The Zen of Farming

Why do we farm? While our main motivation 
is to grow our own food, know where our vegetables come from, 
have control over how organic and natural the process is, 
and to share that with you, our diners, we also find 
ourselves drawn in to the "zen of farming," the experience 
and connection with the land which leads us to a greater re-connection with ourselves.
Executive Chef John Toulze
alone in his garden "behind the fig"
Perhaps we knew it and perhaps we didn't really know the extent of it, 
but the farm(ing) draws us in and invites reflection on things we didn't anticipate
well beyond the importance of caring for the land and cultivating good food.

We certainly don't purport to anything approaching preaching on this subject, 
but we just know the benefits we reap from our labors.
And we appreciate our neighbors in the area who subscribe to this as well.
We "got it" immediately when we read a recent post at Edible Marin & Wine Country's 
about Green Gulch Farm in Marin: "The farming at Green Gulch is 
about taking care of the land completely, whole -heartedly, 
with attention to detail...we practice the full experience of interconnectedness." 

Another neighbor we salute is Slide Ranch
a non-profit teaching farm in the Marin Headlands,
"which has been providing Bay Area children and their families 
hands-on opportunities to learn about where our food comes from, 
as well as environmental stewardship, since this historic 
34-acre dairy property was first protected in 1970.

As we stop and reflect on what needs to be done at the farm 
to look ahead and prepare for what we will do next,
it seemed like the "right moment" to ponder why we are farming at all.

Why do you farm? 
What do you "get" from your garden, 
besides delicious vegetables and fruits?

Farm highlights

humbled indeed when we discovered
one of the birds was feasting on our figs!
who can blame them though?
As we've talked about here, farming keeps us humble 
and on our toes—there are things we plan for and can expect and often things we can't. 
We are always adapting and learning.  
The farm reminds us that it is an alive and constantly growing place
not much time between the planting of the upper quad
and the winter squash explosion!
Sometimes it is the surprises we find that are 
even better than what we expect to see.
we are still amazed at the blossoms on our tomato plants
late September!

Some other farm highlights include:
we always love the first fig sighting
behind "the fig"
and this one at the farm.

knowing that even those these tomatoes are green,
they are ready
and will soon be these "fried green tomatoes" at
the girl & the fig
encountering a bee hard at work
and a lizard too. Can you find this guy?
cropping makes him a little more visible,
but his camouflage suit is pretty good
and running into this bird right outside the orchard
he was busy getting his dinner too!
The farm is in flux right now as we transition 
from summer to fall and look ahead to winter.
summer squash competes with
winter squash to inspire the chefs!
these beds will soon have leeks & garlic
and our Atlantic Giant squash is close to harvesting
did you know Atlantic Great squash have been bred for 130 years?
and our persimmons will soon be ready 

What surprises do you find in your garden?

Signs of Autumn

Today is the first day of fall. 
As we've been saying, autumn is creeping up on us 
with the change of light and cooler mornings and evenings, 
but summer holds on, especially during the day. 
Our neighboring winemakers applaud this two-tiered weather pattern 
while acknowledging that harvest has come early. 
photo courtesy of Hwy 12 Properties 
And, we just hang in there with Mother Nature at the farm, 
as the summer harvest continues a bit longer, still giving us strawberries, 
tomatoes and cucumbers to inspire the chefs.
strawberries still growing at the farm
inspired a recent dessert finale to plats du jour menu:
cheesecake parfait, fresh berries & vanilla crema
the late morning/afternoon heat has brought us
super-sized heirloom tomatoes
which are still abundant at the farm.
We expect to have harvested 4,000 pounds of tomatoes this summer,
and are amazed that the tomato plants are still flowering for more fruit to grow!

while still relishing the tomatoes we bring them,
the chefs' concession to fall is:
oven-dried tomatoes with fresh mozzarella, frisee,
shaved crostini, fig balsamic & California olive oil
But as we've been saying, we have our eye on autumn.
And in fact, we can now see some of what that will be at the farm 
as the winter squash we planted a few weeks ago has begun to make its appearance.
just a few weeks ago, the squash beds in the upper quad
is now overflowing!

soon this beautiful blossom will be bring us a tasty squash
some are already appearing 

We are looking forward to what our chefs will do with our winter squash.
 honey glazed winter squash photo by Steven Krause for
Plats du Jour: the girl & the fig's Journey Through the Seasons in Wine Country
a sure sign of fall is the gourds and squash at our farm's neighbor
Oak Hill Farm in Glen Ellen
There are signs of fall all over the area, "including the 18,000 pounds of pumpkins 
Jim Groverman, owner of Petaluma Pumpkin Patch and Amazing Corn Maze, 
just shipped to pumpkin sellers around the Bay Area."
His "Amazing Corn Maze" has been a popular fall attraction 
for 20 years and is about to open.
You seriously can get lost in this corn maze, even the man who created it! Take a peek:

What do you look forward to in the autumn season?
And what are you growing for fall?
For Sonoma locals, here are some tips on what to plant in your garden for fall.

Tomato Tips!

empty beds waiting for fall planting overlook
thriving summer beds in lower quad
Last week we noted how we are straddling the seasons
which of course means that this week, we are one week further 
from summer and one week closer to fall.  
So, I checked in with Matt & Ray from Local Landscapers who work closely
about what was next at the farm. 
And indeed, even as we continue harvesting tomatoes and other summer plants 
(we had the time to plant, and are now harvesting, our second round of cucumbers), 
there is a lot of clean up going on at the farm as we ready 
for some fall planting and look ahead to the 
soil amendment work that will define our winter garden
late summer cucumber growing
a recent special at the girl & the fig:
crispy oysters - pepper purée, cucumber salad, roasted corn
too many tomatoes?
tomato cucumber soup at the girl & the fig.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. The coming weeks 
will be filled with talk of fall planting, clean up, cover crops
soil enrichment and the vision for next spring and summer. 
Before we change direction from the current time of "grab and go," 
being able to stop at the farm in the morning, pick vegetables for 
the chefs to create the evening's dinner, there is still time to 
reflect on the freshness we collect every day at the farm. 
And in fact, as we look ahead to a new time at the farm, 
we can also plan for a similar "new" time in the kitchen 
which will still celebrate our summer bounty, but in a different way.
Recently we told "tomato truths," but now we will 
get down to some valuable "tomato tips" so you can "remember" 
how delicious they were later in the year.
still abundant as we head towards our goal of
4,000 pounds of tomatoes this season!
Hard as it is to resist eating the tomatoes we are picking, 
this is exactly the time of year to consider preserving them 
so you can savor the sweetness of summer later in the year. 
A tomato sauce made from your fresh summer tomatoes far surpasses 
even the best jar you can buy. 
And if the blanching process feels like even too much to do, 
watch an even quicker way to freeze tomatoes. 

Canning tomatoes is another great way to 
experience summer later in the year, but takes a bit more work. 
There are actually a lot of tips out there on canning, including some shortcuts, 
but here's the definitive "how to can" from a true expert.

You can also enjoy sun-dried tomatoes in the winter 
which you can get without the long process of laying them out in the sun. 
At the girl & the fig, our favorite way to preserve tomatoes is to 
create heirloom tomato jam, which really enhances 
many dishes throughout the year. We go through the steps for you in 
but we will also share it with you here:

Heirloom Tomato Jam
1 pound heirloom tomatoes, seeded and chopped 1⁄2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1⁄2 tablespoon lemon zest, chopped

1⁄4 teaspoon ground cumin
1⁄4 teaspoon ground coriander Pinch of salt
1⁄8 teaspoon chili flakes
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar, 2 tablespoons of water, and salt. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Continue to cook until the mixture is medium brown, occasionally brushing the sides of the pan with a water-dipped pastry brush. Add the pecans, mix, and then spread the mixture on a marble surface or a parchment-lined baking sheet. Allow the pecans to cool before breaking them into desired-size pieces. They will keep in a sealed container for up to 3 weeks.
Makes 2 cups 

Since freezing, canning and drying tomatoes lasts for months, 
you can actually enjoy tomatoes all year.
If, like us, you just love tomatoes, this means 
that love affair extends beyond a summer fling.
Do you have any tomato tips to share? 

Straddling the seasons

During a walk today, I emerged from 
a heavily shaded path to an opening that was bathed in sunlight. 
I take this same walk almost every day and particularly 
love this spot–I can see the light from the sun ahead 
beckoning to me as a greeting for the day. 
What struck me today was how much more golden and a bit sharper the sunlight 
looked than the brighter yellow it has been previously, maybe even yesterday. 
As I stepped into the sunshine, I looked over to where the sun was, 
just over the horizon and noticed how much lower it was in the sky than it has been, 
my first awareness of how near fall is–this visual harbinger to the change of season. 
But knowing that, in a few hours, it would be close to 100 degrees 
which of course would feel oh, so summer, I realized how much 
we are beginning the "straddling of the seasons." 
still on the menu at "the fig"
 both food photos by Steven Krause for
Plats du Jour: the girl & the fig's Journey Through the Seasons in Wine Country
not quite there yet...but soon
So, you can still be refreshed by the popular heirloom tomato and watermelon 
salad at the girl & the fig, and it is way too soon for
 honey-glazed winter squash, but we do have two seasons going at the farm.
the fall garden overlooking the flourishing summer one
lower quad abundant with tomatoes, peppers, basil, beans & squash
upper quad planted with winter & fall squash
We continue to harvest from our 800 tomato plants

we even have summer squash growing
around the planters right outside the door of
the girl & the fig!

but once the potatoes in the upper quad at the farm were done, 
we looked ahead to our late autumn/early winter garden and planted winter squash. 
Red Kuri squash
We've planted Red Kuri squash, which is "is thick-skinned pink colored winter squash 
that has the appearance of a small pumpkin without the ridges. 
Inside the hard outer skin there is a firm flesh that provides 
a very delicate and mellow chestnut-like flavor." 
They can be roasted like pumpkin seeds and eaten, or saved for next year’s garden. 
A medium to large squash will yield about 200 to 250 seeds.
Butternut squash soup, balsamic reduction, with fried sage
photo by Steven Krause for
Plats du Jour: the girl & the fig's Journey Through the Seasons in Wine Country
Slight changes on the menu at the girl & the fig
as we begin this transition from one season to the next:
Tomatoes and summer fruit continue to be featured:
This week's Plat du Jour is all about summer:

ENTRÉE smoked chicken livers - green tomato jam, padrón chèvre, grilled bread
PLAT grilled ribeye - summer tomatoes, Point Reyes blue cheese
DESSERT cheesecake parfait - fresh berries, vanilla crema
While signs of fall creep onto the main ENTRÉE list:
niman pork chop
pear butter, cornbread pudding, grilled kale, pork jus
What's in your garden now?
Is it still all about summer or have you started to prepare for fall?