farm fyi

photo by Steven Krause 
"It's a farm, so all our plans may not mean much," 
John reminds us frequently. 
We can do our research and plan and yet we know 
that it is mostly up to Mother Nature 
what the harvest at the farm will yield. 
We pay attention to what nature tells us, 
 to learn how to best contribute to creating an abundant farm. 
photo by Steven Krause
We are lucky to have rich fertile soil at the Imagery Estate Vineyard farm
One way to tell if it is a good soil is to grab some dirt
and ball it up – then quickly open your hand.
It should break up easily. And, the dirt should
brush off your hand without sticking too much.  
Of course, if you find those friendly earthworms in the dirt, 
then you know you've got "the good stuff." 
Loam soil like ours – a combination of sand, clay and silt 
in relatively equal amounts – is considered best for planting. 
It is ideal for most plants because it holds plenty of moisture 
but also drains well so that sufficient air can reach the roots.
We even pay attention to which way the winds blow. 
Since that is usually west to east, 
we are keeping the lemon verbena bushes 
which act as a natural wind barrier. 
So we worked around these in November and December
as we prepared the winter garden. 
The fragrant lemon verbena also inspired 
the creation of lemon verbena pot de creme.
photo by Steven Krause
The hyssop plants that were interspersed in this area here help out too. 
An extension of our biodynamic insectary concept, 
the blue blossoms and scent of the hyssop 
attracts bees, hoverflies, and butterflies
This herb works hard for us controlling pests 
and encouraging pollination without the use of unnatural methods.

This winter we are experimenting with companion plants,
a new way of planting for us that we hope 
will really enhance our harvest
It's not about getting more or bigger plants, 
but ones that taste better. We will alternate radish and mustard greens
in a row and see if the radishes grow differently
than in the rows where they are planted alone. 
The mustard greens act as a buffer for pests that can harm the radishes. 
we had radishes last well into November this year. 
What's interesting is that the mustard greens both 
repel and attract insects – keeping some away 
but attracting others that might have attacked the radishes.
It is easier to take out some of the mustard leaves 
that are sacrificed, leaving others untouched. 
photo by Steven Krause
And all this activity goes on around the radishes which are protected
ensuring that they make it to the table 
sweet, peppery and perfect to enjoy.
mixed seasonal radishes, anchovy butter and grey sea salt at the girl & the fig 

The farm blog will chronicle how the companion plants are doing, 
so continue to follow here to see how it grows.
Let us know what you think of the blog, ask a farming question
or tell us how your gardening is going.
And we especially want to know 
if you enjoy something at one of the restaurants
 that we've grown at the farm.

300 asparagus plants at the fig

raised beds behind the fig at as winter begins-they will be lush again soon
Our farm project is aptly named the girl & the fig farm project. 
It began four years ago with some planting in the half acre 
behind restaurant. As we've expanded our farm project 
to encompass the grounds at ESATE and then the fertile 
2.5 biodynamic acres in Glen Ellen, 
we of course continue to farm behind the fig. 
parsley box behind the fig lasting into November
The chefs appreciate the convenience of the 
beds abundant with herbs right outside the kitchen door 
and we are continually learning what grows best in this area of full sun. 
We now know that raspberries do well here 
so we will be transplanting those from the farm.
ripe raspberries this summer at the farm
 And chard just loves this spot—it just goes and goes well into January. 
chard still growing in January behind the fig
John has done a lot of research and it seems this spot 
behind the fig is perfect for growing asparagus.

So now that seeds are planted in the lower the quadrants at the farm, 
we returned to the girl & the fig 
to work those beds and plant the asparagus.  

This is a perennial, so we are making a commitment 
giving the space to these plants, but what rewards we will reap. 
In early spring when other fresh vegetables are not yet available, 
having fresh asparagus will be a real treat.  

But like everything about farming, we have to be patient.
We must wait at least 2 years! 
The "Country Wisdom" as well as what John has learned 
from the experts tell us that in the first year of planting, 
it is best not to expect to harvest many spears, if any at all.  

In the second year, you can harvest for 2 weeks, 
in the third year for 4 weeks and in the 4th and subsequent years 
you can harvest for as long as 8 weeks. 
But the plants we are planting now 
will be producing for 15-18 years! 
And when they are producing, an asparagus plant 
can produce more than 100 spears per season. 
We see this as a long term project, and we are serious 
about the farm and what we grow.

In one day Ray and Matt from Local Landscapers 
working with Rafael and Jaimie planted 
300 asparagus in these beds behind the restaurant. 

The transplanted raspberries will share the area and of course, 
we will continue harvesting and growing the chard.

Did you know that asparagus spears have been known 
to grow 10 inches in one day? 
And there are records of shoots weighing 1/3 of a pound each!  
We won't likely be going for anything like that—our focus 
is on taste and bringing the freshest, most delicious 
asparagus to the table for you to enjoy.


January at the farm

It may be a new year but it is a continuation of our cycle at the farm.
We are in the midst of our winter garden with garlic as the first planting.
Needless to say, with our French and Italian cuisine, 
garlic is an important ingredient for all 3 of the restaurants.

Garlic was planted just a few weeks ago 
but with this unusually warm weather, the bulbs 
are already beginning to show "their feet".
The ground seems to think we are closer to Spring than the calendar does.
Part of our January labors involve working the 
raspberry and strawberry beds.
The raspberries were bountiful but some of the strawberries 
did not fare as well this summer, so we will transplant raspberries there.
But we are keeping one strawberry bed that was abundant. 
While Matt was consolidating the strawberry plants, 
he discovered frogs in the bed he was clearing.
This is actually a good sign since amphibians 
are the most fragile members of the ecosystem 
and not all that surprising in our biodynamic farm. 
We expect (and respect) the contributions 
of the "good" insects and animals that 
contribute to the health of the farm. 
The frogs are sensitive to UV light and need shelter 
in a semi-moist place but they don't harm the fruit. 
Their job is to eat the "bad guys"—insects like slugs 
that do harm the strawberries. 
And even now in January, the strawberries are looking healthy. 
Did you know that only the white blossoms produce the tasty fruit?
If you see a yellow blossom, that's a 
"false strawberry"—it may be edible but does not have much flavor.

Still a few months to go before we are back picking 
raspberries this Fall after bountiful summer crop

We are now working with the raspberries in their bare root state.
It often takes years for raspberries to be established 
enough to divide and transplant this way, so once again we are very lucky

These bare roots will soon bring us luscious berries.

This Western Blue Bird is supervising our work 
with the raspberry bare roots.
We value his contribution and know that he may be back to steal a taste
but we are willing to share.

Thanks so much for reading this blog and 
following our endeavors at the farm.
We hope to see you at the restaurants and 
have you share the fruits or our labors here.
And please do post a comment if you are enjoying these chronicles, 
have a story of your own gardening to share or ask us a question.