Friday, October 30, 2009

Wine, wine, wine

Of the 500 lbs of grapes we picked; about 150 lbs were turned into Jelly. The other 350 lbs have ended up here:

This is 15 gallons of wine. 2 fives, 1 three and 2 one gallon jars... When one fills a jar it is vital that it be filled all the way to the top, otherwise the oxygen in the jar does "bad things" to the wine. Over the next year, periodically, one decants the wine, pouring it off the settled sediment. At each stage you need to end-up with completely full jars, despite leaving the sediment behind... hence the distribution of the wine and not 3 five gallon containers.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Squirrels Attacked My Nuts!

The squirrels went for my nuts so I built my drying racks into a single structure and encased the whole thing in chicken wire.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

More Nuts

Yesterday Brian and I went up to Yountville and collected nuts off the ground of a friends farm. We picked about 100 lbs of nuts in a couple of hours.

Today I built drying racks and put out the nuts to dry:

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Great read on small scale oil production

Black Oil

So the Oil I pressed from the black oil seeds doesn't clarify as clear as the previous oil I've been making. It's not as pretty. It tastes great, if anything I like it more... it's got a mellower taste without the bitter undertone the other stuff has. The 'color' of the oil is a lot like a high grade Olive Oil in its cloudiness... so it shouldn't be an impossible barrier. Pressing the un-shelled seeds is MUCH harder work. I think I might give up on these seeds until I have a gear, or something, to give me some mechanical advantage.

Tomorrow morning I'm going up to Yontville to pick walnuts... walnut oil next. After I work out how to husk, crack, and extract them.Local nuts, local oil.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

not so pretty

As of this morning the oil from the black seed that I pressed last night has not clarified. The oil is still dark and cloudy... it may be the cold ambient temp... if it still isn't clear tonight I may warm it to see if that helps.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Local connection or competition?

SF based oil company -

Another chart

So the sunflower line on this chart lines up with the Linoliec Sunflower on the previous chart... I wander if this chart pre-dates the other sunflower oils or it they have an agenda. I do... I want sunflower oil to look like one of the best!

Black Seeds

So... turns out I was working too hard again... Any store that sells bird feed sells black oil sunflower seeds at about $1/lb... That's not the $13/cwt but it's better than $2.50.. the black seed is also higher oil content. So After I picked up the kids from school I stopped and bought some seeds, came home and ran about a pound through the press.

Because they get run with the shells on they are harder to press. It looked to me like I was getting about the same amount of oil per pound but then I am running the shells as well as the kernel. The oil is now sitting to clarify... the big question will be, how does it taste? better? worse? the same?

Meanwhile, I took the cake... which having the shell in it is REALLY no good for human consumption. I ground it back into a powder, mixed it with some water, and formed it into cones with string in the top and a chop stick sticking through it. These are now in the oven (along with dinner that I was making at the same time). The idea... once they are baked hard I should be able to hang then in the tree as a bird feeder.

I've backed off from the idea of making chicken food for now because of the complexity. There is a real science to chicken food mixing and if you get it wrong the chickens will not be healthy... too much pressure!

Oil Nuts

So... if I buy organic sunflower seeds I am paying about $2.50 per pound for confectionery seeds. That's all I've used so far. Searching on-line shows that buying OilSeeds (the black ones that don't need shelling to make oil) cost about $13 per hundred weight (114 lbs).. I need to work out how to tap into the cheap end of the supply chain. The other issue is finding local seeds... I can make a 'locally pressed' oil from seeds I bring in but it still not a truly local product.

I can buy the seed from China... it probably has less CO2 impact to ship from china than to truck from ND (that's conventional wisdom these days). I couldn't find a price on the Chinese seeds but I did find that they all have like 20 ton minimum orders... I wander how long it would take to put 20 tons through my little press :-)

Chicken and egg... I need enough oil capacity to be able to respond if I sell oil... I don't want to make a bunch of oil if I can't sell it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Fat Content -

The oil I have been making is a regular Linoleic Sunflower Oil. I am now hoping to start using NuSun seeds which is arguably better for you than olive oil (less saturated fats)

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: