I’m a naturally crabby person, sullen, argumentative and prone to paranoid conspiracy fantasies, so to maintain some balance I like to associate with up-beat, positive, can-do kinds of people. Here are some of the people I like to keep up with on-line.
1. Rebecca King Ardi Gasna means sheep cheese in Basque. I met Rebecca’s mother at one of our “U-Pick” days at our field several years ago. We had a pleasant conversation and she told me about her daughter who was the chef at Gabriela Restaurant in Santa Cruz, but had a dream of someday being a sheep rancher and making sheep cheese. I agreed that it was a wonderful dream. I’ve got dreams too. I’d love to make cheese. I’d also like to create an incredible living labyrinth garden employing only antique rose varieties, I’d like to be the curator of a cactus and succulent garden like the Huntington Gardens, I’d like to travel with my donkeys from Death Valley to Mt. Shasta, and I want to learn Latin, but do you see me doing any of it? Then I heard that Rebecca had bought some Friesan Dairy sheep and was leasing some grazing land from my friends Bob and Jeanne at Deep Roots Ranch. Out of the blue I got an invitation from Bob, Jeanne, and Rebecca to bring my sheep over for a shearing. The sheep industry has suffered such a precipitous decline in California over the last fifty years that it is very difficult to find professional sheep shearers any longer. But Rebecca had hired one to come down to the central coast from Mendocino. The more sheep the shearer had to trim, the cheaper the charge would be per sheep. So I took my sheep over to Deep Roots and finally met Rebecca. That morning, by coincidence, was the day the State Inspector came to advise Rebecca on what she would need to do to get the permits to milk sheep and make cheese. Months passed, and I ran into Rebecca in front of a cheese plate at a barbeque at Love Apple Farm . The cheese was Rebecca’s sheep cheese and it was delicious. It turns out that after Rebecca found out how much money she’d have to spend to build a facility that could pass muster for the CDFA (California Department of Food and Agriculture) she knew that she’d have to buy a ranch to justify the expense and make her investment secure. So she did, with help from her family and California Farm Link. How many women do you know (or men) who can move effortlessly from a hot kitchen to a world of white tablecloths and crystal to a sheep pen? Rebecca’s blog follows her progress putting her dreams in action. Today’s photo essay captures a few moments from a visit Julia and I had with Rebecca at her ranch.
2. Offal Good By some standards, Chris Cosentino is considered an “extreme” chef, since he embraces the art of cooking meat as a challenge to use the entire animal. Of course, there shouldn’t be anything “extreme” about not wasting part of an animal’s life. Chris’s blog shines a light on a side of the world that a lot of cooks– and eaters– don’t want to deal with, which is too bad, because we would all be healthier, mentally and physically, if food and our food infrastructure was understood holistically. Chris also takes the waste products of the restaurant business seriously, and is the most disciplined chef I know when it comes to recycling packaging. I like to keep on eye on what Chris is up too.
3. Hastings Reserve This blog is put out the University of California field station where I grew up. Things were different then, of course. When we first moved to the Hastings Reservation in the late spring of 1967 we were on an RFD route, which sounds for “Rural Free Delivery”. The postman delivered the mail, but he also had things like butter, flour, ammunition, nails, and handkerchiefs for sale out of the back. Our telephone system was a party line with half of upper Carmel Valley listening in, and nowadays they’re in the blogoshere. I moved away from Hastings after high school and my parents left when my father retired, but the place and its mission of environmental education remains close to my heart.
4. Susie Bright My friend Susie Bright is a university brat, just like me, but while my father was on his hands and knees looking for native plants, Susie’s father, William Bright, was digging in to native languages. Dr. Bright was also Carlos Castenada’s major professor. My mother tells me that when I was 12 years old I asked for a copy of Gudde’s 1000 California Place Names for my birthday. Later, Susie’s father rewrote this book and republished it as 1500 California Place names, having added a hundred California Indian names to Gudde’s list, and I bought that one too. It combined my interest in language and my love of California all in one package. It was perhaps inevitable that Susie and I would eventually meet. Susie has a very turned-on life and it shows in her writing and blogging. Susie is sharp, witty, snotty, topical, and eclectic and can zoom between erotica, politics, and food in one paragraph or tie them all up in one package. Susie is my first stop for news beyond agriculture into pop culture, and I look to her for guidance about writing and editing.
5. Edible San Francisco Bruce Cole is the editor of ESF. Edible San Francisco has given me a forum for my writing and I’m grateful and proud to have my essays published by this magazine. I like the company I keep between their covers. Though I live in Santa Cruz County and farm in San Benito County, my heart spends a lot of time in San Francisco and so do my trucks! We sell our produce to many San Franciscans, chefs and “civilians” alike, and I like to participate in a small way in the cultural life of the City. San Francisco is my adopted city, and I enjoy being a “San Francisco” writer.
6. Tablehopper from Marcia Gagliardi Marcia is a funny, spunky writer and I count on her to keep me “posted” on all the comings and goings in the San Francisco restaurant scene.
7. Xasáuan is a Native American name for the region we know today as Big Sur. If part of my heart is in San Francisco, then much of the rest of it is in Big Sur. Every once in a while my divided heart is even able to guide my feet down the road to Big Sur. Ever since I was a child and my father would take me with him on trips around the wilderness that lies between the Hastings Reservation and the Pacific Ocean I’ve loved the Santa Lucia Mountains. Usually I can’t travel, so I enjoy life on my farm and make a virtual visit to Big Sur by dropping into the Xasáuan Today. This site was extremely useful to follow the progress of this past summer’s wildfires.
8. The Ventana Wilderness Alliance is a group of committed citizens that advocate, work and lobby on behalf of the Ventana Wilderness. Our government– by the people, for the people, and of the people– can’t do every thing that the people want or need, so sometimes the people just have to step up and do it themselves. The Ventana Wilderness Alliance does its best to keep an eye on its own little corner of the world by fixing trails and following the twists and turns in the Federal Government’s policies that affect our local watershed.