|The full moon rises into the Central Valley sky Monday at sunset.|
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Friday, February 22, 2013
Please join me in welcoming to this world a tiny, fragile little shoot, left, holding the promise of producing a bumper crop of San Marzano tomatoes. It's not only the first San Marzano to sprout, but the first tomato to sprout in our greenhouse this spring. The San Marzano, you should know, is not an heirloom without a great story: For decades, it was the paste tomato of preference in America. Americans loved this Italian import almost as much as a good Gaetano Donizetti opera. Ah, but then Benito Mussolini cozzied up to Hitler and in 1934 the United States Congress slapped prohibitive duties on imported Italian canned tomatoes and such. Here the story takes a real Central Valley twist: A woman and her husband were partners in a wholesale grocery business in Brooklyn. The wife worked as a purchasing agent and, in that capacity, made many trips to Italy. In fact, she knew a man, Florindo Del Gaizo, whose family grew the San Marzano in the Naples area and also owned canning facilities. Together, these two hatched a scheme to skirt the heavy import duties by growing the San Marzano in America. But where? Well, to make a long story short, they set up shop in the now bankrupt city of Stockton. Her name was Tillie Lewis and for decades, Tillie Lewis Foods thrived in Stockton, along with the FloTil Cannery and the San Marzano tomato. She was a great patron of the arts in the Delta area and if she were still around, I doubt that poor Stockton would be in the sad state it now finds itself in. And many thanks to Amy Goldman, Tillie's cousin, for recounting this story in the introduction to her worthy book on heirloom tomatoes: "The Heirloom Tomato, From Garden to Table."
Thursday, February 21, 2013
|Imperial Star volunteer artichokes, above, and the greenhouse, top.|
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
|Apple blossoms and artichokes this morning on the farm.|
Friday, February 8, 2013
Whew! For the last couple of weeks life on the farm has revolved around getting a greenhouse built and finishing a chicken coop (not pictured). Now the two are done and we are breathing a collective sigh of relief. Having a greenhouse makes it easier to start young plants and guess what? Now is the time! This particular greenhouse is a little more than eight feet wide and about 22 feet long, enough to do most of our starts, possibly more. It's got thermostatically controlled circulation fan, exhaust fan and air intake. When the weather warms up, it will wear a coat of shade cloth. It probably will require a swamp cooler to be effective for starting fall plants this August ... we'll see about that when the time comes. Now the job is to seal up all the dozens of tiny air vents around the polycarbonate sheets and get some spring veggies in the hopper. Oh yeh, and the chicken coop? It's going to house a group of about 30 Marans hens, a rare French breed that lays the darkest brown eggs of any chicken on Planet Earth. And don't tell anyone, because what you are about to read is a closely guarded secret of MI-5, the famed British intelligence agency, but this is the breed that produces the favored egg of secret agent number 007, i.e., James Bond! Shhhhhh!