Friday, April 24, 2009


It has just occurred to me that growing conditions in the UK are quite different to those i am experiencing here in California, and my frequent references to the Love Apple Farm blogsite may be causing some of you Brits, and folk elsewhere in the world, to take what is written as correct for you.

There are several things that come to mind as considerations:

Planting things deep into the soil may be fine here, where the ground tends to be on the dry side, but will probably cause rot and disease to the stems in cooler or wetter climes.

Constant hydration (watering) to keep the potting soil wet at all times is now always advisable. Allow the surface of the growing medium to dry off between waterings is advised where humidity and temperature differs.

The season starts much earlier here than it does back home, so adjust sowing and planting dates accordingly. Surprisingly the last frosts are expected here on the farm at a similar time to those in southern England. The days, however are much warmer here.

More tender crops, tomatoes, peppers, melons etc do well outside here with plenty of daily warmth, many will, unfortunately require the help of a greenhouse or polytunnel elsewhere.

I don't want to put you off from trying, just to consider differing climatic conditions before proceeding exactly as suggested on the blog.

Happy growing.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Jacob Cooks Dinner

One of the chefs, Jacob, from Manresa often comes over on harvest days to help gather produce for the kitchens and has become part of the farm family.

He offered to cook dinner the other night and produced an amazing meal from the gardens.

Yes, a photograph of people n my blog,its a rare sight indeed, i know. Cynthia is on the right, then Jacob, next to Josh, a volunteer in the corner opposite Sarah, who is here for a year, learning all about biodynamic farming methods. Another extended family and great fun.

This is really short as i just gave you loads or reading about visas below and thought a few photos were in order. Hope everyone is doing great out there.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Visa Applications

I haven't written on this subject for a while. It's just good to know that the forms i sent are being processed. Not the forms that i originally thought that i would be sending, but a different set altogether.

To get you up to speed. I took advice from an Immigration Attorney in the autumn on setting up a business here in the US as the wording on the application document was unclear. The form stated that the applicant had to invest a significant amount of money in the business venture they were considering. For me, i need a truck and some tools to start by business, i explained this and it was suggested that if i were to purchase these items outright, it should, indeed, signify a significant amount, in fact the total amount required and would therefore qualify for that section of the visa application. I just needed to complete the whole planned business documentation to prove that it would be a ligitimate concern and have everything ready to go before presenting my case.

It all seemed so easy, time consuming, but easy.

I came back to the Farm so that i had easy access to all the information that i needed for the forms and to be in the right place to research and gather information and to get a better feel for the region now that i had a plan. It all went well for a good couple of weeks, i volunteered and then worked solidly on my application until i decided to have my progress checked out by the attorney. Just to see that i was on the right track and everything was going to be in order. We had a great meeting and it all sounded good. She was a little concerned in how little money i was going to invest and we devised a way to make it seem more with a little support from Cynthia and the farm, it all sounded great. The attorney also also that she would check with a friend in London to see how applicants were faring at the moment.

A couple of days later i received an email. Bad news. The embassy were rejecting all applications that were investing less that £125,000 without question. So it was a no go.

Cynthia immediately had a solution. For me to be employed by the farm and to expand its horizons to include vegetable garden instillation. I will run the instillation side of things and continue to provide support on the farm in return for board and lodgings. It all sounds great. There was a deadline for applications for this different visa, April 1. We had two weeks to get together all the paperwork and have it sent off for processing. Something that usually takes businesses several months to compile. We worked into the night most evenings to research all the requirements and put together the relevant forms, copying and compiling the document in the copy shop on the morning that it had to go into the post.

It is now in the hands of the authorities, we just have to wait until they get through the 45000 applications to hear if it has been successful. A patient wait.

My plans now are to return to the UK when my current visa expires then wait until October and, visa permitting, return to work on the farm then. I have yet to decide what to do for the summer, either get some work somewhere or travel europe helpXing and discovering more about the world. Will have to see what opportunities arise.

Thursday, April 02, 2009


I spent the weekend with Andy and Sarah. Andy is an old friend form the UK and now lives in the bay area with his American wife Sarah.

We met up on Saturday on the eastern side of the bay, opposite San Francisco, had lunch and went on an amazing cycle ride along the bay trail, a pedestrian and cycle way running along the shoreline, stopping to enjoy the view, check out the renovated warehouses, do a bit of wildlife spotting and, of course refreshments.... We were out for the afternoon and probably covered a good 17miles which was more than enough exercise for anyone with a bit of a hangover.

Sarah created a wonderful meal and we sat and chatted about the old days and caught up on the last ten years until the early hours.

On Sunday, Andy took me to a viewpoint overlooking San Francisco bay, way above Berkeley, and then dropped me a small way down the hill at the Botanic gardens. They had a busy day and my plan was to meet Zach, Cynthias' son later in the day to take their truck back to the farm. Zach had been home for the week and is currently studying at Berkeley University which was still further down the hill from the gardens.

The air was clear and the view amazing. As was the botanic gardens. I spent several relaxing hours strolling through the flora of asia, australasia, europe and the US. The California natives was the most extensive and also the most surprising for me. I had no idea how many garden plants we commonly grow in England originated here. Ceanothus, Heuchera, Garrya, several sages to name but a few. Fascinating.

Hungry, i headed down the hill and through the university campus, full of grand buildings sponsored by the good and great citizens of California, towering trees, rolling lawns and open spaces. A wonderful place to study. There was a bell tower , the Campanile, it was open and for $2 i caught the lift to the top to be treated to more panoramic views of the city and the bay, under the threatening weight of 62 huge bells. Thankfully they didn't chime as i think that i would still be deaf today.

I eventually satisfied my hunger in a rather uninspiring Thai restaurant. The decor was erring on faded but the food was amazingly tasty and a very good price. I had time to kill so i read my book for a while and ordered the only dessert on the menu. Shaved ice over beans. I had no idea whaat to expect. It arrived and i was none the wiser except to see a sundae glass full of red beans, like chilli beans topped with plain shaved ice. Try to imagine what it tasted like, i did and was delighted by the first spoonful. Sweet and delicate, soft beans in a syrup sauce, infused with coconut cream and little chunks of coloured jelly for added texture, truly amazing, i wish now that i had taken a photograph of it to show you all.

I caught up with Zach a little after 8pm, got completely lost driving south and ended up navigating my way over several bay bridges and through central San Francisco in the dark, which was interesting. Eventually getting on the correct highway and heading back to Ben Lomond.