Monday, March 30, 2015

Our Blog is on the Move!

Follow us to harms
Our new website is up and running, and our blog will be embedded. If you are currently following us (or if you would like to!) please follow this link and sign up for the new site. Explore our new website, too, designed by Joel Smith and Melissa McLaughlin, two talented web people!  Photographer Lowell Downey of Art and Clarity supplied many of the photos, including of our product. We will be having a larger announcement soon, and a special for all of you loyal lavender users!

But for now, please sign up to continue receiving— or begin receiving by e-mail— our blog!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Spring and Drought

The days are stunningly beautiful, and the meadow and forest verdant green, even  in this fourth year of severe drought. The news is hard: California has a year of water storage left. What then? The drought is like a zen teacher, whacking us into consciousness: water is precious. Do not waste it or take it for granted. Everything you do with water impacts something else. Pump too much from the earth, and the earth may sink, the aquifer, collapse, and never be able to fill again. Collect too much in ponds and reservoirs and the rivers suffer. Move water too fast in concrete passageways and tunnels, and groundwater cannot restore. Contaminate groundwater with chemicals through agriculture runoff and fracking, and it is contaminated forever.

Biodynamic practices have allowed us to use much less water in irrigation. Compost added to soil increases the amount of moisture the soil can hold. We mulch the lavender and other aromatics to hold in moisture throughout the coming dry season. The grapes are almost dry farmed since we adopted the discipline of biodynamic farming.

Water is a living entity, Charlie Toledo told me. A newly discovered fourth phase of water can hold 1000 times as much information as a silicon chip, another friend, a scientist, said. It is so important we treat water as the sacred source of living that it is. What information do we inadvertently pass on to water when we abuse it? What attitudes are stored in its fluidity? And when we honor it as the precious entity that it is, what message will it carry on?

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Replanting Biodynamic Lavender: Lot Sophia

Gratitude to these hard workers these 16 years!
There must be a eulogy for the old lavender and a blessing for the new, as there must be a prayer for the bare earth in its liminal, in between state.

This week we pulled the last of Lot Sophia lavender, 420 plants, just as the new replacements arrived from Cottage Gardens Nursery in St. Helena, CA. They propagate from our own plant material, being a certified organic propagator.

Yesterday we sprayed the ground with the first barrel compost (BC Prep) we have made on site before rototilling the earth. The BC Prep
Bare ground of the Lot Sophia
ready to be mounded.
improves fertility by making minerals more accessible to the plants. We then make mounds to keep the lavender's feet dry, and then dig in  a shovelful of Biodynamic compost for each lavender plant. We finish with a mulch of our chipped brush for weed control. We will plant on a "flower", or air day, next Tuesday and Wednesday, when the moon is in Libra, giving these new plants a good, rhythmic start.
The new plants, waiting.

But the eulogy, ah, so sad, to see the mound of those hundreds of bushes that served us for 16 years now! Even in their death, their scent reminds us of the years of stems and oil they have provided.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Farming and Politics

Photo by Dan Mufson of Defenders of the East Napa Watershed
Farmers have always been independent, grassroots kind of people, at least the farmers that I grew up with, and this meant that they were almost always Republican. It also left them wide open when Nixon's administration pushed to cut the hedgerows, plow everything, get big. Many of the farmers I knew had to sell out after this (1960's and 1970's). They had mortgaged their farms to buy more land, crop prices dropped, and many lost their shirts. Small farms were no longer considered viable.

Oddly, we are back to the grassroots kind of politics, but this time it crosses political parties. Corporations have co-opted many aspects of our lives, not the least of which is farming. Monsanto convinced even my own father that he had to farm with genetically modified seed and use tons of chemicals in order to feed the world. Of course, most of what my father ended up growing (genetically modified corn and soybeans) was not for feeding the world.

In the Napa Valley venture capitalists and a few wealthy landowners are buying up remaining land for vineyards and wineries on hillsides with an implied legal threat to county government if expansions and plans are not approved. This unprecedented expansion threatens our groundwater supplies, our watersheds which restore groundwater, and increases carbon emissions with more tourism and energy usage. In fact, the County delayed plans for a Climate Action Plan because this could cause financial loss for wineries and the tourism industry.

So grassroots— the public— have to speak up. We farmers can no longer just tend our own acreage if we are to be responsible farmers. We will simply be bulldozed, as the major part of our country has been bulldozed by a few wealthy farmers using dangerous, toxic chemicals impacting the land and anyone nearby, to get very rich (and even supplemented by the Farm Bill). In the Napa Valley it will become a few wealthy corporations and individuals degrading our environment to make wine very few of us can afford and using labor who cannot afford to live within miles of the hotels, vineyards, restaurants and wineries where they work.

On March 10 the Napa County Board of Supervisors will meet with the Planning Commission for the first of several sessions to discuss the future of Napa. The Grand Coalition of 10-12 citizen groups will be there in full force to "take our place at the table"and make public comment on such issues as preserving watersheds, traffic, returning to a climate action plan, and, really, to insure that the public makes these kinds of decisions and not a few individuals with resources to insure approval and implementation of their own agendas. The Commons includes our watersheds, our air, our water, and it is time we all act to protect our community.

Join us! for public comment on March 10 (time to be announced, reserve the date!) or to hold a sign alerting everyone that it is time to take our place at the table!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Stand Up For the Earth!

Donald and I work on sign boards today. We are joining other citizen groups to alert the town and county as to the importance of preserving our watersheds and our Ag Preserve. Degrade them with more tree cutting and clearing and event centers in the middle of pristine forests, and well, we will suffer. Groundwater will become even more scarce.

A recent study suggests that we in the West and Southwest, Mexico and Central America, are in the beginning of a drought that we have not seen the likes of in 1000 years. The study, out of Nasa, Columbia and Cornell Universities, also suggests that we can mitigate some of the damage by limiting carbon emissions. Yes, this means a plan for lessening traffic, not cutting trees, restoring riparian corridors. It means that it may not be an economically profitable plan, only that we are able to make it through the next 35 years living here!

That is why we are willing to hold sign boards, and would love to have you join us! Our first day is tomorrow morning, February 16, at 10 am in front of the County building, 3rd and Coombs Street in downtown Napa. Citizen groups are planning regular sign board events to bring the situation to the public eye. Watch for details!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Making Barrel Compost

Stirring the manure with the eggshells and basalt.
In December Jesse and I made barrel compost and buried it in the hollow of an ancient oak that fell last May. We "stirred" eggshells and basalt dust into Biodynamic cow manure that Jesse got from his friend Seth (we do not have cows on our ranch) for a full hour, and then packed it into the buried hollow of the Valley oak that had shaded the old pioneer home Donald and I lived in while we built our house. The story of this oak ("When an Old Friend Dies") will be published in the 2015 summer issue of Psychological Perspectives.

We then inserted the six biodynamic compost preps, and after six weeks, stirred it again. We will check in another six weeks and it should be ready for our spring spraying.

The buried cross section of the Valley Oak with another
to use as a lid. 
We understand that the practice of resting manure within tree hollows was first practiced in eastern Europe before the Second World War, but the records of the results were lost (Klocek, Sacred Agriculture, p. 361). The energies of the cosmos are infused into the manure in that hollow, a true holding of opposite energies for something entirely new to form. Alchemy at work,  the essence of biodynamic practices!

This tree in particular is one Donald and I loved. Perhaps this infusion of spirit into the fertility of our land is its parting gift.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Fallow and Storms

Winter fallow, grey day. Clouds press down, a storm predicted this afternoon, tonight, all day tomorrow. Promises of great quantities.   Ramon rushes the rain,  pruning vines. He will finish today, four weeks of pruning, no need this month to worry about keeping vine cuts dry. (We spray BD 501 when there is dampness to prevent infection.)

Racing the weather is reassuring: the cycles of winter rain and summer dryness are still with us, even if different yet again from how we used to expect them. Even the goats are motivated to load up on toyon and coastal oak. Tomorrow will be a barn day.