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October 1. Mark Stambler, LABB Founder and baker, and I headed out to Tehachapi at 1pm. That morning, Mark baked bread for his customers and set aside a rye loaf for me. The smell of freshly baked bread is so nice to have as a travelling companion. If I didn't think of giving this loaf to Alex Weiser, the farmer in Tehachapi that we were going to visit, I would have started eating it in the car.
We were going to meet Alex and his friend, and nature writer John Hammon to discuss the wheat experiment - a project that I got started last year with a seed grant from Anson Mills. A gift of Mark's artisan bread was the perfect way to start the project in Southern California. I have been talking to Alex about growing grains in SoCal for about six months, since I met him earlier in the year.
Slowly it grew from keeping it to a few rows at Weiser but doing something on a larger scale at John Hammond's ranch. Hammond's family has been Tehachapi for three generations. His grandfather used to grow grains. The old barn and other structures are still being used for animal husbandry. John is the local nature and history writer. He also does a lot of writing on the Kawaiisu Indians in Tehachapi. I was delighted to hear that we would be doing the wheat experiement on his land because I only knew him through his writings and was a fan ever since Sakai and I bought a ranch in Tehachapi.
Driving out to Tehachapi is a weekly routine for me. Mark had been out here before to look at the train tracks - the famous Tehachapi Loop.
Here is Mark and Alex Wesider with Mark's loaf of bread.
We will plant 2.5 acres - on John's land and at Weiser Farms - both very near each other, and just 10 minutes away from my ranch. Alex is looking at the fallow land that we ill use at John's place. His grandfather used to grow red fife - an heirloom variety and oats. Alex also wants to grow oats.
Here is a picture of the Tehachapi grain gang - from right, Alex, Kim, Kiya, John and me.
Kiya is feeding the baby chicks. Kiya is a Kawaiisu Indian name.
John gave us a tour of the farm. He has an old mill that still works. John is demonstrating how the grain is fed. You get him talking about local history and plants, he is a wizzard.
Alex brought some peppers for John and Kim.
A lovely day in Tehachapi - A good beginning.
|Posted on September 7, 2013 at 2:15 PM||comments (0)|
Last month, Glenn Roberts from Anson Mills sent me 150 lbs of buckwheat seeds. He has been giving me seeds of all types to start a grain hub in Southern California. Buckwheat is a grain that we treasure in Japan. When the seeds are milled and made into flour, they make delicious noodles. But what is essential is that the seeds are picked, dried, milled and made into noodles in a timely manner so they don't loose their freshness and flavor.
I have been buying my sobako (buckwheat flour) but as I get more passionate about the practice of making noodles by hand, I have developed a desire to grow my own buckwheat. We tried growing it in late October on ou ranch in Tehachapi two years ago and the frost killed the buckwheat. This time, I have tilled one long row, irrigated it and planted seeds in late August and the buckwheat is growing. Some deer have picked on the sprouted leaves but I keep putting more seeds in and hoping that the deer will go away. They are in some ways doing the job of thinning the buckwheat sprouts so it may all work out in the long run. I am hopeful.
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Today, I counted 21 wild parrots on my neighbor's maple tree. I meet the wild flock up close during the last week of our year in Pasadena. We are moving to Highland Park. The parrots' screaming voices wake you up in the morning like a noisy dream. In the afternoon, you hear them again, but it's more of a yearning to get home, wherever that maybe. They remind of me of the crows in Japan and how my mother used to sing crow song whenever she saw a flock.
|Posted on October 31, 2012 at 6:10 AM||comments (2)|
Back at the ranch for a couple days of rest. I have been working 24/7 since August on Common Grains. My blog got completely neglected. Fall is a good time to begin again. I worked hard pruning the old grapes vines and apples trees past spring in hopes to bring them back to health. Healthy they became but the wild animals feasted on most of the fruit while we were absent. I walked along the grape vines and couldn't find a single grape on the vine. We hope to spend more time on the ranch, after we finish restoring our house in Highland Park. I am happy to just be in Tehachapi, whenever I can.
I love our trees. We walk around the property and visit each tree everytime we are here. We have lots of mature trees and about 50 new trees that we planted this year. Popular, sycamore, maple, apricot, persimmon, walnut, ash, cherry... Half of the new trees were damaged by the critters but those that survived the ordeal are doing okay. Sakai's mended the broken branches and put in an irrigation system that is working, finally. We want to plant more trees next year. Figure trees take about 15-30 years to mature. if we could stick around for awhile, this ranch is going to look amazing.
The apricot tree is particularly gorgeous in red.
The old walnut tree gave us so much joy this year. We didn't even know what kind of tree it was for a long time. It produced tons of nuts. The green fruit cracked open and some of the nuts had fallen on the ground. The critters ate about 1/3 of the harvest but there were plenty more to be had so Sakai brought over a ladder and we spent the morning picking the nuts. Ana and Kurokin came along and sat under the tree and kept guard. I'd never seen walnuts this big.
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