Jutta and Cynthia had the privilege of being featured on the California Report last week, talking about dry farming in the face of drought. Check out the article and hear the radio interview in its entirety by clicking here. Or listen to the interview below.
A couple of month ago, shortly after I was a panel speaker at the climate conference in Sacramento, I received a call from Lisa, an independent radio reporter who had heard my bit on dry farming. She was curious, how does one dry farm in a severe drought? And by the way what is dry farming, how does it work, can she come to the farm and interview us. See the ponies working, watch some Walnuts being cracked…. We said yes, and I started by giving the ponies a 4 week spring tune up. Go to our face book page to see a short video of them working the orchard, and yes that is Lisa riding shot-gun.
I explained the history of dry farming to her, just 60-70 years ago crops, tree, grain and grapes all were dry farmed. Several factors are needed: a loamy soil, average winter rain fall of 25 inches plus and of course soil preparation. Disking under the green manure (winter crop of legumes) and then creating a dust mulch is essential to preserve and “seal in” soil moisture. Unfortunately we never got out of the low teens with the rain fall these past years, so the moisture in the soil is not enough to sustain our trees through a 6 month dry season.
Lisa’s questions got me thinking that many of you don’t know what this drought means for our farm, for the trees.
Since year 2 of the drought our Walnut crop is down, now in year 4 by 30%. I lost 25 trees as in “they died”, last year, 20 dead trees this year so far and it is only June. The trees have large areas in their canopy with no green leaves, the branches have died back. My Walnuts are smaller each year, the shells thicker, the Nuts are harder to crack and instead of halves I get lots of pieces, which I have to sell for less. Lisa asked why we keep going? Why are we planting a new tree right next to the stump of the dead tree?
We really love the farm, the surrounding CA Wood land un touched for hundreds of years. Our customers appreciation for the products, the letters, e mails keep us going. We believe farming organically, sustainably is the right thing to do.
It is the end of October and we are in the midst of our Walnut Harvest. This is the busiest time of the year and also the time when we get the most requests for bulk orders. In case you are not sure; bulk Walnuts means that there is no “extra Packaging” the Walnuts are in boxes lined with Food grade plastic bags. Look at my photos on our Face book page or Website. This is a great option if you want to freeze the Walnuts for continued use and are not interested in a fancy bag and labels. In the past shipping charges for bulk required : you giving me your address up front, I researching shipping options: Post office, Fed Ex,Ups, Gso. Then after the charge was determined you snail mailed me a check and once check arrived and cleared, I ship the Walnuts . The only request for improvement I hear is : how can we reduce shipping charges? So this season we are trying free shipping for our 100 % organic new crop Walnuts for 7 lb bulk, 11 lb bulk, 25 lb bulk. We are shipping in the “it fits it ships” boxes from the post office for the 7 lb and 11 lb parcels. These are priority shipping rates to all states in the USA. For the 25 lb we are using 4 day ground Fed Ex for all states except CA, AZ, NV those have a overnight shipper GSO. Until my order page is changed, use the coupon code during check out. After Nov I will have a proper shopping cart and things will be even easier and speeder when ordering.
We hope that this will put big smile on your face now.
Last night we had the pleasure attending a fundraiser for the non profit: Project Hope and Fairness an organization started by Eve and Tom Neuhaus the owners of Mama Ganache Artisan Chocolates which provides MMOrganics with Organic and Fair Trade Chocolates for the Chocolate Covered Walnuts we sell here in Paso Robles on our Farm stand and website. It was very important to us as a family to support Fair Trade in the coco industry, but I realize now that there is some confusion on what Fair Trade means and why it is necessary for all of us to support it when ever possible. You might not know that the coco industry is sliding toward a supply crisis because of the simple truth that it is not profitable to be a coco farmer. They net less than 1 % of the value of the coco beans they grow. The coco trees are aging and the replants are often rubber trees. The farmers are aging too, the young people migrate to cities looking for better wages. 90% of all the coco grown in the world comes from small family orchards. Because of their physical isolation and fragmentation they have no bargaining power when it comes to selling their products. The fair trade program aims to put things right. Farmers get paid a fair price for their products, they get access to healthcare, education for family members is available and clean water projects are implemented. Farmers who join this program have to do their part, many requirements on their end need to be full- filled before they are accepted into the program. For example: No child labor is allowed on Farms that participate. The Project Hope and Fairness goes a step further.Tom travels to Africa and is setting up small chocolate kitchens, bringing over the machines and teaching skills so that farmers are learning to turn the coco bean into chocolate. This value add process creates many jobs and ensures a sustainable income for the farmer. Go to www.projecthopeandfairness.org to read their story and make a donation if you can. We @ mmorganics are doing our part by donating part of the proceeds of the sale for our 4 oz and 8 oz bags of chocolate covered Walnuts to this non profit and we hope to be able to enjoy many more years of Fair Trade Chocolate.
Many of my customers ask me, “Why are you calling your organic Port wine a dessert wine or Port ‘style’ wine?” I generally have to take a deep breath first before I calmly explain that I would love to call my Port just Port, but the term Port is now copyright protected as of 2005. Only wine that comes from the region of Portugal can now be labeled as Port. If your vineyard/label existed before the 2005 date, then you are “grandfathered” into the usage of the name Port. Officially I have to call my organic Port wine, Port style wine.
Our organic Port wine is made from 3 Portuguese grape varietals, fortified with organic grape brandy and has an alcohol content of about 18%. Still, I must call it Port style. A big disadvantage, when it comes to introducing the wine to customers. Who “googles” Port style wine or dessert wine? Even several of my vendors do not display my Port in their Port section in their store.
So, it has been my quest to go to as many tastings, open houses, and fundraisers as possible that are willing to feature our wine. Doing a wine tasting is so fun! I especially love it when people approach me and then say, “Oh, I don’t normally drink Port.” Once coached, they have this big facial transformation once they sip/taste/drink our organic Port wine. My favorite comments from the tastings are: “Berry, chocolate, plummy,” “Smooth, goes down nice,” “Lingers, balanced, not too sweet,” “Delicious,” “Yummy,” and “Gimme more!”
How to Start a Compost Pile
May be this is the year you have decided to be more “green” and you are wondering how does one start a compost pile? I always felt that the best answer to that question is: just start a pile! Okay may be a few helpful suggestions 1st: Choose a convenient site; keep the compost pile close to your garden, in a shady location. This will encourage you to regularly add to the pile and observe its progress. If you only compost garden wastes, piles don’t need to be enclosed. But if you plan to also add Kitchen wastes to it, you need to plan on a sturdy enclosure, home made or purchased, to prevent animals from digging, trying to find that delicious piece of rotten lettuce. Work with what your have in your yard, farm and kitchen. Shred and cut materials into small pieces for faster composting, reuse and recycle your newspaper and card board (presoaking in water helps breakdown). Now to the part that seems to baffle many folks tending to their compost pile: the C/N ratio of the pile. Why should you even care? You care because the ratio determines how fast the pile breaks down into useable compost. It does not need to be complicated! Some fast facts: a C/N ratio of 20/1 or even 40/1 will heat your pile quickly and keeping it moist and turning it twice (groan) produces perfect compost in 4-6 weeks. The opposite would be a 200/1 ratio, this pile will sit through the winter, still being only partially decomposed by next spring. We call this a cold pile. Cold indeed. How do you get that 20/1 or 40/1 ratio? By using the following method: Alternate as you are building your pile with layers of thin, high C or brown materials ex: wetted card board or newspaper; with layers of thick (as in 3-10 times thickness compared to the C part of the pile) of high N materials ex: weeds, yard waste. Always go through the extra step to moisten the layers, if you are in a drought stricken state, use grey water. Some examples of materials and their C/N ratio: kitchen waste:15/1 horse manure: 30/1, pulled weeds: 30/1, leaves: 55/1, sawdust: 440/1, cardboard: 500/1. I like to pile high at least 4 feet, so that the pile heats up fast, to a temperature that will kill weed seeds, 90-140 degree will do the job. This generally only takes a few days if the pile is build well and is kept moist. Because I live in CA and we are in our 3rd year of drought I have been building my piles in the late winter and early spring, relying only on rain water. By the time the weather turns hot, the piles are done and what I don’t use gets covered up to retain internal moisture. In the photo you see me checking on one of the piles in the Walnut orchard. Using horse manure and grape skins the pile is recycling materials from our two Farms. It is done been build up I am now inserting Biodynamic Preparations which will further help the microbes in breaking down materials to produce rich smelling, soil like material. Happy Composting!
Walnut Oil Recipes
If you noticed we are now offering 100% Organic Walnut Oil from our dry-farmed walnuts, you might have wondered about ways to use it in cooking and baking. Here are a few suggestions to help you get started making our super healthy walnut oil part of your cooking practice – whether you like to prepare fancy meals or would rather go for down-to-earth dishes.
Walnut Oil in Salad
For the Dressing:
- ¼ cup Balsamic vinegar
- ¾ cup Walnut Oil
- ½ TSP sea salt
- 1 TSP pepper
- 1 TBSP mustard
- 1 TBSP honey
To enhance the delightful taste of walnuts in the dressing, you can use whole or chopped walnuts in the salad. When I made a salad for Christmas, I used candied walnuts which I had heated in a pan, adding Balsamic Vinegar and honey. Apart from walnuts, my salad consisted of spinach, granny smith apples and feta cheese. If you are daring and aiming to surprise the people at your dinner party, add an uncooked, shredded beet to the salad. It will make the salad stand out amongst others due to its provocative color. This “down to earth” root vegetable will also compensate some of the flavor excitement that lies in the combination of the apples’ tartness, the sweetness of the crunchy candied walnuts, lingering in a soft bedding of sheep’s milk crumbles … Here is the whole recipe:
- ½ cup of candied Walnuts (½ cup of Walnuts, 1 TBSP Balsamic Vinegar, 1 TBSP honey)
- one bunch of fresh spinach
- 1 granny smith apple
- ½ cup of feta cheese
- 1 shredded beet
Walnut Oil sprinkled over warm dishes
If your aim is to preserve the high nutritive value of our cold pressed walnut oil, you should not use it for high temperature cooking. Yet, it is makes a tasty finishing oil when sprinkled over warm vegetable or pasta dishes. In my aunt’s garden, the mustard greens are currently taking over, so I harvested a bunch and simply steamed them along with olive oil and garlic for a few minutes. I then poured the steamed greens over a serving of cooked whole wheat spaghetti, before sprinkling some walnut oil over the dish and adding a few chopped roasted walnuts. If you want to make it fancy, you could enrich your dish by adding parmesan cheese. Myself, I very much found comfort in the down-to-earth nutty version that enhances our delightful organic walnuts in various ways and will nourish both your body and soul! Enjoy!
- two serving sizes of cooked whole wheat spaghetti
- one bunch of mustard greens
- two cloves of garlic
- ½ cup of walnut oil
- ½ cup of chopped walnuts
- Salt and pepper
Valuable Walnut Oil
If you have stumbled across our 100% Organic Walnut Oil as the brand new product on our webpage, you might have asked yourself: How do I use Walnut Oil? Why even use it?
Besides its mild, delicate taste, adding a great nutty flavor to your dish, walnut oil is used for its health benefits, above all for its exceedingly high amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids. In fact, walnut oil contains up to 73% of polyunsaturated fatty acids, among which 10% are Omega-3-fatty acids. These are considered essential to maintenance of health. As your body does not produce them, Omega-3-fatty acids must be absorbed through your daily diet. Sprinkling our organic walnut oil over your dish is one way to satisfy parts of your needs of Omega-3-fatty acids as well as vitamin B1, B2 and B6. Dr. Oz, who considers himself a great fan of walnuts and walnut oil, points to the fact that walnuts might also help reduce stress, referring to a 2010 study in the journal of the American College of Nutrition. For more information, see his blog “The Wonderful Walnut”.
Cold press to preserve nutrients
The fact that all the valuable nutrients are preserved in our walnut oil is due to our method of cold press that we apply in the oil making process. As we only use our raw, 100% organic dry-farmed walnuts instead of roasted walnuts, the final product is of yellow-gold color and tastes super mild. Due to its light taste, it makes a great ingredient in any desserts. What else can you use it for?
If you want to preserve the high nutritive value not only during the pressing process but also during preparation and consumption, keep in mind to use medium or low heat. High temperature cooking will destroy the essential nutrients. Walnut oil is at its most valuable when used as finishing oil in cold dishes, dips or salads.
Walnut Cranberry Cookies
These delicious walnut-cranberry cookies I found a couple of years ago in a German magazine which focuses on Organic Farming and wholefoods. Although the preparation is quite a mess, these cookies have been on the very top of my list of holiday cookies ever since. It is the combination of the cranberries’ softness, our crunchy super mild organic dry-farmed walnuts and the sour currant jam embedded in delicate short-crust pastry making these cookies irresistible. Instead of cranberries, you can use whatever fruit you have at home. If you are like my aunt who likes to garden and can tons of fruits and vegetables during the summer, this might be the perfect time to use up some of those dried apricots which have been sitting in your pantry for a while now and already begin to look kind of sad. In case you don’t want to use currant jam, make sure you replace it by something that has some sourness to it. Don’t replace the walnuts though – use our delicious organic certified dry farmed walnuts and enjoy!
Ingredients (makes 60 pieces)
- 1 and two thirds cups of whole wheat flour
- 5 and a half TBSP sugar
- 1 dash of salt
- 1 egg
- 4.5 oz cold butter in pieces
- 10 oz currant jam
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 3 TBSP powdered sugar
Mix up flour, sugar and salt. Then add the egg and pieces of butter. Form dough by using a kneading hook or your hands. Wrap the dough into plastic wrap and place it in the fridge for at least an hour.
Divide the dough in half and roll out two squares. Layer jam, walnuts and cranberries on both squares. Then roll up squares tightly. Place the pastry rolls in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Cut rolls into thin slices and place them onto papered cookie sheets. Bake cookies at 350°F for 15 minutes. Let them cool down and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Ingredients (makes 50 pieces)
- 3 cups chopped walnuts
- ½ cup whole wheat flour
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 TBSP honey
- 14 oz condensed milk
- 2 oz butter
Boil condensed milk, honey, sugar and butter in a big pot. Let it boil for four minutes, until liquid begins to thicken.
Add chopped walnuts and let the mass cool down. Stir every once in a while. Add whole wheat flour. Preheat oven to 320°F.
Use a tablespoon to set small Walnut Bites onto cookie sheets. Leave spaces between each.
Bake cookies 10-12 minutes.