The Fall season brings shorter days, beautiful light on the landscapes and bountiful harvests from farmers sharing their grapes here in wine country to fruits and vegetables all across the nation. It has been a tumultuous year as Mother Nature flexed her muscles in and around communities we love and we feel grateful for what we have, for each other and for each of you in our lives.
43 Lives lost (as of 29Oct17) with dozens still missing
5,500 Homes destroyed, and 4,000 more partially burned
8,400 Structures destroyed including 22 wineries
200,000 acres (300 square miles) burned in five counties, more than $1 billion in damages
(To put that in perspective, Hurricane Harvey did $180 billion damage in Texas, Irma nailed Florida to the tune of as much as $40 billion, and Maria may cost Puerto Rico more than $95 billion to rebuild. Hit by Irma and Maria, Dominica, the US Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands still cannot estimate the damages. September and October were a tough two months in the northern hemisphere.)
Statewide, CalFire fought 250 wildfires in October alone
500,000 California acres (nearly 800 square miles or two thirds the area of Rhode Island) scorched so far this year, twice last year’s total
11,000 Firefighters from around the world
We and our home are safe in St Helena but my heart aches especially for 6 very special friends who have lost everything, from 3 different fires which surrounded us. Communities where I have lived through the years were not spared as the fire raged. We’re thinking about those who have nothing to return to and limited housing in a community they love. The week that disappeared ended in so much sadness.
We’ve seen so much, together. Can being together help us heal?
We’re giving it a try, one day at a time, being nicer to each other and gathering to help put the simple pieces back in place. We hug each other more, listening with ears hearing heartache and we see tear-filled eyes of neighbors we barely knew before.
Some days we want to be with others, listening to their stories and telling our own and some days we want to be alone quiet in our own reflections. And we cry.
We will heal our beautiful communities, our lives and our futures, together.
I’m a Southern girl and although Santa Rosa isn’t my home town, it’s my adopted town and I’d like to share this song Santa Rosa Strong. It simply says it all. Give me back my home town.
Today, hug your family, sit in your garden, play with your pets and breathe. It can all be gone in an instant.
By 9:30 a.m. on the first morning of the fire, one of "our" charities, Ceres Community Project, a nonprofit organization that feeds 150 North Bay families experiencing a serious health crisis, had already ramped up their operations to prep meals for first responders and people arriving at shelters. They worked with multiple daily crews producing 400 to 500 meals a day in addition to their normal operations.
So wrote TheKitchn.com ... and I was right there, making meals for first responders and evacuees. In addition, I earmarked the most recent donation to Ceres for this fire relief program. If you have bulk food, money, or time you might be willing to share, Ceres is in need of all three. The charity, which usually makes and delivers meals to low-income families facing serious health crises, is stepping up amid the natural disasters and is now feeding even more people than before. For more information on how to help, please visit ceresproject.org.
Some of the farmers markets are soliciting donations and buying up all the produce at the end of market day (so supporting the farmers to keep growing) and delivering this healthy, local produce to chefs and programs supporting folks affected by the fires.
Thank you for your 2017 purchases and continued support of our products.
So much has happened worldwide that affects food for families in other parts of our nation.
In addition to increasing our local donations for wine country fire relief programs, we have made donations to help evacuees and animal support organizations in my home town of Houston and funds to rebuild garden infrastructure in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
We are funding LifeLab’s upcoming Leadership Institutes training for leaders from the island nations affected by hurricanes this year. LifeLab writes, "School gardens have tremendous lifelong benefits for children. Research has shown that when children participate in a school garden program, they show marked improvement in healthy eating; social emotional skills; environmental attitudes; scientific achievement; and attitudes toward learning."
My Bali team is hard at work despite the looming disaster there posed by Gunung Agung in eastern Bali, ranked #6 in the archipelago’s most persistent erupters. Indonesia has always been famous as the most volcanically active place in the world. Gunung Merapi on Java erupted spectacularly in 2010. The truly famous volcanos in the archipelago are Gunung Krakatau (Krakatoa) who blew her top in 1883 and has been replaced by Baby Krakatoa (Gunung Anak Krakatau) who has now grown bigger than her mother. Gunung Tambora blew himself up and caused a global "year without a summer" in 1816. These fiery mountains, on the Pacific's Ring of Fire, regularly devastate their regions, but if that's where you live (in 2016, 261.1 million people did), what are you going to do? As of early November, the likelihood of a Gunung Agung eruption "could still occur at any time."
For this and other reasons, I have postponed my usual October trip, but plan to visit my team in early 2018.
We make extra large custom bags for San Francisco-based Cannella Spirits, who use our bags to filter and strain out the herbs and spices used to make their custom family recipe liqueurs. Recently, a crew from the Science Channel came to make an episode of their process for their long-running show, How It’s Made. See the awesome huge bag starting at 1:46? That’s ours! This footage will be shown on the Science Channel’s How It’s Made sometime soon.
Over the past few months I’ve been noticing that more and more restaurants are including vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free items to their menus. Chefs are responding enthusiastically to the farm-to-fork movement, and seem more open to those of us requesting plant based dining choices. I’m thrilled by this embracing of WFPB choices. (That’s the new "in" acronym I see popping up everywhere - Whole Food Plant Based.) Now we can all go out to dinner and share the fun with our community of friends and family.
For folks who haven’t already tried raw cranberry relish, this recipe is also an adventure and an experiment, and we offer it in that spirit.
Remember, when eating raw, NOTHING is more important than the healthiness of the ingredients. No pesticides, preservatives, additives or adulterants, ever! So this simple little recipe is going to require a little forethought and preparation. Since this is likely to be an experiment for you and your family -- eating raw orange peel? -- it’s okay to make a small batch ahead of time to refine your ingredients and procedures.
At a local health, natural, or enlightened supermarket, find organic cranberries and navel oranges. If your family aren’t adventurous eaters, get a tart apple for each orange. The cranberries will be expensive, because growing without pesticides and fertilizers puts the farmer to some serious extra effort and exposes him to a higher risk of crop failure. Remember, for something (like healthy food) to be sustainable -- something you can count on having year after year, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Half a pound of cranberries and one orange will make enough for a taste for everyone ...but believe me, everyone will want more. Bodies recognize this kind of food and go, "Gimme more of THAT!"
It is especially important that your oranges be organic. "Normal" oranges are likely to contain pesticide residue, but their skins will have been soaked in preservative and then waxed so they look good in the market. For this recipe, you will be eating the peel, so it must be free of adulterants.
Find some good local honey, too. Nothing beats honey for flavoring this dish.
Even though these are organic, rinse the cranberries and pick out any shriveled ones, and scrub the oranges with the vegetable brush.
The basic relish proportions are flexible, but equal volumes of orange and cranberry are where to start. Cut the WHOLE orange into quarters and discard the pithy part in the center. (If you had to buy oranges with seeds, dig them out and discard them.) If you want to reduce the liquid in the relish, squeeze the oranges and enjoy the juice; for this recipe we’re interested in the peel and the flesh. In your food processor or blender, process small batches lightly, leaving it chunky enough so bits of orange peel and cranberry are recognizable.
If you want to produce a dryer relish, put the ground mixture in a More than a NUT MILK BAG over a bowl and let it drain. At first the juice may make you pucker, but adding a little honey will make it delicious and Oh! so good for your insides!
In your serving bowl, combine the ground oranges and cranberries with honey to taste. (Try not to taste it so enthusiastically that it all goes away. We had that problem the first couple of times.) That’s it! Serve at room temperature for the full flavor.
Variations: add organic raisins, currants, dates, apples, or chopped nuts of any kind. For a real adventure, add a lemon to a bigger batch.
This relish is more than good to eat, it is good for you: wonderfully cleansing and a perfect accompaniment to the often-heavy foods we associate with Thanksgiving.
Here’s to a beautiful season and a Thanksgiving with plants on the table! As always, I’m glad you’re along on my nutritional adventures. Remember to eat your veggies!
Harvest is happening all around us here in the valley and leaves are beginning to brighten the landscape in all sorts of colorful hues....
Spring into Summer is my favorite time of year....