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

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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.

Morning Glories and Bees

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morning gloryFor most of my life, I’ve shrugged my shoulders when friends asked me non-edible growing questions. If ya couldn’t eat it, I just wasn’t that interested. Over the years, even my home’s landscaping utilized mostly edibles…sometimes a less than ideal game plan when living under the restrictive guidelines of a HOA as I did in my early 30’s. Just saying….
But in the last few years, I have enjoyed adding non edibles on the farm, and have in particular fallen in love with the humble morning glory. The photo left, features three varieties’ seeds tossed among a row of rosemary. Morning Glories are as easy to grow as radishes, and are a great canary in the cave if planted next to edibles because they show drought stress sooner than the edible plants we have them growing with. I’ve noticed that they’re reseeding each year, so at least here…we haven’t had to plant new seeds each year. They are annuals, rather than perennials which really was among the top reasons I didn’t discover them sooner. I’ve always thought that if I was going to grow a plant that provided no food, at least it should last more than a few months for all the work involved in getting it started. But Morning Glories slide by my Annual Non-edible Nuisance Factor Rule by not needing to be replanted each year. Which is kinda, sorta, like a perennial. And as they twine and reach over stumps and rock outcroppings, their beautiful assortment of colors, sizes, and shades continues to amaze me.

Not that I’m ever going to be a non-edible aficionado, but adding ground cover retains valuable moisture, and in the case of flowering plants, gives our growing bee colonies an option when the occasional week arrives and nothing edible is in bloom. Like cats, bees are cared for or suffer. Yes, bees can be feral, but die-off can be dramatic if a caring beekeeper isn’t keeping tabs on maintaining an easily accessible water source and making sure the hives actually have enough flowers to keep them well fed. One clue that our bees are struggling in the heat is when we see them congregating in every little puddle left behind after the irrigation has turned off. Uncool. We’re hoping to add a tiny water feature near the hives so that our bees don’t have to waste energy searching for water when it gets really hot out here.


Banana Muffins with Hemp Topping

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Morning Song Farm offers macadamia tours to the wholesale tour industry, and our signature “welcome to the farm” treat is a macadamia muffin that many have asked the recipe for. It’s been perfected over the years, and I share it here:
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup mashed banana
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 and 2/3 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup of heavy cream
1 cup crushed macadamias
1/3 cup pureed raisons
1/2 cup hemp hearts
Preheat oven to 350.


Cuisinart raisins and sugar and set aside. Don’t try to puree the raisins later, as it doesn’t work.
Combine eggs, sugar/raisin mix, and oil, beat together. Then blend in banana and vanilla. Set aside.

Combine all the rest of the dry ingredients.

Combine the raisin/sugar/eggs with dry ingredients, and then add cream and nuts.

Carefully spoon into the smallest muffin cups. Sprinkle hemp hearts like crumbs over the tops of each muffin,  and then bake until just done. Overcook and the muffin isn’t tasty at all. So check, rather than rely on any particular time frame I can offer here. My oven requires 7-10 minutes.

Just a note about hemp hearts: Hemp cannot be grown in this country because of the War on Drugs as hemp is related to the marijuana plant. However, other countries allow their farmers to grow hemp…Canada for one, and Americans can buy hemp from others, we just can’t grow it here. I find my hemp from Sprouts.

No, For Pete's Sake, We Don't Grow Pot

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It’s a rare week that goes by when we don’t get the “cannabis question”, most disconcertingly… by strangers knocking on my front door. Friends and unknowns alike: just because I know how to grow sprouts, avocados and well…a whole lot of edibles…doesn’t mean I’m WHATSOEVER interested in breaking federal law or have even the first degree of technical knowledge of how to grow medical marijuana; which is a highly specialized crop. Check out Robert Duncan’s story below. As a farmer, I never bought the subterfuge that it is legally safe to be involved in the cannabis business in California, and no one bothering to become informed should, either. Many farmers believed the current administration’s promise that state laws would be honored in regards to marijuana legalization. That promise, however truly heartfelt…has not played out in the real world.  The problem can’t be blamed on President Obama personally; this blog isn’t an indictment of President Obama… who is on record for supporting a reduction on the failed War on Drugs; particularly in regard to marijuana use. Which is my point…despite President Obama’s position, things have continued status quo.  People’s lives are being ruined because they think they can rely on state law, a lawyer’s sunny advice….or President Obama’s stated “hand’s off” position.  The issue is much larger than a single American president. Enormous sums of money are being made directly from the War on Drugs, from privatized, stock-holder owned, profit-based prisons..largely populated by drug “violators”, as well as militarized law enforcement agencies demanding pricey gear happily sold to them at staggering tax payer costs so they can “fight” the War on Drugs…… an openly admitted federal policy failure. No matter…a tiny number of profit-based organizations…including the Mexican Cartel…have considerably more sway than any American president or the majority of Americans who want to see legalization of marijuana and a shift of focus to crime fighting that involves actual bad guys, not farmers and cancer patients. Can you imagine if the young man below was your son or grandson? How would you feel if you knew the prison he was headed to was privately owned and profit-based? Violated? Betrayed?

It’s so easy to write propaganda supporting the Drug War; it’s child’s play. But that propaganda supports an incomprehensible evil that can land at your front door, checkpoint, or business and harm you or your loved ones without warning. The collateral damage….the harm done to total innocents, continues unabated. The concept of prohibition is a complex one, as this country has seen before….and when we don’t look at how our laws affect us all, the simplistic  propaganda forwarded by a tiny cadre of profit based organizations is legitimized. There are unintended consequences of all prohibitions, including the War on Drugs, and those consequences have to be weighted and balanced. Every innocent’s dollar lost defending against false accusations should be recompensed. Every door bashed in because a law enforcement agency ooops…. got the wrong address…s is a cruel reminder of the costs we all pay. Every terrified young person separated from their families at a checkpoint because some so-called trained dog “signaled” that drugs are present….and subsequently forced to strip and submit to cavity search….let’s call a road side “cavity search”   what it is: rape….could be your family member next. (Little known fact: almost all American currency in circulation is contaminated by the scent of some drug, so don’t think that your complete and total innocence protects you, it does not.) Educate yourself on this issue…google “forced cavity searches”.  See this. And this.  Oooh, and this. Some law enforcement agencies don’t settle for failing to find drugs after “drug raping” a traveler; some, after finding no drugs…. defend forcing their victim to submit to a surgical colon inspection…  and just as amazingly…doctors and some hospitals are complicit….actually sending the bill to the traumatized victim. What happened to a doctor’s oath of “doing no harm?” How can this be the United States I grew up in?
Numerous documented cases have been published regarding victims being completely innocent after enduring these procedures. And here’s the thing….even if by continuing road side drug rapes…we discover some people have stashed their drugs in their bodies, are we willing to put our entire nation, ourselves, our families, our loved ones at risk of being forced into an invasive procedure to “get” those that have drugs on their person? How much personal danger are we as a nation willing to endure to prosecute possible drug possessors? Surely we can all agree that having this happen to yourself or someone you love would be devastating.

And here’s a final thought: if finding every last hidden stash of drugs requires stripping, raping, hand cuffing and dragging a traveler to a nearby rogue hospital for a surgical exploratory procedure…do we as a society need to find every last hidden stash of drugs hidden up travelers behinds? Is it THAT important to us? I’d rather keep my panties on, I’m just saying….and I’m willing to venture a guess that a vast majority of Americans concur. So, then, whose running this show?

Robert Duncan moved from Los Angeles to Northern California in 2010 to manage marijuana growing operations for a collective of medical marijuana dispensaries. Although California voters legalized medical cannabis more than 17 years ago, the plant remains illegal under federal law, and the Obama administration launched a renewed crackdown on marijuana in California in 2011. 

Read Robert’s Story Here

How Organic Is China's Organic Label?

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Here’s an issue that I’ve brought up from time to time: just how organic are foods coming from foreign nations that are labeled as “organic?”

Metal-contaminated soils and water sources do not affect organic certification. The certified organic label addresses intentional inputs like fertilizer and pest management practices. Farming on contaminated soils does not disqualify a farm from labeling their harvests “organic.”


Our math problem:  If 20% of China’s farmland, and 90% of its surface water, are contaminated with toxic heavy metals, and if 1/3 of the organic food we import is from China, then…
This Saturday at 9am Pacific, the Food Chain Radio show with Michael Olson hosts Patty Lovera, Assistant Director of Food and Water Watch, for a conversation about the organic foods we eat from China.
Topics include why the United States imports so much organic food from China; how organic is the organic food we import from China; and who can we trust to tell us how organic is China’s organic food.

Listen live or recorded on your radio, computer or mobile device: Food Chain Radio #967

Harvest Shot, Large Garden N Grove CSA Box May 14-15th, 2014

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Green beans for all our friends, and favas for Large shares, only. Lots of avocados, probably dancing on the edge of getting complaints about too many avocados this year. On the other hand, limes are hard to come by..despite our 200-tree count grove, it has been a particularly bad year for limes. Which might account for the ridiculous price for them in the store. Wholesale price for limes (if we had any) is over a hundred dollars a carton.

The wind and fires out here are consuming are attention. Once again, just as we were scheduled to harvest our mulberries, they were blown to the ground.Unlike blackberries, mulberries fall off in your hand when they’re ready to pick. That makes picking easy, but accidentally knocking off dozens of berries while reaching for that just-of-of-reach-really- big one..also easy. So when the winds pick up, it’s over. Mulberry mulch for the whole grove. :/ This may be why mulberries haven’t become mainstream yet.

My New Best Friend

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One of my favorite side dishes at Vietnamese restaurants is the vegetable-stuffed rolls that are wrapped in rice/tapioca skins. It never occurred to me I could make them myself until recently when I thought I’d give it a try. Ok…it takes some practice, but it’s worth the effort of a few failed “logs” because these things are so tasty! Rice paper (see image) is sold in a dry, paper-like form in most grocery stores. You dip each sheet individually in a bowl of warm water, and the inedible rice paper sheet miraculously  turns into the flexible, tender skin that you recognize at once. I just couldn’t believe that the dry form could ever turn into anything edible…I thought maybe the ones I’d purchased were old. They come out of the package brittle and plastic-like. A quick dip in warm water, though, and they’re ready to stretch over whatever you choose to stuff them with. I put everything in the center, fold opposite edges in first, then just roll, dip and eat.

Ingredient List
Avocado slices
Cauliflower–diced fairly small
Sea salt
Quinoa (I added just a little in each roll, you could use rice or amaranth as well)
Dipping Sauce
(I could have gotten more creative here, but this was delicious and very easy)
Mixture of Balsamic Vinegar and Local Olive Oil (I source both of these from Temecula Olive Oil Company, they have a website for mail order, as well as a CSA for their farm’s olive oils.)

Harvest Shot May 6-7, 2014

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Our Pakistani mulberries continue to offer up sparse yields after losing the early harvests to the high winds of April. This week, only large shares will see the unusual fruit. We’re hoping to be able to offer everyone tastes next week, weather permitting.

You’ll note a clamshell this week of an odd succulent vegetable: that’s our purslane. Grown for its nutritional value as well as its satisfying “crunch,” this year’s leaves seem to be more “lemony” that last year’s. The stalks are just as tasty as the leaves. I’ve included a couple recipe ideas for this hard-to-find veggie this week.