Friday, October 31, 2008

Love Apple Farm

I know that this may be old hat for loads of you, but i just learned a new trick to show you other sites that may be of interest, by linking them to my blog. All you have to do is left click on the differently coloured words and you will be taken by magic to another page. Try it here: Love Apple Farm and explore where i am living and learning at the moment.

Yosemite Photographs

Yosemite National Park

Road trip fever strikes again. Off to see a bit of the wilderness whilst the weather is fine and the fall colors are good. The Yosemite National Park is a good 5 hours from Santa Cruz which was great until darkness fell and the interior light remained on in the car. Soon fixed with duct tape and the darkness was much better to drive in.
Its exciting to arrive somewhere in the dark and have to wait till the morning to see what the scenery is like. Wow, yet again, amazing. The hostel nestled in a small wooded area, concealing everything until i headed out in the car. A large wide U shaped valley, lined with fir trees and bright yellow aspen wound through the landscape deeper into the park, revealing ever larger rocky summits and outcrops, often reflected in still mountain streams. The road ended in an area of car parks and visitor attractions in true US style, fields of rv's and tents, people enjoying the great outdoors before the weather turns too much. It had already snowed here a few weeks ago, but has melted since.
I had a good, energetic hike up to an impressive waterfall with Dan, an English lad from the hostel. It took us several hours and we had to race back in time to see the sun set from a highly recommended viewpoint way up on the side of the valley. We only just made it, with some crazy driving and a sprint through the scrub, just in time to catch the last rays of the day, followed by beautifully changing hues of pink and orange on the peaks and summits around.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

interesting fruit

I was checking out the downtown area of Santa Cruz and looking for somewhere to get a bite to eat when i came across a great Thai place. The food was delicious and there were some interesting photographs of carved fruits and vegetables on the walls. It turned out that the owner, Petcharee, gave classes on the thai art of fruit carving and there was a class coming up. So i booked a place.

There were four of us taking the class, the others, local ladies, one was on her second class, another had been sent from work to learn and the third another complete novice. We sat round a table in the restaurant for three hours, carving fruit and vegetables with a handy little knife, that we got to keep. Starting with small easy pieces to get used to handling the equipment we soon progressed to more intricate work, culminating in the water melon. I managed to go wrong part of the way through, so improvised much to the amusement of everyone else. The three hours passed quickly and we all had great fun. I just need to practice a bit to make sure that i keep my new found skill.

To keep in the artistic theme for the day i joined up with Stephanie, who had also taken the class, and spent the afternoon touring around some local art studios. Artists coordinate and open their studios once a year to promote their wares and share their passion for whatever type of art they enjoy. I ended the day more than inspired, having visited over 30 studios, some for a matter of minutes if they weren't to our taste, and a few more in depth,if we found things that caught our eye.

I was caught again, this time by glass work. Small intricate designs formed by heating glass in a flame rather than a furnace. The artist gave a demonstration which was fascinating and i have signed up for a class with him too later in the month.

Friday, October 17, 2008

a pig and a party

I didn't really know what to expect. Cynthia explained that David 'chef' and his girlfriend Pim were going to host a party for their friends at Love Apple Farm on Sunday. David would arrive before dawn and set up a whole pig roast, ready to be served to the guests mid afternoon. We spent plenty of time cleaning the house and getting prepared for the event. The carpets were cleaned and everything was shiny and polished, even the dogs got a trim, so it was going to be some do.

I got up early to help wrestle the pig onto the spit. it went on several different ways before we found the correct angles for it to be secured for its journey into roastedness. It would have been awful if a leg had dropped into the embers because it was improperly secured, or it had slumped, half cooked off the spit into the fire. The hot fire soon browned the porker and it was duly wrapped in aluminum foil to keep it moist and succulent whilst it cooked through. Chef basted and stoked and added herbs from the garden through into the afternoon.

I snuck off when things were calm and checked out a few art venues. The county has an amazing open studio event once a year with local artists showing their wares at home or in their studio settings. Pottery, pictures, jewelery, glass, clothing and more, definitely worth a look. It was a good opportunity to check out more of the area too. I got back well before the party got underway as i knew i would be needed to help out.

Pim arrived and organised the guests as they arrived, to set out the tables, fill coolers with ice, open wine and champagne, set out their dishes ready for the feast. She knew exactly what she was doing, and how to get it done. Well, she should, as a professional foodie, just check out here blog and you'll see what i mean. "My Martha Moment" and see pictures of the party in full swing......(i completely forgot to take any pictures)

I was probably introduced to fifty or so of the eighty guests, so forgive me for not remembering all their names. Quizzed about the garden, sent to fetch things for chef and for Pim, plied with very fine wine and some exquisite food and had a great time. Loads of people had not been to the garden before and they were so excited and impressed by the set up, i felt proud to be able to tell them a bit about its history and its relationship with the restaurant and to identify the vegetables that folk were curious about. Maybe i actually like gardening.......

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Now that i've acclimatised to the californian speed of life and slowed down from the hustle and bustle of San Francisco, its time to head out and explore the area some.

Monterey is a good hour away on the southern side of the bay from Santa Cruz. I got to use the Loveapple truck for a day so took full advantage of my wheels. The area produces a huge percentage of the fresh produce consumed in the US. Flat fields and a great climate allow extensive agriculture to flourish. Massive fields of strawberries are being cropped at the moment, the fragrance fills the truck as i drive through the landscape, a waft of celery hits me before i even see the plants and there they are, stretching out into the distance. Irrigation keeps the farmland green, the rest of the landscape burned brown by the constant sunshine and warm winds blowing towards the sea from the baked interior. Death valley, the hottest place in the world is not that far away. It hasn't rained here since March 25th. They even remember the date!!

The highway winds round the bay through places called Seaside and Marina and Moss Landing, i watch the view from the truck and mentally note to call in on the way back. I never did, it was far too late by the time i passed back through and completely dark. Warnings for blowing sand and a big sweeper trundled along, removing the beach from the road as it blew in from the coast, keeping the road clear.

Monterey is a showcase seaside resort for the wealthy, the old sardine canning buildings down by the wharf converted to deluxe shopping malls and attractions, exclusive restaurants offering seafood and fine wines, sea view houses hidden behind security fences out of sight from prying eyes A private road, 17 Mile Drive, charges motorists for the privilege of taking a peek at the best stretch of coastline. I'm not surprised, the whole place would be overrun if there was unlimited access. Lush golfing greens roll down to the sea, the glint of sun reflected from the windows of mansions hint of their presence in the wooded hills, white sand bays with seals and numerous seabirds defy the neatness with their droppings and organic odors.

People have spent many, many hours carefully balancing pillars of stones along a large stretch of beach, just because they can. A little further along the drive, a famous tree, now with image copyright , the Monterey Pine balances on a rocky outcrop overlooking the pacific ocean.

Even the farmers market is scheduled for party people. It doesn't open until 3pm and continues into the evening, allowing late risers and people with full time jobs a decent opportunity to stock up on local produce. Most of the stalls tempt with free tastings, and timed right, a hungry boy can go for a whole lot longer by slowly strolling through the streets selecting tasty morsels of freshly baked bread, delicious cheeses, dips and relishes and of course more fresh fruit and berries than should really be allowed. I stocked up too to treat Cynthia and Manuel, my hosts, to a good feed on my return to the farm.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

love apple farm

I took the greyhound and i would nearly have been better off walking, it took over 6 hours to cover 75miles but i have escaped the city and swapped it for the country location of love apple farm.

Yes, the humble tomato, however you choose to say it, is here in force. Cynthia and her band of helpers and volunteers specialize in tomatoes and grow vegetables for a local restaurant. That is to say a two michelin star establishment supplying fine dining to the uberrich of silicon valley so they don't put up with bugs on their greens. I am here to learn what i can, help out and enjoy the Californian autumn for a couple of weeks.

It is great to get up at 7am to help with the harvest, before the heat of the day kicks in, picking the best of the best from nearly 200 different crops all neatly laid out in their raised beds and have it all ready for when 'chef' calls by at lunchtime to inspect and collect. There are hens of every flavour imaginable, supposedly busy laying eggs for 'chef' too but they are sulking at present, producing only 7 eggs a day from 70 birds. Light brown, dark brown, blue, gray, speckled and even white.

I have spent my spare time chilling, reading books and exploring the local village, Ben Lomond,a short way outside Santa Cruz, usually with one of the dogs. How great it is to stop for a while, catch up with myself and have a wonderful garden to help out in. Maybe a week isn't going to be long enough after all.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Tourist City

The hills are getting easier, the sights further afield and i must be getting fitter again.

Am loving China town, the shops full of indescribable items in glass jars or piled high in boxes, numerous dried foods from the homelands, roots and leaves, fungus and fish, i'm glad they know what they have to do to make them edible. I bought salmon, quite quickly, after looking round the fishmongers writhing displays of nearly live fish, eels, tortoises, octopus and realizing that i recognized nothing else that i could cook. The clothes shops and home goods are full of things that i would readily buy if i could just pop home. Maybe a trip to China sometime???

From china town to Japanese gardens in the vast golden gate park, a wonderful oasis of peace and tranquility in the heart of the city and just round the corner from the De Young museum. Packed with tastefully displayed artifacts from around the world, i recapped on places i have been and intrigued myself with places new, whilst waiting for my allotted time to view the Chihuly Exhibition at 1.30. The exhibition closed the next day and the whole place was packed. Not surprising when i got to see what all the fuss was about. Modern glass, huge sculptures of every shape imaginable, themed by room and inspiration, colour and design and well worth the wait.

For a contrast, a bit of culture, gay culture, with a stroll through the Castro and its alternative and designer shops, cafes, bars and the Harvey Milk Memorial Plaza, a reminder of harder times and a tribute to the first openly gay politician who did so much for the community and was assassinated for his efforts along with the then mayor. Riots followed in San Fransisco when the ex-cop, assassin, was handed a lenient sentence for his crimes. I stayed in the Castro for the day, soaking up the atmosphere, sunshine, eye candy and enjoying the relaxed feel of the place. The night life was something else!!

Alcatraz was the most talked about trip in the hostel, i tried to go on a couple of occasions but it was always fully booked so i arranged a visit for the end of the week. It is unsurprisingly run down now, but as foreboding as a top security correctional facility should be. Closed several decades ago, Alcatraz has since been occupied by indians as a protest to having their ancestral lands confiscated, it worked and the policy has been reversed, though i am unsure how much of the land they ever had returned. The three hours i spent on the island was long enough and it was great to get the short ferry ride back to the wharf and freedom.