Sunday, December 4, 2011

Seed of Change for BeachFire

The wind is blowin hard and I’m inside by the fire. Still recovering from a great winemakers dinner at Ladera last night. Chef made quite a menu of fresh, real food of the highest quality and originality. Great company with some great new and old friends. Frisby wines and Josh Frisby himself were there with a really fresh Chardonnay and a couple deep Cabs that worked.

Today I received the coolest package I have seen in awhile. A big box of seeds arrived at San Clemente BeachFire but I hadn’t ordered any from Seeds of Change that I hadn’t already received. But there was a box with 25 great seed packs that most all will work stupendously for the current winter planting I am now doing. Looking further I found an envelope I assumed was a receipt and I started to think I may be annoyed that they sent me seeds I hadn’t ordered or they repeated an old order. Damn them evil capitalist seed merchants! I tore into that envelope to see what the hell they charged me this time. Holy moly. There was a brilliant letter from the Will Righeimer President of Seeds of Change:”America’s largest Organic Seed Supplier”. I am now their pro bono spokesperson. He sent out enough complimentary seed for half the garden this winter with the perfect letter scanned below. This guy and his team are good. I am impressed. He didn’t know that I had already been ordering from but he still stepped up. I am also impressed by how his team catches this. I imagine he has a Google Alert set up to catch people like me blogging and mentioning their name or maybe he is friends with the garden nymphs that visit my dreams most every night these days. They follow through and send out a thank you.
Letter from Will Righeimer, President of Seed of Change to BeachFire owner Dave Donaldson!

I have to remember that style of ease as it is so easy to tighten up and not want to spend the time or money to get out and give it away. We are back doing more community events like the Assistance League’s South OC home tour this Sunday – giving it away to the ladies – if you know what I mean…Actually some men will be dragged along with their spouses. In fact I wouldn’t doubt there might be some men dressed in drag. Anyway, what the hell does this have to do with gardening? I don’t know. Actually I do know – we’ll be serving fresh tomato bisque made with tomatoes from the garden.

I’ve been replanting more plots the last couple days. Spent eight straight hours on Sunday. Planted lots of seed. Many lettuces, lots of herbs, lots o onions, peas, more carrots and other stuff I can’t remember because of the red wine from last night. Maybe I should just plant a bunch of wine and beer grapes. We could water it with rainwater and fertilize with compost and produce fully off the grid Corona Light and La Crema Chardonnay and no one would know. Now we are talking!

Here’s a fun one. Earlier tonight I arrived home and found a couple chickens, the cochins exactly, in the garage hiding from the wind. I chased those suckers right out. A bit later I invited Ruby into the house from the garage and as she ran in her front paw landed squarely on a toxic yet fresh, black chicken shit that both tattooed its denseness into the kitchen tile and living room carpet as it also flew from the foot to the walls and beyond.

Last night Isabel brought the dog bowls in from outside and as she was filling them she noticed a stray nugget of escaped food. She quickly picked it up and put it into one of the bowls where it quickly expanded into a large black widow spider! She is a true spider tamer.

The wind is still howling. Probably blew 60 mph last night. Not the worst ever. I found a few dozen avocados and some more grapefruit on the ground but they might work out just great in the end. See you later…

Monday, November 28, 2011

Late November Harvest

Farmer Dave and his family took this holiday weekend to do a little planting and harvesting in the BeachFire Backyard Garden! Check out what's popping up and what you can expect to see gracing our menu this winter!


Monday, November 21, 2011

A Winter Harvest

Today was a great family gardening day. We got up this very grey morning and had to beat the rain. I spelled grey that way so it feels like a British cold, dark morning. Nonetheless the family rallied and we kicked some serious butt today.

We weeded the entire garden, pulled out tons of old vegetation, spaded, tilled in compost and fertilizer, and planted two whole parcels with seed. Paige was quite the seed planter with four varieties of carrots, two varieties of beets, two types of broccoli, kale, strawberries, and snow peas. Some may work and some may not. We are planting mostly heirloom varieties.

We also picked a ton of vegetable today with surprising results. Even after three nights of frost, a few early rains and Santa Ana winds we are finding zucchini, corn, squash, bell peppers, watermelon, eggplant, tomatoes, pole beans, and beets. The herbs seem like they may grow well year round.

I dig the soil. It is just amazing to me how well the soil has transformed from dirt – clay basically – to dark, rich, and alive soil. The earthworms have exploded underground. I am only spading lightly to no more than six inches to mix in the rotting straw mulch, some additional compost and Dr. Earth organic fertilizer, There are sow bugs, grubs, mushrooms, decaying matter and other crazy stuff living in the soil with its own secret world. As the garden matures I plan to till less and less so as to not disturb such a fascinating and hidden society.

The compost is store bought for now until our compost pile regenerates after last spring’s planting used all of our supply. Fortunately the animals have not stopped giving us new material. The pile right now is about twelve feet square, four feet high and growing.. The center is warm and should stay hot even in the dead of winter making it ready for springtime use. We are putting household green waste in there along all the animal supplies. It is quite a rich mix and the chickens do a great assist in stirring it up on a daily basis.

It has now been heavily raining for the last four hours. We are well over an inch today which puts our rainfall total since October first over five inches. We seem to be off to a start of a very wet winter. I just went outside before dark to check on the property to make certain that the rain was flowing right in all the ways which it is. The creek is flowing with much needed water. The duck seems happy, the pea hen is sleeping out in the rain on her favorite perch and the horses are standing out in the rain. All is good at the ranch.

LATE NIGHT UPDATE: This evening my upper right arm was hurting increasingly. I finally pulled up my shirt to take a look and found a tick burrowing into my skin! Lime disease and yellow fever here we come. Allison had a great time digging it out.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Evolving as we go!

     It is Sunday and it has stopped raining. We had about a half inch today and about an inch on Friday – that puts us to three and a half inches already. I have noticed that fewer than usual predictions are coming out about our weather this winter. I think we are heading into another wet season. I said the same last year but mid season the rain stopped and I thought I was going to be very wrong but then the skies opened in the spring. Imagine another good rain season – all of our water storage would be full and for a bit we could relax about water. I really need to get going on the water tank.
   Just Wednesday the Santa Ana’s were blowing up to 45 mph gusts. It was a huge test for the garden and it did well but it still was tough on things. Fortunately I had built a few lattice fences on the north side of the garden to block these very winds and it helped.
   So we have – I mean had – two goats until yesterday. Friends of ours have 21 acres in the Tenaja area and are collecting goats to help keep their brush down. I was quite willing to release the devil goats to someone in need. The goats will be happy and I can plant flowers in my own yard without them being eaten. When I say “them” being eaten I not sure if I intend the flowers or the goats. Izzy might have been right when he wanted to eat them. I will miss them.
   We have come to be friends with this family from barrel racing. Their daughter and son ride with the girls and are amazing talents on horses and with other animals apparently. Mom, “Laura”, expertly straddled each goat and pulled a baby diaper out with some duct tape and wrapped the diapers onto the goats’ butts, picked them up with ease and stuffed them in the back seat of her F250. Impressive, educational and really entertaining.
   We participated in the Taste of San Clemente Friday night at Talega Golf Club. I had a great time with Allison and team. Chef John stepped up with the fresh Shrimp and Pork Egg Rolls and Marinated Jerk Skewers on the grill. Liv and Kelly helped out. We had a nice display with about three cases of veggies and herbs fresh from the garden. I picked them in the pouring rain Friday afternoon to get it fresh. The event was fun. San Clemente is doing great with the same characters all looking for a good time and lifestyle. We are happy to be a part of it.
   The garden is still producing great fall fruit but the temps are getting down to the 30’s the last couple nights. When the soil dries a bit we’ll be planting like crazy for winter. I was talking with some regulars at SC BeachFire last night and we all decided it was best to cover much of the garden this winter. Amazing what can be worked out over a couple beers. There were several calls for me to grow wine grape. I wonder why. We’ll likely be planting big time on Wednesday or Thursday. For now, time to go feed animals.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Gift of Giving!

Let’s start with a big thank you to my very aware and cool neighbor, Rita. She brought me six arugula plants from her garden two lots away from my house. Rita is a German native who I now know doesn’t like horses but she noticed our garden. The gesture of contributing to our garden really means a lot to me. It was my first gift from someone else’s garden.

Sunday the girls and I (which means Allison as well, she is still a girl!), spent most all day in the garden. If you haven’t seen the video they put together then please check out. It is pretty funny but takes a couple minutes to watch. I thought Sunday was going to be a transition day but it turned out to be a day of picking a few hundred pounds of produce and not even getting close to planting new season veggies. We pulled over one hundred pounds of carrots. Come to BF tonight for the carrot soup feature – I had it and it was everything I hoped it would be. Chef John is very, very good.

In addition to our Carrot Soup feature at BeachFire, Farmer Allison put together an amazing vegetable soup for the family from all the fresh produce we pulled out!

Vegetable Soup ingredients.

The final product!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Check out this video put together by Farmer Paige!  A great glimpse into the magic that happens in the BeachFire Backyard Garden!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

BeachFire Backyard Eggplant Parmesan

The recipe below came straight from Farmer Dave's own table! We will be featuring a new recipe from time to time in an effort to encourage farm to table habits both inside and outside our restaurants! BeachFire is a full supporter of healthy, fresh eating every day, not just those days when we are lucky enough to have you in our restaurants!
The main ingredient preparing
for its debut!
If you have your own garden recipes to share, please e-mail them to us at,

BeachFire Backyard Eggplant Parmesan

Slice the eggplant into ¼” thick slices, you can peel it or not, we prefer the skin with all of the nutrients and vitamins.
Drizzle it with olive oil lightly, then dust it in flour.
Mix up three eggs with a pinch of salt and pepper and some fresh thyme.
Place the dusted eggplant into the egg wash and let stand 30 seconds to absorb the egg.
Pack each piece into seasoned bread crumbs, we use Progresso Italian herb breadcrumbs.
Place the eggplants on a baking rack and bake at 350 deg. F. for approximately 30 minutes.

6 each fresh or vine ripe tomatoes or (1 20 oz. can Pear tomatoes in juice)
Basil straight from the garden
to the pan.
1 each medium onion minced
2 oz. Olive oil
3 each clove garlic
8 each large basil leaves
Pinch Salt
Pinch pepper
¼ cup white wine (Riesling) and more for sipping
Provolone cheese sliced for layering later.

In a sauce pot add the oil and bring to a smoking point.
Add the garlic and the onion and cook until the onion is translucent in color.
Add the basil, seasonings and wine and simmer until wine is dry.
Add the tomatoes and 1 cup water.  Cover and reduce heat to a medium flame.  Simmer 30 minutes covered.

Remove lid and blend sauce.  Correct seasoning if needed.

Eggplant Parmesan Casserole Assembly:

In a 9” 13” baking dish, lay down a thin layer of your fresh tomato sauce.
Lay down a layer of the eggplant.  Cut pieces to fill holes if needed.
Place a layer of provolone cheese down and another layer of the sauce.

Repeat this until all the eggplant is used up.

Finish with sauce on top and some cheese, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and bake at 350 deg. F. for approximately 30 minutes covered, remove cover and bake an additional 20 minutes.  Remove from oven, let stand approximately 20 minutes before cutting.

Fresh veggies used in the garden side salad
accompanying the main dish.

Cut and serve with some of the fresh sauce over top, parmesan cheese and a good glass of red wine, may we suggest a glass of our local Frisby Cellars Cabernet!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Rain Boots to Rainbows?!

October 13, 2011

Holy Moly Stuff! Y does to take so long to write? I was prepping for the rain last time we talked. When it did rain I had all this super bitchen stuff to write about. Stuff like how I hadn’t worn my rubber mud boots in months. They still fit! It turns out that my growth spurt is not affecting the size of my boots. Actually I am shrinking because I don’t eat anything but great and healthy food. Thanks to the man!

The latest harvest!!
But the boot stuff and all was going to be cool. Here I meant to recreate “the feel of sinking into the freshly washed and naturally moved sediment that was just months ago preglacial spasmatic debris flow”, how beautiful.  We all were able to put on winter ware which was weird.  We went from “should we blanket the horses?” to “Where are their fly masks now?” in three days in October. I should be panning for gold with the Anaheim Germans who will be at Ladera’s Oktoberfest party but it is 102 right now and I not sure why they are wearing high-heels.  We went from the abnormally inspired winter-talk of last week to “I’m glad I had my shorts dry-cleaned last week”. This makes me think I am in not ready to go deer hunting. My Rainbows will get smattered with blood and dry a’ fore I e’er get them clean!

Anyway, the rain was nice. It gave us a month or more of free water for the pond. I also turned off the irrigation system for the first time. It was exciting – kind of like the first time you stole something and knew you would never be caught – but wait kids, it turns out we actually never stole anything, we just thought we did and now you think we were thieves but now know we are not. Rainwater is free! So we’ll pan for gold and use free water as the climatologists will be wrong and we will turn in to the latest water garden paradise. We should start planting redwoods now and we’ll have a lumberyard in 40 years.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The First Taste of Fall!

The garden is still pumping
summertime style.
Peas and corn have a love
The garden continues to produce – pun very much intended. I’m really thinking about winter. Rain is on the way already and I need to prepare much sooner than expected. This year I’ll keep track of the rainfall in a more accurate way with a journal. I haven’t kept a formal journal the last couple years but I can tell you that this is the third cool fall where rain started early. I hear little in predictions this year and I suspect that maybe the weather crew is a little bit bitten and afraid to make a call anymore.

I went to Ganahl and bought some lattice and lumber to put up some windbreaks. I spent four precious hours to put up 30 feet of fence. The photos here show where things are still happening and areas like the crookneck and zucchini patch where we took out easily 500 pounds of vegetables in the last three months but are just about done. I am actually looking forward to winter because I have to try some new things. I am not sure whether to cover areas or not. I suspect that I will need to but then how? Do I use little cloches or do I doo a hoop house or try to build a full on greenhouse? The weather is already starting to happen so it is time to get a move on.
The mighty tractor in action!
Boo! Here come the mighty
Tomatoes are going off extra
ripe for our new dishes!
The squash patch of 1000 pounds
is on its last leg.

The new water tank needs to go up. We’ll need a backhoe, a load of gravel and some plumbing. I already ran the electrical when I built the garden. While the backhoe is out we’ll dig a little larger area for a greenhouse and utility shed. While we’re at it we need to dig holes for trees. It is the season planting fruit trees and grape. I am heading out to De Luz to load up on plants on Thursday unless the rain gets too crazy…I took these photos right before the rain and I’ll take some right after to see the effect on the plants. Get ready for broccoli kids!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The introduction of The Dirty Life

Wow. Finally time to write. The past two weeks have been wild. I have so much to write yet I’ll try to be brief and write more often.

Two weeks ago tomorrow we put in a new menu in Ladera Ranch which is similar to opening a new restaurant all on its own. It was all going so well until the third day when the blackout hit on a Thursday afternoon. We lost a day’s business in all three restaurants, a fair amount of food lost as well, and then a power surge fried our point of sale system and other equipment in Ladera. The next night, Friday, we got slammed on our third night with the new menu and unstable computers that went down in the middle of a huge early rush. It was rough to say the least. I apologize to our guests – we did the best we could. The staff held it together like pros. I was impressed with all of our staff. On top of it all we are asking more of our staff and knew not everyone would make it through. Sure enough two of our cooks decided they weren’t going to play our new game so we sent them out the door. A couple servers didn’t make it either. It is all part of the process. We are kicking ass and taking no prisoners. The garden has led to the new chef who led to new managers, new training levels, new demands and a totally committed staff that gets what we are doing. We are going for it. The workload is heavy but worth every effort. The equipment in Ladera hasn’t fully recovered but hopefully tomorrow the audio visual system will be repaired and back to full speed. We also managed to get several new items and a reprinted menu into San Clemente as well. New breakfast program comes to Irons next week. Like I said we are kicking ass. Chef worked himself into the bed last week with a nasty fever from overworking.

The pumpkins are getting huge for
October harvest!
Meanwhile the garden continues to grow and the kids are back in school. I am in the garden by 5:45 sunrise every morning before school harvesting, watering, planting and maintaining. Tomatoes, mondo carrots, squash, zucchini, corn, cucumbers, red and green bells, beets, tons of herbs, and even some watermelon and cantaloupe are happening right now. It also looks like some recently planted late season tomatoes, squash, zucchini, corn and herbs are going to produce before the cold sets in. I am surprised by the beautiful eggplant that is coming into its own right now as well. The pumpkins would fit Charlie Brown’s head and body.

Swiss Chard
Tonight I was in the garden until dark on a warm night swarming with mosquitoes. Fortunately few bad pests have found the garden. I knock on wood as I write that line. I haven’t had to use Spinosad the organically approved pesticide. I do use John and Bob’s Soil Optimizer and Dr Earth’s Organic Vegetable fertilizer to improve the soil and apparently they are working wonders. Maybe I should start eating the fertilizer to keep the bugs away from myself.
The fruits of our labor, cantaloupes!
I haven’t written of the fruit trees and I am excited about them. The avocados are going to have a heck of a bountiful crop and so are the grapefruit, oranges, and lemons. I’ll be planting many more trees soon but they are a long term investment for sure.
Last week to keep my sanity I powered through a couple books late at night. The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball is a great story about a hooker who farms fungus on her body. Oh wait, no that was some other late night reading. The Dirty Life is a great read about a well read and traveled Ivy League educated woman from Manhattan who falls for an esoteric farmer and moves to the country to start an authentic, horse-powered organic farm. She learned more than just about farming with spectacular life lessons. We are not farming anywhere near the scale she is but the parallels are there. Why is there always dirt around? How come farm property always looks a bit of a beautiful mess? It needs to and can’t help it.
Roma Tomatoes
I can relate to the author’s feelings of angst over her friends and family not understanding what the hell she is doing and their wondering when she is going to snap out of it and return to the city. In my case it would be a return to the beach. It will be a long time if ever before I move back to a city – even San Clemente is too crowded for living for us now. No offense meant at all it is just having a taste of this life as we have is something I couldn’t understand until I experienced it for a length of time. It grows within you. A great plan B would be a farm near the beach somewhere far north or far, far south.

We are not going anywhere soon though. We love Rancho Carrillo and our crazed, wonderful neighbors. This weekend was our 32nd Annual Hooligan fundraiser for our volunteer fire department. For the residents it is a long weekend that we all love but it wears us out.

Green Bell Pepper
Last week I came up a couple nights from work in the early evening to help prepare our community arena for the horse show part of the Hooligan then went back down to work. Friday evening was the same where I helped set up the bar and our jail. That same night I came from home from work about midnight to help put 200 pounds of brisket into our 14 foot deep pit. The next morning was the car show at 6AM with 200 cars from Cars and Coffee led by our own Robert Davis. Then came the horse show at 8:30 with the girls and about 30 other riders. I was in the arena setting up the events, working the rake and helping judge the show while Allison worked the gate until the Extreme Cowboy Race finished about 1:00. The girls did great with Paige winning the Texas Barrels despite her horse being as ass and Isabel pulled in a couple second place finishes in the 12 and under class. Not bad for a ten year old. I don’t care as much about the placings but rather how they play the games. They both demonstrate courage, persistence, strength and fun as they go all out. I recommend competitive riding for any child looking to find strength in themselves.

We had a carnival and family games after that with our great brisket and turkey sandwiches from the pit. The silent auction raised a ton of money and I bought a 5,000 gallon water storage tank to store rainwater from our seasonal stream for the garden. You’ll hear more about the water tank project later. The frog jumping competition started at 3:00 with thousands of dollars flying around as we formed syndicates and bet on the bullfrogs all for charity. We have the most amazing fun and this thing is run like clockwork. The jumping is led by Dick Streza, Fred Garcia, and Leo Gardarian with wild precision if there is such thing. Clever as foxes. Bonnie Davis and Alex Hayden led the auctions this year breaking into the community upper ranks. It takes years to break into these traditions. The joke is that it takes ten years for people to learn your name because it takes such commitment to the lifestyle and each other to live up here. My frog didn’t win but the community did as we raised well over $20,000 for the fire department currently led by Brent Chase. Keith Warren was presented a well deserved thank you award for all he does for RC – thank you Keith!

There are many others who deserve to be mentioned as well but I really need to get to bed. The next day we all cleaned up the center and by 3:00 you wouldn’t know the Hooligan had hundreds of guests the day before. Amazing community. I love it and the people grow on me more every year. I went home and gardened until dark. Jacuzzi with the family and off to bed. Goodnight.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


I have so much to get caught up upon. The wildlife is going crazy. We have had so many episodes nightly that I am not supposed to go out in thongs cuz a little, shitty, nasty critter will f’in bite me!  It is Monday night and I just came in from being dive bombed by bats. Freaking bats! I love bats. I just hope the owl shows up. It could get fun.

Anyway, the carrots are going off and I have orange skin. I have always loved carrots.
(Dave and Chef John Merlino displaying some of those infamous carrots and the latest and greatest from the garden!)

The garden is an interesting thing right now. I don’t know what the weather is going to do so I have to guess on what to plant. My girls and I are planting late season anything like peas, beans,  corn, even a desperate tomato or two. We don’t know how the season or soil will behave this fall. The fall is really the biggest determinate in what happens year round. I will be hero or zero come late October.

(From our garden to your plate!)

Last night I came home from Ladera and the girls were finishing a movie. Five minutes later Ruby started  barking like the dog she is about something in the garage. The family wasn’t impressed but I thought something was up and it turned out to be a prehistoric monster that she was telling us of.  Check out the scorpion photo. The scorpion was right outside our kitchen door we use to enter and exit the house and remove our shoes. Yikes! Good doggy dog.

(The newest Donaldson member.)

This morning I found a dead rattlesnake on our road. I stopped and cut off its rattle. I am starting a collection! Also this morning I went out to tend to the garden and I could feel something watching me. I turned around and there was a ten foot tall coyote eyeing me. After we had a staring competition he went into the bushes and a bevy of quail went crazy as he tried to eat them. The wildlife is our like never before. I think it is a combination of the heat and us coming off a wet winter that produced a bunch of good foraging for the animals. The deer are all over as well. They always seem to disappear when October comes and hunting season starts. Are they hiding or just dead?

Speaking of dead did I tell you the one about my neighbor who shot a homing pigeon in my yard a couple days ago? So this pigeon showed up about six weeks ago in my backyard by the pond mooching off of the duck food. He was lost. As he let me get closer to him I saw he had a band on his leg. Turns out he was a racing pigeon from Diamond Bar as I learned from the markings on the band.  I actually only read the band after I found him dead by the pond. After closer inspection I found he had been shot. The day before one of our ducks had shown up dead by the pond as well. My next door neighbor is quite the hunter so I invited him over to get his professional opinion on the cause of death. He quickly admitted to shooting the pigeon but not the duck. He likes ducks. Now we have an agreement that he will not shoot animals on my side of the fence. Life in country!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Welcome to the BeachFire Backyard Garden

So I built a garden this summer. A big ass garden for my family and the restaurants. Cool garden built in our backyard. The first phase is about 5,000 square feet of fresh veggies, herbs and even some fruit. I am pulling out about thirty pounds of produce every morning and delivering it to the restaurants. Picked by 8AM and on your plate by noon. This is fun. Surfer Dave has become Farmer Dave. This is my first entry into Farmer Daves Almanac.

Our grandparents used to eat real food grown locally. Let’s all eat like our grandparents did. It is good for you and the planet. Yes, I have my reasons for doing this. There is all the health benefit angle, the environmental angle, the philosophical angle and all, yet, I am doing this because I dig it! Pun intended. I have always loved making things grow. When I was a child I grew plants of many kinds and did much of the family yard landscaping. Now I am getting turned on again about the restaurant industry in a way I haven’t felt since I learned I could make money and have a great time doing it. My vegetable garden has given me my aliveness back in a way I haven’t felt for a long time. I’ve always loved the biz for the social connections and making people happy. Now I see a way to make people and the planet healthy as well. This speaks to me deeply. Let’s all do it. Let’s change the way we eat and get healthy, real food in our bodies. Grow your own!. Part of my blog will be about teaching others what I am learning in the process.

By beginning this process I have radically changed the way I eat. Without even thinking about it high fructose corn syrup does not enter my body. America and our western diet is completely freakin backwards. In 1980 there was not a state in the union with 30% obesity. Now there are 13 states with a minimum population that is 30% obese. Heart problems and diabetes are also a result of our hideous Western Diet that the industrial food business has put out over the past 50 years or so. Our food isn’t even food anymore. Something needs to change.

For the last couple years I have been looking for a way to diversify the business. I have been joking about buying property to start a bamboo farm. It was only a half joke apparently. I have been thinking about building the garden for a year or more. My aha moment was when I went to research a very happening and well publicized Orange County restaurant with a chef owner well known for their “organic garden”. I looked for the garden and finally found it in the alley behind the restaurant. I found window boxes from home depot and dead herbs from a big box store. The photos in the wall of all their press showed the chef behind his “garden” that I just found. It pissed me off. That was it. I am doing a garden for real. Thankfully I have the property and opportunity to do it in a big way. I am far from the first and hopefully not the last to do this. I hope to contribute to a healthy, fresh food movement. My wife hates it when I refer to it as a healthy movement. I don’t know why.

A few BeachFire garden facts:
            Rancho Carrillo is the community where the garden lives as well as my two daughters, beautiful wife, three great barrel horses, nine chickens, two goats, two ducks, two dogs, two cats, and lots of fish. Rancho Carrillo is off of Ortega Highway six miles behind the red gate just past Caspers Park. Our property is three acres at an elevation of 2,460 feet surrounded by miles of Cleveland National Forest. We are in San Mateo Creek watershed wilderness area that enjoys the highest level of protection the US Forest Service designates. You can only venture into the forest on foot or horseback.

            The garden sits in a pasture that has never had a chemical or foul substance of any kind ever.

            The garden has been fertilized with five dump trucks worth of composted horse, chicken, goat, and cow manure from our property and our neighbor’s properties. We also had a load of the finest compost from Dave McAllistar Soils in San Juan Capistrano. Dave has the best dirt available in South OC and is a regular customer at Irons. We continue to compost all of our manure and household waste so that we will never need to introduce fertilizer from outside our property again

            We water the garden with nothing but pure well water. Being surrounded by nothing but miles of forest the water is pure and requires no chemical treatment of any kind. We have just purchased a 6000 gallon water storage tank that will allow us to use rainwater through almost the entire year.

            We are starting with a wide variety of vegetables, herbs and some fruit to see what will grow best. We purchased some seedlings from a wholesale nursery in Fallbrook but are primarily starting from organic seed from the Seeds of Change stock. Sweet corn, many varieties of tomato, zucchini, squash, cucumbers, bell peppers, onions, carrots, sugar snap peas, Kentucky pole beans, edamame, artichoke, pumpkins, cantaloupe, watermelon, strawberries, basil, opal basil, parsley, Italian parsley, thyme, sage, mint, chives, rosemary…the list goes on.

            This first garden area is just phase one. Over the next year or two we will be planting fruit trees, grape, and expanding the garden area. Elsewhere on the property we do have avocado, grapefruit, orange and lemon trees that are producing quite nicely.

            We can’t forget the chickens that supplement our egg usage at Irons. We currently have nine and will be adding more in the spring. One of our chickens just won first place and Champion at the Orange County Fair. My daughters had the time of their life showing them.

This has all led to a re-birth of BeachFire that is happening now. Soon after planting the garden I realized that I needed an Executive Chef with fresh skills for our fresh food. I was fortunate enough to bring in Chef John Merlino who had the magic to bring this fresh product to life. John’s extensive background in food ranges from being Claim Jumpers Corporate Chef for many years, founding the Soul Foundation, and graduating from San Francisco’s Cordon Bleu before it was fashionable. This is also leading to great improvements in daily cooking technique and food handling as well as an overall re-training of our service team. Behind the scenes BeachFire is buzzing with creativity and aliveness. Some of this is already showing up on your plate and in our service. We are just getting started.

The photos are fun here showing before and after. We graded the garden in April and look at it now in August. What a transformation and we are just getting started. My next big entry will be a detailed account of the construction and planting process sharing what I have learned. I plan to post every few days to document what is working and what is not. I’ll even share my mistakes! Thank you for reading and for being a part of the BeachFire community. Eat well!