:
¼ cup Italian parsley, rough chopped
5-6 medium basil leaves
1 clove garlic, freshly peeled.
Kosher, or coarse sea salt to taste
1 tablespoon Long Meadow Ranch Red Wine Vinegar
¼ cup Prato Lungo Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Wash beets and separate by color.  Place in foil, or a roasting pan with a lid and sprinkle with salt and a little olive oil.  Roast covered at 375° F for 1 to 1.5 hours.  Keep in mind that the different beet varieties may cook at different times.  Once the beets are cooked through, allow to cool uncovered for 15 -20 minutes.

To peel: Use a dark colored kitchen towel and apply pressure with the thumb to peel the skin from the beets.  I normally start with the lighter colors and work my way towards red.  (This helps me use only one towel in this preparation and does not stain the other beets) Cut beets in ½ or ¼ depending on size.  Allow to cool to room temperature.

Preparing the Sauce Verde: Place garlic and a pinch of salt in a mortar and pestle.  Grind until a smooth paste has been made.  Add parsley and basil and grind to a paste as well.  Add vinegar and add more salt if needed.  Stir in olive oil.

To serve: Place beets on a service platter and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle the sauce over the beets and top with Ricotta, or a slightly aged goats milk cheese.

Posted by Sheamus Feeley