Changing Seasons and Our Focus

Here it is: the northern Californian summer.  Our sweet routine is here: we wake up at 6 am and enjoy a cup of tea and the warm light peeking through the trees, work until dusk, and then eat a great meal filled with lots of greens! The hills are now golden and the sun is hot (hot being high 70’s). It’s a perfect environment for being outside all day.

We’ve been growing several types of tasty lettuces on a commercial scale, and have been blessed with eating big salads every night. This week we planted thousands of San Marzano tomatoes and our Giant Marconi peppers over at our plot of land in Santa Rosa, a place which uses all recycled waste water to hydrate the crops. And of course, flowers, flowers, flowers.

The process of thinning the apples has started. For us, this is the most important step in the apple growing process. It means the highest quality fruit. We thin every single tree in order to create a healthy production and not over-bear the tree with too much fruit. This process takes several weeks and thousands of dollars worth of labor to cover our 20 acres of apples, but it helps us produce the highest quality apple possible. Basically, at the end of a branch, there starts a cluster of 5 or 6 small apples. We “thin” off all but 1 or 2 small apples, which will grow with concentrated flavor from there not being too much fruit overbearing the tree. During this whole process, the little apples grow larger for the next few months until harvest, and they absorb water through the fog that rests on the soil every night, and then through the trunk, into the stems, and finally into the fruit. Dry farmed, organic apples and being a steward of the trees is a win/win situation.  We believe that if you’re a steward of your trees, the trees will be healthier and live longer.

Most apple farmers completely skip the important step of thinning and pump lots of water into the un-thinned clusters of fruit, which will make the fruit large, but it won’t have concentrated flavor like ours do.

Apple report: it’s a fruitful year for some varieties like Mutsus and Fujis, but not a great year for Ashmead’s Kernel or Black Twig or Arkansas Black. Keep in mind that many of our heirloom varieties are alternate-bearing, so they don’t produce in full every year.

See you at any of these Farmers’ Markets:

SF Ferry Plaza: Saturdays

Napa: Saturdays

Walnut Creek: Sundays

Napa: Tuesdays

St. Helena: Fridays

Mayday!

Our farm is like a Ferrari: one second, it is stopped and going 0 mph, and the next second, it accelerates to 60 mph. We’re currently somewhere in between and rapidly accelerating. This week it all came at once: beautiful iris, foxglove, sweet peas, snowballs, and sweet william, and not to mention the all the thinning of the pinot vines. It was also the chickens’ first time being outside and pecking at the ground. They scratched at and loved their little “salad bar.”

Hunter, the guys, and I whipped out the vineyard work, which was thinning all of the excess shoots on the grape vines. The important process of thinning will give us the highest quality fruit with the most concentrated flavor. It was also time to mow in our wonderful cover crop of wild radishes, mustards, clovers, dandelions, dock, and grass.

The apple blossoms on most of our trees have fallen off and the center of the bud started turning into baby apples. These pictured below are young honey crisp apples. We’ve been putting pheromones on the trees to confuse the male coddling moths, encouraging them to fly away because they can’t find their female mate on the trees. Farmer Stan has been carefully spraying lots of organic stuff (sulfur, lime, and oil) to help protect the trees from the heavy downpours. Our apple crop is looking great and we’re preparing for a huge year with our 50+ varieties.