Monday, October 19, 2009

Keeping track of the farm

Last Saturday we went to market for the first time. We sold our Cabernet Sauvignon Grape Jelly, our Honey and Sunflower Oil. We sold enough to cover the days expenses and then some... here's some stuff from the day:

This is the handout that we had at the stall -

‘The Dale Family Farm’ is more a state of mind than anything else. We live in a regular house in West Berkeley and have a very standard urban back yard. The Farm is the fact that we love to grow stuff and make stuff, we do this because we love the process.

The Honey
We have a single bee hive in our back yard. It is tucked in the corner of the vegetable garden where the kids and the chickens will not bother it and it will not bother them. Bees travel several miles to find food so we have not noticed any more bees in the yard now than before we got the hive. Given where we live we guess that the majority of the honey is produced by foraging the East Bay wetlands, the Berkeley Marina and the other green areas that run up and down the side of the bay. The honey we are selling today was all harvested a few weeks ago. It is much darker than our previous harvest. The ‘books’ say that the dark is ‘better for you’; all those ways that honey is meant to be good for you, but more so.

The Oil
We have just started pressing oil over the last few months using a hand powered crank that we bought from Europe. Pressing oil turns out to be a slow meditative pastime but the flavor of the oil is amazing. So far we have worked with sunflower seeds, peanuts and coconut; we are now looking for local organic nuts and seeds so we can be using truly local oil. If you know anyone with a nut tree that isn’t harvested please let us know. Today we have a small amount of Sunflower Oil that we pressed about a week ago. The oil has a fabulous nutty flavor and smell. It is great for salad dressing as well as for cooking. Sunflower Oil is relatively high on the ‘healthy oils’ list and has a ‘smoke point’ of 460 degrees making it a ‘high temperature’ oil. You want to store the oil out of direct sunlight as it will go rancid faster than commercially processed oil. If you want to know if your oil is rancid, sniff it, if you have any doubt that it’s OK… then it’s OK.

The Jelly
This year the small local grape growers of Napa and Sonoma have not been able to sell their grapes to the wine makers. This is a result of the economic down turn and is ironic because by all accounts this is one of the best (quality not quantity) in many years. We picked about a ¼ ton of grapes from our friends Sonoma vineyard and the immediate result is this jelly. Next year we will have wine too but that takes longer to make. These are very high quality Cabernet Sauvignon grapes; because we could, we only picked the best grapes on the vine. We added a low sugar pectin and as little sugar as we could. It was hard to find the right sugar balance as these wine grapes are much sweeter than the table grapes that are used in most recipes. The final result is, I think, pretty spectacular, I’m just sorry that we couldn’t process more and am sad every time I think of the tons of grapes that have rotted on the ground this year throughout Northern California.

If you have any questions, or know of some ‘spare’ nuts… you can contact us at:

Here are some photos from the day:

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