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?
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Bringing in the New Year

Are you ready to bring in the New Year?  What do you have planned?

When we were in Mexico for New Year a couple of years ago, we loved all their bringing-in-the-new-year traditions and have definitely adopted one...even if we are making a little change to it this year!


The idea is that when making a toast with champagne for the New Year, each person should have 12 grapes, one for each month of the new year, in order to attract good vibes throughout the coming year.  With each strike of the clock on the final seconds of the year, you have to eat a grape - one on each strike, with the wish that your hopes and dreams will come true.

The grapes can be little bunches for each person, but we liked the idea of putting them on a skewer and in the champagne. Our slight deviation this year, however, is that the other day I found some gooseberries for sale in Sonoma! I absolutely adore gooseberries and have only seen them on sale once before in the US! So I bought all they had and so we have our skewered gooseberries to bring in the new year, instead of skewered grapes!  Don't they look good!...and will look even better when the glasses are filled with champagne.


The other traditions we learned about are:

  • underwear!  The underwear you wear on the last night of the year must be new and given to you by someone else! The color should be red to attract love and passion, and yellow to attract money and success.  When we were in Mexico, we saw quite a bit of red AND yellow underwear for sale just before new year - so you can attract it all!!!
  • suitcases.  If you want to travel in the New Year, you should keep a couple of suitcases ready at the door of your house, stuffed with clothing.  In the first few minutes of the new year, take them out of your house and walk them as far as you can, to attract lots of trips in the new year.
  • lentils. Eat at least a tablespoon of lentils to attract wealth and prosperity in every way, and especially for a business.
  • broom. As the new year strikes, open the door and use a broom to sweep out the bad vibes and welcome the good vibes in.
  • coins. Have a lot of coins and money on hand that you can count when the clock strikes midnight, which will bring you a lot of wealth.  Some place it in their shoe to bring more prosperity!

So what are you wishing for in the New Year?  Do you need to send someone out quickly to buy you new underwear?

Whatever your hopes and dreams, enjoy making them come true.


Have fun bringing in the New Year and may 2013 be full of happiness, love, and good health.

Cheers!
PS. Not sure how the gooseberries will go with the champagne, to be honest!
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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!!!
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I love the fall

Along with our grape harvest, we are harvesting other fruits and vegetables every day too.  Here is what we've picked this week:

Cherry tomatoes by the ton!

Godello grapes, rescued before stomping began!

John's prize home grown watermelon!


My favorite fruit - fresh green figs with jammy red centers!

I just love this time of year!

We still have apples and pears in the fridge, lots of quince on the tree and veggies on their way.....

What are you harvesting or enjoying in season right now?
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(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!
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Golden Raisins

I seem to have spent the last couple of days with my hands in sticky fruit juice! What with pulling each little seedless green grape off his stalk to dehydrate them to make golden raisins/sultanas, and with chopping the cherry tomatoes and apples, it's been sticky, sticky, sticky!


I'm delighted with the sultanas/golden raisins.  They don't look particularly golden - but they are! Sultanas/golden raisins are green grapes, and raisins are red grapes.  When you buy golden raisins, they are often a paler color because of the addition of sulphites, which of course I didn't add.

About half way dry
But pulling all the grapes off the stems was a little tedious! I tried dehydrating some of them in little bunches as I thought they would be useful decoratively on dishes..... Surprisingly, those in bunches seem to dry out quicker than individual grapes. I don't quite understand that as you'd think there would be more air flow around individual grapes?????

Little bunch of sultanas
After about 9 trays, I had had enough of de-stemming and juiced the rest.


The juice is so grapey!  No surprise really, but it tastes different than other grape juice - because it's a different grape varietal than is used commercially.  It's not too sweet...but it is bordering on the sweet side!  It came out lovely and clear however.


Happy grape successes! Now onto tomatoes and apples.....before the pears start ripening!
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Making sultanas

We harvested our table grapes today from our arbor.  They are lovely sweet seedless grapes. Most of them I am going to dehydrate to make sultanas - or golden raisins as they are called here in the US. I still prefer to call them sultanas.


Of course, we don't use sulphur on ours as a preservative, like many store-bought golden raisins. Ours tend to come out a little darker in color than the ones we used to buy in England... I suspect it is because it is a different grape varietal.

But I use a lot of them....in baking, for snacking and daily on my unsweetened cereal or oatmeal.

On the dehydrating tray

The first three trays are in the dehydrator now. I still have loads more bunches to de-stem but that is enough for one day!  My hands still feel sticky from all that sweet juice, even after washing them a couple of times!

Sultanas are high in anti-oxidant levels and despite being high in sugar, they don't cause spikes in your blood sugar levels like refined sugar does, because they are a whole food, with plenty of fiber.  They also contain iron, calcium, protein and vitamin C.  A phytonutrient called oleanolic acid in sultanas helps promote good oral health by destroying the bacteria that cause cavities.

Just as you can use dates in baking and cooking to replace refined sugar, you can similarly use sultanas and raisins. Before using them, you should rehydrate them by soaking them in water for 10 - 15 minutes and then drinking them.

What did you harvest today?
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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.
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