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
Posted By Ted Hall
|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.|
Posted By Ted Hall
No 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
Eve, the Red Wattle pig, is being readied for the delivery of her first litter of piglets. She is due on Monday, August 24 (after 114 days of gestation). Dr. David Gold and our team of FFA high school students have been working on the pen and visiting daily.
We have readied her pen with a birthing area (called "farrowing" in pigs) that is covered with rubber mats. We have a corner set aside complete with a heat lamp where the piglets can move in and out without the risk of Mom rolling over on top of them.
Even though we have very warm days in August , we can have quite cool nights at this time in the Napa Valley (which is why it is such a great place for grapes.) So, we are spraying Eve during the day with a mist of water to keep her cool, while we still need to provide some warmth for her piglets at night (the heat lamp).
Our team is waiting with great anticipation, but at the moment we can not be completely certain she is pregnant. We do know that she was bred twice and the pregnancy was confirmed by ultra sound. And, we have not observed any heats since her insemination. Nevertheless, since Eve weights over 450 lbs and a litter of 5 or 6 piglets would only weigh about 50 to 60 pounds, we cannot really tell how "big" she might be from pregnancy. And, she has not cooperated when we tried to ultra sound her again. Not wanting to stress her in the last stage of the pregnancy, we have decided to just wait and see.
An additional complication is that the assumed 114 day gestation period is the modern rule of thumb for commercial pig produciton. With a heritage breed, we have learned that the gestation period could be 10 to 14 days longer.
At the moment we see no mammary development (i.e., milk in her teats), so the early warning signs are not yet present. So, we wait . . . .
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.
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
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
Posted by Ted Hall
The 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."
Well, 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."
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. Those 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!
No, 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
You may recall the saga of Adam and Eve our "mating challenged" Red Wattle pigs. Eve was inseminated on May 2nd and 3rd by Laura White and "Doc" Pam Coy and the waiting game began.
Here is what Laura had to say:
"I checked to see if Eve came into a stronger heat in the next couple days following her insemination. Her vulva had reduced in size and color, indicating she was just coming out of heat. I am assuming we got her just in time, since she was in a lighter heat. I will be checking her heat again starting around the 18th.
If not pregnant, she should be coming into heat about May 21st. If this is the case we will try breeding again when she comes into heat again (roughly 21 days from May 21st). Hopefully, she will not be in heat, meaning she is most likely pregnant!! Pam talked to Dr. Gold and he has recently aquired an ultrsound machine we would use to check her."
Here is what Laura had to say yesterday:
"I started checking Eve for heat on Monday May 18th, and have checked her every day since then. I have not noticed a change in color or size of her vulva. I will continue to check her for the next couple days, just to be sure. I will keep you posted!!"
The odds of pregnancy are improving. We'll be getting out the ultrasound machine soon. Stay tuned.
Photo by Barbara Hall Blumer