Gold Panning Championships Finals in Placerville on September 17-18 wound upwards into high levels of cheering by onlookers of every country, including a bagpiper from Spain. Amid the din, flags swirled, the announcer’s enthusiasm mounted,  and the competitors panned faster than ever.


Winner results are still being according to officials as of Friday, 9/23.  A weary crowd of volunteers and event planners are yet to rest.  Semi-finals spoke well for South Africa in the Juniors, Finland and Germany in the Classic, Italy and Finland in the Veterans, and Finland in the Champions of Champions.  Germany was key in Mens Profi, and Finland, South Africa and Germany in Womens Profi.  No clue as to how one becomes a “Very Important Panner”, but there was Mike Matus, California, with under a minute.





Wondering what to do with all that squash?  Too many apples?  You’ve been called to Apple Hill™ and know the first day of Autumn is September 22, Thursday.  You know the trees will soon be a blaze of color:Fall color.jpg

falltrees2Come visit the farms!  The farmers’markets are bounding in every kind of squash, melon and pumpkin imaginable.

Winter Squash, from the genus Cucurbita, differs from summer squash in that it is harvested and eaten in the mature fruit stage, when the seeds within have matured fully and the skin has hardened into a tough rind.
And you wonder………….What is this called, and what do I do with it?  Below, right, is Red Kuri  and Kabocha, only two of the squash you’re likely to find now.  Winter squash (Acorn, Buttercup, Butternut, Delicata, Golden Nugget, Hubbard, Kabocha, Pumpkin, Red Kuri, Spaghetti Squash, Turban) are rich in carotenoid pigments and the antioxidant, beta-carotene (transformed into Vitamin A), to protect against cancer.

And I repeat, one great solution:  STUFF IT!    Here is a recipe you can use to stuff any type of squash.  Make it your own by adding corn kernels, apples, cabbage (chopped/blanched)
bell or other peppers, diced tomatoes, etc.:

Zucchini Stuffed Squash (or any squash)
6 Large Zucchini, cut in half, scooped out centers
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb. bulk sausage or ground meat
3 tsps. EACH Rosemary/Thyme
8 oz. Bella mushrooms, chopped (optional)
1/8 c sherry (optional)
½-1 c grated cheese
Brown onion, garlic, mushrooms and herbs in small amount of oil.
Add meat to center of pan, breaking up clumps. Season as desired.
Stir in wine, and half the grated cheese.
Top zucchini with filling, and sprinkle rest of cheese on top.
Bake 350-375º 30-35 minutes. until brown.

more recipes can be found on: http://www.epicurious.com/archive/seasonalcooking/farmtotable/visual-guide-winter-squash
Stuffed Red Kuri Squash and Kabocha.  Cut off the tops, scoop out the centers, save the seeds, stuff and bake until the squash is tender when pierced.  Cut and serve like a pie (top right).

 Baked Apples Filled With Sausage

1 pound bulk sausage
6 large tart baking apples
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/4 cup chopped figs
brown sugar, ground cinnamon, grated lemon rind, or chopped figs


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Brown the sausage in a large skillet. Wash the apples and cut a slice from the tops. Scoop out the flesh, leaving shells ½ inch thick. Cut the flesh from the cores and chop it. Add the chopped apple, brown sugar, cinnamon, lemon rind, and figs to the sausage and mix well. Fill the apple shells with the mixture. Sprinkle the tops with brown sugar, cinnamon, grated lemon rind, or chopped figs. Place in a baking dish, cover, and bake until tender, about 40 minutes. Serve with hot biscuits and a green salad.

Yield: 6 servings

Credit: Farmer’s Almanac
Morris Shanstrom, Pueblo, Colorado Colorado State Fair and E





Fall is Finally here in Sacramento and a Trip to Apple Hill is Just what the Doctor Ordered


apple-hillCan you feel the chill in the evening air?  Fall is around the corner and it’s by far, my most favorite time of the year!  Not just for the “pumpkin spice lattes” you see everyone sipping in the mornings, but for everything related to fall. The beautiful colors that start emerging on the tree tops, the crisp chill of the morning air, the smell of apple pies and muffins baking in the oven – I love it all!

One of our families’ most cherished traditions is to head up to Apple Hill and spend the day picking apples. I’m counting down the days until we make our annual trip to get some apple donuts, fritters, pies and even enjoy a little Apple beer. Oh it really is the most wonderful time of the year!

If you have never been, it’s an easy drive from Sacramento, about 45 minutes East and a little past…

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International Gold Panning Competition

http://www.eldorado2016.com/  The Placerville Fairgrounds was a-buzz with visitors, competitors, vendors, and golf carts darting to and fro on missions of every description to keep everyone happy. Most of the day was a waiting game: for the spectators and compimg_1297etitors alike, until their turn came to pan. italiandelegateswait

The Italian delegates were enthusiastic and Uncle Fuzzy and friends look quite relaxed.
Joyce Mason and Rich (UncleFuzzy) Mason were instrumental in helping  plan this year’s international competition, went abroad to meet with other countries, and together with Fred Ott,Janine D’Agostini, and Kara Adema headed up the enormous county-wide committee necessary to accomplish this event.mensproficient-team1
Delegates from dozens of nations participated with onlookers cheered them on. Once the panning began, competitors dumped the dirt, panned in the water they stood in, much the same as miners did in the 1800’s, and kept panning until they found the gold nuggets that had been inserted in the dirt, every bucket the same amount of dirt and gold.

img_1300You had to find every nugget and put it in the vial. Competitors were judged on speed and efficiency of finding the nuggets.  A long line of winners in many categories will be announced at the awards ceremonies on Sunday evening.

A Story That Needs To Be Told


The year was 1947. The place is Pasadena, California. The people gathered around the bridge table are regulars. The topic is a regular complaint about the lousy weather, and the city congestion. It was, as L. G. “Frank” Beals put it at the time, “making him sick.” Frank was is one of the gang with a regular itch for country life and hopeful for a resolution to his “citified” complaints.tractorloadorchardbest

Somehow the talkin’ got round to a piece of property in Placerville that was just not to be left alone. A couple of brothers in Placervile that were related to a woman at the table ended up helping Frank locate the place. Before you knew it, Frank had transported his wife Louise out from a comfortable suburban Southern California environment, with its green lawns, white picket fences, and all the comforts of home into an 85-acre pear ranch complete with no hot water, a wood stove, an outhouse, and chickens running in and out. In addition, the property had been blessed with what seemed a ton of ash from the old Maidu Indian burial ground it once was.

black-fryer-plumsEight years later, Frank bought a separate property on Green Valley Road with a 10,000-square foot chicken coop. “Dad loved chickens,” Greg Beals says of his dad, Frank. “I was 13 years old at the time, and I remember crying and begging dad not to sell the propery in order to get the chicken farm. But he had to.”

Greg Beals and son Mikegreg-in-storagemikecloseup

“It was really my Grandpa Francis who taught me the love of farming and a lot of other things like being respectful and such, most of which I never fully realized until I was much older,”    Greg relates. “He and I had so much fun in that barn milking cows, squirting each other so much we’d be covered with milk and laughing till our sides hurt.” Greg went on to emphasize, “If it weren’t for my Grandpa, I might hate farming, pretty much like my dad did. But with Grandpa, it was a whole different story. He loved farming, and he made it fun. It was interesting and educational. I lived in the barn with Mel, dad’s best friend and a farm hand. I learned grafting, how to butcher, crop rotation and so much more. It became my passion as well.”

Further impetus to eventually get his own farm when his dad made him work his way through college. Greg learned to save and scrimp. He earned a college business degree from Sacramento State, the first in his family to do so. Greg worked for the State of California, Cal Trans and Dept. of Food and Agriculture, eventually becoming Assistant Chief of the State’s Fairs and Expositions division.


The pear decline in 1963 did not alter the young man’s dream of farming the rest of his life and having his own orchard. In May of 1973, Greg and Linda Beals bought 53 acres on Highway 49 and planted 750 peach seedlings. Greg had his own orchard, but continued working full time, doing farmers markets on weekends, and even sometimes during the week. Everything seemed a major challenge because the ranch occupied every moment of his early mornings and evenings, hauling pipe and elbow greasing all the other chores of farm life. A butcher shop on the premises kept Linda busy helping to supply the custom meat cuts that were in demand.

He was grafting his own wood stock working on the orchard with his son Mike, enlarging his crop to include the 30 varieties of peaches, 30+ varieties of plums, 10 varieties of pluots, 20 varieties of nectarines and nectaplums, plums, pluots, pomegranates, Meyer lemons, figs, rhubarb and persimmons the farm produces today. Although farm work was his dream and fulfilled much of his life, it did not come without penalties. There was little time to spend with his wife and children, and he and Linda were divorced, forcing him to buy the ranch all over again.

Mike attended local and automotive trade schools, a natural for him since he had been fixing farm equipment most of his life. He met and married Denise in 1986 and they have two children, Brandon, 27, a Civil Engineering graduate of Chico State and Pacific Infrastructure employee, and Brooke, 22, who has one more semester at Chico State and her eye on a career in agricultural administration. Mike purchased Placerville Body and Auto Shop in 1992, and, like his father, attends to farming early mornings and evenings with farmers markets on weekends. Greg retired in 2000 and he and Mike have partnered up sharing work and expenses, and making sure that the farmers markets go on. Greg, Mike, Denise, Brooke, Brandon and additional members of the family help out.



Who picks all this glorious fruit? “Greg and I did it last year,” says Denise, “we had so much fun up in those trees, we just laughed all day. I don’t like to eat figs, but don’t get me wrong, I love picking. This year it’s Brooke’s turn.” It is truly a family affair, with 10 of the 53 acres devoted to orchard production. “We pick all week for the weekend,” Mike relates. “We have 8 farmers markets to attend to: Tuesday in Sacramento and Tahoe, Wednesday in Sacramento and Placerville, Saturday in Rancho Cordova and Placerville, and Sunday in El Dorado Hills and Sacramento.”


Future plans for Greg include retirement on his 59-acre Idaho property with nothing more to do than admire the elk congregating on his front yard on a daily basis. Besides phasing out of the automotive industry, Mike is hoping to not only add new varieties to meet market needs, but extend the growth season opportunities.


So the Beals story wraps up. Yet another one of those interviews where the heir apparent is the passion for farming, passed on from one generation to another, sometimes skipping a parent or two, but getting picked up along the line as though genetic.  Look at this happy family, I thought. How fortunate to have inherited this gift so that all of us can receive the bounty of their passion and their fabulous fruits.

Visit more on facebook.com/bealsorchard







El Dorado Gold 2016 in Placerville, CA Sept. 11-18 opened with a bang!

They appeared in costumes, with banners, flags, horse teams and carriages.  Nations from A to Z by the hundreds came in for the panning competition (tomorrow’s blog).




The law and the lawless appeared, as did many of Placerville’s costumed (or not) characters.  There were “ladies of the night”, hundreds of gold panning competitors from every nation you could name.  John Sanders and daughter (Old Town Grill and  Smith Flat House Restaurant) and the Fausel family (Placerville Hardware) all joined in to prepare and serve up John’s version of “Miner’s Stew”, a delicious recipe including wild turkey, rabbit, local heirloom tomatoes and vegetables.



See the 63-pg. booklet of the entire gold event on http://www.eldorado2016.com



              Michal, Native Daughter of the Golden West.teamandcarriagea-for-australiaslovakialadies-of-the-night


South African delegates loved the stew!


Alpacas Most Serene at Somerset

kanilla and tupelo

BabywithMama1 “You’re in luck!” Dianna greeted us. “A baby alpaca (cria) has just been born this morning.” As often happens, it was an easy birth. “Alpacas have an 11-month gestation period, and most of the time the dam needs no help, Dianna explained. “I came out this morning and there she was!” The baby cria was just a few hours old and still a little unsteady getting to her feet when we walked into the pen. Dianna went on to tell us that she had approximately 100 births on the ranch since starting to raise alpacas in 2005.BabywithMama4

Herd shot

Alpacas of Somerset Farm, in Somerset, California, is owned by Dianna and Jack Jordan.  Why alpacas? “Well, as we approached retirement we knew we didn’t want to grow grapes like so many of our neighbors but did want a country lifestyle on our acreage with income, and we loved animals. We moved her in 1978 and our kids grew up here and over the years, family-owned wineries have become the primary draw to this area. We’re all living our dreams.” Now, as a retired high school teacher, Jack participates in the Home and Hospital program through the El Dorado Union High School District for students unable to attend classes but needing to continue their education.      

FromtheDeckJackandMe (2)

The Jordan’s herd numbers 65 and the harvest of fleece in the barn occurred just days before our visit, as usual about mid-May.  The select group of huacayas and suris at Alpacas of Somerset Farm offers some of the best genetics available….from the ageless “tried and true” foundation imports to the “up-and-coming” North American bred and born.

Most alpaca ranches breed and sell exceptional alpacas with the focus on fiber quality and characteristics to advance the North American alpaca fiber production industry. ““I decided that I wanted to express my creative side by utilizing the fiber we produce to create fiber art.    Dianna said.nuno felt scarf2DiannaJordanwithFleece

Dianna’s nuno felted* scarves and many other products are sold at shows such as the one in Oregon, FiberMania. To gain a better understanding of how breeding decisions affect the quality of fiber, Dianna immersed herself in the fiber production aspect of the industry.  Her term as a board member on the Alpaca Fiber Cooperative of North America, Inc. (AFCNA) proved to be invaluable in terms of exposure to North American fiber production.  As a perennial student she has attended advanced classes focused on breeding for quality fiber, hands-on classes focusing on sorting and grading fiber to maximize the quality of the finished goods, and several classes on how to prepare fleece for processing.  She has recently transitioned to hand processing a “home-grown” fiber.

*Nuno felting is a fabric felting technique developed by Polly Stirling, a fiber artist from New South Wales, Australia, around 1992. The name is derived from the Japanese word “nuno” meaning cloth. The technique bonds loose fibre, usually wool, into a sheer fabric such as silk gauze, creating a lightweight felt.     Nuno felting – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia