Tag Archives: heirloom

What a year! (plus video!)


Well, here we are, in the sunny dark of winter… that little snowstorm looks to be all the proper weather we’re getting this season. It’s shaping up to be a record drought year, unless the rain comes soon — time to wash the car, hang some laundry, and break out whatever other rain-charms you know, please!

It was a busy year at the B H Ranch — just the way we like it! We grafted new trees, planted our first hedgerows, and brought more varieties of heirloom pears and apples to market than ever before (and converted more than a few people from “pearophobes” to pear-lovers in the process!) Also in the “neat stuff” department: Phyllis and I received a grant to produce a radio series from our monthly program, The Homestead Radio Hour, which means we certainly have our work cut out for us for the winter months… one of the highlights of the year for all of us was going to the National Heirloom Exposition in Santa Rosa, where we had the chance to sit down with some of the speakers and farmers we met at the Expo and talk about the future of food and farming, the heirloom movement, and urban gardening and homesteading. (You can hear the interviews on our new web site, homesteadradiohour.com!)

I also spent some time this year working at the University of California Cooperative Extension, with our local Foothill Farming program. The Extension is an incredible resource for local farmers, and one that we have turned to again and again for advice and information, so it was a great experience to see it from the inside — and an office that regularly hosts mozzarella-making demos, visiting livestock dogs, baby chicks, and recipe-testing is my kind of place!

One of my projects at the Extension was to produce the first in a series of short films about local farmers and their work; we wanted to find a way to share with consumers the story of our food, the work and care that goes into producing it, the history of farming in our region, and the power of that direct connection between farmer and consumer. My assignment was to start with the farm I know best — the B H Ranch! Here’s the final product — enjoy this glimpse into What We Do… and keep an eye out for future “Farmer Stories” episodes this year!

And, last but not least, we’d like to send out a giant Thank You! to all the stores, markets, and restaurants that featured our fruit this year. From high school cafeteria to CSA to ice cream parlour, our pears get around!

Auburn Thai Garden, Auburn (fig curry!)
Carpe Vino, Auburn
Flour Garden Bakery, Grass Valley/Auburn
Gaia’s Basket, Auburn
Natural Selection, Grass Valley
Natural Trading Company (CSA), Newcastle
Newcastle Produce, Newcastle
Placer High School, Auburn
SPD Market, Nevada City (our longest-running customer — almost 20 years!)
Sunrise Natural Foods, Auburn
Treats Ice Cream, Nevada City (Pear-Ginger Sorbet!)

Thank you all for a spectacular and delicious 2013! Happy New Year!


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Filed under around the farm, history, Homestead Radio Hour, in the news, Winter

Foto Friday: glorious garden!

At last! The moment we’ve all been waiting for…

Just look at these beauties! We’ve been eagerly watching the eggplant and zucchini all week, measuring their progress day by day, and trying to be ever so patient — but tonight, finally, it was time for the First Official Garden Dinner of Summer. Slice, olive oil and salt, grill, fresh basil, delicious.

The garden is a glorious jungle — the tomatoes are as tall as I am! My evening ritual is to wander the rows barefoot, still-warm soil under my toes, pulling weeds and doing a giddy jig every few yards as I find a giant green tomato, or a tiny cucumber. (My regular performances of the Gleeful Zucchini Dance sure did the trick, as you’ve already seen! I’m telling you, those plants just love the attention.)

I’m especially excited about this heirloom German Cherry tomato I grew from seed. I never seem to start my seedlings early enough, but this year, with the help of a borrowed heating mat, success!

Brenda knows every inch of the garden, and we make our evening rounds together. Then it’s time to have a set and enjoy the perfectly cool evening…

Happy gardening, and Happy Summer!

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Filed under around the farm, foto friday, in the garden, summer

Rare Fruits, New Trees and Heirloom Seeds

We’re just back from the California Rare Fruit Growers’ annual scion exchange in Sacramento, which is The Place To Be if you’re a tree collector! Members bring and give away cuttings from their unusual fruit trees, which can then be grafted onto an existing tree or rooted in soil, depending on the variety. The cuttings are labeled with the variety, and the names are often wonderfully evocative: Blue Celeste, Col de Dame Noir, and Igo figs; Diamond Muscat grape, Shangri-la mulberry, Rossenkya persimmon, Parfianka pomegranate… not to mention the hundreds of varieties of apples, peaches, plums and cherries. It’s a great way to preserve rare and heirloom varieties, and to add some character to your orchard!


Apricot, Fig, and Plum cuttings
If you missed the exchange but would like to start some new trees of your own, not to worry — now is the time of year to start thinking about propagation. It’s quite easy to root cuttings such as grape and fig, and local nurseries and garden clubs often hold grafting classes in the winter and spring. For information and instructions on rooting cuttings, check out our blog post from last year right here.
In other news, we’re hard at work — despite the mud — adding new Bartlett pear trees to our 90-plus-year-old orchard! With a bit of luck, these little guys will provide pears for the next 90…
Digging the planting holes took some heavy equipment:
And now, in the Discoveries department: On a recent trip to Bodega Bay, we passed through Petaluma, and happened upon a striking old bank building with the words “Heirloom Seeds” painted on the windows. Curious, we stopped to investigate — and found ourselves in the fantastic Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Bank:

I could have spent all day in this place! Hundreds, probably thousands, of heirloom seed varieties, housed in the gorgeous historic Sonoma County National Bank building, arrayed on shelves tailor-made for browsing. The company, family-run by Jere and Emilee Gettle, is based in Missouri and recently opened its first outpost — the Seed Bank — in Petaluma. Their catalogue is a delight, brimming with information and lovely photographs that will make you long for Spring. And, of course, the seeds themselves: giant “Yellow Monster” peppers, gooseberry gourds, a veritable rainbow of winter squash, antique sweet peas, Flamingo Pink Swiss chard, Japanese morning glories, Speckled Trout lettuce… you get the idea! Their catalogue is free, and available here. And, if you happen to be anywhere near Petaluma, the seed bank is definitely worth a trip!

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds can be found on the Web right here: rareseeds.com

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Filed under around the farm, orchard, propagation, Winter