I heart strawberries. But most of all, I heart golden raspberries. I found both, and more, at beautiful little Serrano Organic Farm, on a recent visit with Rebecca Thisthlethwaite, my friend who blogs at HonestMeat.com.
I'm trying out a new (to me) technology using PictoBrowser, since I had 24 photos of the visit and not nearly that much verbiage. But to see if it works, I have to publish this first, and then edit afterwards. You can see the photos at my Flickr set here, if it doesn't work.
[Note: it does show up, but the actual photos are cropped: you can see them full size at the Flickr set, if you prefer.)
Logan and I arrived at 6:00 on Thursday evening, with the sunlight becoming more golden by the minute. Fiona, clad in an ironically worded "Big Girls Don't Cry" pink t-shirt, flowered skirt and brown mud boots, ran up to hug me before I could even get out of the car. We were also greeted by the ranch's big, white Maremma guard dog, Angel: I unfortunately lost my two great photos of her. (I hate it when that happens.) She needed reassurances that we were "friends," and Rebecca gave them. Angel also wanted to help herself to the madeleine I'd brought Fiona, which results in some tears. (Rebecca told me Fiona had been on a fresh and dried fruit binge, and that she thought maybe it was making Fiona a little tender.)
We walked down the hill and spotted the chickens: 3500 of them, housed in five separate dwellings. The grassy pasture is enormous, and chickens were scattered everywhere. Most were eating the piles of overly ripe melons, which were being tossed off a truck with pitchforks by Saul and his brother. When a pile got big enough, Saul would hop off the truck and bust the melons open with his shovel. Other chickens were resting in little "dirt nests," which they'd scratched out for dirt baths. All around me, the squawking, while sweet to the ear, also soundproofed me for conversation with Rebecca. So I wandered around and took pictures of them, and tried to keep Logan from fulfilling his youthful XY-chromosome mandate to chase the birds. (What is it with little boys and birds on the ground?)
Then we all went to see the 40 new piglets, who'd arrived recently. They were afraid of us, and high-tailed it, squealing indignantly, when we tried to come close. But Rebecca and I slowed our steps, lowered our voices, and persuaded the children to do the same, and the pigs slowly came back. They strolled, with obvious curiosity, and one or two came a little closer than the rest. That was encouraging, but too much for Logan and Fiona, who started screaming with excitement. Bye-bye, little piggies. You sure are cute.
And so we wandered over to Francisco's farm, which neighbors TLC Ranch. Rebecca writes: "Francisco has ten acres of certified organic land in Las Lomas, just south of Watsonville. Along with his teenage boys, sister, and other relatives, Francisco grows raspberries, strawberries, broccoli, cucumbers, zucchini, peas, beets, carrots, and other vegetables. He uses cover crops and compost to maintain the fertility of his land, he intercrops vegetables and berries, and he delivers the same day the produce has been picked. His produce can be found through ALBA Organics, Coke Farms, and West Coast Distribution. Orders can be placed directly with him at 831-359-3114."
Of course, Logan heard the word "berries" and sprinted madly down the dirt road. We stopped him from his predatory plans, and caught up to him, Fiona in tow. While both of the children would have stood there gobbling for hours, we allowed only a few handfuls each. Here: Logan's debut as a hand model for "Farm Boy" magazine. Which, to my knowledge, doesn't exist. Homage to Laura Ingalls Wilder, okay?
Walking to the far side of the farm, Rebecca noted Francisco's unique method of alternating squash and tomato plants, staking them both. She also noted that he used very little of the black plastic that covers so many farms—conventional or otherwise. She said, "He just uses plastic just down the very center [underneath the strawberries, where they would touch the ground], which helps keep it out of our landfills. The grass is left over from grass he planted in the winter in between his berries to prevent run-off and erosion. He might keep them to keep the dust down since dust attracts mites to strawberries." Between some rows, it seemed that someone had intentionally styled the grass into ornamental tufts.
The sun was beginning to set when we turned back towards our cars. But not before the children sat on the tractor…
…and danced on a trailer.
It was a beautiful afternoon, spent with one of my favorite new friends and two of the sweetest children I know.
• • • • • • • • • • •
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: "Your children need your presence more than your presents." — Jesse Jackson
Yeah, I know, I'm not a big fan of his, but the truth is the truth.
Note: all photographs completely unretouched. It was the beautiful summer light that worked its magic.
That's all for now: thanks for visiting!