Saturday, August 18, 2012

Previously Thought Thoughts....

July 13, 2012

I want to share great garden developments, wildlife stories and discoveries, some life stories, and details on our progressing business opportunities as we rebuild everything.

Welcome to Hawaii. Last night it rained the hardest tropical summer rain we have had in our six summers in Rancho Carrillo. Right now it is 80 degrees with 99 percent humidity and I love it. This is absolutely my favorite weather of the year and the plants love it as well. It looks like we had about three quarters of an inch of rain. The garden is loving life.

What is growing you ask? I am focused on carrots, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, green beans and tomatoes which are all doing well. Herbs are going off in abundance especially the basil and mojito mint which is out of this world. The tomatoes haven’t ripened yet but are getting ready to explode. Green and brown onions, three varieties of potatoes, cabbage, and broccoli are all doing well too but not what we are going to focus on going forward. Now that I know what works best and sells best I will focus on fewer items and specialize in what we do grow in the future. That is why the rain timing is nice because now that we made our entries in the fair I will be harvesting the rest of the potatoes, cabbage, onions, broccoli and some other greens to replant in time to have a second round of summer crops. Oh yes, I planted the pumpkins as well. Halloween is just around the corner you know. Boo.

Tarantula Hawk in action

See the lovely photos here? If you can’t make it out that is a Tarantula Hawk pulling a baby tarantula up the wall of our house!

Yesterday Allison screamed for me from the front driveway and there was this large reddish wasp, the Tarantula Hawk, pulling a mid-size tarantula across the driveway toward the side of the house. We watched and followed as this wasp pulled the spider all the way around the house into the backyard, across the backyard, and then pulled the tarantula (which had to be three or four times the weight of the tarantula), up the stucco wall of our bedroom fireplace. It pulled its prey all the way up a twelve foot wall and onto the roof. It turns out we were witnessing a truly rare parasitic relationship event.

Upon more research, we learned that the wasp hunts the tarantulas, stings the spider with its special venom that puts it into a coma but doesn’t kill it. The wasp then drags the arachnid to its lair were it lays its egg inside the body of the living but stunned  host. The egg grows inside for a month eating from the spider and then is birthed from the body cavity. The tarantula then dies.  I had seen an entire National Geographic episode about this years ago and now saw it in real life.

All night in bed last night as it rained I could only think of the spider and the wasp on the roof of my bedroom or in the fireplace hiding from the rain.

That’s it for now. Tomorrow I’ll have information on Dirty Dave’s Farm, mountain lion encounters, red-shouldered hawks and other wildlife stories. Thanks much and have a great day.

July 14, 2012
Check out the photos here. The photos were taken by my next door neighbor’s motion-activated outdoor camera. The first is me and my buddy Bob O’Riley out for a nighttime forest walk.
Hey, I think the camera's this way...
Bob loves to take nighttime walks after several beers whenever he comes up to spend the night. I knew my neighbor had the camera set up so I had the brilliant idea to go out and find it and do really awful things in front of it so we could have some really special wildlife photos. The problem is that I couldn’t find the damn camera in the dark but it apparently found us! No flash on that camera. Well the second photo is three hours in the same spot with a collared female mountain lion tracking us. Holy shi….! I believe the females are usually collared when they are mothers which means they get very nasty with babies in tow. It was possibly watching us the whole time. The photo location is less than 100 feet from our horse stable. 

I used to hate having a six foot fence around the yard......  Now I don’t think it is so bad.

While we are talking wildlife, there have been two pair of red shouldered hawks nesting in our next door neighbors trees. They are absolutely beautiful and obnoxious as hell. I love them but they sure have taken over our part of the valley. Every morning at 5:30AM they start screeching and hunting. I believe they are nesting here because of our pond where they hunt constantly. I have seen them pull out frogs and snakes. They also have taken out the gophers. They do make the best organic gopher control I have ever seen. For awhile they were hanging out on the fence around the garden and now there are no more gophers. The birds are aggressive and have no problem landing on our patio ten feet from us. Thankfully they are not interested in our chickens or cats.

Taco the Duck with the Koi

Speaking of the pond, OMG it is alive! I hadn’t been paying much attention to it just keeping the water flowing and the ducks fed. Because of all the late season April and May rain I didn’t have to add any water until June 15 which is great. Last night’s summer rain helped too! Love free water. Anyway, my ten year old daughter Isabel and her friend Ben decided to explore the pond last week with my large fishnet and boy did they uncover some life in the water. They were pulling in baby koi, young bluegill, green sunfish, shiners, mosquito fish and tons of giant bullfrog tadpoles. I had no idea all this spawning was taking place. Just over a year ago a friend brought up buckets with baitfish from a lake on Irvine and they have gone wild reproducing. Two and half years ago I brought up a few large koi from our San Clemente house and they have taken to making babies which is so cool. We have a koi factory now. I have made our smaller pond by the house into a koi nursery now and hope to raise many fish. Time to add bass to the big pond, I say.

We love our farm so much but it is a time of great uncertainty for us. Dirty Dave’s Farm is thriving but we have no money and are rebuilding our lives. I know people are wondering what the hell we are up to and what is our plan. Funny thing is, even with the uncertainty and pressure to rebuild, our home is much happier and more peaceful now.  That kind of stress does not compare to what we have been going through for the past few years.  It is a welcome change for sure.

Wishing you all good health and happiness.  Until next time.....

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Award Winning Veggies

July 19, 2012

Dirty Dave’s Farm is now award winning! Our hard work and perseverance paid big with two first place awards at the internationally recognized and world famous Orange County Fair Vegetable Competition. With dirt under our nails and smelling like manure we fearlessly trekked to the fair the day before it opened with our freshly picked goods. This was our first time entering a competition for vegetables so we wanted to make a good impression. But upon arrival at the fairgrounds parking lot, we had to muscle a few old ladies out of the way as they tried to take us on with their zucchini and lemons. I had Isabel distract one while I tripped the other and caused them drop their produce. We even knocked one elderly gal into the water at the pond display as we made our way into Centennial Farms. She never knew what hit her. The paramedics were nice to her.

Anyway, Allison, Isabel and I cluelessly delivered perfect specimens of our veggies, but we didn't understand the rules and were only able to enter a few of our items.  It turns out that we needed to have three of each vegetable to be judged on type, size, uniformity, condition and market quality.  Of course, we know the rules now.  But damned if we didn't win top prizes!  We won for the largest carrot (it took some patience to dig that one out of the dirt) and top specimen for our Yukon Gold potatoes because we fortunately brought three of those.
Paige with "Gigante".

Allison’s father, John Blaydes, also entered a couple of his watercolor paintings and a photo in the fine arts category.

The lady with the lemon did pretty well after all. 

On August 5th we will be at the fair showing our chickens. Please come by and say hi. It is really fun and we are somewhat clueless about the whole chicken thing as well, but what we thought was our least impressive pullet last year won Show Champion and we still have no idea why. The judge knew something though as that chicken grew up to be our prettiest and most consistent egg layer.

We know a little bit more this year but still are a long way from the expertise of the chicken show circuit people. Yes, we have discovered a subculture of chicken people who travel all over showing their flocks. We will still be arriving with our chickens in a dog crate. The pros have custom made and hand painted show boxes. That separates the men from the boys in chickenland.

Mini Farmers Market in the neighborhood
Last night we made our first effort at a mini farmers market we put up in our community. It was a ton of flipping work to get together just a couple tables worth of our goods. I have so much respect for farmers and the incredible work it takes to get their goods to market. We were going to have the girls do the farm stand, but as it turned out it took all four of us three hours just to pick and clean the produce. The neighbors were great and showed up to support. We made $75 the hard way but it is a great lesson for the girls and was a great first run for us. Plus the neighbors loved it and can’t wait until the next one.  When we have our sauces bottled we are going to use some real farmers markets as test markets for the sauces which we will amend with some of our fresh produce. Stay tuned, have a great day and go get dirty.

Thursday, June 7, 2012


June 5, 2012
Check out them carrots!
The big, beautiful, fat carrots are Danvers.  The one on top to the right with the giant bamboo sprouting out of its head is an Asian variety that I will not plant again - giant top, tiny carrot bad. The other one is very well hung.  Anyways, we are learning more and more about our site and soil. We have planted so many different items over the last two seasons that now we have narrowed down our favorites and those that produce best here at Dirty Dave’s Farm.
Dirty Dave’s Farm it is. Kelly Abney, BeachFire Marketing Director, came up with this after noticing I was always dirty in all the photos at the house. I’m sure she has her own reasons as well. I am always in some stage of dirt management. Dirty cars, dirty shoes, dirty dog, dirt under the nails, and sometimes clean. We are changing the name of the blog and starting the new businesses under Dirty Dave’s Farm. We are working as hard on the new business structure as we are on the growing. I have the farm planted to capacity and am anxious to expand into the pasture, but I’ll pause on the expansion while we get the new biz structure completed. We have the County of Riverside Agricultural inspector on his/her way up to license us as Certified Producers next week – Yeehaw! Now we are growing.
I am so excited about our future and scared shitless at the same time. BeachFire San Clemente is back open under new ownership with the same team – yahoo! I’m looking forward to celebrating BeachFire’s 10 year anniversary with them on June 21st.  My health is returning both physically and mentally. I am sleeping through the night for the first time in years even though we are broke with no income right now. We owe everyone in the world money and will live with financial consequences for many years, but we are alive, together and healthy as a family. I can finally see a new future with possibility. It is scary, similar to the way it was twelve years ago when I was between Chart House and opening BeachFire. There I was all alone creating BeachFire out of thin air – exhilarating and terrifying but it worked. Here I am again creating something from nothing and it will work. We are developing several different business models from specialty food products to consulting to wild recycled furniture to art sales and a few other plans in between. We will start with those efforts that actually can pay the bills first. Generally I feel stronger than I have in years. Have you been to the new pools in San Clemente? I am loving the facility and back in the water a few days a week working my heart hard and it feels frigging awesome. I reread this paragraph and understand why my kids say I have ADD but it’s really just excitement about possibility. Boy do I miss owning downtown though. I have my sad moments too.
Back to the farm! We are still pulling out awesome winter veggies with great artichokes, broccoli, carrots, lettuces, and onions. The potatoes are just starting to finish and they are flipping amazing. We pulled out a bunch of Yukon gold new potatoes last night, broiled them with olive oil and fresh rosemary, and they are so good. New Summer crops getting ready to explode are our tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, green beans and sweet potatoes - plus a ton of different herbs. We will be ready for our first farmers market in three to four weeks. We are really waiting until we have our first line of bottled sauces and dressings which is well into the primary production stage. We have our production kitchen ready to go. We’re finishing up logos, labeling and some licensing details. I can’t wait to sell! Will you please buy? Please?

I forgot to report on the Valley Center Rodeo the weekend before last.  Paige and Clyde won 3rd place in the Junior Barrel Racing division.  She won $52.  It was one of our favorite weekends with friends and family camping, bbqing, rodeoing, partying, laughing, etc.
Anyway, that’s it for now – time to go water and weed. Eat healthy and love one another tonight!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Next Chapter....

May 3rd 2012
Paige’s sweet 16 in two days. She’ll be driving. I don’t like it. Will she take off? No…
Mountain lions, centipedes, giant beets, and a new duck who goes by Blanco. Restaurants coming and going. Winter-like weather today. Confused garden and beautiful flowers. Let’s talk about life that grows.

I am starting to relax a bit more. I can feel the stress oozing from deep within my bones and releasing through my skin, breath, and thoughts.  My health is good and the family is healthy. Life is good considering all that we have gone through.

We hosted an open house and yard sale Sunday and that forced me to get back into the yard and to catch up the garden. Things look really nice around the property but the garage and driveway are still filled with personal items from the restaurants that need to find a home.

Ladera is done forever. It is sad but also a great relief. I had wondered how I would feel if I ever had to close a restaurant. My fear was a feeling of great failure or sadness that would settle over me. So far that hasn’t happened. It is a pure good riddance type of experience. We never really fit in Ladera. I miss the staff and our regulars, though. I will write more about the Ladera experience after a bit more distance.

Irons returns to the possession of the City in a week or two. Irons feels like the lover who could have been so much more. I never really came to know and understand her as deeply as I had hoped.

Now San Clemente BeachFire is on its way to reopening in a couple of weeks. That is good news. Turner and Nick are back to steer the ship. I like the new owner whom you will meet soon. The past staff is welcome back just in time for the 10th anniversary on June 21st.

May 8th 2012   Never did complete that last entry so here I go.

The garden is shaping up beautifully. I am beginning my study of farmer’s markets and applying for official organic certification. The plan is to have a booth at either or both the San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano Farmers Markets this summer to sell our produce and beginning market testing of our other food products which we want to keep under wraps until we are ready to introduce them.

This summer we are heavily focusing on the best growers and sellers for our plantings. Expect great tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, green beans, red beets and carrots. We’ll also continue with a large variety of herbs. That should make for a great little booth. We have a bunch of cool season crops ripening right now as well with onions, lettuces, potatoes, artichokes and herbs that I am going to deliver to some other local restaurants to get them believing in my ability to supply them. I am expanding our planting areas around the property and have been invited to grow in another acre pasture here in Rancho Carrillo so I think we’ll end up with plenty of product. It is time and help that I am going to need.

Mountain Lion
The wildlife has been quite interesting. Check out the photo of the mountain lion that my next door neighbor, Ron Wood, caught with his motion activated camera he set up behind our houses. This is a large cat moving fast on the trail that runs behind our house. It must be in great shape – I think it gets out and runs every day! I need to thank Ron for the photo (more are coming) and give a shout out for the motorcycle shop he owns. Tokyo Mods is the place the best motocross riders take their bikes to be made into super fantastic flying machines that soar across the entire width of the Grand Canyon. The cats are all around this area. We have also been seeing many foxes, bobcats, deer and even a badger.

This centipede photo is from the centipede Allison found running under our bed the other night. She randomly went into the bedroom and turned on the light just in time to find this huge and venomous beastie boy (RIP Adam Yauch – you will be missed) headed for the bed. Yikes! I found another in the garden yesterday.  The photo of the tarantula is one that I found nesting in compost pile yesterday as well. I wonder what a fight of the centipede and the tarantula would be like.

Allison and I drove out to Norco to get another duck to keep Taco happy in the pond. We found Blanco and the two are in deep homosexual love. Maybe Taco just hasn’t yet figured out Blanco isn’t a female. Whatever the case we have legalized same sex marriage on the ranch which actually isn’t uncommon on ranches despite all the macho cowboy act.

The weather is hot now and the garden is still confused. I’m going to dig some great soil and watch the quail play. I love the earth and pray I can make a living for my family from these activities. Look for more frank information regarding the restaurants as the blog rolls. We are getting our lives back and want to share our adventure with you all and thank you for your great support of BeachFire and us personally. Have a great day and buy some local food!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

WARNING: Reading This Post May Damage My Reputation... Read On

March 9, 2012
Oh man, has it been a long time since we’ve talked!???  You look great, no really!  It is summertime warm tonight so I can write in the garage on the now-ancient PC – a Dell no less? Remember when Dell was theee site to buy your DESKTOP PC – all made-in-America stuff, touchy feely technology. Wow, things have changed.  Made in China now. I think that is where the cold comes from in winter.
We are now “Post PC” according to Apple and I agree except that Allison’s IPad doesn’t have a USB port for my thumb drive and doesn’t have compatible Word software so I can’t use the damn thing for blogging so instead I have to go out to the garage to the Dino Dell PC. The garage is cold imported from China and Apple is hot like a cheap piece of imported Chinese metal. I love their products but is it too much to ask for a USPS port so I can wirelessly email my data to your porthole from my warm couch next to the organic wood burning fireplace with real-time heat control for maximum efficiency? This farming thing is getting harder and harder.
Allison bought me a plastic owl for Valentines Day. Thank you Al! I have become tired of sleeping with it so I decided to put it in the garden. Hot Damn! It scares away birds and critters. Must be because it is so shiny after me sleeping with it for three weeks. This owl fake could be a brilliant device to keep away birds and vermin.
She also got me a handful of rubber snakes from Walmart.  I like the snakes in the garden. It is freaking scary! You come around the corner of the cauliflower bush and BAM!!!! There is a flipping plastic snake you bought to scare away the other critters that the buffed owl didn’t get. I could swear I feel it bite me every time. Worst and best three bucks we ever spent on plastic snakes.  Reminds of the first time I cut off a head….
The hose attachment has a leak right where you hold it and the water is f……g frigid. Burrrrrrrr!!
Okay, I am talking kinda crazy tonight but I need to blow off some steam. That would be a bad place to write seamen instead of steam. The funny thing is that I seewomen. Why doesn’t word software autocorrect like my IPhone so that I can blame my awful writing on the machine?
Anyway, I hope I can make people laugh with what I write.
Now on to the garden…..  frustrating right now. Last week we had a fairly deep freeze that is totally showing up with burnt lettuce, pickled potatoes, and deviled eggs. The winter garden is not very happening so here's a picture of our peahen Lucy. She thinks she's a chicken except when she sees them taking their dirt baths and thinks, uh no.

Herbs a growin

This winter has enjoyed alternating weeks of deep frost and summer respite. The herbs don’t seem to mind but the veggies are slow at best. I guess we really do have seasons here at 2500 foot elevation in the coastal zone 23. I personally think everything is just confused. Your mate may turn to vegetables for comfort. Our stream hasn’t really run all winter. I haven’t hooked up the water storage just because there has been no reason to do so. The funny thing about weather is that it changes all the time…

March 13, 2012

Bodacious broccoli

The time changed! It is now four days later than my previous entry. And it stayed light until 7:15 tonight. So cool. And the garden has changed from the previous writing. The garden was so bursting tonight! Let me think – going around the garden there are major beets, broccoli, kale, potatoes – the freakin potatoes are finally emerging – I thought I was a total failure because I couldn’t grow potatoes but there is hope yet. Check out our bodacious broccoli buds -
The onions from seed are starting to happen but they are taking forever to get going – some seeds just don’t know how to get a good start. The lettuces are doing well but not the iceberg which did not live up to its name as the freeze wiped out their plump heads which looked fine the day after the freeze bit then soon looked like an old Russian gypsy with bad skin and warts. Sounds rummy.

We grew celery!!!

The new carrot patch is bitchen’. I thinned out a ton of the coolest little fingerling carrots that we ate after a 20 second sauté in olive oil and celery salt.  Picked gorgeous green onions that were starting to bud, grilled them with ribs Al made with her killer vinegar treatment, great ribs hunnie. The onions were sweet and succulent like jumbo asparagus which we should have this year as my asp patch has taken root. (Someday we’ll grill our own baby backs grown on the back of our soil if I can convince the girls.) Celery is freaking beautiful and healthy, but slow growing. Then the herb patch is doing great – I named the patch after Herb Albert. Sing to me you little vegetables!


Isabel (10 yrs) took this photo - nice!
Our trees are happy trees.  The avocados are bursting and make the best guacamole!  Only bummer is they take almost 2 weeks to ripen - it's sooo hard to wait!!!  And the peach tree blossoms are quite purty.  Hoping to see some action late spring.
 Oh what to plant for summer and when?  Dreaming of tomatoes hugely. We will have tomato everything on the menu this summer. What her melons? Yes, watermelons too. Thinking huge corn patches. Gadzooks and squash! Heirloom everything! Basically everything pestoically presented on pasta primavera. Okay my food puns are stretched line a Kentucky Pole Bean on a high pressure Santa Ana day. I’m not funny but I’m having fun  - so is Saffron taking her dirt bath.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Hard Days Work in the Garden

Who says its winter in the BF Garden?!  Check out our big red beets, green onions, sugar snap peas, carrots, herbs and eggs - the chickens are back in business!  I think it's the extra protein in their diet.  ;). Saffron is in the hen house crowing right now so I think we've got another one!  
The bounty

Saffron hard at work

Check out those carrots

The work center

Friday, January 27, 2012

New Year, New You, New Harvest!

    I just ate two insanely good navel oranges from our own property. To the uninitiated that may not sound like a big deal. First of all, finding a truly great orange anywhere is really hard to do. Secondly, these same trees last year gave us bitter crap that we couldn’t eat. Third, we have had several freezing nights up the hill this year and the oranges did not suffer. I have re-hab’d these trees with Dr Earth Big O fertilizer and John and Bob’s Soil Optimizer and damned if it didn’t work. I am so happy with myself as you can surely see. Did you know my grandfather, Merwin Brown, was an Executive VP with Sunkist? Growing up I knew every happening packing house in Southern California. Can you say “wallpaper the house with packing house labels”? I talk more about that soon. Now I talk like recently immigrated Asian gardener. I sure you can’t wait to hear about my family’s Sunday drives from packing house to packing house.  I love Asians by the way and teand to be at one with the soil and plant life.

    Tonight I am getting ready to speak at the Ladera Ranch Horticultural Association’s monthly meeting. Turns out some don’t believe anything grows in winter and they want proof. Proof I will give them. One thing I know is that gophers grow very well in winter. More on that later as well. We made a small spread of carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, sugar snap peas, green onions and deviled eggs all fresh from the garden (and the chickens). Everyone loved the beet and blue salad from the garden as well.

    Okay, now it is two days later and the Association meeting went great. A big turnout of 60 or more gardeners. Good foe Ladera! There is always something I love about the people you meet in groups like gardeners, artists, book readings, music buffs, theater folks and the like. We are all a little different and opinionated yet really accepting of differing opinions at the same time. Creative loons maybe? I am definitely one of them. You see things from a unique perspective when you actually take the time to watch something grow. Most people don’t take the time or have the opportunity to focus on the details of life and it teaches you in a big way. How many of us commonly dig up soil and look closely at what is going on inside it’s secret life?

Frost on the romaine but it survived
just fine!
Frosty Strawberries
I have attached some photos from the most recent frost. A few days back we had three consecutive nights of frost and tonight it is 75 degrees and blowing offshore which must be confusing to the plant life. The seedlings were damaged by the frost but those that made it are loving this warmth. I managed to scare the gopher out of the garden with good old fashioned water and smashing its tunnels. Round one I am victorious but I know he’ll be back.  

Sage thrives in frost
    I am really looking forward to spending some time in the garden this weekend. I am starting to gain some strength after the surgery but these heart meds are sapping my energy. This recovery has been much tougher than expected thanks to heavy doses of stress with the businesses. 2012 will see some simplifying in my life. For now the garden is my escape and I am so happy for it. Get out and enjoy this beautiful weather. It supposed to be 80 degrees this last weekend of January!