2014 October

California Crop Harvests Plummet as Drought Takes Toll on National Food Supply

By | Farming Issues | No Comments

(NaturalNews) The end of September marked three straight years of severe drought for California, with the state receiving less than 60 percent of its average precipitation.

The lack of rainfall has resulted in immense suffering throughout the state, leaving low reservoirs, fallowed farmland, rising unemployment and complete drying up of some people’s wells.

It’s true that water is the essence of life. All things living depend on it, and without it the world around us would be nonexistent, however, what many of us don’t realize is that California’s drought could soon be hitting your pantry and if not this year, next year for sure.

With the arrival of the 2014 harvest season, not only the United States, but also the world, could soon feel the aftermath of the state’s continued drought.

California is considered our nation’s agricultural powerhouse, yielding a third of all produce grown in the U.S.

Central Valley, which consists of two valleys: the San Joaquin to the south and Sacramento to the north, spans 450 miles, a region that is home to the world’s largest patch of Class 1 soil, the best soil there is, according to The New York Times.

With nearly 300 days of sunshine, the perfect variance in temperature, cool coastal fog and an extended growing season, allows the state to produce a vast range of fruits, vegetables and nuts.

California is responsible for producing 99 percent of the country’s walnuts, 97 percent of kiwis, 97 percent of plums, 95 percent of celery, 95 percent of garlic, 89 percent of cauliflower, 71 percent of spinach, 69 percent of carrots and many other foods Americans store in their kitchens.

Unlike the Midwest, which mainly produces corn and soybeans, the Golden State yields around 400 different types of food, generating 73 percent of the state’s agricultural revenues from crops, with the remaining 27 percent made by livestock commodities, according to Western Farm Press.

Due to lack of rainfall, an estimated 42,000 acres of farmland, or about 5 percent, went unplanted this year, causing the state’s agri revenue to take a $2.2 billion dollar hit.

5 percent of Californian’s farmland went unplanted this year

Fortunately for farmers, increased food prices offered a little cushion to help make up for crops that couldn’t be watered due to this year’s restrictions. If the winter fails to bring adequate rainfall to help replenish low rivers and streams, and “overtaxed groundwater,” the situation could get much worse, farmers say.

“Nobody has any idea how disastrous it’s going to be,” said Mike Wade of Modesto, with the California Farm Water Coalition. “Is it going to create more fallowed land? Absolutely,” he added.

“Is it going to create more groundwater problems? Absolutely. Another dry year, we don’t know what the result is going to be, but it’s not going to be good.”

The drought’s affect on the 2014 harvest is pronounced, with 140,000 acres of rice fields left unplanted, reported the Sacramento Bee. The Sacramento Valley rice crop, an export that serves sushi joints worldwide, has already dropped by 25 percent this year.

Corn production in the state is down an estimated 45 percent, along with cotton declining 23 percent, and oranges 4 percent. Also wine, a California staple, could see price increases due to a 9 percent decrease in grape production, a number farmers say could be much higher in 2015 if rain doesn’t come.

Farmers forced to neglect other crops in order to water the most demanding crops, still doesn’t always end happily. Despite many growers only focusing on almonds, yield still declined, falling to 1.9 billion pounds down from 2.1 billion pounds.

“I’m very nervous about water,” said Ledbetter, a wine grower in Sonoma County. “If we don’t have a rainy winter, I can pretty much guarantee we’re all going to be receiving curtailment notices. If that happens, we’re going to be concerned about keeping the vine alive rather than harvesting it.”

Sources:

www.sacbee.com

http://www.nytimes.com

http://westernfarmpress.com

http://www.motherjones.com

http://water.ca.gov

Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/047327_drought_crop_harvest_California.html#ixzz3GirpN3ce

CSA Box Recipe: Acorn Squash Pie

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Acorn Squash Pie

I know that Squash Pie doesn’t sound as tasty as Pumpkin Pie, but here’s a little known fact: most store-bought pumpkin pies are actually squash pies. The pumpkins we all  buy at the grocery store or pumpkin patches make the WORST pumpkin pies ever. Those destined-to-be-decorations are bred for size, not taste.
To reduce the effort and calories, I’ve been making this lately without a crust at all. Baked to perfection, the slices hold up just fine without a crust. Absolutely don’t even think about omitting the whipped cream topping. That would just be wrong.
Here’s my time-tested favorite fall dessert recipe:
Line a pie pan with pie dough. I often cheat and use Trader Joe’s pie dough, which comes frozen. For a while there, they were having a problem with quality control, but the product now is excellent and a big time saver; especially if you don’t make alot of pies and don’t have a system. There was a time when I made a couple pies or quiches a week, and I really had the whole pie dough thing down to a science. Now, not so much and though a Slow Food Advocate, I use Trader’s product.
Preheat oven to 425.
Here’s the recipe:
2 cups of cooked squash or edible pumpkin. Do NOT try using a decorative pumpkin in this recipe. I’ve tried it, and it was awful, just watery and not flavorful at all.
1.5 cups of organic cream. Watch out for the weird stuff grocery stores are now putting in “cream.” Trader Joes is good, and Henry’s and Sprouts have products without the garbage, too.
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Teaspoons Cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon Ginger
1 Teaspoon Nutmeg or Alspice
1/2 Teaspoon of finely crushed Cloves
2 beaten eggs
Blend it all in a Cuisinart, Vitamix or blender until smooth. Pour mixture into pie shell, bake for 15 minutes at 425, then reduce heat to 350 and bake until a knife inserted in center comes out clean. In my oven, that’s 45 minutes.

CSA Box Recipe: Lime Season is Upon Us!

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Lime Season Is Upon Us

I’m not going to include a pie shell recipe here. You’ll need to have your baked shell ready. This recipe is not a typical restaurant lime pie. It’s got a good bit more zap to it..meaning if you like sweet lime pie, certainly add more sugar. Or go to Denny’s. I like my lime pie to roll just this side of too sour. With the fruit of 200 lime trees to experiment with, I’ve fiddled with this recipe for years. It’s not for sweet tooths. I think it’s the best lime pie on earth.
Ingredients:
3/4 cup sugar
5 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
Mix together and set aside for a minute.
Combine 1 cup fresh lime juice, 3 beaten egg yolks, 2 tablespoons butter, and 3/4 cup boiling water. Add dry ingredients slowly, blending thoroughly. Bring entire mixutre to a full boil. cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is thick. This happens fast! Dump pudding-like mixture into pie shell and cool.
For the meringue:
Ingredients:
3 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons confectioners sugar. If you don’t have the finer confectioner’s sugar on hand, you can powder your granulated sugar in a Vitamix if you have one. It only takes a second.
Whip egg whites to a consistency that will hold peaks. Add the cream of tartar, vanilla and sugar.
Using a spatula, ice your pie, and then broil the top to a golden brown for 3-4 minutes. Don’t make your peaks too pointy or your peaks will burn. Serve chilled.

I’ve Been Bad

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peacock image from milwalkie zoo

When a friend sharing my zip code sent me over the image of a neighbors’ peacock on the roof of her house, just chilling…I admit I was enchanted. What a cool thing to discover visiting the roof of your house!   Peacocks are stunning animals, I remember enjoying the other-worldly calls they make to each other when I visited the San Diego Zoo as a kid. Some rural folks choose to raise peacocks because they are known to be suspicious of strangers and can be used as an early warning, difficult to circumvent… security system. And who can’t stop in stunned silence when something so beautiful marches by in search of seeds and bugs.

So my daughter’s art assignment two weeks ago required a photo of a peacock from which she could paint. (The prompt was to paint something that “radiated out.” I suggested a pine cone. That wouldn’t do. I suggested a daisy flower. No…that was so a cliché.

Here in Rainbow, California there are quite a few peacocks roaming the streets…yet another endearing quality of living here in this tiny community. You do have to be mindful of driving carefully through the few streets that comprise our little town because of these birds. So camera in hand…mother and daughter ventured off to find a willing peacock to photograph for her project. No peacocks to be found. As is often the case with teenagers, she had allocated no time for Plan B. Certainly no time to drive all the way to the San Diego Zoo to photograph a willing peacock.

We drove to the epicenter of Known Peacock Encounters down the street from the only restaurant in town, and found someone working near the road pruning trees. He didn’t speak English, and my Spanish is…ahem…rusty, as he scratched his head trying to understand what in heaven’s name  I was looking for as I spread my arms wide and wiggled my butt trying to mimic a peacock. Nothing. Then I came up with this embarrassingly simple query that even I could say in Spanish: “Where are the big birds? Only the men are beautiful?: Ahhhhhh! He said. And pointed to a house down the road.

It’s true, only the males sport the colorful plumage. The females are a bit smaller, and are mostly brown. No welcoming signage at the gate, I was wary of entering their property. Word to the wise: strangers are viewed warily out here: agricultural theft is among the biggest issues in Rainbow, and most farmers are ardent 2nd Amendment supporters. Just saying…anyway, the farmers’ young horseback riding daughter caught our eye as she galloped by, and alerted her mom to visitors’ presence.

So we had ventured out an hour earlier with the purely..I swear… innocent intention of coming home with nothing but photographs. But here was my daughter with that “I need this kitten” look on her face, and the cutest hand-raised peacocks you could ask for. Lots of them.   And interestingly, they were being raised with chickens, so these babies would fit right into our free-range chicken aviary because they were already accustomed to living with chickens. There would be the matter of Farm Operations: What To Tell Lance who had placed a moratorium on Strange Acquisitions That Require an Increase in our Feed Bill And That He Has To Feed When We’re On Vacation. Options were weighed and balanced. While I negotiated the possible purchase of a pair of peacocks, my daughter snapped away at the adult males that roamed nearby. Art project mission accomplished.

Since the baby peacocks were the same size as our adult chickens, my daughter suggested Not Telling Lance. As in, he won’t notice right away because they blend…that’s right…they just can mix in with our chicken flock… and we have time to warm him up to the idea. Now I admit, I have owned a secret rooster, but keeping two peacocks that will soon be as big as turkeys a secret is beyond the scope of even what I think I can manage. You just can’t have that as Plan A.   Full disclosure is best here I said. And my daughter was right, we had time, because the baby peacocks really do blend.

So as I sat down to coffee the next morning to go over the day’s farm duties, Louie, the farm manager had stopped to feed the chickens on his way in and discovered “guineas or something in the chicken barn.” I jumped up, coffee in hand and waved the universal shut up gesture across my neck…but too late. Unlike Lucy Ricardo, who typically planned ahead… I hadn’t formulated my exact presentation. You know, what came out, sounded better in my head. “ There’s peacocks in our chicken barn?”

CSA Box Harvest Shot For October 14-15, 2014

By | Harvest Lists | No Comments

At last we’re into cooler weather! We sure snuck by the usual, miserably hot 92028 summer out here until September. Then, we found ourselves working in sauna-like heat for a few weeks. Anyone who thinks they’d like to farm in rural San Diego should try September out here first before giving up their day job. :/

Here’s our harvest shot for this week. We also harvested a few late eggplants that ended up in some of the trade-in boxes, so if you have an eggplant in your possession from us…it’s either a Black Beauty or probably the beautiful, variegated Gandia. We do save seeds from our heirlooms, and sometimes the results are crossed the next year, so some of our eggplant this year seems to be crosses of the two main varieties we grow. There are ways to avoid cross pollination so that heirloom seeds come “true” each year…we don’t bother. Be aware that the chili peppers are indeed hot. Use only a tiny bit in your stir fries, and try the rest for future use. Even the tiny quantity given to each subscriber is waaaay more than most would need in a week. I’ve always thought that a good hot chili is a better than some medicines, even if you don’t enjoy the taste in cooking. Like wasabi, this week’s peppers are better than a decongestant if needed. Of course, I think almost anything edible is improved with a little heat.

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