Folsom Forefather Commemorated via Sister City Tour to Italy


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Rialto Bridge on Venice Canal

This annual tour to Italy, sponsored by Historical Murer House in Folsom, will take place from April 9-19 2018. The group of 20 “ambassadors” for Folsom will meet the citizens of Crespano del Grappa, near Venice in northern Italy.   Crespano is waiting and planning a special concert and dinner, guided tours and much more.  Tour leader Norma Petta from Italy Easy Travel in Folsom can answer specific questions for those interested in the tour in the Veneto region, which begins in Venice and includes Crespano del Grappa, Montello Prosecco Wine Region, Lago di Garda, Bassano del Grappa, Monte Grappa, Verona and ends in Florence.  There are a few available reservations left of this tour. Contact Norma Petta (916 985 3250) if you would like more information about this tour or a different, private group tour of your own.

Historic Murer House, Learning Center and Museum are located at 1125 Joe Murer Ct., Folsom, Ca. 530 985 7324. Open House is the first Saturday of the month from 10a.m. until 2p.m. Information about classes and events at

Historical Murer House

 History of Murer in Folsom (Murer House Photo)

Giuseppe (Joe) Murer was born in Crespano del Grappa on November 15, 1885. He apprenticed in and mastered carpentry, cabinet making and finish work. After the San Francisco earthquake in 1906, Joe and three other young men came to California when they heard of the plentiful work for carpenters. He was 21 years old, and an entrepreneur at heart. He became an American citizen, organized local groups, belonged to many civic organizations, and served as Chief on the Folsom Volunteer Fire Department.

He built the back-bar in the Folsom Hotel, which survives to this day.  “Joe,” as he became known, eventually bought the Folsom Hotel and went on to design, build and operate other businesses on Sutter Street including a gas station and garage, the Folsom firehouse (which survives on the north side of the 700 block), and the old Folsom post office at 627 Sutter Street.

Giuseppe Murer

Joe acquired the property along Folsom Boulevard in 1921 and by 1925 had expanded his holdings to include four vacant lots and two small wood frame houses, which he rented out.  In 1925, Joe began building his own home, a simple but well crafted design in the Italianate style of the northern Italy of his youth.  Joe was something of a renaissance man, incorporating many modern concepts into his home.  The one foot thick, poured concrete walls and tiled roof kept the house comfortable on all but the hottest summer days when he would retreat to the loft room to sleep more comfortably.

The house was plumbed for both hot and cold running water even though he did not install a hot water heater until the 1960s.  The built-in sideboard and bookcases in the dining room reflect his cabinetry skills and Joe succeeded in having the Natomas Company water line extended to his house during its construction.  When Joe built his house, he also constructed a garage on one side and a workshop on the other.

Antonio Zanetta, joined him in 1927 to do much of the finish work. Antonio’s son, Fred Zanetta was also a builder in Folsom, and his contribution to the Folsom Historical Society, Zanetta’s Barn, sits behind the museum on Sutter Street today. Fred was responsible for building a community of homes in the Natoma area with remarkable stone and brickwork, including a working aqueduct to 1/8/scale along the lines of the Pont du Gard in Southern France. Patricia Zanetta, Fred’s wife is a docent at the Murer House Museum. “I remember Joe Murer well,” she said. “He was always pleasant and sociable and liked people. I would bring him a Christmas cake each year. Joe was not tall,” she recalled. “Maybe 5’ 5”. I could look at his face at eye level.”  (Photos of Fred Zanetta’s homes and aqueduct)

An example of a Zanetta home

Zanetta’s Aqueduct

She said that her husband was related to an entire generation of contractors, and particular in his work. “Joe Murer hired him to complete the stucco and tile work, and that stucco, now 90 years old, hasn’t a crack in it.”

Joe never married but welcomed his large group of friends to his home and gardens for gatherings during his life.

There were two other houses on the property that Joe rented out. Today they are part of the Murer House compound. Cindy Baker, past president and programming director of the non-profit Historic Murer House Foundation and Learning Center, remembers Joe’s gentle nature with kids. “Joe was always happy to see us show up for a visit. He was usually in his yard or workshop doing something. A big treat was getting to feed his gold fish in the fountain out front. Joe used to pick up chestnuts for me in his garden when I was a little girl. He would carefully use his pen knife to peel off the outer layers. His fruit trees were wonderful and he always had us come pick Bing cherries by the bag full when they were in season. Preserving the site and helping tell his story, along with his role in Folsom history, has been a great joy.”

Joe passed away in November 1972 and is buried in St. John’s Catholic Cemetery, just across Folsom Boulevard from his home.

 Crespano Learns of Murer

The formal relationship between Folsom and Crespano came together after a visiting Italian researcher, Alessandro Trojani, dropped in on Folsom. He learned of the life of Giuseppe Murer when he visited a Folsom History Museum exhibit on the contributions of Italians during the Gold Rush and the Murer House site.

In August 1999, encouraged by Trojani, a Crespano delegation including Mayor Lorenzo Capovilla and council member Michela Belo traveled to Folsom and the Murer House.  They marveled at architectural touches from their hometown in Italy clearly visible in some of the buildings on Folsom’s historic Sutter Street.  After tours of Intel, Kikkoman and other prominent businesses, the Crespano contingent was feted at a dinner held in Lanza’s Family Italian Restaurant on Sutter Street where Mayor Capovilla suggested that the two communities seek a long-term relationship.  In June 2000, Crespano issued a formal invitation to enter into a sister relationship.  Soon after, the Folsom City Council approved a proposed Declaration of Friendship signed in Crespano del Grappa at an official ceremony held September 29, 2000.

Highlights of the Veneto Region include the architecture Andrea Palladio of Padua (1508-1589) is noted for, namely, villas, churches and palaces. This is the architect who, according to acclaimed researcher Bruce Boucher, was the most influential architect the western world has ever produced. His influence was held in high regard in England as well as in the U.S. Thomas Jefferson is said to have followed Palladio in designing the estate home in Virginia.

Caneletto’s “Capriccio View with Palladio’s Design”

Canaletto (1697-1768), the “painter of Venice” painted “Capriccio View with Palladio’s Design for the Rialto Bridge” in 1742 using a black and white woodcut design by Palladio who was asked for a design for the bridge. Antonio Da Ponte’s single-arch design was chosen for the Rialto instead and built between 1588-1590. The bridge Palladio did build and was eventually restored according to his design is the wooden pontoon bridge in Bassano del Grappa.

Bassano wooden bridge originally designed by Palladio

In addition to its production of the Italian register-marked liqueur Grappa, this region is well known for the memorial to the thousands of soldiers killed in World War 1 atop Mount Grappa close to the Austrian border.

Famous people and war generals came and went from this region including Napoleon, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. During its war torn years, at “the battle of Codroipo” in 1917, losses were catastrophic and represented 75% of the total Italian force on the battlefield.


Submitted by Betty Albert

530 626 5628



9 Garden Results That Taught Me a Lesson in Winter

                                                                                                                          Every winter I wistfully dream of my Spring Garden:

Every winter, my boredom with the dreary weather and its indoor regimen force me into the most evil tasks. While the wind howls and the last of fall gets blown away, cabinets get scrubbed, linens get rearranged, and loads of extra wash and dry create snuggle spots for the cats. The snow begins its steady drifts and the driveway is a sheet of ice. Going out is out of the question. My spirits begin to lift as the household slowly gets put into order and I remember the gardening catalogs I didn’t have time for during the rush of harvest. My excitement over the color photos begins to hit high notes as the winter wears on. I don’t mind being shut-in. I have something that occupies my heart and mind to the fullest.

Books, magazines and the Sunday Garden section are all over the place.

Previous logs, journals, notes, and calendars get pulled from drawers, closets and computers. Mind in a whirl, I can’t think straight. What to plant this spring? I remember the problems, but try and focus on that gorgeous melon and delicious eggplant Parmesan the family raved over. Where to start? I dive for John Jeavons’ “Plant More Vegetables”, and congratulate myself for having planted a cover crop before the rain and winds hit.

The nitrogen is getting built into the soil as we speak.

Like every year, I had to rein myself in from ordering up countless packages of seed and even more color catalogs. I decided to build a “What to Do and What Not to Do” list. First, I meditated deeply on what has happened in the past:

  1.  I planted vegetables I didn’t like to eat. They were recommended, and organic, or I was told (about the peppers) “they were not hot at all”. Baloney. I fed the compost.
  2. No idea cauliflower grew that big and took over that much space for one edible head.  I guess we could have eaten lots more leaves, but they were full of insect holes. Then there was that  night-flying moth whose larva turned into tiny green worms with voracious appetites. There really wasn’t much left of the leaves anyway.
  1. Surely tomatoes could not grow that much into each other with 6’ wire supports. They did. It was a jungle in there. I squirmed and fought my my through to get those last little tomatoes and didn’t know I could wear that scent so long.
  2. People do not want any more lemon cucumbers. They grow so prolifically and are so full of seeds, most varieties, I could not say “enough!” more emphatically.
  1. Same with zucchini. One plant would have been more than enough, but no. I had to plant several varieties and the neighborhood was drowning in crocknecks.
  2. Does your family really go for all those greens? All those nights with dinner?. Never have I seen more wrinkled noses over the mustard/spinach/chard saute´ I slaved over, buttered-up, mixed with quinoa, laced with garlic and lemon, and presented with such aplomb! No dice. No takers.
  3. I don’t like eggplant. But it’s not all about me. Husband adores it. Since the big ones always “mushed out” on me, I planted the Japanese variety. Nothing appeared until so late in the season, I was ready to feed the compost again when they spit out so many eggplants even my husband called a halt. All from one plant.    But no, I had planted three (just in case). In case of what, starvation?
  1. “It doesn’t grow here” I was told by more than one expert. No, I knew better. Then I planted peas and carrots at the wrong time, and lost most of the cucumber and squash to mildew to over- watering and not enough sun. Do you know how long it takes for a spaghetti squash to ripen? By then, the whole plant looks dead. They need a huge fence to crawl on, take over, and only give you one or two. It’s another thing I don’t like, anyway.
  1. Another big mistake was trying to plant seeds indoors. A magazine idea fed my brainstorm to fill a plastic shoe bag with organic dirt and wait for seedlings and transplants for spring. Surely that big garage window was plenty of light and it never got colder than 60°F. Plants? Not in this lifetime. Organic transplants are a lot less of a mess than that shoe bag, believe me.

Meanwhile, the cover crop looks great, come heck or high water.




 Annual Historic Highway 50 Wagon Train from Nevada arrives in Placerville, CA   

California may be known for its gold discovery, but the real deal are in the nooks and crannies in and around Main Street USA. Placerville, in the foothills of the Sierra, is one such town where “Destination” speaks loud and clear. In this little town of approximately 8,000 people treasures are real for art and history buffs, farm and quilt trail visitors, fishing/hiking spots, family fun, event planners, shoppers, photo ops, sippers of the grape, river enthusiasts, and more.

Its other nickname, “Hangtown” (“Dry Diggins” when the gold ran out), was changed to Placerville on incorporation around 1850. Only a few men were actually hanged, yet the nickname pops up on businesses all over town. A dummy clad in flannel shirt and jeans hangs outside a second story above Placerville’s Main Street. The infamous oak stump under the building’s foundation remains in what was once a saloon, now an ice cream parlor.

Halfway between Sacramento and South Lake Tahoe on east to west running Highway 50, with resorts and vintners continuing to pop up on both north and south sides, Placerville has become more than just a stopping off place.

Placerville was the 1998 and 2016 destination that hosted the World “Olympics” Gold Panning Championship for a week-long celebration for more than 600 competitors from over 20 countries. It is the destination where, for more than 67 years in June, the Highway 50 Association’s Annual Wagon sets off from Nevada and travels the historic route on Highway 50 ending in Placerville for a final parade, dance and barbeque party attended by most of its townspeople. This is the spot on the American River where James Marshall discovered gold in 1848, while working at John Sutter’s Mill. This discovery started a population surge that pushed the state into the entrepreneurial and agricultural meca it is today.



 PLAN AHEAD RESOURCES                                                                              WHAT TO SEE AND DO

With 1710 square miles stretching east-west-north-south from Lake Tahoe to El Dorado Hills, and Fair Play to Georgetown there is much to explore.

 El Dorado County Adventures Magazine, free at stands on Main Street, or call for a copy (530) 622-1255.

El Dorado Farm, Quilt Trails and Visitors Guide Maps, lodging, wineries, events, what to see/do/when/where/how/why.;

El Dorado County Chamber of Commerce, 542 Main St. (530) 621-5885

The Apple Hill™ Cider Press, authorized guide to Apple Hill™ growers, may be found at ranches, merchants, Chamber of Commerce or on line at

El Dorado County Farm Trails   http://www.edc-farmtrails.or  Map, guide, articles, farms and products by criteria, region or name.

                                                   WINEMAKING AT A HIGHER LEVEL

Our Sierra foothills range from 1,200 to 3,500 feet and hundreds of microclimates perfect for nearly 50 grape varieties. And all our artisan winemakers have a passion for experimenting and for this place. That’s what sets El Dorado apart.

Mountain Grown Wines

Want to know what gives El Dorado wines their intense flavors and deep colors? Our mountain vineyards are on steep hillsides with warm summer days and cool night air. It’s an environment that gives wines luscious fruit, an alluring balance, gentle tannins, and body and depth that valley floors just can’t match. (See Visitor Guide information above for maps, etc.)


California’s Gold Rush began in El Dorado County 1848 with James Marshall’s discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill, on the South Fork of the American River in Coloma. As legions of people flocked to California to claim their fortunes, the region’s winemaking industry was born.

By 1870, El Dorado County was among the largest wine producers in the state, trailing only Los Angeles and Sonoma counties. The local wine industry flourished until just after the turn of the century when there were approximately 2,000 acres of vines in the county. Shortly thereafter, El Dorado began a gradual decline, brought about by poor economic conditions and a diminishing local population. Prohibition was but the last straw.

Between 1920 and 1960, viticulture virtually disappeared from the county. It wasn’t until the late 1960s that winegrowing made a resurgence. Following the development of several experimental vineyards, it became apparent that both the climate and soil of El Dorado County were ideally suited to the production of high quality, dry table wines. With the opening of Boeger Winery in 1973, El Dorado was once again on its way to becoming an important winegrowing region.

Today, the county has more than 2,000 acres of vines, is home to approximately 50 wineries, and produces some of California’s most sophisticated wines. El Dorado was designated an American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 1983.



El Dorado County is home to 4 world-class olive oil companies.

Winterhill Farms,321 Main Street Placerville; 530.626.6369  Tasting Room open Mon-Sat: 10a-6pm Sun. 11a-5pm.

Winterhill has been crafting California Olive Oil Council Certified Extra-Virgin Olive Oils for over 14 years. A visit to Winterhill allows you the pleasure of tasting all the oils as well as other locally produced artisanal specialty foods.

Windmill Creek Olive Oil, 8148 Mt Aukum Rd, Mt Aukum, weekends 11a-   (530) 620-7211

Mad Dog Mesa Olive Oil, tasting by appointment only; and farmers markets (530) 642-8017

Collina di Mela, 1925 Carson Road, Placerville. (530) 626-5037 or;
an Apple Hill™Association grower of four originally planted Tuscan varieties, grown organically and winners of local and International awards. Find by appointment or at farmers markets.

in El Dorado County

You will find more than fruits and vegetables.  It’s an adventure discovering local organic honey, hand-crafted jewelry, breads (oh, the pastries!), and wild salmon as well.  Wednesdays June thru late fall, 4pm til dusk, the market on Main Street Placerville busts out with fresh eggs, local fruits and veggies, pastries, and more. So does the weekend market on Saturdaymornings during the season. The atmosphere in all the markets is one in which to meet your neighbors, become acquainted with your farmers, and show your children that good food doesn’t come in a box.



Cameron Park

Cameron Park Coach Lane @ Strolling Hills Drive
June – Oct 26 Wednesday 8 a.m. – 12 p.m.
(530) 622-1900

Coloma Monroe Orchards Farmers Market
North Beach parking June – Oct Sunday 9 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
(530) 622-6198

El Dorado Hills Town Center Town Center Blvd
May – Oct Sunday 8 a.m. – 1 p.m.
(530) 622-1900

Historic Folsom Farmers Market
915 Sutter St. FolsomCA 95630. phone, (916) 484-7000
Every Saturday year-round 8a.m.-1p.m.
at the historic railroad turntable and public parking garage.

Folsom Parkshore Plaza Farmers Market    
606 Coolidge Dr and Parkshore
Folsom, CA 95630
(916) 484-7000

Sprouts Farmers Market and grocery
905 E Bidwell St open daily 7a.m. – 10 p.m.
Folsom, CA 95630
(916) 605-7050

Placerville Main Street Farmers Market
385 Main Street June – Oct Wednesday 5 p.m. – Dusk
(530) 647-0744

Placerville Missouri Flat Outdoor Market
4600 Missouri Flat Road between Industrial Drive & Enterprise Drive Year Round Friday, Saturday & Sunday 4 – 7 pm, 7 a.m. – 3 pm (916) 519-7556

Placerville CFM
Main Street & Cedar Ravine May – Oct Saturday 8 a.m. – 12 p.m.
(530) 622-1900

Placerville 3045 Sacramento St. Sunday 8 a.m.-12 p.m. (530) 409-9951
September – November Friday 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
(530) 622-0184

Camino Kids Inc Farmers Market
3205 North Canyon Road,  Camino

South Lake Tahoe Ski Run Blvd Farmers’ Market
200 x 600 street section between Larch St and Birch Street, Ski Run Blvd June – Oct Friday 9 a.m. – 2 pm
(530) 391-5865

South Lake Tahoe South Lake Tahoe CFM
2748 Lake Tahoe Blvd June – Oct Tuesday 8 a.m. – 1 p.m.
(530) 622-1900

                                                                                               COMFORTABLE, CONVENIENT BnBs

Find maps, directions, telephone, email, reservation and seasonal availability in the resources listed at the beginning of this article
in the El Dorado Visitors Guide.



Whether you plan to explore Placerville or FairPlay,
Georgetown or El Dorado Hills, there are fine accommodations waiting for you and a friendly,
helpful staff.













                                                                             HISTORY and FAMILY FUN all year long

Visitors think Placerville goes to sleep after the fall apple picking festivities, but there are events and attractions through winter. Some farms remain open and families visiting Christmas tree farms can catch the Santa Claus Parade, tree lighting event, and dozens and dozens of miniature Christmas trees along Highway 50.


Find the surrey with the fringe on top
Gold pan on the American River.
Visit countless u-pick farms, farmers
markets, museums and historical sights.

Ride the train, do a ghost tour, find
a wine trail of your own and scour the
shops on Main Street for that antique
you’ve been looking for or that
fabulous dinner entree waiting for you.


                                                                                                  A 3-MUSEUM HISTORY HUNT

El Dorado County Historical Museum, 104 Placerville Dr. (530) 621-5865)

A Depot, sits near the tracks of the El Dorado Western Railway in El Dorado. Find out about train rides at the Visit El Dorado Western Railway Website.. 
Ride on the oldest railroad line west of the Mississippi ( photo by Pat Dollins

( for historical links and information. This large museum is filled with local history books, clothing, furniture and artifacts of pioneers and people like John Marshall, John Studebaker and Snowshoe Thompson; logging, mining, wine, agriculture and railroad history. One of the concrete stanchions that marked Highway 50 from the East to the West Coast is planted in front of the Museum. Look for the “buggy with the fringe on top”.

Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park and surrounds in January or September for Coloma Gold Rush events and see miners at work in live encampments, telling stories, playing music of the era, and other demonstrations. The Park includes the Gold Discovery Museum, the Marshall Monument where he was buried, a replica of Sutter’s Mill and            more. (approx. 7 miles north of Placerville downtown on Hwy. 24).


Explore more artifacts and history at the “biggest little museum in the west”,
El Dorado Historical Society Museum and The Fountain & Tallman Museum at 524 Main St. built in 1852. It was a recognized center for soda manufacturing, and the oldest building on Main St., with 2-foot thick walls meant to keep the ice and soda supplies cool. (530) 626-0773. (

                                                                                   GHOSTS LIVE HERE, TOO

Ghostly Gold rush personalities abound confirmed in places around town.

Find out more or take a tour:

Nancy Bradley’s book, “Gold Rush Ghosts: Strange and Unexplained Phenomena in the Mother Lode“, chronicles ghostly incidents at buildings in Placerville, such as the El Dorado Chamber of Commerce and the Carey Hotel.

                                                                            MORE HISTORY POSSIBILITIES

Gold Pan on the South Fork of the American River        (;

Gold Bug Mine and Joshua Hendy Stamp Mill surrounded by 62 acres of walking trails.          ( Self-guided audio tour, museum, and blacksmith shop.

Apple Hill™ and Quilt Trail provides family fun September-December at grower
facilities including fresh baked everything, BBQs, gift shops, art displays, crafts, restaurants, wine tasting and more.

El is your adventure map to find treasure troves throughout “The Divide” that stretches throughout Northern El Dorado County from Highway 49 and 193 and Marshall Road. (

Somerset Area Excursions include   

            Alpacas of El Dorado

            Alpacas of Somerset Farm

            Bluebird Haven Iris Garden

            Perry Creek Walnuts




                                                                    SIDEBAR TIDBITS OF HISTORY AND HEARSAY

The Vineyard House in Coloma across from Pioneer Cemetery is famed for being haunted, as documented by “Ripley’s Believe It or Not”.

Reservoir Street used to be home to Chinese whorehouses in the 1800’s, and there were tunnels built under the bars so the men could make an easy escape. The last one closed in the 1950s.

                                                                              HOME OF THE HANGTOWN FRY        

Back in the day, the legend goes that a miner tossed his full pouch of gold onto the bar and called for the most expensive meal in the house. The cook explained that most expensive meant eggs (packed so carefully), bacon (shipped from the east) and fresh oysters (on ice from San Francisco Bay). All three were requested, and the “Hangtown Fry” that was delivered is famous to this day throughout the country.


This recipe has many variations.
Suit your own tastes by adding or subtracting ingredients.
Serves 2
Ingredients and Directions

  1. 1. Dice and brown 4 strips of bacon in pan to render fat. Add ¼ of medium onion, diced. When nicely browned, add 2 fresh or jarred oysters patted dry, cut to bite size, and cook 35 seconds per side.
  2. 2. In separate bowl, combine 4 whole eggs, 2 T milk, ¼ tsp. salt, pinch of red pepper flakes, ¼ tsp. nutmeg.
    3. Add egg mixture to bacon mixture and lift edges of omelet to cook til set.
    Invert onto plate and garnish with parsley and additional crumbled bacon if desired.

One version of the Hangtown Fry with peppers and artichoke hearts.
Photo by Betty Albert

                                                          MOST REMEMBERED: “SNOWSHOE” THOMPSON     

Born Jon Torsteinson-Rue, also known as “Snowshoe” Thompson (1827-1876), he was a Norwegian-American considered to be the father of California skiing. He immigrated to America in 1837. An early resident of the Sierra Nevada and California, he picked up the slack when mail carriers could no longer survive blizzards and mules froze to death. Snowshoe packed up to 100 pounds of letters, medicines, newspapers and other items every two weeks from Placerville up 8,000 feet and then down to Genoa, Nevada on his homemade “long” skis from January 1856-May 1876. It was a three day trip over treacherous rocky cliffs and monumental snow drifts in winter. He never had an official mail contract with the U.S. Postal Service and was never paid, despite his efforts for compensation.

He died May 15, 1876 at the age of 49 of pneumonia after an appendicitis attack in Genoa, Nevada.

A local artist painted a commemorative wall on the side of a building in Placerville. He is also commemorated in the Museum at 524 Main Street and the Historical Museum at 104 Placerville Drive next to the Fairgrounds. 530.621.5865. Other monuments and statues to commemorate his heroic efforts include locations at Donner Pass, Squaw Valley Village, Highway 88 and the statue sculpted by Don Budy of Colorado in the grounds of the Mormon Station State Park in Genoa, dedicated on June 23, 2001.

                                                THE OLDEST HARDWARE STORE WEST OF THE MISSISSIPPI

Placerville Hardware, 441 Main St., where residents claim “If you can’t find it there, they don’t make it.” Filled with historical curiosities, it is a museum itself of goods of every description, old and new. Essentials, souvenirs, gifts, gold panning supplies, and hardware ad infinitum. Est. 1850, historical family friendly service: 530.622.1151.





Consult the directories listed in The Gold Nuggets of El Dorado County in this blog for maps, open hours, days, and contact information for over 64 certified producers, 22 of them registered organic.

Agriculture in El Dorado County grew after the gold rush. There were about 16 ranchers, mostly pear orchards. In 1958, a pear blight struck, taking with it 52,000 tons of fruit which diminished to 8,435 tons by 1965. Clearly something had to be done. The Apple Hill™ Growers united in 1964. They were Gene Bolster, local grower; Dick Bethell, El Dorado County’s pomology specialist and farm advisor; Ed Delfino, El Dorado County’s agricultural commissioner; and Bob Tuck, a retired army officer. (Photo: Edie Delfino)

Bolster and Delfino  decided to find out what made the Oak Glen Farm in Southern California so successful and brought home a marketing program to present to local Camino ranchers. Together with the rich soil, they were determined to make the region productive once more. On their side was an ideal growing season and a long chilling season to keep the trees dormant longer, which contributes to the better flavor.

Photo: 30-year old cherry trees at Fausel Family Farm

At Larsen’s Ranch, you will find the Rhode Island Greening which is believed to be the oldest apple tree in El Dorado County. At Hilltop Ranch, the Bolsters have collected a number of antique varieties, making available some of the apples of your childhood.

As early as August 1964, an inaugural press picnic was held, free apples were distributed, homemade baked goods, jams, jellies and sauces were tasted and Apple Hill™ “rose like a phoenix from the ashes of disaster,” Bolster observed. “Apple Hill™ was the first ranch marketing effort in Northern California,” Delfino said, “and its success is shown by the fact that now there are ranch marketing groups all over. Apple Hill is a great example of government, farmers and media working together for everyone’s good.”  Today from 16 ranches, Apple Hill™ Growers number 48 or more.  An update in the 2016 Crop Report states:

“The gross crop value for the County of El Dorado was $61,859,905 million, representing a decrease of 3.2% from the 2015 values. Ap‐ ples and apple products remained the leading crop with a total value of $19.2 million. Livestock rose to the second leading crop with a value of $10.7 million. Winegrape values increased by 7.9% over the 2015 values to $8.7 million. Timber values were $5,322,915, which was the largest decline with a decrease of 60%.

“Monetary values in this report are F.O.B. (Freight On Board) and do not reflect net returns or profits realized by the growers. It is es ‐ mated that the impact of agriculture to the County of El Dorado’s economy totaled approximately $560 million in 2016, of which, Apple Hill™ and value‐added products contributed an estimated $255 million while the wine industry added another $287 million.”




Buon Natale say the Gondoliers

8cd0e7afd6ff86ad43f408789b3ba25b5ad0c89dMy travel planner (Norma at sent this. I guess it reminds us of the spirit of the the people in Italy who take up an oar and pronounce the spirit of the season. The gondoliers are no exception. A strong community spirit rows through Venice among the gondoliers, understandably with the rich history behind the Arsenale that housed the industry.

The first building of the Arsenale (current meaning of the term “dock”) dates back to the 1100’s, apparently due to the Doge Faliero Ordelafo’s foresight to improve shipbuilding industry. Over the centuries construction and upgrades were implemented, including measures to face the menacing Ottoman maritime fleet in 1453, and the first launching of a Northern European war vessel in 1667. Expansions continued despite looting and dominations by other countries until the 1900’s.

After the industrial revolution, the Arsenal had started to decline because it was no longer in a position to satisfy the needs of modern shipbuilding. From here, the history is sketchy, especially reading that the Veneto annexed itself from the Kingdom of Italy in 1866, but wanted to retain all the guarantees of a large arsenal.

The life of a gondolier (Jed Smith:
is no easy feat, and yes, there was in 2010 a female fit to join this boys’ club.

Gondolier’s must fill many requirements before the possibility of a six figure income. Physical strength, maintenance of one’s boat, adhering to the “rules of the road” so to speak, and putting up with the stream of tourist personalities alone can be daunting.
They must be well-versed in Venice history, the maze of canals, belong to a 1000-year-old Guild with 400 hours of training, sponsorship and tutoring by an existing member, not to mention a tough exam. Think of all that before becoming too reluctant to shell out and leave a big tip. Besides, look how cute they are in their Santa Claus suits!

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.

Whole Grain Berry Good “Rice” Pudding

Here’s another way to get your whole grains. Delicious in the morning or during any part of your day. This one is made with a whole grain medley from Bob’s Red Mill called “Grains of Discovery.”

Whole Grain Berry Good “Rice” Pudding

Serves 4-6

1 cup Whole Grain Medley* (Bob’s Red Mill “Grains of Discovery”)
3 cups whole milk, almond or coconut milk
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4  cup cane sugar

1/4  cup date sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1⁄2 tsp. cardamom

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Zest from one (1) lemon

1-2 cups strawberries (chopped) or blueberries
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped (optional)

  1. Add grains, milk, salt, sugar and spices to a medium pot; stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes or more until most of the liquid has absorbed and grains are tender, stirring occasionally.

  2. Remove from heat and stir in berries, vanilla, lemon zest and nuts, if using. Serve warm or at room temperature.

*Your own mix of grains can be substituted, e.g. quinoa, brown rice, whole grain oats, barley, buckwheat, etc.


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Green Chef Press Newsletter: April 2016


Greetings from Placerville, California and welcome to the Green Chef Press newsletter!

This month, Green Chef Press launched its new blog on WordPress. I am excited to share my passion for farm-to-table cuisine, health, nutrition, wellness, and recipes that will get you cooking in your kitchen. I look forward to meeting you and welcome any of your questions. I want to hear from you!

The Latest News from the Blog:

Spring is in the Air!

While we wait for cherries, berries and other spring bounty, our garden is in grow mode. Don’t forget to keep your roots moist so plants can access nutrients. It’s such a beautiful season with the scent of blossoms fresh in the air. Find out here how to recognize the blossoms you see.

Celebrate Spring with Asparagus

3443126ASPARAGUS! The spring veggie loved by many, or few? We Italians love it every which way and, from the excitement this past weekend at the San Joaquin Asparagus Festival in Stockton, California, we know many enjoy this wonder veggie.

It’s not surprising since this is the biggest festival of its kind in the west! San Joaquin County grows the most asparagus of any place in the U.S.

Did you know asparagus is rich in vitamins B and E, is great for your immunity, and slows the aging process?

Celebrate spring’s first green vegetable with these recipes: Fried Asparagus with Dipping Sauce or mixed with spinach into a fabulous Asparagus and Spinach Frittata. Check out the wild asparagus notes from my friend Anne in Italy!

Placerville in the News

Spring is the season for festivals and I just happened to be in Placerville when our local news station was in town interviewing the Fausel family, the proud owners of the oldest hardware store west of the Mississippi, Placerville Hardware. They shared their preparations for the Gold Prospecting and Mining Summit and the next big event, the World Gold Panning Championship at the El Dorado County Fairgrounds which will take place in September 2016. More on that to come.

Whole Grains

Are you eating enough whole grains? Whole grains are an excellent way to nourish your body and boost your intake of protein and fiber. Combine whole grains with vegetables in this Multi Grain Pilaf that will satisfy even your pickiest eaters. Remember brown rice pasta is another way to get your grains. Try this Brown Rice Pasta and Shrimp Entree for a quick and healthy meal.


For a sweet treat, use whole grains to make this delectable gluten-free Vanilla Coconut Pound Cake.  I recommend using products from Bob’s Red Mill, which are available in most grocery stores, outlets and health food stores.

From the Green Chef Press Kitchen:
Recipes for April

Poppyseed Muffin

Artichoke and Sun-dried Tomatoes Pasta Dinner
Asparagus with Quinoa
Asparagus and Spinach Frittata

Fried Asparagus with Dipping Sauce
Brown Rice Pasta and Shrimp Entree
Eggplant, Tomato and Feta Salad
Lemon Blackberry Pie
Multi Grain Pilaf
Orange Poppyseed Muffins
Vanilla Coconut Pound Cake

Until next time, be well and bon appétit!

About the Author
Betty Albert is a native Californian and resident of Placerville since 2003. She is retired from her own Health Nut Products company where she worked as a baker, caterer, personal chef, and served on the board of the Placerville Natural Foods Co-op. She recently published an ebook, “Lost in Italy and Loving It!” Her latest endeavor will be a “Farm to Table” series, reflecting her admiration for the farms and their owners, and in celebration of food everywhere.

One More Time with Asparagus

From “TRAVEL TIPS from” comes this Festival Feature in Fresno, April 15-17:

San Joaquin County grows the most asparagus of any place in the U.S.
Top 3 California Asparagus Counties:

San Joaquin 42.2% | Fresno 28.6%  | Monterey 27.4%

  • Asparagus is planted in the ground three years before it can be harvested for the full season; the plant grows for 15 to 20 years.
  • Short growing season February – June
  • Watch it grow! Can grow 7″ in a day when the temperatures reach 90 degrees.
  • #66 California farm commodity

Fried Asparagus with Dipping Sauce

Breaded asparagus is fried in coconut oil then served with a healthy chili ranch dipping sauce.

  • 12 asparagus spears
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour, seasoned
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups fresh bread crumbs, seasoned
  • use half panko crumbs, if desired
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil for frying, or as needed
  • 1 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
  • ¼-½ cup almond milk
  • 2-4 T mayonnaise
  • 1 4-oz can chopped green chili peppers
  • dashes hot pepper sauce (such as Siracha), or to taste
  • 2 T Seasoning Mix (2-4 tsp. EACH onion flakes, parsley leaves, basil, dill, garlic powder, onion powder, garlic powder, sea salt, black pepper)
  1. Dampen asparagus lightly with water. Coat with flour; trying to avoid coating the tips.
  2. Dip asparagus in beaten egg.
  3. Roll and coat asparagus in a layer of breadcrumbs.
  4. Place coated asparagus on a plate and refrigerate, allowing coating to stick, 15 to 20 minutes.
  5. Stir mayonnaise, milk, yogurt, green chilies, seasoning mix and hot pepper sauce together in a small bowl for dipping sauce.
  6. Heat coconut oil in a fry pan over medium heat.
  7. Fry coated asparagus in the hot oil until golden brown, 2 to 4 minutes. Serve immediately with dipping sauce.