Harvesting crew expands

Our harvesting crew is expanding:

Here is little Evelina helping pick some figs:


And also some carrots!



She's doing well in her training - with lots of different fruits and vegetables to chose.....carrots, apples, tomatoes, pears, grapes, figs,....and also some stones to add to the pot!


Its a busy week this week as we have started our grape harvest.  The Godello (white) grapes were picked at 3am yesterday - in the dark!  This is our newest grape - a Spanish white variety that no one else is growing in California.  Our first vintage from last year's crop is being bottled now, so we'll soon be able to taste it.

We will pick our one ton of Merlot for our own wine tomorrow at the much more reasonable hour of 8am!  We are picking it ourselves with some friends and family.  It's always such a lovely day.  Picking a ton isn't too much work and then we all sit down together for a harvest breakfast.


Our main harvest (20+ tons) isn't scheduled yet as it is being bought by Jackson Family Farms (of Kendall Jackson etc) and they will decide when they want it.

With her own little bucket!
What are you harvesting this week?
Comments

Healdsburg Shed

On Saturday we went to Healdsburg Shed.  It's been open about 10 weeks and we had only just heard about it - so thought we'd give it a go for our Saturday lunch.  We try, as often as possible, to go somewhere different to have Saturday lunch together.



Healdsburg Shed is "a food community that sustains people, our environment, and our local economy.  Our inspiration comes from the words of Wendell Berry."

An agrarian mind begins with the love of the fields and ramifies in good farming, good cooking, and good eating.


We both really enjoyed it.  It's a wonderful open and light space.  You can shop, drink and eat there.  The cook shop had a few unusual items, but we found more interesting stuff in the food area.  We bought

  • chocolate that was made from the beans of a single farm in Madagascar 
  • 24 blackbirds chocolate - which I thought was a lovely name : >
  • celery bitters - not sure what I'm going to do with those yet, but I'll let you know
  • some Godello wine from Spain - as we grow Godello and our release is this August
  • small batch tonic - as in gin and tonic - made with quinine, lemongrass and orange peel. You add sparkling water or soda to make it into tonic water! Can't wait to try it.
They also sell shrubs - which are fruit vinegars that you drink. Lots of things to try which is always fun.


We had a great lunch. I had a bean and pea salad and roasted padron peppers with figs.  It was all very yummy and in a great atmosphere.

They hold classes there too and rent out for the space for events. 


If you live nearby, give it a try. We'll be going back, so maybe we'll see you there.
Comments

Tastiest food of the week - Frozen grapes

I'm starting a new weekly blog post - "tastiest food of the week", where I'll share with you the yummiest food I've eaten each week.  Maybe it'll encourage you to give it a try.

I can see that some weeks  - like this first one - are going to be difficult to pare it down to only one item....but this week's winner is FROZEN GRAPES.

Frozen Godello grapes
From the last few weeks of blog posts, you've probably already gathered that we have a vineyard and grow grapes for wine making.  We sell the grapes, but of course, at this time of year, don't ever really have a shortage for ourselves.

We grow some eating grapes/table grapes on our arbor which for the past few years, I've dehydrated most of to make raisins/sultanas.  But after last week's harvest, we had a big bucket of Godello grapes and some bunches of Merlot grapes. You can't eat them all fresh, so I froze them.  Have you ever had frozen grapes? If not - freeze some now!  Nothing to do - just wash them, let them dry and then pop them in the freezer. You can take them off the stalk if you want, but it's not necessary. They'll freeze in a couple of hours.

Frozen wine grapes
Then pop them in your mouth and you will do a happy dance! The outer layer - the skin, breaks away in your mouth first and then the cool flavors of the grape dissolve and excite your taste buds.  You get all the flavors of the grapes/wine coming through.  Using wine grapes is amazing as you really get all the complexity of wine in a frozen little bubble of fruit.

Our wine grapes have pips in them, but I still like them frozen and don't notice the pips, probably because you just swallow the melting delight before the pips have separated from the flesh.

Frozen Merlot grapes

And because it takes some time to eat them, allowing them to melt in your mouth and fully enjoy the flavors, I find a don't eat too many.

Try them one night when you are watching a movie - a great alternative to chocolate or ice cream or popcorn.  Or take them to party or picnic or..... But watch when it comes to sharing them, as you want to keep plenty for yourself for the rest of the year until next grape harvest!!!
Comments

Merlot Harvest 2012

A week ago today, we were busy harvesting 22 tons of Merlot grapes! Phew.


The vineyard management crew began at 4am - in the dark with little lights on their heads to find the grapes!  I don't have a light, so that was my excuse to wait until the sun was up!



Harvest day is always one of the best days of the year. It's such a grounding, connect to nature experience to be in the vines all day, reaping the fruit, surrounded by the noises and chatter....and there were ducks on the pond, a great blue heron and deer all watching on.



As well as the vineyard crew - 12 pickers plus two others driving the tractors and loading the fruit etc, we had four friends join us to help with pulling the leaves out of the bins. The 2 ton capacity bins are pulled through the vineyard as the guys throw the grapes in, and we stand on little planks of wood at the side, diving in to get out the leaves.  As a result of having 4 friends with us, I think our fruit is probably the cleanest in terms of no leaves of any harvested in California! We did such a great job.





The "4" also picked some of the left over Godello from the previous week, to sharpen their picking skills.

The harvest was nearly 3 weeks early for us this year.  And the fruit looked and tasted perfect. The right sugar levels, the right acidity - it just all came together.


And we had some lively conversations over the grape bins - and some interesting times, for example when Mike leaned in to the bottom of the bin to get some leaves, but his feet came off and he teeter-tottered on the edge, not being able to get back up! Unfortunately, we didn't have our camera at this stage!


At 10.30am we stopped for a brief break and then were all finished at 1pm, when it was time for a harvest lunch outside, followed by some grape stomping.  Only Jeremy and I were up for stomping - the others had pathetic excuses, I can tell you!!!!  But J and I had fun and I'm sure they were then all envious that they didn't have sticky legs!!!!

First time stomper nerves from Jeremy..."do I really want to do this????"


It has been suggested that we need to use a larger bucket!

Hopefully from the photos you can see what a fun time it was.  Are you ready to sign up to join in next year????
Comments

(Mini) Grape Harvest

Linda and Stephen
Last week we harvested our Godello grapes.  We grafted this varietal on 300 vines a couple of years ago and so this is really our first harvest of any quantity of them.

Meta and Jane

Godello is a Spanish varietal of green grapes and not typically grown in the US - except here at Birdland!  We were asked to try growing it by a couple of local wine makers and it was pleasing to see a good crop for them to make our first US Birdland Godello wine.

Don - who later had a bad back!
Instead of using our usual vineyard management group to harvest these, we invited some friends to experience the fun as we were expecting only a ton or so.  However, the Godello were a little more difficult to harvest than we had imagined.

John
As bunches of grapes, they grow as a mass and are quite solid as a bunch - not individual grapes.  Most of the time you can't see where the top stalk is, where you want to cut the bunch off, and they get wound up in the wires and leaves....It therefore took us much longer than we expected to harvest the 1.5 tons.
Ken
We wore out our friends - and ourselves!  Even the harvest breakfast I made (which was all gluten free, dairy free and refined sugar free) didn't quite leave us kicking up our heels! I think what would have been better would be to have had a massage therapist waiting for us all!


Tomorrow is the Big Grape Harvest, as opposed to the mini grape harvest. It is of our merlot grapes and we are expecting something like 20 tons!  It is earlier in October than usual for us - the grapes have ripened well.  
Fig Clafoutis
This time, our vineyard management crew will come in  - starting at 4am in the dark!  A few friends will help out by pulling out the leaves in the bins, but we won't be picking as we'd slow the crew down!

Kale puffs
Wish us luck for tomorrow!
Comments

Everything is tickety-boo

Here is this week's list of things that made me feel like every is tickety-boo:

Our merlot grapes

  • lots of social time - from a friend staying the night, to a group of 18 British women here one night, to a picnic under the oak tree with a friend, to dinner out with other friends, to........
  • plenty of cooking time 
  • getting out behind recipe books and doing my own thing
  • cooler mornings reminding me that fall is nearly here
  • the smell of apples dehydrating 
  • my parrot Harold singing along to his favorite toy
  • tasting our grapes for ripeness - not there yet, but great flavors are developing
  • seeing both the great blue and the little green heron together on our pond
  • rearranging outdoor furniture and loving the change
  • enjoying new clients
  • doing some sorting and clearing out at home
  • good chat on the phone with my sister and my parents
Our Godello grapes
Hope your week has had plenty of tickety-boo times in it too.
Comments