The Orchard in Winter

The winter garden does not include fruit but our work prepares 
for the delicious gems we will enjoy next spring and summer. 

The last tree ritual before we bid adieu to the fruit Harvest for 2011 
was to pick the Fuyu persimmons. 
This gorgeous fall fruit hung on into November, 
gleaming in the golden sunlight 
and beckoning us to take a bite from the tree.  
ESTATE's Chef Uriel couldn't resist 
and he was glad we had Fuyus rather than Hachiya persimmons, 
which are more tanic and not so tasty right from the tree. 
The day he and John gathered persimmonswhich became
persimmon jam at ESTATE 
(especially luscious as a dipping sauce with the zepoles), 
they picked 50 lbs of persimmons.
And the juju berries that John and Colby picked off the tree 
in early November clung to the branches in December 
but were past the point we can use them.

Now though there is much to be done in the Orchard, weeding and 
clearing beds, pruning and amending the soil.  
That is what occupies us along with our labors in the lower beds.  
John was delighted to discover how fertile the soil
in the Orchard was this year, 
so he is considering what to plant here for winter.
Matt and Ray from Local Landscapers  
Even though the trees will be dormant in winter, 
with such rich soil, our options for vegetables are expanded.
As we work in the Orchard amidst the bare branches 
we dream of fruit, like the Indian Blood Peaches that grew here.
 For now, though that is a few months away.
As we await the budding of the trees in Spring, 
perhaps there will be radishes or carrots in the orchard beds 

January chronicles will tell you what John decides to do here.


the farm project - a biodynamic organism

We are approaching the end of December which also marks the end of the year. 
But this "end time" is also a beginning for us—starting our Winter Garden.
In the third year of our farm project this is the first time 
we have planted a Winter Garden, so this has not been an idle month for us.  
As you've seen, we cleared the summer beds and 
followed the garden as it made its natural transition from Fall to Winter.

at peak of summer
last of the squash this Fall heralding the end of harvest
frosty mornings mean winter is here
The soil in the lower quadrant beds needed to be amended 
with nitrogen and oyster shell lime for calcium and pH adjustment. 
The lime bolsters the soil's water solubility. 
John working the beds before amending soil 
John (center) confers with Matt and Ray from Local Landscapers

Oystershell lime promotes healthy root growth,and improves soil compaction. 
This is all part of our commitment to farming a Demeter certified biodynamic farm.  
Biodynamic agriculture is a method of organic farming that 
emphasizes the holistic development and interrelationships of the 
soil, plants and animals as a self-sustaining system.  
This is the highest level of organic farming and your approach to farming this way 
goes further than just refraining from the use of pesticides.


"Biodynamic farming is a type of organic farming that 
incorporates an understanding of 'dynamic' forces in nature 
not yet fully understood by science. 
By working creatively with these subtle energies, 
farmers are able to significantly enhance 
the health of their farms and the quality and flavor of food."
Chef Uriel from ESTATE works the farm 
This is an especially good fit for our farm project and resonates with us
as we all work together to grow the food we will offer at the restaurants.


To have a successful biodyanmic garden 
 a great deal of care and individual hard work 
is required to maintain that delicate balance. 
John, the restaurant Chefs, Matt and Ray from Local Landscapers 
and Jaimie and Rafael spent 
much of December working the land by hand.  

Our farm is part of Imagery Estate Winery's commitment 
to having their land Demeter certified.
This organization is the world's only certifier of biodynamic agriculture practices, 
so we take seriously what we need to do for our part in the process.


Did you know that Demeter is the god of grains and fertility?
I like to think that he is working right alongside us as things grow.

I know that the birds and animals that co-exist 
with our plantings at the farm do their part.


And this majestic egret visits often to check on our progress.
Like you, he is following along as we plan and plant at the farm.

So we begin a new year with a new garden project 
and look ahead to what it will yield.

For us, at the fig farm project, 
winter is not a dormant time at all.

We want to hear your comments and questions here 
and look forward to sharing the fruits of our labors 
from the farm with you at our restaurants.


The many faces of our farm project

So we are planting our first winter garden out at Imagery Estate Winery.
Beds from the summer bounty have been cleared.

John and the crew were out with a rototiller 
and we've been amending the lower beds 
with natural sources of calcium, straw and
compost readying them for our winter crop.
Our first planting has been garlic.

Rafael and Jaimie painstakingly placing cloves in the ground.

While the Glen Ellen farm segued from 
late Summer to Fall and now to Winter, 
our garden at ESTATE held onto Autumn a little longer.
It was not too long ago that the pomegranate tree at ESTATE 
cast a golden glow on the walkway.

The red of the fruit and the bright yellow leaves 
were incandescent and radiant, fooling you into thinking
Indian Summer would linger a little longer.

But then, just like the misty mornings 
at the farm brought frost to conclude our Autumn harvest
the windy days hastened the pomegranate tree's transition.

The luscious fruit ripened in the sun, 
and the tree gave us forty pounds of pomegranates 
changing from smooth red orbs 

to art objects adorning the tree

The birds couldn't resist and the fruit 
literally burst with flavor.
Our chefs were inspired as well.

ESTATE's Chef Brian kept a close eye 
on these pomegrantes and began 
a 4-course La Cena di Famiglia meal with 
shaved brussels sprouts salad
hazelnuts, pomegranate, ricotta salata, white balsamic vinaigrette

At the girl & the fig, Chef Erin created a salad of
red and white endive, fuji apples, pomegranate seeds, 
fourme d'ambert cheese, candied walnuts 
with a simple syrup pomegranate vinaigrette: 
pomegranate molasses, red wine vinegar, blended oil, salt, sugar, lemon juice.
salad photo by Deirdre Bourdet before she took a bite!

Farm to table is not just an idea —  it is becoming a mantra for us.
While we may not be able to grow everything 
we serve at the restaurants, our experience 
at the farm and in our gardens 
continues to guide us in our endeavors to bring you simple good food.

We welcome your comments on your favorite meals at the restaurants
or a dish that you particularly enjoyed.
And please do comment here about our farm project.
We want to share it with you through this blog 
so you have a deeper connection with what we are doing.