Fruit Tastings

Wolfskill. I kept hearing about this mythical USDA germplasm reserve that sometimes hosts fruit tastings of the specimens that grow there. Someone told me they once went and wandered through a fig orchard, plucking ripe fruit as they walked, tasting the mind-blowing varieties. I somehow missed the invite to the stone fruit tasting (must’ve been in July or August) at Wolfskill but managed to make it to the persimmon and pomegranate tasting this October.
In a word: WOW.
The location is up in the Capay Valley, near the town of Winters. It’s hard to find, the signs are subtle. For a reason: fruit nerds might swoop in constantly to taste the 100 plus varieties of fruit growing on the more than 150 acre plot of land. I know I would. But about three times a year, they swing open the gates and allow the public to come taste. persimmonspeoplewolfskill
The grounds are lovely, bursting with fruit at every turn (gentle reminders not to pick grapes or olives were posted). Instead of traipsing through the orchards willy-nilly, the good people at Wolfskill had harvested the fruit for us, and arranged it in a decorative but functional manner. The fruits were all labeled and we were given a tasting sheet. Fruit geeks (recognizable by their pith helmets) and families milled around the long tables, sampling.
The persimmons: I dunno. Persimmons are weird. I loved them when I first tried them after moving to California, but these days I feel like they are just a leetle bit bland. I do adore dried persimmons, though.
persimmonswolfskill
I can really get excited about pomegranates, though. I have a Wonderful growing at my place, and the shrub makes the most delicious, juicy fruit. The only problem with poms is the staining color.
pomswolfskill
So, imagine my delight when I saw the white (ok, yellow, really) pom there at Wolfskill. Only problem? It was kinda bland. The good news was this most delectable pink, non-staining variety called, myagkosenyannyi rozovyt. It tastes just as complex and rich as Wonderful but it is pink. The poms from Wolfskill are mostly from a former Soviet botanist named Gregory Levin–hence the long-ass name. Read his memoir, Pomegranate Road, if you want the skinny on his life as a pom collector. Now the trick is to get a hold of some of the myagkosenyannyi rozovyt germplasm (aka a cutting). Because it’s a research orchard, you can only get cuttings if you are affiliated with a research institution (GhostTown Farm Laboratories?). I’m trying to work my USF credentials to get a few stems, though–wish me luck. If I’m successful, I’ll have a few myagkosenyannyi rozovyts to harvest in the next few years.
Photos all by Leilani Buddenhagen

Charlie Cart

Oh no, I’m in love with this little cutie: ffe40ec520f90de86513f977a4020060_large

It’s a classroom kitchen on wheels! With an oven! I just saw the prototype at the Edible Schoolyard and almost swooned. I need one. Not for my house, but for teachin’. This semester I’m teaching at California College of the Arts and boy we could use a kitchen in the classroom. So far my class has threshed wheat, made sauerkraut, eaten bugs (some of us), poached eggs, and made quesadillas. We’ve improvised with desks as cutting boards and a Korean stove to cook stuff, but this Charlie Cart would have made things a lot easier. I can see how it could be used on urban farms, at schools, and by local food not bombs chapters. Check out their kickstarter campaign, and please donate if you can!

http://bit.ly/charliecart

Let the Sheet Mulching Begin

F-ing bermuda grass. I’ve been battling it and battling it. Ever since this blog began, and it still hasn’t gone away. It’s a rhizome-creeping nightmare. I swear the ants are helping it take over the world somehow. I think of weeds like bermuda grass and bindweed kinda like herpes. You’ll never get rid of them–you just have to learn how to reduce the outbreaks.
So, here’s my latest strategy with the devil grass:
1. Remove as much of the weed from the area–pick axing is necessary to get the giant roots out.
In times past, I would stop right there. But this year I’m taking it further.
2. Obtain cardboard. My sister used to be a breakdancer in the 1980s and she and her crew would pull out the cardboard on the livingroom floor and do some crazy spins on their heads and backs. I remember getting excited when we’d find a big fridge box that we could spread out. Well, the 80s are back for me because I am collecting sh-t tons of ‘board, mostly liquor store Doritos boxes (which seems strangely poetic). Then I spread them over the offending outbreak area.
mulchdump
3. Stack like 3 feet of wood chips over the cardboard. I’m lucky I got a free 18 square yard wood chip delivery from Ponderosa tree service. 18 square yards, btw, is bigger than a VW Rabbit. It’s served as a very fun place for children to climb and then play rock star. It makes me think they someone doing a music festival could actually have a completely solid yet biodegradable stage if they got a few of these loads in tandem.
sheetmulch
The chips are a mix of pine chips, leaves and bark, some branches. It’s rotting down and eventually the b-grass will return but I’ll be able to pull it out a lot more easily. The best thing about it? Smells like Christmas!!
Gardeners in Oakland or Berkeley can get free woodchips from Ponderosa Tree Service, you just have to have space for a giant delivery truck to drop the load, and you can’t be too picky about what kinda wood chips you get.

Left My Soul in Europe

I am so jetlegged. I’ve heard it’s because my soul hasn’t caught up with my physical body. Might be that I took a 2.9 year old with me to Italy/France. I was there in Italy to take part in a conference put on by an Italian magazine called Internationale. They paid for me to go and put me up in a hotel, and paid for all my food. Yum. Still dreaming of this slipper like pasta filled with the local winter squash, Violina, I think was the variety. Forgot to take seeds home with me. (Good thing, I was searched at customs and for once didn’t have any contraband cheese on my person).

Also got to hang with my sister, flew over to Toulouse and stayed at their awesome house/farmstead.
It was quality sister time: we went mushroom picking, gardened together, and she fed me obscene amounts of food.

Glad to be back home, doing my thing, though. Which, btw, will involve a reading with LitQuake Thursday, Oct 16, at the Lake Chalet in Oakland 6-8pm.
And October 17th I’ll be at the Oakland Museum of California, at 7pm in the Natural history display of a Tule Elk. Here’s the link for that event.
Finally, October 18, I’ll be in Hayward for this:
California Reads: A visit with bestselling author Novella Carpenter, discussing her new memoir Gone Feral: Tracking My Dad Through the Wild – Saturday, October 18, 2:00 pm @ Hayward Main Library. Find complete California Reads schedule at: http://hayward-ca.gov/veterans

Ciao!!

Unplugged

I swore I would do it, and I did: got rid of my iphone! GOT RID OF MY IPHONE!

Got a flip phone. It’s a little like living in the early 00’s. I like it. But it’s also like part of my brain is gone. For instance: I routinely left the house in the first new days of my iphone-less-ness and quickly realized I had no idea where I was going. I couldn’t look up directions. So I’ve been talking on the phone a lot more now. It’s nice. I used to hate phones but now I’m thinking they are way more efficient than sending mulitiple messages over a course of many days in order to make a coffee date. Just pick up the phone and seal the deal.

On that note, here are some more dates where I’ll be appearing, live in person or live on the radio (I’m writing this, looking at an actual physical day book):

September 10: Pollinate (East Oakland) 6:30pm; buy tickets here.

September 16: KQED interview with Michael Krasny! Call in! (not yet sure if it’s 10 or 11am)

September 17: Booksmith (San Francisco); 7:30pm, more details here.

September 18: Oakland Public Library, main branch, 6pm

September 20: Green Arcade Books (San Francisco); 5pm

September 27: Biofuel Oasis Harvest Fest (Berkeley); 2pm

October 16: Lit Quake at Lake Merritt 6pm-8pm in the Lake Chalet

October 17: Oakland Museum of California (More details soon)

October 18: Hayward Reads (More details soon)

October 25: California Book Fest (Sacramento)

Whew, good night.

 

There and Back Again

I’m feeling like Bilbo Baggins, home from the road, feeling tired but satisfied, glad to get back into life in our shire. We had a most wonderful roadtrip/book tour. Here’s a shot from Bookpeople’s window in Moscow, ID.
bookpeople

My sister and her daughter, Amaya, came with me and Frannie for the ride up to Seattle, then over to Idaho and down through Nevada. We had so many hilarious and awful things happen, it’s hard to remember everything. The first night in the tent, Frannie projectile vomited everywhere; at one Seattle reading only 3 people showed up (and I knew two of them–hi Joan and Kate!); one night the kids ate ice cream sandwiches for dinner. Riana was the best co-pilot ever, she dutifully climbed in the back to fill up Franster’s milk jar and kept the kids entertained while I drove. Amaya and Frannie were best cousins, immediately squabbling followed by hugging. Thanks to everyone we met, old friends we got to see again, meals cooked in our honor, and for all those beds we crashed on–couldn’t have done it without you!

I didn’t blog from the road, but my sister did at her flickr site.

Stay tuned for events and happenings in September, when Gone Feral will rise again.