Organic Braised Greens

with Organic Beans, Whole Grains and Uncured Sausage, Serves 4-6

There’s nothing like an unexpected blustery evening with this warming mix of healthy foods. Braising greens brought home from the farmers market cook right up into a hearty taste treat for dinner! Read more….below.

5-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 leek, small (or shallot/red onion), chopped fine
2-4 strips of cooked uncured bacon, chopped
a colander full of snipped or cut braising greens (baby cabbage, mustard greens, bok choy, chard, radish leaves, etc.)
2-4 T EACH extra virgin olive oil and BRAGG’S LIQUID AMINOS*
Uncured, organic, fully cooked sausage (optional), cut into coins (Teton Waters Beef Thuringer is 100% grass-fed Beef)
Whole Grain organic packet (Seeds of Change makes one to simply heat)
Organic 15 oz can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 oz Lindcove Ranch Candied Blood Orange Peel, or similar homemade variety, chopped, then minced.

In large skillet, drizzle olive oil and sauté garlic quickly, about one minute.

 Add onion, bacon and sauté two minutes.

Add your mountain of chopped greens, one handful at a time, stirring continually.
Add more olive oil, a drizzle of lemon juice and liquid aminos about half way through.

 When greens have wilted completely, push to side of pan and add sausage. Let brown.
Add packet of whole grains, then the beans, cover to let steam, 2 minutes.

 Mix greens together with other ingredients in the pan.
Stir in finely minced candied orange peel and…

.you’re ready to serve!

 Seem too involved? This recipe incorporates many of the organic foods we have adopted. It’s amazing, once you start thinking All Organic, how you find products with
no hormones, no antibiotics, no feedlot, made without chemical additives, additives and
really toxic preservatives like nitrites and nitrates. Farmers Markets are a good bet, but
supermarkets are picking up on the increase in consumer demand for Healthy Please, too. The candied blood orange peel I found at a farmers market was a boon! All the ones I’ve seen in supermarkets are not chemical free. Adding whole grains not only reduces the sugar spike in traditional carbohydrates, they provide healthy digestion, vitamins, minerals and immunity factors your body will enjoy.

Take this a step further, and make it a soup by adding homemade bone-broth or other stock.

*Bragg’s Liquid Aminos is an all-purpose seasoning from Soy Protein, a natural soy sauce alternative with less sodium, no preservatives, Non-GMO.

Greens…for Goodness Sake!

With the advent of Spring, Farmers Markets, CSA* deliveries, and a plethora of organics in the markets, let’s take a closer look at these superfoods and how to use them and why. The “how” might include what to do with them once purchased, and the “where” prefers organic, please. There is a lot more to greens than lettuce and a lot more to lettuce than iceberg!

LOOK for healthy, dark green, organic, fresh greens you can use in salads, stir fry, steam, add to soups, fillings, or other dishes like lentils, beans, rice, grains, pasta and use within days of purchase.

LOOK at farmers markets or elsewhere for your own delivery of farm fresh goods.*

*(Community Supported Agriculture*e.g.: It’s Organic).

THINK how healthy greens are for keeping your gut clean, adding fiber, keeping your weight down, using as a bed for any other food from beans and peas to tuna and steak. Many are considered cruciferous, which research shows may reduce the risk of various types of cancer and eye disease. Many are high in vitamins A, C, and E; beta-carotene, calcium, iron and fiber.

CLEAN greens by washing thoroughly after purchase and use as soon as possible.
KEEP it by wrapping or storing in bags with paper towels to keep it dry.
REMEMBER that moisture brings bacteria, so change the towels if necessary.

FEAR NOT! Young greens can be used in salads. More mature greens (radish, beet greens, mustard, etc.) can be wilted, steamed, braised, even grilled, and added to soups or side dishes. Buy more to use this way, they lose volume when cooked. If your experience is “too bitter”, try adding lemon juice/zest, garlic powder and brown rice syrup to sweeten it up a bit. Bragg’s Liquid Aminos is a lower sodium alternative to soy sauce. Putting them with beans creates a fulfilling entrée, especially soups.

GET CREATIVE! Flavor with olive oil, garlic, chiles, onion, ginger, curry, spices, lemon, sun-dried tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, bacon fat, ham, and more.

GET HEALTHY: The Cruciferous Vegetables and Their Leafy Greens come from vegetables of the family Brassicaceae (also called Cruciferae). These vegetables are widely cultivated for food production such as cauliflower, cabbage, garden cress, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts and similar green leaf vegetables. such as kale, mustard greens, collard greens, cabbage, brussels sprouts leaves and broccoli — high in nutrients and contain glucosinolates, and indol-3 carbinol, which inhibit the growth of certain cancers. Magnesium, dietary fiber, vitamin C, folate and tryptophan are also abundant in these greens; these minerals enhance heart health and brain function. Cook these greens separately, or combine them to create a flavorful blend. Add them to soups or casseroles or sauté them with your favorite herbs and seasonings.


Get creative. The possibilities are endless.

ARUGULA: Tender, peppery, try a steak salad, pizza topping or add to pasta sauces.
BABY BOK CHOY: Asian dress with Bragg’s, sesame oil, rice vinegar, use like spinach.
BOK CHOY: Add to stir-fries, soups. Steam, combine with other greens, braise.
BROCCOLI: High in C, A, potassium, folate. Drop florets in pasta during last 4 minutes. Stalk and leaves are also edible, and highly nutritious — the leaves are actually higher in beta carotene than the florets.

Broccoli greens.

Broccoli greens.

BELGIAN ENDIVE: Perfect hors d’oeuvre wrap. Great with blue cheeses, walnuts.
CABBAGE: Fiber, folate, calcium, iron, vitamin K. Versatile leaves can be shredded, rolled, stuffed, added to salads, side dishes, stews, soups, stir-fries.
CHICORY: Related to endive/radicchio. Use in citrus salads with light vinaigrette.
CHINESE CABBAGE: related to broccoli and cabbage. Bright green leaves, mild.
COLLARDS: Traditionally cooked slowly with pork/bacon, or like spinach. Use wide leaves as wrapper vs. tortillas. Similar to kale in nutrition. Rich in Calcium.
CURLY ENDIVE: Cousin to chicory. Mix w/other greens, balsamic, seamed.
DANDELION: Nature’s diuretic, sauté, steam, braise. High in potassium, nourishes urinary tract and liver. Contains vital nutrients and minerals as well as vitamins A, B, C and D. Dandelion has been used for centuries as a primary herb that purifies the blood and flushes toxins out of the body, via the liver and kidneys.
ESCAROLE: Another endive, firm, crunchy. Cook like swiss chard, or wilted, warm.
FRISÉE: Chicory cousin. Mix with other salad greens.
KALE: Cabbage relative. Bitter if stored too long. Remove ribs, sauté, add to stew. Excellent source of vitamins A C, and K, has a good amount of calcium for a vegetable, and also supplies folate and potassium. Kale’s ruffle-edged leaves may range in color from cream to purple to black depending on the variety. Kale is an anti-inflammatory/anti- oxidant cruciferous vegetable, helps mediate 5 different types of cancer risks. Researchers can now identify over 45 different flavonoids in kale. Best steamed to help mediate cholesterol risks. (
KOHLRABI: Related to cabbage. Cook like turnip. Shred/sauté, top with Parmesan.
MUSTARD GREENS: Peppery, dark leaves, scalloped edges. Flavor w/bacon,onion. Cooked mustard greens have 10 calories in one-half cup. Reduce spiciness with vinegar, or lemon juice toward end of cooking.
RAPINI/BROCCOLI RAAB: Stalks with florets on end. Blanch/sauté.
SWISS CHARD: Rainbow is mildest, braise, steam, add to beans, soups. Perfect for sauteeing. Both Swiss chard and spinach contain oxalates, which are slightly reduced by cooking and can bind to calcium, a concern for people prone to kidney stones. Chard contains 15 calories in one-half cup and is a good source of vitamins A and C.

Swiss Chard.

Swiss Chard.

SPINACH: Raw or cooked. Add to soups, pasta dishes, casseroles, lasagna, eggs, etc. High in A, C, and Folate. Cooked spinach has reduced oxalate content, therefore more nutritious than raw. Packed with magnesium. Spinach and chard are rich in iron, carrying oxygen to the blood.


Spinach bunches.

TURNIP GREENS: Fuzzy leaves, trim from rib, steam, stir fry. Braise with ham/pork. More tender than other greens and needing less cooking, this peppery-flavored leaf is low in calories yet loaded with vitamins A,C, and K as well as calcium.
WATERCRESS: Mustard family. Add to salads, sandwiches, soups. garnish. Helps keep skin cells healthy.
LETTUCES are not just for salads. Create beds for grilled fish, make wraps. Wash, spin dry, cut or tear and store in bowl or bag with paper towels. Mix with other lettuces. The darker, the more nutritious. The least nutritious is iceberg. Keep at the ready to create flavorful farm to table salads filled with fresh vegetables like cucumber, radishes, celery, artichoke hearts or bottoms, steamed/roasted beets, nuts, boiled eggs, onions, jicama, sprouts, apple bits, toasted almonds, orange segments, poppy seeds, sunflower seeds.


Greens and more greens.

BOSTON/BUTTERHEAD/BIBB: Crisp, smooth, slightly sweet, very tender.
ENDIVE: the Curley, Leafy one, or in a tight little bulb they both make great wraps.
ESCAROLE: High in A AND C, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
GREEN LEAF: Ruffled leaves, delicate crunch, more perishable than iceberg.
ICEBERG: Crisp, add to salads, in tacos, lettuce wraps.
RED LEAF: Red-tinged, similar to green leaf.
ROMAINE: Crunch to sandwiches, Caesar salad.
RADICCHIO: Use to add color, crunch, slightly bitter.

Full Moon Farm


Greg holds two of his customers’ favorite sweet tomatoes: Sun Gold.


Greg Henry, Stephanie Lewis
3580 Big Cut Rd.
Placerville, CA 95667
Visit Full Moon Farm on Facebook

A country road takes you up hills and curves to a 32-acre farm nestled in a forest setting that feels far and away from the city just a mile or so back there. Nearby, huge rock cliffs soar upward and serve as the name for road, “Big Cut.” Turns out it is an old gold mining piece, hydraulically troughed out, touching Coon Hollow* and the creek down the canyon.

Greg on his tractor ready for clearing, plowing, feeding the pigs, you name it.

Greg on his tractor ready for clearing, plowing, feeding the pigs, you name it.

We are met by the farm’s sentries Baisa and Bubby who loudly bark our arrival. Stephanie greets us and calls Greg off his morning chores and we begin our tour. An old stone chimney marks the site of the original residence, burned in a fire years back. Greg acquired the property in October 2013 and has been hard at work to clear the land and create a full working farm. Greg tells us he plans to rebuild the home one day, “funds and God providing.” Farm fresh greens line the beds in the 7 acres already cleared, tilled and planted. The two young farmers get ready for the first of the local farmers markets in town, opening the first Saturday in May each year for the season through November. Local restaurants in town also use up much of the farm’s bounty, happy to be able to offer real “farm to fork” fresh local provisions on their diners’ plates.

“There is a growing market share as the public is buying more organic food. I have found nothing but support….everyone is on your side despite the costs and hassles of organic farming,” Greg emphasized. He said that he thanked Jimmy Carter for resurrecting the farmers market idea and went on to explain that farmers markets have become an important part of our culture, as they were years ago.

Greg is a member of more than one farmers market, finding it a good resource for networking with the community and individual customers alike.

Greg is a member of more than one farmers market, finding it a good resource for networking with the community and individual customers alike.

“More young farmers are also coming forward because there are many opportunities and resources available and organizations ready to help with funding,”** Greg said. He himself obtained a grant from the Natural Resources Conservancy Services (NRCS) for his 3000 square-foot High Tunnel greenhouse now on the property. Plantings include green beans, tomatoes, cantaloupes, mixed greens and more in the 30’ wide, 100’ long shelter.


Full Moon Farm’s new big greenhouse called a “Big Tunnel.”

Nearby lies a large, recently plowed plot Greg had planted with vetch, fava, bell bean and oats — “green manure” he calls it. “It adds biomass back into the soil, which should be at least 3-5% organic material. To test the nutrient value he sent livestock into the pasture of greens he had planted there. “They went for the oats,” Greg said, “and when I measured them on the refractometer, their sugar content (nutrient measure) was 16 brix! Animals naturally know what are the best building blocks for life.”


Tending Mother Earth also means making sure the soil is abundantly healthy and full of nutrition.

In the small greenhouse, Greg shows us how he warms the seedling trays so they think it is earlier in the year, solving germination issues he had last year. Below the shelf of trays, onions are planted next to cabbage seedlings, a demonstration of integrated pest management (IPM) because, “bugs hate the onion family,” he says, “and it’s just another way to do companion planting.” He holds up a couple of Sun Gold seedlings, a sweet tomato favorite at the farmers’ markets. In consideration of other local farmers who specialize in tomatoes, however, Greg says that he is not planning on a huge crop. “I’d rather sell produce to those restaurants that favor organic greens, for example, like Jack Russell, Farm Table and Tim’s Brown Bag.” He said that this little greenhouse helped him sell greens all winter to the local “Totem” coffee house.

Little Greenhouse_FullMoon

Warming those seedling trays in the small greenhouse.

Warming those seedling trays in the small greenhouse.

Stephanie mounts the tractor and prepares to feed the Red Wattle Heritage Texas pigs on the property with the spoiled apples given to them by Hooverville Orchards, another local farm. “They eat well,” the couple explains. “Organic kitchen fruit and vegetable scraps, leftovers from the farmers markets, and organic feed we have shipped from Oregon. It’s one of the few available organic, pesticide and chemical-free feed providers.”


These unique American hogs are bred for pastured environments. The fleshy wattle attached to each side of the neck has no purpose. There are only three tiers of the breed left in America.

Piglets born 4_12.FullMoon

Piglets born middle of April 2016.

Obviously proud of the small herd, they tell of the piglets, which are often sold to other farms, and the custom “shares” of organic pork once it is butchered and sold through Archer’s Meats in Placerville.

“The pigs help clear the land of roots and vines, so we move them from time to time,” Stephanie explained. “Pigs are excellent land tenders compared to other livestock,” Greg explains. “They are designed to get nutrition from rooting out those old blackberries and poison oak, helping me to clear and turn the land at the same time. They favor the poison oak, eating it up like candy.”


The Big Daddy Boar. He eats poison oak like candy!

Black Mission and Conadria figs comprise the beginning of the orchard, and plantings of perennials, like berries and table grapes, round out the farm’s available produce.

“I’m working toward one-third fruit, one-third animals and one-third vegetables for diversification,” Greg stated. He went on to explain that in Humboldt College, where he studied Forestry, he learned of the Waldorf School and the concept of biodynamic farming. After college, he worked in eight different ranches throughout California and felt that this was “a calling, what I’m supposed to do,” he said. “I learned it quicker and was more interested; it just made so much sense, and the whole world opened up from there.”


*Coon Hollow Mine (Excerpt from Doug Noble’s “Mines of El Dorado County” with permission.)

“The Coon Hollow Mine, which included the Excelsior Claim, was one of the largest drift and hydraulic mines in El Dorado County. It was located one mile south of Placerville at what is now appropriately known as Big Cut. From 1852 to 1861 the gravel was removed by drifting and between 1861 and 1871, by hydraulic means. Water for the water ‘cannons’ was brought by ditch and pipe from miles up the American River Canyon. Through the use of water pressure, ten million dollars in gold was removed from gravel that averaged about $1 per yard (yes, that is 10,000,000 cubic yards of material, or more, that was removed). The tailings from the operation, which were deposited in the canyons to the south, were later mined for silica and even later for aggregate to build bridges and roads.”

** Excerpt from “Along with consumer demand for organics, increasingly they are asking for local foods. Under Secretary Vilsack, USDA has provided more than $1 billion in investments to more than 40,000 local and regional food businesses and infrastructure projects since 2009. Industry data estimates that U.S. local food sales totaled at least $12 billion in 2014, up from $5 billion in 2008.”

“USDA has also established a number of resources to help organics producers find technical and financial resources to help them grow domestically and abroad. USDA has made market and pricing information for approximately 250 organic products available free of charge through USDA’s Market News. In 2015, USDA made more than $11.5 million available to assist organic operations with their certification costs.”


Fausel Ranch


4881 Hanks Exchange Rd.
Placerville, CA 95667

Proprietors: David and Deanna Fausel

The Fausel Ranch is listed in California’s Agricultural Heritage Club and received special recognition in 2010 with a plaque in their honor. The ranch’s first year of operation is listed as 1877, but the Fausels were busy long before then.

Best Emil Fausel

There are two family founders to be acknowledged who immigrated from Germany: Fred and Mari Giebenhain who built the brick house on Placerville’s Main Street circa 1860 and started a brewery there. And Kasper and Filomena Fausel of Germany and Switzerland who settled on Hanks Exchange Road in Placerville circa 1870.

Fred and Mari Giebenhain had five boys and two girls. Kasper and Filomena Fausel had five children. Kasper’s eldest son, Emil, married Giebenhain’s daughter, Mary in 1900. They lived in the downtown brick house until Mary’s death in 1959. She was 90 years old.


Kasper was known for his rock masonry work, building cellars and buildings in El Dorado County. He is listed in the George Peabody book of History. Other attentions involved horses, wine, potatoes, grapes, cows and milk sold to Sacramento Crystal Creamery. The biggest venture was the brewery downtown, where “Mountain Steam Beer” became so well known it won 1902 World’s Fair recognition in St. Louis. It was said to cure everything from women’s ailments to sunburn. Prohibition in 1921 closed that venture, and the family took up farming on the then 40 acres on Hanks Exchange Rd.

The property included the Squaw Creek Dam that was built in 1861, but broke down a year later. The water from Cosumnes River that feeds the ditch run to Squaw Creek is still used by the County’s Irrigation District. Diamond & Caldor Railway also ran through a corner of the property.

Kaspar’s sons Emil, and Bill both worked the ranch and also worked the Victory Mine until his youngest son, Albert closed it. Albert continued working the ranch until 1975. Eggs, milk cows, pears, apples and vegetables from his large garden kept the family busy. Emil’s son, Frank Fausel, married Helen Rudkin in 1945 and had two sons, David and Dan, both of whom have been living and working in Placerville.


David and Deanna Fausel own and operate (with their son Albert) the oldest hardware store west of the Mississippi – a veritable gold mine for residents, visitors and tourists in Placerville. “It has everything,” locals often say, “if you can’t find it there, they don’t make it.” Gold mining tools, equipment and supplies are well stocked. Employees of the store participated in the 1998 World Gold Panning Championship held in Coloma. 2016 is a busy gold mining year for the entire County as participants in the World Gold Panning Championship event descend on the area in April and in September taking prospecting to the next level.




The Fausel family ranch on Hanks Exchange grew from the original family property to 93 acres, 15 of which is heavily planted with peach, nectarine, four varieties of cherry (some boasting 30+ years), plum, chestnut and pomegranate trees.

In addition to weather (especially rain at the wrong time or no chilling hours), gophers, voles and other wildlife, “it’s a constant vigil,” he explained. “In 30 years, I never had peach rot ‘til last year, an internal rot. Everything you do is preventive. If you see it, it’s too late. You can lose a whole crop that way. If a disease is present in the tree, it isn’t enough to spray, you spray it, and cut it down.”

“I just love farming,” David Fausel says. “I like to grow good food, work away from the hustle and bustle, investigate and try different varieties to grow, and try to beat Mother Nature’s dirty tricks.”



“I tried organic growing at one time,” he said. “But honestly, it’s way too much spraying, too often. Manufacturers are very up-to-date on ecology, organics and the like. There are specific sprays for specific pests, so you’re not inundating the entire orchard with chemicals.”


Nectarine blossoms_Fausel

All spraying is done during dormant or early bloom and long gone by the time fruit arrives. He hand thins the fruit himself, emphasizes the need for heavy winter pruning and the need for frequent replanting/replacing trees. David emphasized that he is planning more orchard space and expects to keep the farm running indefinitely.

“It’s very much a family affair,” Deanna Fausel says. “It’s a joy to watch three generations picking peaches, there is plenty of hustle and bustle, and then helping with a late, big family dinner. I don’t think farm to fork is such a new idea. I remember grandma collecting eggs and taking them downtown to trade or sell.”

Today, David sells much of the fruit he raises at a roadstand at the end of their driveway, or at the hardware store. “And it all goes,” he says.

The Best, Last, Ultimate Recipe for Hard Boiled Eggs

Here’s a foolproof method for perfect hard boiled eggs. It’s the only recipe you’ll need.



Place 2 inches of water in a medium saucepan with a steamer basket.
Place eggs in steamer basket and bring to boil with lid. Lower heat to simmer.
Steam for 13 minutes.
Remove eggs with slotted spoon to ice water bath for 10-15 minutes.
Refrigerate eggs for future use, or crack shell all around and see how easy they are to

Hard boiled eggs make for an easy, healthy snack. Enjoy.

Image source: Pixabay

Q&A about Nitrates


Image Source: Pixabay

Q: How can I make nutritional sense of all the different brands and types of hot dogs and lunch meats for my children?

A: I hate to start answering a question with a question, but where are you shopping? Most large supermarkets carry what has a selling history: big business and others continue to include MSG and chemical preservatives like nitrates and nitrites in their goods. On the other hand, some manufacturers like manufacture goods with nitrates as well as “Natural” goods without harmful chemicals and with natural preservatives such as celery. (note: “natural” is not the same as “organic”).

Since I’m an experienced product demonstrator, I find that many parents today freely give their children samples of food and if it tastes good to them, they buy it without ever reading the label. Other parents, looking at label ingredients, decide to forego the product and head for the natural foods section. Uncured turkey hot dogs are just as tasty they say, and don’t carry the health risk of preservatives. Slowly, slowly, will we ever learn to eat for health, not just taste?

One elder recently was convinced that cooking the foods to a high temperature killed the preservatives. Perhaps at most the harmful bacteria, but the preservatives are still there to play havoc with your hormonal and other body systems.

Image source: Pixabay

Biodynamic Experience

OUR 2 DAYS IN NAPA VALLEY gave us many special moments and the one outside of RAYMOND VINEYARD TASTING ROOM was exceptional.  Of course it had to do with organic farming, Biodynamic© to be specific.   I knew we might have a chance to go back to this fine exhibit in Rutherford (St. Helena, CA) during our Kitchens in the Vineyards Tour, and this time took copious notes.  And photos.

Biodynamic© agriculture is a form of alternative agriculture very similar to organic farming, but which includes various esoteric concepts drawn from the ideas of Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925). Initially developed in the 1920s, it was the first of the organic agriculture movements.  Each few steps, on the Raymond exhibit, the organic process is described in writing, on plaques, and in virtual plantings.  Here are some of the descriptions, interspersed with some of my photos.

Raymond Estate Soil  (A plastic column of earth describes each layer of the content of soil).  The photo below illustrates produce grown without compost and that planted with compost at the same time.  Nutrients in the soil mean everything, same as nutrients in the human body.IMG_0560

Act One The SoilIMG_0561

Soil is the source and destiny of all life.

What happens in the soil, the unseen, is more important than what you see. The unseen shapes the seen. The soil is in many ways the soul of the site. It’s alive, with billions of creatures in each handful. These creatures – worms, bacteria, funguses, molds, insects, and many others—feed primarily on decaying plants. A wise gardener or farmer feeds the life in the soil. The soil then feeds the crops. A vineyard or garden is only as good as its soil is healthy.

Biodynamic Preparations and Companion Planting conceptsIMG_0563

The use of the preparation is a requirement of the Biodynamic method. There are nine in all, made from herbs, mineral substances and animal manures, that are utilized in field sprays and compost inoculants applied in minute doses, much like homeopathic remedies are for humans. Timely applications revitalize the soil and stimulate root growth, enhance the development of microorganisms and humus formation, and aid in photosynthetic activity.

Chamomile, Horsetail, Valerian Nettles, Dandelion

Sheep and Goats

Our Alpine goats and Southdown sheep are rotated around the vineyard working as lawnmowers and weedwackers clearing the brush and weeds. In return, we collect their stale sweepings to enrich the compost piles, which will boost the health of our garden plants. But first, the chickens peck through the stable sweepings, looking for fly eggs and adding valuable chicken manure to the mix.  Do they love their lettuce, don’t have to call them twice!IMG_0573


Poultry plays an enormously important part in Nature’s Theater. Ducks gobble up crop-destroying slugs and snails, and give us meat and eggs in return. Chickens scratch for insect eggs and bugs, and a natural diet of living insects yields healthy eggs of wonderful flavor and rich, dark orange yolks. We provide a henhouse, but also give them a moveable cage so hens have access to a fresh plot of grass daily.  (Who does their hair?)IMG_0569

The unconscious Wisdom of the Beehive

Biodynamic farmers have long thought of a bee colony not as a collection of individual workers, drones, nursemaids, larvae, and a queen, but as a single organism with many discrete parts. This organism settles over the flowers on a farm, pollinating them and causing them to set seed, grow fruit, and produce vegetables. In fact, 30 percent of our food supply depends on bees for pollination.

Bees are vulnerable to a wide range of pesticides and harmful agricultural chemicals. On an organic or Biodynamic farm, bees find a safe home free from poisons. They not only pollinate our crops, but also support reproduction of wild plants on which the diverse biota of insects and other animals depend. A healthy population of bees is an indication of health in the entire ecosystem.

Beneficial InsectaryIMG_0579

On Earth there are over two million different species of insects. Most of them provide important services for the well-being of the planet. They pollinate three-quarters of the world’s food supply; they devour harmful pests, and they work hard as decomposers recycling decaying plants and animals. When a garden is in balance with nature it supports a large population of fees, beetles, flies, dragonflies, and spiders….which keep the garden clean, healthy and productive without the need for chemical pesticides. By cultivating plants that have white umbrella flowers (dill, carrot, cilantro, parsley, sweet alyssum and fennel), you can provide a steady supply of nectar and pollen for beneficial insects.

Wine and Herb Pairing GardenIMG_0581

The arrangement of herbs have been chosen to complement the flavors of white and red wines. You are welcome to nibble on the various leaves and tast their influence on the wine. How does the flavor of the herbs change the flavor of the wine? Which herbs go better with white and which go better with red wine?

According to the gardener on the vineyard property, Joe Papendick, the borage plant that I saw planted directly next to the grapevine was not there but for reseeding itself. Grapevines do not rely on pollination, however, insects and pollinators about the garden are beneficial for their well-being.

Joe told me about a resourceful sustainable farming expert, John Jeavons. His interview in the Bay Area in 2010 talks about his Biointensive Mini Farming techniques and the underlying principles he practices. Read more:


Raymond Vineyards traces its family roots to the origins of winemaking in America’s most fabled wine region. Embodying the spirit of the “Old Napa Valley”, the Raymond family worked side-by-side to build their winery from the ground-up. After arriving in the Napa Valley in 1933, marrying Martha Jane Beringer in 1936, and enjoying more than thirty-five years working in every facet of Beringer Winery, in 1970 Roy Raymond Sr., together with his sons Walter and Roy Jr., decided that it was their time to put their family name on the deep roots they’d laid in the Napa Valley.  Read more about the Raymond family and their origins here.

2 Days in the Napa Valley

In addition to the Kitchens in the Vineyard Tour, we could not go to Napa and miss other favorite haunts.

OAKVILLE GROCERY – founded in 1881IMG_0546GrocBest

On Hwy. 29 traversing Napa, Yountville, St. Helena sites and stops, this oldest continually operating grocery store in California is a destination for locals and visitors alike. Open every day, there is a sister store in Healdsburg. The restoration has made room for even more hordes of people stopping to shop.


No visit to Napa would be complete without a visit to the OxBow. It is its own district.  OxbowSignjpg And inside you can find every kind of gourmet food imaginable from ice cream to fresh fish and beyond.fishmongerspice storegourmet1jpgfarmfresdistillerychocomaniaCheese store

At the spice store I was able to find Galangal Root (of the ginger family, said to be more mild), *Zahtar (Za’atar), and a citrus herb seasoning; from the Italian Grocer, I brought home Black Beluga Idaho heirloom lentils, organic Purple Prairie Barley from Montana and Pizzichi, a whole Farro pasta from Abruzzo, Italy. I plan a salad with these three.

*Wikipedia defines Za’atar as the generic name for a family of related Middle Eastern herbs from the oregano, thyme, and savory families. The name za’atar alone most properly applies to Origanum syriacum, considered by many to be the hyssop of the Bible. It is also the name for a condiment made from the dried herbs, mixed with sesame seed, dried sumac and other spices.

Be sure to see Kitchens in the Vineyards tour in Napa.

Kitchens in the Vineyards

19th Annual Home and Garden Tour – April 30, 2016

I waited all year for this event to come ‘round again. Napa calls my soul out to play every year around this time with its rolling green velvet hills and vineyards, so reminiscent of Umbria and Tuscany. My only regret is that “no photography” was allowed inside the homes.  But being the shutterbug I am, I found plenty of beauty to click on.  This year, there appeared to be an even larger display of roses everywhere with the white signature rose of Napa especially prevalent.


PinkRoseBushCroppedIn wine regions around the world, roses are frequently planted at the perimeter of vineyards. Roses typically require the same type of soil and sun requirements as grapevines and traditionally, rose hedges were planted as an early warning system to protect the health of the grapevines. Early detection of disease or stress on the roses alerted winemakers to take the necessary precautions to protect vines from similar damage. Roses also add beauty to the vineyard landscape, provide food for bees and offer habitat for beneficial insects preying on undesirable insects that can damage the grape crop.

The roses and vineyards were not the only views to hold your attention on the drive through the valley. More and more hillsides are blanketed with grapevines, and the views from the home sites on the tour were spectacular.UphillVineyard2AcrossValley3IMG_0513

Our first stop on the Kitchens in the Vineyards Tour was the Ackerman Heritage House, owned by Lauren Ackerman, a 20-year resident of Napa, and the sixth owner of this historic gem in the heart of town.   The impetus to restore this 1888 Queen Anne Victorian to its era of opulence and grandeur was not a selfish one. “This is a community asset,” Lauren emphasizes. “The house will be used for private, political, and/or non-profit events.” The property will be further enhanced with a soon to be built tasting room to showcase the wines from Coombsville’s Ackerman Winery.

The 4000-square-foot home includes 14 original stained glass windows, and elaborate woodwork throughout. The interior features period-correct furniture, lighting, extravagant antiques and library. The home was originally designed by Luther Turton and owned by Sarah Hayman who bought the property for 10-dollars in gold coins and built the house in 90-days. “It took me five years to renovate the house,” Ackerman said.

Each of the homes on the tour was tended by guides, each armed with nothing less than a training manual of detail about the showcase homes. Each home is styled by noted designers and florists and enhanced with springtime table settings.

At the Ackerman House, I was taken by some of the original restorations such as the push button lite switches, historic photographs of women’s suffrage in Wyoming Territory and Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper and Harper’s Bazaar print of 1875 showing ladies and children’s spring suits. Everyone ogled the domed bathroom ceiling in the master bedroom and all the furniture from that period.

Attention to design and detail was everywhere. Whether it was adding pocket doors or unique chandeliers or buying special tools to recreate some of the woodwork, she traveled the world looking for the perfect period correct pieces and artwork for each room. Lauren described an antique she had picked up in London – an 1837 official portrait of Queen Victoria at age 17, with a piece of the fabric from the shawl she wore in the portrait attached to the frame.

Ken Frank, the chef from Napa’s LaToque restaurant, was in the kitchen popping out scores of Gougères (cheese puff hors d’oeuvres) sans Champagne.


Our second stop had historic roots in the 1920’s as a dairy farm and cheese barn and stable. Volcanic rock from the property built much of the restored structure situated on what is left of the 123 former acres in Coombsville owned by the Kreuzer family in 1876.KeeverVineyardView

Now owned by Caldwell Vineyard, the acreage grows 10 grape varietals.

The guest house was remodeled by the current owner in 1975, with a deck around the exterior.  I was taken by the enormous outcropping of a pricky pear cactus variety and its flowers.PPearCloseupDeckView

Along the way, there was no lack of premier dwellings and sites to see, including Opus One Vineyards.WhiteHouseItalianVillaOpusOne

Speaking of premier dwellings, our next stop was SPLENDID MEDITERRANEAN, in Yountville, up the hill past the Veteran’s Home, featuring a grand interior with coffered ceilings and vast arch windows. The exterior is surrounded by Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards and boasts a winery, pool, guest home, and spectacular views.House FrontFrontViewOutjpgGuest House

Strawberry Shortcake served compliments of Hurley’s Restaurant, where Bob Hurley, 30-year professional and Executive Chef describes his menu as local California cuisine high in flavor and influenced by the Mediterranean with The “Wine Country” theme to allow for plenty of diversity.StrawberryShortcakeAcrossValley


This contemporary ranch-style home, originally built in 1985, was renovated in 2014. A serene blend of traditional elements and Asian antiques, its warm neutrals focus on transitional indoor/outdoor living.   The grounds include a full kitchen, bar, gas fireplace, lounge area, pool, 280 Cabernet Sauvignon vines (1-2 barrels of wine) and 16 olive trees (producing 15 gallons of oil). What caught my eye was the full garden and orchard.

raised beds BestpoolRoseGardenBestTostaritas

Tostaritas were served on the patio by Napkins Bar and Grill, a “Modern American Bistro” in downtown Napa, featuring open mic on Thursdays 9:30-12:30 a.m.   The menu was designed with local seasonal farm fresh ingredients and flavors to pair with your favorite wines.  The hors d’oeuvre served at the Ranch Renovation was built on a fried corn tortilla chip, spicy quacamole, pickled red cabbage and queso fresco. Behind me a woman remarked, “quacamole should be a food group!”

We almost went to Napkins for dinner ourselves, but instead chose another bistro in Napa, Napa Valley Bistro.  My Chinese Salad with Ahi was built on Napa Cabbage, Romaine, Bell Pepper, Ginger, Almond, Sesame Soy Dressing. Bruce selected Niman Ranch St. Louis Style Ribs with Tamarind BBQ Sauce, Coleslaw and Sweet Potato Fries.

AhiChineseSaladBistro Ribs