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!